On the Britmodeller forum, Mike 'Bootneck' is building a giant 1/350 scale diorama of a part of Bien Hoa airbase 1966 - 1970. The diorama includes the 100SRW compound. There's a (D)C-130 parked there, but Firebee models have not been added yet.
It took me a bit of searching to recogise the Firebee compound in the present-day Bien Hoa, but it's here: Google Maps 10°58'18.27"N 106°49'16.62"E. The easiest reference point are the four concrete-walled fuel cells, that were between the 100SRW ramp and the big ramp to the west. In Google Earth you can view several period photos.
Corgi issued a 1/144 scale die-cast DC-130 with four Firebee drones in 2004. It is painted as a US Navy DC-130, BuNo 158228 of VC-3 at North Island NAS. It is also rumored that Minicraft's line of 1/144 Hercules kits, that started in 2007, will include a DC-130 one day.
An overview of the available models in 1/72 scale:
Italeri 'DC-130 Director' (kit no 148) was issued in 1986, and was probably deleted from the catalog a few years later (my 1991 catalog no longer lists it). The kit contains a sprue with four identical BQM-34A Firebee I models, plus DC-130 pylons, thimble radome and rear fuselage doors with windows. The Firebee dimensions agree closely with published data and the BQM-34A drawing in 'Lightning Bugs'. The only shape problem identified so far is that the sheet metal around the exhaust is shaped incorrectly (correction shown here), and possibly the vertical fin is offset to the left side a bit. The models have raised panel lines, including lines for a turbine warning stripe. A built-up Firebee is shown on this page by Al Magnus. On the Britmodeller forum, 'Wolfpack' shows his finished DC-130A with four Firebees. Comments on the Hercules model can be found at the end of this page.
the Testors version of the same kit from 1986, with catalog number 690. The box appears to have two 'box art' sides. Decals are by Scale-Master.
Airmodel AM-057, issued in 1984 or 1985, with four identical vacformed AQM-34H's with ALE-2 chaff pods and DC-130 pylons. The Airmodel website has a page with details on this kit.
These models have a large number of problems. They claim to represent the AQM-34H (Model 147NC), but they lack the 35" rear fuselage plug that every Model 147 / AQM-34 has except the 147N, NQ and NX models. The nose shape is mediocre attempt at the unique nose shape of the AQM-34H and J, as seen in this Larry Engesath photo. This combination makes that only the relatively unknown 147NQ (ten built, only one known photo) can be built 'straight from the box'. Other problems of the model are that both the wings and horizontal tail planes are too short in span. The wing sweep is 40 degrees, while 45 degrees is the correct value. The models have engraved panel lines that are quite wide. The photos below compare the correctly dimensioned Italeri components with those of the Airmodel kit (sanding work courtesy of Tjepke Heeringa). On the positive side, the pylons are correct for AQM-34 launching DC-130's. The pylons of Italeri's DC-130 are very thin and lack a rearward extension (see pylon discussion on the DC-130 page). Together with the 'Pinocchio' radome, the set allows the conversion of any C-130 model to a DC-130.
Alex Hunger used the Airmodel set as a basis to build four Firebees. Hannants was selling them for a ridiculously low price about 10 years ago, clearing old inventory, and Alex had a spare Airfix C-130E that needed a little fixing up. All Firebee wings and tail surfaces were made from plastic card, since the vacform parts were completely unusable. The idea was that if the kit drones were nearly unusable the way they were, he would at least have four radically different ones with only a little more effort. All the drones received etched brass brackets to help mount them on the Hercules carrier aircraft.
Starting at the top is a standard BQM-34A target Firebee in orange with decals from the Italeri kit, found in the IPMS-UK decal bank. All other drones received scratch built extended center fuselage sections and surgery on their noses. First of these is a black AQM-34Q, inspired by the Pima Air Museum example (the model's wings are not correct for that version however). The most involved conversion resulted in a 32 foot wing AQM-34N (Model 147H), using the camouflage pattern as shown on page 113 of Lighting Bugs. The last model shows an armed BGM-34C with two Mavericks from a Hasegawa weapons set.
