MRC/Academy 1/35 UH-60L Blackhawk
Sikorsky's UH-60 Blackhawk is the product of the US Army's Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) specification issued in 1972. This helicopter requirement called for a crashworthy, ballistically tolerant machine with the power to haul a crew of three and 11 troops in hot-and-high conditions. The Sikorsky YUH-60 first flew in October 1974, competing against the Boeing/Vertol YUH-61. The Sikorsky entry won the UTTAS competition in December 1976 and deliveries of UH-60A Blackhawk to the U.S. Army began in October 1978.
The Blackhawk is a versatile machine, and needed that versatility to be able to replace the venerable Bell UH-1 Iroquois family. From a basic troop carrier to armed reconnaissance, from air ambulance to vehicle and artillery airlifter, and from battlefield support to submarine hunter, the Blackhawk/Seahawk family has effectively filled (and exceeded) the UH-1's place on the front lines. The UH-60 first saw combat during the invasion of Grenada in October 1983. It has since served with distinction in Panama, Southwest Asia, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and elsewhere. Today, more than 20 nations fly the Blackhawk and its derivatives. It also serves as the primary utility helicopter for the US Army, US Navy and USAF.
The long-awaited 1/35 UH-60L Blackhawk kit will soon be on a store shelf near you. Is it worth the wait? You bet! You might have heard the rumors that Academy was releasing a 1/35 UH-60 kit as well as MRC. Now that the kit is near release, that bit of confusion is at least cleared up - Academy produced the kit for MRC's release here.
As you'd expect for a 1/35 scale helicopter kit, the box is rather large. It contains four trees molded in light gray plastic as well as a single tree of crystal clear parts for the windows, etc. The molding is crisp, with details finely scribed throughout the kit. The parts are free of flash and there were only a few ejector pin marks visible in the cabin, but these are easily dealt with.
It is amazing how much detail that Academy has captured in this kit. The main cabin alone has ten beautifully rendered crew and troop seats, complete with authentic ceiling suspension and floor mounting systems. The cockpit features a pair of armored seats with the sliding side armor protection also present. The only thing missing from the any of the seats are the appropriate seat belts and/or restraint systems.
The cockpit instrument panel has a good representation of the electronic instrument displays, analog instruments and enunciator panel. The center console and overhead console also are good representations of the actual aircraft as well. Rounding out the cockpit are two complete sets of flight controls. The only things really missing in the cockpit (aside from the seat harnesses) are some small control levers on the overhead console. Interestingly enough, one of the consulting experts on this project was none other than Sherman Collings of Cobra Company, so I have no doubt that we'll be seeing an awesome detail set in the near future to really set this model apart.
Externally, this kit is equally nice and well represented. The rotor head and main rotor are well done, as is the tail rotor assembly.
The main cabin doors can be positioned open or closed, as are the gunners' windows. While not mentioned in the instructions, the pilot's and co-pilot's doors have cut lines molded on the inside, giving you the option to position either or both cockpit doors open as well. There are no door hinges included, so if you do open the doors, you'll have to fabricate some hinge mounts from scrap plastic.
Another interesting option is the port engine bay. You have the choice of building it open or closed. If you do open it up, there is a nicely done T700 engine with an APU duct and some plumbing in place. You'll probably want to 'busy' this area up a bit more with the various cables, hoses and linkages that are too fine to mold in styrene. The engine bay is boxed in with bulkheads that match closely with the actual aircraft.
The kit is rounded out with a variety of necessary details, such as cable cutters, antennas, an IR jammer, chaff/flare launchers, and the HIRSS exhaust shields. One option provided in the kit is for the ESSS, the External Stores Support System. These are bolt-on 'wings' that allow the Blackhawk to carry external fuel tanks, weapons, and/or other devices. The kit also includes a pair of 230 gallon external fuel tanks for the ESSS.
The fit of the overall kit appears to be solid. In fact, the fuselage has some rather interesting interlocking tabs in strategic places to ensure a positive alignment. And yes, using these tabs does result in a perfect alignment of the fuselage. The edges of the fuselage halves aren't quite as square as I'd like, which causes a bit of a seam line when the halves are joined. This is easily rectified with a touch of gap filler.
The kit includes a nice set of decals that provide markings for your choice of five different aircraft, including a desert tan machine from the Gulf War. In addition, all of the black upper surface walkways are provided as decals, should you choose not to mask and paint these areas yourself. A very complete set of maintenance stencils round out this nice decal sheet.
Well, I had hoped that this review would feature the built-up model for your inspection. The kit is in fact awaiting paint on the workbench as I write this. If it weren't for Murphy's Law providing an impressive array of family emergencies this last month, my goal might have been realized. Nevertheless, you'll be seeing the finished bird in the May edition of Internet Modeler.
So how does it go together? Rather nicely! There are a few areas where I will share some lessons learned, but I will definitely be building another one of these kits whenever Cobra Company releases their detail set.
I like this kit. The completed model will look fantastic parked next to my MRC OH-58D, Revell UH-1D, Revell AH-1G and DML OH-6A. If this were the only Blackhawk planned for release, you could model a wide variety of paint schemes and configurations from around the world. Still yet to come however, the MRC/Academy Special Operations Blackhawk/Pave Hawk. This is going to be fun!
My sincere thanks to MRC for the advanced look at this great kit!
There are several really good references for the Blackhawk on the street, including Squadron/Signal Publications' "H-60 Black Hawk in Action" and "Walkaround UH-60 Black Hawk."
My favorite is "UH-60A Black Hawk In Detail" by Wings & Wheels Publications from the Czech Republic. This is Volume One in their series of detailed photo references, and it contains all of the shots, inside and out, that you'd like to have for this project. It appears that this title may be out of print, but you might be able to find one stashed on a hobby shop shelf somewhere.