Written by 11:24 pm My Builds

Completed : Tamiya 1/72 Bell AH-1W SuperCobra

Kit Info
Brand: Tamiya
Scale: 1/72
Media: Injection Plastic

The Subject
The introduction of the UH-1 Iroquois during the Vietnam War also brought the concept of air cavalry into reality: troops being carried by fleets of UH-1s to fight the enemy at time and places of their own choosing. However, the UH-1s would prove to be vulnerable to ground fire as they drop and pick-up their troops. The decision was made to develop an attack helicopter to provide escort and fire support. This would become the AH-1G Cobra.

The AH-1J SeaCobra was the twin-engine version of the original AH-1, with the AH-1W SuperCobra the further improvement of the AH-1J by adding day/night capability, more powerful engines and advanced weapon capabilities.

A total of 222 AH-1Ws were delivered to the USMC and they have served as the backbone of its attack helicopter fleet until replaced by the AH-1Z Viper variant in recent years. The AH-1W is scheduled to be totally phased out by 2020.

Info adapted from Wikipedia

The Kit
This is a Tamiya rebox of the Italeri kit that was first issued in 1987. As it is meant for the local Japanese market, it has Japanese only instructions and Tamiya color call outs.

The kit has raised panel lines, pretty OK details but typical of Italeri, the plastic is on the soft side and doesn’t have the finesse of Tamigawa. The canopy is one-piece and thick. Clarity is OK. As per reports on the Internet, there are 2 major mistakes: the engines were only found on the prototype SuperCobra and the main prop blade is molded in the wrong direction. I’m also not too sure about the shape of the AGM-114 Hellfires. Only 1 generic line bird marking is included.

If you’re looking for an AH-1W variant in 1/72, this is the only game in town as this mold has also appeared under Revell’s banner.

Much like aircraft kits, I started with the cockpit. The seats didn’t have any details on them and due to the large canopy, I decided to add some seatbelts using 1mm masking tape. I draped them as randomly as I could so they look different. I then sprayed Black Grey for the whole canopy with the seat cushions Green Brown and the belts US Grey. The dials and monitor screens on the instruments were randomly brushed with Transparent Green over Dead White. I then drybrushed US Grey to bring out details. The inside of the cockpit was also sprayed Black Grey. The canopy was brushed with Future, masked and put away. I diverted from the instructions for the fuselage by assembling each side first. To help with alignment I added plastic cards to act as guides. However, there was still a noticeable seamline running across the fuselage that needs fixing. There are also noticeable steps between the upper fuselage and where the tail starts. I decided to fix the nose sensor and gun in place to make my life easier. The gun housing needed some trimming inside and finesse to get into the proper position.

The AH-1W has a thicker nose compared to other variants and the kit replicates this by having additional ‘cheeks’ that wrap around the nose. Before closing both halves, I also added 2 fishing weights in the nose. The fit is OK on top but it was seamlines and gaps galore on the bottom. The intakes were then installed and these also have pretty obvious gaps, made especially more obvious because the rest of the panel lines are raised. I then attached the wing stubs which made my work more difficult down the line: the stubs cut through the big seamline running across the fuselage. There’s also a noticeable gap on the back of the tail which will need fixing. Engine exhausts were kept separate.

To ease construction and painting, I left part A18 off the main rotor assembly so I can deal with it separately from the fuselage. It will still fit without this small part and stays in place even without cement. The main rotor blade is apparently molded in the wrong direction so I decided to fix this. I cut off the blades, drilled a hole in each of them and added a 0.5mm brass rod as pins. I also added some sag to the blades by running each blade between the edge of the table and my thumb.

Fixing seamlines was next with Vallejo Plastic Putty. It’s easily cleaned with water/Windex but shrinks after it cures. I also tried Future + talcum powder which sands very easily but again it shrinks after curing. I went through multiple sessions of fixing the seamlines and along the way the wire cutter looking blade behind the canopy broke off. I decided to move on before being bogged down for too long and breaking more stuff.

