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  1. AH-1G Cobra Late Prod. (53031) 1:35 ICM via H G Hannants Ltd The AH-1 Cobra was the first dedicated production Gunship or Attack Helicopter to see US service as a new type of weapons platform. During the Vietnam war the US Army began to see the need for armed helicopter to escort its (mostly) unarmed UH-1 Hueys into combat. Fortunately, Bell Helicopters had been independently investigating helicopter gunships as early as the late 1950s, so in 1962 Bell was able to display a mock up concept to the US Army, featuring a 20mm gun pod, and a ball turret mounted grenade launcher. It was felt by the Army to be lightweight, under-powered and unsuitable. Following this the US Army launched and Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS) competition, which gave rise to the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne heavy attack helicopter that proved to be too technologically advanced and therefore risky for its time, eventually being cancelled in 1972 after 10 years of development (some things never change). Despite the failure of the AAFSS programme, Bell stuck with its idea of a smaller, lighter gunship and invested its own money developing the AH-1 further. They used as many of the proven components they could from the UH-1 platform, adding these to a newly designed slender fuselage that had a minimal frontal profile, making it harder to hit. When The US Army later asked for plans for an interim gunship for use in Vietnam, Bell was in a fortunate position to be able to offer the ready-made AH-1, or the Bell 209 as it was called internally. Given the work Bell had already done, the programme was completed in a relatively rapid eight months and won the evaluation battle against the competition. In 1966 the US Army signed an initial contract for 110 aircraft. Some slight modifications were made to the production airframes, replacing the heavy armoured glass canopy with Plexiglas to improve performance. Wider rotor blades were fitted and the original retracting skids were replaced by simple fixed units. The G model was the initial 1966 production model gunship for the US Army, with one 1,400shp (1,000 kW) Avco Lycoming T53-13 turboshaft. Bell built over 1,100 AH-1Gs between 1967 and 1973, and the Cobras would go on to fly over a million operational hours in Vietnam, losing approximately 300 to combat shoot-downs and accidents during the war. The U.S. Marine Corps would use AH-1G Cobra in Vietnam for a short period before acquiring more damage resilient twin-engined AH-1J Cobras. The M-35 Gun System was a single M195 20mm cannon (a short-barrelled version of the six-barrel M61A1 Vulcan) on the port inboard pylon of the AH-1G, with 950 rounds of ammunition stored in boxes faired to the side of the aircraft. The system was primarily pilot controlled, but featured dual controls so it could be either pilot or gunner controlled by an M73 sight. The AH-1 went on to serve the US Army until it was replaced by the AH-64 Apache, the last one leaving active service in 1999. The Kit This is a new tool along the same lines as their recent 1:48 and 1:32 toolings, but with the scale tweaked to 1:35 to match the rash of 1:35 helicopter kits we’ve had lately, some from ICM themselves. The kit arrives in a reasonable-sized top-opening box, with a captive inner flap on the bottom tray, and inside are five sprues of grey styrene, a clear sprue, decal sheet and the instruction booklet, which is printed in colour on glossy paper in A4 portrait format, with colour profiles on the rear pages for the decal options. Detail is crisp throughout, including engraved panel lines, plus recessed and raised details, all of which should result in a highly detailed model without pressing need for aftermarket, unless you’re one of those who really must have at least some, and I’m not ashamed to admit that some of the time I’m one of those folks. Construction begins with the armoured crew seats, each made from five parts, the shell for which differs between them. The completed seats and control column plus pedals (mustn’t say rudder pedals, or the helo boys will have kittens!) are all inserted into the nicely appointed cockpit tub, adding ancillary stick and a quadrant to the side consoles in the front cockpit, and a collective in the rear cockpit that is similarly mounted on the side console. The rear instrument panel is inserted into a coaming with a box on top, and a decal is applied over the moulded-in dials to add detail, the same is applied to the front cockpit, although without any box on top. A complete change of pace is then made, assembling the rotor base, some of which is visible once installed, especially if you leave the hatches open, so be sure to make a good job of aligning the circular sections in between the bulkheads and louvres, which takes up more than a page of the instructions, and as you can