The RMS-154 Barzam is a mass production mobile suit based on the RX-178 Gundam Mk. II. It was introduced in UC 0088 but was not a successful design and was only produced in limited numbers.
The Refined Barzam is a variant of the RMS-154 which appears as a bridge between the Barzam and the Gundam Mk. II. It is armed with the weapons from the Gundam Mk. II, with the exception of the addition of a grenade launcher for the beam rifle. It also mounts the Gundam Mk. II’s backpack and shield.
I really don’t like the design of the original Barzam. However, along came Hajime Katoki who redesigned it and came up with the Refined Barzam, which is vastly improved. Unfortunately, it was a minor design that appeared in Gundam Sentinel (a Side Story) so the chance of it ever seeing plastic form from Bandai was slim. Then came Akohobby who announced that they were producing a plastic conversion of the MG Gundam Mk. II. Said conversion kit was to be the Refined Barzam. I pre-ordered as soon as I could!
When it arrived, it came in a plain brown cardboard box with no markings whatsoever. Inside we get:
* Included in pre-orders only
As mentioned above, the MG Gundam Mk.II kit is required as a base. The conversion changes the following from the kit:
It also comes with parts for the beam rifle’s grenade launcher.
Molding for the parts are nice and flash free. Like their previous products, the plastic is of a more brittle quality than what Bandai produces. However, they are still nice and come with details that will complement the other parts from the base kit.
Based on my experience with the Powered GM conversion, this particular set being a first run kit, the fit should be quite good.
The decals are nicely printed. Quality-wise, they are on par with Samuel Decal offerings. The markings are for units based on the Asteroid Pezun, where part of the Gundam Sentinel story is based on.
As a pre-order bonus, the kit comes with a small metal ring, which is supposed to go onto the tip of the grenade launcher. It looks like it can go onto the pelvis too though. It’s really small but is very nicely done. Makes me curious about Akohobby’s other metal offerings.
The Refined Barzam is a very esoteric design. It also happens to be very unique, a combination of Zeon and Federation design. The kit is also very nicely done and I’m glad I pre-ordered this.
The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet is an all-weather carrier-capable multirole fighter jet, designed to attack both ground and aerial targets. Its primary missions are fighter escort, fleet air defense, suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), interdiction, close air support and reconnaissance. Its versatility and reliability have proven it to be a valuable carrier asset.
VFA-195 Dambusters is an F/A-18C Hornet squadron stationed at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. It is 1 of 9 squadrons in Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5) that provides power projection for the United States. The squadron earned the nickname Dambusters on May 1, 1951 after its aircraft successfully destroyed the heavily defended Hwa Chon Dam in North Korea. It has seen service since World War II and has been involved with almost every major US military operation since.
The squadron currently flies off USS George Washington (CVN-73). ‘Chippy Ho’ is the squadron motto.
Hasegawa has recently started to pack 2 or more kits into one package, with the selling point being that the aircraft in the set are somehow related. This set includes 3 F/A-18Cs with 5 marking options (though with enough stencils for only 3 Hornets). The markings are all of the VFA-195 colorful CAG bird in its various special markings through the years.
The aircraft itself is the old Hasegawa mold, which by my reckoning is almost 20 years old. Hence, all the issues from that release applies to this one i.e. soft engraved panel lines, lack of cockpit detail, weapons that are under-detailed (only Sparrows and Sidewinders though) and fitting problems with the intakes. On the plus side, it comes with all the parts to backdate the C into an A variant, which is a nice touch.
The whole point of this preview though, is the huge decal sheet that comes with the set. It measures slightly more than an A4 sized paper. Saliva8zc As mentioned above, it has markings for 5 VF-195 Hornets although there’s only enough stenciling for 3 aircraft.
The decal sheet is printed by Cartograf which is generally regarded as one of the best decal printers in the business. Thankfully, unlike typical Hasegawa decals, this means 2 things:
Decal options depict ‘Chippy 400’s’ markings during the following periods:
The Chippy Ho markings are for the most part, very colorful and big. This should grab anyone’s attention in an ocean of greys that are the color schemes of modern Naval aircraft.
For anyone who’s a Hornet fan or into colorful CAG markings, this is a must get.
The F/A-18 Hornet has been in service with the US Navy and US Marines for more than 2 decades. Through the years, its capabilities have been refined and upgraded to meet with new mission requirements.
Most of these upgrades are software-related and internal changes. However, once in awhile, modifications involve external changes. One of these is the integration of AIFF antennae. These involve adding 5 blades (commonly called ‘bird slicers’) on the nose, between the canopy and the gun. Late Block Hornets were all duly modified.
