Italeri 1/72 A-129 Mangusta
KIT #: 006
PRICE: 45 Yuan RMB
DECALS: Two Options
REVIEWER: Richard F.


Remember the Cold War? That was when attack helicopters were designed to deal with vast fleets of enemy tanks and armour, at least in that short interval before the tactical nukes came into play (itself a short interval before the ICBMs launched...). In those days, it was ok to design an attack chopper without a gun, because the plan was to pop off as many TOW or Hellfire style anti-tank missiles as you could before someone shot you down. Even a big 30mm cannon was not necessarily an advantage in that kind of fight - you had rockets to deal with lighter skinned vehicles or troops brave (dumb) enough to risk moving around in the open.

Italy's Agusta company came up with a neat solution for that requirement with its Mangusta, or Mongoose, the A129. These days, of course, attack choppers like the Apache and Mangusta (in a smaller class) and the new Eurocopter Tiger are more likely to be seen chasing down Taliban or Al-Qaeda operatives in the altogether more complex battlefields of places like Iraq or Afghanistan. There, guns seem to be very useful, one reason the Italians upgraded their Mangustas with a 20mm gatling gun in recent years.
This kit only allows you to build the earlier, non-gun Mangusta, and before you think it'd be easy to add a nose turret, remember that when they added the gun, they added a fifth blade to the main rotor. Not such a simple conversion after all.
Designed in the 80s with those Cold War conditions in mind, the Mangusta entered service in 1990 just as the Cold War wrapped up. The last batch came out of the factory in 1999 with the improvements (gun, extra blade, plus better avionics) and not long after, the earlier ones were upgraded.
Italy has used these choppers in Somalia, Macedonia and Angola on UN missions and deployed them to Iraq and Afghanistan as well. Turkey is the only export customer, picking up the first nine of its 60 aircraft order in May 2014. The Turkish model is called T-129, and features all the upgrades of the latest Italian variant, plus modifications specific to Turkey's needs.

This is one of Italeri's great little helicopter kits - simple, easy to build, and inexpensive. As noted, it comes with parts for the pre-upgrade Mangusta, and includes two rocket pods and two of the quad-pack TOW launchers. Other than that, it contains a basic cockpit, a nice clear one-piece canopy, and nicely moulded parts with restrained details, mostly raised, which seems appropriate for the detail represented. There are no pilot figures. Decals include basic cockpit detail (the plastic parts are flat, not moulded-detail instrument panels), and the markings for two different units from 1998, both in an overall olive scheme. 

I started in the cockpit by painting the one-piece tub a light grey colour, and doing the two instrument panels black. The seats can go in later, and there are also two control sticks (one per pilot) but no collectives. The front cockpit has a pretty distinctive sighting tube/periscope type thing, which is missing in the kit (see the pics in the wikipedia link below).  
The little turret on the nose which houses the FLIR or weapons guiding sensors is designed to pivot, but the fit looked like it'd be a bit wobbly so I cut off the attachment pieces and just glued it in place. Before sealing up the fuselage, you need to add the rear cockpit wall, and the little piece that holds the main rotor. I forgot to instal the attachment axle for the tail rotor but that wasn't a big deal in the end - I just glued the tail rotor in place.
From here it is pretty easy. The stub wings go on and tail wings too, and you build up the engine housing and intakes from five parts. These fit reasonably well but I used some putty on most of the seams. Just a little, but you do need it.
I added the canopy here (remembering to put the seats in first), and needed some putty to get a good seal. It fits reasonably, but you will need a little work to get a clean smooth match, and as it is so prominent, it's worth the effort. I did the best I could be bothered with - more committed builders can probably do better.
After this point, I painted the airframe and then, once done, added on the weapons, the various air data probes and antenna, and of course, the undercarriage. That fits snugly into its holes and seems sufficiently sturdy.

The instructions ask you to use Olive Drab on this helicopter but most pictures seem to show a slightly more yellow, lighter colour. I considered putting down a coat of Tamiya Olive Drab first, to compare with the pictures, and then mixing a drop of yellow into the OD. But the first stroke of OD showed it was way too green. The plastic is actually a very close match to the colour of the real thing, and then I tried Tamiya XF-49 Khaki. It was pretty much spot on, so rather than muck around, I just applied two coats of that. Indeed, it's so close that on my second coat I discovered a few bits I'd missed on the first coat, as the plastic itself is essentially the same colour.
Later gun-equipped versions seem to be a slightly darker colour in photos. But anyone who's spent time on the forums (at any modeling site) knows the long and laborious discussions you can have about colour. It depends on the light on the day the photo was taken and also on the monitor used to view the photo, as well as the controversial "scale effect". To my eye, this paint job seemed a good combination of "pretty close" and "pretty straightforward".
You might notice a blemish on the left side beneath the engine. Somehow I managed to flick the glue brush against the rim of the glue jar, and a small drop of glue flew onto the side of the model. Talk about "amateur hour"! I fixed it up as best I could but yes, you can still see it, and no, I don't really mind. This was a weekend wonder, after all.
The decals are simple, as there are only a few. Both options are pretty sparse, but I went with the one that has a chequered tail just because it is slightly more interesting than the one that doesn't. 
The decals are a lot thinner than what I've been used to lately (HobbyBoss) but with a little extra care they are ok to handle and they responded well to careful application of Mr Mark Softer.
A simple, neat kit, perfect for a quick build to get you back in the groove. Enough detail out of the box to make it fun; plenty of scope for upgrading (cockpit, gun, extra blade). And at a very affordable price, I think it's easy to recommend this kit. With an Apache, and a Cobra and Tiger, all readily available from Academy, Hasegawa, Revell or HobbyBoss, you could have a neat collection of Western attack choppers, too.

Richard F.

September 2014

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