AH-6M/MH-6M Little Bird Night Stalkers
Aircraft and History
The AH/MH-6M is the latest variant of the Army’s light observation helicopter with the original design dating back to 1963 as the Hughes OH-6A Cayuse (nicknamed “Loach”). The term “Little Bird” was given to the enhanced version of the OH-6 with the AH-6 versions armed and MH-6 versions for carrying three commandos per side developed in 1980 and used by the newly formed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. This highly versatile airframe was used effectively in many conflicts with the most notable being “Operation Gothic Serpent” (better known as “Black Hawk Down” and “Battle of Mogadishu”).
This kit contains four sprues, three gray, one clear along with photo-etch sheet, decals, and five resin figures. There is very minimal flash on the plastic and care must be taken when removing parts from the sprue since they are very delicate. Some of the parts do have ejection pin marks that may need to be filled but nothing too noticeable. The resin figures consist of a seated pilot, standing pilot and three other figures where one of the figures is actually two soldiers as he is carrying a wounded soldier. The figures are extremely nice without any bubbles, a very nice addition to an amazingly engineered kit.
First step is to determine which version you plan to build, the AH “Armed” version or the MH version. Each version has you drill holes in the fuselage and floor to accept the locating pins for each version. I really did not decide on which version to build so I did not drill some of the holes which are fine on the MH version since the benches can have the pins trimmed off and glued into place. For the armed version, it is difficult to get the framework that holds the armament in if “fully” assembled but it can be installed if partially assembled. The deciding factor for me was after I installed the FAST rope framework, I did some research and did not see the armed version shown with weapons and the removable FAST rope structure.
The instructions, step 1 has you start with the engine assembly which is a masterpiece in itself. This is where I found out the instructions need to be corrected. The illustrations are very sharp and clear in this area but as I found out through the entire build, many of the left & right-hand part numbers are reversed. Some are obvious but some are not too obvious. On the engine, exhaust part number halves call out C44 and C28 shown to the left side of the instructions actually go on the right side. You will also need to take extreme care when assembling the fine fuel lines B1, B15, B16 and B17. There are only two colors called out, silver and burnt iron so a search online will give you more color options here. Step 2 is the engine compartment which like the engine, items are reversed (B70 and B71) so proceed carefully here. The only color indicated in this step is black which is only correct for the bulkhead (that is also the cargo compartment wall) and the gearbox. The rest of the engine bay is white with part B72 (ducting) is orange.
Step 3 is the start of the cockpit with the instrument panel and cyclic controls. I thought there was another issue with left & right parts mixed up again but parts that show opposite, C57 RH and B58 LH (actually C58 on sprue) should actually be identical. The cyclic grips should be identical since the pilot and copilot both use their right hand on the cyclic (collective also on the left side for each crew member. For the cyclic tube, the instructions indicate both are part C54 but actually, they are parts C54 and C55. They are both made identical but in reality, they should be opposite since they mount on opposite ends of the torque tube. Note that the “pilot” in helicopters sit in the right seat compared to fixed-wing aircraft typically has the pilot sit in the left seat. The instrument panel is very nice and you get an option to remove material and use a decal or use the parts with raised details. I did a modified version and using a hole punch set to cut the instrument face details and attach them in their respective positions.
The remainder of the cockpit details is covered in step 4 and 5 where the bulkhead, anti-torque pedals (rudder) and floor is assembled. I am uncertain if the seat cushions are reversed but they seem identical but have different numbers. This is a good time to install the seat belts for which I did not install until the kit was fully assembled which I wish I put the seat belts in earlier. One item missing is the map light where one on a stalk s provided for the pilot but there is a hole in the bulkhead for the copilot light however there is not a map light on the sprue. On to the anti-torque pedals, a few guide pin holes (shown in instructions) were not in the plastic but that is easily fixed with a small drill bit. There are two parts, B43 & B44 that show installation location but no reference to what parts they are and they appear identical.
Steps 6 and 7 is where you need to decide on the version you are building. As stated earlier you may be ok with the MH version and omit guide holes but you really need to know what the finished version is at this point. On step 6, the weapons framework has parts C22 and 23 reversed and take note which side the ammo drum is installed. After assembly, I had the framework reversed and had to break a part and reattach. For step 7, I did not drill holes and installed later in the build after the kit was painted. Continuing with the remaining cabin & engine bay parts and armed version frame is shown on step 8. Step 7 is for the MH version which does not show the fuel tank but most of the reference photos show a fuel tank in the MH version so I would recommend installing it for the MH version. On to step 9, you get an option to trim away the aft section of the crew compartment which all the reference photos for the “M” model show this portion removed which exposes the fuel tank. From what I can tell is that the panel needs to be removed when the auxiliary fuel tank is installed. The inside of the fuselage is clearly marked showing where to cut. This is also a good time to fill any ejection pin marks. If you plan on not displaying the engine compartment and permanently want the doors closed, I recommend you install the engine bay doors at this time.
