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EH101 Merlin HM1

by tigger (1:72 Revell)

EH101 Merlin HM1

Background

At the height of the Cold war NATO realised that one of the massive potential threats was from Soviet Ballistic Submarine forces and the sheer number of them being deployed. The UK and Italy realised that there was a need for a replacement for the ageing Sea King in the role of Anti Submarine duties and this would need a large stable platform that had no real contender on the drawing board. The U.K Company Westland who were going through a turbulent time teamed with Augusta of Italy to form Eurocopter. The design specifications for the new aircraft were demanding and with British Government wanting to get the most out of one airframe (like the Tornado before) had ideas of utilising the airframe for the RAF in the role of Medium lift as a replacement for the Anglo French Puma.

A long and protracted development has bought us to the bird we see today in its incarnation the Merlin. The design is based around the three powerful Rolls Royce Turbomeca RTM322 engines and a lightweight composite construction. With the introduction into service with the Royal Navy, 814 Squadron was the first operational SQN based at RNAS Culdrose. During the Summer of 2002 one of the airframes was painted in a striking colour scheme for the Annual Air Day at Culdrose but I am led to believe that this airframe never appeared at a NATO Tiger Meet.

Having been a fan of the Tiger Meet and its many colour schemes over the years I wanted to do this particular Tiger Merlin and when Revell released their kit I just had to have a go. I had previously built the Italeri kit which is the same minus a couple of spru's and decals some time before so I was aware of the pitfalls of this particular model.

1/72 Revell EH101 Merlin HM1

The Model

This is one of those models that is not a quick shake the box and you have a built model, however, I would add that this is probably not the hardest kit out there by a long shot. The most awkward part has to be the decaling. The model is packaged in a usual Revell end opening box with all of the plastic parts sealed within a single plastic bag. There are four main spru's of quality grey plastic; the first two have the fuselage sections. The other two have the majority of the rotors and extra lumps and bumps not included in the Italeri release. One clear plastic sprue has the one piece main canopy and all of the supplementary windows, but no light fittings.

The instructions are printed on several sides of an A4 booklet with 47 sub sections, the last two being painting and decal placement. Some of the painting is called out during the construction sequence as is some of the decal placement. All painting is shown as Revell only paint numbers although for this model I used my own favourite Gunze Sangyo and Alclad II. My intentions were to build this model with the excellent Eduard etched set for this aircraft and add some small missing details too.

1/72 Revell EH101 Merlin HM1

Cockpit/Cabin

As with most of today's models the logical place to start is the cockpit and this model is no exception. One of the prominent things you will see in the cabin is the housing for the dipping sonar stations. For this to fit the floor I needed to remove large sections of the cast on lines which would otherwise hinder the joining surfaces. This was done with a small medical Chisel and a careful gradual action. Next up there are a set of seats that need etched harnesses and other detail as supplied in the etched set. With all of the detail added I set about painting, here I fell into the trap of painting the wrong colour assuming that it would be light grey as seems to be the norm these days, instead I later found that it needed to be black or at least dark grey to give the impression of black. This was pointed out in the instructions and was totally my own stupid fault!

The insides of Naval Helicopters have for some time carried internal sound insulating padding and after a search on the internet I found that the Merlin was no exception. Now I wanted to represent this padding and had no real idea how to do this in 1/72 scale. With some thinking I tried a simple idea that worked well enough, remember that once built this would all but never be seen again, but at least I know its there! I got some kitchen foil and laid it over a small piece of gauze I then rubbed with a fibreglass pencil until the shape of the gauze showed through. I then turned it over and cut it into manageable sizes and attached it to the cabin interior walls with white glue. Once painted light grey the effect is good enough for me.

The cockpit is well represented by the etched set and I will not boar you with the details of how I built it, suffice to say that I attached the brass with superglue everything was primed with Halfords grey and final colours were sprayed from the Gunze range of colours. Some of the smaller details were painted with Andrea and Valejo colours. If you don't want to paint the instrument bezels then Revell give a reasonable decal which will do the job adequately.

