Stealth Helicopter "Operation Geronimo"
Many of us were taken by surprise on May 2nd, 2011, when the President came on TV and announced Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been found and eliminated by a team of US Navy SEALs in a secret operation,"Neptune Spear." In the following days, after the dust had settled, we found that the mission had been accomplished at bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, using then-unknown-to-the-public, radar-evading or "stealth" helicopters.
Between May and September (only 3 - 4 months), Dragon was able to design a conceptual kit that captures what the Neptune Spear helicopters might look like and get their kit into production and on the store shelves. There was a little confusion during that 4 month period - the name of the actual operation was "Neptune Spear" and "Geronimo" was the code word indicating the operation had successfully taken down bin Laden, but that's neither here nor there.
In the Box
This kit comes in Dragon's "1+1" package which means 2 complete kits. For each helicopter, there are 28 parts molded in gray on one sprue, 3 brown-tinted clear window parts, and 2 photo-etched (PE) parts. One (really small) sheet of Cartograf decals is provided with tiny decals for both ships. The instructions are printed in “Dragon fashion” on the back of the box and the painting and marking guide is printed on the side of the box.
The instructions are presented in typical Dragon pictographic format and are simple and fairly clear. The Cartograf decal sheet is of the usual high quality and detailed (keeping in mind the public sector really still doesn't know much about what the ship really looks like, what color it is, or how it's marked).
Once again, Dragon is one of the front runners when it comes to detail at small scale. The kit parts are molded using slide-mold technology, so the detail is sharp and clear, even at this size.
There are a couple of details that get lost in translation from Chinese to English. The box indicates the main rotor blades and tail rotor blades "...can be rotated to different positions" but what that really means is the rotors can be positioned - not the individual blades. The package also indicates "Crystal-clear canopy reproduced". While the parts are "clear", they are tinted dark brown and once installed, impossible to see through. None of these are problems though, just something to be aware of.
There are a few crisp vent panels molded into the fuselage and engine cowlings. The molding is clean with no residual flash around the edges of any parts, and the parts line up and fit together very well.
It took longer to write this review than it did to complete these helicopters. This kit goes together fast with no trouble at all. There was no need for putty and only a bottle of Thin Instant Cement was needed.
The windows went into the fuselage halves first. I just pressed them gently into place and touched the glue applicator brush to a corner to hold them in. The front window piece needs to be cemented in place in one fuselage half and left to dry completely before putting the halves together. This is a tricky step, so make sure the window is lined up with the opposite half of the fuselage when you put the halves together, but it's not difficult. There is no interior to these helicopters and at this size it might just unnecessarily complicate the build. The dark tinted windows are a nice effect.
I did cement the front end of the fuselage together and let it dry before cementing the back end of the fuselage halves together. The fuselage halves lined up perfectly.
The PE engine inlet screens, like the rest of the kit, are small and tricky for someone with meaty fingers. This is where experience will be very helpful but it can be done. Thin cyanoacrylate applied to any edge works well (and you don't need much). The PE looks good installed but could be left off and it wouldn't take away from the kit at all (it seemed a little bit larger than scale anyway).
The main rotor blades fit perfectly & snuggly into the hub and a touch of the cement applicator brush sets them in place for good.
Once I decided I was going to complete the build and simply mask the windows before painting, the rest of the build went by really fast. At this point, all that's left is the landing gear, gear doors and tail rotor. No problems with any of them – all mating parts match up well.
The color guide recommended flat black and dark gray as the colors of choice but I used Metalizer Titanium on the fuselage and Gunmetal on the rotors.
Masking the windows was easy using masking tape and a fresh, sharp #11 blade, following the outline of each window.
The decals are excellent but [recurring theme here] really small! The decals are of the best quality and sit right down with a small dab of setting solution. There seems to be a little bit of a mixture here – the US Army decals and what looks like low-visibility Air Force star-&-bars, all for a Navy Special Ops mission. Oh well, use imagination here.
I highly recommend Dragon's Stealth Helicopter for just about any modeler. A little more experience would be helpful due to the size of these parts and for the photo-etched pieces, but this is a well thought-out and produced kit for one that went from concept to store shelves so quickly. When completed, you have a good idea of what the real thing might look like and, even better, you have two! It would be easy to build a diorama of the operation.
Dragon has made great strides recently in tooling and molding technology and the benefits have been great kits with great detail and accuracy.
The public still doesn't really know exactly what these helicopters look like and we might not know anything about them if it weren't for the fact that one of them crash-landed during the operation and had to be destroyed on the spot. You may have seen (still can see) the photos on the news or the internet of the tail rotor that broke off and fell outside the compound fence.
An interesting side note: it was kind of fun to search the internet and find stories that the conspiracy theorists are writing about how “... the Chinese have already copied the US's stealth helicopter designs...”
Thanks again to Dragon Models USA for providing this great kit so quickly after the events of May, 2011, and to IPMS USA for the chance to review it.