Kitty Hawk Models 1/48 SH-2F Seasprite Kit Build Review
By Fotios Rouch
|Date of Review||April 2014||Manufacturer||Kitty Hawk Models|
|Kit Number||80122||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||New-tool kit of this subject||Cons||See text.|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$49.95|
For a brief background on this subject and a look at this kit out of the box, look here.
As mentioned in the first-look at this kit, parts of this kit are only found on the SH-2G and this project would have been a no go without the Cobra resin SH-2F upper transmission dome replacement and the Cobra Resin interior upgrade. With these two items on my workbench I started the project by degreasing the plastic and resin.
Studying the sprues shows me that the company contracted for this work is probably new to the business. The sprue trees indicate a clunky approach and lack of elegance. Some silly mistakes include a nice floor texture that is on the underside of the floor and forever invisible, a side door that has the sprue gate overlapping the area where the clear part would go, a complex rear transmission area that is incomplete and required photo-etch parts to cover it up, etc.
First I laid down all the interior parts plastic and resin alike to see what I could use. My intent was to use as much Cobra Resin parts as possible. Unfortunately, fit issues would not allow that for all the resin parts.
I started painting the instrument panel first by using gloss black paint for the instrument faces and interior black for the bezels. I painted the radar screen silver and then used Tamiya clear green on top. The largest instruments were cut out of the decal instrument panel representation and were placed on the instrument panel.
The most important part in this build was to include the ASW operator's station. The Cobra set is a must for that as it is difficult to scratch-build. I chose to sand down each instrumentation rack shelf and replace it with thin plasticard. I also decided to make use out of the useless bench that the kit includes and use its legs for the extra seat that is found in the kit (but not in the instructions) and create a jump seat this way.
Initially I chose the overhead console that come with the kit but it is not the correct one for the older version and it will not work with the resin replacement cockpit top canopy anyway. Cobra Resin includes vacuformed upper windows for their replacement part but I found that the plastic windows from the old Revell kit work fine as well. I like how the resin instrumentation fits within the roof part. I took photos of the interior because, sadly little will be visible once the fuselage is together.
Next step is putting it all together and closing the fuselage following with the work on the upper deck.
Kitty Hawk includes a photo-etch fret with a lot details. The photo-etch screens give a nice sense of detail and I like them but I cannot understand that only some were given to us that way while the adjacent screens are represented in plastic.
The fuselage went together with no problem despite my worries about an interior loaded with details. I had to work a bit to get the large resin transmission cover to fit on the fuselage. Superglue helped a lot. Still though, a lot of putty will be used to cover some gaps and to fill locating holes intended for the larger and inappropriate original cover.
All was going well enough until I tried to insert the cockpit top cover and the windshield. Not sure what I did wrong but I have some fit issues. The cockpit cover slopes a bit downward and windshield is a bit tall for it. Some adjustment will have to be made. I need to think about this before I start filing things.
The most difficult part of this build is to get the resin top cockpit cover to fit with the windshield and glass side panels. Lots of test fitting is required. The windshield is basically too tall and it will push the resin cockpit top cover upwards. I tried to shave off a bit of the clear part at the top but not much can be removed without losing the molded frame. The clear glass side panels are also tall but this is a good thing because with careful sanding and shaping they will meet the resin top and little putty will be required.
Naturally, all the test fitting and warping popped off the top instrument console and plastic top panel glass parts. They will be glued in place once I have a good fit and all panels are glued together. While I was making my life difficult, I decided to go further with incorporating more resin Cobra Co. bits. The kit sponsons can be improved by replacing portions of them with the resin parts. Not a very easy task but I like the results.
The next step was to provide a good finish to the integrated resin/plastic combination. The transmission housing fits OK to the plastic fuselage but it needs a little attention to make it look nice. I used thin and narrow Evergreen styrene strips which I inserted wherever gaps were present between plastic and resin.
I ran liquid Plastruct Bondene across the seam, pressed it with a putty knife into the gap and left it overnight to dry. I had to do that on both sides of the tranny dome. Once the styrene was dry I sanded it to shape with fine sanding sticks. 3M green automotive putty was used all around to finish all the resin to plastic joints.
When I thought that things looked smooth and proper, it was time to bring out the Mr Surfacer and prove myself wrong! This fine liquid primer will always reveal the finest cracks and imperfections. So a little more work went on until all looked fine. The windows and opening to the interior were masked with Tamiya masking tape and liquid mask. The tanks were prepped up and the same went for the side doors and their windows.
As I was assembling the engine nacelles I noticed a nasty mold line on both of them. The engines come in upper and lower halves and I do not understand the need for such execution. Unfortunately this ridge goes through some details and it makes it difficult to totally eliminate it. In any case, I sanded it and it looks OK. The good part is that the ridge is present on the lower side of the nacelle and it will not be visible unless the model is upside down.
