Sunday, February 18

In-Boxed: Kittyhawk's 1/35th scale AH-6J/MH-6J Little Bird "Nightstalkers"

This new "Little Bird"  1/35th scale AH-6J/MH-6J Little Bird "Nightstalkers" model from Kittyhawk models is the perfect storm you might think - small, easy to produce for the model company, it has a
 large fan-base, and it is easy to display for the modeller, even at 35th scale... But what was in the box and how do the parts and options look? See what we thought in the first, "In-boxed" part of the review before we build it...

In-Boxed: AH-6J/MH-6J Little Bird "Nightstalkers"

From: Kityhawk models
1/35th scale
Kit No# KH50003
-260 light grey parts on three sprues
-16 clear parts
-31 photoetched-metal parts
RRP: $38.21 on the Hobbyeasy Website
Product Link on the Kittyhawk Website

Up until now if you wanted a model of an AH-6 Little Bird you would have had to get maybe the older Dragon AH-6J kit or use the very expensive Black Ops Models conversion set for the AH-6M and MH-6M for Dragon's standard OH-6A or MD-500 kits, as opposed to the Dragon AH-6J kit. Kittyhawk has come to (hopefully) the rescue with an all-new tooling of a 1/35th scale "Little Bird" with everything in it to make "Nightstalkers" 1990's bird that could have fought in Somalia or the Gulf War.
Need to catch up on your Little Bird? Don't know your AH-J from your MELB? We have done some research for you...

The Hughes OH-6 Cayuse (nicknamed "LOACH", after the requirement acronym LOH - Light Observation Helicopter) is a single-engine light helicopter with a four-bladed main rotor used for personnel transport, escort and attack missions, and observation. It was developed into the AH-6 Little Bird as well as the Hughes 500 civilian helicopter and its variants, even pink ones...

Here is a great video describing a little more about this helicopter and it's origins to help you better understand the parts of the model.
Flown by the U.S. Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the MH-6 Little Bird is primarily used to insert special operations forces onto rooftops or on narrow roadways. Based on the (Hughes) McDonnell Douglas MD369, the MH-6 Little Bird and its attack variant AH-6 carries three commandos on bench seats mounted to the side doors of the helicopter.

The Little Bird was originally designed as a scout helicopter for Army armoured units, but since the early 1980s, it has been used almost exclusively by the special operations community.

It has an unrefueled range of 250 nautical miles. The AH-6 Little Bird Gun, a light attack helicopter, has been tested and proven in combat. Armed with guns, Hellfire missiles, and 2.75-inch FFAR, it provides armed helicopter support to both ground and air special operations. The unrefueled range of the AH-6 is 250 nautical miles. These versions were all powered by a single Allison T-63 252 SHP engine.

Later versions are based on the successful Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) MD-500/MD-530 series helicopters. The latest versions of these aircraft, the AH-6J attack helicopter and MH-6J insertion and extraction transport, based on the MD-530F, feature a more powerful engine and improved avionics, including an embedded GPS/inertial navigation system and forward-looking infrared (FLIR). The AH-6J can be armed with two seven-tube 2.75-inch rocket launchers and two 7.62mm M134 miniguns. The Little Bird can also be armed with .50 Cal. machine guns, MK19 40mm grenade machine gun, Hellfire missiles, and Air-to-Air Stinger (ATAS) missiles.

The MH-6 Little Bird made its way into popular culture with the book and movie “Black Hawk Down,” which portrayed MH-6 Little Birds carrying Delta Force Soldiers into the overrun city of Mogadishu. The Little Birds, along with MH-60 Black Hawks from the 160th SOAR held off attackers and supported Rangers and Delta operators when their raid was ambushed by insurgents.

The United States Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), also known as Night Stalkers, is a special operations force that provides helicopter aviation support for general purpose forces and special operations forces. Its missions have included attack, assault, and reconnaissance, and are usually conducted at night, at high speeds, low altitudes, and on short notice.

The architects of the task force identified the need for a small helicopter that could land in the most restrictive locations and could be easily transported on Air Force airlifters. They chose the OH-6A scout helicopter, and it became known as the Little Bird 
Variants of the AH-6. Many of these variants are very similar externally, and we can see kittyhawk being able to make any of these variants from this kit base - right up tot he more modern MELB and unmanned variants with six main rotors and two tail blades.