The 1/48 Hasegawa F/A-18 Hornet is touted as the best Hornet kit in the market and has been since it has been released. However, out of the box, it renders an early production Hornet. One would have to scratchbuild the AFF antenna. MAW Decals has come along however, to offer a resin version.
Now instead of simply molding 5 small blade antennas on a pour stub, MAW Decals has decided to offer the whole Hornet nose! So you basically swap out the kit nose and plonk in this new one.
A late Block Hornet doesn’t just involve the IFF antennae on the nose though. So MAW Decals includes the following along with the nose:
A small instruction sheet is also included with the locations of the various items. There is also a small decal sheet with what looks to be like wire mesh patterns to put all over the kit. Not being too familiar with Hornets, I’m not too sure what these actually are. But with the attention to detail MAW Decals has done, I’m pretty sure these are accurate!
The resin parts are a white color and the panel lines on the nose itself are very fine. I would have liked for the panel lines to be deeper but it’s a personal preference and an easy matter to remedy anyway. The resin stub itself is at the end of the nose you attach to the kit fuselage so it’s convenient. No fear of losing any details.
One of the UHF antennae and IFF antennae on the nose came bent. This will require some fixing with hot water. MAW Decals packed all the parts in a small ziplock bag and doesn’t secure the pieces in any way so I guess some bent parts is inevitable.
All in all though, this all-in-one package is a welcome addition to my collection. Sure the changes this set does aren’t hard to DIY, but it’s quite convenient. Plus, I’m always glad to support cottage industry items.
Crap. It’s been almost 3 months since I did anything else to this build. Today, I finally got around fixing the demarcation lines. And boy did I have a ‘great’ time doing it.
First I used blutack to mask all over the kit. And ended up not doing anything to it for 3 weekends. And what happened? For some reason the blutack left some sort of residue that of course, couldn’t be rubbed off. So I ended up having to spray everything all over again.
So what I did was for each color, I’d slowly blutack and spray to fix the soft camouflage pattern. Took awhile. Over 3 weekends in fact. But I… am… done! In the process however, I lost the shade of green I originally used, so I ended up respraying all the green again. I also quickly masked off the grey parts and sprayed that on too. The left stablizer also fell off but that’s a small easy fix. So all the major parts (except for the parts that need to be white) are… done! BOO YEAH!
Here’s a before and after look at the camo:
Up next will be the rest of the detail parts. Won’t be long now. Won’t be long…
Another 3 months has gone by and we have moved to our own place. Ongoing house matters put this on the backburner. Now it’s back on the worktable.
Gear has now been painted and ready for assembly. Unlike some modelers, I don’t even try to mask the wheels before painting the tires. I just freehand everything. Carefully. Aircraft kits tend to have a lot of itty-bitty parts so this might take awhile even after everything has been put together.
I… am… edging… closer… to… finishing!
Typically for me, something bad happens to my builds about 70% into the project. I’d then have to spend some time and elbow grease to fix the problem(s). I thought it won’t happen for this one, seeing as how I was 90% into the build. But Mr. Murphy must have known and well… disaster has struck.
In my zeal to quickly finish this thing, I decided to use spray paint to finish the inside of the air intake. And in my zeal to get it over quickly, the spraypaint ended up being too thick. Sigh… so now the air intake looks like something exploded in it and messed up the lip.
After looking at it for 15 minutes, I realized there’s only 2 things that can be done:
Of course, I also realized I should have keep them separate in the first place. But I’m an idiot.
Both aren’t easy solutions, but I’m leaning towards the latter. Which still bugs me either way. More delay! Pah!
Back to the Viper! Now it’s time for all the itty-bitty details. First up are the weapons. Aggressor aircraft are usually armed with one inert AIM-9 Sidewinder and an ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation) pod. I got these from Hasegawa’s Aircraft Weapons Sets C and D respectively. The inert (blue) bands are not included so I had to mask off and paint the bands.
Inert rounds and ACMI pods come in a variety of colors actually. Red, blue, white and various shades of grey. I went with grey as it’s the color shown in my reference photos.
Spent the last two evenings doing the decals. These are aftermarket from Two Bobs.
I must say these are very nice compared to Hasegawa ones. They are very thin and handle Mark Softer very well. There is tissue residue around the decals which I hope won’t cause silvering. I’ll have to wipe down the kit with a damp lint-free cloth when I’ve given it some time for the decals to dry.
After this is weathering!
