Based on the AMT/ERTL KC-135А you can actually constructed one of three variants from this new AMtech kit – namely the EC 135N ARIA/ALOTS; the C-135B T/RIA; or the EC 135E ARIA. There have been a large number of different variants of this aircraft but this must rank as one of the most bizarre with its huge nose extension to house an 85″ steerable dish antenna. As far as I am aware this is the first kit of this sub-type to be produced in 1:72 although some years ago master pattern maker Dave Buttress produced a resin nose conversion under the name of DB Productions. The kit is cleanly moulded in light grey with engraved panel lines and the first task is to construct the interior assembly. This consists of a full-length deck, the front end of which has the cockpit area. This section contains the crew seats, instrument panel, control columns and a number of bulkheads plus the crew entrance detail. At the far end of the deck is another bulkhead, the oxygen tanks and the auxiliary power unit. It is a pity that most of this is completely hidden when the fuselage halves are joined. Also to be assembled at this stage is the mainwheel bay interior, which is cemented to the underside of the deck.
It is now time to remove the fuselage halves from the sprue. It is split vertically and each half is a one-piece moulding – including the extended nose. The inside of the fuselage was painted and the previously pre-painted interior cemented in position. You have to be careful here. The exact position of the deck is not marked on the inside of the fuselage and it is important that you get it right so that when you fit the under wing centre-section the wheel wells line up correctly with the cutouts in this section. I achieved this by temporally fixing the under wing section to the deck with masking tape and, by positioning it in the fuselage slot in one half, it automatically located the deck. I added lots of weight in the nose before the fuselage was joined and then added the ventral housing at the tail end. The alternative pieces for this version are supplied as resin and a little carving is required to get them to fit.
Regarding the fuselage, you may experience a little trouble here as it is warped at the tail end. This problem is endemic to the AMT/ERTL KC-135 series so it is not just this kit. Most of the warp seems to be corrected when the fuselage halves are glued together but a little judicious bending is needed afterwards!
The next steps are the wings. There is a bottom center section with two outer panels and single piece upper outer panels. The instructions state that the joint for the outer panels can be a problem and so there are instructions on how to strengthen this area. They also suggest that you fit a metal spar as part of this process.
With the wings in place I fitted the tailplanes and the fin tip. You now have to decide which sub-type to construct – either J 57 or TF 33 engined – both are supplied in the kit. There are other differences, all of which are noted in the instructions.
The engines, complete with pylons, are split vertically and enclose the compressor and turbine fans. The pylons are located onto the wings by means of pegs but I found that they inhibited the correct fit and found it easier to remove them. A little filler was needed around the front end of the pylons to help blend them into the leading edge.
At this stage you will need to fit the cockpit windows. Normally you would expect them to be slotted into a gap but not in this case. The transparency comes complete with a top section into which is moulded some instrument detail. Painting this is a waste of time as it is completely hidden when the assembly is finished. After fixing the canopy, the fuselage roof is cemented in place and this needs blend-ing-in. The variant various ‘lumps and bumps’ need cementing onto the fuselage at this stage. This is as far as I went before painting.
That complete, the main undercarriage was fixed in place and the doors fitted. At this stage I had a little trouble as the outer doors fouled the wheels and although I have dozens of photographs of the -135 series, all undercarriage detail was masked by the inner engine pod. I did manage to find a few front views and although in shadow I could just discern that the bottom of the door hinged outwards. When I examined the door itself the inside detail included the hinge line, so this enabled me to modify the doors accordingly.
Applying the decals takes some time – there is a lot of black lining. In fact I seemed to be a bit short in that area, but this was easily rectified with after-market stripes. After a coat of semi-gloss varnish the transparency masking was removed, the wheels added and the job was done.
In your display cabinet this model has ‘wow’ factor, there is nothing like it anywhere. It is not a kit to be rushed and any problems I found arose from the original AMT/ERTL kit, not this conversion. If you are into modern American aircraft then you must have this one.
Ernie Lee Suggested references: KC-135 In Action’ Squadron/Signal ‘KC-135 Stratotanker’ - Aerofax Thanks to AMtech for the review kit.
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