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AH-1Z Viper 1:48

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AH-1Z Viper
1:48 Kitty Hawk


The original Bell Cobra from which this latest model was developed shares rotors, engine and transmission with its stable-mate the UH-1 Iroquois, or Huey as it is more colloquial known. It was also known as the HueyCobra in acknowledgement of that fact, but the early Cobras had only one engine. A later development added an extra engine, which became known as the SuperCobra, and it is this AH-1W that was the basis for the newly named Viper, which is sure to confuse people due to it also being the unofficial name for the F-16 Falcon.

Sometimes known as the Zulu Cobra, it stemmed from a few failed attempts to reinvigorate the airframe in the 80s and 90s, but has become a more cost-conscious programme that has included the UH-1, offering compatibility of parts, a common tail boom, four-bladed rotor and engine package, and some of the controls, including software for the avionics. Unbelievably, there are over 80% of the same components in each type. At time of writing, deliveries are ongoing, scheduled to finish in 2019.

The Kit
Another complete new tooling from the Kitty Hawk stable, that holds plenty of promise for lovers of Marine Corps aircraft, and helo modellers in general. It arrives in one of KH's standard sized boxes, with a dramatic painting on the top, and examples of the included schemes on the sides. Lifting the lid reveals a relatively low sprue count for a KH release, but as the fuselage of this beast is streamlined and painfully skinny, that's not surprising. There are four sprues in the box in a grey styrene, plus a clear sprue in a separate card box within the package, showing that they have been listening to the moans about crushed clear parts, which don't react well to stress. There is also a small but useful fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a ball-bearing for a nose-weight, and two decal sheets. The instruction booklet has colour & markings diagrams on the glossy cover, but there is a separate single-sided sheet of glossy paper with another rendition of one of the schemes, which seems to have been printed in a less bluey-grey than that in the booklet.





It is a typical kit from the Kitty hawk stable, showing the same design cues and moulding style as their previous releases, including a few over-energetic ejector-pin hits, and one of those annoying folded-over sprues. All that aside, the detail looks good, and there has been a lot of sensible use of the PE to depict the numerous vents found on the outer skin of most modern helicopters. The ball-bearing nose weight is a considerate extra too, and should ensure your Viper stays level on its skids. There's a bit of flash here and there, but for the most part that is limited to the sprues, and of course with this being amongst the first pressing, it might have taken a wee while to get the mould pressures just right.

Construction starts with the cockpit, which has a long basic tub to which all the parts are added, such as the crew seats, control sticks, instrument panels and crew armour panels. There are a couple of ejector pin marks on the backs of the seats, but as each one sits against a big chunk of equipment, they should go unseen. The instrumentation of the Z is of the modern glass MFD type, and is depicted by raised detail on each pilot's panel, with a decal placed over each on to ease painting. Even the sub-panels on the edge of the coaming have their own decals, as do the other areas of the panel, so there will be very little detail painting left to do. Seatbelts are decals too, but you can always lay those on some tape and cut them out to give them a little depth, or wait until Eduard get in there with their PE sets. Next up are the engines, which sit either side of the fuselage in semi-recessed pods. Detail is included for the engines and their bay, which should look very nice with the addition of some wiring made from lead wire. You get an engine front, engine body, as well as engine rears, which should be faintly visible through the intake/exhaust apertures.

The engine bays are inserted from inside the fuselage halves, after which it can be closed up around the cockpit, and the first round of PE vents added into pre-cut recesses. The intakes are two-parts each, and fit on a peg into the side of the fuselage, while a myriad of small bumps and lumps are fitted around as part of the sensor suite. The cannon is fitted within a small turret under the nose, and this is made from a front and rear part, into which you place the ball-bearing nose weight. I'd recommend a bit of Milliput in there to prevent it from rattling during handling, or at least a bit of epoxy to keep it still. The barrels are individually moulded, as are the triangular supports and the base. Another part affixes to the ends of the barrels, and this has recessed muzzles moulded in. The FLIR turret that forms most of the nose is built from a two-part clear orb, which sits within a gimbal mount within the nose, and this is added to the front of the fuselage along with the gun turret and yet more sensor blisters. Two avionics bays are moulded open on the fuselage sides, and these are supplied with basic black boxes to put inside as well as separate fuselage panels if you want to leave them open. The same applies to the engines, which have two part panels (with PE vent) that can be installed opened or closed. Having the option of posing them open or closed is a step in the right direction, and shows that KH have been listening. At this point you can add the skids, which are made from separate struts and skis, the wings/weapons platforms, and their end caps. The exhausts are made up from a main section that includes both exhaust stubs (split horizontally), into which a couple more PE panels are dropped, and the single part exhausts with their heat dissipating baffles cap them off neatly, with no seams left visible inside the lip.


