Italeri 1/72 Agusta A-129 Mangusta
Following the failure of Agusta's attempts to build a gunship version of the A-109, the company embarked on a tortuous effort to build a gunship from the ground up. The result, after a five-year development program, was the A-129 Mangusta (Mongoose), a two-place helicopter owing much to both the American AH-64 Apache and the A-109: a rakish helicopter that looks vaguely familiar and yet sinister and menacing at the same time.
The Mangusta entered service in 1989, with 60 aircraft ordered. Aircraft are still trickling into Italian Army service at a rate of a few per year. The helicopter's fuselage and rotor system are resistant to armor-piercing projectiles up to 12.7mm, and it can fire back with up to eight TOW or Hellfire anti-tank missiles, with provisions for gun pods, rocket pods or Stinger, Sidewinder or Mistral missiles. Attempts to develop a version for the export market have resulted in the A-129 INT (International), and the final 15 airframes in the Italian order will be delivered to this standard, with the remaining aircraft in the fleet being brought up to this standard over time. The INT version will feature more powerful engines, a five-bladed rotor, and a three-barrel 20mm cannon below the nose for infantry suppression. The Mangusta was deployed with United Nations forces to Somalia and Angola, two conflicts that demonstrated the weakness of a dedicated anti-tank platform in a limited warfare scenario.
Italeri's kit of the Mangusta has been a long time coming, just like the real item. Two sprues of olive drab parts and a one-piece transparency comprise the whole of the kit.
The interior consists of a floor pan, two seats, two fighter-style control columns, an aft bulkhead and two flat control panels. Details of the control panels and side consoles are supplied as decals, and these are inaccurate and do not represent the multi-function displays of the real aircraft; the side consoles are merely white dots and dashes on a black backround. The seats have very heavy belt detail and cushion detail. There is no collective for the pilot. This cockpit will require lots of tender loving care, especially with the expanse of glass that makes up the canopies.
The cockpit is trapped between the fuselage halves, along with the seeker turret, rotor mast mount and a pin for the tail rotor. The fuselage itself is beautifully detailed, with restrained rivets and recessed panel lines. The same level of detail extends to the stub wings and engine covers, which are neatly engineered to blend with the fuselage to form intakes. The landing gear and struts and other external equipment sensor booms, 'towel rack' antenna, etc. are also well represented. But the horizontal tail assembly is a very odd piece scratch marks, flash and a raised step in the leading edge of one side mar this piece.
The rotor is formed by four rotors with slight droop engineered into them, which mount on a central hub unit with a small dome on top of the entire assembly. The tail rotor is also simple, but in all, these parts are satisfactory.
The armament consists of four two-tube TOW pods, split into top and bottom halves with separate mounting racks, and two 19-shot rocket pods, provided as halves with the mounting racks provided as halves on each halves of the rocket tubes. The canopies are provided as a single piece, limiting the modeler's ability to display them opened. They are molded with windshield wipers, one of this reviewer's least favorite features; these never look good, even when painted. If you must provide them, give them to us as separate plastic pieces or as a decal, please!
Decals provide two sets of markings, both for overall olive drab helicopters. The first is from the Italian CAE, the evaluation center for Italian aviation, in Viterbo; the second is from the 7th 'Vega,'Casarsa della Delizia, which sports a black checkerboarded vertical fin. Both schemes date from 1998. The markings decals are quite nice and include fire extinguisher, emergency escape system warnings and a few data decals, although the green centers of the Italian roundels are off-center.
The lovely exterior detail and effective rotor system says "si, si" but the cartoonish interior, blemished horizontal tail and one-piece canopy say "no, NO!" Hopefully, an aftermarket company will step up to the challenge of giving the Mangusta a makeover. With a little dolling up, this kit could go from okay to uh-huh! In a big hurry. Our thanks to Testors for this review sample!
KMC Boeing 727-200