CzechMaster resin AQM-34, one-piece casting with two ALE-2 chaff pods. Long out of production, and no mention of it can be found on the internet. No catalog number known, probably never assigned. Andy Hill found one on Ebay. He compared it to the photos of the Airmodel vacform shown above, and found it nearly identical. In that case it is very likely that this model actually served as the master for the Airmodel vacform. The 'Encyclopaedia of Military Models 1/72', page 63, reports that some forty Czech resin kits served as masters for Airmodel vacs. Andy describes the resin model as kind of clunky overall, crudely cast, with panel lines that border on panel trenches, and they don't meet correctly. The wing sweep is 40 degrees like the Airmodel vac. The photos below show the model, the left photo was kindly supplied by Drew Hill.
Late 2005 Belcher Bits issued a resin set with two Ryan KDA-4 Firebee drones and mounting pylons, for the two Canadian Lancaster 10DC's as operated by CEPE ca. 1959-60. Catalog number is BL06, and decals for the Lancaster are available from decal set BD18. NIMBVS from Italy built a very nice model from this kit (translation), with rescribing and custom decals
In January 2007 Lone Star Models released a 1/72 JD-1 (A-26) drone controller conversion set for the Airfix kit. The set includes one Q-2/KDA drone (the older and smaller Firebee drone), a radar dish to go in the modified nose, a ballast tank, and metal sway braces for each. Catalog number is LSM0321, renumbered to LSM70321 early 2011. In July 2011, decals were added to the set.
The Q-2/KDA drone from the above Lone Star Models set is also be available separately as catalog number LSM0322, renumbered to LSM70322 early 2011. In July 2011, decals were added.
Q-2A and KDA models in 1/72 scale are in preparation by Ace Resin & Hobbies, mastered from a 3D printed model. However, the web site went offline around 2013
The old SharKit missile kit database (that is no longer online but can be viewed via the Wayback Machine) lists some of the above Firebee models. The CzechMaster kits are listed as 'Private Venture B'.
The supersonic BQM-34E/F/T Firebee II, a totally different beast, is available as a model in 1/72 scale from Airmodel (AM-063, vacform set with two Firebees, DC-130 and DP-2 parts including pylons, the Airmodel website has a page with details), 12 Squared (kit no 2-34, injection molded, comes with dolly), CzechMaster (resin, probably served as the master for the Airmodel vacform kit) and Panzer Models from the USA (72004, resin, 1991, with launcher).
My conclusion is clear: the Italeri Firebee is by far the best starting point for any version of the Model 124/147/234/255/259. The Airmodel and CzechMaster kits have wing span and sweep problems, and Italeri's fuselage is much cleaner and sharper. My own conversion of an Italeri 1/72 BQM-34A into an AQM-34L is shown on this page. The photos below shows three test models that I built so far from the resin castings and Alps decals.
The required modifications are highly dependent on the version. Some remarks:
Wings: the short Italeri wings can be used directly for the 147A, 147N, 147NX and 147SC. A version of the same wings with extended tips (to 4.42 m probably) can be made using wing tips cut from extra Italeri wings, and these can be used for the 147C, 147D, 234, 255 (AQM-34V), 259 and some others. Nearly all other versions have the 27 feet or 32 feet 'big wing'.
Rear fuselage: nearly all versions have a constant-section plug in the rear fuselage. Only the 147N, 147NQ, 147NX and the BGM-34A do not have it. The plug was initially 35", and it seems most versions have this length.
Front fuselage: this is the area with the largest number of variations. A few versions retain the Firebee I nose, such as the 147N and NX. The rest appear to have nearly all different noses (subtle though in many cases). The nose contours of the Model 255 / AQM-34V and Model 259 / BGM-34C do look identical though.
Nacelle: most versions use the J69 engine, and I think the nacelle is identical on all of these. Don't forget the boundary layer bleeding at the top of the inlet. The versions that use the uprated J100 engine (147T, TE and TF) have a different nacelle. Also note the keel beam under the nacelle, which can be short like on the Firebee I, or long (right up to the intake). Remove the raised panel lines that indicate the position of the turbine warning stripe.
Inlet: the models inlet appears correct for AQM-34's and older BQM-34A's, but current BQM-34A's have their inlet set further back and subsequently somewhat larger.
Tailplane: it appears that the original Firebee I tailplanes were used on most versions. The 32 ft wing used increased-span tailplanes. Many later versions had endplates, of which two sizes existed.
Vertical tail: the bulged shape below the rudder is not represented on the Italeri model.
Ventral fin: this fin was installed under the tailcone, but on later versions it was replaced by tailplane endplates
Parachute line fairing on top: while this fairing projects above the fuselage on almost all versions, it is 'flush' in a side view on the AQM-34V and BGM-34C. It is hard to see where and how the front fuselage slopes up.
