Saturday, 18 March 2017

Super Bug

Historical Background
In the 1980s, McDonnell Douglas proposed an enlarged F/A-18 Hornet, marketed as Hornet 2000. The concept envisaged an F/A-18 with a larger wing and a longer fuselage to carry more fuel (the Hornet's main shortcoming) and more powerful engines. The study was made official in January 1988. At the same time, the US Naval Aviation was having problems with the A-12 Avenger II stealth attack aircraft programme, which was intended to replace the A-6 Intruder and A-7 Corsair on board US carriers. The Navy was also looking for a replacement for its aborted Navy Advanced Tactical Fighter (which was basically a navalised F-22 Raptor). The Navy also considered updating an existing design rather than designing a totally new aircraft, as the end of the Cold War led to budget cuts and considerable restructuring. As an alternative to the NASF and A-12, McDonnell Douglas offered the Hornet 2000 as the 'Super Hornet'. In 1992, the US Navy ordered the Super Hornet, partly to replace the venerable F-14 Tomcat and partly as all replacement aircraft should be based on the F/A-18 pending the introduction of the F-35. Despite basically a new aircraft, the F/A-18 designation was retained to help the Navy to sell the Super Hornet to the Congress.

The Super Hornet first flew on 29 November 1995 with full production begun in September 1997. In 1999 it went through the Navy's operational tests and evaluations and was finally accepted in February 2000. The Super Hornet is about 20% larger than the original Hornet (now dubbed 'Legacy Hornet'), it was also 3,200 kg (empty weight) and 6,800 kg (maximum weight) heavier. The Super Hornet also carries 33% more fuel, allowing a 41% increase in mission range and endurance by 50% over the Legacy Hornet. To make room for that extra fuel and additional electronics, the fuselage was stretched by 86 cm and the wing area was enlarged by 25%. However, although it was 5,000 kg lighter than the F-14, the Super Hornet still cannot match the former's range and endurance. Despite the extension and enlargement, the Super Hornet has 42% less structural parts than the Legacy Hornet. The Super Hornet was powered by a pair of General Electric F414 afterburning turbofan engines which have 35% more thrust than the original F404. The new engines also allow a higher 'bringback' weight. With the retirement of KA-6D and S-3B inflight refueling tankers, the Super Hornet was designed so that it can be equipped with an air refueling system ('buddy tanks'), carrying a 1,200 liter fuel tank/hose drum unit on the centerline and four 1,800 liter tanks under the wings.

The intake ramps were redesigned, from oval in the Legacy Hornet to a rectangular one. The wing root leading edge extensions (LERX) were also enlarged, improving vortex lifting characteristics in high angle of attack maneuvers. The Super Hornet also incorporated some stealthy features, including redesign of the intakes so that the engines compressor face is masked, reducing the aircraft's overall radar cross-section. Other measures include panel joint serration and edge alignment. Two extra hardpoints were added under the wings for a total of 11. The Super Hornet has quadruplex digital fly-by-wire system and also a digital flight control system that detects and corrects for battle damage. Initial production Super Hornets were equipped with the APG-73 radar as the C and D versions of the Legacy Hornet but were later replaced with APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. Main electro-optical sensor and laser designator was the AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR. From May 2007, the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) was delivered to operational units, allowing, among others, off-boresight missile cuing. Like the Legacy Hornet, the Super Hornet came in two versions: the single-seat F/A-18E and the two-seat F/A-18F.

The Super Hornet achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in September 2001 with VFA-115 'Eagles'. The Eagles also became the first unit to use their Super Hornet in combat when a pair of them attacked two Iraqi SAM launchers at Al Kut and an air defence command and control bunker at Tallil Air Base in support of Operation Southern Watch on 6 November 2002. The mission also marked the debut of the JDAM. The Super Hornet was subsequently used in US operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and along the Somali coast. Unlike the Legacy Hornet, the Super Hornet was not operated by the USMC (who prefer to wait for the F-35). So far, only Australia is the export customer for the Super Hornet, curently operating 24. Other potential customers were sought, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Poland, UAE, Bulgaria and Belgium. The Super Hornet airframe is also used to build the EA-18G Growler, the replacement for the venerable EA-6B Prowler on board the Navy's carriers.

The Kit
Hasegawa introduced their 1/72 kit of the Super Hornet in 2003 by releasing the 'F' version and this was followed by the 'E' in 2004. The parts were spread among seven light grey and one clear sprues. The parts were well-moulded and featured finely engraved panel lines and hundreds of tiny dimples representing the flush rivets. The fuselage breakdown allow Hasegawa to make just one mould for the forward fuselage of both E and F models. The intake trunking, as with many other models are short and ended with a 'wall'. Other interior details, such as for the landing gear wells were sufficient in 1/72 scale. Unlike previous Hasegawa kits, there were some external stores provided : four 480-US Gallon external tanks, two AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9X Sidewinders. Also included is a AN/AAS-38 NITE Hawk FLIR pod (strangely not the ATFLIR). Of course you need weapons from other sources to fully arm your Rhino. Two marking options were provided : NH 200 / 165861, VFA-14 Tophatters, USS Nimitz and NK 200 / 165781, VFA-115 Eagles, USS Abraham Lincoln.

As usual, construction started at the admittedly not-detailed-cockpit. It was painted Gunze 317 with the details (make that just the control stick) in Flat Black. The dials and switches were represented by decals. Rather bafflingly (as it would be invisible), Hasegawa instructed you to fill the holes in the shell of the rear crew position. The front fuselage of the kit is a three-piece affair. The left and right halves were cemented first. The cockpit was cemented to the lower fuselage and afterwards it was cemented to assembled upper halves. As with any other multi-part assembly, some extra care were needed to avoid seams. Although instructed to be fitted later, I decided to put the ejection seat into place. I however discarded the kit ejection seat and replaced it one from Aires. The nose assembly was set aside as I go through the main fuselage.

The main fuselage is another multi-part affair with the possibility of bad fit. Before doing anything, holes were drilled into the bottom of the fuselage to accommodate an external fuel tank later on. As the intake trunks ended in a blank 'wall', the latter was painted Flat Black while the intake trunking itself was painted Gunze H308. The decals representing the grille (I think) on the intake was done at this time as there might not be enough space for my fingers when the intake parts were joined together. A blanking plate closes the aperture for the WSO's cockpit. The mounting for the engine turbine face at the rear of the fuselage is also the mount for the horizontal tail and was provided with poly caps so that the tails can be removed for painting. As feared, there are some steps on the joint lines which needed attention but nothing major. The same goes when the fuselage was mated to the nose assembly.

