Two Whiskeys and a Tango* please

Building the MRC / Academy 1/35 scale Super Cobra family

The Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter family has been a proven weapon in nearly 50 years of operation. During this time many advances have been applied to the basic design, leading to the current AH-1 Super Cobra family. The AH-1 Super Cobra is a twin-engine attack helicopter based on the US Army’s AH-1 Cobra, with versions including the AH-1J Sea Cobra, the AH-1T Improved Sea Cobra, and the AH-1W Super Cobra.

The AH-1 Cobra was originally developed in the mid-1960s as an interim gunship for use by the U.S. Army in Vietnam. To accelerate development of the helicopter, the Cobra shared the transmission, rotor system and the engine of the Bell UH-1 “Huey” and was given the designation AH-1G. The U.S. Marine Corps was very interested in the AH-1G, but preferred a twin-engine version for improved safety in over-water operations and awarded Bell a contract for twin-engine AH-1J Sea Cobras in May 1968. As well as the dual engines, the AH-1J also received a more powerful gun turret with the three barrel 20 mm XM197 cannon.

In the 1970s the Marine Corps requested greater load carrying capability in high temperatures for the Cobra. Bell used systems from its Model 309 to develop the AH-1T, which had a lengthened tailboom and fuselage, upgraded transmission and engines, full TOW missile capability and improved targeting system and other sensors. An advanced version, known as the AH-1T+ with yet more powerful engines and advanced avionics was proposed to Iran in the late 1970s, but the overthrow of the Shah of Iran resulted in the sale being cancelled.

In the early 1980s, the U.S. Marine Corps wanted a navelized version of the U.S. Army’s AH-64 Apache helicopter, however funding was denied by Congress. Instead the Marines requested a more powerful version of the AH-1T, with other changes including modified fire control systems to carry and fire AIM-9 Sidewinder and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Bell used the cancelled AH-1T+ project as the basis for the new aircraft, which received the AH-1W designation and was in operation by 1986. A further update to the AH-1W was received in 1996 with the introduction of the AN/AWS-1(V)1 Night Targeting System (NTS).

In this blog I intend to build each of the three Super Cobra kits available in the MRC / Academy 1/35 scale range, namely:

  • AH-1T+
  • AH-1W
  • AH-1W NTS Update

I’ll be building these in the order above, trying to improve the quality of each build as I go. I’ll be using various AM bits and pieces for each, and trying to present them in interesting ways as follows…

The AH-1T+ will receive the Verlinden cockpit update, RB Model 20mm cannon barrels and Eduard external etch set. I’ll be using Airscale 1/32 early allied jet instrument and panel decals to add some details to the cockpit instruments. As the AH-1T+ was a sales prototype for the AH-1W, I’m planning on presenting as if it were on ‘sales’ display at an air show, i.e. very clean with the canopy open but other access covers closed, weapons on stands beside the aircraft, rotors tied, engine covers and RBF tags off, etc.

The AH-1W will be also built up with the Verlinden cockpit update, RB Model 20mm cannon barrels and Eduard external etch set and again I’ll be using the Airscale 1/32 early allied jet instrument and panel decals where necessary. I’ll be depicting this in the brown and sand colours used in the first Gulf War (1990) and set down on a rough landing pitch (basically dirt, sand and stones). The rotors will be tied and appropriate RBF tags, engine covers, etc. added, though the canopy and other panels will be closed. A full payload of stores will be added which will receive a Fireball Modelworks “Modern US Helicopter Missile Markings” decal set.

The AH-1W NTS Update will get the Cobra Company NTS upgrade (cockpit, etc.), as well as the RB Model 20mm cannon barrels, Eduard external etch set and Airscale instrument and panel decals. The model will be finished in grey with one of the snakehead decals and (hopefully) will feature some panels opened up with additional details added (i.e. avionics, engine details, etc.). As this is likely to be the more involved build I’m leaving it to last, though the order of the builds is the order the aircraft came into service.

*For non-UK residents, Tango is a brand of soft drink which tries to portray itself as edgy…