Review and conversion of Italeri 1/48 MH-60 ‘Pave Hawk’ to RAAF/ARMY S-70A Blackhawk

1/48 AAAvn S-70A Blackhawk

by Andrew Doppel


Many, many years ago (I believe I may have still been living with my parents and unmarried) I bought and built straight from the box Italeri’s ‘new release’ 1/48 UH-60 Blackhawk.  It was a very basic kit with no wire cutters, minimal internal detail and only some basic external detail.  I painted this model by hand and at the time was satisfied with its look.  Then a few years later along came an airbrush and the Blackhawk was repainted and put back into the cabinet looking refreshed but still inadequately detailed.  I recently decided the time had come for the old Blackhawk to be replaced with a more recent and more detailed kit.  So, for my 38th birthday in 2007, the wife and kids bought me the only available Blackhawk replacement kit; Italeri’s 1/48 ‘Pave Hawk’.

Opening and inspecting the kit

Upon opening the box and looking at the parts and instructions, there is some good detail in this kit particularly externally and in the cabin.  Compared to my first Blackhawk the detail in this kit was a vast improvement.  The decals supplied appeared to be good quality particularly the instrumentation.  Pity though, as I had already decided to use the Eduard ‘Zoom’ P/E for the cockpit.  The downside of this kit is that there is no cabin seating.  Instead you get an internal fuel tank, ammo boxes for the two forward window 30 or 50mm machine guns and two main door guns.  With this kit however, you get wire cutters for the upper fuselage and for the main wheels.  The aerials are incorrect for an Aussie Blackhawk so these will have to be scratch built later.  There are also no external stores ‘wings’ or long- range external fuel tanks. 

Building the Blackhawk from the Pave Hawk

Before actually starting any construction I sourced two excellent DVDs from David Edwards and David Harvey of their personal walk-around photos that provided me with all the detail I relied upon to build an Aussie Blackhawk.  Having spoken and liaised with David Edwards on a number of occasions, I decided that the end result would be a Blackhawk resembling one of those sent to Timor in 2000 (A25-201 or A25-208) with no seats against the rear bulkhead wall which allowed the carriage of more troops and their equipment and no long-range external fuel tanks.  I decided on A25-208 as these decals came with the Aussie Decal sheet I got with the kit.

To start the build, I sprayed all the cockpit components and the cockpit section of the floor and forward fuselage matt black.  When this was dry I sprayed the rest of the cabin interior and floor grey.  The roof was then painted in a close match canvas colour and the top of the rear bulkhead wall.  When all of this was dry I added the Eduard P/E to the cockpit as per the instructions.  The only modification to the cockpit was the addition of a raised instrument panel at the rear of the centre console, cutting and adding the removed P/E to this panel.  Other additions in the cockpit were a flexible map light (just visible against the centre console), a compass on top of the instrument panel, duffle bag and first aid kit made from Milliput and an ammo carry tray mounted to a small bulkhead and fire extinguishers made from sprue.  I also added framing to the pilots’ doors and map pockets from plastic card for added detail.  Two fire extinguishers made from filed down sprue with stretch sprue handles were painted yellow and attached to the pilot’s seat and gunner’s seat bulkhead.

The painted cabin floor and cockpit with duffle bag, first aid kit, bulk head, fire extinguisher and ammo tray added. Roof  rail added, wheel strut cover added with hatchet mounted.

It was now time to add some detail to the rear cabin area.  The tie down points on the cabin floor were painted green.  I used a brighter green than that seen in the real Blackhawks just to highlight these points.  The roof detail towards the rear of the cabin was removed by way of a flat chisel knife blade and replaced with a more accurate representation made from .5 mm plastic sheet.

The modified and corrected roof lining with access panels, lights, plumbing and bulk head seat hook on points 
Seats in position with horizontal wall bulk head for gun mounting. Note the scratch built fire extinguisher attached to the gunner’s window bulkhead.

The forward detail was enhanced further with plastic card also to accommodate a rail beam that runs through the centre of the cabin.  This beam is white plastic coated wire (1mm diameter) and extends through the rear wall.  These items were then painted grey to match the floor.  I then made a rescue safety harness from clear cello tape rolled over several times and plastic shopping bag strips and wire to complete the harness.  This was then painted yellow/black and white and put aside to dry.  This harness was inserted after the painting was completed and final interior detail added.  It was now time to add some further interior detail.  I decided to pay my previous Blackhawk a visit and strip it of the remaining seating.  The seats were in a row of four with very little detail beside the exposed metal where the canvas is attached.  I cut two of these seats off and reattached the backs to each one.  The seat legs were also removed and angled legs made from stretched sprue re-applied.  These were painted and seat belts added using lead/foil sheet.  I then drilled a number of .78mm holes to allow the fitting of wire harnesses for the seats to be attached to.  The seats were then glued into position and the wire braces attached below the seat.  Additional attachment loops were also added to the roof as well as larger ceiling cabin lights.  Four triangular seat attachment hoops were added to the rear bulkhead wall.

