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Italeri's 1/72 UH-34D Sea Horse
by Mark Dice

 

I'm not much of a helicopter guy (which is odd, because I work on them now as an aircraft mechanic with NADEP) but I work with a guy who was a crew chief/gunner (remember the scene in Full Metal Jacket… "anyone that runs is a VC, anyone that stands still, is a well disciplined VC"…) on UH-34's in Vietnam in 1967. During many of our work breaks he'd tell "war stories" of his time in the USMC and combat in Vietnam. He flew many combat missions, was shot down at least once (had to walk out of the jungle with the grunts who rescued him) and wounded three times (each about a month apart), the last time severely (still has a bullet near his spine) enough to be sent home, all within a six month period… he was only in Vietnam for six months!! He retired from the USMC in the nineties, was a truck driver for a time, and currently is a contractor at NADEP with Raytheon. He also survived a bout with cancer in the mid nineties!

He once expressed an interest in getting and building a model of the aircraft he served on to display along with his many other trophies from his career in the USMC and would I help him locate a model for him to build. I said no problem and got him the kit. When I later asked him about his progress, he admitted he was not making progress on the model. I went and bought another kit and once I finished the Buccaneer model I was currently doing, I began building a UH-34 for him.

The kit is approximately 90 parts on three trees (two dark green and one clear) with a 4 x 4.5"decal sheet to build one of four possible versions (two French Navy, one German army, and one USMC). The parts are cleanly molded with little or no flash, recessed panel lines (some might be a little heavy for the scale) and some raised detail. There are some ejector pin marks and seam lines that will be needed to be cleaned up. The instructions are pretty clear but be sure to pay attention to which version you're building to insure that the correct nose half/engine exhaust is used and correct placement of antenna. The tail rotor blades are backwards but this is easily fixed by cutting and rotating 180 degrees.

The cockpit and cabin interior are basic and assemble and paint quickly. Part of the cockpit backside will be visible through the cabin door, so you may want to scratch build some bulkheads there and a ceiling for the cabin (I didn't). After painting the fuselage halves, I installed the cockpit and cabin side windows and masked with parafilm. Remember to drill out the necessary holes for antennas, steps, and landing gear.
The fuselage halves and cabin interior were assembled next. Once dry I carefully slid and glued the cockpit into place.

I then assembled the nose halves together with the exhaust and headlight panel. Some filler was needed here on the seam and around the headlight panel, then sanded and rescribed.

The nose was glued to the fuselage. Again take care in positioning, to reduce the amount of filling and sanding needed. Once dry the instrument panel was installed. Next the belly and main rotor panels were installed, filled, sanded, and rescribed. Tail stabilizer, landing gear struts, steps and antennas were installed next. The fuselage was washed, let dry, and all cabin/cockpit areas filled with tissue to prevent over spray. The cockpit windscreen panel was masked with parafilm. The fuselage, windscreen, wheels, and cabin door were painted FS 34097.

The main and "corrected" tail rotor blades were assembled per instructions, cleaned and painted flat black. The red and white stripes on the tail blade tips were hand painted. And set aside.The vented turtleback was primed white, painted yellow, and hand painted black tiger stripes (this was my friend's squadron markings HMM-361 Flying Tigers) and installed. Main/tail tires, M-60 machine gun were painted and installed.

I gloss coated the fuselage with future. Decaled with a combination of kit and scrapbox decals to match the reference images I found on the web for USMC UH-34's in Vietnam around 1967 (USMC/Vietnam Helicopter Association Web Page). The kit's USMC markings represent an aircraft in Vietnam, 1962. Once dry, I washed the panel lines and grilles with oils. Once dry, I flat coated entire aircraft. Once dry I removed all the parafilm and tissue masks and did final assembly (windscreen, cabin door, main/tail rotors, and pitot tube) and touchup painting as needed. The windscreen didn't have the best fit, so I filled the gaps with white glue.

All in all, this kit builds into a nice looking model, was a nice break for me from 1/48th and best of all, was a pretty quick build… only about two or three weekends were needed to complete it.