Minicraft 1/144 AC-130A 'Spectre'
|$35.99 MSRP ($29.60 from GreatModels)
|Scott Van Aken
|Nice, but was expecting a bit more.
In 1967, JC-130A USAF 54-1626 was selected for conversion into the prototype AC-130A gunship. The modifications were done that year at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, by the Aeronautical Systems Division. A direct view night vision telescope was installed in the forward door, an early forward looking infrared (FLIR) in the forward part of the left wheel well, and Gatling guns fixed mounted facing down and aft along the left side. The analog fire control computer prototype was handcrafted by RAF Wing Commander Tom Pinkerton at the USAF Avionics Laboratory. Flight testing of the prototype was subsequently performed primarily at Eglin Air Force Base, followed by further testing and modifications. By September 1967, the aircraft was certified ready for combat testing and was flown to Nha Trang Air Base, South Vietnam for a 90 day test program. The AC-130 was later supplemented by the AC-119 Shadow Gunship III, which later proved underpowered.
Seven more aircraft were converted to the "Plain Jane" configuration like the AC-130 prototype in 1968, and one aircraft received the "Surprise Package" equipment the next year. In 1970, an additional 10 AC-130As were acquired under the "Pave Pronto" project. Conversion of C-130Es into AC-130Es for the "PAVE Spectre" project followed.
Regardless of their project names, the aircraft were more commonly referred to by the Squadron's call sign: Spectre.
I'd always wanted to see what a Minicraft 1/144 C-130 kit was like. Since I'm not on the 'send kits to Scott' list at Minicraft, and since GreatModels seems to have difficulty keeping them in stock, it has been a long wait. Finally, an AC-130 showed up and I ordered it.
I've built Minicraft kits before and so was pretty confident that they'd done a fairly good job with it. First think I did was to search for the 3 bladed props. Not there. Instructions show them, but there are 4 bladed ones in the kit. An e-mail has been sent to Minicraft and they have come through in the past so no reason to expect anything different. I was also hoping for an early 'Roman nose' 130, but though the camo scheme shows one, none is in the box. Not a problem as few planes had them, but it would have been nice.
The parts are well molded with no discernable molding glitches. There are bits in the kit that won't be used and one will also have to cut open a number of holes in the fuselage to install the backing plates for the guns. These are recessed and just don't look good as decals, though some guns are provided as decals. There is no cockpit detail and though it has a full cabin, only a floor has any detailing in it. AC-130s often fly with the lower ramp down to help evacuate gun gasses so one has to make a decision on this. The kit provides both a short and later longer 'beaver tail' and there are wind deflectors for just in front of the guns and doors.
Minicraft would have you fill in both wing tank placement holes. Early C-130s carried tanks outboard of the engines and while AC-130s didn't fly missions with the tanks, they were used. The pylons were always in place as that is where the ECM pods were carried. These pylons and pods are not included with the kit, but are as much a part of the AC-130 as the guns. An omission on Minicraft's part. The forward engine cowlings are a bit odd in shape, being much more square than the usual rounded intakes.With the thousands of Hercules flying in the world, this is a major goof as I'm sure there are Hercs in Italy where this kit was developed. One could probably get them closer to the right shape with epoxy filler and sanding, but shouldn't have to. The kit will need 8gms of weight to keep it on its nose.
Instructions are pretty good with nicely done illustrations for the construction steps. Color information aside from the exterior is generic and the outside is FS595 reference. The decals are very nicely done and printed by Cartograf. You have three options. One is in overall SEA camo with QB tail codes, while the other two are your usual ones with most of the underside and sides in black with FT tail codes and nose art. None of the units are identified, but FT was the 16SOS/8TFW, while OB appears to have been the 40 TAS/317 TAW. This latter code is not bogus as it appears it was not changed when the plane was modified and there is at least one photo to of this plane as an AC-130A, so marked and carrying outer wing tanks in the book reference.
Overall, it looks as if it could be made into a very nice representation of an AC-130A with a bit of work on the forward engine nacelles and hunting down some jammer pods for the outer wing pylons. I know that these kits sell well as I've had difficulty locating them from time to time, so Minicraft is obviously doing well with them.
Gunships, Specialty Press, 2009
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