Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Conversion of 1/32 Blue Thunder (Kitech kit) to SA 341/2 Gazelle

From this...

To this...

If you remember a television drama's in late 80's... 2 Gazelles were modified to star as a high-tech attack/surveillance helicopter in the 1983 action-thriller film Blue Thunder.

About the helo's

A popular light reconnaissance and attack helicopter for export order, the Aerospatiale Gazelle systems are a common site all over the world. Operating in the multirole mode, the system has the capabilities to undergo duties as a reconnaissance, training, anti-tank or utility helicopter as needed. Setting many standards for future Aerospatialle helicopter designs, the Gazelle series lived up to expectations to spawn multiple variant formats.

The Gazelle was designed as the successor and ultimate replacement of the Aerospatiale Alouette II series, also seeing quite the commercial export successes in the same roles. The Gazelle family was born from a joint production effort involving Westland (a British helo firm) and Sud Aviation (the French-based helo aviation firm). From there, varying models of mission-specific types were produced as needed for the British Army, Royal Navy and French Army among other civilian and export entities.

The base Gazelle design incorporated a rigid main rotor head along with composite rotor blades. Besides the excellent visibility all-glass canopy, the most identifiable feature in the series is the shrouded tail fan rotor, which in itself was a revolutionary piece of engineering for helicopter usage.

The French SA 342M model series is capable of arming itself with HOT anti-armor missiles for the anti-tank role. Other Gazelles, known as SA 342M ATAMs, were also converted to fire the Mistral air-to-air missiles to counter any aircraft threats. Over forty countries bought into the lightweight export-friendly helicopter series, ensuring its use would continue for many decades to come. Though far from being counted on as the newer more modern combat helicopters, the Gazelle series still finds a role to play on the battlefield.

(facts from )

Length: 31.27ft (9.53m)
Width: 0.00ft (0.00m)
Height: 10.43ft (3.18m)

Performance: (About MACH) 
Maximum Speed: 165mph (265kmh; 143kts)
Maximum Range: 441miles (710km)
Rate-of-Climb: 2,400ft/min (732m/min)
Service Ceiling: 1,532ft (467m; 0.3miles)

Accommodation: 2 + 3 
Hardpoints: 2 (with wing stubs)
Empty Weight:2,202lbs (999kg)
Maximum Take-Off Weight:4,409lbs (2,000kg)

Engine(s): 1 x Turbomeca XIVM turboshaft engine delivering 640kW driving three blade main rotor and Fenestron shrouded tail rotor.

Armament Suite: 
Mission specific armament includes:

2 x Rocket Pods
4 or 6 x HOT anti-tank missiles
Mistal air-to-air missiles
Reconnaissance Pods
2 x 7.62mm machine guns
1 x 20mm Giat Cannon (starboard side)
2 x Surface-to-Air Missiles of Various makes.

The storyline...

The SA 341/ SA 342 Gazelle was inspired by one modeler known as "Designer" who built SA 532 U2 Cougar sometimes back in 2005 ( you can view by clicking this link: ) you can also search the link on my "My Favorite Link".  I was inspired by his work and dedication to built a Cougar which is extremely rare subject especially in 1/32 scale by kit bashing Matchbox and Revell Super Puma helicopter with major scratch building! - i think he is the only modeler own a 1/32 Cougar so far :). I wish i could complete the Gazelle to compliment his Cougar (which both helo's originate from France).

Then it struck my mind that Ki-tech produce the only available 1/32 scale blue thunder helicopter beside Monogram which been discontinued... in 1/48 kit available is only from Aoshima (which cost you a fortune - but quality is unquestionable) both kits only available on ebay, kit swap, specialist hobby shop at very high price tag. I don't remember any company that produce 1/48 scale Gazelle (oh! i found out that Fujimi produce SA 342 in 1/48 long time ago). Heller once released a Gazelle at 1/50 scale but not exact 1/48 but close enough. The only way to built a 1/32 Gazelle is by converting the Blue Thunder kit and back dating the highly sophisticated helo's to an original unmodified SA 341/2... way to go is on 1/32 and Ki-tech kit is the best, big and cheap way to go.

After browsing ebay, I manage to get 5 boxes of Blue Thunder (at very cheap price!! YES!!!) and decided to start with the project... here some pics of the kit and the work... My earlier pics was stuck in my PC hard drive and cannot be retrieved until I get new HD connector.. so this pics was taken recently and I unable to view you with step by step work that has been completed.

3D View

Some photo's ... (courtesy of Please visit link on "My Favorite Link"for more photo's) 

Photo's and reference pics available through Please click on link for more photo's :

Let's get started...