The wings were two-piece affairs and holes were drilled into the lower half before the two of them were mated together. The wingtip missile rails were separate and the instructions have you cement the rail and missile together before cementing the assembly to the wings. I digress by cementing the rails to the wings first and leave the missiles for later. But the way the wingtips were engineered meant that I have to apply the decals for the wingtip slime lights (after painting the relevant areas first) before cementing the missile rails. The separate hump on the spine fit well but there was a bit of a gap between it and the fuselage towards the rear. The twin vertical tails were cemented while the horizontal tails were pushed into place. The latter would be removed during decalling to ease things. As usual, all the small parts, landing gears and doors were left off until after painting. The pylons wera also left off at this time to ease handling.

Painting and Decalling
As with most US modern military combat jets, the Super Hornet is painted a two-tone grey scheme, specifically FS 36375 and FS 36320. The former was applied using Gunze H308 while the latter was mixed from Tamiya XF-66 Light Grey, XF-54 Dark Sea Grey and XF-2 Flat White as didn't realize I have run out of Gunze H307. The still-separate parts were also painted while still on the sprue and will be touched-up later. The area next to the cannon muzzle was painted Burnt Iron. For markings, instead of kit decals, I used TwoBobs' 'F/A-18E Rockin' Rhinos #1' decal sheet featuring a CAG bird from VFA-22 Fighting Redcocks and VFA-143 Pukin' Dogs. Both schemes are attractive but in the end I chose the Pukin' Dog scheme. Having used their decals for my  F-117, A-10 and F-111 projects before, I am very sure of their quality. One complaint though : some of the decals were not shown in the instructions. The decals then received an application of AK Interactive Decal Adapter solution. I however slipped my hand while applying the said solution on the right hand side diagonal stripe, resulting in a crooked line underneath the LERX.

There really wasn't much to do at this stage, for this kit. The landing gear was assembled, given some wash and was then cemented to the fuselage. The horizontal planes were simply pushed into place. The panel lines were then highlighted with AK Interactive Paneliner for Grey Aircraft. For underwing stuff, I did not have really clear idea on what were hung underneath the pylons during combat missions. In the decided, using stuff found in Hasegawa's Weapons Sets, two GBU-16s, two GBU-31 JDAMs and an AGM-88 HARM were used while the Sidewinders and AMRAAMs came from the kit. However I decided to use the 'L' family of the AIM-9 instead of the newer X. Liquid cement was stippled on the GBU-16s to replicate the thermal coating used on USN bombs. before cementing the external stores, certain panel lines were enhanced using AK Interactive Paneliner while pencil was used for the rest. After the external stores have been attached to the model, it was sprayed with a couple of layers of Flat Clear.

The Hasegawa 1/72 F/A-18E Super Hornet got a 'fair' rating from me. The overall shape is nice  although the fit wasn't, especially from the intake forward. Detail-wise, the interior was as as expected form the kit of this scale although should have added a bit more to spruce up the deck behind the pilot's office. And apparently, for this particular kit, some of the external details / panel lines are of the prototype's (or imaginary?) - I came to this conclusion after perusing the instruction sheets of subsequent reboxings of this kit, showing the required trimming/sanding/filling. And there is no need for me to go on about the relative lack of underwing stores, but at least, Hasegawa has the decency of providing modellers with the pairs of Sidewinder and AMRAAM missiles.  

Monday, 30 January 2017

Stalin's Iron Falcons

Historical Background
With the tide of war turning against the Axis Powers in 1943, Soviet engineers can now devote their work to develop an indigenous turbojet of their own design in order to catch up with the West. To help the indigenous jet engines move along, captured German BMW 003 and Jumo 004 engines were used as basis. These engines, developed under shortages in wartime Germany were unable to generate thrusts of more than 2,500 lb. While the engines (now designated RD-20 and RD-10 respectively) were used to power the Soviet's first-generation jet fighters - the Yak-15 and the MiG-9, they were more seen as developmental efforts rather than 'proper' jet fighters. Mikhail Khrunichev, the Soviet aviation minister and Alexander Yakovlev suggested to Stalin that the USSR buy the conservative but fully mature Rolls-Royce Nene from the UK to conserve development time but was rebuffed by Stalin as he did not believe anyone would sell their secrets to the Soviets. nevertheless Stalin gave his consent to the proposal and a delegation which include Vladimir Klimov and  Artem Mikoyan travelled to London to request the engines.

To the Soviets' surprise (especially Stalin), the British Labour government of the day, specifically the Minister of Trade, Sir Stafford Cripps, was perfectly willing to provide technical information and a license to manufacture the Nene. Sample engines, together with blueprints were duly purchased and brought back home. After evaluation and adaptation to Russian conditions, the Nene was manufactured as the Klimov RD-45. To take advantage of the new engine, the Council Of Ministers ordered Mikoyan-Gurevich OKB to build two prototypes of high-altitude day interceptor. German research and experience during the war years showed that swept wings would give better performance at transonic speeds and with the wealth of German documents captured at the end of World War 2, the MiG design incorporated that particular feature, among others, for their I-310 prototypes. The I-310 has 35° wing and tail sweep with two wing fences on each wing to improve airflow over the wings. The RD-45 was fed by a split-forward air intake. It made its first flight on 30 December 1947, demonstrating excellent performance, proving itself superior to the rival Lavochkin La-15 design.

The MiG was approved for mass production and was designated MiG-15. Entering service in 1949, it was given the NATO ASCC reporting name of 'Fagot' (meant to be 'a bundle of sticks' rather than the 'other' meaning; and it was originally intended to be given the name 'Falcon'). The MiG-15 was originally intended to intercept large American bombers such as the B-29. To ensure the destruction of such a large target, the MiG-15 was armed with two 23mm and a single 37mm cannons. These weapons provided tremendous firepower in the interception role but the low rate of fire and the low muzzle velocity made it more difficult to shoot at the more maneuverable fighters. The cannons also have different ballistics trajectory making aiming difficult and subjecting the UN fighter pilots in Korea the sight of 23mm rounds passing over and the 37mm rounds passing beneath their aircraft. Although the RD-45 have excellent performance, it was quite a gas guzzler while having a short service (reputedly less than 100 hours). Klimov came up with the improved VK-1 generating 5,952 lb of thrust (legally speaking, the VJ-1 and the RD-45 were illegal copies of the Nene but the Soviets claimed that they had re-engineered the engines to the extent that they are now indigenous Soviet designs). This plus a number of small upgrades, including a more closely placed 23mm cannons resulted in the MiG-15bis ('second'), Although overall an excellent machine, the MiG-15 was not without shortcomings. Its lack of an 'all-flying' tail meant that it cannot exceed Mach 0.92 where flight controls become ineffective. Additionally, it tended to spin after a stall and the pilot was often unable to recover.