The completed cabin was then gloss coated and wash added when this was dry and cleaned up a coat of ‘Dullcote’ was applied.  Internal plumbing was added and then the cabin was dry fitted to the fuselage. 

From here it was time to deal with the internal cabin walls and the lack of detail.  I made wheel strut covers from plastic card and from the scrap box found some hatchets from an old tank kit I had built years ago.  These were stuck to the strut covers and painted.  Still not satisfied I added a horizontal cross members with plastic card which ran parallel with the ‘gunner’s’ windows and which would be more supportive of the 20 mm machine guns that were later fitted.  Plumbing was added here as well.  I also found a photo from the two discs that shows a blue six pack of Tetra drinks sitting in the hollow near the gunner’s feet so I made a Tetra pack from some off cut resin, painted it blue and stuck it into position.  I added some wire cabling to the roof and a rope extending through the centre of the cabin from plastic coated beading wire.

The completed interior dry fitted into the starboard fuselage section.  NB angled seat legs

Given that most of the interior was done and it only needed some small additional detail to be added later it was now time to join things together and see how it turns out.  All the rest of the assembly was as per the instruction sheet which was quite clear except for the flanges that cover the engine exhausts.  These needed a little attention which hopefully won’t bee seen later on when things get painted.  The instructions show the flange to be added the wrong way around.  Before actually joining the two halves together I drilled out the small window in the nose and back filling it with clear plastic sheet from inside.  This will later be filled from the exterior with clear filler or clear card.  In the end the joining was exceptional with very little filler/putty being required.

The completed cabin interior after joining Hinge recesses and hinges added to nose and window drilled into nose which will be filled later.

It was now time to work externally and add the detail required to bring the Pave Hawk into line with Aussie Blackhawk specs.  The Pave Hawk kit gives you the option of standard and tie down fitted foot steps.  I went with the standard steps.  A brace bar for an external winch light was inserted and spot light made from sprue to be added later.  Latches for the engine cover were inserted as were vents.  These vents were drilled out and a plastic mesh glued in.  The engine cover vent was moved back 2-3mm as it was incorrectly moulded. Hinges for the nose access panel were added and the lower hatch points drilled out.  I also added brake lines from small gauge jewellery/scrap booking wire to the top of the wheel legs.

Latches on engine cover and drilled out and relocated engine vent.
Brake lines added to wheel strut with scrap-booking wire (red) which will be painted later.  Tie down hoop added to wing locating joints on both sides.  Made from fine wire.

Depending on how I was feeling, I would work on the cabin body or the rotors (or both depending on what was drying at the time).  The Pave Hawk kit allows for the main rotors to be folded in a rearward facing storage position.  It was my intention to do this, except after being folded back one to many times a couple of the blades broke at the pins so I had to fix them in the open position.  This allowed me however to add de-icing cables to the rotor head which needed some minor alteration from the kit parts.  Before I could proceed with the rotors a minor alteration had to be made to them with the removal of the leading edge trim.  This edge was shaved off to make the rotor leading edge completely straight.  I then had to re-visit my old Blackhawk kit again and salvage the rotor head which was slightly bigger than the kit supplied rotor head and more correctly detailed.  On both kits this has a hollow in the top which needed to be enclosed to allow the cabling to be inserted.  This was done with some sprue of wider dimension cut to size.  I could then drill small holes to allow the cables to be inserted and fixed.  I used plastic coated beading wire available at Kmart for this purpose.  Although from pictures obtained it is clear that all the de-icing wiring is the same across the four points of the rotor I altered mine slightly to give different aspects of the cables.  These cables were later painted matt black with painted silver joiners.

Rotors in the open position and the fuselage basically in one piece.
Close up of the de-icing plumbing added to rotors and the starting of the adding of aerials to rear fuselage top.

At this stage I have left the tail rotor alone as it needed to be painted green before the additional cabling could be applied to it.  As there is no exact colour available for Aussie Blackhawk green I had to mix colours (referred to further on) to get it right.    

