Academy 1/35 AH-1Z Tweak List
By Thierry Laurent
USMC AH-1Z “Shark Mouth” TWEAK LIST
- TYPE: Bell AH-1Z Viper
- SCALE: 1/32
- COMPANY: Academy
- KIT Number: 12127
- MOLD CREATION DATE: 2019
- TWEAKS LIST VERSION 1.0 (publication date: March 2021)
- Compiled by Thierry Laurent
The following list is intended to help modelers in improving scale accuracy of an airplane model replica. In no way it is intended to support or be offensive towards a scale model company.
As such, it is only the result of a progressive process and is in no way intended to be absolute or even comprehensive. Hence, it is intended to focus on commonly admitted discrepancies and will probably not cover some errors. It is up to the modeler to decide whether correcting the listed issues is worth the time and money he will have to invest in the quest for accuracy process.
No aftermarket correction or detail set is mentioned in this document as the availability of such items may be very variable. Hence, refer to other LSP sections to find relevant information. Moreover, aftermarket sets do not necessarily correct all listed issues. Please refer accordingly to relevant documentation.
1. GENERAL REVIEW
- The Academy AH-1Z kit is a simple kit made of five plastic light grey sprues, a clear one and a small photoetched fret. It also has very good Cartograf decals and a sheet of masks.
- Molding is excellent with very fine details. By the way take care not damaging the very fine rivet lines while handling the main parts.
- General dimensions are excellent. Most parts are in scale and only a few of them need work to get a correct 'in-scale' look.
- Assembly is generally easy with cleverly designed parts and hidden seams. Many complex parts are made from multi-side sliding molds.
2. FUSELAGE (from front to rear)
- The TSS FLIR ball has a transparent plastic option (E5). It is recommended to use it as the optical lenses of the sighting systems are visible behind the upper windows unless if the ball is in a fully stored mode. However, this asks for some basic scratchbuilding of the internal systems. Another option is the use of an aftermarket ball. Note the lower window should either be painted with an iridescent color or covered by a holographic sticker. Unfortunately, all the large bare metal round fixtures located on the perimeter of the FLIR ball sections are missing. Silver-colored rivet decals are probably the best solution to simulate them.
- The M197 gun parts are reasonably accurate but can be detailed further and it is recommended to replace the plastic tubes with metal ones as the triangle-shaped structure linking the guns is too thick and not hollowed as the full-scale one. Some basic additional items (such as electrical hoses) can be added to get a busier look in the opened bottom of the gun turret. Note the internal side of C25 and C26 must be painted in an light chromate green color.
- The LAADS probe sensor rear part (A21) should actually be a hollow cylinder connected to the tube with a cross-shaped section structure.
- The front face of the AN/AAR-47 Missile Approach Warning System parts (D35) does not replicate the sensor visible components. So, use two sizes of very fine drills to make a small hole in the top and two far smaller ones under the top one. Paint the top and mid-level ones with silver paint and transparent blue, the lower one edge with brass and the rest in flat black. Finally add a drop of UV or epoxy glue to simulate the sensor glass. Note you have similar sensors on the sides of the tail. Another option is the use of RBF protections.
- The blade-shaped wire-cutting parts A26 and A29 are too a little bit thick. Thin them or replace them with aftermarket parts.
- Two mesh sheets with a round hole pattern are missing on both sides of the cable cutter located above the canopy. Use aftermarket parts.
- The kit has a very nice photoetched fret with more than 20 parts to depict the various meshes you find on the fuselage, exhausts and tail areas. However, some of the parts (the two parts 6) do not have an open mesh pattern and the corresponding kit areas are not opened except behind the parts 1 & 2. This is somewhat annoying as it is quite common to see through the full-scale airframe from one mesh to the symmetrical one located on the opposite side (typically at the level of the APU/upper radio antenna or the aft electronic compartments). Accordingly, it is recommended to replace the full pattern meshes by opened ones and to open the relevant kit areas before putting them. However, this also means it is required to detail a little bit the internal components but just basic shapes will do the trick. Note a Cobra Zulu cutaway of internal components may be easily found on the web to help in achieving that. The modeler needs to balance the fact this will give more life to the model with the required hours of additional work.
- The C22 APU exhaust is too shallow and its edge far too thick in spite of the fact there is a flange on the full-scale end. Drill and modify it accordingly. An overlapping seam with two rivets should also be visible on the port side of the exhaust tube.