The MiG-15 first saw action during the final stages of the Chinese Civil War when the Soviets sent the 50th IAD to the Chinese Communists aid in February 1950. On 28 April 1950, a Captain Kalinikov scored the first kill for the MiG-15 - a P-38 Lightning of the Kuomintang. When the Korean War erupted about two months later, the KPAF, equipped with World War 2-era Soviet prop fighters was completely overwhelmed with the numerical and qualitative superiority of the USAF using the F-80 Shooting Star and the F-84 Thunderjet. The 50th IAD was transferred to the northeast of China and back in the Soviet Union, pilots were recruited to serve in Korea. Volunteers had to be under 27 years old and preference was given to World War 2 veterans. They formed the 29th Guards IAD. Although widely suspected by the West and constantly denied by the Soviets, the end of the Cold War finally revealed the role played by the Soviets. The pilots wore Chinese uniforms or civillian clothings. Cards with common flying terms in Korean (and spelt phonetically in Cyrillic) was issued to them. They were also prohibited from flying over enemy-held territory where they might be shot down and captured, thus revealing the Soviets' participation. The aircraft was also painted in Chinese and North Korean markings.

On 1 November 1950, eight MiGs intercepted 15 F-51Ds, shooting down one of the Mustangs. On the same day, another three MiGs intercepted around 10 F-80s and 1st Lieutenant Semyon F. Khominich scored the first jet-to-jet kill when he shot down 1st Lt. Frank van Sickle's F-80. The presence of the MiGs also forced the B-29s to operate during the night. However, on 9 November, the MiGs suffered their first loss when Captain Mikhail F. Grachev was shot down by an F9F Panther piloted by Lt. Commander William T. Amen from USS Philippine Sea. To counter this threat, three squadrons of North American F-86 Sabres were rushed to the theatre. More experienced units were sent by Stalin including the 324th IAD commanded by Col. Ivan Kozhedub, the Allies' highest-scoring ace during World War 2. Records show that the 64th IAK (the parent MiG organisation in Korea) shot down 647 F-86s, 185 F-84 Thunderjets, 118 F-80s, 28 F-51s, 11 F-94s, 65 B-29s, 26 Meteors and 17 various other aircraft. 659 were lost, mainly to Sabres and with the Americans' claimed loss of 78 Sabres, the kill : loss ratio was around 6:1 in favour of the F-86. Nevertheless, the highest scoring ace of the Korean War was not Col. Joseph C. McConnell (16 victories) as previously believed but Colonel Yevgeny Pepelyaev with 22.5 kills.

Although a few damaged Sabres were salvaged for evaluation, the USAF wanted an intact example and initiated Operation Moolah, offering a reward of US$100,000 and political asylum to pilots who defected with their MiG-15. On 5 March 1953, Franciszek Jarecki brought his plane to Denmark where his plane was inspected by American specialists before the aircraft was returned to the Poles. The more celebrated defector was No Kum-Sok, who landed his MiG at the Kimpo Air Base on 21 September 1953. The plane was thoroughly inspected and tested, including by Chuck Yeager, who reported the MiG's dangerous handling faults. The MiG-15 was also used to intercept Western reconnaissance aircraft and other conflicts such as in the Middle East and between Taiwan and China where it suffered the distinction of being the first victim of the Sidewinder missile in 1958. The MiG-15 was widely exported (and license built as the S-102/S-103 (Czechoslovakia) and Poland (Lim-1/ Lim-2). Apparently over 18,000 was built, making it the most-produced jet fighter of all time.

The Kit
There has been a number of MiG-15 kits in 1/72 scale but they are either inaccurate or no longer available. The best available before the Eduard MiG-15 was Hobby Boss's. They are good but a bit simplified. Eduard came up with their family of MiG-15s in 2014, initially releasing the baseline MiG-15 and followed by the bis. As per their usual practice, the simplified 'Weekend Edition' followed not long after. Simplified it may be, but for Eduard aficionados and modellers in general, it just meant that the PE, resin (if any) and masks are not included and the choice of markings reduced to just one (or two). This allows modellers inexperienced with the said media  (or loath them) to still enjoy their kits as the basic styrene parts are well-detailed and moulded. This particular kit has 74 parts in grey plastic, 7 parts in clear plastic, Eduard's Super Fabric seat belts and a small decal sheet. Parts for the basic MiG-15 was included but one cannot be made as some bis parts were already moulded / engraved (such as the airbrakes). The decal sheet provide markings for 'Yellow 30' (ex Red 1976) in the mid-1950s.

As usual work started at the pilot's office and as usual I painted the parts while still on the sprue. They were painted according to Eduard's directions of mainly Gunze 308 Light Ghost Grey with Flat Black upholstery and the top of the control stick and blue for a detail on the cockpit floor. The cockpit details was then enhanced with a dark grey wash. My copy of the kit must be of a later batch as the instructions showed the seat belts (the ones on the internet I have seen lacked it in the instructions) although there is no mention on how to apply them - I managed to do so by checking out Eduard's website. It should be gently removed from the backing paper using a sharp blade and a pair of tweezers and sticking them using white glue. Although without PE detailing, it may be a blessing in disguise as the Profipack version have the pre-painted PE in Russian cockpit blue-green whereas MiG-15s have their cockpit painted grey. The nose wheel well was assembled and cemented to the front of the cockpit where care has to be given else it might not align with the fuselage bottom. The cockpit tub was then cemented together. I couldn't suitable weight to fit in the designated area so I crammed as much plasticine as I can inside the cavity.

