|KIT:||Italeri 1/72 MH-53E Sea Dragon|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The newest military version of Sikorsky's H-53E/S80 series, the MH-53E Sea Dragon, is the Western world's largest helicopter. The MH-53E is used primarily for Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM), with a secondary mission of shipboard delivery. Additional mission capabilities include air-to-air refueling, hover in-flight refueling, search and rescue, and external cargo transport operations, in both land and seaborne environments. The MH-53E was derived from the CH-53E Super Stallion and is heavier and has a greater fuel capacity than its ancestor. The MH-53s can operate from carriers and other warships. Sea Dragon is capable of carrying up to 55 troops or a 16-ton payload 50 nautical miles or a 10-ton payload 500 nautical miles. The MH-53E is capable of towing a variety of mine-sweeping countermeasures systems, including the Mk 105 minesweeping sled, the ASQ-14 side-scan sonar, and the Mk 103 mechanical minesweeping system.
A total of 60 were procured for the US Navy and are distributed amongst three fleet squadrons; HC-4, HM-14 and HM-15. The latter two are combined USN and USN Reserve units. Training on the aircraft is performed with HMT-302. The aircraft has been updated with electronic and engine mods since first entering the fleet in the early 1990s.
This is a reboxing of what really is a very nice kit. There is engraved detailing and very well done rivets (since few helos are supersonic). Even the little bits around the engine are nicely molded (whatever those little round things are for). Late Note: I have been told that they are EAPS (Engine Air Particle Separators), and help filter sand, dust, rocks etc). A nicely done cockpit is provided with raised instrument panel detail. I believe that the collective is included in this one as I'm assuming that is what the little arm-rest looking gizmo is on the left of each seat. No cabin detail is provided, aside from a floor, despite being able to pose the entry door in a partially open condition.
The rear cargo doors can be posed open and into them you can install the sled bracing. The kit also includes the large sponsons that provide additional fuel without having to resort to external tanks. You have an option of including an air refueling probe should you wish to add this. The distinctive rear view mirrors so the crew can observe the sled are included as is a rescue hoist. The rotor hub is convincing enough in this scale for most though I'm sure that an aftermarket set will enhance this even more.
Most unusual for an Italeri kit is that each of the sprues was in a separate bag. This didn't prevent a couple of fragile parts from being broken, but it is appreciated. No nasty sink areas, flash or unwanted ejector pin marks on this one. In fact, the overall look of the parts is really superb.
Instructions are well done as we have come to expect from Italeri. Model Master and generic references are provided for colors. Markings are for two aircraft. One is the box art aircraft from HC-4 at Sigonella in 1995 when the aircraft were brand new. It is in overall FS 36118 Gunship Grey. The other is from the Japanese 31st Kokutai in White over Light Gull Grey. Decals are nicely printed and include the extensive walkway areas that are on these helos.
This is yet another very nice helicopter kit from the masters of the genre, Italeri. Probably the only option one could really wish for would be for folded blades. It is not a small kit so you'll need to make room on the shelves. Other than that, it will make into a very nice and impressive model. The new Dataview book on the MH-53E would be a great companion for this kit.
Thanks to and DLV Company for the review kit. You can find Italeri kits at your favorite hobby shop or on-line at www.testors.com
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