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Hi Guys, I'm quite lucky to have now the opportunity to do far more remote working. Alas, if I'm saving the train commuting time and rather use occasionally my car, this also means I have far less time to write my tweak lists. HOWEVER, this does not mean I fully left the idea! The recent arrival of the Revell OH-58D release as well as some goodies for the Kiowa restarted an old project I had: trying to clarify a little bit the evolution of that airframe as I've in my plans the idea to do in the future a triple build illustrating the Kiowa evolution from "Prime Chance" in the 80s up to the last deployment in Afghanistan. Alas, as the airframe was used for three decades, the bird evolved a lot and it is far from obvious to decypher what was used where and when! Floyd Werner produced an excellent Squadron booklet but if it is currently the best, this is not the final reference and the Internet is not really useful. You got parts and pieces here and there and this was the same in many old magazines. It is a pity but because of that structural lack of detailed documentation about helos, building any Kiowa kit is like dancing in a minefield! Accordingly I wrote a mix between a review and a standard tweak list, giving as many interesting information as I could! I thought this would be more useful as the markings covered in the various releases are really different and correspond to quite different eras with either accurate or unfortunate results! I did not take the time to take pictures of the kit contents as except the decals, they are the same than in all other releases produced for the last 30 years. Please have a look and feel free to comment or correct before publishing that one: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Revell 1/35 Bell OH-58 Kiowa review and tweaks 2019 release Kit reference number: 03871 Kit lineage This 254 parts kit is actually a re-release. MRC initially produced this model in 1995 and Academy re-boxed it quickly for worldwide distribution. The initial release (“Black death”) was followed one year later by another one (“Thugs”) adding more war load options (ATA Stingers and rocket pods). Both boxes had very attractive box arts evocating the early Kiowa interventions during operation “Prime Chance” or the first Gulf war. The kit regularly disappeared and re-appeared from the MRC/Academy catalogues and Academy is planning a 25 years anniversary re-release of the original kit in 2020. Note AFV Club also released the same kit around 2010. Indeed, besides the US ARMY, the Taiwanese armed forces have been users of the Kiowa Warrior since 1997. That boxing had a resin part for the updated engine cowling, new rear doors, ALQ-144 correction parts, some other small resin parts, a nice photoetched fret and the obvious Taiwanese markings. So, if you find that release for a good price, do not hesitate! It has the best value for money. Kit contents Revell recently decided to join the party with another release including new markings. This release has the same light grey and clear plastic sprues as the original MRC “Thugs” kits. Fortunately, most sprues are separated in plastic bags and everything is stored in another bag. So, all parts are efficiently protected. Each sprue shows fine detail, rivets and panel lines even if some areas of the kit are noticeably simplified. Note the small vinyl ammo chute provided for the machine gun in the original kit is also included in this release. It is still a quite nice kit and OOTB it makes a quite good replica of an airframe used at the beginning of the nineties, after Desert Storm. The kit has the dimensions, shapes, look and feel of a Kiowa Warrior and very fine surface engraving. However, a close inspection shows that many small details are either simplified or missing in and on the airframe. Tweaks The modelers willing to correct some of the most obvious issues may already have a look at the following elements that are applicable for all versions: · The collective and cyclic stick ends are too simplified and not correctly shaped. · The shape of the IP coaming is not fully correct. The side recesses (where the flight log book, maps, water bottles or gun magazines were commonly stored) are too shallow. This is quite visible under the windshield glass. · Many small details such as quite visible white cables are also lacking in the front area, close to the pedals. · The IP instrument face details are generally correct but too flat. Many knobs and round buttons are missing. · The seats do not look like any known seat version (even if they are closer to the later ones) and have no belt. · All the holes and embossed reinforcements are missing in the rear bulkhead (behind the crew seats). This is annoying as the back of the seats were sometimes removed. · Multiple small details are missing or not correctly located on the fuselage surface. · The avionics boxes in the rear cockpit do not look exactly like any detailed picture of the bay I have found. This possibly corresponds to an early configuration or is a simplification from MRC. Moreover, tons of connectors, cables and multiple details are missing. So, if you want to open the avionics compartments, be prepared for a laborious detailing work. · The Rolls Royce Allison engine and transmission areas are OK. Shapes are correct even if the power turbine may look a little bit too square and the oil cooler exhaust port has no duct. However, many small details are missing. Again, opening the maintenance panels will ask for a lot of work. · The upper part of the engine cowling is simplified and there should be a panel line around the titanium exhaust area. This must separate the area into two distinct parts. · The Mast Mounted Sight and its mount are alas far too simplified and many of their features are wrong. · The main rotor blades have a recessed line close to