At the back of the plane, Eduard provided a two-piece exhaust shaft  with a bulkhead already moulded with a rear end of a jet turbine (to avoid the see-through effect while having some detail). They were painted Burnt Iron although I shouldn't have bothered painting the whole length of the thing. before the fuselage halves were jointed, the interior walls were painted Gunze 8 Silver. The cockpit assembly and the exhaust assembly was cemented to the right half (and I think the exhaust assembly was handed). Caution: the rudder need to be cemented to either fuselage half before closing up (ask me how I found that). The fuselage fitted beautifully except at the front but it was nothing a clamp can't overcome. The instrument panel was then inserted into place. I used the flat face and decals option than the raised details as they looked way oversized while not having instrument face details. (As a matter of interest, the instrument face decal included a vertical white line slightly off centre - the line is there on the real aircraft as it was a reference point for pilots to shove their control stick against, should they got themselves into a spin)

The lower half of the nose is a separate piece to allow Eduard to mould the original and bis cannon arrangements separately and accurately and before it was cemented to the fuselage, more plasticine were crammed into the cavity. After the piece was securely in place, the nose / intake lip was assembled and cemented. Holes for the external fuel tank were drilled and the wing halves cemented together. The wings were then joined to the fuselage where I found that the fit was not good. Well, it's time for the filler then. The tailplanes however went on without any problems. I was thinking of cementing the cannons at this time but seeing how close they would be to the landing gears and that they may interfere while I work the gear and the doors, I left it for later. The two clear parts for the bottom of the fuselage was dry fitted at first, showing that the round one (the cover for the ARK-5 radio compass) having a rather poor fit and needed some sanding before it can fit in the recess.

Painting and Decaling
Although it was clearly stated in the diagram that the MiG is painted overall silver (specifically Mr. Color Super Metallic 'Super Fine Silver'), I suddenly had doubts whether it was actually silver, or bare metal or painted aluminium. After consulting various sources, I concluded that the MiGs were left in bare metal. However, I have run out of Tamiya AS-12 and so with a heavy heart, I sprayed Tamiya TS-30 Silver Leaf. The lower portion of the extreme nose is painted SM 04 Super Stainless - another colour I did not have at the time. However I believe that portion of the nose was reinforced to withstand the cannon blasts. I thus looked to photo references of MiG-19s, which have reinforced skin next to the cannon muzzles, for ideas and came up with my own concoction for that colour (which may or may not be accurate). There is no mention about the clear parts underneath the fuselage. So after hunting down pics on the internet, the clear rectangular part was painted over while the ARK-5 radio compass cover was left off as it is.

As mentioned before, there is just one marking scheme, a Korean War veteran back in Mother Russia in the mid-1950s. The scheme feature faded original Bort number 1976 and the North Korean insignia overlaid with the V-VS Red Star and new Bort number 30. Ideally, the original markings should be printed with lower colour density but Eduard have them in full colour and instructed the modeller to lightly overspray them before applying the newer markings. After giving some thoughts, I decided to have the model in the original markings only. After the decals have recovered from their setting solution bath, the panel lines were enhanced with Ak Interactive Paneliner (I used the 'for blue and grey camouflage'). At this time I sort of have an idea of transforming the all-silver paint job into something that mimicked, more or less, a natural metal finish. Random panels were given washes or maybe something akin to a filter layer of aluminium, metallic grey, smoke (Tamiya X-19). It wasn't perfect of course but at least it gave that natural metal-ish look.

As usual I started by fitting the landing gears first so that the model can stand on its own. It ended up with the tail on the worktable - not enough ballast in the nose! Thankfully the rear cockpit decking was not yet in place so I can fit some more plasticine in the cavity behind the cockpit. I also realized that the left wing have more anhedral than the right wing and the same goes with the right tail plane! The wing is not much of an issue as the model look balanced on its landing gear but the same cannot be said for the tail plane! Anyway, the finishing stage goes on and I drilled holes into Part B12 as photos of the real aircraft show it to be perforated. The final, more fragile parts were cemented after the drop tanks have been fitted - although the kit also provide slip-on style external tanks, only the finned type were used with different attachment pylons for variety.

The Eduard MiG-15 family definitely filled the void in 1/72 scale. While the Airfix and Hobby Boss kits are still available, the former still retain some inaccuracies while the latter was a bit simplified (although still accurate). The Eduard kit is well moulded with very nice surface detailing and although lacking the extras such as PE parts and paint masks, it still represents a value for money. Fit is generally very good although the hiccups I encountered may be purely as the result from my clumsiness. A must if you build and collect 1/72 jets due to its place in history. Now I'm off looking for its adversary, the Sabre.....


Sunday, 15 January 2017

Heir To The Panther

Historical Background
In the mid-1950s West Germany's rapid industrial recovery from World War 2, allowed it, among other West European nations, to rebuild its military to face the Soviet threat. A new main battle tank was part of the Bundeswehr's plan and in November 1956, a project known as the Standard-Panzer was started. On 25 July 1957, the detailed specifications were released, calling for a 30-ton tank with a power output/weight ratio of 30 hp/ton, armour able to resist rapid-fire 20mm rounds, treated against NBC and armed with a 105mm gun. Armour was given the least priority here as it was assumed that all AFVs cannot be protected against hollow charge projectiles. At the same time, France was interested in the Standard-Panzer, following the failure of its AMX-50 project. The two countries agreed to jointly develop a common tank called the Europa-Panzer, which was intended to equip Western European armies, replacing the American-supplied M47 and M48 Pattons. Three West German and one French team would submit their proposals. The West Germany teams were Arbeitsgruppe A led by Porsche, Arbeitsgruppe B led by Rheinmetall and Arbeitsgruppe C led by Borgward. In September 1958, Italy joined the development programme.

Although the Phase I prototypes weren't finished, it was decided to start Phase II prototypes in 1959. In 1961, Arbeitsgruppe A was assigned to build 26 pre-series (O-series) prototypes, Arbeitsgruppe B 6 vehicles but Arbeitsgruppe C, with its AMX-13-like design, failed to submit their original prototypes in time. In 1963, Arbeitsgruppe A's design, with a new cast turret and several hull changes were chosen as the winner. Before mass production of the standard version can be started, it was decided to add an optical range-finding system which led to an increased height of the turret and the addition of bumps on the turret sides to accommodate the sights. In 1963, France decided to leave the programme and pursued their own design, which led to the AMX-30. The new tank was given the name 'Leopard' to continue with the tradition started with the Panther and Tiger tanks of World War 2 fame. The production line was set up at Krauss-Maffei in Munich from early 1964 with the first batch being delivered between September 1965 and July 1966.

Following the lessons learned during World War 2, the Leopard has a well-sloped hull although not very thick (the thickest, for the turret front and mantlet, was 70mm). This was later rectified by the use of add-on armour plates. The turret was originally of cast construction which was later changed to welded joints. The Leopard is powered by a multi-fuel  MTU MB 838 CaM 500 engine generating 819 hp at 2,200 rpm. With the relatively lightweight hull, it gave the tank a sprightly performance. Cross-country ride was very smooth, courtesy of shock absorbers on three front and two rear road wheels. The Leopard is armed with a license-built Royal Ordnance L7 105mm rifled tank gun firing all kinds of ammunition available to NATO armies. 55 rounds were carried. Secondary armament comprise of a 7.62mm MG42/59, MG3 or FN MAG machine gun co-axially mounted with the main gun and another similar weapon mounted in the commander's cupola. 5,000 rounds of 7.62 x 51mm ammunition were carried.

