The following introduction is taken from the ICM website:
The widespread use of multi-purpose helicopters in Vietnam to provide fire support of ground units was the reason for the development of a specialized attack helicopter. Bell began its development in the spring of 1965, and in September, the first prototype became operational. The production AH-1G Cobra began rolling off the assembly line in June 1967, and in the fall of the same year, they began combat operations in Vietnam. The built-in armament of the first production AH-1G Cobras consisted of a six-barrel Minigun mounted in the nose under fuselage turret. A 40-mm automatic grenade launcher
was later added. The pylons were additionally equipped with blocks with unguided missiles and machine gun containers, and the possibility of suspending a powerful 20-mm six-barrel automatic cannon was added. The gunner in the front seat controlled the fire of the built-in weapons in the nose turret, and the pilot used weapons located on the wing pylons.
Lightweight steel armour with a total weight of 122 kg was used to protect the crew and the most important parts of the structure and units from ground fire.
This offering from ICM arrives in a sturdy flip top box with a separate card lid showing the artwork. Inside the sprues are packaged in a singles re-sealable plastic bag with the clear parts in a bag on their own. Access for removal of parts is good, but the gates between the sprue and parts is bigger than I would have liked to have seen or expect. The difference between this kit and the late version that was released are minimal, with the sprues being identical to the previous offering - just with a number of parts blanked out not for use. So the main difference between this and the other offering boils down to the decal sheet and assembly options.
The cockpit of the Cobra has a reasonable level of detail, but ICM really need to learn to include harness detail in these larger scale models with very large glazed areas which makes this lack of detail obvious to everybody. The detail that is included will be acceptable to many modellers, but if you are looking for the finesse of detail and a more accurate cockpit in terms of what is missing - you will need to run to the after market companies. The very large glazed areas of the Cobra do make the option for after market a reasonable one.
The transmission for the main rotor head is provided within the kit. The detail present I would again refer to as fair, and that will meet the requirements of many. But I believe I have read that an after market resin option is being made available and that will obviously greatly improve the finesse and level of detail of this aspect and as such its value will come down to how you wish to display your finished model.
I have had very good reports on the construction of the previous model, with the fit of parts being listed as a high point. The use of filler being almost non-existent. Panel line detail is of a very high standard in both the recessed and raised detail. The nose of this particular model can represent a particularly early Cobra due to a glazed nose with lights behind it. The belly of the aircraft is a separate moulding and I am wondering if a model is coming along that requires a separate belly. The stub wings with weapon hard points continue with the good level of surface detail, and I also appreciate that they recess into the fuselage creating a strong connection.
The skids are connected via 2 pins on each side and are one of the areas where there is a risk of breakage. I would like to suggest that where the tail rotor is concerned it is added at a point in the assembly where breakage is almost guaranteed. So unless requiring a tail rotor that rotates, save yourself a lot of grief and glue it into position towards the end of assembly. The towing hitch for the aircraft is also provided in this release along with the wheels that are fitted for the purpose, and so display options are improved. The glazing of the model, is of a very good standard and can be displayed open or closed. My preference at present is for a closed up cockpit, with the transport wheels installed and the rotor blade secured. The tail rotor itself has a good level of detail and so should meet requirements. The main rotor again provides a good level of detail particularly where the rotors meet the rotor head. The main blades are moulded in 2 halves which means that blade droop may be difficult to accurately represent.
The chin mounted gun turret that made the Cobra such a formidable weapons platform has the option of a single chain gun or twin mounted chain guns, later variants I believe had the option for a grenade launcher as well. Additional weapons are provided in the form of M200 missile rocket launchers, SUU-11A gun pod, M260 rocket launcher, XM-158 missile launcher and you also have the option of a fixed mini gun mounted on the inside rail of the left side of the helicopter - so plenty of option as to how you wish to dress it up. ICM has provided 5 finishing options which are:
AH-1G 66-15272, 334th AHC, Platoon “Playboys”, Bien Hoa, 1967
AH-1G 67-15756, 227th AHB, Lai Khe, 1969
AH-1G 68-15063, 2nd Battalion, 20th Ariel Rocket Artillery, Tay Ninh, 1970
AH-1G 68-15209, 114th AHC, Vinh Long, 1970
AH-1G 69-16442, 227th AHB, Vietnam, 1970
Along with the finishing option provided is a template for cutting your own masks for the clear canopy. The decals are reasonable thin with me only just being able to detect them on the carrier paper and so should sit down nicely on the model.
This release is a pleasing model, with exceptional surface detail on the fuselage that I do not think that anybody can fault. I did initially question the release of this as a separate kit due to the difference really being the decal sheet. However, when you look at the instruction booklet there are a lot of differences that need to be taken into account depending on which variant you wish to depict. As such I will reduce my criticism to the lack of harness detail in the cockpit, and to finish on a high I particularly liked the decal sheet as I believe it will sit down nicely and has well defined colour demarcation lines.