their trailing edge. This should be filled on each side of the part. It is also recommended to bend them a little bit to get the drooped attitude of the full-scale ones. · The main rotor head is lacking details and the pitch change links parts (B49) must be offset to be correctly positioned. · The ALQ-144 support is not accurately shaped and most of the surface details are either wrong or missing. · A lot of bolt heads, attachment points, tow rings and other small details are missing on the skids. · The connectors to manage the weapons are missing on the lower fuselage sides. Accordingly, the control connections running from the fuselage to the weapons pylons must be added as well as many other small details on the UWP that should be angled (10° aft). Note the most common war load was one M-296 MG pod on the port side and either a seven rockets LAU-68 pod or a AGM-114 Hellfire antitank missile on the starboard side. Sometimes rockets were carried on both sides but the large .50 ammo box was generally carried whatever was the weapon on the port side. The plastic weapons are acceptable but there are finer aftermarket resin and metal options for the M2 and its barrel. · The tail rotor gearbox is far too simplified and a light is missing over the rear tip. Fortunately, the Zactomodels correction and detail set is correcting many small internal and external details. It is highly recommended. Revell specific elements The Revell specific contribution is made of the new box, new instructions and new decals. A. The box. The box CAD-designed drawing does not have the dynamic feel of the original MRC paintings but shows a quite original sand-painted OH-58D. It is interesting to note that the box acknowledge the use under license of the Bell trademark by Revell. Unfortunately, again, the side-opening box is probably the worst idea Revell ever had for scale models. I’m still puzzled seeing they did not yet change that. This is possibly linked to their low-cost policy but this is for sure not the most modeler-friendly solution. B. The instructions Fortunately, the instruction sheet is the multi-color booklet type one recently introduced by Revell. It is actually better than the MRC original plans. Alas, whereas MRC related to Federal Standard colors and let the modeler chose his preferred paint brand, Revell only mentions its own line of paints. If that is not a problem for most colors, finding an accurate FS34031 US army helicopter green is not that easy. However, the Bronze green proposed by Revel looks quite similar to the full-scale color. So, after some weathering, this should probably look OK. For people preferring other brands, MRC recommended mixing six parts of flat back with four parts of FS 34087 olive drab to get a replica of FS34031. Note that the sand scheme was actually painted with a custom mix of latex paints. So, do not hunt for a federal standard reference for that one! The instruction sheet does not indicate the need to add some weight under the instrument panel area (between B10 & B11). Do not forget that if you want to be sure avoiding the tail-sitter syndrome. The ATAS (Air to Air Stingers) and rocket pods are blackened on the sprue drawings as “not to use” parts. However, note that one Hydra LAU-68 rocket pod was sometimes carried in combination with the XM296 MG pod in ex-Yugoslavia (SFOR-KFOR). C. Decals Decals look rather comprehensive and they are the classical Revell matt and thin type. Enlarging a picture of the decals shows that printing is excellent, without any blemish. The kit correctly depicts the early version of the Kiowa. Alas, along the close to thirty years of use by the US Army, many internal and external changes appeared. So, decals should relate to such types and this is unfortunately not the case. Simply written: they are not accurate, as they do not correspond to the kit features. The sand scheme was used by an earlier configuration while the KFOR one was used by at later type! Other schemes could have be chosen even if the pictures depicting initial OH-58D are not that numerous. It is unfortunately a fact that helicopter-related books do not seem to generate a lot of interest. This is a pity for model companies and modelers as finding relevant documentation is always difficult, more particularly when such airframes have evolved along decades. Alas, the situation is not brilliant when we consider the Kiowa. We just have one very good Squadron walk around booklet written by Floyd Werner. At least, saying he knows helicopters is an understatement. This reference is mandatory to correct or detail the kit. However, because of the book format, it does not clearly give the timeframe of all the changes that appeared and stops when the book was published (in 2008) whereas the airframe features went on, evolving up to the last deployments in Afghanistan. Alas, there is neither an Internet reference comprehensively covering the details of such changes. · The Desert Storm scheme The “727” scheme, simply identified by Revell as “Desert Storm” was actually the one of an airframe belonging to the H company of 4th Brigade, 3rd Aviation Regiment. Initial D Kiowas artillery spotters had no weapons. So, the hole in each fuselage side (intended to receive parts D19 & D20) should be filled in. The initial D Kiowa also had different seats with a simple lever lock belt set-up (coming from the earlier marks). If you use the pilot and co-pilot figures, this is not that obvious. However, if you do not, you are on your own to correct that and create the belts as there is no specific aftermarket option. A Huey internal set may be used but this is a quite expensive solution. Using two WW2 US fighter belt sets is currently the most appropriate option. Some other internal items such as the first aid kit bag are missing. Another problem is the rear doors. Initial D Kiowas had the full rear doors with the glass