Academy | 1/35 USMC AH-1Z “Shark Mouth”
Reviewed by Dave Williams
Academy’s newest large-scale kit is a 1/35 Bell AH-1Z “Viper” helicopter. The AH-1Z is an upgraded version of the AH-1W Supercobra with new 4-bladed main and tail rotors, updated avionics and sensors, and a digital glass cockpit, while retaining the classic slim AH-1 fuselage. Although the real aircraft is derived from the AH-1W, this all new tool kit has nothing in common with the old MRC/Academy 1/35 kit. In the box you get five sprues (one being a duplicate) in medium gray plastic, one clear sprue, a decal sheet, a sheet of precut tape masks for the clear parts, and a small PE fret for the various vents and grills.
Overall, the kit looks gorgeous with a ton of surface detail, including proper raised rivets. The kit includes a number of slide molded parts, like a one-piece tailboom and one-piece stub wings presumably to keep the parts count down and hopefully preserve much of the fine raised rivet detail. Also, slide molds allow the missiles to have proper exhaust nozzles, and even the bodies of the rocket pods are single piece tubes. A nice feature is that the tie down points are molded separately so one could make a diorama showing the aircraft chained to the deck, if desired.
Starting with the cockpit, the two instrument panels with their pair of large multi-function displays are finely detailed, as is the instrument rack behind the pilot and the collectives and joysticks. The only “meh” part of the cockpit is the seats, which don’t have any cushions or seat belts. Since no pilot figures are provided, this can’t really be hidden under the large greenhouse canopy. The canopy consists of separate side panels and a center piece, with the option to position the pilot’s and gunner’s side windows in the open positions. The clear sprue also includes the front half of the nose sensor turret, seekers for the Hellfire missiles and anti-collision beacons. There is also a solid plastic front turret half included on the sprues, although given that the kit includes paint masks, I’m not sure many people would use this over the clear part, but it’s there.
For weapons, you get a choice of 7-shot or 19-shot 70mm rocket pods, with optional fronts to show loaded or unloaded tubes, two racks of Hellfire missiles, and optional Sidewinders for the wingtips. The Hellfires are molded as single piece with open exhausts and separate clear seekers, and the Sidewinders have the conventional one-piece body with opposing fins molded onto the body, and the other fins as separate pieces. The Sidewinder exhaust is also hollow, although the nose doesn’t get a clear seeker like the Hellfires. The 20mm nose turret is movable and has the correct open bottom allowing the cannon breech to be seen. No engines are included, but the kit has full length intakes leading to a bulkhead with a representation of the engine face. The rotors are well done with nicely detailed linkages.
Decals are included for four options, although three of the options are for the same shark mouth black tailed aircraft, 168961, at various times in its life. The only differences are the tail codes and squadron badges representing HMLA-169, -369, and 469, on the sides of the engines. The fourth option is for a standard AH-1Z, 168003, from HMLA-303. All of the options are in the standard tactical paint scheme of FS35237 and 36375. WARNING: the instructions incorrectly list the darker gray as FS36320. Airframe and weapons stencils are included on the decal sheet.
Overall, this is a great kit, and one of the best, if not the best, large scale modern helicopter kits. The relatively low parts count should make for a fairly easy build. The only real nitpick I have is the lack of seatbelts, which I expect will be addressed by the aftermarket industry.
© Dave Williams 2019
This review was published on Friday, March 29 2019; Last modified on Friday, March 29 2019