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AH-1G Cobra "Over Vietnam with M-35 Gun System" - 1:72 Special Hobby


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AH-1G Cobra "Over Vietnam with M-35 Gun System"
1:72 Special Hobby


Most modellers will instantly recognise the Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter. The AH-1 was the first production Gunship or Attack Helicopter to see service. During the Vietnam war the US Army began to see the need for armed helicopter to escort its unarmed UH-1 Hueys into combat. In parallel to this Bell Helicopters had been investigating helicopter gunships as early as the late 1950s. In 1962 Bell displayed a mock up concept to the US Army. This Helicopter featured a 20mm gun pod, and a ball turret mounted grenade launcher. It was felt by the Army to be lightweight, under powered and not suitable.

Following this the US Army launched and Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS) competition. This competition gave rise to the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne heavy attack helicopter. However this proved to be to advanced for its time and was eventually cancelled in 1972 after 10 years of development (some things don't change!). Despite the AAFSS programme Bell stuck with its idea of a smaller, lighter gunship and invested its own money developing the AH-1. They used all of the proven components they could from the UH-1 platform, adding these to a newly designed fuselage. When The US Army therefore asked for pans for an interim gunship for Vietnam Bell was in a fortunate position to be able to offer the AH-1, or the Bell 209 as it was then called. Given the work Bell had already done the programme was completed in a relatively speed eight months and won the evaluation against the competition. In 1966 the US Army signed an initial contract for 110 aircraft.

Some slight modifications were made to the production airframes. The heavy armoured glass canopy was replaced by Plexiglas with an improvement in 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 1100 AH-1Gs between 1967 and 1973, and the Cobras would go on to fly over a million operational hours in Vietnam, approximately 300 were lost to combat and accidents during the war. The U.S. Marine Corps would use AH-1G Cobra in Vietnam for a short period before acquiring 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. 950 rounds of ammunition were stored in boxes faired to the side of the aircraft. The system was primarily pilot controlled, but featured dual controls to be either pilot or gunner controlled. For this purpose the pilot was provided with a 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
The kit arrives as two major sprues, and 3 smaller sprues if light grey plastic, with a single clear sprue. All of the parts are very well moulded with no flaws I can see or flash. There are parts for other Cobra models on the sprues so care needs to be taken to select the right parts. Construction does not start with the cockpit (shock I know!) but with adding some small parts and the exhaust nozzle to the left fuselage half. We then move reassuringly back to the cockpit! The rear bulkhead needs to be removed and replaced with the right one for this boxing. The multipart seats with their armour plating shields are made up and added to the cockpit tub, along with instrument panels and control columns. The instrument are represented by decals.


Once the cockpit tub is made up it can be placed inside the fuselage halves and they can be closed up. If you wish the main rotor to rotate then the head is placed into the fuselage at this point. If the modeller does not wish for it to rotate then this step can be left until later on in the build. Following completion of the main fuselage the stub wings/weapons pylons are made up and added to the fuselage. The nose turret is also completed and added at this point as are what look to be armour panels at the side of the cockpits.


Construction then moves to the tail section. A left and right handed tail are supplied on the sprues so make sure you select the correct one (right hand for this kit). The tail is constructed and the tail rotor added, along with the tailplanes. Intakes and exhaust details are also added at this stage.


Next its time to arm up your Cobra if you so wish (it would be naked without armament tho !). The armament in the kit is two M18 7.62mm Minigun pods, two M261 2.75" Rocket Pods, two M158 2.75" rocket pods, and the 20mm M-35 Gun System. The modeller will need to consult their references to get the exact combination s for the Cobra they are modelling as I suspect not all of these were used at the same time.


Once your cobra is "tooled up" the canopies can be added. These are multi-part and can be displayed open as needed. The landing skids are also added at this time. There are different skids for different decal option in this kit so please select the right ones. A nice touch in the box is the addition of ground handling wheels for the skids, and a vehicle tow bar. Great if you wish to add a little something to the model, or included it in a diorama.


Rather than a one part canopy the canopy is a single part main centre piece with two parts for each side. This will allow the modeller to pose the canopies open if they wish. It will though make for a more difficult construction. The parts are quite thin, and very clear.


Decals are provided for four Cobras;
  • 67-15536 "Thor's Hammer" A Troop, 7th Sqn, 1st CAV, Tra Vinh, 1968/72.
  • 67-17068 "Cindy Ann" C Troop, 1st Sqn 9th CAV, Phunoc Vinh, 1970.
  • 68-15031 "Pandora's Box" 2/20 Aerial Rocket Artillery, later 238th Aerial Weapons Company 1971.
  • 68-17075 "The Gladiator" C/16 CAV, Can Tho 1972.


These new Cobras from MPM/Special Hobby are excellent kits of an important Helicopter type. Highly recommended.


Review sample courtesy of logo.jpg

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