imagine, it must be fitted between the fuselage halves during closure. A few holes are drilled into the rotor cowling, and some small parts are inserted from inside, plus the tail fin halves are mated with a long overlap for strength, and surprisingly, you are instructed to install the tail rotor, locking it in place with a washer, and inserting the actuator crown into depressions in the outer side. The rotor base, insert behind it and a blank bulkhead in front are glued into the port fuselage half, with another quilted bulkhead in front, and the cockpit assembly in the nose, adding insulation and armour panels in the sidewalls during closure of the fuselage halves. The base of the exhaust is inserted in the rear of the rotor cowling, adding a beacon with clear part on the top, and optional appliqué armour to the exterior of the cockpit if applicable, whilst gluing the nose and the separate cone, with a probe competing the front. As with many chopper kits, the underside is a separate insert, and while it is inverted, there are a couple of small parts such as an antenna, skid wire, and two fairings on the lower side of the rotor/engine cowling, one of which is optional depending on which decal scheme you have chosen. A further insert and fairing is added to the front of the underside behind the gun turret, which is built up next from a cylindrical fairing, a 7.62 mm Minigun and M129 40mm grenade launcher, each attaching to different inserts in the turret. The instructions advise leaving the turret loose if you have chosen a shark-mouthed decal option to make the task a little easier, which seems entirely sensible. A drop-down searchlight is placed in a recess behind the turret, and a pair of loops have holes waiting for them on either side of the underside. The Cobra’s winglets are where the external weapons are stored, and these are built up from top and bottom halves, with a three-part combined tip and shackle on each one, plus another three-part pylon mid-span. Each pylon receives an insert with anti-sway braces, then they are inserted into depressions in the side of the fuselage, with a choice of exhaust ring lip, or the upward facing extended lip, which is made from two halves. Two decal options have an additional 20mm minigun under the port winglet, with ammunition storage in panniers on each side of the fuselage, linked together by a shallow feeder that inserts into a slot in each one, and into the breech of the weapon via the rear of its nearest panier. The gun itself is moulded in two halves, with additional details on the sides, a rendition of the muzzles applied to the front, and a mounting adaptor to allow it to fit onto the pylon. Another pair of eyes are installed under the winglet roots on each side for three of the decal options, fitting a tiny clear light on the wingtips before inserting the stabiliser fins to each side of the boom. The skids are each a single part, and join to the sides of the fuselage on long pegs for strength, one on each side of course. The narrow cockpit has a similarly narrow canopy, starting with gluing the combined roof and windscreen part in place, then adding the individual panes to the sides, with stays included if you wish to pose them open to expose the detail within. The turboshaft engine can be exposed by choosing different parts for the cover, with the same option being available on both sides, adding hinges or inserts depending on which option you choose. Creating the twin rotor blades involves building each one from two halves, aligning them on small ribs and thereby avoiding sink marks from the parts being too thick. The rotor head itself is a well-detailed assembly that is made from top and bottom halves, and has extra detail fitted before it is joined together, trapping the blades in position, then applying actuators to each one that joins to an lifter-ring moulded into the rotor shaft with an additional layer supported by a pair of tapered links. Then it’s just a simple matter of lowering the rotor assembly down into the hole in the top of the fuselage and deciding whether to glue it in place or not, and if so, at what angle to the line of flight. The model itself is finished, but there is a choice of additional weaponry, should you so desire. Three different rocket pods are included, as is a gun pod, just in case three miniguns isn’t quite enough firepower. 