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Bell AH-1T Improved SeaCobra
Attack Helicopter

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-263

October, 1989
US Marine Corp


This model added to on August 10, 2011

Testors Italeri Bell SeaCobra AH-1T
In the spring of 1974 the USMC ordered Bell Helicopter to modify two AH-1J SeaCobras to a new build standard allowing for greater load carrying capability and TOW missile armament. The resulting AH-1T upgraded SeaCobra flew for the first time in May 1976 and was delivered to the US Marines in October 1977.
Testors Italeri Bell SeaCobra AH-1T
The AH-1T received the powerful Pratt & Whitney T400-WV-402 Twin-Pac turboshaft engine developed for the UH-1N. It also had an extended fuselage and tailboom, a new transmission and main rotor, and a gross weight of two tons more than the AH-1J.
Testors Italeri Bell SeaCobra AH-1T

The AH-1T is armed with a chin-mounted M197 20mm cannon with 750 armor piercing rounds. 8 Hughes BGM-71 TOW missiles. and 14 2.75in. unguided rockets in LAU-68 launchers.

Testors Italeri Bell SeaCobra AH-1T
The AH-1T SeaCobra has drawn blood warrior provided critical on-call close-in fire support for the Marines during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada and all the way up to operation DESERT STORM in the Persian Gulf.
Testors Italeri Bell SeaCobra AH-1T
A total of 57 AH-1T were produced, most of which were eventually upgraded to AH-1W standard.
Testors Italeri Bell SeaCobra AH-1T
The most recognizable feature of the AH-1T is the twin exhaust of the T400-WV-402 Twin-Pac engine which looks identical to the UH-1N Twin Huey.
Testors Italeri Bell SeaCobra AH-1T

This Italeri/Testors kit was first released decades ago and despite raised panel lines it builds into a great looking representation of the real aircraft.

Testors Italeri Bell SeaCobra AH-1T
I've always loved the Marine land camouflage scheme of the mid 1980s. I applied with my old tired Aztek airbrush and hard masks cut out of transparent tape.
Testors Italeri Bell SeaCobra AH-1T
The fit of the canopy to the fuselage is just a bit off and required filler and sanding to smooth out.
The kit provided weapons are pretty good to start with. I drilled out the ends of the TOW launchers for a bit more realism.
The provided HUD is not very impressive so I made my own out of sequins and scrap PE parts however you can barely make them out once the canopy is in place.
I also used a transparent sequin for the lens in the targeting turret.
Here's my Sea Cobra on the workbench. I learned the hard way that the skids should be added last by snapping a side skid off at the root. Luckily fellow modeler Joseph Osborn rescued me with his spare parts. As a small token of appreciation I'd like to encourage everyone to visit his custom decal site at Tell him I sent you.
Here's the cockpit under construction. I created side consoles using sheet stryene. The collective and control sticks came from my spare parts. Drafting tape was used to create seat harnesses and small gauge wire was used for air and electrical "plumbing".
Testors Italeri Bell AH-1T SeaCobra
Here's the cockpit after painting. Later I added a HUD lens out made from a transparent pealized sequin.
Note the filler needed at the gap between the upper and lower fuselage pieces. I found it was easier to join tops to bottoms before joining left and right halves.
Overall this was a great build. Very simple assembly and only a few minor fit problems to work out. With a few modifications it builds into a really nice replica.

Testors Italeri Bell AH-1T SeaCobra
Testors    Italeri
Kit: Testors #634 / Italeri #168
1/72 scale
Scale: 1/72

This kit has been in production for decades so the price can range anywhere from $10.00 to $17.00 (US) depending on whether you find an old shelf-sitter or a brand new boxing. In today's market this is a bargain for such a good kit.

Decals are provided for USMC HMM 263 and HMM 268.


The kit includes 60 parts molded in dark green plastic, 2 transparent parts, one decal sheet and one 8-page instruction sheet. The instruction sheet is delightfully "old school" with step-by-step written (English) instructions calling out the correct part names as well as fully labeled exploded views.

Construction begins unsurprisingly in the cockpit. The seats are shaped more or less correct although no seat harnesses are provided. Overall the cockpit is detailed well, a basic gunners sight is provided, the gunner and pilot have main instrument panels with descent raised gauges, the pilot has a cyclic and the rear bulkhead is done fairly well. Where the cockpit falls short is the omission of a collective, no side consoles or gunners sticks. I used sheet styrene and spare parts to fix. A transparent part is provide for the pilot's HUD but it is overly thick and has no frame to attach to. I created my HUD out of scrap photo etched parts and a sliver cut from a transparent sequin. A single (closed) canopy piece is provided, although it is very clear it's thick enough to distort many of the interior details.

Next is the assembly of the fuselage. The instructions call for 1/8 ounce of weight to be added to the nose to avoid "tail sitting", I used lead fishing weights and found plenty of space under the flight deck to add them. Each side of the fuselage is made up of a top and bottom piece and I found that the parts fit better by joining each engine housing to the lower half before joining the two complete fuselage halves. No engines are provided with the kit so daylight is visible through the various intakes and openings in the engine covers. I decided to solve this shortcoming by installing some unidentified jet engine halves found in my spare parts box, and by inserting a tube of styrene around the main rotor shaft. After following the directions and breaking one of the brittle skids off during assembly, I highly recommend attaching the skids last!

Next I decided to improve the exhausts. The kit's exhausts are shaped correctly, but are extremely shallow so that no amount of painting or shading will make them look like the hollow tubes they are supposed to be. I drilled out the back of the exhausts all the way through the engine housings and filled the housing with putty shaped into "pockets" to simulate the real pipes.

The last steps of assembly are the stub wings and armament. 2 x LAU-68 rocket pods are included as well as 8 TOW missiles/launchers. I drilled out the ends of the TOW tubes so they looked more realistic. Both chaff dispensers were marred with sinkholes right in the middle of the tubes. I filled the hole with putty and carefully carved out the missing details best I could using a scribing tool.

Although many of the panel lines are raised, the detail is good. Fit is good overall with some filler required at the wing roots, around the engine housings and a bit between fuselage halves. It's not a perfect kit by any means, but it builds into a very acceptable replica of the real aircraft.

After Market Parts Used: None

Small gauge wire was used to simulate electrical, plumbing and cooling in the cockpit and armament. Transparent pearlized sequin was used for the HUD glass and turret sight lens. Masking tape was used to create seat harnesses. Scrap styrene was used to make side consoles in the cockpit. Collective and gunners controls were borrowed from various other kits. The main rotors were twisted to simulate correct at-rest pitch. Exhausts drilled out, "engine" details added, TOW tubes drilled out.

Modern Fighting Aircraft AH-1 Doug Richardson ISBN: 0861012593
AH-1 Cobra in action Wayne Mutza. ISBN: 0897473825

This should be an easy build for a modeler at any skill level, and fans of small scale rotary aircraft should especially enjoy this kit.

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