Academy/MRC 1/48 CH-46E Sea Knight Build Review
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||May 2004||Manufacturer||Academy/MRC|
|Subject||CH-46E Sea Knight||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||2226||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Interior and exterior fuselage are separate parts, excellent detailing and fit||Cons||Ejector pin marks on cargo compartment walls|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$49.50|
The CH-46 started life as Boeing Vertol Model 107. This was a twin-rotor, twin-engine design that first flew in April 1958. Production of all variants of this aircraft ended in the early 1970s. The Japanese operate a licensed version of this aircraft designated KV-107.
The first US military version was the CH-46A (initially designated HRB-1), which entered service and began operations in Vietnam in March 1966. The early Sea Knights were capable of carrying 17-25 troops or 4000 pounds of cargo over a combat radius of 115 miles.
The CH-46E is one of the current versions of the aircraft still in service and was the primary mode of airborne transportation for the Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom. These aircraft had been scheduled to be replaced by the V-22 Osprey, but delays in development have forced the CH-46 to soldier on into the 21st Century.
The aircraft is also in service as the CH-113 with the Canadian Armed Forces and with the Swedish Navy and Air Force.
If you'd like to take a look at the kit as it comes out of the box, check out the in-box review
previously published here on Cybermodeler.
To get started, you'll need to look through the instruction sheet to decide which of the three aircraft you're going to build as the instructions require different actions for each version. The choices are:
- Option 1: CH-46E, 157681, Marine Helicopter Sqn 1, Quantico VA
- Option 2: CH-46E, 157713, HMM-162, YS/00, MCAS New River NC
- Option 3: CH-46E, 153369, HMM-261, EM/05, MCAS New River NC
I elected to build the Option 3 aircraft, I set out to do the initial painting of the two major colors needed of Flat Black for many of the rotor, cockpit and interior floor parts; and Dark Gull Gray for the cargo compartment interior parts.
Step 1: Unlike most aircraft kits, we don't start off with the cockpit, rather with the assembly of the forward and aft rotors. Assembly of the rotor heads, blades and swash plates is straightforward. The one confusing part is with the placement of the blade stencils. The instructions seem to indicate that stencils appear top and bottom of the blades, but there are only enough stencils on the decal sheet to do one side of each blade. Since most folks will see the rotors from above, I elected to place the available stencils on the upper surface of each blade. [Note: Thanks to Jonathan Primm who was assigned to the Sea Knight for pointing out that the blade stencils go only on the bottom of the blades.]
Step 2: In this step, we install the rear rotor mast to the fuselage halves and add a number of radar warning receiver antennas common to all three option aircraft. Unfortunately, holes aren't drilled into the fuselage halves for these antennas until Step 3! Skip ahead to Step 3, drill the holes, then come back to install the antennas. In this photo to the right, I've installed the receiver antenna under the nose and applied Bare Metal Foil to mask off the windows from the upcoming paintwork. The two arrows indicate where on the nose that the window frame detail almost disappears, so you'll have to compensate for this when masking off these windows.
Step 3: If you are building the Option 1 aircraft, you have only a few holes to open, whereas the Option 2/3 aircraft have loads of holes to open. All I can say is that after I had completed this step, there are still lots of holes left to be opened and that means that Academy/MRC will have some other interesting versions waiting in the wings. A diagram in the instructions map out which holes need to be opened. After completing this step and trying to install the Step 2 antennas, I discovered that the diagram in the instructions overlooked a few holes. Here are the corrections that will apply to all three option aircraft:
Step 4: You can see in this photo of the interior cargo compartment walls that there is lots of detailing there. You can also see the sink marks, but I want to see how visible these will be once the aircraft is fully assembled. Both walls have been airbrushed with the base color of Dark Gull Gray and a coat of Future to give the decals a solid foundation, but the right wall has received additional detail painting followed by a wash of black to bring the details out. Finally, the decals were applied per the instructions. I have found that the smaller white stencils are almost invisible after application, so I didn't bother using any of the stencils that met those criteria. If you look carefully at the ribs on each half, you can even see the station number markings. Station numbers are distances measured in inches from a reference point, usually the nose of the aircraft, which help the crews to calculate weight and balance of the aircraft.
