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AC-47

Monogram 1/48 AC-47 Vietnam Gunship Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2008 Manufacturer Monogram
Subject AC-47 Vietnam Gunship Scale 1/48
Kit Number 5615 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Best AC-47 in any scale, second-best C-47 in any scale Cons Scarred decals with questionable accuracy, incomplete decal placement instructions (see text)
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $31.50

 

 

First Look

AC-47
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The C-47 Skytrain was the airlift workhorse of World War II, hauling cargo and paratroopers around the world. The aircraft was drafted into the Cold War service to airlift supplies into an isolated Berlin. As the jet age zoomed past the venerable Skytrain, it looked like it would finally retire from active duty military service once and for all.

In the early 1960s, the Air Force was experimenting with different techniques to perform counter-insurgency (COIN) missions from the air. In 1963, a C-131 Samaritan was fitted with a single 7.62mm GE minigun to assess the aircraft's ability to engage targets with any degree of accuracy. The results were very positive.

Once again, the C-47 was drafted into active service to become the USAF's first operational gunship. Nicknamed 'Spooky', the AC-47D Gunship I was also armed with the 7.62mm GE gun, but this time special pedestals were installed to use the same gunpod being flown by other close air support aircraft. Three gunpods were fitted, two in the rear-most portside windows, and one out the cargo door, all angled downward. The pilot was given a gunsight from an A-1 Skyraider that aimed out his left window and a trigger that fired all three guns. The AC-47 was an ideal gunship as it was a stable gun platform, could remain on station for hours, and carried 24,000 round of ammunition. All the pilot needed to do was enter a simple pylon turn, adust his orbit point from where his port wingtip was pointing, then fine-tune the aiming solution to get the gunsight pipper on the area that needed to be 'cleared'.

The Spooky gunship was so successful in its early combat operations in Vietnam that the Air Force was called upon to get more Spookys in-theater as soon as possible. At that time, the Air Force simply didn't have enough miniguns available to fit to these aircraft, so surplus WWII and Korean War machine guns were fitted to provide some capability until more gunpods were available for retrofit. As the war continued, the enemy brought more effective anti-aircraft firepower into the fight and rendered the AC-47 too vulnerable for continued operations. Further developments of the gunship concept continued with the C-119 and C-130 airframes to allow for larger caliber guns that could provide accurate fire from safer altitudes. The U-Boat, the AC-130U is the latest gunship variant that entered USAF service several years ago.

Monogram released their 1/48 C-47 Skytrain kit in 1978, 30 years ago. This tooling was part of the family of kits that Monogram developed to dominate the 1/48 scale market that also includes their timeless 1/48 B-17G, B-24D, B-24J, B-25J, B-26, B-29A, and many more. These kits were all highly detailed by the standards of the day and are still very respectable even by today's standards.

What's different about this kit is that Revell-Monogram has provided additional parts to render a Spooky while still retaining the parts to still produce a vanilla C-47 airlifter. Let's take a look:

The kit is molded on four parts trees in light gray styrene plus a single tree of clear parts. As with all of the Monogram kits in this series, the panel lines are all raised as are the rivets. Here is one subject where raised rivets are absolutely accurate. The fourth image shows the sprue tree with the main deck. This tree contains new tooling to add the proper wide-chord propellers used on the supercharged Goony birds and subsequently the Spooky gunships. This tree also contains the three miniguns, pedestals, blanket shields, parachute flare racks, and the essential ammunition cans.

Trumpeter recently released the C-47 in 1/48 scale with a greater level of detail and greater price tag. With the engineering and options in the Trumpeter kit, it would be noteworthy to look at some of the differences:

  • Surface Detailing: Trumpeter - scribed; Monogram - raised
  • Interior: Trumpeter - exceptional; Monogram - less details, but still very usable
  • Windows: Trumpeter - individual; Monogram - slab strips that detract from the interior details
  • Engines: Trumpeter - exquisite; Monogram - minimalistic
  • Flight controls: Trumpeter - separate; Monogram - not
  • Photo-etch details: Trumpeter - yes; Monogram - no
  • Main wheels: Trumpeter - rubber; Monogram - styrene
  • Main gear struts: Trumpeter - metal or plastic; Monogram - plastic
  • Rear in-flight 'bathroom' (honeybucket compartment): Trumpeter - no; Monogram - yes
  • Overall fit: Trumpeter - good; Monogram - not so good
  • Versions: Trumpeter - C-47A; Monogram - C-47A, C-47B, AC-47D

If you are building the AC-47D, you're going to want to show off that nice interior detail with the guns. The one thing you should really consider is removing the side windows from the slabs and installing them individually. This will remove one eyesore from the interior of the main cabin that would detract from the otherwise nice details.

Markings are provided for two aircraft:

  • AC-47D, '4-211', 'EI', 'Casper'
  • AC-47D, 43-49010, OS, 'Spooky'

I believe that Casper's tailcode should be EN, not EI. In addition, the instructions don't show you how to place the distinctive markings. If you look at the decal placement instructions in steps 20 and 21, they show the same top and bottom views of the aircraft along with a scrap view of a propeller for color and marking placement. What is missing are the left and right side views of both aircraft to show the placement of the tailcodes, nose art, kill markings, etc. You should be able to find this information in printed and some online references, but why should the modeler be forced to do Revell-Monogram's work?

AC-47If you click on the decal image above, you'll see that the decal printing looks okay. What surprised me was that a day after scanning that image, the decals started to degenerate. Here is a closer look at one of the several sections of the decal sheet that is somehow degenerating after about a week after being removed from its protective cover. Not good folks.

[Updated] Thanks to Mike Jackson for letting us know that Revell-Monogram has posted the missing decal placement instructions on their website here.

The good news is that you'll have options for these aircraft as several aftermarket decal companies are producing Spooky decal sheets including Zotz Decals. Decal problems solved.

This is still the only AC-47D kit in 1/48th scale though you can still find aftermarket conversions to upgrade your existing C-47 into a gunship. Given that the aftermarket parts will likely cost as much as this kit's very reasonable retail price, I don't know why you wouldn't simply buy this kit. It is unfortunate that the decals and decal instructions have issues, this is unusual for Revell-Monogram. There is at least one other US kit manufacturer that seems to have these decal and instructions issues with a number of their releases over the last several years and I certainly hope they aren't "helping" Revell-Monogram!

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