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AH-1G Cobra - Early Production (53030) 1:35


Mike

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AH-1G Cobra - Early Production (53030)

1:35 ICM via H G Hannants Ltd

 

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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 boxing of the recent 1:35 kit to match the wave of 1:35 helicopter kits we’ve had lately, many 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 a pressing need for aftermarket.

 

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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 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.  Some small parts are inserted into the fuselage halves 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 two rotor base assemblies are inserted 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 is inserted 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, then gluing the nose and a choice of two separate cones, one 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 optional antenna or cover, skid wire, and two fairings on the lower side of the rotor/engine cowling.  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, and option of a centre-mounted 7.62 mm Minigun, a pair of miniguns, or one minigun and a short tube that could be a 40mm grenade launcher.  A drop-down searchlight is placed in a recess behind the turret, and a pair of tie-down loops have holes waiting for them on either side of the underside.  A short exhaust lip fairing is installed on the rear of the trunk, and a choice of two style of tips are fixed to the top of the tail.

 

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.  One decal option has 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.  A tiny clear light is added to the wingtips and two more on wedge fairings behind the stabiliser fins on each side of the boom that were installed earlier.  The skids are each a single part, and join to the sides of the fuselage on long pegs for strength, one on each side.  The narrow cockpit has a similarly narrow canopy, starting with gluing the combined roof and windscreen part in place after fixing a small instrument binnacle to the frame according to the accompanying drawing, 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 a 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.

 

To move a Cobra around the base while the rotors aren’t spinning, a set of wheels are fitted onto the rear of the skids, each one made from four parts including the wheels.  At the front of the skids are two towing arms that have a small wheel moulded in, locked onto the skids by a small part underneath, then they are joined together at the forward end, so it can be hitched up to a tractor to transport it.

 

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 them, 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 and operating in Vietnam, 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:

 

  • 66-15272, 334th AHC, Platoon ‘Playboys’, Bien Hoa, 1967
  • 67-15756, 227th AHB, Lai Khe, 1969
  • 68-15063, 2nd Battalion, 20th Aerial Rocket Artillery, Tay Ninh, 1970
  • 68-15209, 114th AHC, Vinh Long, 1970
  • 69-16442, 227th AHB, Vietnam, 1970

 

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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 good news.  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.

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Review sample courtesy of

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