High Planes 1/72 Fairchild AU-23A Peacemaker Build Review
By Chuck Holte
|Date of Review||January 2015||Manufacturer||High Planes|
|Subject||Fairchild AU-23A Peacemaker||Scale||1/72|
|Kit Number||7287||Primary Media||Styrene, resin, brass photo-etch, cast white metal|
|Pros||Dimensionally accurate, good flying surface detail||Cons||Soft styrene, lots of flash, poor fit|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||Out of production|
The Fairchild AU-23A Peacemaker was a license-built, militarized version of the Swiss Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter. Powered by a 665shp Garret turboprop engine, the AU-23A had excellent short field take-off and landing characteristics and was capable of carrying a maximum external ordinance load of ~1900 pounds distributed among a fuselage pylon and four wing pylons. The aircraft was evaluated under combat conditions by the US Air Force's 4400th Special Operations Squadron in the Counter Insurgency (COIN) role as a fixed-wing gunship in 1971-72 under the PAVE COIN/Credible Chase programs in South Vietnam. The AU-24's side-firing 20mm XM-197 Gatling cannon was a three-barreled version of the M61 Vulcan six-barrel crowd pleaser.
Although the little Peacemaker could provide awesome firepower in the COIN role, it was vulnerable to ground fire due to slow combat speed (135 knots), low "working" altitude, and a complete lack of armor protection for crew and vital aircraft systems. As a result of the demonstrated vulnerabilities, USAF recommended against continued use of the Peacemaker in combat. Remaining AU-23A aircraft were eventually supplied to Thailand under the Military Assistance Program for border surveillance and counter-infiltration roles. The aircraft modeled, 72-1316, the third to the last of 15 USAF AU-23As, was reported in storage at Prachaup Khiri Khan, Thailand in August 2004.
The High Planes AU-23A provides a soft styrene kit of the basic Pilatus PC-6 with a resin replacement nose, pylons and other replacement parts, a small brass PE fret of antennas and steps, soft white metal gear/struts and a poorly fitting vacuform windscreen. Decals are for three Turbo Porter aircraft; Air America N358F in the early '70s, Royal Thai Police and Royal Thai AF both in 2005. Parts for the XM-197 20mm cannon system were not provided in the kit. Instructions are adequate for the basic build and include color painting and decal guides for all three kit aircraft.
I opened and discarded the two cockpit doors and the starboard cargo door and added a scratchbuilt aft bulkhead and removed the styrene nose section just forward of the cockpit. Joining the fuselage and adding the wings and tail, building from the outside in, I used the resin instrument panel and three of the kit supplied seats (pilot, co-pilot and gunner).
While waiting for the glue and filler to dry, I scratchbuilt the XM-197 gun using bits and pieces from the scrap box and the excellent Master 72-038 brass M-197 20mm cannon barrels. To me, the gun was the focal point of the model, so I spent a lot of time researching it on line and building a respectable likeness.
I also dropped the inner flaps and elevator surfaces. The Turbo Porter exhaust supplied as a resin part was undersized so it was replaced by a bit of styrene tube heated and bent to fit over a candle flame.
Once all the various bits and pieces were in place, save the gun, I airbrushed the exterior with Model Master Olive Drab darkened with Interior Black to match available period photos. Decals came from the spares box. The magazine, gun mount and gun were installed and the final antennas and lights were added as the last steps. I added light pastel chalk weathering to show a little wear and tear on the aircraft.
The AU-23A was not much more than a footnote in the fixed-wing gunship program but it showed what was possible with an off-the-shelf light aircraft enhanced with a huge three-barreled cannon and some bomb racks. Even though the High Planes kit was challenging at times, it was fun. I enjoyed building the cannon just as much as doing the aircraft. The little Peacemaker gunship is a cool addition to my Vietnam collection.