The Leopard (also known as Leopard 1) was produced in a number of basic variants, designated A1 to A5. The 1A3 version, entering production in 1974, was fitted with a new welded turret, incorporating two spaced steel plates with a sandwiched plastic filling, and a distinctitive wedge-shaped mantlet. This turret is roomier than the earlier cast turret while doubling the protection. 110 were built. Next was 1A4, forming the sixth batch of vehicles, 250 in number. Externally similar to 1A3, this variant included a new computerised fire control system and a new EMES 12A1 sights. The commander was also provided with the PERI R12 independent night sighting system. These additions however resulted in the reduction of the main armament ammunition from 55 to 42. The Leopard 1 chassis was also used for the Flakpanzer Gepard AA vehicle, Bruckenleger Biber armoured bridgelayer and Bergepanzer II armoured engineering vehicle.

Apart from the Bundeswehr, the Leopard 1 enjoyed considerable export success, being sold to (or having building license issued to) Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Australia, Canada, Turkey and Greece. Most of these countries no longer operated their Leopard 1s, which were then transferred to Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Lebanon. The Leopard 1 MBT was used in combat during peacekeeping operations in The Balkans during the 1990s. On 29 April 1994, during Operation Bollebank, the Danish contingent of the UNPROFOR came under artillery fire from Bosnian Serb forces. Their commander decided to return fire using the seven Leopard 1A5s in the column, firing 72 rounds which destroyed several artillery pieces, bunkers and an ammunition dump. Almost six months later, on 25 October during Operation Amanda, a Bosnian Serb T-55 fired upon three Danish Leopard 1A5s, One of the Leopards suffer a slight damage while return fire knocked the T-55 out and also destroyed a recoilless rifle. Canada sent their Leopard C1 to Kosovo in 1999 and the upgraded C2 variant to Afghanistan from 2006 to 2011.

The Kit
Meng's Leopard 1A3/A4 is my second armour model kit from them (and the third kit overall when the F-102 is taken into account). It was first released in 2013 and comprised of 283 dark green parts, 180 brown parts (the separate-link tracks), ten clear, the PE, two lengths of vinyl tracks, poly caps, a length of string and the usual decal and instruction sheets. The parts are all well-detailed and moulded crisply while the vinyl tracks have good details with no ejector marks; the separate tracks have even better detail but were marred by two shallow ejector pin circles.  Options were given for turret details and the kit allows the building of either the A3, A4 or the Greek GR1 so one needs to pay attention to instructions. Accuracy-wise, well, some online reviewers mentioned about inaccurate shapes but hey, is there really such a thing as a perfect model kit? They can be rectified but I think I'll leave them as they are. The decal sheet provide markings for:
1. Leopard 1A3, 2nd Squadron, 304th Panzer Battalion, mid-1980s (tricolor camo)
2. Leopard 1A3, 4th Squadron, 301st Panzer Battalion, 1980s (dark green)
3. Leopard 1 A4, 4th Squadron, 293rd Panzer Battalion, 1980s (dark green)
4. Leopard 1A4 (GR), Helllenic Army (four-colour camo)

Before starting, it should be noted that you must make a choice at this time as the four marking options feature different details. I decided to build the third option. As usual, construction started at the bottom by cementing all the suspension parts to the lower hull. After building their excellent T-10M, it was quite a surprise when I found that the shock absorbers and suspension arms have minimal detail. Perhaps the designers have the opinion that 'if it can barely be seen, why bother with details?' Also like the T-10M kit, the Leopard also feature moveable torsion bar suspension to help modellers pose the model in a diorama setting. There was also the possibility of mounting the return roller mounting upside down by mistake. However, the mounts already moulded on the lower hull can be used as a guide. The wheels is one of the shortcomings of the kit, having wrong details on the outside wheel and hollow on the inside face of the inner wheel. Anyway the wheels were assembled but not yet mounted, save for some test-fitting (which was great).

I then concentrated on the upper hull. Construction here was pretty straightforward as the parts all fit nicely. The engine exhaust grilles however were too shallow- I might need to apply a heavy dark wash here later on. Anyway, I worked in a counter clockwise direction beginning from the driver's hatch cementing the smaller parts onto the upper hull shell. However, the headlights and rear-view mirrors were left off for the time being. The former was because of the need to facilitate painting and the latter in order to avoid them being knocked off and worse, becoming the meal for the Carpet Monster. The rear panel was then worked upon with most of the smaller details cemented onto it. The upper hull and the lower hull was then cemented together, followed by the rear panel. While there weren't any problems with the upper-lower hull joint, there was a gap at the back panel/hull joint which required some puttying and sanding. With the modern tanks' feature of the side skirts, I usually painted the lower hull and put the tracks onto the model at this time. This time however I left them unpainted, with all the wheels and tracks mounted later; the side skirts would be painted separately from the hull.

Moving on to the turret,  I deviated from the instructions by working on the turret shell first. I struggled a bit when inserting part H12 into place but ended up OK. The trunnion was assembled and I was quite concerned as it was loose, and could make the gun point downwards (more on this later). The turret shell was the cemented together with the rear panel falls on the weld seams, requiring just a small correction to restore the beads. There are alternative parts here, chiefly the gunner's and commander's sights. While the alternate sights were shown, what to do with the raised placement marks were not. Common sense prevailed and the excess plastic was removed. The gun barrel and the mantlet was assembled and again, I wish for a one-piece turned aluminium (or even plastic) barrel. The IR searchlight was assembled but left alone at first, while I place the gun assembly to the turret. As expected the gun pointed downwards, but when the mantlet cover was cemented into place, it put the gun in a roughly zero-angle plane. The IR searchlight was then put in place. The rest of the parts were assembled and cemented onto the turret without any problems.