Step 10 seems out of place in the flow of assembly. It shows a completed model and installation of the aft doors on the armed “AH” version, this should fall after step 20. Continuing on with the assembly, step 11 combines the fuselage halves and completed cockpit to close everything up. Note all the holes that need to be drilled and photo-etch parts that need to be installed at this time. This also where you install the FAST rope anchor points that should be on both versions. There are six anchor points, three per side which four of them, the upper (A29 & A30) and aft mounts (A27 & A28) are to be attached and the forward ones are molded into the fuselage. I would recommend that if you install the FAST rope framework, install those parts when you install the framework so you can correctly align the anchors with the framework. The last point on this step is the rotor head cowlings, C52, and C53 which are reversed.
Doors, windshield, engine bay doors get installed on step 12. As mentioned earlier, if leaving doors permanently closed, it is easier to attach them before sealing the fuselage. As for the pilot doors, most of the time, the doors are left off during operational flights. They are very useful to use to help seal the inside of the fuselage when painting though. On the windscreen, the Whiskey (standby) compass is called out but there is not a specific location to put it. I did not see any holes or recesses in the clear part to help locate the compass. It would be nice to have a plastic center post structure to mount the compass and give more detail to that part of the structure. A simple piece of square plastic can be added to give this effect. Just like the Dragon kit, take great care when gluing the windshield on to avoid glue marks on the glazing. You also need to make sure the cockpit bulkhead and instrument panel are far back enough to the windscreen can fully be seated. I needed to grind a little pocket into the forward portion of the instrument panel since the ram air intake hit the instrument panel. I am sure it was my mistake when putting the parts on the fuselage. On the lower view, it shows the placement of the photo etches tie downs. I do not recall seeing any tie downs in that area but I do see photos of tie downs in other locations. Check online references for the placement on your build. I am sure there are many combinations on how many and where they are installed. The PE brass gives you 8 to install and only four locations. I put four of them on the MH version bench center support inside the cabin per reference photos.
Now it is time for the armament portion of the build. Step 13 assembles the MG-134 (.762) miniguns and the GAU-19 (.50 BMG) which are very nice and many small parts to assemble. The instructions call out PE brass to roll but what is not listed is a plastic part that is optional. I fought with the PE part trying to roll it and with the cutouts, it ended up hex shaped so I opted for the plastic part here on the MG-134. I did the same on the GAU-19 which is triangular shaped PE. After these are built, just set them to the side and install later in the build after everything is painted and decals are on.
Pause on the armament and it is time to add the skids which like earlier, items are reversed. Item B64 should be B65, B66 should be B67 (two B66’s called out), B65 should be B64 and the lower B66 is correct. Then the skid themselves are reversed, B34 should be B35 and B35 should be B34. I came up with a little assembly tool when attaching the skids. Once the parts were glued on and the glue was drying. I put a level on top of the fuselage and made sure everything was “square & level” while the glue dried. The level I used was from a “Ring Doorbell” set up the kit and the bubble lever was feather light.
Step 15 starts adding antennas and ammo belts. There are a few options here so check references carefully. One issue I had is antenna parts, A45, A48, B13 (and B14 in step 16) located above & around the engine do not appear on an “M” model versions that I can find. The antenna on top also runs into the antenna B55 & B74 in step 16. I modified antenna A48 & A48 and put it above the cabin on the right side. There are numerous antenna combinations so check references. Step 16 rounds out the remainder of antennas and other closeout panels. This is also where the FAST rope structure is installed. I have not seen photos of the armed version with these items on so I would leave that off the AH version. If you are building the MH version, this is when you need to attach the anchor points (should have the hole locations drilled) and install the framework. There is a lot of test fitting and double checking the left and right side. There are slight bends and the instructions show that a little but there needs to be at least another view aiding on locating these parts. Many of the isometric views are in the same orientation throughout the instructions, it would be nice to have a few views that are slightly rotated to give a better indication on how items align. On the ammo belts, there are PE brass and a plastic alternative. The PE is nice but there is not a clear direction on how to form the pieces but after a little examination with a magnifying lens, I can see the bend locations and the “U” shape becomes apparent.
