Monogram 1/48 AC-47 Vietnam Gunship Kit First Look
|Date of Review||July 2008
Updated 27 Oct 17
|Subject||AC-47 Vietnam Gunship||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||5615||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Best AC-47 in any scale, second-best C-47 in any scale||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||Reissued by Revell/Germany at $56.95|
The C-47 Skytrain was the airlift workhorse of World War II, hauling cargo and paratroopers around the world. The aircraft was drafted into the Cold War service to airlift supplies into an isolated Berlin. As the jet age zoomed past the venerable Skytrain, it looked like it would finally retire from active duty military service once and for all.
In the early 1960s, the Air Force was experimenting with different techniques to perform counter-insurgency (COIN) missions from the air. In 1963, a C-131 Samaritan was fitted with a single 7.62mm GE minigun to assess the aircraft's ability to engage targets with any degree of accuracy. The results were very positive.
Once again, the C-47 was drafted into active service to become the USAF's first operational gunship. Nicknamed 'Spooky', the AC-47D Gunship I was also armed with the 7.62mm GE gun, but this time special pedestals were installed to use the same gunpod being flown by other close air support aircraft. Three gunpods were fitted, two in the rear-most portside windows, and one out the cargo door, all angled downward. The pilot was given a gunsight from an A-1 Skyraider that aimed out his left window and a trigger that fired all three guns. The AC-47 was an ideal gunship as it was a stable gun platform, could remain on station for hours, and carried 24,000 round of ammunition. All the pilot needed to do was enter a simple pylon turn, adust his orbit point from where his port wingtip was pointing, then fine-tune the aiming solution to get the gunsight pipper on the area that needed to be 'cleared'.
The Spooky gunship was so successful in its early combat operations in Vietnam that the Air Force was called upon to get more Spookys in-theater as soon as possible. At that time, the Air Force simply didn't have enough miniguns available to fit to these aircraft, so surplus WWII and Korean War machine guns were fitted to provide some capability until more gunpods were available for retrofit. As the war continued, the enemy brought more effective anti-aircraft firepower into the fight and rendered the AC-47 too vulnerable for continued operations. Further developments of the gunship concept continued with the C-119 and C-130 airframes to allow for larger caliber guns that could provide accurate fire from safer altitudes. The U-Boat, the AC-130U is the latest gunship variant that entered USAF service several years ago.
Monogram released their 1/48 C-47 Skytrain kit in 1978, 30 years ago. This tooling was part of the family of kits that Monogram developed to dominate the 1/48 scale market that also includes their timeless 1/48 B-17G, B-24D, B-24J, B-25J, B-26, B-29A, and many more. These kits were all highly detailed by the standards of the day and are still very respectable even by today's standards.
What's different about this kit is that Revell-Monogram has provided additional parts to render a Spooky but removed the interior parts to produce a vanilla C-47 airlifter. Let's take a look:
The kit is molded on four parts trees in light gray styrene plus a single tree of clear parts. As with all of the Monogram kits in this series, the panel lines are all raised as are the rivets. Here is one subject where raised rivets are absolutely accurate. The fourth image shows the sprue tree with the main deck. This tree contains new tooling to add the proper wide-chord propellers used on the supercharged Goony birds and subsequently the Spooky gunships. This tree also contains the three miniguns, pedestals, blanket shields, parachute flare racks, and the essential ammunition cans.
Trumpeter released the C-47 in 1/48 scale with a greater level of detail and greater price tag. With the engineering and options in the Trumpeter kit, it would be noteworthy to look at some of the differences:
- Surface Detailing: Trumpeter - scribed; Monogram - raised
- Interior: Trumpeter - exceptional; Monogram - less details, but still very usable
- Windows: Trumpeter - individual; Monogram - slab strips that detract from the interior details
- Engines: Trumpeter - exquisite; Monogram - minimalistic
- Flight controls: Trumpeter - separate; Monogram - not
- Photo-etch details: Trumpeter - yes; Monogram - no
- Main wheels: Trumpeter - rubber; Monogram - styrene
- Main gear struts: Trumpeter - metal or plastic; Monogram - plastic
- Rear in-flight 'bathroom' (honeybucket compartment): Trumpeter - no; Monogram - yes
- Overall fit: Trumpeter - good; Monogram - not so good
- Versions: Trumpeter - C-47A; Monogram - C-47A, C-47B, AC-47D
(Update: Neither the Trumpeter nor Monogram kits are correct for surface details. As noted above, the Trumpeter kit has scribed panel lines while the Monogram kit has raised panel lines. The real C-47 had neither - the aircraft did have raised rivets but the sheet metal was lapped, one sheet overlapping the next. Both of the kits got the surface detailing wrong here.)
If you are building the AC-47D, you're going to want to show off that nice interior detail with the guns. The one thing you should really consider is removing the side windows from the slabs and installing them individually and adding the missing structure/frames. This will remove one eyesore from the interior of the main cabin that would detract from the otherwise nice details.
Markings are provided for two aircraft:
- AC-47D, '4-211', 'EI', 'Casper'
- AC-47D, 43-49010, OS, 'Spooky'
Casper's tailcode should be EN, not EI. In addition, the instructions don't show you how to place the distinctive markings. If you look at the decal placement instructions in steps 20 and 21, they show the same top and bottom views of the aircraft along with a scrap view of a propeller for color and marking placement. What is missing are the left and right side views of both aircraft to show the placement of the tailcodes, nose art, kill markings, etc. [Updated] Thanks to Mike Jackson for letting us know that Revell-Monogram has posted the missing decal placement instructions on their website here.
What surprised me was that a day after scanning the decal sheet, the decals started to degenerate. Here is a closer look at one of the several sections of the decal sheet that is somehow degenerating after about a week after being removed from its protective cover. Not good folks. The good news is that you'll have options for these aircraft as several aftermarket decal companies are producing Spooky decal sheets. Decal problems solved.
This is still the only AC-47D kit in 1/48th scale though you can still find aftermarket conversions to upgrade your existing C-47 into a gunship. Even though Trumpeter has released their own kit of the C-47, this kit is an simple build that will indeed take a little preparation to make these large parts fit together smoothly. If you can't find this kit, check to see if Revell/Germany has reissued the kit - while their prices are a bit higher, they'll still be less than the collector prices you'll sometimes find on eBay.