Academy 1/35 AH-1Z Viper Kit First Look
|Date of Review||August 2019||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Kit Number||12127||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||First kit of this version in this scale||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||$69.00|
The U.S. Marine Corps has been flying twin-engined AH-1 Cobra helicopters for decades and when they had the opportunity to transition to the AH-64 Apache, they opted to upgrade their fleet of AH-1W airframes instead. Bell Helicopter proposed a common upgrade program for the UH-1N and AH-1W to receive the same rotor system, engines, transmission, tail boom, tail rotor, avionics, displays, etc. The upgraded UH-1N would become the UH-1Y while the upgraded AH-1W would become the AH-1Z Viper (or Zulu Cobra).
While the AH-64 Apache and the AH-1Z Viper are similar in size, weight, engines, and armament, the Viper is about 20 knots faster, faster on the climb, and can carry the AIM-9L/M Sidewinder versus the Stinger on the Apache. On the other hand, the Apache is armed with the M230 30mm gun with 1200 rounds versus the Viper's M197 20mm gun with 750 rounds. First declared operational in 2010, the AH-1Z is still under production while Marine squadrons transition into this new capability.
You might remember that MRC/Academy produced the AH-1W in 1/35 scale and was released over time with airframe updates. It has been a while since the last release of this kit and when Academy first announced the AH-1Z, some speculated that this was going to be another update to the AH-1W tooling. If you've ever seen the AH-1W kit, one look at the parts trees to the right will prove definitively that the AH-1Z release does not share any parts with the older kit, this is 100% new tool. What's more, Academy used contemporary molding technology to produce this kit, especially looking at the one-piece tail boom using slide-molding. This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on five parts trees (duplicate tree not shown) plus one tree of clear parts and one fret of photo-etched parts.
Among the features and options in this kit:
- Beautifully detailed front and rear cockpits
- Nicely molded instrument panels and side consoles for easy painting
- Crew seats do not have crew restraints - aftermarket restraints will be needed
- Positionable cockpit entry doors
- T700 engine compressor faces visible down intakes
- Engine access panels molded separately but not intended to be positionable as there are no engines provided inside engine bays, but if you use an aftermarket engine bay detail set, this will make displaying the engines much easier
- FLIR and gun turrets are movable/posable
- Paint masks included for canopy/doors
- Photo-etch grilles for air vents around the airframe
Among the armament options in the kit
- 2 x LAU-68 7-shot rocket pods
- 2 x LAU-61 19-shot rocket pods
- 8 x AGM-114 Hellfire missiles on two M272 launchers
- 2 x AIM-9L/M Sidewinder missiles
The kit also comes with a huge sheet of decals to render the following four subjects:
- AH-1Z, 168961, HMLA-169, SN/47, MCAS Iwakuni, 2017
- AH-1Z, 168961, HMLA-369, SM/47, MCAS Iwakuni, 2018
- AH-1Z, 168961, HMLA-469, SE/47, Itazuke AB, 2018
- AH-1Z, 168003, HMLA-303, QT/615, NAS North Island, 2011
While this kit has been on the market for a few months, the feedback has been very positive and warranted a look for ourselves. The completed model will require a little more shelf space to display given the four-bladed main rotor, but the good news is that there are already solutions available in the aftermarket. Like the full-scale aircraft being stowed on (or under) the flight deck, there is (at least) one aftermarket conversion to display the rotor blades folded. While this conversion doesn't include the blade supports to hold them while folded, there is another aftermarket set that provides that feature. When we get this model on the bench, we'll take a closer look at these aftermarket options.
This is a beautiful kit in the box, and the images I've seen online of built examples reinforce the conclusion that Academy has done an outstanding job on this one.
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!