Some Firebee underwing stores can be found in other 1/72 kits:
the ALE-2 chaff pod looks a lot like the 230 gallon drop tanks as used on the F-84F and F-102. If that assumption is correct, the Meng F-102 is probably the best source.
the ALE-38 chaff pod can be found in Revell's RF-4E kit (e.g. 04313). A single one is included
the 67 gallon fuel tanks as seen on the AQM-34M appear to be identical in shape to the 500 pound BLU-32 napalm cannisters, as found in KMC set 72-7017
the Hughes ALQ-71 and the Westinghouse QRC-335 ECM pods, as used on the AQM-34H, can be sourced from the Monogram 1/72 F-4C/D or Hasegawa's 1/72 'Weapons IV' set. The Monogram F-4C/D contains one ALQ-87 and one ALQ-101, the Hasegawa set contains two each of the ALQ-87 and ALQ-101. The ALQ-71 and ALQ-87 are almost identical externally, the latter has a ridge running along its flanks, and its tail fairing is slightly longer (see FSM forum). The QRC-335 was later renamed ALQ-101, and likely they are largely identical.
In July 2016, Kiwi Resin announced they were producing a 1/48 scale AQM-34. No further details were supplied, except for the box art and a photo of the parts.
Here's what I can conclude from this limited information. The box art shows an AQM-34L, so I assume it's meant to represent this version. In the photo I see the following parts:
a fuselage split in front and rear. This looks like the best split, I'm working on it too. The raised panel lines of the Italeri model were removed and replaced by engraved lines.
the BQM-34 wings with short wing tips, correct for most AQM-34Ls. Included on the casting blocks of the wing are a ventral fin (not used on the AQM-34L) and the angle of attack probe on the radome (I think)
horizontal tails, with two sizes of endplates
a vertical tail including pitot tube
no decals are included
If I compare my modifications of the 1/72 version to this one, moving front to back:
the AQM-34 specific nose: the Kiwi nose looks unlike any specific version, it's too cilindrical. There are no flattened areas for the camera windows on the lower side. It does not include the nose extension for the AOA probe seen on the AQM-34L
the rear fuselage extension: I see some extension, but not a constant section, it looks tapered. I guess it's only 50% of the true length. Underneath the fuselage extension and aft of the exhaust opening, there's a weird addition to the fuselage, like a thick heat shield. I've never seen something like that
the vertical tail lacks the thickened part below the rudder, and the teardrop shaped compass fairing near the tip
parachute cones: the length looks the same as the BQM-34, and I don't see a kink in the contour of the two cones, so it appears that they are not lengthened but the same size as the BQM-34
The Italeri DC-130 comes with four BQM-34 Firebee I target drones. But that gives an equally good starting point as the 1/72 version. Catalog numbers are 820 (original issue as shown below) and 374 (1995 issue, box art not established yet). I don't know the catalog numbers for the Testors version of this kit. The Hercules model likely has the same (small) problems as listed for the 1/72 version, see comments at the end of this page. A model built by István Hevesi can be seen on Aircraft Resource Center. Dave Richards has one under construction and added a lot of unique interior details, using (sparse) information found in the library of his employer, Northrop Grumman/Ryan Aeronautical Center in San Diego. The control stations just behind the cockpit were scratch built, and Dave is still working on the launch control stations in the rear of the fuselage.
Lone Star Models issued a JD-1D (A-26) conversion set with one drone around 2000 (catalog number LSM0295, appears to be deleted from the catalog in 2011). The set includes the older and smaller Q-2/KDA Firebee version. The Firebee model is also available as a separate model (catalog number LSM0296, renumbered to LSM40296 in 2011). In July 2011, decals were added. Hyperscale has an article by Mark Brouyere about building a JD-1D. The article doesn't identify Lone Star Models, but since it's the only conversion on the market, it's almost certainly this set.
Q-2A and KDA models in 1/48 scale are in preparation by Ace Resin & Hobbies, mastered from a 3D printed model. However, the web site went offline around 2013
Canadian modeler Jean-Marc Perreault built three 1/48 Firebees plus ground handling carts and launch installations. The red BQM-34A has nice avionics and battery bays. The red Canadian KDA-4 is possibly the Lone Star Models kit. However, the gray AQM-34L is very inaccurate, with a plug in the engine compartment that shouldn't be there, and it lacks a rear fuselage plug
For reference only: Beaney's Model Hobbies (Peter Ogden) from Sittingbourne in the UK issued a Grumman F7F-2D Tigercat drone conversion kit. It comes with two resin KD2G (Globe Firefly) drones, white metal pylons and Squadron F8F Bearcat vacuform canopy. The earliest reference that I found to this set is from 1997.