The nacelles went on with some difficulty. The first thing that needs to be done is to trim the locating tabs as per the Cobra instructions. This is because the resin transmission cover has shallower holes. The next problem is that the engine nacelles do not fit flush to the resin piece. I used cyano glue and accelerator and gentle pressure to get them to settle in their places.
After that I attached the two fuel tanks. Make sure that they are aligned correctly as there is some free-play that allows them to dry cockeyed.
There is a locating hole provided for the sonobuoy on the port side but someone decided to have one available for the starboard side as well. I decided not to use putty for filling it but use styrene instead. I cut appropriate lengths of Evergreen strips and filled the insert hole. Once dry I sanded it down flush and no putty was required.
Next step was to adapt the Cobra resin IR jammer pods to the KittyHawk kit. They take a little bit of adjusting but they fit pretty well. I used a bit extra cyanoacrylate glue so much so that a tiny hint of it oozed out and filled any gaps between the resin jammers and the plastic. I think I will make the necessary holes now but add the wiring to the jammers later after painting is completed.
Last step was to add the chaff/flare dispensers on the starboard side.
It appears that Kitty Hawk had in mind to provide the option of retracted and stowed main rotor blades. They made holes on top of the fuselage for the support mechanism for the blades but either they changed their mind or ran of time and did not include this option, but also left the holes in place. The holes were filled with the appropriate size styrene rod and then the rods were sanded down flat and polished off.
As I was adding more parts and details to the fuselage I noticed that there were more molding ridges on the bottom of the fuselage. What is it with the specific technology being used, I have no idea. I remember similar but worst lines on the Trumpeter Vigilante and Fencer. Why do we not see that with the Japanese companies for example?
I used enamel Xtracolor Engine gray and not the ridiculous suggestion in the painting instructions for Midnight Blue! I like Xtracolor because it is gloss and the decals will lay down nicely. After that I can choose how much to dull down the finish.
The walkways were painted gloss black as well so the Caracal decal walkway markings can go down with no silvering. After the walkway decals were on I sprayed the masked area with flat clear.
I also painted the blades gloss black for the same reason. The Caracal stencils and warning red white stripes went down very well. After all is dry and set I will trim off the excess decal material with a fresh Xacto blade. I wanted to use the kit decal for the blade serial number but it disappeared into the black due to insignificant pigmentation and so I threw it away.
I made a mix of half Alclad II pale burned metal and half exhaust to paint the exhausts. I will then have to carefully paint the bottoms the flattest black possible to give the illusion of depth.
Scale Aircraft Conversions provided the metal landing gear for Seasprite project. I took a look at the parts and decided to only use the main landing gear main parts only. These are the only parts that will take most of the weight. None of the parts included are any improvement whatsoever in the detail department. They are exact copies of the plastic parts with no detail added but with all the plastic mold artifacts perfectly replicated. Would it add that much more to the price of the set if the plastic parts were cleaned up first? Just the same I cleaned up the soft metal and polished off the small imperfections. Then I drilled two lightening holes on each main gear leg as per the photos of the Pima Air and Space museum Seasprite. On second thought I should have drilled the holes a bit wider.
The landing gear nests were masked prior to receiving their white paint. While at it I also masked all the areas that would receive yellow as well. Yellow shows much nicer over a white base coat. There was no way in the world I could I could mask the engine intakes for painting. The radius is just too small for masking. I decided to over spray them white and then mask the interior and go over it with engine gray. We will see how that works out. After yellow went on, I removed all masking to see where I screwed up and if there was any overspray.
The next step that followed is a tough one. The eyes are always drawn to the IR Jammers. They have the weird iridescent glow that cannot really be duplicated with paint. Xactoman has a great solution but I am not sure where he gets his film. In my case I have two jammers so it is double the trouble! I proceeded by masking the area around the jammers. I augmented it with liquid masking as well. The I sprayed with Alclad II Pale Gold. This is going to be touched up with bronze, silver and copper. Then the whole thing will be airbrushed with Tamiya clear blue. Hopefully it will look OK.
I then went on to build the sonar buoy. How in the world is the photo-etch going to work is beyond me. It looks like it supposed to go over the plastic but if I do that I would cover the side holes which clearly show in the instructions. The more I think of it the more I think I will leave off the photo-etch.
After the main rotor was assembled, I got it ready for painting with gray and touching it up with metallic gray afterwards.
Most of the major work was done and the last thing I wanted to work on was painting the MAD detector which I incorrectly called a sonobuoy earlier. The Caracal decals will not work for the length of this part. You will need to do some painting and also try to match the insignia yellow paint with the decal yellow hue. I completed the part but I am not happy with the look of it.
