Anigrand 1/144 Merlin HC.3

KIT #: AA-4036
PRICE: $88.00
DECALS: One option
NOTES: Resin. Comes with four other kits


According to the UK Ministry of Defence website, "the Merlin is the first of a new generation of advanced, medium support helicopters for the RAF designed to operate away from base workshops and in difficult terrain. It is an all-weather, day and night, multi-role helicopter used in both tactical and strategic operational roles. Its diverse range of bulky cargo carried internally or underslung can include artillery, Land Rovers or light-strike vehicles and more than five tonnes of freight". A Merlin can carry 24 troops or 16 stretcher cases and has a side door as well as a rear ramp. It has all the modern things you can think of - defensive countermeasures, night goggle compatibility, air to air refueling (though the Brits don't use that) and the latest navigational systems.
The British used their Merlins in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan and picked up some Danish models to bolster their training component. (And by models, I refer to helicopter variants, because I'm sure picking up some Danish models in its ordinary meaning would not contribute much to the RAF's operational efficiency...). These Danish birds - the aircraft! - are known as the HC.3A while the regular ones are HC.3. 
Other countries use the same helicopter in different configurations, including (obviously) Denmark as well as Portugal, Japan, and Canada, and there is also a maritime version flown by the Royal Navy and Italy. That one has radar and ASW gear and no rear cargo door.
In terms of payload performance, it fits roughly between a Blackhawk and a Chinook.

Don't get sticker shock! The price tag includes a great kit of a Nimrod plus two other smaller kits - a Britten Norman Defender and the P.1185/AV-16 supersonic Harrier design project. Still, it's not cheap. You're probably only going to buy it if you really want a Nimrod (like I did). I think people sometimes sell the Anigrand bonus kits separately online, though, so if you are keen you could look around. It would surprise me if an injected version wasn't available in 1/144 already, or soon. Revell, are you out there? Anyway, for a full preview, have a look
right here on MM:. You can see the review of the Islander Defender here on MM, too.
In brief, this is a lovely little resin kit, very nicely moulded with nice engraved detail. Unlike an injection kit (Dragon's great SH-60s, say) of a chopper in this scale, it's got no main cabin interior. But the external detail is great and the rotor head is finely moulded too. The blades have the appropriate droop too (though mine were a bit inconsistent). It is also missing a few bits of detail that a decent injection moulded kit would include - the interior, obviously, but also the winch and a few antenna and lumps & bumps here and there. But that said, the particular aircraft didn't always have a winch installed, as you can see in the photos linked under references, and as always the internet offers a wealth of pictures so you can scratch up most of what's missing anyway. Note too that the window configuration isn't quite right. At the front end, the smaller, lower cockpit windows are just engraved detail, rather than actual windows. Towards the back, the cabin is missing a couple of side windows. Compare with photos!
With resin kits you need to be a little more careful than with injection kits. Wear a mask when you are sanding the parts, as resin dust is bad news. Safety goggles aren't a bad idea either. You need to trim off the so-called "pour stubs", which are a bit like the sprue you'd find on a regular kit. You can use a knife or a little saw to cut off the majority, and then sand off the remaining bumps. Warning! The very end at the tail boom has a block which looks like a giant pour stub. I nearly cut it off, but it is actually part of the airframe. In reality it should be < shaped rather than [ shaped (in plan, with the < pointing backwards). It's a sensor of some kind.
Once you've done all that, have a good look over all the parts and see if there are any surface blemishes. Sometimes you'll see bumps which are basically air bubbles - sand them down - and sometimes you'll see little pinholes in the surface. You can fill them with superglue and sand it back just before the glue gets rock hard. You can use regular filler too if you want. I didn't see anything major on this kit though. There was a little "flash" but unlike on injected kits this was very thin and simply rubbed off with my finger.
And once you've done all that, a resin kit is basically just like an injection kit except you need superglue because normal glue won't work. Start at the cockpit with your paint brush and do as much scratchbuilding as you want (there are seats but nothing else). I didn't bother because the canopy is pretty thick. Add some nose weight behind the cockpit bulkhead but ahead of the axis of the main gear, though my test showed it didn't need any. Put the cabin windows in. And then glue the fuselage halves together. Be sure you have carefully test fitted before you do this, because remember, superglue is not called superglue for nothing, and walking around town with a 1/144 helicopter attached to your index finger is not going to help you pick up Danish models...ha ha.
After that, you're on the home stretch. Engine pods, landing gear, and the rotors and you have a completed Merlin.
Except, of course, for all the gaps. I got some pretty decent seams to fill on the top of the fuselage and also where the main windscreen joins the rear part of the cockpit area. I've read that some people use superglue for this type of gap too but I am more comfortable with filler. I used a lot on the main joins, and sanded for a while (remember the mask). For the gap where the window attaches I just used blobs of paint, as the gap was pretty small. This kit didn't fit together that amazingly well, and certainly not as neatly as the Islander Defender that came with it.
Don't worry about the seams underneath though, at least not the ones on the cargo door and rear boom. As you can see from the picture linked below ("underside"), there is actually a pretty prominent line there on the real thing. 
I contemplated detailing the cockpit until I saw how opaque the canopy is. If you know how to mould your own canopies it might be worth it, but that's beyond my skillset so I just went with the kit part and painted the cockpit grey, with black seats. Even if you put your eye right up to the little windows, you wouldn't see anything in there anyway, at least not with any clarity.

