Read the book, make the model

Posted on Thursday 12th June 2014


It has always been the case that interest in a subject leads to further research which deepens the understanding and heightens the interest further.
Since the dawn of history this fascination has found expression in the desire to make a replica so that the subject may be appreciated in three dimensions. Modellers (‘Miniaturists’ as the Americans more accurately describe them) have thus been responsible for a great deal of historic research as the models they create contain so much more information than a picture with only one aspect.
For this author building a model of Bell’s iconic Cobra Attack Helicopter many years ago sparked the research that led ultimately to the current Pen and Sword volume charting the history to date of this unique aircraft.
For those unfamiliar with the ‘Snake’ it was conceived as a ‘stop-gap’ type to fill an urgent operational need during the Vietnam War. That part of the story alone is truly remarkable. The Bell Helicopter Company hand-built a private venture prototype in a matter of months. In the process they created the world’s first Attack Helicopter and set design parameters that hold to this day.
Less than two years later Cobras were operational and tenaciously defending the soldiers on the ground in the thick of the heaviest fighting since WWII. So effective were they that Vietnam is often referred to as ‘the helicopter war’. The end of that conflict was supposed to see the replacement of the ‘interim’ Cobras with a much more advanced aircraft that had been in development for some years. History however, had other plans…
Suffice that the Cobra has continued to develop, remaining in front-line service and production ever since, its battle honours including Grenada, Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan. Cobras have been widely exported and even illegally replicated. Their distinctive sound has echoed over almost every ocean and continent in the world. They have operated on land and at sea; in desert heat or arctic cold, over mountains, jungles and dense urban environments.
Snakes may have been designed to deliver weapons but they have also mastered reconnaissance, forward air control, artillery spotting and combat rescue. NASA has used Cobras for aeronautical research and Cobras have arrested drug smugglers, deterred pirates, fought forest fires and even hauled logs!
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It is little wonder therefore that over the nearly five decades of the Cobra’s existence many models of it have been produced, some good others less so. Recognising that a new ‘state of the art’ replica was long overdue the respected MPM company began development of what they intended to be the most accurate model yet produced.
Advanced tooling techniques have enabled accurate reproduction of the smallest details and their quest for accuracy has paralleled our own as the book came together. In the current volume you will find published for the first time accurate details of colour schemes and markings painstakingly researched from original source material including Bell Paint Shop drawings, private photographs and in some cases the personal recollections of crews who actually painted the distinctive but highly individual ‘sharkmouth’ adornments and similar operational markings. Much of this is reflected in the colour schemes and high-quality decals the new kits provide.
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MPMs attention to detail extends to the provision of virtually every weapon the Cobra has carried including the awesome M-35 ‘Vulcan’ gun – so big that the weapon and its ammunition panniers was almost all the aircraft could lift ! Again the book details all the ordnance Cobra variants have toted, including several experimental weapons.
MPM’s initial releases will cover ‘early’ AH-1s with alternative parts enabling the modeller to produce virtually any machine from the pre-production airframes through all operational Vietnam configurations. Later releases will cover post-Vietnam developments including ‘S’ and ‘Q’ variants – all of which are fully detailed in the book.
Having made your model you will also be able to read what it’s like to fly and fight the Cobra, and how, as the fiftieth anniversary approaches, the current and truly awe-inspiring Cobra variant – the AH-1Z ‘Zulu’ – is still ‘Makin’ history’ at the front-line.
For my part, this author will finally be able to make a really good model of a true aviation legend. The AH-1 Cobra.

Further Reading


Cobra! The Attack Helicopter
(Hardback - 248 pages)
ISBN: 9781781593387

by Mike Verier
Only £25.00

The history of the Cobra helicopter is a long and varied one, characterised by extensive deployment in some of the most dynamic theatres of war. Designed in 1965, we are fast approaching the 50th Anniversary of the craft's inception into the world of combat flight, so it seems timely that we should be presented with this, a comprehensive historical account of the various landmarks of the Cobra's service history.

This heavily illustrated volume relays the story of the Cobra from the days of early development and concept…
Read more at Pen & Sword Books...

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