F*CKING IRENE!: Building Kitty Hawk’s 1/35 UH-60L “Super 64 – Venom”, Part 2.

As seems to be typical with Kitty Hawk kits, this came with a rendition of the two GE T-700 turbo-shaft engines. The T-700 is the workhorse of the United States military helicopter fleet being found in everything from the Blackhawk, to the Viper, Apache and others. As such, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see what I could do with the kit engines. And, as my vision for this project was for her to be displayed as she would have been early in the morning of 3 October 1993, an open engine compartment is a reasonable configuration as the crew could have been pre-flighting the bird to prepare for any potential mission of the day.

The engine is essentially two rather ill fitting halves with plugs that go on both ends for the compressor face or exhaust detail, and some plumbing. It fits securely into a very complicated engine nacelle assembly that requires a great deal of test fitting and patience to get aligned properly (this is not including the insane assembly for the transmissions, rotor hub and intakes that will be addressed later). When together, it’s a pretty impressive sub assembly straight out of the box. But, to do this right was going to take a great deal of plumbing to get anywhere close to satisfying an inspection on the judges’ table. So, I scoured my references and the internet for pictures of the number 1 engine in situ.

One of the better references was actually this video of a pre-flight inspection on a Blackhawk.

Pausing that at key points will allow you to see about any of the wiring and plumbing that you could want to add for whatever of realism you are wanting to build to.

Once I had a enough references and a plan in mind, I broke out my collection of lead wire, plastic rod, mini-drill set, and got to work. After several sessions at the bench I had something that I felt was a decent representation of the engine and plumbing.

I masked off the surrounding area and primed the engine and compartment with Mr. Finishing Surfacer 1500 black. I sprayed the engine with several shades of alclad including steel, dark aluminum, anodized aluminum, and white aluminum. Then, I sprayed the engine compartment with Gunze stainless steel.

Next it was time to pick out the wires and other details, beginning with Mig Silver applied with a fine brush and continuing on with a citadel brass type color and Vallejo Model Color’s light rubber, red, yellow, white and custom mixed combinations of the same with Tamiya’s green and blue. Then, I cleared with Alclad’s Aquagloss in preparation for some decals and weathering.

With the color mostly down it became apparent that some detail was lacking and that some placards on the engine would add a touch of needed realism. I dug out my sets of Aeroscale cockpit placards and tried to replicate a few of the more noticeable markings that exist on the engine and plumbing.

Now it was time for some light weathering including a simple dark enamel wash on the engine and compartment to add some depth and a tiny bit of grime. I opted for light weathering on the engine and compartment as these aircraft from the 160th SOAR were famously well maintained. In fact, in Durant’s book “In the Company of Heroes” he commented how his crew treated his aircraft like a hot rod, including putting armor all on the tires between missions. I put his book in the upper echelon of aviation related books. It is probably not as good to me as Robin Olds’ “Fighter Pilot” or Dan Hampton’s “Lords of the Sky”, but it is a good read.

In any event, after a light coat of Testor’s dullcote, the engine is complete and ready for installation when the fuselage catches up to it.

F*CKING IRENE!: Building Kitty Hawk’s 1/35 UH-60L “Super 64 – Venom”, Part 1.

Good luck boys, be careful.

All units IRENE, I say again IRENE. It’s time to get started on this long awaited project.

I’ve never built a Kitty Hawk kit, but I’ve heard lots of…things. Upon opening the substantial box, I am extremely impressed. I don’t feel a need to do sprue reviews, as others have done a far better job, but the detail is indeed very nice.

That said, I am trying to build Durant’s “Super-64” as it would have been on the morning of October 3, 1993. To do that as accurately as possible, my references indicate that there are some changes that will need to be made with the kit.

We will begin with some bullet points in the cockpit and crew areas.

  1. The most substantial accuracy issue is that, at least in Super 64, the crew chief seats are positioned with their backs to each other, behind the mini guns, and not with their backs to the pilots as is the only option in the kit. To correct this accurately will take a ceiling bracket that we have designed and had 3d printed. You could probably make the same with some scratch building skills.
  2. The ammo cans for the miniguns were 3000 round and probably positioned between the crew seats and the pilots seats. Ignore the kit directions on their locations. I am working on some confirmation of their positions and locations but it is clear that with the proper crew seat position the kits position of the ammo cans are incorrect.
  3. There were no internal fuel tanks as she was carrying 18 Rangers and needed the maximum passenger load.
  4. The fast rope bar would have been locked in the extended position with the rope attached and the running end coiled on the floor.
  5. There should be two survival bags mounted to the rear cabin wall. I am going to create this with apoxie sculpt. This too might be something we include in the aforementioned correction set if we find there is enough interest.
  6. The floor in the cargo area and around the pilots would have had 1/2″ thick rolled steel ballistic armor.

