Collecting Forces for use with Vietnam Crossfire - UH-1H Gunship


Collecting Forces for Crossfire - Revell UH-1H Gunship
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UH-1H Box Art

In terms of scale, the Revell kit of the Bell UH-1H is ideally suited for use with the 15mm ground forces that I am collecting for Vietnam Crossfire. Not only that, but it also affords some well needed air support for the US troops.

In Barrie Lovell's Incoming! rules it is possible to have direct, on-table, helicopter support or to have helicopter gunships arrive as a result of an air support request. Either way, this model can be used to fulfill the role.

UH-1H Box Art

I purchased the model kit for 5.00 from Deansgate Models in Manchester and had to wait about a week for it to be delivered. From my experience this is not a kit that you are likely to find very easily but it is readily available to order. Another option is to purchase it directly from Peter Pig who advertise this model in their 'Men of Company B' range, although they price it at 6.00.

The box contains two plastic sprues of components, a decal sheet and instructions. Despite this being a small model, there are nonetheless quite a lot of parts and many of these are very small and 'fiddly' such as the pilot's controls. Despite the box art, which depicts the aircraft with both pilots and door-gunner, there are no crew figures supplied with the model. 

Bell UH-1H Sprue Bell UH-1H Sprue
The two Bell UH-1H Sprues (6" ruler for comparison)

CREW

I purchased a crew pack from Peter Pig and, since it was designed specifically with this model in mind, found it to serve my purposes admirably. The pack contains two pilots, two standing door-gunners, firing M60's, and also 4 seated infantrymen. Since I had no intention of this aircraft carrying any infantry I decided to put them aside to use as passengers on a UH-1H 'Slick'.

The pilots are cast already seated in armoured seats and with their control sticks. The consequence of this is that you can take a short cut in the construction process of the cockpit by not having to use the seats, or their structural supports, as well as the control sticks - all of which represent some of the smallest components in the kit. I only carried out a minimal amount of cleaning up on the pilots prior to gluing them in position. I would advise that you file their base's down a bit since when I came to put the model together I found that their helmets actually displaced the cockpit roof fractionally upwards - this resulted in the passenger compartment bulkheads not fitting flush with the passenger compartment floor. Nonetheless, the figures fit snugly and add considerably to the appearance of the model.

Door-Gunner with M60

The door gunners were mounted either side of the passenger compartment bulkhead at the rear of the compartment - I am sure their is a technical name for this area but unfortunately I do not know it - can anyone oblige? The door-gunners themselves stand with their heads just outside of the aircraft and I am reliably informed that this was the case in reality.

Both gunners are molded firing their M60's at targets which are below the aircraft. They wear chicken-plate armour and flight helmets. One of the gunners wears shades.

Door-Gunner with M60

WEAPONS

The instruction sheet suggests that there is a choice of weaponry; 

  • either a single M60 7.62-mm machine gun mounted in combination with a 7-round 2.75-inch rocket pod either side of the aircraft (not sure of the designation of this armament subsystem) - see Figure 1 below

  • or, the M16 armament subsystem (consisting of twin M60C 7.62mm machine guns in combination with a 7-round 2.75-inch rocket pod each side of the aircraft) - see Figure 2 below

There is however no provision on the model sprues for the single M60 configuration (the component is simply not there) and the only weapons supplied are the rocket pods and the twin-mounted M60's.

Weapons Configuration 1 Weapons Configuration 2
Figure 1 Figure 2

There are mounting lugs located so as to be able to mount the weapon systems in the positions shown in Figures 1 and 2. However, with the passenger compartment doors fixed in the open position, and the M-60 door gunner in position, it is not possible to mount the M16 armament subsystem in the position indicated and it is necessary to mount it on the forward position. I am, again, not sure how this fits in historically, but it is really a question of necessity in this case. Irrespective of the weapon system that is mounted on the aircraft, the Incoming! rules provide for a fixed number of fire dice for a gunship so your choices really are personal since the final choice is merely cosmetic.

