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1/35 scale CH-54 Tarhe by ICM


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What a last few years it has been for helicopter modelers! We’ve had several manufacturers release some incredible models of modern military helicopters, such as a complete H-60 family, TWO types of Cobra, two types of Little Bird “death egg”, a brand new tool Apache, and now, one that will blow the socks off any helicopter fan, the unique Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe, or better known as the “Skycrane”.


The US Army has always seen the helicopter as a utility tool to move men and equipment around the battlefield as efficiently as possible. Therefore, the Army pressed Sikorsky to develop a true “heavy lift” helicopter to do just that. Their first successful attempt was the unique and somewhat ungainly CH-37 Mojave, a massive single rotor helicopter powered by twin P&W R2800 pod mounted radial engines. Although it was a successful deign, the CH-37, (as we’re all early helicopter designs) found itself limited by it’s reciprocating engines. 


Shortly after the CH-37 entered service, Sikorsky found itself developing a new design using a minimalist minimalist airframe in order to maximize payload. The result was the S-60, which used the CH-37 engines,transmission, and driveline, but utilized a distinct “pod and boom” design. One was produced, and was thoroughly tested by the Army.


The follow up to the S-60 took the design one step farther, using two massive P&W T-73 turboshaft engines of 4,700 shp each connected to the basic CH-37 drivetrain.  That engine and transmission drove a 6 blade main rotor with a diameter of 72 ft. (22 m) the tail rotor was driven through a typical PTO and long driveshaft to the tail rotor gearbox.
The result was the CH-54 Tarhe. Although only slightly more than 100 were ever built, the CH-54 was extensively used in Vietnam, and became a very valuable recovery tool for the Army, fetching downed Hueys, Caribou’s, and other disabled aircraft from the boonies, as well as locating artillery pieces and command posts, along with field hospitals into inaccessible areas. Precision operation was enhanced by a unique stabilization system that could turn limited control of the helicopter over to a rear facing loadmaster or crane operator. This man looked rearward and down from the crew area, and he had full independent control of the cargo lifts and hoists, plus an ability to shift the helicopter itself around to center it exactly over the drop area or the load to be recovered.  It was a very unique system that worked well in practice, allowing for very precise placement of materials without the need for constant radio instruction from the ground to the pilots. 
Unfortunately, the unique nature of the CH-54 limited it’s usefulness to lifting and moving oversized cargo, and despite dedicated pods being developed for passenger carrying, the development of the twin rotor CH-47 Chinook, and the triple engined CH-53 Stallion spelled the eventual end of the dedicated cargo lift helicopter.

Erickson Air Crane on the US western coast bought many surplus CH-54s from the Army, and put them to work fire fighting, logging, construction, and for any other duties requiring a specialized heavy lift machine  
Erickson became a recognized expert in the Type and eventually obtained the Type Certificate and manufacturing Rights from Sikorsky.  Erickson has been producing new Skycranes on an as needed basis for their own needs and for sale around the world  



The Kit

There were more than a few people scratching their heads at ICM’s announcement of a 1/35 CH-54 helicopter.  The kit, like the real aircraft would be truly MASSIVE. But military helicopter fans, several of whom call LSM home, cheered loudly at the announcement.

The wait, folks, appears to have been well worth it. The kit arrived today from Sprue Brothers, shipped in a tough brown mailing box, and the box was filled to capacity with a huge model kit. 
The box art on the kit box is truly impressive, and with ICM being a Ukrainian Company, they proudly announce themselves as such on the box top.



The kit box itself is typical ICM. A full color lift off top that contains a sturdy cardboard box containing the kit itself. But wait, there’s more! The kit parts are contained in two separate cardboard boxed, with the one box containing the main airframe parts with rotor blades, and the second box containing the cockpit, engines, transmission, and all the external bits and pieces. 
The box sides show options for two sets of markings included in the kit.






