October 2018

Dassault Hu-25D Guardian

(Falcon 20)

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Dassault Hu-25D Guardian (Falcon 20G)

US Coast Guard - Miami, 2000.

Mach2 1/72 with scratch modifications

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© www.gengriz.co.uk

Background Picture - Two Falcon 20 threat simulation aircraft of FRA/Cobham fly in formation with

four Royal Navy Hawk aircraft (used to simulate launched missiles)

Have a look at many more models  of US aircraft on my Friends and Allies pages

Building the Kit:

Those of you familiar with Mach 2 kits will appreciate and understand what a challenge this build has been.  

Mach 2 are traditional “old school” short run kits, using low pressure injection moulding techniques that make large amounts of flash almost unavoidable and which limit the level of detail and moulding consistency that can be achieved.  

Products of industrial accuracy they are most definitely not !  

However, their bold range of unique subjects with a strong French bias make them the only option for some very interesting, but less mainstream subjects.  If you take them in this context, and are willing to apply a degree of time, skill and effort into their construction, you will end up with something unique and definitely worthwhile.  

Just don’t try one when you are feeling vulnerable or stressed.

Mach 2’s Dassault Falcon kit is a typical product of this manufacturer and comes in a wide range of civil and military variants, including the smaller Falcon 10 and the subject of this model, the mid-sized Falcon 20.  Within those sub-types there are further options, some of which would be suitable for conversion to one of the Royal Navy’s contracted FRA EW training aircraft (if you could track down some decals).  That was my original plan, but in the end it was the colourful US Coast Guard Hu-25 Guardian maritime patrol variant that caught my eye, with its large and unusual acrylic full length cabin windows used for observation of vessels during anti-narcotic or SAR patrols.

The kit comes on a single sprue in a soft slightly yellowed plastic with a lot of flash, but some reasonable surface detail.  Detaching parts from the sprue can be difficult, as attachment parts are thick and not always well placed.  There are also some very large and obtrusive ejector pin stubs that need to be removed carefully before parts will fit together.  

Parts fit is generally quite poor and needs a lot of tidying up of joining surfaces, but once this is done, a small amount of filler is all that is needed to complete, with two exceptions;  the cabin windows, especially the windscreen, and the wing joints.  These two areas both need some very careful attention to achieve a smooth and symmetrical result.  

As with every Mach 2 kit I have seen or built, the transparent parts are the weakest link – on this kit they are cloudy and no amount of polishing could resolve this as it seems to be more an issue of the grade of plastic used. They are also a poor fit, needing some filler around their edges and some sanding to fair them in, meaning that what little transparency there originally was needed to be polished back in (using toothpaste as a polish) on completion.

The US Coast Guard Hu-25 Guardian is based on the immensely successful Dassault Falcon 20G business jet that first flew in 1963 and continued to be produced until 1988.  The USCG, along with the French Marine National, operate a long range maritime surveillance variant fitted with electronic and optical sensors and distinctive full length observation windows on both sides of the fuselage.  

The 41 aircraft acquired by the USCG entered service in 1982 and were assembled locally in Arkansas with US mission systems. Cabin observation windows were designed and produced by Grumman. Unlike mainstream Falcons, the Guardian was powered by 2 Garrett ATF-3 turbofans, a somewhat unusual engine with jet pipes exhausting in front of the main engine section within the fan cowling (requiring the jet flow to reverse direction twice). Distinctive metallic pods behind the cowl house the combustion and power turbine sections.

Surface detail is pretty scant, but good enough for this scale and subject, with a good range of antenna provided, albeit that some are clearly beyond the moulding technology and best replaced from the spares box.  To my surprise, the cockpit interior and undercarriage are actually quite good once tidied up, but I did have some very nasty depressions on the tail surfaces and the inside of the wing really needed a lot of work.  Decals are laser printed, so need careful trimming to size, but they have strong colours, are finely printed and are acceptably thin.

Painting the dayglow red areas proved a little bit of a challenge. Tamiya masking tape proved very effective, with the plastic curved variety used for the fuselage band.  Whilst the wings and fuselage were relatively easy to do, the vertical tail was less so

During its service life, the Guardian underwent a range of sensor and mission system upgrades to produce 5 distinct variants:

As supplied, the kit builds into an original Hu-25A with limited sensor fit based out of Miami CGAS.  The same aircraft was later converted into the short-lived Hu-25B version with large podded sideways looking radar and wing pods (The Falcon 20 retains some of the wing hard points of its design predecessor, the Super Mystere fighter). I quite fancied doing this conversion to mine, but struggled to find anything I could use as a basis for the under fuselage pod. The Hu-25C and C+ variant have a much longer nose to house the radar antenna, so I opted instead for the later Hu-25D variant with a scratch built IR/Optical turret and fairing under the fuselage, plus sprue RWR receiver in the tail and satnav antenna above the fuselage.  

Decals are those that come with the kit, except the serial – 2111 (as supplied) was used as a test aircraft for the Hu-25B, then struck off, dismantled and its hull sunk as an artificial reef!  As a result, I changed the last 1 to a 4, giving me 2114, an original Hu-25A model that was stored at AMARC for a while then converted to a D in 1999.

In sum, this kit is definitely a challenge, but if you are feeling patient and know what to expect from a Mach 2 kit, it may not be an easy route to an award winning model, but is still well worth the time and effort you will have to put into it!

The real thing  - The remains of 2111, the aricraft markings provided with the kit, being sunk as an artificial reef.    © USCG Photo

Based at 5 air stations around the US coast, the aircraft were capable of cruising at 350 knots down to sea level, with a maximum ceiling of 41,000 ft, an effective operational range of 800nm and capable of nearly 6 hours endurance on patrol.

Hu-25s served the USCG faithfully for 32 years and proved to be very popular and effective aircraft, finally being withdrawn in 2014 and replaced by ex-USAF surplus C-27 Spartans.

Falcon Walkaround:

These are a range of pictures of other military Falcon aircraft seen in the UK.  The first is a smaller Falcon 10 aircraft used by the French Navy for maritime patrols. Often flying at very low level over the sea, these surprisingly agile aircraft are most impressive to watch.  The larger blue aircraft are Falcon 20s used by FRA/Cobham under a threat simulation training contract with the Royal Navy.  Fitted with jamming and missile simulator pods under their wings, the aircraft are often closely accompanied by BAE Hawks that split off from the formation, looking on radar and ESM detectors like an Air to Surface missile launched by the Falcon.

Have a look at many more models  of US aircraft on my Friends and Allies pages

The real thing - A Guardian Hu-25C - © John Davies Collection - via Wikipedia

The real thing makes its final operational flight in 2014 - © USCG Photo