Special Operations attack version. Modified OH-6A to carry weapons and operate as a light attack aircraft for the 160th SOAR(A). This had the OH-6 style tail.
Special Operations electronic warfare, command-post version.

Improved attack helicopter used by US Army special forces units, and light attack and transport helicopter for US Army special forces units.
Special Operations attack version.
Special Operations version.

Improved special operations transport and attack versions. Updated light attack helicopter based on the MD 530MG and equipped with an improved engine, FLIR, and a GPS/inertial navigation system. This is the model we are looking at in our review of this kit.

Referred to as the Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB), it is a highly modified version of the MD 530 series commercial helicopter. All MH-6 helicopters to be modernized to MH-6M standard by 2015. (Easy to differentiate between the six rotor blades and two tail blades)
An AH/MH-6M MELB helicopter modified for use as a UAV. Boeing has announced that this version is marketed solely to other nations, not the U.S., for use as a low-cost attack helicopter. However, Boeing is planning to enter it in the U.S. Army's Armed Aerial Scout program.
Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) have developed an armed, unmanned version of the Little Bird with Korean armed forces in mind.

This model from Kittyhawk...
This is an injection moulded plastic model kit of the Boeing AH-6J/MH-6J "Killer Egg" and its attack variant AH-6 in 1/35th scale. The kit includes three (only three) light grey/cream sprues with a transparent sprue, photo-etch parts on one sheet and waterslide decals depicting four variants. 

The features and options of the kit include:

  • Engraved panel lines (no positive rivets)
  • Detailed cockpit and cabin interior
  • detailed engine and rotor head
  • Single piece tail rotor blade, 
  • Five separate main rotor blades 
  • Detailed undercarriage/ skids, 
  • Transparent (canopy, doors and lights)
  • Photoetch (seatbelts, armament, brackets, latches and other accents)
  • 1x M260 FFAR rocket pod, 1x M261 FFAR pod, 4x AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 2x 7.62mm NATO M134 Miniguns & 1x 12.7mm GAU-19.
  • Decals and colour painting reference for (4) U.S. Army helicopters 
The Contents:
The first thing I noticed about the kit was, of course, this lovely box art, with a crashed Blackhawk below invoking the movie "Blackhawk Down" which depicted a famous US operation in Somalia. this will no doubt stir the innards of many a modeller and "Little Bird" enthusiast (and who isn't?) This box art sure got my interest.
Inside the box, each sprue is saved from scarring by being in its own plastic bag, as are the photo-etch and the clear parts for the kit, which are safely encapsulated in a plastic bag inside a small box. There does not look like a lot of kit in here - I guess because of the diminutive size of the helicopter in real life, we will see when we build it how much of a model it is.

The Clear sprue: Lovely to see the curved front glazing protected in both a small box and a plastic bag.

The glazing of the front office is very clear, with two small tabs on either side to hold the thin frames to the glazing. Of course, all of the formation lights are included here as well in amongst these sexteen parts in total.

The photo-etch parts of the kit are pretty useful and not too problematic. Harnesses for the two crew up front and some ammo details, the minigun barrel covers and other small mech parts amongst the thirty one parts over these two frets.

The Plastic

Three sprues are included in the kit with around two hundred and sixty parts. Although there are not many sprues there sure are a lot of parts on each sprue. The plastic is a light grey/ cream colour which is not really brittle or problematic to me, however, there is a little flash on some of the smaller, thinner parts with seams on some of the parts which will, of course, need to be removed - nothing too serious here to be worried about though.

Sprue A features the two larger halves of the outer "shell" of the "Killer Egg", the internal details like the centre bulkhead, rear cabin doors, rear tail rotor blades, vertical tail, instrument cluster pod and side benches for the special forces operators to perch on. amongst a LOT of other smaller parts.

The rear cabin door will not be used by a lot of people, the tail rotor is here on the left A22 part, and the vertical tail is here also. A28 are the two pilot's seat cushions.

