Tuesday, November 5

Quickbuild: KittyHawk's 1/48TH SCALE UH-1N Twin Huey.

Both of our Andrews have shown us a little more about the Kittyhawk 1/48th scale UH-1N Twin Huey. Andy Moore has shown us all about the kit in his "In-boxed" article, and now it is Andrew Perren's turn to show us just what the kit builds up into with a few sidesteps along the way in his build article, here today on the news...

In-Boxed: UH-1N Twin Huey
Manufacturer – Kitty Hawk
Kit Number – KH80158
Scale - 1/48
Price - ¥6,750 • US $64 • £50 • €57 from Hobbylink Japan

Following on the heels of their popular 1/48 UH-1H Huey kit, Kittyhawk Models have now given us the twin-engine version of this ubiquitous military utility helicopter, the UH-1N. In addition to the second engine, the UH-1N is recognised by a sharper sloping nose and the tail rotor being moved to the right side of the vertical tail. The main rotor blades are also different in the UH-1N.

Andy Moore showed us what was in the box here and I’ve now had the chance to put it together in a quick build review.
As with the real thing the UH-1N the familial lineage from the single-engine UH-1H is obvious. So too has been Kittyhawks approach to this new kit. Many of the sprues are new but some are common to the earlier UH-1H kit.  This seems to be somewhat of a compromise by Kittyhawk and will lead to some decisions by the modeller needing to be made according to their own standards.  I’ll attempt to explain the choices I made as we go along to illustrate my point.

Kittyhawk, as usual, has enlisted the help of some respected modellers and subject matter experts to gather information for their projects. Whether it is due to a rush to get the kits out, or a general attitude of close enough is good enough – I don’t know. But they still manage to produce kits that offer a strange mixture of details, options compromises and outright omissions. That said, some of the detail is really nice and provided you do your research a fine model of this helo can be the result.

The kit provides 6 marking options, 2 x USMC, 2 x USAF and 2 x USN covering a time span of at least 25 years. My initial desire was to finish the kit in the USN Hi-viz scheme of all over Engine Grey. But as I researched and planned the build, I found to my chagrin that many of the moulded on options would only really be suitable for the late USMC Grey scheme. This was the direction that I chose to go with as I always prefer to add detail rather than try to remove it and damage the surrounding areas.   

The original box decal choices...
When it comes to the placement of aerials, antennae, optional parts do not trust the Kittyhawk profiles. I have found it essential to verify from other sources well in advance of committing to build steps. A step I usually take now is to go through the instruction booklet and make notes, crossing out parts I won’t be using for my subject.

The interior parts are 80% new mould, but you are expected to use the rear cabin seats from the UH-1H sprue. The rear seats still suffer from the wrong number and placement of seat supports. I chose to fix them but only use the side seats in the gunners well on both sides. The front seats are new as is the instrument panel and centre console. The upper central panel above/between the pilots finally has some detail on an updated part. The late scheme USMC interior is all flat black. I added some pre-painted Eduard harnesses and hand-painted some dial details in the instrument panel. The kit provides a decal but it is not really a great representation. I prefer my hand-painted version which is now buried deep within the cabin and can hardly be seen.
In this picture, you can see that I have added some plastic strip to reinforce the bottom fuselage joint.  I also added some small pieces of lead underneath the floor and between the skids. This really helps the helicopter to sit on its skids with the impression of some weight. It also stops it sitting too much tail down.
The build-up of the main fuselage was mostly uneventful, this is a multipart arrangement which rewards dry fitting and some slight adjustments as you go.  I found it easier to tape sections together first and sort any minor fit issues well before committing to glue.  As I was choosing not to display the provided engine bays open, the extra work to close all the doors paid off in the end.
The new nose profile looks really good to my eye and a vast improvement over the ageing Italeri offering.  Annoyingly Kittyhawk has you use the landing skids from the earlier UH-1H kit complete with a silly cut out section underneath, just ahead of the forward cross tubes. Fix it with some half-round styrene and blend in. 
While I am talking about the old Italeri kit, it’s a good time to talk about the main rotor blades.  Kittyhawk only provides the UH-1H sprue which is incorrect for the updated UH-1N.  The N model has blades which feature a wider chord section for about ¾ the length of the blade.  This is a distinctive feature and one that I could not accept.  Ironically the Italeri UH-1D kit has the wrong blades also but they are N model blades.  I raided an obsolete Italeri kit from my stash and substituted the blades for the incorrect Kittyhawk items. With some very minor work, they were able to be fitted to the Kittyhawk rotor head to my satisfaction.
The main and tail rotors were finished in overall flat black with some wear on the leading edges by sanding back to a silver primer layer. Many variations in blade colours showed up in research photos but I went with the simplest option. A tie-down for the main rotor blade added a finishing touch.
The kit provides a small photo-etch fret for some grills and exterior details as well as seatbelts. I chose to replace the etch formation light strip with a simple plasticard strip. I also added a blanking plate to the empty box for the flare dispenser on both sides of the tailboom.
The red FOD bungs for the intakes and exhausts were made using epoxy putty. Then add a little colour and there is no detail visible inside to lose.
The main cabin doors fit really well and were tacked in place to act as masks to protect the interior while painting the fuselage. Only minor touch-ups were needed after all the masks were removed.

Exterior Paintwork.
The exterior paint job of FS36375 Light Ghost Grey fuselage and FS35237 Medium grey Upper surfaces was completed using MRP lacquers.  A weathering wash of AK pane liner (enamel based) brought out all that lovely detail.  It stuck too well in places which only helped add that grungy Marine Corp look.
I chose not to use the kit decals as the USMC grey markings in my kit had some sort of funky outlining effect happening.  I did use a couple of minor decals from the kit sheet and they performed well.  For the main markings, I had a sheet from MAW Decals (who's website isn't working right now?) in my stash “Leatherneck Feather Weights” which provided markings for an example from HMLA-167 “The Warriors” in 2005. They were printed by Microscale and worked as expected with a little help from Microset and Microsol. 
A flat coat of Testors Dullcote finished off the main painting.  Final touch-ups and details were added and the last few sub-assemblies brought together.
Overall Impressions & Conclusion.
Despite my criticisms of Kittyhawk dubious instructions they really know to put a lot of model into a package.  If you are prepared to do the work and research, you can make a great model from this kit.  The fit ranges from excellent to average and the careful modeller will benefit from many trial fits to tweak any problem areas.  If you wanted to do one of the other versions in the kit either the earlier USN/USMC options or the USAF, you would have to remove at least some of the moulded details.  This is by no means a deal-breaker but more work than I wanted for this project.
A quick note on the supplied crew figures, they are really lovely, but they are absent from my build for two reasons. I prefer parked aircraft to be just that and the equipment moulded onto the figures – namely the helmets are more suited to an Army or Airforce subject.  They are incorrect for a modern USMC to build so mine are consigned to the spares box for future projects.

Placed on a small oval base brought realism to the scene...
My cautious optimism was not dampened by the few errors and inaccuracies that I encountered along the way.  The kit more than compensates with some excellent details and the potential for super detailing should that be your bag.  I am happy with the finished product which now sits beside its UH-1H cousin in my display cabinet.

See you next time.

Andrew Perren.

Many thanks to Kittyhawk Models for the opportunity to build this kit.