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WC-130J Weatherbird

Minicraft 1/144 WC-130J Weatherbird Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review September 2013 Manufacturer Minicraft
Subject WC-130J Weatherbird Scale 1/144
Kit Number 14589 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Beautiful kit Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $41.99

First Look

WC-130J Weatherbird
WC-130J Weatherbird
WC-130J Weatherbird
WC-130J Weatherbird

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (53 WRS) is based out of Keesler AFB, Mississippi with its primary mission of chasing large storms. Tracing its roots back to World War II, the 53 WRS began operations at Keesler in 1973. The unit has flown an interesting range of aircraft over the years with the most time spent in the C-130 Hercules. After the 53rd was transitioned from an active-duty squadron to the Air Force Reserve, the unit was one of the early recipients of the C-130J Super Hercules. Designated WC-130J Weatherbird, the aircraft continues to conduct weather research and reconnaissance to help save lives.

Minicraft has released the first WC-130J in 1/144 scale and once again it looks good. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on seven parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. Six of the eight trees are common to all of the C-130 releases with only the two engine/propeller sprues bringing in the differences in this subject.

So what features are in here anyway?

  1. External tanks for the A-model or the later E/H models
  2. Pre-drilled holes under the wings for the tanks of your choice, though you'll need to fill the holes you don't use
  3. New-tooled Rolls Royce engine 'power eggs' and new propellers
  4. New-tooled forward main wheel well fairing replacements
  5. Positionable ramp and door
  6. Nicely detailed landing gear

I was initially baffled by the box art depicting the aircraft with external tanks as one of the major selling points of the C-130J was the reduced fuel consumption of the Rolls Royce engines coupled with the reduction of drag without the external tanks renderred the additional fuel unnecessary. In the case of the WC-130J however, Lockheed-Martin retained the C-130E/H external tanks to give this aircraft 18 hours of flight time. Since this version of the Herc doesn't air refuel, the extra fuel margin gives the crew more safety for extended overwater missions.

There is no interior in the cockpit, so you may want to scratch-build the crew seats for the pilots and flight engineer, as that will be about all you'll see through those tiny windows. As with the C-130 airlifters previously released by Minicraft, this kit does not have the distinctive SKE dome above or below the forward fuselage.

If you do leave the ramp and door open, you'll need to add hydraulic actuators for the ramp, open the accessway through the forward bulkhead (station 245), and add a few details in the interior. A main cargo deck is provided.

Markings are provided for two examples:

  • WC-130J, 97-5304, 53 WRS, Keeler AFB, 2003
  • WC-130J, 97-5306, 53 WRS, Keeler AFB, 2010

This is still a nice kit from Minicraft and with the wide variety of variants and modifications that have been applied to this aircraft, you won't lack for some beautiful subjects on your shelf! Whether you wait for them to appear in a kit release like this variant or you modify the kit yourself, the are many possibilities!

My sincere thanks to Minicraft for this review sample!

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