With those changes in mind, I started building the crew compartment. This is a very clever sub assembly that will be trapped in the fuselage halves once built up. The detail is superb, but there are a few problems.

First, note the way the instrument panel attaches into the combing along the top. These holes will have be filled and sanded along with the two circular holes along the top that are for parts not present in 64 (both parts F-34 should be deleted but not discarded).

Second, the instructions would have you install the rudder pedals (E-21) backwards. It’s difficult to explain how you can tell the difference, but the picture below should show what I believe to be the correct orientation based on several reference photographs of the same.

Also shown in the picture above is the re-use of parts F-34 under the instrument cowl and the location of the PE angle brackets. The instructions do very little to help install the PE brackets in a way that makes sense and that is as close as I could get them to my reference photographs (note: I’m not as confident about this orientation as I am the pedals).

Third, the ceiling, while a nicely rendered part is in desperate need of some up-detailing with wires and some plaisticard. The UH-60L ceiling could be covered with a type of soundproofing panels and Kitty Hawk has decided to have part of that covering off exposing the underlying structure. I initially tried to build this to some reference photographs I have of an aircraft with a similar configuration and I got about about halfway done with some plumbing when it was confirmed that Super 64 had all of the soundproofing panels in place. Back to the drawing board. Note also in this photograph that if you are moving the crew chief seats into their proper assault configuration as discussed above, there are holes to be filled (and holes that exist to apparently receive the bracket for the crew chief seats leading me to believe the bracket has been contemplated by Kitty Hawk but not included for some reason).

Getting to this point, I was eager to get some paint on the instrument panel and see what I could do with it. Even with that, I wanted to try out the kit instrument panel decal. By trial, and without reservation, I can say do not use it in its entirety. Instead, punch out individual dial faces, or other minor details, and use them individually. I did that and also augmented those with some aeroscale instrument decals, then painted the MFDs with transparent green, picked out a few dials and buttons per references, and gave it all some weathering to tie it together. I also added some lead wire in bundles behind the instrument panel to give a hint of the business behind there. After a coat of dullcote the lenses of the instruments were filled with Bondic, or Future for the MFDs. I’m pretty impressed with where this is headed so far.

Up next, I’m going to give the engine some detailing before I get back to the crew compartment.

PROLOGUE: Taking Kitty Hawk’s 1/35 MH-60L on a personal journey.

October 3, 1993, is a day that many will probably only remember because of the 2001 Ridley Scott film “Blackhawk Down” (based on Mark Bowden’s 1999 book of the same title). It’s something more important to me.

Super 64 in her final resting place.

In a very real way, though nothing as significant or as tragic as those that were actually involved in Mogadishu on that Sunday in 1993, the arc of this story had a profound impact on my life. I recall being 14 and following the story of the total loss of the aircraft and pilots of Super 61 in Mogadishu. I vividly recall reading of the loss of Super 64, the capture of Mike Durant, the loss of 64’s remaining crew, and being in awe of the subsequent heroics of two Delta operators who held off a whole city of hostiles until they gave their own lives, eventually being awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Durant’s tale was the proverbial straw that convinced the camel’s back that while I knew I was going to be a pilot, that instead of the Navy (thanks “Top Gun”), or the Air Force (despite “Iron Eagle”), being an Army pilot was my life’s calling. My father, a civilian fixed wing pilot and aerospace engineer, was not particularly pleased. I heard more than once that “those things aren’t supposed to fly” and helicopters just “beat the air into submission”. To him, while he never pushed me in any direction and was always supportive of my decisions, I should be going “mach 2 with my hair on fire.”

In 1999 after Bowden’s book was released, I was a 20 year old college student at Ft. Benning, Ga., going through Airborne training. I was checking all of the right boxes to earn my gold bars and then my slot in flight school. While there, I read Bowden’s book, reinvigorated in my career choice, and I knew that those coveted silver airborne wings were soon going to fall slightly on my uniform to be replaced with the wings of an Army Aviator.

In early 2002, having just watched my peers get their commissions and head off to lead men in far away deserts, I watched “Blackhawk Down”, broken hearted, having my life’s dreams dashed by the cold, final determination of a medical discharge. As much time as I had spent devouring all things helicopter, it took the better part of two decades for me to look at one again with any sort of awe or appreciation. I could only see what should have been and feel the hurt of losing control of my life’s direction.

In late 2019, as a 40 year old father and husband, supremely happy and content with the life that I have been blessed with, I have finally decided to revisit, and both put to bed and again appreciate with child like wonder, a part of my youth that had such a big impact on my life. This project is the result.

While I don’t have permission to use any names, I have reached out to, and surprisingly was able to enlist the help of, an individual who is very important to this story. I want to try to get the UH-60L “Super 64 – Venom” as correct as possible for the memories of all of those affected by that day almost 30 years ago. To that person, who will probably never see this, you have my most sincere gratitude for more than you can possibly understand.

