The C-130 doesn’t need much introduction. It’s the mainstay transport aircraft for numerous nations, and has been serving the United States Air Force (USAF) since 1957. The newest C-130 is the C-130J, which incorporates many avionics upgrades, and most notably newer engines with six-blade props. The WC-130J is the USAF’s newest Hurricane Hunter, specifically designed to fly into the eyes of hurricanes to gather potentially life-saving data.
This is Minicraft’s seventh iteration of their 1/144th C-130 series and is the first C-130J model. This kit comes molded in light grey plastic with very clear canopy and navigation lights. The majority of the plastic is the same as that which comes in all other Minicraft C-130 models. The only difference with this WC-130J kit is that it comes with the new engines, new six-blade props, and new extended wheel sponsons. Just like the other releases of Minicraft’s C-130 family, this kit does not include a cockpit or any of the antennas, especially the very prominent Station Keeping Equipment (SKE) “dome” on top of the forward fuselage. And although the kit includes the extended wheel sponsons, the kit does not represent the auxiliary power unit (APU) that is on the left gear sponson.
The kit contains both the C-130J engines and the C-130E/H engines. However, I would argue that the errors that were made with the C-130E/H engines were carried over to the C-130J engines. The C-130J engine faces in the kit look far too square when viewed head-on. Thankfully, the six-blade props look fairly well done and can somewhat hide the engine shape errors. Speaking of the props, they are molded in the feathered position. So, if you want to pose your WC-130J in-flight, you’ll need to cut the prop blades from the hub and reposition them. Also, the instructions have the engine halves mismarked. The way the instructions are written, you would be assembling the left side of an engine with the left side of another engine. Clearly, when you go to do this it won’t work, but just a heads-up anyways.
The build went rather smooth after I washed all the parts, as my example had an oily residue left on nearly every part. The kit does not contain any cockpit, so I scratchbuilt one. Although, not much can be seen, even under the huge greenhouse. I also chose to build my WC-130J with the loading ramp closed, which posed no real build issue.
There are a few areas that you will want to pay attention to during the build. First off, you need to cut the short wheel sponsons off in order to fit the extended wheel sponsons to the model. The kit is scored on the inside of the fuselage to tell you where to make the cut. However, there are some tricky curves, and I recommend using the backside of an Xacto knife or scribing tool and make enough passes so that you can see a “line” on the outside of the fuselage. I would then recommend using a fine razor saw to remove the short wheel sponsons. Another area that needs some attention is the canopy-to-fuselage fit. The canopy seems a bit wider than the fuselage. So, take care when filling and sanding the canopy so that you can blend it in nicely to the fuselage. I also think the shape of the crown of the canopy is a bit to square when viewed from the side, but I’m not sure of a way to fix that issue.
One final area of the build that needs attention is the wing-to-fuselage fit. Ideally, the wing tab should just slide into the fuselage and fit nice and snug with no seam. However, it took a fair bit of sanding the wing tab in order to get a good, solid fit. Speaking of the wings, check your reference photos, as most of the WC-130Js fly with the outboard left wing pylon installed. This pylon houses weather instrumentation. I took the kit’s outboard fuel tank and cut the pylon off and mounted it to the wing.
Aside from the above-mentioned areas, there were really no big hurdles with this kit. I do recommend attaching the main gear struts to the wheel wells before mounting the main wheels. Also, you can simulate the APU by painting the appropriate area natural metal and using two of the kit’s round window decals to make the oval APU exhaust. Also, the WC-130J has four fewer windows than the normal C-130 – the bottom of the two vertical windows above the nose needs filling in, and the rear of the two lower windows needs filling in. I would also recommend filling in all of the window outlines on the side of the fuselage. As molded, the windows are all circular, and the WC-130J has some square windows.
Decals are provided for two WC-130Js of the USAF Reserve, 403rd Airlift Wing “Hurricane Hunters.” One of the markings is from 2003 and depicts the overall glossy light grey with black nose scheme. The other markings are for a WC-130J from 2010 in the overall AMC Proud Grey scheme. I chose to model my WC-130J using the markings from 2003 (the light grey scheme). However, in doing research on this plane, I found that in 2004 this particular plane had some dark grey panels on the number four engine and a dark grey pylon. The prop hub on the number four engine was also glossier than the other three prop hubs. This, along with the black nose, added some nice contrast to an otherwise boring grey finish, in my opinion. There are also images that show the entire number four engine in the darker grey. The decals are printed by Cartograf and worked exceptionally well with Micro Sol/Set. I will caution you that it is much easier to handle the wing walkway decals if you cut them into smaller strips.
This was an enjoyable build. Minicraft has now provided the modeler with just about every mainstream C-130 variant. It would have been nice if the kit came with some stuff for the cockpit, the appropriate antennas, correct engine faces, and a correct APU-extended wheel sponson. However, the build was rather smooth and it is surely enjoyable to have a unique C-130 sitting in the display case. If you have the decals, you could build just about any C-130J with this kit.
My sincere thanks go to Minicraft Models for providing the kit and to IPMS USA for allowing me to review it.