Now for the really complicated and highly detailed components, the tail rotor and main rotor. Steps 17, 18 and 19 covers these assemblies and the instructions look good but some areas of confusion arise. Tail rotor part A40 and 42 appear reversed however the isometric views (as stated earlier) do not show defining details to indicate what part is correct. The views do not show the protruding shaft in one tail rotor part and it does not show the hole in the other tail rotor. What appears to be counterbalance weights (parts A51), there is not a clear indication of how they are installed. They actually protrude at an angle on the outboard blade and I do not see that part at all on the inboard blade so I believe only two are required instead of four. Also note that the gearbox detail view containing A49, A52, and B47 view flips when shown in the assembly view. A few views showing straight on views and other angles clarifying the details will help modelers. The main rotor head and blades were fairly simple which was a nice break after the tail rotor assembly. As a very experienced modeler, it was very challenging building the tail rotor. I did add a couple pieced of plastic rod for the push rods on the tail rotor assembly.
The final assembly portion of the build closes out the armed version. There are only one each M260 (12 rocket) and one M260 (7 rocket) pods included instead of pairs. Usually, a pair of 7 shot rocket pods are carried so you would have to dig into spares to have a set. The other item I have on the rocket pods is there are no warheads and basically they are empty pods only. Adding a small sprue that had a set of pods with choices of warheads would go a long way on future releases or Kitty Hawk can release a “weapons set” to handle this. The last set of weapons to be assembled are AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. I am still checking my references but the missiles in the kit do not have a clear “seeker head” area and the missiles are all one piece. I did find one or two photos of missiles like this but they were “inert” or training missiles. There are also not any decals for the missiles so they are very plain. I am sure aftermarket decals can be found but if my assumption is correct, the markings will need to be for a training missile, not a live/active missile.
Painting and Decals
The beauty of the color is it is all one color. The challenge is trying to get all the variations of black that appear in the real aircraft. When selecting the overall outside color, I used Xtracrylix “Night Black” (XA1012) which is nice and gives a superb gloss base to help prevent decal silvering. After I applied it, it seemed very dark, I lightened it slightly in areas using Alclad II “Hot Carbon” mostly around the engine area. Other areas I painted various brands of black on various panels just to break things up. In areas, I wanted a “dead black” I used Tamiya “Nato black” on the cockpit floor and the tie downs. The engine and engine bay are the most colorful area of the build and the entire engine bay structure is white however the instructions state black. The engine itself is numerous shades of Alclad II and gray, I wish I took better notes there. There are two red rotating beacons or lights (one under the cockpit and one on the tail boom) that are clear parts so Tamiya clear red was used here. One little touch that never seems to appear in helicopter instructions are the different colors on the main rotor and tail rotor connecting rods. Each blade is color-coded and if you are around helicopters enough, that really sticks out. There are plenty of references to show you what colors to add so it is a nice touch to add.
The decal sheet is fairly limited which is nice as this helicopter does not have many markings. For the primary markings (numbers and US ARMY) I opted to use Werner’s Wings decals which consisted of a whopping 7 decals. The colors appear to be more accurate than the Kit decals. The kit decals I did use are on the rocket pods which were very nice and no problems applying them.
The figures I decided to not tackle the paint job at this time since I am still not comfortable on painting the camouflage to be displayed on a review build. If I do finish them, maybe IPMS will allow an updated review in the future. The figures are very impressive and I really do not want to ruin them especially being in a rush to finish the basic kit.
With a final coat of dull varnish and some weathering pastels applied, time to call this one complete. The armed version components display nicely next to the finished MH version.
This kit produced by Kitty Hawk is by far the best “Little Bird” in any scale and I expect to see this kit win many awards in the “out of box” category. For the modelers that love to super detail, this kit gives the modeler a great base to work with to add the electrical cabling, hoses and other little enhancements to complete a stunning build. The only negative area I have with the kit is with the instructions. A little editing to fix the mix ups and the need to add a couple of alternate views will make this kit unbeatable. The engineering and molds are top notch in my book.
Many thanks to Kittyhawk for providing this kit to IPMS for review.
Editors Note: We had some difficulty with finding a true MSRP for this kit. With the 6 figures, it seems to run around $100+ dollars and about half that without the figures.