Painting and Decaling
The markings I chose was for the Leopard 1A4 of the 293rd Panzer Battalion. This option, together with the 1A3 of the 301st Panzer Battalion was in overall Dark Green. Moving away from my traditional paint supplies (specifically Tamiya), the kit was painted using Vallejo US Dark Green. Although the paint is formulated for airbrushes, I find it suitable (way better actually than Tamiya and Mr. Color paints) for hand brushing, although it may not be economical for hand brushing in the long run. Although I think (and I didn't bother to check internet forums beforehand) the paint already has the scale factor built in, I added a bit of white. The rest of the tank was however painted using my usual Tamiya paints. The 'metal' portion of the tracks were painted XF-64 Red Brown and then washed with AK Interactive Track Wash while the 'rubber' parts were painted Mr. Color H77 Tyre Black. The model then received a gloss coating prior to decalling. The decals, printed by Cartograf, performed beautifully on the glossy surface. There is no need to use decal setting solutions here but I just dabbed a bit of Mr Mark Softer out of habit.

I started at the bottom by placing the wheels. Since I'm using the one-piece tracks (the tension of which may pull the wheels up), the first and the last suspension bars were frozen in place using Tamiya Extra Thin Cement. The tracks were then laid on as usual and they were followed by the side skirtings. There are seams between on the mud flap (split between the hull and the side skirtings) which need to be smoothed over (and the paint retouched afterwards). The tools were painted XF-59 Desert Yellow and Vallejo US Dark Green and was then placed on the model. There are two options for the rear mudflaps - one hanging open and the other folded - I chose the hanging one. Although not mentioned in the instructions, I painted the road wheel hubs XF-7 Red, as the German vehicles were regularly seen with the hubs painted so. The model then was washed with a brown-black paint mixture. The hull was then washed with Buff and afterwards an application of dust pigments was done to the lower hull. A guitar string was cut and superglued to the aerial base.

The Meng Leopard 1A3/A4 is a nice kit. Yes it has a number of shortcomings, most notably the road wheel detail and accuracy and the shallowness of the engine exhaust vents. Despite that, it was still better than the old Tamiya and Italeri Leopard kits with regards to fit and (the rest of the) details. Although a number of shortcuts were made by Meng they were mostly negligible for a casual modeller (or hidden, in the case of the suspension).

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Italian Workhorse

Historical Background
In December 1937, the Regio Esercito issued a requirement for a new tank to replace the L3 tankette and the M 11/39 medium tank. To save on development time, the tank was to be based on the M 11/39 but with a redesigned upper hull supporting a turret mounted with a Breda modello 35 47mm gun and a co-axial Breda 8mm machine gun while a twin Breda 8-mm was to be mounted in the hull; in other words, the new tank reverses the armament placement of the M 11/39. The development of the tank, designated Carro Armato Medio M 13/40 (13 from the weight in tons and 40 from the year of production, 1940) was placed under the supervision of the Inspectorate of Technical Services. The first prototype was made ready by Fiat-Ansaldo in October 1939 but the Army only accepted it for production in March 1940, following changes and set-up of the production lines.

The M 13/40 was constructed of riveted steel armour plates with thickness of 30mm (front), 42mm turret face, 25mm sides, 6mm bottom and 15mm on top. The fighting compartment was placed in a forward position with the driver and the radio operator/machine gunner in the hull and the gunner and the commander/loader in the turret. The entire lower hull was basically unchanged from the M 11/39. The running gear was made of two bogies per side, each with eight pairs of small road wheels, using leaf-spring suspension. The M13/40 was powered by a Fiat SPA 8 TM V-8 diesel engine, while contemporary designs were still using petrol engines. While sturdy, its power output was only 125 hp and can only drive the M 13/40 at 32 km/h in the best conditions. Being a diesel engine however, it gave the tank a good range while reducing the risk of fire. The M 13/40 was armed with the tank version of the Cannone da 47/32 M35 anti-tank gun. The gun had a performance similar to the Soviet 45mm gun arming the T-26 and BT tanks and can pierce 45mm of armour at 500 meters. This was sufficient against the British light and cruiser tanks, although still ineffective against the heavily armoured infantry tanks. 104 rounds were provided for the main armament, with 3,200 for the three (sometimes four, when the AA MG is placed on the roof) machine guns.

The M 13/40 saw action during the Italian invasion of Greece in 1940 and in North Africa, where many M 13/40s fought until the end in May 1943. While able to hold their own against the early Allied tanks, they became less effective when confronted with later tanks. Despite their relative firepower advantage over the British tanks, the units equipped with the tank were newly formed and thus lacked cohesion, this was worsened by the fact that the tanks were not fitted with radios and the crews lacked training. The M 13/40 first saw action during Operation Compass between 9 December 1940 to 9 February 1941, where they suffered large losses. Many were captured intact and were used by the Australian 2/6th Cavalry Regiment and 6th Royal Tank Regiment. The tanks were painted with large kangaroos on the turret sides to avoid friendly fire. The tanks were discarded when the 8th Army received better tanks. With the introduction of the QF 6 pounder AT gun, 75-mm armed Lee/Grant and 6-pounder armed Crusader III, the M 13/40's weakness were further unravelled. The thin armour can be easily pierced by the more powerful projectiles while the rivets used in the construction can become lethal projectiles inside the tank when hit.  

The M 13/40 spawned other variants. Chief among these were the M 14/41 medium tank, with a more powerful engine and better air filters (especially for service in the North African theatre); M 15/42 medium tank with petrol engine and longer 47 mm L/40 gun; Semovente Comando M40 turretless command tank and the Semovente 75/18 self-propelled gun, modeled after the German Sturmgeschutz assault guns.

The Kit
This is the original release of Tamiya's M 13/40, which first hit the stores when I was two (specifically 1974). Upon opening the box, you fill find....a different tank. While the box top says that it contains parts to build an M 13/40, the parts inside the box are actually for the upgraded version of the M 13/40, that is the M 14/41. This is mainly because of the full-length fenders and lateral rather than longitudinal slats on the radiator grilles. There are also some details missing, or wrong, such as the exhaust mufflers, no inspection holes in the front upper fenders, missing bolt details and no lightening holes in the wheels. The level of moulding however is generally very good (for a 1970s kit that is). Decals provide markings for basically three vehicles : an M 13/40 (M 14/41?) from the Ariete Division, another one from the Littorio Division and a captured example used by the Australians, with large drawings of kangaroos on the turret sides. Extra company markings were provided for the Italian options. Despite the release of the newer (and actually being an M 13/40) kit, I stick to this one as it has been in my stash for years.