1/72 Revell EH101 Merlin HM1

Fuselage

This is the area that I remembered as giving the most problems; however with some forethought and a little patience the problems can be easily overcome! The instructions would have you build the forward fuselage section and then attach it to the rear tail boom later, I found this to cause a big join that would be difficult to line up and get a reasonable alignment, instead I found with this build that if I attached the rear tail section part 1 to 29 fuselage and then part 2 to 36 for the other side and kept them as separate sides then the joint was less of a problem to clean up.

With all of the cabin and cockpit ready to enclose in the fuselage the windows need to be attached from the insides. I chose early on that the cockpit side windows were to be opened and quickly established that the front section slides outside and backwards, to this end I omitted the front side windows I simply cut the rear section away before assembly with a cut from the razor saw. Now here I made another silly mistake, in my haste to get on I missed the side sonar operator's window which needs to be opened up. I should have done it before I attached the side panels but somehow missed it and had to go back later and try to do the job. With the cabin side panels I found that they would fit too deep into their respective recesses and need a slight shim of plastic card to raise them to a more appropriate level. The rotor head assembly needs to be attached before the fuselage is closed up as does the nose gear bay.

Once the fuselage is assembled I found that the fit of the external mounted engines were not too brilliant! Around the rotor head I noticed that the panel lines are really heavy, not quite Matchbox Trenches but getting there. I used MR Surfacer 500 brushed into these to reduce their deep effect, this was done with several coats and eventually I smoothed out the final surface with a cotton bud dipped in Isopropyl Alcohol, this took several minutes to soften the MR Surfacer but when it did it simply wiped away the excess. Revell would have you adding the cockpit glazing at this point but I chose to work on it and add it later. I decided to use the Etched windscreen wipers and this would be facilitated by the removal of the cast on wipers. I gently cut away the casting with a new blade in my scalpel; this was followed by gentle buffing with a nail polishing pad! The final thing to do was to dip it in Johnson's Klear. Once the clarity was restored I gave the canopy a light spray dusting of Tamiya Smoke, this imparted a slight tinted effect.

Gear

The gear is quite flimsy as it appears to be in scale, this means that the weight of the model is applied through four small axle points and therefore care needs to be taken with the finished model. There are etched oleo scissor links and these worked well, also there is external brake cabling and this is bordering on the edge of what is acceptable as a flat etched part, this might be as well replaced with thin wire or stretched spru, I chose to use the etched parts and bulked them out with a thin coat of white glue. This in effect when painted gives a slight impression of a rounded cable.

Looking at photo's of the real aircraft you will soon realise that the kit gear should just jut through the top of the sponson's when it is under load, the fit of the struts to the sponson's is not to clever and I made a small extension on the top rather than to adjust the gear from underneath. This was a shortcut that leaves the gear slightly too extended but I will live with it for now. The sponson's themselves are probably one of the most over engineered parts I have seen in a while, the shape is a complicated box structure. Aligning the parts together then attaching it to the fuselage means there has to be a compromise, either trim the fuselage joint or do as I did attach them and fill the resulting gaps in situ.

1/72 Revell EH101 Merlin HM1

Flying surfaces/Rotors

Here I felt that the representation seemed a little basic but on close inspection of photos of the real thing there really isn't much that can be added! All that can be done is to make sure you paint them well and apply the decals the same on each blade. The etched set provides a length of what I assume to be a hydraulic link and this was duly attached with a small drop of Super glue.

Painting

At this stage I was thinking about painting this model and I chose to follow my normal route. I first primed with Halfords Car grey Primer, this highlighted any faults and these were rectified with MR Surfacer 500. Once all of the problem areas were corrected I primed again. Now satisfied with the finish I sprayed Tamiya Black acrylic over all of the recessed panels and in any area where a natural shadow would be. This was a quick process and makes the model look like a real mess but this will change with subsequent coats. I chose to paint this model with Gunze Sangyo Medium Sea Grey which I lightened with about 10% white.

