Testors 1/72 AC-119K 'Stinger' Gunship Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|AC-119K 'Stinger' Gunship
|Nice kit, unique subject
|Out of Production
When the United States entered the Vietnam war in the early 1960s, US airpower was still oriented toward a potential third world war and was not ready for a counter-insurgency war against the Viet Cong nor the complicated proxy war in the north against North Vietnam and its communist allies. After defeating the French forces that preceded the US, the Viet Cong quickly turned their experienced tactics against US outposts and airbases around South Vietnam.
In order to bring quick-response firepower to bear against the VC, especially at night, a fixed wing gun platform was needed to suppress the enemy and support the friendly forces on the ground. Some engineers at Eglin AFB modified a C-131 Samaritan with a .50 caliber machine gun in a side-firing mount to test their concept. The concept was a success as the gun could be kept on target using the now-standard 'gunship turn'. A series of platforms were modified into gunships:
- Gunship I: AC-47 'Spooky'
- Gunship II: AC-130A 'Spectre'
- Gunship III: AC-119G 'Shadow'
- Gunship IV: AC-119K 'Stinger'
The AC-47 and AC-119G were primarily tasked with COIN/fire support missions, the AC-130A and AC-119K had greater firepower which was used to interdict the supply lines along the so-called Ho Chi Mihn Trail. The AC-119K had two of the 7.62mm minigun systems as used on the AC-47, AC-119G and early AC-130A, and these were supplemented with two 20mm Vulcan cannons which also armed the AC-130. In addition to the firepower, the AC-119K was also equipped with a variety of sensors to seek out and engage targets along the trail. The 'Dollar Nineteen' gunships served with US forces through 1971 when they were retired in favor of more advanced AC-130 airframes.
I was visiting huge hobby shop in Denver (Colpar Hobbies) a few weeks ago and spotted a classic kit on their sale shelf that became fixed in my hands until purchased and stowed safely in my Jeep. The kit of course is the Testors 1/72 AC-119K Stinger which dates back to a time when Testors used to have a wide range of kits under their brand (which were reboxed Italeri kits). This kit was released in the mid 1980s which doesn't sound that long ago to me until I do the math - thirty years ago. Please pass the Geritol.
In those days, I was focused on 1/48 scale aircraft and 1/35 armor, so subjects like these while interesting, were simply in the wrong scale. Today, I am much more pragmatic and realize that a 1/48 B-52 or a 1/32 Lancaster might be interesting, but I already lack enough shelf space to park all the models I've built to date. For some subjects like gunships, 1/72 is a more practical scale though even in this scale, an AC-119K is not going to be a small model.
Molded in black styrene, this kit is presented on five parts trees plus a single tree of clear parts. The Testors (Italeri) kit features state of the art (for those days) fine raised surface detailing. Among the options in this kit:
- Detailed cockpit
- Enclosed cargo bay (floor and ceiling panels)
- Positionable rear clamshell doors
- Sensor packages and guns are provided
- No ammo cans/stowage
Markings are provided for two examples:
- AC-119K, 53-3154, 18 SOS, Phan Rang AB, 1968, 'Pea-Nut Special'
- AC-119K, 52-9982, 18 SOS, Nha Trang AB, 1968, 'The Super Sow'
This may be an old tooling but it remains the best C-119 (and AC-119) kit on the market. Italeri did a great job with this kit and when they first released it as a vanilla airlifter, I'm not sure how well sales went for the subject. Given how many times Italeri has reissued the AC-119 kit however, put guns and/or bombs on anything and it becomes interesting. So it goes for the venerable Flying Boxcar turned into Shadow and Stinger.
As I mentioned above, I picked up this gem on the sale table at Colpar Hobbies and it was marked $49.95 with 25% off, so it went home for around $37.50. When last reissued in 2013, the MSRP of the Italeri boxing was $58.95 and you can still find copies available online with a street price roughly equivalent to my acquisition. Beware of some online kit dealers that are charging well above retail because of some perceived kit collector value. For example, without naming names, one large online retailer is listing the same Testors AC-119K for $74.95 and the Italeri boxing for $69.95. Caveat emptor!