As usual construction started with the lower hull. Despite the instructions having you assemble the suspension and wheels, I started by adding the front and rear hull plates first and was followed by the idler wheel mounts. Afterwards, as per my usual style, the lower hull, suspension and wheels were painted with the latter two items while still on the sprue. I however used the newer kit's mix for the basic desert brown colour rather than the vague (which I assume to be XF-59 Desert Brown) one in the original kit. The paint was retouched afterwards and the suspension and wheels assembled. The M 13/40 family, like the Panzer IV, has 16 road wheels on each side, which makes for quite tedious painting and assembly. The one-piece engine deck, track and engine covers was then cemented to the hull. The tracks were left off until later as they are of the flexible vinyl type and can be added after painting. talking about the tracks, it was of the typical old style Tamiya ones with no details whatsoever on the inside face of the links.

The upper hull is a multi-piece affair consisting of the roof, side plates, access door, hull  machine guns (just the external parts only), periscope and the headlights. Make sure the assembly aligns correctly else you might have an offset upper hull. I did that by temporarily placing it on the lower hull to check the alignment. Although fairly aligned with the hull, there are a few gaps which had to be dealt with, especially on the joint between the roof and the sides. The upper hull assembly was then cemented onto the lower hull. Again there are gaps between the superstructure and the lower which needed puttying. The turret is also a simple affair, consisting of the shell, bottom, face, simplified trunnion, main gun barrel, hatch doors and an AA MG. The parts were cemented together with just a bit of filling needed on the roof. The muzzle is solid so I decided to drill them out. Unfortunately due to my crap drilling skills, the hole was off-centre! Oh well, better that than the solid muzzle. The exhausts and the boarding step were left off as I intended to add the tracks after painting has been done.

Painting and Decalling
As mentioned before, the kit's instructions stated that the base colour is 'sand brown' which I originally assumed to be Tamiya's XF-59 Desert Yellow. However, the instructions in the newer M 13/40 kit shows it to be 2 parts XF-60 Dark Yellow and 1 part XF-59 Desert Yellow and this was the mixture I used for this model (and on my model of the AB 41 armoured car.  And, in of those moments, I realised that I have run out of XF-58 Olive Green, so no camouflage for this model. As for markings, I decided to do the less-known Littorio Division. There weren't any distinction between their markings and Ariete's - just the numerical designation. As for individual tank markings, I picked tactical symbols that identified the model as the 3rd vehicle in the 3rd platoon of the 1st company. Paint chippings was then simulated using XF-1 Flat Black and XF-64 Red Brown. The aerial recognition marking, a white circle, on the roof was not painted.

OK, this is an out of the usual sequence affair. I decided to add piles of sandbags, acting as additional armour, to my model after basic painting had been done, Using the two-part epoxy putty technique previously used on my M5 Stuart, the sandbags were sculpted and placed onto the glacis plate. Somewhat absent-mindedly, I forgot to refer to many photographs available on the subject. There is quite a leeway here as the crews piled the sandbags on their vehicles as they see fit. The supplied jerricans, although of the Italian pattern, was crude. I replaced them with German jerricans from an AFV Club set (well, they were allies right?) The sandbags were painted XF-57 Buff and washed with brown. The same brown wash then was applied on the model although the leaf springs were washed with a black solution. As the model intended to represent a North Africa-based vehicle, an overall layer of dust was needed and I used MiG Productions Iraqi Dust (must get other shades of dust for variations). 

While fairly nice back in the 1970s, the first version of Tamiya's M 13/40 was crude by current standards especially the rubber band tracks and the solid gun muzzle (and not to mention being the wrong tank). Straight OOB, based on my readings, this particular Tamiya kit represents an early M 14/41 (more or less) and that particular error (or maybe not, depending on your point of view) has been rectified by Tamiya in 2008. The newer (and correct) M 13/40 not only have that tank's features but also some improvements such as better-detailed Italian jerricans, link-and length (and detailed!) track links and one-piece aluminium barrels. Back to the original kit, while having good details, the fit was not really exemplary especially between the fighting compartment and the hull. While cheap (and maybe even cheaper with the release of the newer version), it was something that only nostalgics or those not having access to the newer version or those trying to improve their modelling skills may try to build. 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Cobras Of The Sea

Historical Background
The emergence of the helicopter, specifically of  Bell's UH-1 Iroquois or Huey, made the theory of air cavalry practical. In Vietnam, the Huey fleet carried troops across the country, to fight at the ground and the time of their own choosing, rather than the enemy's. However, these unarmed Hueys were vulnerable to ground fire especially when they are nearing the landing zones. Without support from nearby artillery or other ground troops, the only way to pacify the landing zones was from the air, using an aircraft, preferably another, armed, helicopter that can closely escort the transport choppers and loiter over the battlefield. Originally the Army used UH-1s fitted with machine guns and rocket launchers, but was needed was a dedicated helicopter gunship Bell has been investigating such concept since the 1950s and in 1962 had revealed a mockup of what they called D-255 Iroquois Warrior concept. The D-255 was a purpose-built attack helicopter based on the UH-1B but with a slender fuselage and the two crew sitting in tandem. It was to be armed with a turret-mounted 40mm grenade launcher in the nose, a 20mm belly-mounted gun pod and stub wings to mount rockets or anti-tank missiles.

The Army was interested and awarded a proof-of-concept contract to Bell in December 1962. Bell modified a regular Bell Model 47 (UH-13 Sioux) into Model 207 Sioux Scout which had the hallmarks of a modern attack helicopter with sleek fuselage, tandem cockpit, chin-mounted turret and stub wings for weapons. Although impressed, the Army decided that the Model 207 was too small, underpowered and generally not suitable for practical use. Instead the Army launched the Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS) which resulted in the large and fast Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne. It proved to be too sophisticated and was eventually cancelled in 1972. Although Model 207 was rejected by the Army, Bell persisted with their idea of a smaller and lighter helicopter gunship. Bell mated the T53 turboshaft engine, the transmission and the rotor system of the UH-1C, adding to the latter a Stability Control Augmentation System with the design philosophy of the Sioux Scout and produced the Model 209.

With the war escalating in Vietnam and the AAFSS programme stuck in technical difficulties and political bickering, the US Army asked Boeing-Vertol, Sikorsky, Kaman, Piasecki and Bell for an interim gunship design. In April1966, Bell's Model 209 won the evaluation and a first production contract for 110 airframes were signed. Bell added 'Cobra' to the UH-1's nickname of 'Huey' becoming Model 209 HueyCobra - the name adopted by the Army for its production AH-1G. For production some modifications was made, including the adoption of simple landing skids instead of retractable undercarriage, a new wide-blade rotor and plexiglass, instead of armoured glass canopy. The first HueyCobras were delivered in June 1967. The USMC was very interested in this new aircraft but preferred a twin-engined version for better safety margin in over-water operations and also a more potent weapons in the turret. Although the Department of Defense balked at providing the USMC with a 'different' aircraft (as it viewed commonality outweighed the advantages of a twin-engined design), the Marirines had their say and awarded Bell a contract for 49 AH-1J SeaCobras in May 1968. The GAU-2 7.62mm minigun and/or M129 40mm grenade launcher of the M28 turret was replaced with a 20mm XM197 three-barrel cannon which was basically a 'halved' M61 Vulcan cannon.