The canopy is quite a large greenhouse, and is made up of five parts, all of which are nicely moulded with minimal distortion. The main section is the windscreen and canopy roof, which is moulded as one, and is fitted first to enclose the cockpit and provide the hinge-points for the pilots' doors. Each side of the canopy is in two parts, with the pilots exiting on opposite sides, so only one part on each side capable of hinging open. The front seat exits to the port, while the back seat goes out starboard side. The port rear and starboard forward panels are fixed, although I guess they can be jettisoned in the event of a landing that results in the aircraft lying on one side or the other.

Next up is the rotor and tail boom, which you will probably see again on the UH-1 kit that is coming in due course. The new four-blade rotor improves lift and manoeuvrability, as well as doing away with some of the more complex aspects of traditional layouts. The rotor head is quite simple as a result, and assembles around a cross-shaped former, each arm of which has two holes in to mount the blades. This part has been badly stressed on ejection from the mould on my copy, but as it will be hidden this doesn't really matter. The blades fit to the top of the former, and the separate inner section on the underside seals the former within the assembly. A small actuator rod is added to the blades, which fits into a corresponding depression in the top of the top-cover over the drive-shaft, which can be left capable of rotation with careful gluing. If you want to be able to remove the blades for storage, just leave off the little retaining cap when you install it. Then the blades can just rest on the top of the housing, making them both easier to store, and more resilient to damage.

The tail boom is split into two parts vertically, with a half bell-shaped housing at the fuselage end fixed later, avoiding an annoying seam-hiding exercise. More sensors, antennae and PE grilles are added, along with the rotor head for the tail-rotor, which is made up from two sets of paired blades, and a short axle, which fits into the rotor head. The rear stabilisers fit into holes in the sides of the fuselage, and a set of chaff and flare dispensers are slotted into their angled recesses near the front of the boom. A PE plate fits between the exhausts before the tail is added, the rotors are installed, and a few last PE grilles are glued within their recesses on the starboard side, and that's the main build finished.

No attack helicopter would be complete without a shed-load of armaments, and KH are pretty generous on the whole with the munitions they supply. In this kit you have the following:

2 x AIM-9L Sidewinders
2 x 70mm HAP rocket pods
8 x AGM-114 Hellfire missiles on 2 x rail adapters

The Hellfires have alternate rounded and tapered heads, so you can model the laser or radar guided options.

There are two schemes included in the box, although you could be forgiven for thinking there were three on first glance. I think the extra sheet was printed because someone forgot to put the paint call-outs on the grey machine though. From the box you can build one of the following:

US Marines No.615 HMLAT-303 – Medium Sea Grey (FS318C/637) over Light Grey (FS36495).
US Marines No.640 HMLAT-303 – Black/Red/Gold bands on the upper surfaces over Light Grey (FS36495)

(HMLAT stands for Helicopter Marine Light Attack Training)


The decals are well printed on the whole, although on the loviz sheet there is a slight mis-registration of the black on the slime-light decals. Other than that, they are well done, with a gold to red fade on the more colourful sheet. The aforementioned instrument decals extend to fourteen separate decals, which should result in a nicely detailed cockpit.

A modern tooling of the Cobra's ultimate form in 1:48 is welcome, and Kitty Hawk have put some effort into the task, including slide-moulding the fuselage and tail boom halves to ensure full coverage of detail on the main parts. A full complement of weapons, and some very carefully protected clear parts round out the package nicely, although another decal scheme from an active unit would have been appreciated.

Very highly recommended.

Review sample courtesy of logo.gif and available soon from major hobby shops

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The slime lights are meant to look like that, the modern NV/normal version has the black alongside the fluorescent bit. Unless the problem really is "slight"! But I can't see it from the photo.

