Italeri 1/48 C-130J Hercules II Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|C-130J Hercules II
|Corrected APU fairing, nice detailing inside and out
|Engine nacelles are too short like the C-130H
The Air Force decided to invest in a series of turboprop powered transport aircraft to haul larger cargo loads over greater ranges than the current fleet. The two contenders that emerged were the Lockheed C-130 and the Douglas C-133. Both aircraft entered service, only one would still be in service over 50 years later.
The C-130 concept was put under contract in 1951 and the resulting YC-130 first flew in 1954. The first production C-130A took its maiden flight in 1955. Since that time, the C-130 has incorporated new capabilities and new requirements which in turn became the C-130B, C-130E, C-130H and C-130J airlifters.
The airframe was adaptable to support a variety of missions. This flexibility led to the AC-130 Spectre gunship, DC-130 drone mothership, EC-130 airborne command post, EC-130 electronic warfare aircraft, KC-130 air refueling aircraft, LC-130 arctic mission aircraft, MC-130 special mission aircraft, RC-130 reconnaissance aircraft, WC-130 weather reconnaissance aircraft, and more.
The C-130J is the latest version in production. It more or less appears like any other C-130, but externally it is powered by four Rolls Royce engines turning six-bladed propellers. Internally, the cockpit is all-glass complete with optional heads-up displays. The new generation of avionics and computers turn the cockpit from a four-person to a two-person flight crew. Assuming that the aircraft can survive the short-sighted budget tenders in the Pentagon, the C-130 will continue to serve for many decades to come.
Italeri has released a number of C-130 versions in 1/48 and 1/72, this release being the second version of the C-130J. What we'll do is broaden the scope of the review to look at the various releases of the Italeri 1/48 C-130, but before we do, let's review the full-scale aircraft.
The basic C-130 airframe is consists of a tubular fuselage that can accommodate a variety of standard and not-so-standard cargo shapes. From an external observer's point of view, the fuselage has not really been altered since 1954 with a few minor exceptions noted below. Loading and unloading the aircraft is via a ramp and door under the tail section. The fuselage length has two basic flavors: normal and stretched. The stretched fuselage was adopted by the RAF and commercial operator, but the US military never warmed up to the longer Herc.
The wings mount to top of the fuselage avoiding structural obstructions in the cargo bay and providing the propellers more than ample ground clearance. The C-130 is a four-engined aircraft powered by Allison T56 turboprop engines. The C-130J is the first version not to use the T56, instead opting for the Rolls Royce AE2100 license-built by Allison.
Now let's look at what make each C-130 version visibly different:
- C-130A (early) - entered service without a navigation radar so the radome on the nose didn't yet exist. This version was nick-named the 'Roman Nose'. This version was powered by the early T56 engine turning a three-bladed propeller that made an awesome deep roar at take-off power. Featured external fuel tanks outboard of the outboard engines. The ground turbine compressor (GTC) mounted in the forward left wheel well fairing is used for electrical power while the engines are shut down and to provide engine start power
- C-130A (mid) - the nose radome and associated radar was added. Three-bladed propeller retained
- C-130A (late) - the aircraft received the updated T56 and a new four paddle-bladed propeller that would remain with the C-130 until the J-model
- C-130B - Same as the C-130A (late) except the external tanks were deleted. This model was the most agile - crews said it handled like a Spitfire and was used for a while in the only C-130 aerial demonstration team, the Four Horsemen
- C-130E - Same as the C-130B except for the addition of larger external tanks mounted between the inboard and outboard engines. Powered by the T56-A-7 at 4250 shp
- C-130H - Powered by the T56-A-15 at 4500 shp. The GTC is replaced by an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) to do the same job
- C-130J - Powered by the Rolls Royce AE2100 turning a six-bladed Dowty composite propeller. External tanks are deleted. The twin HF antennas that run from the vertical stabilizer to mounts on either side of forward fuselage on all C-130 variants up until now are also deleted, that antenna is now likely inside the black dielectric panel at the base of the C-130J's vertical stab
Now that we've covered the basics, let's look at the Italeri kits. The C-130E, AC-130A, and DC-130A kits were all nicely done with no major problems with the details above. When Italeri re-boxed the C-130E as a C-130H, what they didn't do was change the part that represents the GTC fairing to the distinctive APU fairing. There has been concerns that the engine packs are too short as well. This really depends on the aircraft.
[War Story Alert] When I was assigned to a new squadron in the early 1980s, we were supposed to operate a new variant of the C-130. Our aircraft were designated EC-130H, but our aircraft were manufactured in 1973, the last year for the C-130E. When our aircraft went to Lockheed for update, the engines were changed to the T56-A-15 of the C-130H, but we retained the GTC of the C-130E. In addition, our engines had larger power generators, and this made our engine packs longer than 'standard'. This hit home when one of our aircraft was released to us to fly after receiving its new engines, but none of the new equipment had been installed nor had it been repainted. The fuselage warning stripe marking the propeller danger was still where it belonged but the propellers were now around a foot forward of that line!
The morale of that story is to note where the warning stripe is on the aircraft you're modeling. The kit's propeller line falls right at the front of the wheel well fairing, common to vanilla Hercs everywhere. If your machine has a special mission capability, you'll see the warning stripe moved ahead of the fairing so you'll need to lengthen your engine packs accordingly. Take a look at these two seemingly standard C-130Hs and note where the propeller warning stripes are located on these two USAF photos.
Back to the C-130J, the engine nacelles are too short making the intakes look oddly shaped. Their C-130H engine nacelles had a similar problem. In their first release of the C-130J, Italeri provided a GTC fairing for the left main wheel well. I can happily report that in this release, we have an APU fairing which I hope they'll also use on the next release of the C-130H!
Many of the parts trees in this kit are common to all of the C-130 releases as well they should be - they are the same. Consequently you'll have some spares as you won't need the external fuel tanks and some of the cockpit parts.
Speaking of cockpits, Italeri has captured the look of the two-person cockpit, though you'll want to add some small acetate sections to replicate the heads-up displays visible through the windscreen.
As with every previous release of this kit, the detail in the cargo bay is outstanding and begs for some form of lighting just to show off the features. As provided, the kit doesn't provide the web seats that are usually on the 'trash haulers' but these can be fabricated. What you put into the cargo bay (if anything) is left to your own imagination and if you come up short, check out the photo section of the USAF website as you'll get some creative ideas.
Markings are included for three examples:
- C-130J, 98-1351, 175 Wing, MD ANG
- C-130J, 46-40, Italian AF
- Hercules Mk.5, ZH885, Royal Air Force
In addition to the distinctive unit and service markings, the decal sheet provides a nice set of maintenance stencils for the airframe.
If you had the previous release(s) of the C-130H or C-130J, converting the fairing from GTC to APU configuration isn't much of a challenge for the average modeler, but kudos to Italeri for correcting the part in this release. The kit will provide you with lots of enjoyment as you join the ranks of Herc Modelers Everywhere. I must have five 1/48 Hercs stashed away here, beats the heck out of me where I'd park them all after assembly! If you're not sure what the C-130 looks like inside for colors and details, check out Verlinden's Lock-On Number 3 on the C-130. This will give you a color reference for the whole aircraft. This kit is definitely recommended!
My sincere thanks to Testors for this review sample!