Next I cleaned up the model with PollyS Plastic prep to remove fingerprints and the like prior to applying the Caracal decals HSL-32 out of (set 48043). This set has many great looking options and it is tough to select one. I chose HSL-32 because I had found an image on the web of one with smoke flair launchers and the FLIR. Some items of note as I was trying to narrow down my choices. There are images from the same unit with the FLIR on or with the FLIR bases on but not the jammers themselves. Some images show the FLIR some don't. Some show the smoke marker launchers and some don't. Of interest is that in the images, I see that the red intake warning chevron covers both navigation lights with its red paint! With enough Micro Set the decals will do the same. Also of interest is that the national insignia are a bit out of register and the white base layer shows through on the left side. I touched up mine with insignia blue paint with so-so results.
This was a lengthy build mostly because of the mods and corrections that I felt I had to include. Not an easy kit. Will I keep my Matchbox and Revell kits? Sure! I need to use more of the Caracal decals. Can the old kit compete with the new kit? The Matchbox kit shows its age but the outline is better.
A gentleman that offered invaluable help in this project and set me straight with some of my mistakes is Mr. Robert Beach of IPMS/Hampton Roads. Here are some great links for reference:
Also here is an excerpt of his notes that he emailed me that are of great value, re-posted with permission:
Within the SH-2F development, there are basic configuration detail milestones (and ignoring the one-off experimental configurations) that are apparent and hence of concern for a modeler.
Landing gear fairings: Originally, the landing gear had a full length external fairing mounted to the fuselage and a fairing on the "Y" leg so when the gear was retracted, it was streamlined except for the area over the wheels (this configuration is the one depicted in the older Matchbox/Revell reissue kit.) First the "Y" leg fairings were removed and finally the middle lower & aft portions were removed, leaving the gear essentially exposed along the fuselage when retracted. The front portion of the fairing was retained and also covers the smoke marker flare box launchers (smokes are used to provide a reference in the ocean when conducting submarine 'hunts', such as when a MAD detection is made, then that point can be marked with a 'smoke'...plus helpful when determining wind during hoisting operations during rescues!) At about the same time the IR decoy 'disco lights' and IR flare launchers were installed, the starboard smoke launcher box had the portion of the fairing covering it removed (I believe because it allowed for extended 'burn' smokes, but I could be wrong...) The last obvious change to the gear fairings was a 'cutout' at the forward underside of the starboard fairing for a FLIR turret to be mounted.
Sensors: The basic 'fit' for a LAMPS SH-2F was a MAD, sonobouy & smoke flare launchers, doppler altimeter antennas (twin underside of middle-aft fuselage, kinda teardrop in section) and nose radar radome. A hinged datalink antenna was mounted on the centerline and started as a 'blade' or ' knife' shape that changed to a 'rod' shape. Mid SH-2 life, there was a ESM suite fitted that began with a chunky antenna mounted on the underside tail centerline which was replaced with a set of four angled 'box' antennas mounted to cover all four quadrants (one on each side of the lower vertical tail, often outlined in a white stripe 'boundary', and one on each half of the nose 'doors'.) At the end of the SH-2F's US Navy service, missile 'flare detection' sensors were fitted to some aircraft. I am still researching this identifying feature, as it happened after I left the service. These are visible as teardrop shaped fairings with a round half-dome, similar to what is visible on A-10 aircraft.
Rotor blades: Blade construction changed around 1989 & later to a more advanced composite structure. These are obvious because of the change to a 'gray' color on both the tail and main rotors. The gray blades lack the yellow (mains) & 'red-white-red' (tail) tip stripes. Sometimes, especially at the beginning as the new blades came into the supply system, a helo would carry both types of blades. These were painted gray because the use of the 'low visibility' gray paint schemes was being instituted. Many squadrons had a mix of Engine Gray and LoVis gray birds in the late '80's/ early '90's because a full repaint was done on a piecemeal basis when aircraft went in major maintenance rework.
Drop tanks: Just as with the rotor blades, tanks went from lower capacity, metal tanks (aka 'short') to longer, composite construction (aka 'long') tanks. Engine upgrades and lower tank weights, plus other factors, allowed for an extended flight time using the larger tanks. Although not a 'hard rule', most of the composite tanks were painted to match the 'low vis' paint schemes. However, I've seen short in 'lo vis' and long tanks in engine gray, and once one with both colors! The basic configuration however of two 'bomb shackles' or hardpoints to accommodate tanks or torpedoes, never changed. Experiments to mount anti-ship & other types of missiles never came to operational fruition, at least not with the US Navy. The use of Penguin missiles may have been accomplished by the Aussies or Kiwi's, or even the Egyptians, but I am still researching that point also.
