by: Jeffrey Jasmine [ ]
Originally published on:
Background It has long been assumed that stealth technology for helicopters exists and there have been prototypes and model kits of those prototypes around for several years. However, it has only been fairly recently that rumblings of such aircraft actually being operated by US Forces have surfaced. It wasn't until the aftermath of the May 2, 2011 raid by US Special Forces that killed Osama Bin Laden that we actually saw photographic evidence of the existence of stealth helicopters. While the pictures that were splashed all over the international media showed only partial remains of the tail section of a destroyed aircraft, the photos and the press reports of the raid did seem to confirm that these aircraft participated in the raid. Ugo Crisponi, a graphic artist for AviationGraphic.com used these photos as well as other research to produce an image of the helicopter that seems to be a stealthy version of the UH-60 Blackhawk. A comparison of Crisponi's illustration and the box art on the Dragon kit seems to indicate that the kit was indeed based on the illustration.
Dragon includes the term "Operation Geronimo" in the title of the kit, however the actual mission name of the raid was Operation Neptune Spear. According to released accounts of the action, "Geronimo" was the code name assigned to the mission's primary target, Osama Bin Laden. The raid was reported to have been carried out by US Navy Seals, Delta Force and CIA operatives as well as Army Rangers in a support role. The aircraft and aircrews used likely belonged to the US Army's 160th Special Operations Air Regiment, the Night Stalkers. It is reported that one of the "Stealth Hawks" experienced mechanical problems while trying to land. The aircraft made an emergency landing inside the compound and was later destroyed by the assault team before they evacuated the compound. While the majority of the aircraft was completely destroyed, a piece of the tail section was blown over the wall and landed outside the compound.
The Kit The Dragon kit is labeled as a "Twin Pack" and includes parts to construct two complete aircraft. This worked well for my review, as I was able to construct one without paint to get a feel for how it went together. Parts are on two large sprues with the tinted windows on two smaller sprues of their own. The kit also includes photo etch vent covers. Since the kit is in 1/144 scale and because there is very limited specific information about the aircraft available, the kit is not highly detailed. The box art does show some detail at the union of the main rotor blades to the hub, that is not actually included in the kit. Despite the lack of detail, the parts are crisply moulded and for the most part free of flash. The kit instructions were straight forward and fairly easy to follow.
Ejector pin marks are located in easy to hide places but there are two (one on each side of the fuselage) that do interfere somewhat with the fit of the side windows. A little work with some sand paper cured this and the fit of the windows is actually very good. The fuselage halves join cleanly and the gap in them is easily managed with liquid cement, eliminating the need for extensive filling and sanding. The kit allows the option to build the landing gear in the "flight" or "taxi" position. I chose the taxi position and found that the fit of the landing gear doors in this position was not exact and it required a bit of fiddling to get them glued in the proper position. Looking at the parts, I think the fit might be better in the "flight" position.
The parts of the engine cowl right below the main rotor blades don't fit together precisely and once assembled, the fit of the cowl to the fuselage is not great, leaving a gap the would require extensive clamping or some filling and sanding. The kit claims that both rotors can be "rotated to different positions". This is true with the tail rotor to a degree; it could definitely be rotated but the fit was so loose that I had to cement it to keep it attached to the model. The main rotor was just the opposite, the fit is very tight. This eliminates the need to glue it in place but it also prevents the blades from being rotated once they are attached. I did not include the photo etch parts on this aircraft and will have to see how they fit when I build the second one.
Summary Overall, this kit was easy to assemble. I assembled one complete aircraft minus paint and decals in about two hours. Even with the lack of great detail and the poor fit of some parts, when finished, it is still a nice looking kit. I can't wait to assemble the other one and see how it looks painted and decaled.