Aerospatiale AS 365 Dauphin / Harbin Z-9A Dolphin 2 by Dream Model
Kit No. 720001
Decals: Four versions- One Chinese Navy, Two British Royal Navy, one Aeronavale (French Navy)
Comments: Engraved panel lines, color photo etch parts for cockpit and exterior antennas
Aerospatiale developed the Dauphin as a replacement for their older Alouette III helicopters in both civil and military service, with the prototype flying in 1972. By the time that the original single-engine version (SA 360) had entered production, a twin-engine version had already flown which was to form the basis for the SA 365. By 1991, the 500th airframe had been delivered and was also manufactured under licence in China as the Z-9 by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation.
Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation of China began local-license production of the French Aerospatiale AS365 Dauphin in 1981 as the Harbin Z-9 (NATO: “Haitun”). The original AS365 – a multi-role helicopter – was developed in the early 1970s and entered series production began in 1978. A militarized version then appeared as the AS565 “Panther” which considerably broadened the type’s reach on the battlefield. The first Z-9’s were produced in China from kits delivered by Aerospatiale and the type was formally introduced into service with Chinese military forces in 1994. Subsequent production has seen the series reach 200 examples including a dedicated armed attack variant known as the “Z-9WZ.” The AS365 is now associated with the Eurocopter brand, as Aerospatiale went defunct in July of 2000.
The Chinese Harbin Z-9 retains much of the appearance of its French counterpart, proving the design sound and robust. The fuselage is well streamlined with the two-seat cockpit well-ahead in the configuration. Both pilots manage excellent vantage points from their respective side-by-side seating as most of the forward panels are transparent, allowing for unfettered upward, downward, forward and side-to-side views.
The Z-9 is crewed by two personnel as standard with passenger seating for up to 8. The Z-9 can also accept medical litters in a MEDEVAC roles and can haul up to 4,200lbs of internal cargo with seating removed. Beyond its transport and passenger-hauling capabilities, the Z-9 has also been developed into an armed helicopter capable of engaging armored vehicles, surface warships, “soft” targets and low-flying aircraft through various munition options along wing stubs aft of the passenger cabin.
The Chinese moved quickly to develop a mostly-indigenous version of the French design. Utilizing up to 70% local Chinese components, the Z-9B variant was unveiled in late 1992, undertaking a successful first flight in November of that year. After some slight changes to the pilot vehicle, serial production was begun in 1993 resulting in its adoption by Chinese Army forces the following year. The Z-9 is powered by a pair of locally-made Zhuzhou Aeroengine Factory WZ-8A turboshaft engines (essentially local copies of the French Turbomeca Arriel) mounted in a side-by-side configuration. Each outputs 848 horsepower which supply the aircraft with a top speed of 190 miles per hour, a ferry range of 620 miles and a service ceiling of 14,700 feet.
The Z-9 series has seen low export numbers to date, serving Bolivia, Cape Verde, Kenya, Laos, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia and Pakistan. Pakistan is the largest foreign operator of the type with 12 examples in service though of little surprise as both countries maintain a close working military relationship.
Dream Model’s kit of the Z-9 offers simplicity and elegance, consisting of 55 injection molded parts on three sprues, with nine of the parts in clear plastic. Made in China, the kit captures the lines of China’s license-built version of the Aerospatiale 365 beautifully, but also underscores why China has become a powerhouse in the modeling world over the past decade, combining simplicity of construction with detail. The kit features engraved panel lines and fairly good interior cabin and cockpit detail that is ably augmented by color photo-etch parts for the main and center console instrument panels, seat straps, control yokes and rudder pedals. A variety of small parts provide a healthy measure of external detail, including rear fins, photo-etch blade antennas, intake vents, intake grill, exhaust ports, and landing gear.
In addition, there are color plates to assist painting and decal placement for all four versions, and which provide a paint guide referencing Mr. Color paints. The first version is Chinese, and features a paint scheme of overall white, with striking red and blue markings. The second is for a Royal Navy helicopter in overall Roundel Blue; the third is for a Royal Navy machine in an overall color identified as “Shine Red,” and the fourth is for a French Navy helicopter in overall dark sea grey with orange flashes on the fins and the top of the tail. There is no indication as to the specific units to which any of these aircraft are assigned. The decals are by Dream Model and have excellent, vivid color and are perfectly in register with a nice, high-gloss sheen.