Tuesday, 22 January 2013

SIKU Tiger UHT to French Tigre HAP conversion

While there are plenty of 1/144 Apaches and Hinds, there is a notable lack of small scale Eurocopter Tiger helicopter gunship models. Operated by France, Germany, Spain and Australia in four different versions (HAP, HAD, UHT and ARH), it is about time Revell, F-Toys or someone decided to produce one. Addendum: I've just realised that Minifigs in fact has a French Tiger gunship hiding in its 12mm  modern German range, still I like mine and it is cheaper...

In the meantime, there is all of one option: a SIKU box-scale toy (product n.0872) which works out at something like 1/185 scale. The main redeeming feature of this toy is its very low price (around 2-3 euros) although it certainly stands up to comparison with some of the wargaming models out there.

The SIKU die-cast is a slightly strange combination of the German UHT anti-tank version and the chin gun found only on the other three versions. These inaccuracies aside, the overall shape is good and the quality is rather higher than what you would expect from a toy whose target audience is probably 6-year olds.

Despite the horrendous rotors and wheels and an oversize nose gun, it can be made into a half-decent representation with very little work. Going from the out-of-the box toy on the right to the one above is in fact pretty straightforward as long as you have a small metal file and good side cutting pliers.

Once the countersunk rivet on the right side was puttied over, the first thing to go was the nose gun, followed by the toy-like rotors and their hubs which were easily cut off with a side cutter. The overlarge plastic wheels were also removed, keeping the smaller metal support being as the new wheels. Once the rotor hubs and nose gun positions were filed down, these were replaced with 3 mm (main rotor and nose gun) and 2 mm (tail rotor) rare-earth magnets. A new nose gun was fashioned out of brass wire, gel-type superglue and plasticard. This was simply eyeballed and drilled to take a 2 mm magnet to allow it to swivel. The front of the engine housing was also filed flat to make room for a roof-mounted IR and thermal sight which was simply a slightly flattened ball of greenstuff. No attempt was made to add sand filters and, likewise, the armament was left as is even though it isn't really accurate for anything other than the German version.

New rotors were cut from some transparent plastic offcuts I had lying around and are secured to the helicopter with yet more magnets, making them removable for transport. These will probably be replaced with laser-cut rotors from Hurlbat Designs. A larger magnet was glued under the fuselage to attach the model to a flying stand and the helicopter was ready for its new coat of paint.

The French camouflage was reproduced with the closest colours in my paint box: Humbrol Acrylic 78 Cockpit Green, Revell Aqua 36106 Tar Black and Vallejo 940 Saddle Brown.These were followed by a wash of black ink and then cleaned up/highlighted with the original colours (with some Humbrol Dark Slate Grey added to the Cockpit Green).

This combination of colours works for French and Spanish machines, with a more sandy brown substituted for Australian machines (which have a slightly more complicated pattern) while German ones sport a two-colour black and olive green scheme.


  1. Clever work. I'm looking for a 1:100 one myself...

    1. Fabbri/Italaeri make one and there is one on eBay: http://goo.gl/aQv8L