The other smaller seamlines were scraped off and I very carefully sanded around the raised panel lines. The results aren’t perfect but it’s more obvious at the bottom. Since they are at the bottom though, I can live with it. The final step was to attach the canopy with Gator Glue while the skids were inserted without glue to ease painting. I had to thin the front section of the canopy to make it fit properly.

The rocket pods are each made of 4 parts and assembly is straightforward. To detail the Hellfires I decided to drill out the exhausts with a drill and router. I managed to ruin 2 of them so my AH-1W will be armed with only 6 Hellfires. These were set aside to be painted separately.

Painting and Markings
I first base coated with AK Black Primer. This kit will be painted in the 3 tone camouflage of the 1980s. I like this scheme a lot. Colors I used for this after checking the internet are US Grey, Black Grey and US Dark Green. I prefer Black Grey over straight black paint when painting black. I first sprayed the gray, then masked with blutack for the green and then more masking for the black. This was done in stages and multiple sessions to tweak the camouflage and fix the overspray. I also did my best to get the demarcation lines as tight as possible without being solid. Unfortunately though, there were some parts that I resorted to handpainting so the demarcation is solid. I’ll chalk it up to on the field touch-ups by the ground crew. 😀

For this build I tried 3M Microfine Sanding Sponges to buff the paint before the first gloss coat. It might have been too fine to see any effect but it did work to buff off overspray.

Major colors used for this build were:

  • Game Color Dead White
  • Game Color Sun Blast Yellow
  • Model Air Black Grey
  • Model Air US Grey
  • Model Air Metal Gun Grey
  • Model Color Green Brown
  • Model Color US Dark Green

The props and skids were then all given a quick spray of Black Grey while the exhausts and actuators on the props were handpainted Gun Grey. The rocket tubes were sprayed Dark Green with the ends Gun Grey and the mount in gray. The nose gun was also handpainted at this point in Gun Grey. I then proceeded to drop the kit nose first on my thigh. 2 of the gun barrels broke on one end and got bent. So I had to slowly and carefully bend the 3 barrels back in place and run some thin cement on the breakage points.

I’ve always assumed that Hellfires were olive drab in color. Turns out, they are actually always black. In the 1980s, a live Hellfire had 2 yellow bands, so I went ahead and painted Dead White as a base and layered with Sun Blast Yellow. After this has dried I carefully masked the yellow off and sprayed Black Grey over all the missiles. It took a while but it’s a lot neater than my previous attempt. These were then mounted onto the missile racks (which were also painted in Black Grey) with Gator Glue. On each winglet there is a box that I assume to be chaff dispensors, these were also handpainted and attached.

After a night of drying and curing, all the parts were then given a gloss coat of Vallejo Gloss Varnish. After another day of drying, I added the decals which were easy to use and reacted well to Mark Softer. The next day I airbrushed more Vallejo Gloss on the decals after a quick wipe down with a wet cloth. At this point I then added all the small antennas around the kit. These were either attached with Gator Glue or superglue and then brushpainted. Last on were the Hellfires with superglue.

Then it was time for the oil wash. I went easy this time as I didn’t want to end up darkening the paint work even more. Then the whole kit was given a flat coat of Vallejo Matt Varnish after another day of drying. After that it was adding the small details like painting the lights by layering with white before putting on transparent red and green. These along with the sensor window on the nose and the tips of the Hellfires were then glossed up with Future.

The last step is to remove the masking tape and trim and clean up any errant paint on the canopy with a toothpick. (Add: After the photos were taken I noticed the very obvious white/grayish lines around the canopy sills. I’m guessing this is dried Tamiya Polishing Compound. Chalk it up to not enough careful cleaning on my part.)

This is my first helicopter and raised panel line kit. The raised panel lines and fit issues caused some problems but at the end of the day, they were OK. Being the only game in town and a massive fan of the Cobra, I think this build turned out quite well. Just don’t look too closely. 😉

Number 7 of 2016

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Tags: , , , , , , , Last modified: 19 November, 2020