Kitty Hawk 1/35 AH-6J/MH-6J 'Little Bird'
|KIT #:||KH 50003|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The MD Helicopters MH-6 Little Bird (nicknamed the Killer Egg), and its attack variant AH-6, are light helicopters used for special operations in the United States Army. Originally based on a modified OH-6A, it was later based on the MD 500E, with a single five-bladed main rotor. The newest version, the MH-6M, is based on the MD 530F and has a single, six-bladed main rotor and four-bladed tail rotor.
The OH-6 was started in 1960, when the U.S. Army issued Technical Specification 153 for a Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) that could perform personnel transport, escort and attack missions, casualty evacuation, and observation. Twelve companies took part in the competition and Hughes Tool Company's Aircraft Division submitted the Model 369. Two designs, those submitted by Fairchild-Hiller and Bell, were selected as finalists by the Army-Navy design competition board, but the Army later included the helicopter from Hughes as well.
The first Model 369 prototype flew on 27 February 1963. Originally designated the YHO-6A under the army's designation system, the aircraft was redesignated the YOH-6A under the Department of Defense's new joint system in 1962. Five prototypes were built, each fitted with a 252 shp (188 kW) Allison T63-A-5A engine, and delivered to the U.S. Army at Fort Rucker, Alabama to compete against the other 10 prototype aircraft submitted by Bell and Fairchild-Hiller. In the end, Hughes won the competition and the Army awarded a contract for production in May 1965. The initial order was for 714 aircraft, but that was later increased to 1,300 with an option to buy another 114. Seventy helicopters were built in the first month.
This agile, unarmed helicopter is outfitted with outboard "benches" designed to ferry up to three commandos on each side. There is also a gunship variant, the AH-6. Some are painted black for nighttime operations, this small aircraft can conduct rapid insertions and extractions of special operations forces into areas its larger brother, the MH-60 Black Hawk, cannot.
For information on the AH-6 variant, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_AH-6
The first thing one notices about this kit is that is is in 1/35 scale. Now one may wonder why that is the case, as I know I did. But think about it. Many small military helicopters have been released in this scale as they fit into armor modeling as much if not more than strict aircraft modeling. They are small enough to include in military dioramas and I think that is the target audience for these. The difference in the two scales is small enough that most modelers will not find the slightly smaller size of 1/35 to be a distraction.
One thing for sure about Kitty Hawk is they add a ton of detail to their kits. This one is no exception and you have not only a superbly detailed interior (pretty well needed in this scale), but you also get a full engine along with the ability to display the engine access doors open. You also get separate main cockpit doors and the abbreviated cabin doors carried by the attack version. These doors are shown closed in the instructions, but it looks very much like you can also display them open.
Photo etch is included for some small areas of the build, the main items being the ammunition belts that go to the guns. There are also seat harness pieces, vent covers, and a few other small bits. Not all the p.e. is used from what I can see. This brings to mind the way the kit is designed. It is pretty obvious from the parts layout that you can expect other variants of the H-6. Having six main rotor blades indicates that later versions are planned and I'd hope an OH-6A as well. We shall see.
For weapons there are three miniguns and when building this version, there are a number of optional parts to be installed including the mounting bar and ammo bins. There are what appear to be braces on the side of the upper fuselage to allow special ops troops to rappel. When building this version, you would of course, not include the gun package. In addition to the miniguns, the instructions show rocket pods and Hellfire missiles.
Instructions are well done and provide clues as to which version gets which parts. There are also a number of bits marked 'optional', but no indication as to which scheme gets them. To me, this is something Kitty Hawk needs to work on. What it does mean is that the modeler is going to have to either use photos or additional research to see which are appropriate. Markings are for four aircraft. Three AH-6Js and one MH-6J. Three planes are in markings for a Somalia operation and one is a regular 160 SOAR plane. The markings are low viz and somewhat difficult to see on the sheet. I should also mention that nowhere in the instructions or on the box did I see any painting information. This is a major oversight. I assume the aircraft are all in overall helo drab with the interior in dark gull grey, but you'll need photo references for proper painting.
Modelers who like the Loach will be very pleased with this one. The details look like KH got everything right and the kit provides a good basis for other variants. It should also appeal to those who like to include helos in their dioramas. Now Kitty Hawk needs to work on their instructions.
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