Hasegawa 1/48 SH-3H Sea King (Apollo Recovery SH-3D Conversion): Part 1

Hasegawa 1/48 SH-3H Sea King box art

After building Airfix’s old 1/72 scale Apollo recovery Sea King, I swore a mighty oath that I was never going to make another 1/72 helicopter. But I recently got hold of a set of Starfighter Decals’ 1/48 scale markings for the “Old 66” Apollo recovery Sea King, which inspired me to go around again on this specific aircraft, Bureau Number 152711—except this time in 1/48 scale and with the markings used for Apollo 11.

Apollo 11 recovery helicopter

Trouble is, 1/48 scale kits for the SH-3D version of the Sea King are rare and correspondingly expensive. But there is a fairly well-trodden route involving the conversion of an SH-3H, such as the Hasegawa one I’m using here.

So I’ve got the kit, and the decals. I also have a set of short SH-3D-style sponsons (to replace the long SH-3H versions) from Belcher Bits, a set of Montex paint masks for the windows and cockpit canopy, and the instruction sheet for the rare Hasegawa SH-3D kit, downloaded from Scalemates. And, it turns out when I open the Hasegawa box I bought on eBay, I also have a set of QuickBoost resin replacement seats and an Eduard photoetch cockpit detail set. This is the second time I’ve found extras squirrelled away inside a second-hand kit, which kind of compensates for the times I’ve found parts missing from other eBay kits.

First up, some of the kit parts require modification. Hasegawa’s SH-3D kit used the same fuselage parts as the SH-3H, so it provides some good information on which of the kit’s various lumps and bumps need to be removed. There’s also the small matter of a window that needs to be filled on the port side.

Hasegawa 1/48 SH-3H Sea King, fuselage mods for SH-3D
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Hasegawa 1/48 SH-3H Sea King, underside mods for SH-3D
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Note: Here I need to intrude with the benefit of hindsight, to say that the SH-3D instructions are wrong when they indicate the removal of the two raised octagonal structures on the underside of the aircraft. These aerials are visible in photographs of the real thing, and should be left in place. Later in this build log I’ll report on how I had to build replacements, having dutifully removed the originals.

Then the horizontal stabilizer needs to be shortened and its supporting strut discarded, with the locating holes filled.

Hasegawa 1/48 SH-3H Sea King, tail mods for SH-3D
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I rounded the end of the shortened stabilizer with a little filler.

I also needed to remove the dipping sonar from its well on the underside of the aircraft. The well and the tip of the sonar probe come moulded as a single part from Hasegawa, so I sawed them apart.

Hasegawa 1/48 SH-3H Sea King, remove sonar from well
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I’ll blank off the sonar well with some styrene sheet—it was blanked at floor level in the real aircraft, too.

Next, there’s some scratch building. The Gemini and Apollo recovery helicopters were fitted with a rack of cameras, attached to the aft weapon mount point on the starboard side, to film and photograph the recovery process. Todd Douglas Miller’s excellent documentary, Apollo 11, provided some good views of this object. Here are three screen grabs from that film, together with a blurry detail from a more distant photograph:

Views of the camera mount for Apollo 11 recovery
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Views of the camera mount for Apollo 11 recovery. Lower right, detail from NASA S-69-21723; remaining images screen captures from Apollo 11 documentary film

There was a lot of sticky-tape engineering involved. Starfighter decals provide a yellow strip to help reproduce this appearance, but to my eye it’s too orange, so I printed up my own decal sheet to produce the necessary strips of colour.

Here’s the final result for the camera mount, cobbled together from bits of styrene and half-millimetre brass rod:

1/48 recovery helicopter cameras, scratch built 1
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1/48 recovery helicopter cameras, scratch built 3
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Also required is a pair of Search And Rescue Homing antennae, mounted on the sponson struts. Here they are in a view of the Apollo 8 recovery:

Old 66 Yagi antennae

And here’s my effort using styrene, brass rod and stretched sprue:

1/48 Yagi antennae, scratch built
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I’ve also got a couple of pending jobs. There was also a stills camera mounted behind the starboard sponson, pointing aft, presumably attached to a forward weapon mount point, but I’ve yet to discover any kind of detailed view of this. And it’s clear from the camera-mount photographs that a weapon mount was still in place just forward of the camera mount; a pair were also in place on the other side of the aircraft, as can be seen from the Hasegawa SH-3D box art photograph:

Port view of Old 66, showing weapon mounts
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These are different from the parts provided in the kit, and I’m going to need to scratch build them, too. And again, decent photographs are difficult to find.

But in the meantime, I’ve assembled the cockpit. This is SH-3H in detail, but I figured that if I tried to revise the appearance, I’d end up with something that looked much less effective, and which in any case would be poorly seen through the kit canopy:

Hasegawa 1/48 SH-3 cockpit 2
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Hasegawa 1/48 SH-3 cockpit 1
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I also masked up and painted the interior of the canopy, including the green-tinted top windows. This last part was done using Tamiya Clear Green, which I found a bit of a bugger to spray evenly.

Hasegawa 1/48 SH-3H Sea King canopy interior paint
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In the next instalment, I’ll start putting some of these parts together.

3 thoughts on “Hasegawa 1/48 SH-3H Sea King (Apollo Recovery SH-3D Conversion): Part 1”

  1. (An opening aside: I’ve loved reading your notes documenting the building of your Saturn V model – thank you for sharing them!) I wondered if you happened to know what the large round hole on the underside of the Sea King is in real life?

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the Saturn V build notes.
      The hole in the underside of the Sea King relates to its anti-submarine role. In that role, it carried a dippable sonar, which was stowed in a cylindrical housing inside the vehicle, and could be lowered into the sea when the helicopter was hovering, through that hole in the underside.
      In the repurposed Apollo recovery aircraft the sonar was removed and the hole floored over.

      The old 1/72 Airfix kit of this aircraft kit included the sonar probe, which could be raised and lowered by rotating the rotor – so you could build either an Apollo recovery or an antisubmarine version of the aircraft. There was also a dangling astronaut figure for the Apollo version. I was so besotted with these details as a child that I included both–so the astronaut and probe banged against each other dangerously.

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