The cockpit console on the kit is here in some nice raised detail. There are also decals which are able to be used - but they won't work here, I would prefer separate decals for each dial next time.
OK, so we have not talked about this yet but it is a major deal to a lot of people, some not at all, but the many positive rivets that have been on all Little Bird kits until now are swapped with recessed rivets in this kit. I understand why it is done, but I do think that raised rivets would be more realistic even at this scale and for some, this is a deal breaker. I am Ok with the rivets as the other bracing on the surfaces makes up for it.

Here is the rear of the cabin showing those raised rivets.

The same area on the kit - up to you if you like it or not...

The two benches for the SOAR operators to sit on that make one of the types are here also.

Sprue B houses a lot of smaller parts, lots of ordinance int he form of four Hellfire missiles and their launchers, the ammo belts for both mini-guns as well as the barrels in plastic for the mini-guns themselves, the crew self-defence guns, the landing skids are here with a bunch of the other small parts that make up so much of the detail of this kit.

The four Hellfire missiles included in this kit are seen on this sprue - as well as the launcher, that has a little bit of a sink mark on the front on both launchers. I tend to see these on the more modern little birds so I will be leaving this off my kit.

You will see on this sprue some fairly well-replicated crew firearms also - an HK MP5 and a colt M4/ Colt 365? are here for the crew's protection, although you will have to work out where to store them... You can see in this picture the rear of the hellfire missiles also.

The front and rear strut verticals have some spurious notches in them that do not really help when inserting them into the base of the kit...

Sprue C - this sprue houses the weapons for the attack version of this chopper, 1 x M260 and 1x M261 FFAR lightweight rocket pods, four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and their pylon launchers, a pair of 7.62mm NATO M134 Miniguns as well as the mighty 12.7mm GAU-19. The rear clamshell engine compartment doors, the six (one more than needed) main rotors, the boom tail and most of the engine along with the cockpit floor and many other smaller parts.

The six weighted tail rotors are excellent - the inclusion of an extra rotor blade hints at more modern six rotor bladed variants in the future of modern Little Birds.

Now we have one of the smaller M260 FFAR rocket pods with only one larger M261 lightweight rocket pods are included here, why we didn't get two of each of these pods I don't know why.  Some might opt for aftermarket hollowed out pods, but these look good enough once the insides are painted. Of course, these depict empty rocket pods as you cannot see the tips protruding from the front of the pods...

The horizontal rear tail C39 is covered with sunken rivets, the floor is here also on the right but mostly hidden except in the front pilot's compartment. the two parts C42 are the halves of the instrument cluster stand while the bottom right part is the rear internal compartment wall that houses the engine turbine.

The clamshell doors are also detailed inside and out so you can show off the work you made on the Alison engine. You can also, of course, show them closed up it is your choice - the hinges that enable them to be posed open sit proud of the doors and can be snipped off easily if you want to show them closed.

The circles you can see on the insides of the doors are not ejector pin marks but parts of the door that should be there.

Lastly, the Instructions are a simple colour paper covered A5 booklet with black and white pages inside fo the instructions and then colour plates for the aircraft paint schemes.

A sprue map shows us just how little there is in this kit in the number of sprues, however, there are a LOT of small parts on each sprue, so don't get too carried away just yet dear readers...

The first parts of the Alison engine and its compartment are taken up in steps one and two, This powerplant bolts to the rear wall of the chopper which also acts as the rear part of the "A-frame" bulkhead that gives this little chopper so much strength for so nimble an aircraft.

The cockpit is next - Step three sees us putting together the pilot's sticks and the instrument cluster panel, be careful to put the stick grips on the right way as I found out ­čśë. The rear of the crew seat rest is the front part of the "A-frame" of the aircraft, the two pilots are seated there and along with the centre console are put together in Step 4. 

Step Five sees the construction of the cockpit floor with the front yaw pedals, careful you put these on the right way also. Step Six covers the ammo bin for those huge rotating machine guns, this optional step is for those who want to make the attack variant of the Little Bird, and it includes the weapon pylons. Step Seven is for those who want to make the troop transporter version with the two side benches for special operators.

Step Eight sees you putting a lot of these options you have been making together, the IP cluster, floor and pedals, rear ammo bin and side pylons/crew benches are all joined to the rear engine compartment.