FINISHED – Tamiya’s “White Box” 1/48 P-38F/G – First Thoughts, Part 4, The finale.

Before we get started, see part 1, part 2, and part 3 to get caught up.

It’s been exactly a month since I posted part 3 of the initial build review. The build was substantially complete then but over the intervening weeks, when life wasn’t getting in the way, time was spent painting and weathering.

As this is a build review of an as yet unreleased kit I won’t focus too much, if at all, on the techniques used to paint and weather the build. The question that must be asked, then, are what are the thoughts on the entire build now that it is complete.

This is a truly stunning kit on par, if not superior to, the best Tamiya has ever released. The parts were well molded, flash free, and the engineering is superb. Before this kit is released the Academy kit has been regarded as generally the best in the scale. I’ve built two of the Academy lightnings and while they weren’t as difficult as some other bloggers would lead you to believe, they have difficulties especially with the wing to boom joint. Tamiya has fixed that, and more. This build is trouble free with little or no filler required. In fact, I probably spent less than an hour on dealing with all seams, a chore that on previous Lightnings took multiple sittings to fill, sand, fill more, then re-scribe.

As good as it is, there is always room for improvement. I won’t discuss accuracy as I’m not a rivet counter, and the detail was close enough to my references to satisfy my needs.

  1. The cockpit. The cockpit is well detailed out of the box, but I would love to see Eduard release a Brassin cockpit set to step the game up a level. The only real complaint I have, typical with Tamiya kits, is that the seat-belts are decals. I would have liked to have seen some PE belts with the kit. I used some HGW fabric belts and is as per usual, this made a huge difference. The other critique of the cockpit is the extremely tricky way that the armored glass and gun-sight are connected to the windscreen and each other. This is one of the few times I’ve ever thought the Tamiya engineering was less than perfection. There really is not any way to help you out with this except to say to take a deep breath and go slowly.
  2. The guns. Tamiya made a head scratching decision to mold the barrels as smooth (likely correct for later versions of the -38) but then wants you to use decals to simulate the holes in the cooling jacket. I opted to use the Master Model brass barrels and cooling jacket. This upped the difficulty level considerably, but was worth the effort.
  3. Prop/Spinners. These build beautifully but are overly complicated. The prop is one piece with the spinner being four pieces plus a nylon bushing. This wasn’t really an issue as they fit together perfectly, but it seems overly complicated and wholly unnecessary.
  4. Turbo-Superchargers. Multiple options are included in the kit and I think they are as well done as the Eduard resin that I used in the previous Academy builds. That said, Tamiya decided to mold part of the skin of the lightning in with the superchargers themselves. I didn’t particularly like this as it made painting and weathering everything in a unified way more difficult. All things considered, this is not a big deal but is surprising given how well almost everything else is designed.
  5. Radiators. The fact that Tamiya wanted to rely on decals for the radiator faces felt like a bit like they gave up, even if you can’t see them at all. The construction of the radiators is an interesting solution that produced the only place on the kit where I had to use a bit of filler. No big deal at all but certainly a unique if imperfect approach.
  6. Wheels. I’ve never had a great deal of luck with getting wheel halves with tread assembled in a way that doesn’t end up affecting the look of the tread and the wheel itself. For this reason, I opted for Eduard wheels intended for the Academy kit. It just required a slight bit of drilling out the hubs to match the size of the Tamiya parts.
  7. Decals. Typical Tamiya and I avoided using them whenever I could. Tamiya included chrome decals to use for the oleos on the landing gear, the rear view mirror, and the polished areas on the interior of the nacelle. As a test I tried to use them on the landing gear and was horrified at the results. It was easier and provided a better result to just use my go-to Testor’s enamel chrome for the oleos and bare metal foil for the reflector ovals on the nacelles. The Kagero decals of “Nulli Secundus” were fantastic in all regards.
  8. Weight. Believe it or not Tamiya provided just enough weight in the box to allow the finished model to sit on its nose wheel, barely. If you slightly tilt the model it will rock back onto it’s tail. I would recommend putting just a bit more weight in the very tip of the nose in front of the gun assembly just to make it sit a bit more firmly.

There really isn’t much I can say about this build beyond the fact that it was the most fun I have ever had building a P-38. It’s a paradigm shift in what was once a subject avoided by some due to the rumored difficulty of the kits on the market. Even better is that I am certain given the parts breakdown that Tamiya plans to release the later versions of this iconic aircraft, and I can’t wait. Heaven help my wallet if they decide to do a 1/32 version (don’t make me beg, because I will).

I highly recommend this kit without reservation.

P-38G-13-LO “Nulli Secundus” of the 80th FS, 8th FG, as flown out of New Guinea, winter 1943.

You can see my build album with a smattering of reference photographs here.