Step 5: It is time for another decision - this step is nothing more than to decide whether you want troop seats or medivac litters installed in the cargo compartment. I opt for troop seats.
Step 6: You have the choice of positioning the troop seats in the sitting position or stowed (or some combination thereof). The problem is that there are no locating/positioning holes for the stubs molded to the back edge of the seats. If you install them in the sitting position, you'll have to guess at the right angle to install them and to place each of the individual support legs beneath the seats. If there was some easy way to get the floor into position so that seat installation would not cause headaches later, then I would have left the seats down. Since I couldn't see a sensible way to install these seats down, I installed them in the stowed position. Another argument for stowing the seats is the lack of seatbelts. If you leave the seats down, you'd have to add seat belts for each seat.
Step 7: This step is only used if you opted for a medivac configuration. Since I installed troop seats instead, I can skip over this step.
Step 8: Now that the cargo compartment is completed, it is time to install the side windows into the fuselage halves. The instructions would have you install a window into the removable starboard escape hatch (Part A21) and install said hatch onto the fuselage. DON'T!!! Not until you've reviewed Step 10 to decide if you're installing the optional 50 caliber machine guns. If you are, the starboard gun will go out the open hatch. If your bird will be unarmed, then press on with the hatch and window installation per the instructions.
With the windows installed, it is time to marry up the interior and exterior fuselage halves. The fit of the cargo compartment walls is great, though be sure to dry fit everything as one locating pin from one of the radar warning receiver antennas stuck into the interior of the fuselage to get in the way of one interior wall.
Step 9: I airbrushed Tamiya NATO Black on the cockpit area components as well as the interior and ramp floors. Once this had dried, I masked off the tracks where the floor rollers are located and airbrushed Alclad Aluminum into the tracks. Once this had dried, I applied a wash of brown & black oils in the track wells to bring out the detail and show some use.
Step 10: The instructions would have you install the cockpit and cargo compartment bulkheads at this time. You'll also note the pilot and copilot seat frames are in the same illustration. Install the seat frames first! If the cockpit bulkhead goes in first, then it will be virtually impossible to get the seat frames assembled into place. Since I did make the mistake of installing the bulkheads, before I sought consolation with an adult beverage, I got the notion of putting seat frames B31 into the slots in the floor backwards (without glue of course). I then cemented crossmember B30 onto the seat frames and once dry, I removed them from the cockpit, touched up the paint, then installed them in the correct direction. Whew! I had the adult beverage in celebration instead! I added Eduard photo-etched seat belts/shoulder harnesses to each of the pilot's seats.
This step also has the instrument panel and console decals installed. The instrument panel has some detail molded into its face, but not down to the detail of instrument faces. I elected to put the decal on the instrument panel (after I brushed some Future over the flat black to give the decal smooth surface to adhere to) and then doused the decal with Solvaset. When I checked back, the decal had taken the underlying surface detail of the panel and the effect wasn't bad. I repeated this process with the center console. There is a decal for the overhead console, but this is installed in Step 13.
I opted to install the 50 caliber machine guns in my aircraft, so the mounts go into flashed over holes in the cargo compartment floor that needed opening. The stowage box is also supposed to go into a flashed over hole that will position it between the starboard gun mount and the crew entry door. Unfortunately, the hole for the box is a hair too close to the gun mount for either to coexist. To remedy this, I simply removed the tab on the bottom of the box and installed it in the appropriate position, dry-fitting the floor into the right fuselage half to ensure everything lined up correctly.
Step 11: It is time to decide on the positioning of the cargo ramp and door. Based on your decision, you simply add or remove the corresponding parts on the ramp and door assemblies per the instructions. The sponsons also go together in this step and this is the first assembly of the external fuselage. I must say, the fit of these parts is outstanding. If the rest of the airframe goes together like this...