Step Nine sees you joining the two outside halves of the exterior joined together around the internal "egg" to make the more familiar shape. There are drilling points to note before you do this so pay attention.

Step Ten sees us securing the glazing to the front of the helicopter, I would leave this until last if I were you as it's just so pretty you want to keep it out of harm's way before it's ready to go on. Other various underside antennae and the rear clamshell engine compartment doors are secured either opened or closed - again I would leave this until last if you want to display the engine compartment opened up. Step Eleven shows us the construction of the rather delicate 2X 7.62 MG-134 guns.

Hot on the hells is the other single larger  .50 cal  GAU-19 minigun construction while Step Thirteen gives you two options of the skids of the chopper - I would have liked an angle here to go off for the completed chopper to give it the right angle of "sit"

It is all about the rotors next, as we see the rear tail assembly put together in Step Sixteen. This again is a part of the construction that is susceptible to damage so sure - make the tail AROUND the stub of the rear fuselage so there are no differences between the tail diameter and the stub. Step Seventeen gives us a limited view of some very small parts of the main rotor plate. This can slip straight into the top of the chopper without the rotors inserted. 

Step Eighteen sees the curved blades attached to the hub - I think I will leave the C 56 rotor stem attached to the blades so I can take this in or out of the kit when I need to - I certainly would be putting the main rotors on after I finish and paint them - probably the last step.

Speaking of putting the rotors on last - we are already there -  The tail with the rotor and main rotor are Steps Nineteen and Twenty.

I notice that KH does not show you a few things - like the ammo feeds and the correct positions of some of the undersides of the aerials - which differ slightly on these variants as time has passed over the years. The old one "check your references" is one I don't like to give - but please do, and speaking from experience, read these instructions and use references and for the love of god dry fit the parts first. So many people (including myself) have had problems with KH instructions, but preparation pays off in this case.

The decals:
A sheet of decals accompanies this kit - there are four choices for the aircraft you want to make in this boxing. 
In a closer detail you can see the aircraft stencils on the left and the instrument cluster decals on the right, again I would prefer smaller decals that could sit inside the raised details of the panel. The individual weapon insignias are here also on this sheet.
The four choices of aircraft are displayed on fold-out sections and although they are all in black they have nose art on each of the choices:
US Army, MH-6J, (95-25371) 160th SOAR This little bird has the rear doors closed in in pictures. The black finish is again present with some wear on this kite. Here is 95-25351 in for reference (note the nose art).

US Army, AH-6J, (90-25348) 160th SOAR - this aircraft used the rear cabin doors that were closed up and carried weapons.

US Army, AH-6J, (90-23635) 160th SOAR "Moe Better" from Operation "Gothic Serpent" in Somalia with a black paint job, here it is updated to the six-bladed latter variant (so in essence kind of a useless picture to include here but good to see the texture of the Little Bird anyway. In Somalia "Moe Betta" was the only Little Bird with a FLIR on the nose.

US Army, AH-6J, (90-25362) 160th SOAR "Harley Davidson" from Operation "Gothic Serpent" in Somalia with a black paint job that was quite faded. The "US Army" marking was probably not on the tail of this chopper.

All of these choices are in black (of course)- but that nose art does add some variety. There also were "Daytime" versions of this helicopter made, but a little ugly huh?
So how is this kit looking in the box? 
We are missing in this box the FLIR for the nose and the antenna that sits just behind the rotors on the tail, the recessed rivets are of note, and we do not have the AH-6J's downward turned exhaust, only with the MH-6’s straight exhaust.

However, Kittyhawk's "Little Bird" looks pretty nice to us in the box, The Special Ops troops look quite interesting also with a new resin kit of the pilots and special ops soldiers coming in a future box of the MELB Little bird (that can almost be built out of the box of this kit.)

This our kit after we built it up...

We always say the best review is to see the models built - and we have already made ours. We wanted to experience the kit properly before we did a crappy in-box without understanding how the kit goes together, so stay tuned for that next week and you will see the literal ups and downs of this kit in detail.

Adam Norenberg

We will bring you builds of ours when we get the chance - Until then, check out all of Kittyhawk's other kits on their website.