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AC-130A Gunship Italeri 1/48th Scale 

History

Briefly, following the success of the AC-47s the USAF was looking for something with more endurance and payload abilities. This resulted in Project Gunship II which added sensors and a fire control systems to a test C-130 armed with four 7.62 miniguns and four 20mm Vulcans. 

This was deemed successful and resulted in modification of seven more airframes to this standard and since then the process has been one of upgrading the systems and sensors and up gunning to the current AC-130U standard. 

I said it was going to be brief :-)

Click on the pictures for a bigger view

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The Kit

I must point out that I have been making this on and off about the last 14 years so I really can’t remember what it looked like in the box. Except it’s big. Really BIG. The final kit has a wingspan of over 80cm and it’s about 60cm long. 

It’s not exactly state of the art, raised panel lines, simplified details, some fit issues but I don’t think you’ll be seeing a Tamigawa kit of this a/c any time soon so I can live with it. It’s moulded in black plastic and represents an AC-130As at around 1970, when they were armed with two 7.62 miniguns, two 20mm Vulcans and two 40mm Bofors and includes a flare dispenser that was carried on the rear ramp. Underwing there are four ALQ-87 ECM pods (in two pairs) and two fuel tanks (though I understand these were rarely carried “in country” and I have since been informed that the -A didn’t have the inboard pylons anyway). 

The props are the three bladed type appropriate to the -A but I’m told they have shape issues and a correction set is available from OZ mods (http://www.users.bigpond.net.au/ozmodsscales/Resin.html). 

There are decals provided for three aircraft, a Vietnam era aircraft 60490 “Thor” in the three colour camo over black, a AFRES a/c 41630 in overall dark grey (Gunship Grey perhaps :-) and 56570 in overall black. The decals are a bit thick and didn’t react much to the Super Sol I’ve been using for years, but then I didn’t use many of them so this wasn’t a big issue.

Construction

As I said, I’ve been doing this on and off for a long time so you’ll have to forgive me if I gloss over the bits I can’t remember. 

Construction was initially much as the instructions but deviated more and more as time went on. The main reason for this was that I couldn’t stand the big empty space in the back of this thing, especially as there should be a large systems operator booth filling most of it, so armed with a few drawings from my references I built one. But I figured it was so big I should really do it with the door open so you could see the consoles. So I built those too, and then realised that you weren’t going to be able to see them as it was dark in there. 

03booth.jpg (70152 bytes) 18interior rear.jpg (47944 bytes)

So I thought I would install some LEDs for a bit of illumination which involved running some wiring. I figured that the best place to provide power was from the front ground power point and I had in mind I could make a diorama using a GPU cart to provide the power. So the front end of the a/c was built, cockpit detailed using info from various sources, scratch built five seats, throttle levers, side consoles etc, with the wiring in place with enough length to reach down the fuselage. (The connectors are small PCB plug and socket jobs I bought from Maplin with the LEDs). While I was buying these I found some really small red and green ceramic LEDs (2mm), so we were straight into wingtip lights, and when I found a self flashing unit as well (just add power) I had to put a beacon on the tail too. 

Anyway, the cockpit was done, front fuselage halves with additional wiring together and a booth more or less finished. 

02cockpit.jpg (60136 bytes)

Then turning to the rest of the kit I did the following: Built new barrels for the miniguns and Vulcans from plastic rod and small circles of plastic card which were eventually fitted to the guns through the open windows after the rest of the kit was finished and painted. I added some bits to the guns and mounts as well based on photos and drawings. Also made a rack for the 40mm ammo and filled many of the slots with “40mm Clips” ( actually little strips of bottles from some HO scale accessory set).  

19vulcans and LLTV.jpg (54064 bytes)

Using info from photographs taken at various airshows I built up some structure in the rear cargo bay roof using various plastic strips, I-beam/angle stuff and rods and wires to represent the plumbing. Also in the same area I added similar structural details to the sides of the aircraft, again based on pictures from various airshows. Every a/c I looked at was different with regard to what was strapped where, different boxes, containers, structure etc so I wouldn’t pretend my bits accurately represent any particular a/c, but it certainly looks a lot busier. 

04roof.jpg (80273 bytes) 06roof.jpg (65480 bytes)

One of my reference pointed out that the engine nacelles on the -A models extended further back under the wing than the kits did, these wings being more accurately -E apparently. The extensions were built up using multiple layers of my favourite modelling filler (the Humbrol blue stuff) and laboriously sanded to shape. 

While on this point, I intended to scratch build the anti Strella shields fitted about 1972 but I bottled out, settling for the support structure round each nacelle. Well, they weren’t fitted all the time, weight and drag issues.  Still on the wings, the fuel vent pipes at the wingtips were removed, again not a -A feature. While I was at it I removed the ailerons so I could position them slightly off. I did the elevators and rudder at the same time but couldn’t face the flaps. While in the tail area the “beaver tail” was cut back (again the kit represents an E model), filled and sanded to shape. Also in the wing area I opened one of the nacelles and installed an engine from “Engines and Things”, a bit simplistic but with some bits of plastic, some solder plumbing and a bit of paint it looks the part (especially as you can’t see much of it). 

07engine.jpg (63993 bytes) 08engine.jpg (41309 bytes)

I detailed the flare launcher with lots of bits of plastic card, made some gas bottles and their mounts, added more plumbing, replaced the mounting structure with a scratchbuilt item and used plastic card to make the armour for it. I added some wiring and a control box to the Xenon lamp in the rear fuselage and started to add some detail to the Low Light TV kit in the front fuselage door but then gave up on the kit part and built it from scratch. 

