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C-130H Hercules

Zvezda 1/72 C-130H Hercules Kit Deep Dive

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2020 Manufacturer Zvezda
Subject C-130H Hercules Scale 1/72
Kit Number 7321 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice detail options Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $69.95

Deep Dive

C-130H Hercules
C-130H Hercules
C-130H Hercules
C-130H Hercules
C-130H Hercules
C-130H Hercules
C-130H Hercules
C-130H Hercules

The C-130 Hercules was developed for the United States Air Force in the early 1950s by Lockheed to serve as a tactical transport aircraft replacing airlifters like the C-46 Commando, C-47 Skytrain, and C-119 Flying Boxcar. The first prototype first flew in mid-1954 and the Hercules remains in service today, 66 years later. In addition to airlift, the C-130 serves or has served in the airborne command post, electronic warfare, psychological warfare, drone controller, gunship, special operations, airborne recovery of satellite payloads, electronic reconnaissance, weather reconnaissance, bomber, and air refueling roles. In addition to standard runways, the Hercules has flown from unimproved (dirt or grass) fields, ice, and even an aircraft carrier. In addition to the USAF, the C-130 is operated by the US Navy, USMC, and the air forces of over 70 nations.

You may recall a few months ago when we had our first look at this kit from images released by Zvezda. It took about three months before the kit appeared at Hannants in the UK, but I had two on order right away. The first kits should arrive in North America soon (if not already) so I thought we'd take a deep dive into the kit and see what can and cannot be done out of the box. Before we begin, let me acquaint you with some terminology for the C-130 that will be referenced in this article:

  • Station 245 - this is the fuselage station 245 inches from the front reference point of the airframe and the location of the large bulkhead separating the cockpit from the cargo bay
  • Dash 7 (or -7) - this is the version of the T56 turboprop engine fitted to the C-130B/E (and others) - full notation is T56-A-7 rated at 4050 shp
  • Dash 15 (or -15) - this is the version of the T56 turboprop engine fitted to the C-130H (and others) - full notation is T56-A-15 rated at 4500 shp
  • GTC - Gas Turbine Compressor - provides high-pressure air for pre-flight of pneumatic systems and for starting the C-130A-E as well as driving an air turbine motor for electrical power when the engines are not running
  • APU - Auxiliary Power Unit - replaces the GTC and provides more air for engine start while generating electrical power. Unlike the GTC, the APU can be used while airborne

The C-130E was powered by the dash 7 engines and was produced between 1962 and 1973. The production line changed over to the C-130H in 1974 and with it came the dash 15 engines and the APU in place of the GTC. The dash 15 was installed or retrofitted to some C-130E airframes such as the RAF's C-130K (C-130E with dash 15 engines and British avionics) or some USAF special mission aircraft.

Air refueling is another interesting feature on the C-130 - the RAF's Hercules C1/C3 have an air refueling boom on its forehead while standard U.S. airlifters didn't have any capability for air refueling initially. After combat experience in Vietnam, the AC-130 was the first to be fitted with a air refueling receiver that accepts the boom from the KC-135/KC-10, and this was followed by the EC-130E ABCCC. It was this feature that three ABCCC aircraft had their command post capsules removed and replaced with fuel bladders, pumps and hoses to make the long journey non-stop to Desert One in Iran. One of the three (62-1809) was lost when a CH-53 collided with it while trying to land in a dust cloud. MC-130s and the EC-130H are also recipients of air refueling modifications.

To date, there hasn't been a dedicated kit of the C-130H in any scale except 1/200 by Hasegawa. In fact, most of the C-130 kits on the market have accuracy issues, some which can be corrected with aftermarket sets, but others which would require more effort than the model is worth. The best C-130H up until now is the Italeri 1/72 kit which set the bar for details inside the airframe. Based upon their AC-130A gunship of the early 1980s, the C-130H was released in the mid-1990s but retained the short engine nacelles from the original AC-130A and the port side main wheel well fairing that houses the GTC of the older Hercs rather than the distinctive fairing that houses the APU. There have been several aftermarket sets available to fix these oversights, but we've been long overdue for a new-tool C-130 kit series.

