In 1992 Italeri released a 1/72 scale kit of the AH-6A Night Fox, this was the first true 1/72nd scale kit of any OH-6/Hughes 500/MD-500.
I bought this kit with the intention of turning it into a Vietnam era OH-6A.
However, digging a bit deeper into the subject I noticed that changing a later style OH-6/AH-6 (Model 500MD) into an early type OH-6A (Model 369) requires a lot of changes.
A year later Italeri released an OH-6A variant of this kit. This variant covers a lot of the differences but some relevant changes still have to be made: the sizes of the rear doors and of the rear roof windows are wrong for an OH-6A and the interior of Vietnam era OH-6's had all excess weight removed, so no canvas covers over the back of the instrument panel or the hinges of the cyclic sticks, no padding on the rear bulkhead, etc.
It is certainly possible to turn the kit into a proper OH-6A, but I decided to save the kit for later.
Recently I looked into doing a Japanese Army (JGSDF) helicopter and checked the AH-6 kit again: it comes with decent decals for a 1990 JGSDF OH-6D, although on my set the roundels are mis-aligned.
Decals are for aircraft nr.31186 (C/N 6492) which was part of the 1st Anti-Tank Helicopter Unit, based at Obihiro Army Camp, Hokkaido.
Nr.31186 was one of two OH-6D attached to the HQ Flight of 1st ATH, where it was used as an unarmed liason/observer aircraft between March 1986 and May 2009. In May 2009 it was replaced by a Kawasaki OH-1 and put into storage.
Japanese OH-6D were license-built by Kawasaki and served with JGSDF for 40 years, from 1979 to 2019.
|OH-6 (Model 500) dimensions||actual||1/72|
|tail rotor diameter||4.6||140.2||19.5||17.5|
|length (nose to tip of tail)||23.2||707.1||98.2|
|max fuselage width||4.6||140.2||19.5||18.5|
|typical ground clearance||1.3||40.5||5.6|
|width over skids (on ground)||6.1||187.0||26.0|
|off-vertical angle skid legs (on ground)||39°|
So the model is slightly too small.
Construction started with filling some sink marks on the forward bulkhead and on the legs of the skids.
Turning the AH-6A kit into a Japanese OH-6D is a matter of adding and changing some details.
I do like to add and change some details in the kit anyway.
Planned improvements to the kit:
Changes required for the OH-6D type:
I started by opening up the ventilation opening in the center of the clear nose section using a 1.5mm drill bit. The outer edge of the hole was rounded off using the tip of a 2.3mm ball-shaped cutter head.
Using a cylindrical cutter head I cut a square-edged hole in a part of round sprue with a diameter of 2mm to represent the ducting and the shutter behind the ventilation opening.
Next step was to create a reflector for the landing light, using another bit of round 2mm diameter sprue, I sanded a nice curved dome at one end, cut the dome off and drilled a shallow 1.8mm diameter hole in its flat side. I painted the shallow hole silver and buffed it using a Q-tip with some SNJ aluminum powder.
Then I scraped the edges of the reflector clean, carefully lined the reflector up with the circular lens indicated on the glass, applied some Revell 'Contacta Professional' glue to the edges and let the glue cure for several hours.
The kit comes with a fairly well detailed cabin interior, but not all of the details provided are accurate.
The instructions tell you to fit the gearbox cover (which is molded on to the rear bulkhead) to the top of the forward bulkhead. If you do so then the forward bulkhead will lean back too much, its angle should match that of the pillar between the doors it should line up with the front door sills of the rear doors.
Using some sprue tabs, I added a 1.5mm extension to the gearbox cover to get the angle right and also added wedges (0.5mm high at the rear, tapering to 0.0mm) below the side edges of the forward bulkhead.
The top of the floor should line up seamlessly with the door sills.
The center console is missing from the kit, this results in the main instrument panel sitting too low.
The forward edge of the main instrument panel should line up with the edge of the floor.
There should also be a small instrument panel on top of the main collective housing (part 7B).
The mount (part 10A) for the cyclic sticks should be deleted: it is too large and too far forward, the sticks should be mounted right at the base of the seats on a pair of horizontal rods protruding from the center console (the sticks do not touch the floor), see this picture.
The rudder pedals should have a cylindrical curve instead of the flat ones in the kit, the posts for the pedals should be curved and the horizontal tube between the pedals should continue between the sets of pedals.
The heel boards should extend beyond the edge of the floor and have a slightly upwards tilt.
The main instrument panel in the kit comes with raised details, the instruments are represented by raised discs. I wanted to recreate the reflective lenses on a flat dark gray panel so I decided to drill out the instruments and fit 'glass' behind.
First I used a JLC saw to separate the front of the panel, then I used 0.7mm and 0.8mm drill bits to drill out the instruments. The actual panel has a 'brow ridge' above each instrument, I replicated these by drilling the holes just below the center of the raised discs.
JGSDF OH-6Ds usually had a canvas cover over the back of the instrument panel which was attached with velcro
Rear seats are missing. On OH-6A these are simple folding canvas seats with N-shaped legs, fitted to the floor reinforcement strip in the center of the rear door: door spans 7 of these strips.
Front edge of seats is at height of lower edge of door window. The OH-6D has similar rear seats (light gray canvas over a satin black frame) but these are usually fitted with medium green colored seat cushions.
The legs of the skids are fitted with shock absorbers (similar to 'gas struts' in a car).
The shock absorbers are mounted inside the fuselage perpendicular to the legs, this makes that the legs appear to get slightly shorter when the load increases.
The skids are fitted with 6 pads that touch the ground on flat surfaces.
The tail strut is actually an uncapped hollow tube, so the tip of the kit item should be drilled out.
JGSDF helicopters are incredibly well maintained and tend to look like new even after decades of service, so I do not plan to add any wear or weathering marks to this model.
Upon delivery the entire OH-6D cabin interior was painted Dark Gull Gray, some time later the cockpit section was painted satin black with the rear section still finished in Dark Gull Gray.
|Paints (to be) used|
|fuselage, overall||FS.30117||Pactra Acrylic A23 Flat Light Earth|
|fuselage, overall||FS.34092||Pactra Acrylic A31 Flat Dark Green|
|fuselage, overall||FS.37038||Pactra Acrylic A46 Flat Black|
|cockpit interior||FS.26321||Pactra Acrylic A38 Dark Gull Gray|
|landing light||--||Humbrol Authentic HB-14 Airframe Silver|
|dashboard shroud, 'rubber' parts||FS.27038||Humbrol 85 Satin Black|
|console, controls, cockpit floor||--||Humbrol 32 Matt Dark Gray|