In the 1970s, the USMC requested a greater load-carrying ability in 'hot and high' situations. Using Model 309 KingCobra as a basis, Bell developed the AH-1T. This model also have full TOW missile-firing capability. In the 1980s, the Marines sought to replace their SeaCobras with a navalised version of the AH-64 Apache but was denied funding by the Congress in 1981. In turn, they proposed a more powerful version of the AH-1T, designated AH-1W, called the SuperCobra which also incorporated the ability to fire AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs, AGM-122 Sidearm anti-radiation missiles and AGM-114 Hellfire ASMs. Dubbed the SuperCobra or Whiskey Cobra, it started to enter service in 1986. A total of 179 new-built helicopters and 43 rebuilt AH-1Ts were delivered to the USMC with the last delivery taking place in 1998.

Marine SeaCobras first saw action in June 1972, interdicting the Ho Chi Minh Trail near Hon La Island. Their next action was during Operation Urgent Fury where two AH-1Ts were shot down, killing three crewmembers. The AH-1W first saw action during the Gulf War when 78 were deployed. They flew 1,273 sorties with no combat losses (although three were lost to accidents) and were credited with the destruction of 97 tanks, 104 APCs and other vehicles and two anti-aircraft sites. The SuperCobras continue to give support to the USMC to this day. In 1996, the USMC launched an H-1 helicopter upgrade programme which include upgrading 180 AH-1Ws into AH-1Z Viper standard, which was eventually declared combat ready in 2010. The SuperCobra was also exported to taiwan and Turkey.

The Kit
The 1/72 scale Italeri kit of the Whiskey Cobra came out in 1987, roughly a year after it entered service. The kit consists of 70 parts moulded in featured raised, but nice panel lines. The interior however is fairly basic and some external features specifically the various probes and aerials) were pretty oversized or crude. I'm not sure myself about the accuracy but I am pretty sure the Hellfires doesn't look the part with a more pronounced tapering and a rather suspect shape of the tail fins. The transparent parts were however very clear. The small decal sheet provide markings for just one machine. Without any unit identifying markings and codes, I believe this was one of the development, rather than an operational machines.

As usual with aircraft model kits, construction started at the cockpit. As per my usual style, the parts and the sidewalls were painted while still on the sprue. They were painted overall XF-1 Flat Black while the seat cushions were painted XF-62 Olive Drab. And, no, I didn't bother cutting up masking tapes to make the seat belts. Before joining the fuselage halves together, I crammed 10 grams of ballast underneath the cockpit floor, as suggested by the instructions. The stabilators is a one-piece affair also need to be inserted between the fuselage halves. The next step was concerned with the engine fairing. The mounting for the rotor shaft was glued in place but I left the rotor shaft itself at this time to avoid breakage. The halves were joined together, and was followed by the air intake bits. I was quite impressed when I found that they fitted nicely, requiring no filling or sanding. The exhausts, although assembled, was left off to facilitate painting.

The engine fairing assembly, together with the stub wings were then cemented to the fuselage. To ease handling, the landing skids were also left off at this stage. The gunner's console was cemented into place. Taking caution from previous builds, especially of Tamiya's P-47 Thunderbolt, the gunner's sight was also set aside for the time being. The turret was assembled sans the cannon barrels, which can be added later. The Night Targeting System turret was assembled, also without problems and as with any other vulnerable parts, the thingie in front of the NTS was also left off. The electronics bay cheek fairings and the outboard pylon mountings were cemented before the model went for the painting stage.

Painting and Decalling
The SuperCobra model is presented in the fairly typical 1980s camouflage for the type. The model was painted overall FS 36375 Light Ghost Grey using Mr. Hobby H308. The USMC Green was painted using Tamiya XF-13 JA Green while XF-69 NATO Black was used for the black. The rocket pods were painted XF-62 Olive Drab with a band of silver at the ends of the tube. With hindsight, I probably should have painted the pods XF-13. The Hellfire missiles were also painted XF-62. The instructions just mentioned one single colour for them although photos show them having yellow  bands and/or squares on them. They were duly painted using XF-3 Flat Yellow but by this time, I got lazy and painted them freehand without masks, with predictable results! The rotor hubs were painted Steel while the rotor blades were painted XF-1 Flat Black. Cannon barrels were painted XF-69 NATO Black, after which graphite powder was applied. The decals were then applied with no problems. I just wished Italeri included a line bird rather than the development one for the markings as was done with their 1/48 kit of the SuperCobra. 

I started the final leg by supergluing the landing skids into place, allowing the model to stand. The weapons were. The Hellfires were mounted first on their racks, which were then superglued to the wing pylons. But before that, being the innermost weapons, the rocket pods were cemented into place. The inner wing pylons do not have any alignment tabs, they were aligned using faint raised lines on the stub wings - pretty hard to see with the layer of paint over it. The cannon barrels were then stuck into place through the opening in the turret. The various aerials, cable cutters and the countermeasures dispensers were painted on the sprues before being placed on their respective places on the model. The canopy was then cemented to the model and in contrast to the rest of the kit, it had a bad fit on the left side. And, in my effort to place the canopy, stray cement managed to crept underneath my fingers, reulting in blemishes on the clear parts. Arghhh! Ak Interactive Paneliner for Grey Camo and Brown/Green Camo was then apllied. The model was then sprayed with a couple of layers of Tamiya Semi-Gloss Clear.


Italeri's 1/72 scale is a simple kit and can be the starter kit for those attempting to build their first helicopter model. As I mentioned elsewhere, I'm not sure about the accuracy but it does look like a SuperCobra to me. On the positive side, the parts fitted nicely and on the debit side, the most glaring ones are the shape of the Hellfire missiles and the lack of details in the cockpit. The raised panel lines is not really a problem (unless it causes you nightmares) although I think it is a bit thicker than the previous Italeri helicopters I built. In any case, this the only kit of the SuperCobra in 1/72 scale, being reboxed by Tamiya, Modelist and Testors.