Academy/MRC 1/48 MH-53E Sea Dragon Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|MH-53E Sea Dragon
|Excellent detailing inside and out!
The Sikorsky H-53 was designed as a heavy assault transport helicopter that entered service with the US Navy as the CH-53A, the USAF as the CH-53B/C, and the USMC as the CH-53D. The US Navy adopted their Sea Stallion to serve as a mine sweeper, towing a hydrofoil sled through the water to search for and clear mines left to disrupt maritime traffic. This first version was the RH-53D.
Sikorsky must have taken note of actor Tim Allen's approach to engineering - "more power" when it came time to improve the H-53. They took their twin-engine workhorse and crammed a third engine behind the rotor mast. To translate that additional power to lift, Sikorsky altered the main rotor head from a six-bladed arrangement to seven blades. Another innovation was the tilting of the vertical stabilizer to port to optimize the tail rotor authority against the increased torque from the higher-power engine/main rotor combination.
This new machine became the CH-53E Super Sea Stallion and MH-53E Sea Dragon. The MH-53E entered service with the US Navy in 1986 and differed from the CH-53E with larger external sponsons to increase its range/endurance while still retaining its air refueling boom. In addition, main cabin can be equipped with up to seven 300 gallon fuel tanks for further range/endurance. The aircraft was designed specifically to tow a special mine-sweeping sled which can safely clear sea lanes of mines. When the aircraft is not involved in the mine-sweeping mission, the aircraft's greater range makes it a useful troop and supply transport to reach areas outside the unrefueled reach of the Marines' CH-53E.
It has been over two years since Academy/MRC rolled out the first big Sikorsky - the CH-53E (reviewed here). As with that release, this kit is molded in light gray styrene and features finely scribed details on the exterior. Supplied on seven trees, plus a single tree of clear parts, the kit is beautifully detailed inside and out. To facilitate molding detail into the interior and exterior fuselage with no visible ejector pin marks, the interior walls are molded separately from the exterior halves.
Construction begins with the main rotor head, and this assembly alone, including rotor blades and the various parts of the rotor head consist of 40 parts! MAJOR kudos to Academy for providing the option of building the rotor head either in flight configuration or with the rotor blades folded. You don't have to take up an entire shelf to park this beast.
Like the Academy/MRC's previous helicopter releases, you'll spend a few minutes drilling out flashed-over holes in the fuselage sides depending on whether you're building the aircraft in flight-ready or rotors folded configuration. Either way, there are lots of details on the aircraft exterior that will be added later.
The interior of the cargo compartment is next with good painting instructions and sling seats that are installed for the people-moving mission. While the instructions don't reflect this, you simply fold up the seats or omit them if you want to put cargo pallets inside the aircraft. The interior also has optional cable reels and support frames to support the mine hunting mission should you opt to build out that option.
The flight deck is next and the detailing is nicely done, though the details on the instrument panel, overhead console, and center console are a bit soft to work with the decals that overlay these parts.
Some of the kit options you have include:
- Positionable jump seat on the flight deck
- .50 caliber gun mounts for the port and starboard sides
- Positionable crew entry door
- Positionable loading ramp and door
- new ramp extensions to drive a vehicle up the ramp
- Positionable main rotor (flight or folded)
- Positionable tail boom (flight or folded)
- Optional mine sled tow reels/frames
Markings are provided on two decal sheets for three aircraft:
- MH-53E, 162504, HC/40, HC-4, Iraq, 2006
- MH-53E, 164773, BJ/551, HM-14, 2004
- MH-53E, 164861, TB/00, HM-15, 2005
In addition to the distinctive unit markings, the decals also include walkways and an extensive set of maintenance stenciling.
This is the first time this aircraft has been rendered in 1/48 scale and like its CH-53 brother, it is quite an impressive model. Until now, your only option for the MH-53E was Italeri's 1/72 kit, but with Academy/MRC adding the requisite parts to turn the CH-53E into an MH-53E, we now have the best Sea Dragon kit in any scale right here.
Academy/MRC continues to lead the market with the best 1/48 scale helicopter kits on the market. They've also done quite well with their 1/35 scale rotary wing subjects.
If you want to build the US Navy's monster mine sweeper in 1/48 scale, your wait is now over!
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!