|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||2013 reissue. Last released in 1983|
The United States Army's Nike Ajax was the world's first operational surface to air missile (SAM), entering service in 1954. Nike Ajax was designed to attack conventional bomber aircraft flying at high subsonic speeds and altitudes above 50,000 feet (15 km). Ajax was initially deployed in the US to provide defense against Soviet bomber attacks, and was later deployed overseas to protect US bases, as well as being sold to various allied forces. Some examples remained in use until the 1970s. Ajax was given the identifiers SAM-A-7 (Surface-to-air, Army, design 7), and then MIM-3 (Mobile Interceptor Missile, design 3) in 1962.
Technological development during the 1950s quickly rendered the Ajax obsolete. It was unable to defend against more capable bombers or multiple targets in formation, and had relatively short range. Even while Ajax was being deployed, these concerns led to the contracts for the greatly improved MIM-14 Nike Hercules, which began deployment in 1959. As Hercules developed, the threat moved from bombers to ICBMs, and the LIM-49 Nike Zeus anti-ballistic missile project started to address these. All of the Nike projects were led by Bell Labs, due to their early work in radar guidance systems during World War II.
Part of the Nike Ajax development program designed a new solid fuel rocket motor used for the missile's booster. This had originally been designed for the US Navy's missiles, and was enlarged for the Nike efforts. The rocket was so useful that it found numerous applications outside the military world as the Ajax missiles were decommissioned in the 1960s. Many sounding rockets used the booster as their first or second stage, and many of those used "Nike" in their name
This kit was initially released in the late 1950s. Renwal was always well known for producing what were considered quality kits that were a notch above the rest and looking at these parts, I have to say that they did an excellent job of molding the kit. The parts do have some flash and are typical of the time when ejector pin marks were not a big deal, but nothing major.
I was particularly surprised at how nicely the three figures are molded. Unlike the box art, they are not running for shelter. There is a soldier on guard duty, one with his hands on his hips and another kneeling down as if working on something.
The missile itself is molded in white and typically, a few parts had departed the sprues. The nose fins and main rudders are supposed to be able to be moved, which will make taking care of the inevitable seam a lot easire. Like the real missile, it is divided into a booster section and forward missile.
The rest of the kit is for the launch framework. This will end up being somewhat large and like was expected, the launch rail itself can be raised or lowered via a plastic piston.
Instructions are pretty typical of modern Revell USA instructions with a list of generic colors, a full parts list (but no diagram) and painting information provided throughout the build sequence. For years I thought that the markings for this kit, which are pretty gaudy, were something that was made up. However, I found a photo of all white missiles with the large badges and the lightning bolt on them. Whether this was a publicity photo one time deal or not, it did exist. I also discovered that there were other coloring options for the missile, from overall olive drab to a white warhead section and olive drab booster and other variations. It seems that many operational missiles simply had a 'last three' serial spray painted on the fin and booster body. So you don't have to do the kit markings, but for the overall OD version, you'll have to find some white 'U.S. Army' markings for the warhead section.
Quite a bit of the work of building this kit was cleaning up the parts. There was quite a lot of mold seams to take care of in the girder framework and an equally large number of ejector marks. The vast majority of these ejector marks are shallow enough so that you can sand them away and that is what I did. This work easily took up over half the build time.
I decided to build the launch stand and the missile simultaneously. I built up the booster section first after drilling out the holes in the exhaust section. You need to install the large fins before installing this piece as it helps lock them in place. I should also mention that filler was needed on every join and that included the two missile body sections.
Meanwhile, I started assembling the launch rails. These have large flat areas that will require several applications of filler to smooth them out. While it might frustrate some, this is normal stuff for these old kits. Of course, when we were kids building these, we did not concern ourselves with totally flat surfaces and the folks who molded the kits realized that.
Back at the upper missile section, I discovered that two of the smallest fine, what the instructions call antennas were missing. I assembled the section best I could and left these off. Fortunately, you can build the missile almost completely without these. I should caution builders to be sure to clean up the parts that go inside the missile body if you want the foreplanes and the rudders to move. I had to drill the mounting holes out as they were partially filled with plastic.
Back at the launcher. I attached the elevating piston assembly to the rail. When going to assemble the power unit that fits under it, I discovered that I was missing another part, the elevating piston hinge that fit in between the power unit halves. So I went through the kit to see if anything else was gone. Just the three bits so I got on the Revell web site and ordered them. While waiting, I continued to build up the launch section. This included the bar onto which the missile will fit. These have crossmembers which have sink marks on each and every piece so needed filler. This was then built up and set aside. I also built up the outrigger frames and got everything ready for when the missing bits showed up.
About 3-4 weeks later, a box came from Revell with the missing bits. These were attached to the missile and that completed that assembly. The piston hinge was trapped between the power unit halves and that piece got its heavy sanding to take care of seams and such.
The rest of the pieces that I'd already built up simply fell into place. The power unit was trapped between the launch frames, as was the elevating rail. I then glued the piston into the cap at the end of the piston hinge and while the elevating rail was in the down position, glued all the various attachment points for the frames.
When that was dry, I simply slid the launch rail over the two crossmembers on the elevating rail, took care of any small seams I could and then headed for the paint shop.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
I decided to go ahead and built it as it was meant to be built. As the gaudy all-white missile bodies were something that existed, I did not feel badly about doing this and it is appropriate for an old kit like this. The entire launch rail system was painted olive drab using Model Master enamels. Detail bits were picked out as per the instructions.
The missile itself was painted with Tamiya extra fine primer and simply given a gloss coat with Future, which is a gloss clear acrylic. I then started applying the kit decals. These went on with no fuss and just to be sure, I hit them with Mr Mark Softer, which is a rather strong setting solution. No problems.
There was actually very little left to do once the decals were on. I did the usual touch up painting where I got sloppy, did some dry brushing and then slid the launch rail into place. The upper and lower missile sections were then cemented together and pushed into place on the launch rail. Finally, the rear braces were attached and the klaxon was glued on. Since I don't do small figures well, the kit was done.
Back when this was first released, I did not have a chance to build it and during the second release in the mid-1980s (as part of Revell's grossly overpriced 'History Makers' series), it sold out so quickly that I missed it so I was quite pleased with the latest release. I should add that my kit was missing a couple of small parts, but an e-mail to Revell through their web site got the missing bits to me in about three weeks of my initial inquiry. I am quite surprised at how large the finished model turned out to be and will have a bit of difficulty finding a place to display it. It should not look too out of place with 1/35 kits though it is a larger scale. In the meantime, I have several of Revell's other missile kits and may well delve into one of those in the near future. If you have a liking for this sort of thing, I would recommend that you snag this kit while it is still available.
Thanks to me for picking this one up so you can travel back to the late '50s.
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