Step 12: and here is where we find out. I dry-fit the cargo compartment floor and ceiling into the right fuselage half and added the left fuselage half. It took a little wiggling of the parts to get the feel of how this goes together, but the fit was not bad. I pulled the fuselage halves apart, add parts B4 which are the main rotor shaft bearings, and closed up the fuselage again. This time the bearings helped to align the two halves and the fit with everything inside is exquisite. I didn't dare wait any longer, I cemented the two halves together.
Step 13: Here we install the sponsons and floatation bag fairings to the fuselage, along with the engine intake fairings. The instructions also call out for the installation of the infrared countermeasures devices, centrifugal engine intake filters, armor plating, etc. These latter parts will be installed after painting is completed. The cockpit glazing parts are finally installed, and they fit absolutely perfect. It is time to mask off the appropriate areas and start some painting!
Painting and Marking
As you saw earlier, I had masked the windscreens with Bare Metal Foil. I masked the remaining windows the same way. After sanding any remaining seams away (no filler was required anywhere in this kit) and buffing the surfaces smooth, I applied the base coat of Testors ModelMaster (TMM) Light Ghost Gray. Once this was completed, I applied TMM Medium Gray to the upper surfaces as indicated in the instructions. With this color dry, I buffed the model with an old t-shirt to smooth out the paint's surface, then applied a coat of Future to provide the decals with a ready surface.
I chose aircraft 05 from HMM-261 as my subject and applied the markings accordingly. This model also has one of the most complete sets of stencils I've seen in this scale and I worked my way through many of them before my eyes crossed. In the interest of getting this model completed, I skipped the smallest stencils. Most of the decals set well with Microscale MicroSol, but a few of the more challenging surfaces required the Solvaset to get the decal to conform smoothly. I applied another coat of Future to protect the decals.
Next I applied a wash of Burnt Umber oils in Mineral Spirits to the panel lines. The brown brings out the panels without being as stark as black. I did use the black oil wash on the grilles. Over all of this I applied a flat coat using Gunze Sangyo clear flat, which works magnificently. I set all of this aside to dry.
Now it was time to remove the window masking. I used my burnishing tool to scrape off the foil as it won't scratch the clear plastic. Once that Bare Metal Foil adhesive bonds to a surface, it doesn't want to come up again. I was momentarily aghast at the glue residue remaining on all of the windows and began pondering another adult beverage. Then I remembered the secret weapon! Goo Gone! This stuff is available at any hardware store and removes sticker residue from virtually any surface without harming the finish. I dabbed a little onto a Q-Tip and proceeded to clean the windows effortlessly. The stuff works as advertised and did not harm either acrylic nor enamel paints.
Step 13 (Continued): It is time to install the IR countermeasures devices and engine armor plating. It turns out that more holes needed to be opened around the engine for the armor plate, but the holes that were opened were useful to properly place the plates H33/H36. If the other holes had been opened, the plates might have had a firmer footing on the model as the locating pins on the plates are short. The engine intake screens were also added after being treated with black oils to bring out the screen details.
Step 14: Now we install the landing gear (though I've had the struts installed for a while now to keep the model's finish off the surface of the workbench). The remaining antennae and rotating beacons are also installed in this step.
Step 15: Now for the final touches, installation of the cargo ramp and door in the configuration of your choice, crew entry door, rescue winch and cockpit protective armor. We're finished!
Straight out of the box, this kit is an easy build and it is the best fitting model Academy/MRC has produced to date. Other than the few points of order in the instructions noted above, everything about this kit is great. The only nit I can pick are the ejector pin marks that are visible on the bottom of the cargo compartment seats and on the rear areas of the cargo comparment walls. These can be dealt with easily enough if you're going to have the rear ramp and door down as I did, or ignore altogether if you CH-46 will be 'buttoned up'.
I've heard a few of my colleagues thinking about backdating this kit to other versions of the CH-46/KV-107 - don't bother. The kit's rotor blades and rotor hubs are not correct for the early versions and besides, Academy/MRC already has plans to release a number of versions in the coming months with the correct parts and markings. Besides, you'll definitely want one of these desert warriors on your shelf! The green and gray camo on some of these aircraft would also be quite interesting, but we'll have to wait for some aftermarket decals to broaden our options.
This kit is highly recommended!
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!