There are 10 sprues of medium grey plastic that will be very familiar to those who know ICM kits, plus one Sprue of clear parts. I saw no PE in my kit at all. 
there are 4 identical sprues, plus 3 identical sprues containing the 6 main rotor blades. 
There are three bags of parts: one bag is dedicated to the clear parts, and then the two boxes each contain one resealable bad full of several sprues each. Sprues are not individually packaged, but are loaded in the box “1970s Monogram style”, and, in my opinion, are much more prone to damage this way. Check your parts to verify against damage. Mine had none. 










The clear parts seem typical ICM, as in very, very nice without any signs of crazing or serious distortion at all.  I’d do a quick dip in the Future to give a truly sparkling appearance. 
I also found a couple small parts that had fallen off the sprues during transit, but nothing appears broken.



The molding quality appears decent, with some light flash and mold seams evident in places. It is NOT up to the epic Revell massive mold lines and flash, but just know you’ll need to do some cleaning up.  And example is the ends of the main rotor blades, with the Mother of all Seams 😁   
One thing I question regarding the rotor blades. These blades are molded straight. When sitting, the blades droop noticeably.  Maybe they will develop a natural droop over time, I don’t know, but as of right now, without proof otherwise, I certainly wish that the blades would have been molded pre drooped and with internal support to prevent any other excessive droop from developing. 
There are pin marks showing in some spots, but they should be hidden on the inside.  
The detail surfaced seen decent and smooth, with no obvious signs of a pebbly surface.
The trailing edges of the main rotor blades are incredibly thin and precise. Nice job, ICM!






Now let’s look at the quality of the moldings themselves.  The small parts, (of which there are seemingly countless), are superb renderings, crisp and precise. The turbine faces with the front bearing support cones and diffusers are beautiful. The wheels are molded in two halves, with adequate detail showing on the hubs. I expect the aftermarket will jump in with resin wheels, which may be a worthwhile upgrade. 
As you can see, there are flow marks on some of the larger parts. I’m going to assume that what we see are flow marks, not sink marks, but a coat of primer will tell the story. 








Now, I have good new to share:  POSITIVE RIVETS.  Helicopters are loaded with them.  They’re not speed machines, they’re utility vehicles, and as a result, they can often look like they’re nailed together like an Erector Set. The CH-54 is no exception, and the surface is loaded with thousands of beautiful, tiny positive rivet heads, so Gazz, step AWAY from the Archer Transfers on this one, there is no need.










Here are a few close ups of the various instrument and switch panels, along with the console itself.  The molding is decent, and decal overlays are provided for application over the instruments.  Along with careful painting, this will provide a decent result, but in my view, a superb result will be obtained with just a bit of extra time and effort. Airscale decals plus Barracuda placards, or any PE overlay, or better yet, 3D decals, will yield an absolute stunning result. With a bit of research and modeling skills application, this crew cabin can be made to pop.  And with the huge amounts of glass to allow eastpy viewing in here, a bit of extra effort here will really improve this. 
Also, as is the custom with ICM, no seatbelts or PE of any kind is provided in the kit, so the builder will need to source or make seatbelts and harnesses as needed. 





The instruction book I’d provided in typical ICM 8 1/2 x 11 glossy paper.  
Paint call outs are listed for ICM, Revell, and Tamiya, in both Crillic and Roman alphabets.  The first 20 steps are for the crew cabin itself.  The main airframe is basic, just a big box girder, and then the engines and transmission take another 80 steps!  The engines and transmission are fully exposed on this aircraft, so the parts are very detailed, crisp, and precise. Optional air filter boxes are provided for the twin engine intakes. They were usually installed, but some aircraft ran without them, so use your judgement.  Full color 3 views are shown for two machines, one for the 273rd Assault Support Company in Vietnam, 1968, and a second version for the 101st Airborne Division, Vietnam, 1969. 


















