Academy has released a kit of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with two ground crewmen and a display base. This was quite unexpected and would do great if released with the launcher in one of their HMMV kits. Other companies have produced drones in 1/35th scale but this is Academy’s first.
Some background history
The US Army uses several UAVs for various duties. Among them are the Shadow family developed by AAI of Hunt Valley, Maryland, USA. The smallest Shadow is the RQ-7, the subject of this kit. The drone is also used by the USMC and larger versions by other countries. The RQ-7 family has been improved by adding a wet wing for longer range, a stronger Wankel engine, and improved (Israeli designed) payloads. This became the B model. Other options are longer wings which increase the loiter time available or ordnance making the UAV a lethal weapon.
The Plug-In Optronic Payload (POP-300D) allows for Electro-optic/infrared/laser designation (EO/IR/LD), detecting, recognizing, and identifying moving and stationary vehicles, artillery adjusting, target auto tracking, laser designating for laser-guided weapons, laser range finder, and laser pointing. It has a data link range of 125 kilometers.
The configuration of this UAV is comprised fuselage with the payload bay at the front, an engine with pusher propeller at the rear, a fourteen foot wingspan wing with ailerons and flaps, and a twin boom empennage with an inverted V stabilizer with elerudder. Elerudder is a combination elevator (controls pitch) and rudder (controls yaw). Using a hydraulic launch ramp, the drone is sent on its way and can transmit back from 125 kilometers away. Landing is done similar to an aircraft carrier with the drone catching wires and with a net as a failsafe. A parachute is carried on board for the recovery of the payload should the drone be considered rogue.
Within a small box, we find three sprues each separately bagged, and another cellophane bag with the decals. Reminiscent of Matchbox, the sprues are each a different color with gray used for the main body of the drone (Sprue A), flesh color for the figures (Sprue B), and black for the engine, wheels, and display base (Sprue C). Noteworthy are the two shark mouth marking options and a large square of camouflage uniform decal to be used on the figures. I know of two other Academy kits, at this time, with these types of uniform camouflage decals.
The others are the Jagdpanzer 38 and the Tiger II. As expected for a new kit, there is no flash found, molding pin marks are in places where they will not be seen, and molding seams are at a minimum. The instructions are rather simple and consist of a paint chart, seven assembly steps for the drone, one step for the figures, and decal and placement guide. The RQ-7B is made up of twenty eight parts, with eleven parts for the pushing ground crewman and eight for the ground crewman with the head set.
The Construction Stages
I did not follow the sequence of the instructions for the sake of painting and avoiding damage to delicate parts. The first step is to glue both lower fuselage halves together. The second step would have you assemble the engine and add it to the lower fuselage. I left it off to paint in sub-assemblies. The third has one add the tail booms to the wing halves. The fourth step adds the upper fuselage to the lower, trapping the wings. Now come the delicate parts in step five which are the pod and main landing gear which are followed, in step six, with the nose wheel, pitot tube, and payload tray. A bit of welcomed rigidity came about when attaching the tail stabilizers with their actuators during step seven. The last step has you add the completed drone to a display base with optional height mounts.
The figures are assembled separately in an un-numbered step. The poses are fine, no weapons are provided, the faces could be better and the molded on sun glasses will make me replace the heads of the figures. The pushing ground crewman is not wearing hearing protection. This is mandatory on all fields with mixed air elements on the front line. It should be noted that the pusher’s hands should be placed on the stationary surfaces of the tail stabilizers as the movable surfaces are to be stenciled “No Hand Hold.” He is made of eleven parts, face, back of head, helmet, arms, hands, legs, front and rear torso. The other figure is made of eight parts (legs, arms, front and rear torso, head, and hand holding walkie-talkie). There should be a coiled cable from the ground crewman with the walkie-talkie to an unseen box off display. Decals are provided to replicate the uniform’s camouflage and one must cut them to size like a tailor. No patterns are provided for this task.
Accuracy & Opportunities for Improvement
Going over photos and some of the Technical Manuals, it seems that those with serials starting in one are RQ-7A. For the B model, the serials start with two but there are some differences noted on the payload bay cover. Later batches seem to have circular grommet covers, two rows, running down the sides. These are easily replicated with punched styrene disks. These should be added to the fourth and fifth marking choices. Other details to add to the upper fuselage half (part A5) would be the air intake at the rear, replace the opaque bulb with one from clear plastic, adding piano hinges for the payload and engine bay cover hinge lines.
The wing on the model measures 122.5mm which translates to 14 feet in full scale. This is correct for the RQ-7B whose wing was increased from 12 feet 9 inches to this larger wing with internal fuel cells. However, the frontline photos of the RQ-7B, and those posted with this review, show the larger 20 foot 4.75 inch wing with several showing the extensions to the 24 foot wing. To add to the confusion, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ ETL 1110-506 states “Wing Span (ft) is 14 (-7A) or (20 or 22 with re-winging -7B). Other wings have been designed for the Shadow such as one with upswept tips and another with a 25 foot wingspan, tapering outer sections, two hard-points (one under each wing), and 8 inch extensions to the booms. All of the wing increases are to improve loiter time and payload capacity.
Actuators for the ailerons and flaps can be added from wire or stretched sprue. These go on parts A2 spanning to A1. The main gear struts, part A17, can have axle bolts added and the nose gear strut, part C2, can use axle securing bolts added as well. Use the mold seam lines on the main gear legs to help mark the inner axle bolts before removing the seam. The nose wheel and strut are molded in one piece. Scribing around the wheel to strut junction helps give the appearance of separate parts.
The wingtip navigation lights can be replaced with aftermarket items (designed for 1/32nd scale aircraft) for the red port and blue (looks green when lit) starboard bulbs. Many of the photographs of the Shadow in Iraq show the extended wing tips which should not be too difficult to add. You can tell the extended tips by the fact that the ailerons do not reach the outer edges. Do not forget to add an arresting hook from wire.
1. RQ-7B, Unknown Unit, Iraq 2011. Serial 2024 with A-10 style shark mouth and eyes.
2. RQ-7B, Unknown Unit, Iraq 2011. Serial 2187 with shark mouth but no eyes. Shown on the box art however, I have no images of the real item to compare it to.
3. RQ-7B, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Korea 2011. Serial 2411.
4. RQ-7B, Unknown Unit, Iraq 2008. Serial 2022 (v) 2.0 named “The Immortal” whose unusual suffix to the serial may indicate a rebuild.
5. A fifth serial, not mentioned in the instructions, is for an RQ-7B, Unknown Unit, with the serial 2418.
Glossary to Aerospace Terminology Used
• Aileron – control surface for roll.
• Elerudder – Combination Elevator and Rudder.
• Elevator – control surface for pitch (nose up and down).
• Flaps – control surface which increase upper surface of wing and lift.
• Fuselage – the body of the aircraft.
• Port – to the left from the aircraft’s line of flight.
• Rudder – control surface for yaw (side to side along vertical axis).
• Starboard – to the right from the aircraft’s line of flight.
• US Army’s Brigade Aviation Element Handbook Appendix F
• FMI 3-04.155
• Army Research Laboratory ARL-TR-3751
• US Army Corps of Engineers ETL 1110
• AAI RQ-7B Sales Brochure
• Shadow 200 sales brochure.
• The Vulnerabilities o Unmanned Aircraft System Common Data Links to Electronic Attack