I then flattened the round wheels by flattening them on a hot Teflon based iron.  This is effective as if it is done right the tyre bulges slightly.  I then stated work on the aerials.  The coloured piece in the photo above right was taken from the old Blackhawk as it is closer in resemblance than the kit part.  The other upper aerials were either modified from the kit parts or scratch built using plastic card and styrene rod.  The port fuselage aerial was also made from plastic card.  Two main door steps were made from styrene rod and small metal meshing were made.  I attached one to the port side the other to be glued in the cabin before closing the starboard door.

 As I moved closer to the painting stage I decided that I would make my Blackhawk in the semi-safe position by installing FOD bags in the intakes and Remove Before Flight (RBF) tags on the Pitot tubes.  The FOD bags were created with Milliput inserted into the intakes whilst off the chopper and the long RBF glued in underneath.  The long RBF tags were made from a red plastic shopping bag cut into strips.  When the Milliput had set it was painted fluoro orange to match the RBF tag.  The RBF tags attached to the Pitot tubes were attached in a similar manner but attached using Tamiya tape stuck around the tube and trimmed down.  The Tamiya tape was later painted olive drab.  These items were held out until the chopper was finally painted then glued into position.


Using the kit parts I was able to make mounts resembling those used on the Aussie Blackhawks in the gunner’s windows.  As the kit doesn’t provide the 20mm guns the Australian Army has mounted in their Blackhawks I had to source some from elsewhere.  Courtesy of Ryan Hamilton I was supplied four resin 20mm guns which I adapted to suit. These guns move up and down but are fixed in an outward position from the gunner’s window.  The ammo buckets on both sides of the gun were made from the resin surrounds from the guns, sanded to shape and super-glued on.  The handles from the kit guns were also glued on to the cut down butt of the 20mm.  These were then painted and held aside for attaching later.


When all putty had been sanded away all the windows were taped over prior to the clear parts being inserted (except windscreen which was masked with Tamiya tape).  The main rotor which is removable for transporting purposes was taken out and the hole covered with tape.  I started painting be spraying the tan (Model Master FS30219) over the whole aircraft.  Any blemishes or unnecessary gaps filed, sanded and repainted in tan if required.  I then used Blue-Tac to do the demarcation for the next colour being green, which I had to guess on as there is no readily available colour matching (34102 mixed with flat white).  After this came the matt black (Model master) which was applied in the same manner except on the tail which was masked with Tamiya tape.


When the painting was completed the aircraft was given a coat of gloss enamel and panel line wash was applied.  When cleaned up the Aussie Decals were applied.  As mentioned earlier I decided to go with the 2000 Timor UN deployment scheme.  Once applied the semi-gloss tail was covered and the entire aircraft was given a coat of Dullcote.


Decals applied to the gloss painted model.  Note dry fitted intakes with FOD pads in place and RBF tags.  Model washed and weathered prior to Dullcote being applied.  Note the port side main step made from styrene rod and metal meshing (above left picture).

Finishing off 

After all this was completed the guns were added, coiled wiring was inserted into the cabin area and winch spot light, the rescue harness/yoke was glued into position and the starboard main door glued into place.  All the tape was removed from the windows and the clear parts added.  The co-pilots door was glued into the open position to allow viewing access of the cockpit area.  The port side main door was fixed in the open.  The aerial cable on the port side of the tail was added using stretched sprue.  The tail rotor had its cabling inserted ready for fixing into the tail.  Underside spot lights drilled out in their positions and under body aerials added using toothbrush bristle.  The winch spot light and cabling was added on the starboard side above the main door.  I even scratch built tie down hoops for the main wheels, raising the port side one sufficiently for a hook and rope to keep the main rotor in position. The rotors then had a locating hook inserted for the rope, and was then put into position and the aircraft was finished structurally.  Also added for a bit of realism was ten slabs of VB (Victoria Bitter) Mid-strength beer, again courtesy of Ryan Hamilton but reduced slightly in size to suit the scale.





Overall this kit was a pleasure to build and enhance.  I recommend it for anyone interested in building an Aussie Blackhawk.  Although I have added more detail to it than what I would usually, I felt what I have done has given the kit some justice and I am extremely pleased with the outcome.  The only down side of this kit was the fitting of the front windscreen and door windows but with a little attention this can be overcome.

Since the release of this kit, I believe it was Academy/Mini Craft who have subsequently also released a 1/48 Blackhawk which has far better interior detail and includes proper moulded seats for the cabin area and downward slopping external stores ‘wings’ with two hard points and long-range external fuel tanks.

Once again I totally recommend this kit and would have no hesitation to build another.

Thankyou to;

David Edwards and David Harvey for their photographic references,
Ryan Hamilton for the resin 20mm guns and beer packages, and
Andrew Perren for his hints on the rotor cabling.

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