As is normal with US Army helicopters, markings are few and quite subdued.  The decal sheet, as a result, is small, with much of the area used for the instrument decals. But, there’s enough interest and color here to make for two very attractive options. Plus, since these machines, once they were retired from Military Service, were quickly snapped up by eager civilian Companies. The civilian schemes are certainly colorful and interesting. 


Overall Thoughts 

ICM has become a kitmaker of note.  Their kits fit effortlessly and flawlessly, build easily, are often of offbeat subjects not normally seen in kit form, and are regarded highly as beautiful basic kits that, with the application of a bit of scratch detailing or aftermarket parts, can easily be made into a world class contest winner. 
 Nobody EVER saw a CH-54 anywhere near the market in 1/35  That a small Ukrainian Company can pull this off today, especially in the middle of the local upheaval due to the War of Russian Aggression, is beyond me. But they did a fine job.

This model has to be one of the most glaring examples of a kit that literally cries out to be super detailed and loaded down with details, creativity, and good old fashioned modeling skill. Every single mechanical item of note is in the open and simply screams for a major application of AMS!  
I’ll even go out on a limb and say that we’re going to see some crazy amazing builds of this bird showing up on contest tables around the world.  Helicopter modelers, your competitive world just got infinitely tougher.
Because I’m a huge fan of the concept,  I’m going to wait for some 3D cockpit decals and a bit of resin to be released, then I’ll build the heck out of this!   This is going to be a HUGE model, which may pose some display difficulties for many.  However, for ease of transport aboard ship and in the bowels of heavy lift aircraft, the rotor blades folded rearward on these, so hopefully the aftermarket steps up with that. When they do, this kit will fit in a nice narrow area not much different that what one needs for a 1/32 F-104  

My thanks to ICM for a great kit, and to Sprue Brothers for taking my money and shipping it quick.  

Due to the multitude of small parts and numerous little sub assemblies, this isn’t a kit I’d recommend for newcomers to the hobby, but anyone with 3 or 4 kits under their belt shouldn’t have an issue with this one. But in the hands of a seasoned builder, this will truly shine. 
ICM hit another home run and this kit will be a huge success for them!  
I’ll take mine in green, please  



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Nice video!  It’s hard to grasp how truly massive these things are until you see one up close and in person. The sound alone hits you hard in the chest. Stealthy they’re not.

And the Mi.26 makes these, the Chinook, and the CH-53 look like kids toys. 

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Seriously, I had no idea:  “Erickson became a recognized expert in the Type and eventually obtained the Type Certificate and manufacturing Rights from Sikorsky. 

Mind blown!  I thought all that was left was surplus bought.  So there are new productions flying.  

If I ever get brave enough to tackle one of these, I’m going to have to scratch build one of the MASH boxes that came with the old Revell 1/72 I built as a kid. 

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20 hours ago, ScottsGT said:

Seriously, I had no idea:  “Erickson became a recognized expert in the Type and eventually obtained the Type Certificate and manufacturing Rights from Sikorsky. 

Mind blown!  I thought all that was left was surplus bought.  So there are new productions flying.  

If I ever get brave enough to tackle one of these, I’m going to have to scratch build one of the MASH boxes that came with the old Revell 1/72 I built as a kid. 

Yes, apparently they can build to order. 
Erickson owns the Type Certificate and manufacturing Rights   
They have built several new build S-64s, and gladly build them to order (S-64was the original Sikorsky designation)

or,… remanufacture an old CH-54 retired military to as new standards. 

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8 hours ago, ScottsGT said:

Great review Ernie!  Can’t wait to see your skills applied to this one. 

Thanks!  I’m by no means an expert on the type, or on helicopters in general. I have vowed before Christ my Risen Savior that the next time I enter any helicopter with the intention of going somewhere in it, it won’t be a voluntary action on my part. I will be when I am 10 toes up on a gurney……
I’ve had enough of them, most all spent Knees in the Breeze…

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