Excuses will be profusely forthcoming if I've called you wrongly..!

Edited by Brokenedge
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The black is ever-so-slightly offset from the amber colour it sits alongside - that's all :)

You can just about see it here - sadly the back of the sheet isn't quite as well focused as the middle :shrug:


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:lol: don't worry about it - it takes a lot for me to get offended. Don't forget - I was looking at them using 3x magnification, where you were looking at a slightly out-of-focus pic measuring 1280 px across ;)

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You say the seatbelts are decals, but while I can see things that look like seatbelts on the PE fret, I can't see anything similar on the decal sheet...

Thanks for the review. I've been intruiged by the Zulu Cobra since I saw a program that had a segment on what must have been the prototype, on a Discovery-type channel a few years ago. It is an impressive evolution of the stripped-down, skinny Cobra that first took to the skies. It looks like the designers have put quite a lot of effort into finding extra places to mount weapons and making it look as mean as possible!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Great looking kit, BUT in this day and age why is the tail trans shaft cover not separate?

Come on, the fixed wing guys get to hide the seamlines so why not the choppers?

Thanks for the review Mike.

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  • 3 months later...

Compared with Revell's 1/48 AH-1W. Which one is better?

The Revell one is the old Italeri kit from the early '90s and I understand that the rotor blades have been moulded reversed and generally the kit reflects the detailing of Italeri kits of the time. The Kitty Hawk kit pretty much bang up todate and appears to be a good kit and as such is the best kit of the 2 but is the later variant.

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They're also different versions. The 'Whiskey' (as modelled by Italeri/Revell) has two rotor blades and doesn't have the 'turned' exhausts of the Zulu (though some 1W were modified to the turned exhausts to reduce the IR signature). The nose-mounted sensors are very different as are the majority of the airframe details.

Thanks for the review, Mike.

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  • 6 months later...

They're also different versions. The 'Whiskey' (as modelled by Italeri/Revell) has two rotor blades and doesn't have the 'turned' exhausts of the Zulu (though some 1W were modified to the turned exhausts to reduce the IR signature). The nose-mounted sensors are very different as are the majority of the airframe details.

Thanks for the review, Mike.

Sorry to resurrect this, but I felt it's worth pointing out that there actually was an Italeri AH-1Z boxing which I remember seeing in the catalogs at the time.


Edited by Dudikoff
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  • 4 years later...

Hey guys, late to the party, but I figured I would add this bit of detail regarding the kit. For some strange reason, the main gun turret is wrong. On the actual aircraft, the turret is just a wrap around type, not enclosed. Some of you master builders would likely have no issue correcting this problem with precise dremel work or other method, it would be a shame to hide the details of the rotating 20 Mike-Mike! But this change creates another issue. The turret is designed to hold the weight provided, and might explain the mistake, so you would have to find another method of making certain she doesn't become a tail sitter. And I forgot to mention, the gun is represented with the three rotating barrels which affix to the turret exactly where you need to cut out the turret and the gun receiver detail is completely lacking. This would have to be scratch built. It does not look that complex to do, but I digress, I know nothing about scratch building, except that many of you giants make it look so easy.


For those with less skills, like myself, there is a solution from Werner's Wings, a correction set that replaces the turret and some components of the cannon, basically the only kit part you use with this correction set, is the barrels, the body/receiver comes with the correction set as resin bits.


Anyway, this kit has been out for some time now, but this was not noted in the review, unless my reading is bad. Just wanted anyone looking to buy this kit to have a heads up.


The only other noted defect, is the tail number of the hi-vis is apparently off. The decal is "168003", but in reality, it should be "168803". You can steal the 8 from the unused number and replace the "0". Should not be too difficult a task, using a straight edge as a guide should get even someone of my low skills, in the ballpark.


Anyway, I had never heard of this brand when I made my return to model making, and their kits just grew on me really quick. The level of detail is incredible in my view, their 35th scale Blackhawks may not be perfect, but the level of detail is leaps and bounds above the older Academy kits, which I have three versions of. I look forward to building this, hopefully in the not too distant future.


Nice review Mike, as always,



Edited by Stalker6Recon
Mistake made on my part, corrected.
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