Final details depend on the configuration of your helicopter. The decals give you the codes and letter F for ZJ122. If you google for "Merlin HC.3 ZJ122" you'll quickly see that this helicopter must have had an upgrade at some point. I've depicted it in what I assume is its earlier configuration, shown in the pictures linked under references below. If you wanted, you could add the nose bubble sensor pod and refueling probe and winch which other pictures show. The markings vary ever so slightly too.
I used black paint to simulate the undercarriage bays which are completely missing on the kit. The real thing has retractable gear but no wheel bay doors.
There are a few different Merlins which aren't quite as boring looking as this one. For example, the Portuguese military flies Merlins in a nice green and brown camo scheme, while the Japanese have a grey one with bright orange panels for Antarctic work. Canada's are bright yellow with awesome red stripes.
The British HC.3 by contrast is a pretty lame olive green. But unless you are prepared to make more windows, or ignore the fact that the kit's windows aren't right for those other versions, you're stuck with the HC.3. Actually even then the windows aren't bang on. But never mind, they're pretty close.
The official colour of this thing is reported by some online sleuths to be Olive Drab BS 220 and by others (claiming to have been told by AgustaWestland) BS381c241. Airfix has a new 1/48 kit of this helicopter and the instructions recommend Humbrol 86, which some builders think is too light. Revell 68 is suggested as an alternative. Tamiya XF-81 is meant to be a pretty close match. Others say Vallejo 71.011 is right (that's also RLM 83) but of course I could find neither XF-81 or 71.011 (which is from Vallejo's airbrush range anyway - and guess what I don't have?). So in the end I took a gamble and bought Vallejo 70.823 which is RLM 82 - I figured it couldn't be too far from RLM 83. But when painted on it was much too green. So over the top of that I painted Tamiya XF-73 which is a JGDSF colour. It is a little too grey. But by then I'd spend too long on the internet looking at pictures and reading others' pronouncements about Revell vs Humbrol vs Tamiya vs Vallejo vs [insert just about any other brand you can think of]. So I committed to the XF-73 and on balance, given all the usual things we can say about scale colour, monitor calibration, and rah rah rah, I think it looks about as close as I am going to get. Held up against a Google Image search page, it doesn't look too far from the real thing. As I am neither a Merlin nor an RAF groupie, and really just built this to get some skill with resin before I tackle the Nimrod, I think XF-73 was a decent choice. Sometimes you just have to go with what you've got. Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep her rolling!
Remember to paint black sections on the engine intakes (noting that there are three engines, so the left side of the chopper has two intakes one above the other). According to my photo checking the top of the landing gear sponsons should be black, too, but I skipped that (getting bored!). I painted some tiny red lines around a smaller air inlet near the intakes, copying photos. 
The decals are, unfortunately, a bit lame. First of all, the instructions are categorically useless so you have to turn to google. Second, at least over this Tamiya acrylic, they didn't stick very well. I used copious amounts of Mr Mark Softer and in the end they looked, well, "okay", is about as generous as I can be. Perhaps they'd go down better on some other paint (for example, Anigrand decals have worked better for me on Tamiya acrylic silver spray paint and also on Gunze enamels).

You get the F letters and the ZJ122 serials - note they come in different sizes. Because I cleverly paid an extra buck for a spare decal sheet I had enough to work with - the large F is too big for the side fuselage location, so I used the smaller one. If I hadn't had another sheet then I'd have run out of the smaller Fs, meaning I couldn't have put one on the nose above the canopy (which I'd never have noticed the need for had I relied on the useless instructions anyway).
To make the Royal Air Force and roundel combo on the rear fuselage, I pinched a small roundel from the sheet and cut the ROYAL AIR FORCE decal so I could break the line. The decal sheet does not include a prominent red marking on the tail, so I delivered that from the Ministry of Surplus Decals.
It's a neat kit of the Merlin in a really manageable scale. Yes, it can only really be had in a quite expensive kit, though you do get several others for your money (I'm a bit surprised Revell hasn't done it in 1/144, unless I'm unaware of it). As a start in resin I think this is a good entry point. I certainly enjoyed building it and it wasn't really too much harder than doing it from an injection kit. The biggest downside for me was the useless instructions and the fussy decals, but again, by the time you're trying a resin HC.3 in 1/144 you can probably be flexible. If you come across one, I can recommend it. The only really tricky bit is finding the right shade of green.

Richard F

May 2015

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page