- The engine exhaust parts D42 and their fairings B1 & 9 have thin rear edges but they could be sanded a little bit further to simulate the actual metal edge thickness.
- The fuselage and tail connection is badly designed. It is a very fragile assembly. Because of the exhaust assembly order, it is difficult to reinforce internally that seam. Accordingly, it is recommended to modify that area to get a stronger bond. One option is to add a bulkhead at the rear of the fuselage that can be glued against part A25 with thick glue. Similarly, some small tabs can also be added to reinforce the seam between the B11 belly part and the fuselage halves.
- Small hoses, safety wires and some bolt heads are missing on the rotor areas. This is very visible on the tail rotor gearbox.
- 6-7 small drain tubes are missing on the external edges of each side the belly, just ahead of part A24.
- The rear section of part A24 is actually made of a mesh. For a better detail level, open the rear section of the part and the lower fuselage under it, add some hoses and glue over them A24 with the photoetched rear section.
- The kit does not have the commonly seen Full Motion Video boxes used to interact with ground troops. They are located on each side of the tail boom. Check the airframe you want to depict as many ones have them. If required use aftermarket ones.
3. WINGS & WARLOAD
- The seam between both halves of the wing external pylons (A3-A6 & A4-A5) ask for some time-consuming sanding without damaging the top features. However, look closely at the full-scale pylon and you will see that there is a weld seam on the central section. So, if you fully remove the seam, consider recreating the weld with very thing plastic stretched sprue.
- The instructions do not give information related to the connectors located under the wings leading edge. Note the three external ones located close to the wing front are normally painted with a metallic red color. A little bit of additional detail should be added at that level, more particularly if you do not add the pylons.
- The connecting hose between the rear of A18 and A19 pylons and the bottom of the wings is missing.
- A bolt head should be added in each of the two supports linking each wing top to the fuselage.
- Parts D14 depict the securing rings in retracted mode. If you want to secure your kit with hooks and chains on a carrier or hangar deck, fill the locating holes under the wings, remove the locating tab on each D14 part, sand slightly the edge and glue them with the correct angle.
- The AGM-114 Hellfire missiles are probably the worst parts of the kit. The winglets are far too thick and the panel lines are far too large. As there is no 1/35 aftermarket Hellfire, it is recommended to get better parts from other helicopter kits (such as the MRC OH-58D ones) if you want to add some air-to-ground missiles. Fortunately, the launchers are well detailed. They even include the wire harness of each launching rail. Eight rivets have just to be added on the rear panel perimeter.
- Many pictures show airframes without the wingtip LAU-7 launchers. Note such launchers can also be used under the wing pylons but need an ADU-299 adaptor and accordingly this is a very rarely seen configuration.
- The AIM-9 missiles are very nice but the rear wings have an odd square panel engraved on their trailing edge. Fill and sand it as it is not existing on any full scale Sidewinder.
- LAU-61 & 68 (19 and 7 rockets) pods are included. They are well detailed replicas. However, do not use the "empty" front ends as they do not look like the full-scale ones (all tubes should be empty from the front to the rear edges).
- If the main shapes are accurate, a lot of details are either very basic or missing in the cockpit tub and there are some injection pin marks that need to be filled or sanded.
- Many missing items such as screw and bolt heads, wire bundles and small avionic boxes should be added on the IP coamings and behind the rear seat.
- Pilot and gunner pedals are very basic even if not that visible. The floors are also totally smooth whereas there should be some features such as anti-slipping corrugations. Such issues are not relevant if pilot figures are used. In the opposite case, it is recommended to add at least the pedal bars or rebuild them fully with aftermarket parts (note they should be painted black).
- The cockpit floor should be painted in FS36231 light grey rather than black.
- Some knobs and switches are missing on the instrument panels, the cyclic/collective control sticks and on the gaming console-shaped mission grip of both stations.
- The end of the large hose reinforced by black tape is missing behind the rear seat (part C24 on the starboard side). Replace it with a new one covered by extra-thin tape.
- A small armor plate is missing inside each openable canopy section (close to the handle).
- A map/document holder is missing on external side of the rear port armor plate.
- A circuit breakers panel is missing on the starboard side of the back of the rear seat.
