|NOTES:||Comprehensive range of 500 variants in one box|
Several years after the prototype Hughes YOH-6’s first flight in 1963 the aircraft had become a commercial success as well as a military one, with several nations adopting the type in its different variations. Such was its popularity that other nations acquired licences to produce the type for themselves, with Kawasaki of Japan producing its own machines and Breda-Nardi of Italy built the NH-500M for the use of the Guardia di Finanza and Aeronautica Militaire. Breda-Nardi, bought out by Agusta in 1989, also produced their own version of the T-tailed 500D (NH-500MD) and later the pointy-nosed NH-500E in some numbers.
Today many of the type remain in service throughout
I have recently been on a big kick of getting 1/48 Hughes 500s to replicate various examples with meaning for me (the “stars” of TV movies Deadly Encounter and Birds Of Prey as well as some NZ-based machines) and found the Italian Astrokit 1/48 MD500 available from Pacific Coast Models, which from what I read on the Internet could make a 500C as well as a 500D – or more accurately an NH-500M and/or NH-500MD. When I found the box containing this kit on my bed after work one day I had no idea what was in store for me.
For the Hughes 500 series fan this kit is a dream come true. Grey styrene with great interior detail, seemingly flawless injection-moulded clear parts, an additional vacformed canopy and two baggies of crisp resin parts. After sifting through the parts I came to the realisation that this little treasure allows the modeller to produce a 500C, 500D or a 500E, and (if you’re as 500-mad as I) share out the spare bits and graft them onto Academy or Tamiya 500 kits to make additional ones.
I was of the belief that the Astrokit 500 was the Academy MD500 with additional resin parts, but this is not the case. The injected parts are unlike any other kit I’ve seen so could well be a new mould. There are civilian-style upholstered seats as well as military canvas, comprehensive flight controls, a more detailed rotor mast than I’ve seen previously, and a full set of sights and mounts for TOW missiles. The port rear door is moulded separate for some reason, but the other doors have engraved lines around their interior to facilitate their removal if the modeller desires. A similar engraved area is present on the rear doors for the TOW missile mounts.
The resin is quite comprehensive. One baggie contains the NH-500E-specific instrument panel, horizontal stabiliser endplates and various aerials. The other is mostly for the NH-500M/500C, with very nice pontoons, military instrument panel and centre console, four-blade rotorhead and swashplate, as well as a lot of stabiliser parts. I count one full set of 500C parts, a 500D/E vertical stab, and four additional lower vertical stabilisers for the 500C. Why, I cannot even begin to guess! The resin parts have fine detail but there are some minor glitches and flash, and a small chunk is missing from the trailing edge of the 500C stabiliser. Helpfully the said stabiliser has a mounting pin, which not even the Italeri 1/72 OH-6 features! A big help when assembling and trying to get all lined up. Also none of the resin lower stabilisers have a skid, so one will have to use some stretched sprue to replicate this.
The clear parts are quite thick and out of scale, but very clear. The framing is fine and the door windows even feature the characteristic ventilation ports, another feature missing from the Academy kits. It is interesting to see the instrument panels are moulded in clear, these being the thin 500C style as well as the wider OH-6/Defender type. Another part (not mentioned in the instructions) is what looks like a radome, possibly for an ASW option. The vacformed clear part was a nice surprise, this being the 500E/NH-500E’s distinctive long, pointed windscreen. The framing is quite pronounced and raised but the part is nice and thin to let all the detail within be seen...for better or worse! Only one copy though, so one must be very careful to trim.
Finally, the decals look very nice, I’m not sure who printed them but they do have a legend “Tauromodel Products”. They allow for two versions, an NH-500MD RS*36 of Reparto Sperimentale di Volo, Italian Air Force, and NH-500E 72*01 also of the Italian Air Force. They are both in identical camouflage consisting of Extra-Dark Sea Grey and Dark Green. Colour callouts are given with a name and FS, Lifecolor, Gunze and Humbrol numbers where applicable. Much more helpful than mere numbers from a single manufacturer. The instructions are detailed enough for the task with minimal text and clear diagrams. Unlike most kits there is no history on the cover page, only guidelines/tips and a small B&W photo of the NH-500E featured on the decal sheet.
I must say that as this boxing is for the NH-500MD and NH-500E, the parts for the NH-500M are not shown at all, so if the modeller wishes to create this variant he/she will need to research the type and gather as many photos/diagrams as they can to make sure all the parts go in the right place.
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