Whilst the ubiquitous UH-1 'Huey' may well have become the icon of the Vietnam War, it was the AH-1G Cobra or 'Snake' that came to be specifically associated with helicopter fire support. Packing an awesome punch and purpose-designed for the ground support role, the 'Cobra' was capable of bringing to bear both swift and lethal firepower.
First deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in August 1967, the primary mission of the Cobra was to provide fire support to troop carrying Huey's, using it's mix of weapons to provide suppressive fire on and around the LZ right up to the point of insertion. The Cobra would then loiter near the LZ to provide equally effective suppressive fire to the grunts on the ground. When paired-up with an OH-6 Loach as a 'Pink Team' the Cobra provided the sting in the reconnaissance role 'rolling in hot' on targets that were located by the smaller scout bird.
ASSEMBLY & PAINTING
As is my usual practice, I first made sure that the model components were clean and free of flash or other defects - no problems in this area. I then assembled the various sub-assemblies;
With no cockpit assembly or crew compartment to worry about, the model is very simple to put together when compared to the UH-1H. Once the engine assembly is dry, the two halves of the fuselage can be glued together straight away. In fact, apart from the skids, the cockpit canopy and the rotors, I completely assembled the model prior to painting.
The assembly instructions are quite straight-forward although you should take care when you glue in place the the rocket launcher mountings since they are designed to give the launch tubes that characteristic 'angle' in relation to the horizontal line of the fuselage. If you put them on back-to-front, you will have the launch tubes pointing down rather than up.
From the experience gained in assembling the UH-1H I knew that the engine assembly is not visible when the model is completed. This being the case I made no attempt to paint it and simply left it black.
The assembled fuselage was first undercoated with a black primer and then subject to my usual technique of sponging using Vallejo 'US Olive Drab' (889) as the base coat, followed by a lighter coat of Colour Party Paint 'Olive Drab' (CA13) for the first highlight. A final highlight, almost imperceptible, was then applied using a mix of the Colour Party 'Olive Drab' and yellow.
Having completed the painting of the fuselage, I then glued the pilots in place. Since I intended to apply an acrylic spray-matt varnish to the completed model I deliberately did not glue the cockpit canopy in place since spray varnish tends to tiurn the plastic a milky-white colour. The lines of the canopy have to be painted on to the plastic and require a steady hand!
I thought that at this stage it would be a good idea to apply the decals. Those which are applied to flat surfaces represent no real problem and are straight forward. However, the decals around the chin-turret and the 'jaws' beneath the canopy are very fiddly - I nearly gave up on these and was going to paint them on separately. Eventually I did manage to get them in place and 'fixed' them using a water based gloss varnish. One problem with decals is that they bubble-up when sprayed with an acrylic matt varnish and it is a good idea to coat these with a protective water-based varnish first, before spray varnishing them.
The skids for this model are not easy to fit since they come as two separate components, unlike the UH-1H. This means that you cannot glue the model to the skids and leave it 'sitting' while the glue dries. In spite of this, the skids have lugs which fit snugly into holes in the fuselage. You still have to be careful to make sure that the skids line up with each other or else the helicopter will sit lop-sided - I glued the skids in place and then left the model on the flight-stand while the glue dried.
Final assembly consisted of the tail and main rotor. Both of these are simply done with the tail rotor being attached with a pin and the main rotor being slotted into the hole in the top of the engine assembly just below the level of the engine cowling.
This model, just like the other Revell 1/100th kits already reviewed (UH-1H Gunship), comes without any crew figures and I decided to use the two pilots out of the helicopter crew pack available from Peter Pig. The pilots appear to have been designed for use with the UH-1H model rather than the Cobra and as a consequence it was necessary for me to carry out some modifications to the figures.
Since the figures are cast already seated in their armoured seats and with their control sticks, it was not necessary to use the seats or fiddly control components supplied with the model. However, due to the limitations of space in the extremely slim and shallow fuselage of the model, it was necessary to 'trim' the base of the armoured seats of both pilots - in effect, completely cutting them away. Also, the legs of the pilots had to be foreshortened in order to accommodate the reduced leg-space available in the Cobra cockpit.
I used a pair of cutters to trim away the excess metal and repeatedly checked the figures for 'fit' to make sure that they were right. The final result was, I think, worth it.
The model as supplied comes with a relatively conventional weapon mix. A chin-turret mounts the M28/M28A1 armament sub-system consisting of the M134 7.62-mm 'mini-gun' and the M129 40-mm grenade launcher. On the stub-wings are mounted 2.75-inch (70-mm) Folding Fin Aerial Rockets (FFARs) in both the M158 seven-tube (inboard hardpoint) and the M200 nineteen-tube rocket launchers (outboard hardpoint). There certainly appears to be some confusion here since I can find no reference to the Cobra having both the M158 and M200 rocket launchers mounted side-by-side. I know that the configurations for the AH-1G were 14, 28 and 76 rockets but there is no configuration that I have found for 52 rockets. Nonetheless, both the box art and the construction plans clearly depict each stub-wing as having one of each rocket launcher - anybody like to clarify this?
Certainly the weapon systems are a lot easier to assemble than those on the UH-1H Gunship - just remember to put the chin-turret in place before gluing the two halves of the fuselage together! I decided to assemble the weapons and glue the stub-wings in place prior to painting.
THE COMPLETED MODEL
Final touches involved painting and applying decals to the main and tail rotors. I also matt varnished the model prior to gluing the canopy in place.
When completed, the model looks very impressive and when placed alongside the UH-1H Gunship, it becomes quite clear just how sleek the Cobra is. Given that the Cobra presented a much reduced target profile as well as having a faster attack speed, it is understandable how much more well suited to the role of air-ground support the Cobra actually was.
With both of these models now in my collection it is possible to have helicopter gunship support for any period of the War. Although there is no difference in the number of attack dice used by these helicopters in Barrie Lovell's Incoming! rules there may be an argument for adjusting these as there was a marked difference in performance of the two aircraft, Barrie?
All figures are from my own personal collection, painted and photographed by Mike R © 2000