2 x M200 19-tube Rocket Launcher 2 x SUU-11A 7.62mm Minigun Pod 2 x M260 7-tube Rocket Launcher 2 x XM-158 7-tube FFAR Rocket Launcher The tubular rocket pods are built in halves, plus end caps with details moulded into the caps, while the bare XM-158 pack is made from two halves, plus a semi-cylindrical mounting plate, and end caps. The gun pod is again made from two halves, with a muzzle insert in the tapered front. Markings There are five decal options on the sheet included with the kit, all wearing US Dark Green overall, with the differences in fixtures and fittings as well as the personal markings of the aircraft separating them. From the box you can build one of the following: 68-15532, Company D, 229th AHB, Quan Loi, 1971 67-15578, 165th AHC, ‘Bushwhackers’ Platoon, Vinh Long, 1971 67-15738, 129th AHC, An Son, Summer, 1972 68-15054, Troop F, 8th Cav Regiment, Chu Lai, Autumn, 1972 70-16000, 3rd Sqn., 8th Cavalry Division, Mainz-Finthen, Autumn, 1973 Decals are by ICM’s usual partners, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The instrument decals for the crew panels are printed predominantly in white on a black background, so little in the way of colour-matching will be required. Conclusion If you’re a 1:35 AFV or helicopter modeller, or even a wider aircraft modeller that has taken up the recently burgeoning 1:35 scale outpouring, this kit will be a boon. It has plenty of detail, a choice of decal options, and should build up into a good replica of this early attack helicopter. Highly recommended. Available in the UK from importers H G Hannants Ltd. Review sample courtesy of
  2. Fieseler Fi-156C-3/Trop Storch (80181) 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Storch was designed in the mid-1930s as a liaison aircraft, and was incredibly successful due to its amazing short-field landing and take-off performance, almost vertical if you had a suitable headwind. It was also a competent observation aircraft too, thanks to its high wing and almost 360o visibility that was accomplished by fixing the wings to a strong but slim tubular framework. It was however surprisingly heavy and its long wingspan made ground-handling less easy, despite its benefits whilst in the air. The C was the most common variant with almost 3,000 made, and many of them were made in occupied France and Czechoslovakia due to Fieseler’s other commitments. The Storch (German for Stork) was also involved in some notable incidents during the war, notably the rescue of Mussolini by the Nazis after he was removed from power. They were also made by other countries during and following WWII, with the final one going out of service in the 50s, with a number being used by Allied commanders and forces against their former owners. There are still a number of Storches in the sky today due to their unusual look and the fact that they are relatively simple to maintain courtesy of their low-tech approach to engineering. The Kit This is a re-release from Hobby Boss of the former Trimaster tooling of this iconic (I say that a lot because it’s true of many aircraft) little aircraft, which originally reached the shelves in 2007 in the slightly off-beat scale of 1:35. It’s 1:35 because the Storch could land all over the place, near the front or otherwise, so they can be placed next to models in the dominant AFV scale without having to force the scale by inventive placement of the various elements. The range of 1:35 aircraft kits is still small, but growing due to the efforts of a number of companies, but whether modellers will someday be able to model entirely in 1:35 whether they build AFVs or aircraft remains to be seen. The kit arrives in a black-themed box with yellow trimmings, which is a quick way of identifying former Trimaster kits from Hobby Boss generally. Inside is a smaller glued-in cardboard box to protect the more delicate parts, with a total of eight sand-coloured sprues of various sizes, a clear sprue and a separate slide-moulded canopy, two sub-sprues in sandy styrene that have four parts with metal rods co-moulded at the centre to give your model some needed strength once completed. Two soft black rubbery tyres, a large decal sheet, pre-cut masking material (not pictured), grey-scale instruction booklet and separate colour profiles to assist with painting and decaling. Detail is excellent given the vintage of the kit, which sounds silly, but 2007 is now 15 years ago – depressing, isn’t it? There’s no need to worry though, as the detail is plenty good enough by today’s standards, with plenty of engraved and raised detail on every part. The canopy and those metal rods are the most impressive portions of the kit, but that’s because they’re just more fun than the other bits. Construction begins with the cockpit, which revolves around the flat floor section, onto which two different seats, the rear one on an optional pivot, control columns, foot bars, rudder pedals and rear bulkhead with spare mags for the machine gun and its mount applied before it is glued to the rear. It is covered over by a number of tubular framework parts that would perform a structural function on the real thing, but styrene is strong enough for the kit’s needs. A full engine is included on the sprues, comprising 21 parts for the engine and exhausts, with more on the firewall to depict the ancillaries. To prepare for closing up the fuselage, there are a number of small parts added to the sidewalls, and a choice of sandy styrene