09flare.jpg (64951 bytes) 10flare.jpg (79396 bytes)

About this time it seemed a good idea to put it all together, so the various bits that make up the rest of the fuselage, inside and out, were persuaded to fit together and join up to the front fuselage section while trying to make sure the wire runs were OK and there was a way to feed the other wires into the fuselage. I had already put my little circuit board into the far end of the booth figuring that wires going into this would look sensible anyway so it was just a matter of cutting holes where the wings and tail joined the fuselage and making some access internally. The fit of the two fuselage sections was a little less than perfect, if I hadn’t been doing the wiring I would probably have built the fuselage differently, maybe joining the front and back sections to each other first before putting the two halves together. But however you do it the fitting of the internal bits is a bit messy. 

15suu42.jpg (33116 bytes)

But it went together and filler hid the worst of the join issues (which fortunately were underneath anyway). Then the wings were fitted, and the worst part of the whole thing followed. Getting the connectors from the wings and the tail into the fuselage wasn’t too bad, making the connection was a B*&%*£*$D. But for the sake of brevity we’ll gloss over that episode.... Eventually all together though, plugged a battery in through the external GPU and lights all working! Hurrah! 

13light.jpg (33009 bytes) 14light.jpg (33686 bytes)

But the LEDs in the booth cast a feeble glow and quite frankly make no difference whatsoever to visibility of the interior! How I laughed! So if you ever come to look at this model, please bring a torch...... 

I’ve had the SuperScale sheet for AC-47 and AC-130 Gunships for years so there was no problem with choosing a scheme (54623 Ghost Rider), just the practicalities of it. I made a set of masks for the different upper surface colours from the TO 1-1-4 and airbrushed it using a mixture of Humbrol (Black, Greens 34079 and 34102) and Xtracolor (Tan 30219) paints. 

As the kit was black plastic to start with I thought I would try “pre-shading” for the first time. I need more practice but I’m fairly happy with it. The decals were applied (a mixture of Superscale and the kit decals ) and I used two lots of Xtradecal thin black lines doing the walkways on the upper wings, fuselage and tail. In fact, if you look very closely, some of them are actually dark blue, as I ran out of black! But no-one at the IPMS club night spotted that so I guess you have to know what to look for. I would have liked more stencilling but the only sheet I know of is a Daco sheet for Belgian C-130s and I didn’t think that would be relevant. 

Then the upper surfaces were matted with Xtracolor varnish. The black was a worry, some of the references say it’s glossy, most of the pictures looked semi-glossy. So I went with that (again Xtracolor varnish).

17left nose.jpg (39713 bytes)

The undercarriage (wheels flatted by heating them with a candle and pressing them on the table, pictures show quite a bulge on the main tyres), u/c doors (nose doors modified as per references, this a/c being an early one with different nose u/c door configuration to the kit supplied ones) flare launcher, gun barrels, 40mm assy, LLTV assy, Xenon light, aerials, props etc etc etc were all fitted (and moving this thing becomes really difficult!)

11LLTV.JPG (47120 bytes) 12LLTV.jpg (71140 bytes)

Under the wing I wanted something different to the kit supplied parts so I found a couple of spare F-4 wing tanks which were more or less the right size and, using some plastic tube for the internals and card for the fins, turned then into SUU-42 chaff and flare dispensers and hung them on the outboard pylons and moved the ALQ-87 ECM pods to the inboard position as per a few photographs I had showing this config. 

16ecm and SUU.jpg (38981 bytes)

And it was finished! Or was it? Following its appearance on Modelingmadness I got a few mails including a very helpful one from a guy who worked at Duke Field on the real aircraft and he pointed out the following shortcomings: 

  1. 'A' models didn't have inboard pylons (except for the DC-130As for launching drones)
  2. The front left sensor fairing should have about 2/3 of its height removed.  
  3. 623 was one of the original gunship mods and had the original 4x20mm and 4x7.62mm miniguns. The rear minis were located above where the rear 20mm(later,40mm) were. When the rear minis were removed, the ports were covered with sheet metal patches.
  4. On the left fuselage above the 20mms there were 2 air intakes for purging gun gasses from the cargo compartment. These were removed and covered over with 2 teardrop-shaped sheet metal patches.  
  5. 'A' models had a cargo door in the left fuselage aft of the crew entrance door.

Conclusion

The fit isn’t perfect, some of the details are oversimplified, it’s a devil to find space for and to accurately represent a AC-130A you need to do some work, more than I did unfortunately :-( .I won’t be making another one, but if I did I wouldn’t bother with the wiring (though that went down well at the club) and I would assemble it differently and I think it would all be a lot easier and less stressful.

References:

Gunships - A Pictorial History of Spooky - Larry Davis - ISBN 0-89747-123-7 
Lock On No 3 - C-130H/AC-130E - Verlinden - ISBN 90 70932 08 3 
FineScale Modeller August 1988 
My photos. 

Peter Marshall

Last updated 04 November 2007


Up ] [ AC-130A Gunship ] [ Kiddyland F/RF-5E and F-5E ] [ Revell CH-53 ] [ Monogram F-104 ] [ Hasegawa SeaKing ]

 

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July 2009, Milton Keynes Scale Model Club