Academy 1/72 A-37B Dragonfly
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The A-37B was developed from Cessna's T-37 trainer, which first took to the skies in 1954 - 45 years ago! The war in Vietnam led to the original trainer design being modified into the A-37A and, in short order, the A-37B, which was a true purpose-built attack craft, its airframe stressed for 6g, its powerplant boosted and its internal fuel capacity increased, armor was added and strike cameras were installed. The A-37B could haul 5000 pounds of ordnance, and soon it was flying "Sandy" missions to cover the rescues of downed airmen in Vietnam. The A-37B went on to serve in the Air National Guard and with a host of countries friendly to the U.S., especially in Central and South America.
Reviewing Academy's recent kits has been a pretty formulaic process: look in new kit, figure out which kit it's based on, compare and contrast. Blah blah blah.
That's why the A-37B is such a relief. As I usually do, I dug out the earlier Dragonfly, Hasegawa's A-37A, and tried to match one fuselage side to the other - and it didn't match! Oh, joy!
There are some major differences between these kits. Hasegawa's kit had 49 parts; Academy's has 110. This is truly a new-tool, not a re-hash.
The cockpit has a nice tub, and the gaps on either side of the nylon flak curtains are supposed to be there, although they may be a bit pronounced. The three-piece ejection seats fit inside this tub nicely, and the two well-molded control columns are centered in front of the seats. The instrument panel is crisp and well-defined and fits beneath a separate coaming. A small piece of reflector glass fits into notches on the left side of the coaming to complete a very well-rendered cockpit.
The panel detail is lovely throughout the kit, and test fittings show that the major parts go together well without any major trouble spots, although some may wish to add FOD covers to the intakes, which end with a blank-off plate a half-inch from their openings. The dorsal avionics hump is a separate piece - unlike the Hasegawa kit, which had it molded into the fusleage halvesand the refeulling probe and associated tubing are molded in a single, complex piece that can be installed late in the assembly process, helping clods like your reviewer avoid breaking it off during construction. A full complement of antennae is given, but modelers would be advised to track down a photo of their subject to verify the accuracy of their modelšs antennae.
The landing gear is nice, if somewhat simplified; the anti-torque scissors could do with some replacement with brass parts, and the nosewheel is a single-piece strut/tire/wheel part. The nose gear bay has no detail and splits down the middle; strategically placed rectangles of thin sheet styrene and some rudimentary detailing could take care of this problem quickly and easily. The main gear bays are very nice--booxed in, with matching detail on the upper wing halves. Unfortnuately, the well-detailed gear doors have ejection pin marks on their inner detailed faces--why canšt they put these marks on the outsides, where we can get at them without ruining the detail?
The canopy comes in two pieces and includes the sill and opening mechanisms as separate pieces, a nice touch. also nice are the separate pylons, which are well detailed and provide ample support for the kit's real strength, its ordnance. One tree includes the pylons and four Mk. 82 bombs, four LAU-3 rocket launchers, four SUU-14A cluster bomb dispensers and four items labeled as "100gal. fuel tanks" which look remarkably like BLU-32 500-pound napalm weapons. The Mk. 82s are a little oversize, but are quite usable, and the rest of the load out is very well done. This tree will outfit this model and another Vietnam-era aircraft very well!
The decals, which are in perfect registration in my kit, provide markings for two similarly camouflaged A-37Bs - a "Sandy Tweet" from the 8th Special Operations Squadron, 14th Special Operations Wing, Bien Hoa, Vietnam 1970, and a Republic of Korea Air Force 8th Fighter Wing A-37B from 1996.
Judging from this peek in the box, this small but potent aircraft will prove to be a satisfying build. The next time someone scoffs at a Cessna, point them toward this lethal C-plane!
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