or clear instrument panels, the latter having a backing plate onto which you can apply the instrument panel to allow the dials to show through if you manage not to obliterate the clear dials whilst you’re painting the panel. The aforementioned firewall has five parts fixed to it, then it is glued into the starboard fuselage half, and at the rear there is a choice of a standard tail-wheel with the strut and wheel moulded as one, or another with the other option having a ski surrounding the wheel. The cockpit and engine are fixed in place, the engine remaining uncovered initially unless you opt to install the cowling panels, which include four sections and an external part that looks like an oil cooler. The prop is two-bladed, and has some stencil decals to apply after you have painted it, then at the rear the rudder is added, then joined by the elevators that have separate fins, supports and additional rectangular foils underneath. The canopy is moulded as a (mostly) single part, with separate access door and the rear gunner’s rotating circular window, which is an impressive piece of kit, except my sample had a very slight wave-front line across the top of the part, but that shouldn’t be too obvious once painted and weathered, as it looks like a thin hair. Incidentally, there are a set of pre-cut masks included in the box, which can help you speed up that process if you’re a bit phobic, or even if you’re not. The part is joined by the aforementioned additional sections, plus a three-part lower facet that gives the crew a slightly better downward view, as it allows the canopy to overhang the fuselage sides by a valuable few inches, like a faceted ‘blown’ canopy, improving situational awareness further. There are a couple of styrene parts, and an MG15 with separate magazine and spent brass bag that slides through the rotating window that allows the gunner to operate relatively comfortably without getting too cold. The canopy is then glued over the cockpit aperture, taking care not to damage the styrene framework that slides inside. After fitting the gun, a ring sight is glued to the end of the barrel. Now the other fun part – the leggy landing gear struts with their co-moulded metal rods that are bent to shape at the factory so they fit well. You have a choice of gear leg length, the shorter one has the styrene part 6mm shorter than the long one. The metal section poking out of the top of each type is slightly different to allow the wheels to continue to sit square on the ground. They hook into holes in the side of the canopy top, and are braced by two V-shaped styrene sections. It’s worth noting that the canopy also has a pair of brackets on the side that help locate the wings later on, or now as the instructions advise. We’ve already mentioned the Storch's ample wingspan, and this is clear when you nip these parts off the sprues. Each wing is made from two halves with an extra part for the leading-edge slats, then a veritable forest of additional small parts to replicate the control arms, lights and actuators that are clearly visible on the separate aileron. Each wing also has another V-shaped support that slots into a hole in the side of the fuselage once you clip the wing to the brackets on the canopy. There was a pitot probe amongst the myriad parts of the port wing, so the only thing left to do is join the two halves of the external fuel tank together and attach it to the underside of the fuselage. Markings Hobby Boss aren’t renowned for copious decal options, but this kit is an exception having VI, sorry six options on the large sheet. As usual however, there’s little information on the sheets, but the roundels should give you a clue, as follows: Luftwaffe Aufklärungsgruppe 14, North Africa from March 1941 until April 1942 Luftwaffe Grünherzgeschwader“ JG 54 W.Nr. 5563 coded SB+UG assigned to the Stab of the I Gruppe at Malmi in Sept. 1942. Italian Comando Aeronautica Albania, Tirana 1941 Morane-Saulnier MS.500 Criquet of the Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) Československé vojenské letectvo (Czechoslovak Air Force) Wojska Lotnicze (Polish Air Force) The decals are well-printed, although the upside-down ones confused me slightly when putting it on the scanner, as did the spelling of Hobby Boos. The green of the Grunhertz logo is possibly a little light, but overall they are in good register, sharpness and colour density, with a decal for the instrument panel that includes the background grey colouring. Conclusion It’s not a brand-new tooling, but the detail is good, and it can sit on your shelf next to your AFVs without looking oversized. There’s something appealing about the Storch, and this kit captures the look and construction style of the type. It’s also pretty fairly priced if you need another excuse to buy one. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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