windows used by earlier marks. This quickly changed as the rear windows were considered to be useless because the rear compartment was progressively filled in with more avionics boxes. So, they were partly painted or replaced by a metal sheet. The Desert Storm sand scheme had the glass door type with the glass not fully painted. So, this scheme would need clear parts that should be painted up to a corner at the very front upper end. It is possible to recreate oneself such windows from a clear sheet of plastic but this is not going to be easy. Another option would be getting the aft windows from the 1/32 JetRanger kit to re-dimension them but considering the rarity of that kit, this would be a quite expensive solution. Moreover, initial Kiowas had not foldable stabilators that helped to save place during quick deployments. Correcting that is a pain as there is no way to do it while keeping the existing very fine lines of rivets. Alas, this is a very visible feature. Note the AFV Club release has two resin parts depicting the early non-folding stabilators as the later type was never used by Taiwanese Kiowas. A picture of the actual airframe also shows that the starboard FM antenna must be omitted (remove the base from part C21 and use it to fill the hole). Last, the specific airframe depicted by Revell had no ALQ-144 system. The ALQ-144 of the kit is very simplified. Therefore, removing it is not a bad idea. Alas, the support is part of the fuselage molding and there is no easy way to remove it. This will imply rebuilding the boom upper area and restoring the surface details. Useless to say this will not be easy for the modeler choosing such an option. So, this airframe cannot be replicated from that kit without a serious personal effort. Too bad as the choice of that very specific scheme was a very good idea. · The KFOR scheme For the second scheme, Revell choose airframe 940174 during a KFOR deployment in ex-Yugoslavia Kosovo. However, if again this is a quite original and not previously released option, this is also another debatable one. The initial years of use of the armed Kiowa demonstrated some practical problems. One of them was linked to the engine air ingestion disturbance created by rocket launch. Accordingly, a new front engine cowling was designed and appeared from 1996. When deployed in ex-Yugoslavia, KFOR Kiowa Warriors had that cowling. Again, this is a resin part included in the AFV edition. However, here, the modeler has to rely either on some heavy work to recreate the new cowling, either on an aftermarket option. Fortunately, Werner Wings has a set including that part with other goodies such as the cockpit armoured side panels, a better ALQ-144 IR jammer, armoured side panels, new lights and antennas. (Note Floyd Werner made an initial version of that set for Cutting edge many years ago). Second, as soon as the decision was taken to move the Kiowa from the simple artillery-spotting role to a more aggressive armed reconnaissance role, the airframes kept permanently Universal Weapons Pylons (aka UWP). This created a practical problem to get access to the avionics boxes stored in the rear cockpit. indeed, opening fully the aft door was not possible because of the UWP. As it was not convenient to be forced to systematically remove the hinge pin to move the full door, the army decided to modify the doors. A cutout was added in the door lower rear corner, the removed section being permanently fixed to the fuselage. Unfortunately, the kit still has the early full door. Fortunately, the change is not that difficult to do and doors are available in the Werner Wings set (and in the AFV kit). The late generation of the Kiowa D had from 1999 the later seats with the new five points rotary buckle belt system. Again, the modeler is on his own to reproduce them. One option is the Eduard 32555 made for the Kangnam AH-64 Apache kit. Some other internal changes also appeared such as the very obvious Kevlar armour side panels. Last, the external features such as sensors and antennas evolved noticeably during the Kiowa career. For instance, the late 90s airframe got IR lights, APR-39/V2 RWR antennas and a navsat antenna replacing the Doppler one (kit part 40 on the belly). Such changes are applicable for a KFOR airframe. Fortunately, they are part of the Werner Wings set. So, again, OOTB, there is no way to depict easily that airframe. At least, the use of the Werner Wings set will allow to depict correctly the presented Kiowa. As the excellent Fireball decals set is now OOP for quite some time, this decal scheme is currently the only solution to build any airframe posterior to the early nineties. Other kit uses And what about earlier or later deployments? This will simply ask for other markings and more modifications! For an earlier deployment at the very end of the eighties, most remarks applicable for the sand-painted unarmed machine are valid However, 15 task Force 118 machines got initial modifications to carry weapons during the secret operation “Prime Chance”. This was intended to protect US oil tankers against Iranian attacks. Information about “Prime Chance” birds alas stay very limited. Nonetheless, the following elements can be identified and stay valid for Armed Kiowas during “Desert Storm”: · They got specific pylons similar to the later UWP and M296/Hydra rockets war loads. The most original configuration was probably the quite heavy M261 19 rocket pods (albeit with just a blanking plate replacing the MMS over the rotor to save weight). It looks like the Hellfire was not operationally used before “Desert Storm”. · One large additional instrument box was added over the coaming. It was very probably re-located on the IP when the production Kiowa Warrior was built. · Rear doors were fully painted. Some windows were possibly replaced by metal sheet but this may have occurred later (some airframes had a