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Italeri 1/48 scale Westland Wessex HU.5

Kit:2720 // Scale:1/48 // Price:$62
Italeri, from Model Rectifier Corp., 732-225-2100
Good interior; smart use of photoetched metal; nice marking options
Fit problems around the nose; decals too big
Injection-molded, 146 parts (16 photoetched, vinyl mesh), decals

The Wessex, a turbine-powered version of the Sikorsky S-58, proved to be a workhorse of the Royal Navy, serving as a troop carrier, air-sea rescue chopper, and anti-submarine warfare platform.

There has only been one other 1/48 scale kit of the Wessex, a Revell offering from the 1980s. Italeri’s first version is the HU.5 transport. (The boxtop has the letters flipped, showing the type designation in the American rather than the British style.)

The light gray parts have finely engraved panel lines and rivet detail.

Construction starts with a decent cockpit featuring three-part plastic seats embellished with photoetched-metal harnesses and frames, the option of a decal or photoetched-metal instrument panel, joysticks and collectives, and rudder pedals.

The troop compartment comes next, with webbing seats along both sides, a detailed floor, bulkheads, and ceiling. There’s some play in the fit of these components, making alignment a tad tricky. Those issues are exacerbated by the lack of positive locators for the cockpit in relation to the troop compartment. I had to take it apart several times to get it right. Placing the interior into one half of the fuselage helps line everything up.

Pay attention to Step 4: There are several openings to cut out or drill before closing the body.

In Step 5, I had to dry-fit, sand, and tweak the part to fit the belly.

The nose is separate — probably a nod to other variants of the S-58 family to come — but that introduces the biggest fit problems in the kit. Dry-fitting showed some heavy mold seams along the upper edges of the halves that I had to remove to get a good fit. It’s difficult to join the halves because they only meet at the top.

Next came the chin, which juts down and forward; it’s a single piece, but it doesn’t quite match the contours of the nose. I wiggled it close to being right, then refined the fit with sanding.

I had the same problem with the intake insert. The mesh for the intake screen is easy to cut and will attach with solvent cement. I cut it oversize, pushed it into the part from behind, and used a hobby knife to slit the material on the sides to help it conform. I trimmed the excess mesh with scissors after the cement had dried.

There’s not much to do in Step 7 after the nose and reach louvers are in place. The steps and exhausts are attached after painting and decals.

I used slow-setting liquid cement on the main gear legs so I had time to get the parts aligned. 

Pay attention here, because some of the parts numbers are flipped in the instructions and on the parts-tree maps. Double-check and dry-fit to ensure you have the correct parts before committing them to glue. Same for the antennas on the nose: In Step 11, Part No. 22B in the inset is correct, but in the main image, use 3B for 22B.

There are a lot of photoetched-metal grilles on the tail, but the material is easy to bend and attach with super glue.

Mounting the large, well-molded windshield proved troublesome, mostly I think because of the nose’s fit issues. I had problems and ended up cracking it. (Of course, this may be due to user error.)

I was going to use the plastic rotor-head screen (No. 18A) with the plastic net, but I couldn’t get it to fit. So, I used the alternative photoetched-metal part (No. 1PH).

The main and tail rotors assemble easily. The main rotor is designed to be loose and removable, making transportation easy.

The kit includes four marking options. I was tempted by the colorful gray, green, and black camouflaged Royal Air Force rescue chopper, the red and blue Royal Navy rescue bird, and another R.N. transport in tan and green camouflage. 

In the end, I settled on the fourth option, an overall green R.N. HU.5, after finding a photo of the aircraft included on the decal sheet — XT480 — rescuing survivors after the sinking of RFA Sir Galahad during the Falklands War.

I mixed my approximation of the dark olive green worn by the aircraft using Tamiya NATO green, dark green, and a little yellow.

The decals applied well over a coat of clear gloss. But a lot of them are too big to fit where they are supposed to go. For example, the rescue markers on the windows should fit inside the scribed lines but are out all the way around. The problem is especially noticeable at the front, where there are a lot of stencils. Putting them all where they belong is complicated.

After clear coat and final assembly, I’m pretty happy with the chopper. The model captures the utilitarian lines of the Wessex well and it makes a terrific addition to my Falklands collection.

I spent about 30 hours on the model (not including the repair work you can see in the April 2013 FSM). Because of the parts breakdown and photoetched metal, I recommend it to modelers with some experience.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the March 2013 FineScale Modeler


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