- The seat cushions are totally smooth whereas the full-scale ones clearly show a quite thick fabric pattern. This is not terrible if you use some figures. However, without them, they look quite plain. Various techniques can be used to improve that situation: Airbrush the pattern through a mesh with a light grey, emboss the pattern with tissue in the cushion areas covered with very thin plastic glue or cover them with some very fine fabric surgical tape. Note that when discolored by sun the cushion black color turns to a red brown hue. This is quite visible on some head cushions.
- For some weird reason, no seat belt is included in the kit. It is absolutely required to add them as they are very visible through the canopy.
- Multiple items are missing inside the canopy: cabling with small connection boxes, egress handles and rivet heads. moreover, all the opening canopy windows are lacking their handle support. Note the internal side of the canopy should be painted in the external light grey color.
- Numerous screw heads are missing on the sides if the protection rails located on the windscreen external front edges. Note there are far more of them on the port side (where the strengtheners are fixed).
6. LANDING GEAR
- Some airframes have black antiskid paint on the top surface of the skids and sometimes on the horizontal top section of the cross tubes. In some cases, this is overpainted with the camouflage grey paint.
- A welded ring is missing on the front tip (it is used to fix the trailing bar hooks).
- A small hole should be drilled through the flat side of each of the four protuberances on the top side of each skid.
- Big hex-shaped bolt heads should be added on the four sides of the part joining each skid with the two squared section support bars: nine on the internal/external sides and six on each front and rear sides of the tips of A30 and 31.
- Series of smaller bolt heads are missing on the skid body top and bottom.
7. OTHER REMARKS
- The kit has no optional part except some weapons. There are two A-to-A missiles, four rocket pods and two complete Hellfire launchers for the six wing pylon stations. There is no T-700 engine part. Fortunately, the aftermarket is currently giving the option to fold the main rotor blades and secure them in their racks, to open the battery and ammo bays, to add pilots, FODs or a fuel tank.
- Other training loads can be used on the AH-1Z. The AIM-9 can be easily modified into a CATM and the airframes commonly use the TACTS pod (10,3mm long in 1/35). Both can be scratchbuilt from the AIM-9.
- The ALE-47 chaff/flare launchers are molded in the fuselage sides. So, you cannot reproduce a training configuration without them without some heavy surgery.
- The belly search/landing light is retracted whereas it is quite commonly seen deployed.
- The instruction sheet is indicating 3 grams are required to balance correctly the kit in order to avoid the tail-sitter syndrome. However, it is recommended to add more weight (at least the double). This is even more crucial if you consider the need to add some additional internal parts (as explained in section 2). Obviously, the use of a metal gun, resin figures, optional resin electronic bays will somewhat ease of create difficulties in such a dimension.
- There have been a lot of discussions regarding the camouflage and decals colors. The instruction sheet camouflage colors are FS36375 light ghost gray and FS36320 dark ghost gray whereas it looks the correct colors should be FS36375 light ghost gray and FS35237 blue gray. So, test accordingly the decals you want to use to be sure you get the correct contrast.
- Top rotor blades should be FS36495 light gray.
- Cobras used in the field are generally filthy even if the Marines crew chiefs do their best to keep them in the best state of operations. Cleaning is an operational need, not an aesthetical one. So, do not hesitate to add a lot of grey color modulation, small paint touch-ups and dirt if you do not choose a unit commander airframe or one kept for CONUS training. Keep in mind the first AH-1Z entered USMC service a decade ago and many airframes are already showing signs of wear, more particularly when deployed in war zones. Nonetheless, Zulu airframes generally look better than the old Whisky ones.
Unfortunately, NO written reference has yet been dedicated to the Bell AH-1Z in spite of the fact that mark appeared more than ten years ago! Accordingly, all pictures and technical manual extracts data used to assess the accuracy of that kit were found on the Internet.
The following PDF documents were used:
- NAVAIR 01-H1AAD-1 Preliminary NATOPS Flight manual Navy Model AH-1Z Helicopter, May 2008.
- Bell AH-1Z Pocket guide, Bell Helicopter Textron, March 2006.
- H-1 Program – AH-1Z and UH-1Y, NAVAIR PMA 276, 2012.
- The H-1 Update Program: Affordable War Fighting Capability for the U.S. Marines, Defense Technical Information Center Compilation Part Notice ADPO10302.
© Thierry Laurent 2022
This article was published on Sunday, March 06 2022; Last modified on Sunday, March 06 2022