rectangular hatch on that area during “Desert Storm”). · One large oblong box was added close to the point of attachment of each pylon under the fuselage. The function of that box is unclear (electrical connections for the weapons? early RWR?) and is possibly linked to the additional box on the IP. It is unfortunately very difficult to find acceptable pictures of that modification. From the end of the nineties, a block of 18 1994 airframes (including for instance 40165, 40168, 40170 or 40171) used the “stealth” pointy nose. They were seen in ex-Yugoslavia and Iraq. For the 21st century deployments, all the remarks related to the KFOR airframe are valid. There were nonetheless other changes. OEF-OIF and other late Kiowas: · Because of their body armor, pilots commonly removed the back of the seat (it was fixed in the bulkhead between the front and rear cockpit stations). · Other cockpit features evolved and this was quite obvious with CAR-15/M4 supports and protruding CABS airbags on the IP coaming among other less visible changes (such as the CABS cushions on the front doors frame top that ask for moving the first aid kit to the internal side of the port rear door as the CABS control box took its location). A black sheepskin cover was quite often seen on the seats. · They got an additional ventilation round hole in the rear doors (used for better avionics cooling in the hot Middle East climate) from 2005. · An Engine Barrier Filter was mounted above the engine compartment (included in the Werner Wings set). · In the Middle-East, AVR-2 laser detectors were commonly removed from the rear doors and fuselage sides as the corresponding threat was not significant. They were replaced by a blanking plate to save weight. · The front doors were commonly left off the as the airframe had no airco system. According to pilots, this facilitated cooling, improved visibility and eased emergency exit. · For quick deployment, some airframes used the MPLH gear rather than the standard skids. · From 2009, Kiowa Warriors started using the FN M3P .50 calibre machine gun instead of the XM296 pod carrying the heavier M2 (this was released as a resin/photoetched set by Army Cast). · The “clothesline” HF antenna was removed under the boom (fill the holes intended to receive C37). Note that, when in use, many pictures showed it bent here and there. · The ALQ-144 infrared jammer (that was sometimes not fitted and replaced by a blank plate over its support) was finally removed with its support. · One M-130 Chaff Dispenser was installed under the rear section of the belly. Accordingly, the two radar altimeter antennas small bumps were repositioned on the bottom of the boom because of the new mount for the counter measure belly launcher. The very late Kiowas got various antennas on the tail boom (from front to back): SATCOM, “Blue Force” airfoil shaped antenna and then GPS antenna. · New Common Missile Warning System sensors (similar to the ones used on Blackhawks) appeared on the aft part of the fuselage and on the upper part of the nose. There is a rather large mount for the two sensors covering the rear corners where the fuselage and tail boom join together. · There were related changes in the cockpit. The most obvious one was on the glare shield, between the CABS modules. · Some late Kiowas removed the late engine cowling and went back to the initial configuration to save weight (e.g. seen in Afghanistan during the last years of use). · Finally, Kiowas deployed during the last years (e.g. Afghanistan in 2012 or Korea in 2016-2017) got a large L2MUM antenna (to manage and receive information from a drone) over the port crew station, right behind the windshield. Obviously, the port FM antenna was removed. Weathering tips · Kiowas used in the field were generally filthy even if the crew chiefs did their best to keep them in the best state of operations. Cleaning is an operational need, not an aesthetical one. So, you can add a lot of colour modulation. · Situation was worse in the Middle-East because of the harsh sun and very fine desert powder that was entering everywhere. So, do not hesitate ligthening a little bit the airframe upper and side surfaces and add a lot of dust with washes and pastels, including inside the airframe (more particularly at the front). · Markings (more particularly the black ones) looked quickly toned down on the green helos. Spraying a very thin and heavily diluted base coat over them if the contrast is too stark is probably the best way to simulate that effect. · The transmission and engine as well as the tail rotor gearbox were sometimes oily and a little bit dirty. This may be simulated with washes. · Engine combustion metal parts shows a lot of colour modulation generated by the heat. · Engine access hatches sometimes filthy. In some cases, they showed various chromate yellow/light green paint touch ups. · Note the rear doors and fuselage area located below the engine and the transmission logically tend to get oily and attract more dust and dirt. You may use a local brownish orange clear filter to replicate oil before adding some grime. A very light grey/buff colored residue left by engine compressor washes is sometimes visible right below the engine. · There is commonly a similar light grey residue generated by fuel spillage below the JP4 or JP8 (from the 2000s) fuselage fuel cap. · Replacement unpainted panel screws were sometimes visible. · Iridescent film or paint (such as Alclad ones) should be used on the ALQ-144 “disco light” sides. · There is a little bit if chipping on the skid edges and many small scratches over their upper surface. Similarly, there were scratches on the front of the UWP (where the crew walked on). · There was sometimes a visible difference of OD colour between the MMS and the fuselage. · The engine exhaust shield had a titanium area with blue, purple, brown and grey color variations.