All decals on! And I must say there is some silvering of the decals. So I did another round of gloss coat. Looks quite OK now. Minute silvering in some angles but it’s much much better now.
And this was when I realized the instructions on Two Bob’s decal sheet was wrong! The checkerboard pattern is not supposed to be on the tip of the tailfin as depicted on the instructions. It’s supposed to be slightly below. Sigh… that’s what I get for not looking at enough reference photos. Too late to fix it now.
Anyway, before commencing with weathering, I glued on the landing gear. Which isn’t how I normally do things. Normally I’d weather everything before putting them all together but I couldn’t resist. Let’s hope I won’t regret doing it this way.
I did leave out the weapons, the pitot tube and some of the smaller antennae blades till after weathering though.
The details in the gear wells are actually quite bare compared to the real thing, but it should look much better after a wash.
I use artist oil diluted with turpentine for my wash. Took me a lot longer than I used to. Probably rusty. I ended up making the wash too thick so I had to spend some time removing excess oil paint. I’ve also forgotten how badly turpentine smelled. Lots of ventilation required!
The wash makes the panel lines pop out which isn’t realistic by any means (friendships have been broken over this sort of thing). However, I chalk it up to artistic license as I find it gives the whole kit a more 3D-look.
I added the final touches to the kit. This includes the remaining antennae blades and the weapons. The ACMI pod and Sidewinder are mounted with CA glue.
Another small detail that Hasegawa left out of their mold is the AOA (Angle Of Attack) vanes. These are very small needle-like protrusions on each side of the nose. Based on a suggestion by good friend Gerald, I cut out the tips off safety pins to simulate the probes. Then I drilled holes onto the radome and CA glued the tips into place. These are then painted the same grey as the radome.
There’s also the matter of the static dischargers on the tailfin, wings and stabilizers. I tried fishing line but it’s so thin the CA glue had nothing to stick on. I’m considering brass rod, stretched sprue or copper wire. Who knows, something else might popup.
I’m planning to enter this kit to the 7th Jakarta Miniature Model & Expo held by Peter & Partner, a local model shop so right now I’m debating if I should add a simple base for it. Something along the lines of this. First though, I better make sure I finish this before 6 December (last day of registration).
The RGM-79SC GM Sniper Custom was developed for the ace pilots of the Federation. Performance and capability was upgraded from the standard GM to the levels of the RX-78-2 Gundam operating out of the White Base during the One Year War.
Generator output was increased for the added load the long-range beam sniper rifle produced. The beam saber was repositioned to the forearm for close combat. Additional racks were added for optional weapons and to increase the mobility, the GM Sniper Custom was upgraded with a mass of additional thrusters and verniers. Less than 50 Sniper Customs were built. Each was specifically tailored for its pilot so no two were configured the same way.
Akohobby is back again with one of their excellent plastic injection conversions. This time around, they have decided to tackle another GM variant, this time the RGM-79SC GM Sniper Custom. Like their previous Powered GM conversion, you will need a base kit to apply this kit on. The GM Sniper Custom requires Bandai’s RX-78-2 Gundam ver. One Year War (OYW) as a base.
Inside the plain brown box are 2 sprues of dark grey injection plastic and a simple A5-sized instruction sheet. The whole set is made up of 44 parts and converts the following portions of the Gundam OYW:
The Gundam OYW is actually filled with panel details which the Akohobby replicates on their product. So once installed, they won’t look out of place compared to the original parts.
One minor complaint is the lack of clear parts for the head visor. Akohobby molds this as a solid piece like the other parts. The shape itself though, seems to be quite similar to the MG GM kit but I’m not sure if it’s possible to use the part from that kit to replace this one. But it also means you’ll throw away one kit just for the clear part.
The instruction sheet is simple enough with large diagrams showing where each part goes. The sheet also indicates the parts that are included in the base kit by shading them in dark grey. Parts in white are from the conversion kit itself. Nicely done on the part of Akohobby.
Fit seems to be OK as the kit is engineered to be snap fit like the base kit. I must add though that I had some fitting problems with my previous Powered GM build. However, a fellow modeler didn’t which meant either 1) my construction sucks or 2) my Powered GM kit was part of a 2nd or later production batch, which deteriorated the mold somehow. Anyway, I’m sure this GM Sniper Custom set is part of the 1st batch of production run so hopefully, there won’t be any fitting problems.
Using the Gundam OYW as a base means the completed GM Sniper Custom should be just as poseable which should make for an exciting build. Plus, it’s ver affordable! What more can you ask for?