With the airbrush pressure set low I misted on several thin coats until I had built up to the finish I liked. Now looking at reference photos I found that this aircraft does not get too dirty so I had to be aware of this. With a complete basic colour I sprayed Tamiya Acrylic gloss coat and thinning with Isopropyl Alcohol I found it to be touch dry in about 20 minutes, although I left it overnight before I moved onto the Decals.

Decals

In the past Revell have used several outside companies and I believe this is no exception, they are well printed in register and the film is reasonably thin. The colours are solid enough too with no real areas to worry about under colour bleeding through. I found the upper surfaces walkways to be a little oversize and as a result I had to trim them to fit. This was a bit of a nightmare job but the end result is worth the effort. Some of the small decals are not shown too clearly on the decal placement guide and care will need to be taken with their placement.

The Tiger stripes had some difficult compound curves to form over and here I found that Micro Set/ Sol didn't do the job well enough. Instead I used the slightly stronger DACO setting fluid and the results were remarkable to say the least, remember to leave the decal even if it wrinkles up to settle back down. One in particular was the stripe over the bottom of the stepped door which has a handle and surrounding to go over , this settled into all of the detail and did not need any touch up with paint to cover any cracking. Once I had completed the decals I gave the model a light wash with water to remove setting residue and when dry I gave the whole lot a coat of Tamiya Gloss varnish.

1/72 Revell EH101 Merlin HM1

Weathering

This has to be one of my favourite parts of modelling and this I believe makes the model come to life even more than the decals. First off I spray a thin glaze of very thin Tamiya White and Gloss Varnish. I use masking tape to follow panel lines and work from the back to front of the aircraft, what I actually spray is the leading edge and upper edge of every panel. Sounds complicated but in fact I can generally do an aircraft in about 40 minutes. Next the forced panel lines need toning down and this I achieve by lightly buffing with very fine steel wool, this reduces the effect but leaves just enough to be visible.

Next I flow a thin mix of Payne's Grey and Black oil paint into all of the recessed detail. Once this has been on the model for about half an hour and the thinners have evaporated I gently wipe the excess off in the direction of the airflow over the aircraft. Final stains of various colours of Oils represent hydraulic and other fluid loss. As a final weathering item I consolidate the lot with a coat of Humbrol Matt coat thinned with Cellulose thinners. Over this a last coat of Poly S Satin varnish and the model is almost done.

1/72 Revell EH101 Merlin HM1

Finishing off

At this stage all that remains is to add small items like the weapons and mirrors. As with most of my models I like to put it on a base and here I chose to depict a ships landing deck. I took a piece of MDF from Just Bases and gave it a thin coat of PVA mixed with fine sand. This was subsequently painted and weathered to suit my tastes. I also added a figure which was a modification of a CMK Russian Jet pilot painted to be a Royal Navy Officer in his flying suit.

1/72 Revell EH101 Merlin HM1

Reference

When I started to look for good photos of the aircraft I was surprised at how little there was available and how I had not taken the chance at an air show to do a walk around series myself. Looking at the aircraft you cannot help but be struck by the size and shape similarities with the Super Frelon.

A trawl on the internet found the following www.b-domke.de - EH101 and helicopterwalkarounds.czweb.org

Conclusions

Generally this is a reasonable model that fills a gap in the list of modern Naval Helicopters. I for one built the original release from Italeri and even with its pitfalls decided to build another all be it with extra parts and an etched set. The overall appearance is deceiving as this is a large beast and the shape is in my opinion very good, I have some reservations about the colour references and Revell's insistence upon only giving mixes of their colours. The finished model looks like the Merlin and I would recommend this model to those who have a few kits under their belt.

tigger

Published on 04. April 2010

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