SUBJECT:AH-1Z Viper
SCALE:1/35
MANUFACTURER:Academy
Kit No.:12127
Release Date:2019
Time to Complete:~6 hours
Rating:★★★★★

As a former air wing Marine, I’ll admit that I’m a bit biased. But even without my bias, this kit is gorgeous. I really, really enjoyed this kit and I definitely plan on building another, fully, albeit with a blade folding set to make the rotor a little more compact (I’ll mention more on this later). Compared its only real competition, the old MRC Whiskey Cobra, this thing is a Lambourgini while the Whiskey is a Pinto.

Everything starts in the drivers seat and goes together pretty much flawlessly. I had one issue trying to fit the control sticks on the starboard side of the console but it was nothing to drill the locating hole a little bit bigger. The instrument panels are crisp, but pretty empty until you put the decals on. The two massive MFDs take up almost the whole panel.

My only real big complaint about the cockpit are the seats. They’re pretty lackluster without any belts or any other kind of detail. An aftermarket upgrade or some simple sculpting could add a lot here. Especially since the cockpit is very visible under the greenhouse and with the hatches open.

The rest of the cockpit is pretty unremarkable, minus some ejector pin marks on the inside of the pilot and gunner armor plating. These are definitely something that’ll need to be addressed.

The assembled cockpit tub locates rather well into the starboard side of the fuselage. It goes in along with the starboard turbine blades and the FLIR ball. The port side gets its blades in place and then the fuselage can be closed up. I found it a little odd that the 30mm cannon didn’t need to be installed before the fuselage is closed, but don’t worry, it will go where it needs to go later.

Once the fuselage halves are together, the belly and skids attach. The skids are really nicely detailed and sturdy. There is a small seam line around the belly panel that’ll need to be addressed and the raised rivets that cover the Viper will make filling it a little tricky. I’d plan on having some aftermarket rivet lines ready to go.

The exhaust and engine access panels go together well, but leave some seams, again, that’ll need some attention like the belly.

At this point, I’ve got about two nights of work into the build. It’s really a very simple build and goes together quite quickly. The only thing that would have slowed me down to this point was painting and detailing the cockpit. The seam lines, though tricky with the raised rivets, shouldn’t take much time to sort out as they’re really not that bad.

The next step in the build is to attach the tail, and Academy made this easy with a one-piece, slide-molded, tail boom that fits as it should to the fuselage.

One thing you can see in the above image is the significant amount of weight I had to add to the nose. Academy does mention this in their instructions so it’s not out of the blue, but you’ll need to either plan ahead or using something like tungsten paste that can squeeze into tight areas. There just isn’t a whole lot of room under the cockpit tub. I used 11 grams of weight in the gunner seat to keep her on her skids. You may need a little more or less depending on where you put your weights.

The cockpit greenhouse is up next and its everything you could hope for for such a prominent piece of the aircraft. It’s broken down into 5 main pieces, with some additional parts used to display the pilot and gunner doors open. The closed parts are some of the best-fitting clear parts I’ve ever worked with. If you build the open option, the hinges are a little tricky to line up properly while also trying to install the hydraulic cylinders.

It’s also pretty obvious in the above pic just how visible the cockpit is, and how painfully bland the seats look.

If there is one area where I’d like to see a different option, it’s the main rotor. Being amphibious, the Viper has folding blades to fit into tight spots while shipboard. It’d be nice to have that option straight out of the box, however Legend fills that need with a nice folding set.

It’s important to pay attention while building the rotor hub as the actuators are different lengths and they’ll only fit one way. I labeled the blades as I built them so that I could install them correctly

I need to talk a little bit about the weapons before wrapping up. Unfortunately, I overlooked taking photos while building the rocket pods and Hellfire launchers. The 30mm cannon is beautiful and I did take a photo to show that off.

The rest of the weapon selection is what you would expect for the Viper, AIM-9s for the winglet tips, 7- and 12-rocket pods, and a slew of Hellfires. They all build up really well with some crisp details.

In what has been the year of the helicopter for Derek and myself, this was easily the quickest to assemble and it had the best fit of any of the other helos I’ve built over the last year. As I said earlier, I will definitely be building another in the future. It’s just too good not to give the full treatment.