View showing the forward mounted weapon system View showing the M16 armament subsystem, pilots and door-gunners
View showing the forward mounted weapon system

View showing the M16 armament subsystem, pilots and door-gunners

ASSEMBLY & PAINTING

As expected, the model is well cast and all the components are cleanly molded. Prior to assembly I undercoated the two sprues using a black primer spray. I then carefully cut away and glued together the major components as separate assemblies:

  • cockpit and flight console

  • passenger compartment

  • engine

  • weapon systems

Each of these was then painted in the appropriate colours. The passenger compartment surfaces were dry-brushed metallic and, when dry, I added a thin dark wash to pick-up on the textured metal surfaces. As soon as this was dry, the pilots were then glued into position.

The engine assembly was given a similar treatment, dry-brushed metallic and a wash applied to dirty' it up a bit although, when fully assembled, you can barely see any of this assembly.

The weapons systems are very fiddly and you need to take care during assembly since you are supplied with four weapon mounts, two per side, which fit into the lugs mentioned above. Since you will only be using two of these, one for the left and one for the right side of the aircraft, make sure you choose the correct ones. When I was assembling the model I simply cut two of these mounts off of the sprue, assembled the weapon system, and then found that I had two right-hand side assemblies. I had to disassemble one of these and reassemble it for mounting on the left of the aircraft!

I painted the two halves of the aircraft hull prior to assembling the final model. The major coat was applied using Vallejo 'US Olive Drab' (889). I use a make-up sponge to apply paint to large surfaces like the hull and by gently 'dabbing' the sponge over the surface you can create a smooth, almost air-brush like, finish. This technique also results in the automatic creation of deep shadows around recessed areas and the 'lifting' of relief on the surface of the model. Using the same technique, I then added a series of highlights. I used Colour Party Paint 'Olive Drab' (CA13) for the first highlight and then mixed in a little yellow with this for the final highlight.

At this stage, both the main and tail rotors, as well as the stubby, rear fuselage wings, were still not in place and these were also painted prior to assembly.

The completed model
The completed model

The weapons systems were painted in similar fashion, with final touches being added such as the rocket heads being painted brass and the machine guns being lightly dry-brushed bolt-gun metallic.

The model was now ready for final assembly.

The final assembly is reasonably straight-forward except for the problem that I have already mentioned regarding the pilots helmets fractionally displacing the roof of the passenger compartment. Having assembled all the major component assemblies I then added all the little bits'n'pieces. Door-gunners were put in place, followed by the weapons systems, skids and finally the rotor assemblies.

When it came to putting the windows in, I decided to only use a few of the pieces. The plastic windows supplied are very shiny and are glued onto the outside of the frames. I choose to put the cockpit windshield, chin bubbles and cockpit top pieces into place. All the others I left off. The cockpit top windows were painted green to represent the tint that they had. I do not like the look of the windows though, does anyone know a good technique for making them look weathered?

Lastly I added the decals. The decal sheet itself is rather spartan and only provides for 1st Air Cav insignia - what the hell though, that horse-head motif on a yellow field should give Charlie something to think about!

A group of hard pressed grunts, caught in a paddy and taking fire
A group of hard pressed grunts, caught in a paddy and taking fire
from the tree-line, receive some much needed aerial support

If you are looking to add Huey gunships, or 'Hogs', to your collection of 15mm Vietnam forces, then I can strongly recommend this particular kit. The bonus is that, if you leave off the weapons systems, the aircraft can easily be used as a troop-carrying 'slick' instead. Also, I am sure that with a little bit of converting it would be possible to mount other weapon systems such as the chin-mounted 40mm grenade launcher or the ARA 24-tube rocket launchers etc.

The treeline erupts as a salvo of 2.75" rockets impact on Charlie's position

The tree-line erupts as a salvo of 2.75" rockets impact on Charlie's position

The model is relatively inexpensive, easily assembled, and looks very impressive. Probably the only draw-back is that it is very delicate - I damaged a couple of the smaller components whilst photographing the model.

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All figures are from my own personal collection, painted and photographed by Mike R 2000


 

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