Merlin 1/72 A-12 Shrike






one option


Mark Fordham


Crude limited run kit


The Curtiss A-12 was the first monoplane attack aircraft to serve in substantial numbers with the US Army Air Corps. It formed the bulwark of Army attack plane strength throughout the early to mid-1930s. However, the A-12 was rapidly made obsolescent by advances in aviation technology, and its service with front-line units of the Army Air Corps was quite brief. By the late 1930s, it had been relegated largely to training units. Except for 20 export versions which were sent to China, the A-12 took no part in aerial combat during World War 2.

The name Shrike was quite often applied to this aircraft, but this was actually a Curtiss company name, and was not used by the US Army for the A-12

The A-12 was a development of the Conqueror-powered A-8 via the experimental YA-10. A small number of Curtiss YA-8 and Y1A-8 monoplane attack planes had been delivered to the Army in 1932. They were powered by the Curtiss V-1570 Conqueror V-12 liquid-cooled engine. As an experiment, the first YA-8 (32-344) was modified at the Curtiss factory in Buffalo, New York where the Conqueror engine was replaced by a Pratt & Whitney R-1690D 9-cylinder air-cooled radial engine. The aircraft was redesignated YA-10.

Flight tests with the YA-10 proved the advantage of an air-cooled radial engine for attack aircraft. The Army found the radial engine less expensive to operate than the liquid-cooled V-12, and it had no complex cooling radiators exposed to enemy fire. Consequently, the Army immediately requested that the 46 A-8Bs then on order be delivered as radial-engined aircraft. This resulted in a change in designation to A-12. Serials were 33-212/257. The engine was the Wright R-1820-21 Cyclone air-cooled radial, rated at 160 hp at 1900 rpm.

History source from here


Merlin,  a name to strike the fear into the hearts of many modellers!, crude and difficult to make into anything that resembles a real aircraft. Still Merlin do produce some very interesting  subjects and crude kits like these have some sort of magical drawing card for me.

 On opening the box you are confronted with a little pile of crude white blobs of plastic that have matchbox style trenches for detail and a small pile of white metal blobs that represents (I think) the engine and cowling, a roughly cast white metal propeller is also supplied. A typical Merlin instruction sheet is included with construction tips, a short history and 1/72nd scale plans.  A nice decal sheet is supplied consisting of markings for one machine but for some reason they don’t have the tail bars included, although the sheet has yellowed a bit over the years the early style US marking are in register and would probably be perfectly useable after “de-yellowing” them in the hot sun for a few days, but as things worked out that was not to be. 


Construction begins like it does with any Merlin kit, spending hours cleaning up the flash and sanding the joining surfaces flush, once this chore is out the way you can then get on and scratchbuild the cockpit, Merlin do supply a floor and white metal seats for this one but I choose to rebuild the cockpit using plastic card and seats out of my ever diminishing spares box. Once there is some hint of detail in the open cockpits the fuselage were offered together and resulting gaps filled with a mixture of Baking soda and super glue and sanded smooth. The two piece  white metal cowling that was supplied by Merlin was a little too crude and would have been almost impossible to clean up so I replaced it with a section of New Zealand Telephone conduit as it was just the right diameter, the white metal engine was used after being attacked by the needle files to remove all the flash.

 Moving onto the wings, Merlin has moulded each side in a solid one piece affair that due to the thickness of the wings suffer from sink marks, thankfully the effort required to thin down the trailing edge removes most of the sink marks and the odd dimple can then be filled with tamiya putty and sanded smooth.

 Which all Merlin kits joining the wings to the fuselage require the modeller to “get it right” themselves as regards to the dihedral, thankfully Merlin supply a front on drawing in their plans to assist the placement of the angle, as the wings are butt joined to the fuselage a brass pin drilled and glued into the wing root will help with strength and alignment.

 The Shrike had fixed landing gear in rather large Stuka like spats that also housed the 50’ cal machine guns, the housings of which are not supplied  so they were built up using plastic card and brass tubing added for the gun barrels.

 The kit supplied wheels where a right off and I only had one wheel the correct diameter in the spares box so I cheated and cut it in half and packed the wheel well out to the correct depth to allow the half wheels to sit correctly. Tail wheel which isn’t supplied can from the spares box again and is of unknown origin.

 Moving on to the Shrikes bracing, Merlins rendition of the wing spars were a little crude so new one were cut out of 20 tho plastic card and sanded to the correct profile. 5 tho “ovals” were cut out and glued to the wing and fuselage mounting points to represent the slight flaring the spars have were they join.

 The white metal propeller cleaned up well in the end and I elected not to paint it but spent some time polishing it to look like a “real” metal prop.


Shrikes were in service during the one of the most colourful periods in American aviation, with Olive green fuselage (or blue depending on which squadron you model) and yellow wings the Shrike is bound to stand out in your collection. The biggest problem which the Merlin Kit is the fact that my finishing skills suck and the Shrike was originally finished in a gloss finish that would show every bump, scratch and dust mote. I decided to paint it in matt paint thereby “hiding” more of my stuff ups. First the entire aircraft was given a coat of very light grey to act as an undercoat then Tamiya yellow was sprayed on the wings, tailplane and rudder. Many, many light coats are needed to build up the depth of yellow needed. Once dry the yellow was masked up and the Olive green was sprayed on the remaining parts and the whole lot was left to harden up for the next week. After the usual future coat it was time for the decals,  I carefully cut out the first of the Merlin stars and dipped it into the tepid water  one, two, three, poof… one become many as the aged decals slowly float way in a million pieces, time to raid the spares again, I unfortunately didn’t have a lot in the way of mid 30’s US markings but I did manage to coble together a set of stars. As Merlin didn’t supply the bars on the rudder as a decal I had to mask and paint them by hand and it wasn’t until afterwards that I should take my time and learn to count as I haven’t got the correct amount of stripes on the tail as I should have 7 red stripes rather than 5, my apologies to all US aviation buffs. One of the days I might end up with a spare set of tail stripes from another sheet and I can fix the error then.  As the Merlin decal sheet was useless I had to leave the Shrike in generic marking with no squadron emblems or other markings.

 Now that painting and decaling was out of the way the final bits could be added, The canopies came from a variety of sources, the front windshield came with the Merlin kit but the rear one was cut down from one fount in the spares box, I have a suspicion that it was the spare Vacuform from the Vultee Vengance that I completed last year. The rigging was done by drilling small holes through the wing and then super gluing stretched sprue onto the fuselage tab, feeding it through the holes and securing it to the landing gear tabs.

 The rear 50 cal came from a Hasegawa B17 with scratchbuilt ring sights and the front gun sight is a piece of brass tubing cut the correct length.


 Yet another Merlin laid to rest, Poor mouldings, hard plastic that’s difficult to work with, would I trade for a Tamiya kit?? HELL NO!! Looking at the Merlin kits in my collection (even with their roughness and errors) gives me a sense of satisfaction that is lacking in even my best tamigawa builds.  Most people would not even bother with these kits these days and Merlin kits have become collectable in their own right as “unbuildable curio’s.” I have 5 more Merlins in the stash and I plan to build all of them this year. The next on the chopping block is the Skyrocket closely followed by the A8 Shrike stay tuned.

Once again many thanks to Terry Mcgrady for his kind generosity with the Merlin kits.



Profile series A8/12 Shrike

Google Shrike for the history section

January 2004


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