When the Zvezda kits arrived a few days ago, I finally had a look at the instructions as well as the decals to see what Zvezda intended with this first release. In fact, the instructions revealed a big surprise which I'll address later. Unlike the test shots in the photos we examined previously, this kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on 10 parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. This kit looks even better in person than via their test shot photos. Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Scribed surface details
  • Three optional seated crew figures for the flight deck
  • Nice flight deck
  • Nice galley between the flight deck and Stn 245
  • Main cabin/cargo area detailed nicely, better than the benchmark interior from the Testor/Italeri C-130 kits
  • Positionable crew entry door
  • Positionable paratroop doors
  • Choice of paratroop doors (rectangular or port hole windows)
  • Positionable ramp and door
  • Includes refueling boom for RAF version
  • Optional starboard nose insert for avionics cooling (used in late-production C-130H)
  • SKE domes (short and tall versions)
  • Optional LAIRCM fairings behind the paratroop doors (a first in any C-130 kit)
  • Fuselage inserts for forward fuselage for different port hole configurations
  • Beautiful main wheel well details!
  • Weighted wheels
  • -15 engine nacelles with compressor faces inside intake ducts
  • The prop hubs are molded separately from the blades which means you can build them in low pitch (ground ops) or feathered
  • Two styles of beavertail provided (short for the RAF Herc, long for the others)
  • Three radomes included: original, original with a few added lightning arrestors, original with many lightning arrestor strips
  • Choice of sponsons: long sponsons w/APU for the C-130H, or short sponsons w/GTC for the C-130E/C-130K
  • External tanks have provisions for countermeasure-equipped or normal pylons
  • None of the flight control surfaces are positionable
  • The flaps are molded in the up position

When I looked through the original photos from Zvezda, I wondered if there were hints of future versions in the box. There are a few things of note, though the first one was a surprise out of the instructions:

  • A future release of a C-130H-30/Hercules C3 is coming - several of the interior parts in the cargo bay require shortening to work with this kit. These parts are tooled for the longer fuselage of the C-130H-30
  • None of the subjects in this release have the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures System (LAIRCM) updates though as mentioned above, the fairings are in the kit for a future release

One of the concerns I have with C-130 kits is keeping the wings on the model. If you look at the sprue tree with horizontal stabs, there is the wing/fuselage center section. The lower wing halves will overlap the center section giving some additional strength there, and you should be able to put your own mainspar inside there for further strength.

The kit provides markings and stencils for five subjects:

  • C-130H, 78-0811, 185 AS/OK ANG, 2000
  • C-130E, 1504 (70-1263), 14 AS/Polish AF, 2010
  • C-130H, 95178, 15 CTS/RoKAF, 2012
  • C-130H, 83-0002, 401 TAS/JASDF, 2020
  • Hercules C1 (C-130K), 66-8565, Lyneham Transport Wing, RAF, 1991

The lone USAF (ANG) example in the kit is identified as a Pennsylvania ANG aircraft out of Pittsburg IAP by the color profile. The decals and box art show this to be from the 185th Airlift Squadron out of Oklahoma City. The date observed in the color profile indicates 2017, but the 185th lost its C-130s during the 2005 BRAC.

So in this box, we have the parts to render the C-130E, C-130H, and Hercules C1 (C-130K). Going to the aftermarket, we can also easily do the KC-130F/H/R, LC-130, and more. For example, one aftermarket company called Attack Squadron made a variety of details and mods for the 1/72 and 1/48 C-130s including dropped flaps (don't know if these will fit the Zvezda kit, but we'll see soon), resin wheels, and air refueling pods. While Attack Squadron ceased operations a few years ago, a company called Brengun acquired the molds and have reissued them under their brand. Caracal Models has produced some nice decals for the 1/72 C-130s which will also help you with your choice of subjects. Shop around, while some aftermarket sets are designed specifically to correct the problems in the Italeri kits, others will work fine with any kit. Blackdog, for instance, created an interesting set with the dash-15 nacelles opened up.

While I don't normally build 1/72 kits, I don't have anywhere to park a 1/48 C-130 (and I have two of them in kit form) and even the finished 1/72 kit will require some room on the shelf. I want to build a vanilla airlifter when this kit is first available here, then follow up with some extra work to render one of the special mission Hercs I used to crew back in the 'old days'.

One final note on pricing - shop around. The average retail price is around $69.99 though I've seen some importers list higher prices than that. I paid about $66.50 plus shippng from the UK (delivery took one week) and prices are much lower from eastern Europe/Russia and when you add shipping, it is still less than I paid, but delivery times will be longer. Once the kit does arrive here, you should see street prices in the mid-$60s or lower.

Congratulations Zvezda, this is looking very good so far!