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Wessex HU.5

Italeri 1/48 Wessex HU.5 Kit First Look

by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review September 2012 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject Wessex HU.5 Scale 1/48
Kit Number 2720 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice new-tooled kit of the H-34 series Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $41.95

First Look

Wessex HU.5
Wessex HU.5
Wessex HU.5
Wessex HU.5
Wessex HU.5

The H-34 was one of Sikorsky's most popular helicopters ever produced (next to the Blackhawk). The aircraft first flew in March 1954 and entered service with the US Army as the CH-34 Choctaw, the US Navy as the H-34 Seabat, the US Marines as the H-34 Sea Horse and even into the US Coast Guard.

The USAF acquired only a few H-34s to serve as an interim rescue aircraft well after Sikorsky production ended, and these were only retained a few years.

In addition to US military service, the H-34 was exported to numerous military branches around the world, and its civilian version, the S-58 saw global commercial service as well. By the time production ceased in early 1970, over 1,800 examples had been built.

Westland license-built the aircraft as the Wessex and improved the aircraft's performance by powering the aircraft with a turbine engine in place of the S-58/H-34's radial piston engine. Upgraded from the original HAS.1 version, the HAS.3 has improved avionics, including the distinctive radome on the upper rear fuselage. The UH.5 was the turbine-powered version configured for utility and transport roles and saw combat during the Falklands/Malvinas War.

Someone once told me that they don't believe in coincidences. We were told for years that the tooling for the Revell 1/48 H-34 series had been damaged or lost and there was no chance of ever seeing that kit again (except in the collector's market). While the turbine-powered Wessex has been reissued a few time by Revell Germany, the basic UH-34 is lost. Enter Italeri...

For years, Italeri has had the best H-34 series kits in 1/72 scale and they could arguably be considered the best in any scale (less than 1:1). It was with great pleasure to hear last year that Italeri was going to release their H-34 series in 1/48 scale in 2012, and here is their first installment, the Wessex HU.5 to commemorate the anniversary of the Falklands/Malvinas War. The UH-34 is scheduled to follow next month. Imagine everyone's surprise when Revell announced the reissue of their (long lost) UH-34 later this month. Coincidence you say? I think not. Will it make any difference? Let's take a look:

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on four parts trees, plus one tree of clear parts and one fret of photo-etched details. If you look at this kit's smaller cousin, you'll note that this kit is essentially a scaled-up version of the 1/72 design. If you look at the Revell 1/48 UH-34 kit, you'll see that the toolings take different approaches to achieve the same objective. If you look at Italeri's 1/72 UH-34 design, you'll get a preview of what we'll see next month.

Now that we've looked at the similarities of these different kits, let's look at the features and options in this kit:

  • Detailed flight deck
    • Photo-etched seatbelts and shoulder harnesses on crew seats
    • Cyclic and collective provided for both crew stations
    • Photo-etched instrument panel with decal instruments
  • Positionable flight deck windows
  • Main cabin has passenger/troop web seating
  • Main cabin has ceiling (not in Revell kit)
  • Positionable main cabin door
  • Detailed transmission
  • Main rotor blades have droop molded into parts
  • Plastic net provided for engine intake screen

The kit provides marking options for four aircraft:

  • HU.5, XT480, X-Q, 874 Sqn, Royal Navy, Falklands, 1982
  • HU-5, XV719, 84 Sqn, RAF Rescue, Cyprus, 1987
  • HU-5, XT461, 825, 771 Sqn, Royal Navy, Culdrose, UK, 1987
  • HU-5, XS482, D-A, RAE, Royal Navy, Farnborough, UK, 1982

The decals provide a nice variety of color schemed subjects and a complete set of airframe stenciling as well.

So with the reappearance of the Revell kit coming soon, which kit is better? While the Revell kit has been the benchmark for the H-34 for decades in 1/48 scale, this kit has modern tooling (scribed lines), better details, and doesn't have an open top in the main cabin. This HU-5 kit has some nice photo-etched details and retails for under $62.00. The announced retail price for the Italeri UH-34D is $41.00 while Revell's reissue price will be $19.95. Since I have both kits here, I personally like the Italeri kit better but only you can decide which H-34 is right for your next project.

For a look at this kit built-up, click here.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!