MAD bird: The MAD gear 'bird' (the little missile shape) remained constant except for a change in the 'drag cone' component, a change that wasn't really widespread. The kit apparently has a confused combination of the metal cone and a later, expanded foam plastic (yes, styrofoam!) version. The foam cone was solid with full-depth holes through the 'body'. The metal cone has a perforated sheet metal ring, kinda of like a SBD Dauntless' dive flaps, on the aft edge. The metal cones were prevalent in US Navy use. BTW, this is the same basic MAD gear used on SH-60B Seahawks, except I think they may have used more of the foam cones.
Cabin interior: I have looked over the Kittyhawk kit and also have checked out the Cobra exterior & interior detail sets - which I assisted Sherman & Co. research - and can say that the Cobra set is most accurate but both do not have the cabin's rear 'wall' far enough aft. BTW, SH-2F's did have a fabric 'bench' seat on the starboard side for carrying passengers. It could be folded up against the side if needed, but as the 'plumbing' for the fueling ports ran under it and above the cabin floor, it was usually just left down. In short, the cabin floor wasn't completely flat, it had a raised section underneath that bench seat. Also, I don't recall ever having a 'jump seat' mounted in the cabin. If you have pictures of it, please share! (Here is a virtual walkaround link about the jump seat in the back cabin. www.neam.org/seasprite-cockpit-movie-large.html
The effect in the kit is that, with the equipment rack mounted, there is no room for the sonobouy launcher. If you look at the port exterior, the sensor operator's (Senso's) seat is next to the cabin window with the Sonobouy hatch aft of that position. Hence, the launcher is behind the senso's seat and the equipment rack is then aft of the launcher. Essentially, the aft cabin wall should be in line with the fuselage 'break' line, roughly just aft of the hardpoint mounts. The break isn't obvious as on some helos, so that is part of the problem. Also, the aft 'wall' was not a full solid bulkhead but rather had a large opening in the starboard half that was initially covered by a quilted soundproofing material 'curtain' (not wrinkled like a curtain, but it was fabric...like a fabric door) that later had a 'safety net' (a grid of seatbelt-like straps) installed to prevent any crew from being 'washed' into the aft fuselage during at-sea crash landings. Most of the interior surfaces were in fact (mostly, depending on the care of maintenance crew) covered by a silver, quilted soundproofing material that obscured much of the interior structure of the cabin. TIP: I have found that the textured foil wrapper used by some brands of cream cheese (such as Kraft) are perfect to depict this fabric as the 'quilt' pattern is embossed, plus it is silver! The fabric sections were attached using metal 'snaps' which often wore out and so the sections around the hoist controls (aft of the starboard cabin door opening), the equipment racks (aft port roof and wall) and just forward of the Senso's station , behind the control rod 'closet' (the 'thick' bulkhead behind the port pilot's seat - aka the copilot's seat) often were somewhat detached.
Cockpit: The kit cockpit is nice enough, not too much to be picky about. I saw some minor problems but I cannot recall all right at the moment. It is somewhat simplified and the overhead console seems to be too large, so going with the Cobra bits is a good bet to get it right. Be aware that there is a rotor brake lever mounted on the starboard side of overhead console. It looks like (well, *is*) a horizontal hydraulic cylinder with a slightly curved lever arm with a round red knob on the end, situated below it. The rotor brake works just like a caliper brake on an automobile, acting on a brake rotor attached to the main rotor transmission shaft just above the cabin area. It was added to the twin engine aircraft because small helo decks (as in destroyers), unlike carriers, are much more exposed and so quick 'shut down, fold & stow' operations are important.
Lastly (and about time!), an explanation of the 'doghouse' issue. With the T58 engines, the output shaft came out the rear of the engine (in fact, you can see the shape in the exhaust pipe that shrouds the power shaft.) The two shafts each have a gearbox that 'turns' them 90 degrees into a combining transmission that feeds both the main and tail rotor shafts. So, the kit's little PE doors actually cover the transmission bay; on the real deal, the doors open for preflight inspection. The forward fairing, or 'doghouse', is a large one piece cover that tilt forward and up a bit to allow access to the main gear transmission and control mechanisms. As I recall, there is an oil tank, hydraulic pump, etc. located there as well, all covered by the 'doghouse'. Now, with the SH-2G & its T700 engined, the power shaft come out the *front* of the engine (hence the big 'bulbs' in the intakes), so the situation is opposite from the earlier SH-2F. To cover the power shafts and transmission, now at the front, the doghouse had to be made larger (well, *longer*.) The control rods still had to fit, but I suspect the other auxiliary equipment would have been moved aft of the main rotor. So, a bigger 'doghouse' that covers more of the cockpit roof windows makes the kit incorrect for a Foxtrot. Fortunately, that isn't a big problem if you have a Matchbox or the Revell reissue hanging around, since that doghouse is accurate (generally, the Matchbox kit is accurate, if of simplified detail... and now SAC metal landing gear sets can deal with that problem as well!)
My sincere thanks to Kitty Hawk Models for this review sample!