 The goodies... all 3 sprue's pack in 1 plastic bag. The clear parts was packed in separate plastic bag.
 Sprue 1 - The fuselage... 
 Sprue 2 - Cockpit, pylons etc. 
Sprue 3 - The main rotor and engines. 
 The clear part. Unused... bubble canopy... Hmmm... don't ask.
the best part is... you've got a helmet from Ki-tech.. rare stuff!!
The instruction and decals sheet.

Ok now the WIP...

I marked the area need to be cut (top) and the one that has been cut (bottom)
Closer look... the marked area was actually the added panels on the real  Blue Thunder helicopter..

See closely on the skin... the hexagonal patterns to replicate  carbon materials... of course it need to be sand off !!!

Freshly cut... and some sink panels need to be fill in (the sunken panels is for side pylons) 

filled and sanded smooth...

The tail section... the railings was removed...

complete fuselage... sanded and tail sectioned was covered with 0.01 plastic sheet.

Turbine engine and exhaust section was removed
the actual helo's. Note on the smooth finish on tail section...

The original kit tail section. note on the railing cover and groove...

Modified according to the reference pics...

plastic cards covered the tail section. There no groove on the tail on SA 341/2...

plastic card was cut in section and glued with Tamiya thin cements... the plastic card was bend into shape (contour) of the tail by blowing hot air with heat gun... 

Now what's bugging me is how the hell am I gonna replicate the all glass bubble canopy for this helo's??!  I was thinking hard to solve this problem until i found very useful web page after surfing for hours on the net . What's contain in this link should be the closest solutions and help me solve the bubble canopy problems for my Gaz. here is the link :  and . Hope this helps... (thanks to Ultralajt for the useful, unthinkable solutions ;) Happy flying!!!)

Some details:  (Click on thumbnails for bigger photo's)

The tail rotor shaft
Starboard fuselage 

The cockpit

the door frame
The interior. Note on the ELT

the tail rotor mechanical 
Portside view for the tail rotor

The cabin...
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Since i'm between projects, sorry for the delay for posting the updates.. here some updates on the cockpit section. I was browsing around the web and come across one site that have measurement and dimension on Gaz. I copy and enlarge until  get the measurement for 1/32th scale (however the shape was not proportionate) so.. some correction was made. I use 1/35th scale instead and the shape balanced compare to the earlier one. 

The photocopy..

Cut to desired shape

looks right... well close enough!
Port and starboard side... 
Egg Shell canopy

I basically got the center shape of the canopy section and floor section for the cockpit. Now the challenge begin... its like fixing a 3D puzzle. My plan is to create a cross section using cardboard. Cut the section 1 inch in between. By end of the process I will get 3D egg shape canopy for my Gaz. Between gap will be fill with plaster of paris to hold it and by doing so, the shape will eventually molded. Then layers of car putty to hardened and sand to desired shape. Well, that's the plan and it seems feasible and I will stick to it until next problem arise ;)..

Measurement based on the drawings obtained from internet...

the center piece...

the shape dimension was corrected by sanding into shape

the cross sections... I used thin packaging box (postal box) seems sturdy enough...

Glued using glue gun.. note cross sections marked accordingly...

I used contour gauge to get the shape and cut each cross-section accordingly 

all glued and need to re-shape the "egg" 

Thinning the section card by 0.8-1cm

...after completed assemble the cross-sections, will proceed with the filling the gap of each cross section with either Plaster of Paris (fine paper mesh) or Car putty. Few things to consider whilst doing the cross sections :-
* make sure your hands is dry to avoid the cardboard to get soften. Water will easily destroy the cardboard.
* Make sure you use face mask or dust protector mask since the paper dust is dangerous when inhaled (the particles is same as wood dust which can be hazardous)
* I use contour gauge to get the curvature of each cross sections. You can use soldering wire to duplicate the curvature for each sides.
* You have to "shrink" the total "egg" size from 0.5mm - 1cm (depending) for outer layer of plaster or putty to set.
* Do not use water based glue such PVA to assemble each cross-sections.

Filling the "egg"...

Carefully stuffed the plaster on each section 

another 6 sections to go...

The medium... 

sanded smooth... one more side to go

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once the shape formed... Overcoat with car putty 

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kf.B said...

anyone knows where to get this "blue foam" around Puchong/cyberjaya area?? let me know.

Styrofoam used to make mold for the canopy known as "blue foam" among art students. It has very high density and easy to shape. it's hard and can be coated with Car Putty to hardened the surface. I used to used this for my mock up model during my college years...

kf.B said...
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kf.B said...

anyone who have cross section drawings for Gazalle please let me know... I need to get the correct shape for the bubble canopy... better still if its in 1/32 scale ;)