Some Firebee underwing stores can be found in other 1/48 kits:
the ALE-2 chaff pod can be found in a Lone Star Models 1/48 EB-57 conversion set (LSM0337), now discontinued
the 67 gallon tanks fuel tanks as seen on the AQM-34M appear to be identical in shape to the 250 pound BLU-10 napalm cannisters, as found in KMC set 48-5073
Q-2A and KDA models in 1/32 scale are in preparation by Ace Resin & Hobbies, mastered from a 3D printed model. However, the web site went offline around 2013
One Firebee underwing store can be found in another 1/32 kit:
the ALE-38 chaff pod can be found in Revell's RF-4C and RF-4E kits (e.g. 04702 and 04798)
Some comments on the Italeri (Testors) 1/72 Hercules model:
The kit decals represents two DC-130A's: Air Force 57-496 of 11TDS/355TFW, Davis-Monthan 1971, and Navy 158228 of VC-3, North Island 1971.
It lacks the extended radome used on the Air Force version, but one vacuum-formed and three resin noses are/were available:
The Airmodel Firebee set (AM-057) described above contains a DC-130 radome
In Country Hobbies made a 1/72 resin DC-130 nose, catalog number A712. The earliest reference I found on rec.models.scale dates from 1994, but it could be older. The casting quality is usually described as not very good.
DB Productions from the UK produced a resin DC-130 nose, as part of a series of C-130 conversion sets in 1/72 scale. Catalog number was DB20. DB Productions stopped producing in 1995.
In 2008, Eggversion Conversions from Japan issued a DC-130 correction set in resin. It contains the 'Pinocchio' nose with the 'thimble' radome, four nacelles and antennas. The radome is a new mold, designed for the Italeri model. Reportedly it fits the old Airfix model fine. The nacelles are 'long' ones for the Allison T56A-15 engines for DC-130H. The nacelles are of two different lengths (short inboard - long outboard) for a correct line up of the prop discs. The nacelles fit without modification and blending, contrary to the DB / Flightpath engines. Currently (late 2008) the sets are only sold through Ebay or by email request (fankosattic yahoo com), but a website is planned for 2009. The company's name may have changed to 'Jetstream'.
Tim Rathbone compared the available noses in detail, and kindly shared his observations and the photos below. The DC-130 nose consist of three basic parts:
the (forward facing) radome. This is reportedly a Constellation radome, either that of an EC-121 / WV-2, or that of a Super Constellation. It has a sperical nose and an egg-shaped cross section at the rear. If one looks at the Super Constellation radome on the CF-TGE structural repairs webpage (about 80% down the page), it appears that the radome is fitted with the pointy end of the egg up. On the DC-130 it is installed with the egg's pointy end down. In a side view, the upper contour line is near horizontal (canted ~6 degrees), whereas the lower contour line is clearly angled (~14-15 degrees). The RB-57F possibly also uses the same radome.
the sheet metal fairing between the radome and the fuselage. This fairing has the same taper as the radome, and there is no kink at the interface of the two. The fairing' rear end is radiused where it meets the fuselage, but only the top half. For the rest, the fairing is single curved and has straight lines.
the thimble radome. This is not always fitted.
All manufacturers made noses with a kink between the radome and the fairing, or with a curved fairing. However, the In-Country nose is quite close to the correct shape, with only a vague kink. The DB Productions and Eggversion's noses are the worst offenders. None of of the parts has a panel line that indicates the transition between the radome and the fairing.
The manufacturers have rather different ideas of the thimble radome's shape. On the Eggversion nose it is thin and therefore appears longer, the In-Country is much thicker and therefore appears shorter, the Airmodel radome is in between. The DB nose lacks the thimble radome, probably because a thimble radome is included in the Italeri/Testors kit (however it is made to fit on the standard Hercules radome). The jury is still out on which is the best representation. For reference: Italeri's thimble radome is 13.8 mm diameter.
C-130A's had five instead of four windows ahead of the wing
C-130A's had three-bladed props until 1978. Oz Mods has a conversion set (OZCONV 7201) for C-130A that contains resin 3-blade props (plus two wing tanks and pylons, two clear windows and photo references), but they are reported as having wrong shape, wrong diameter and a too strong twist. DB Productions used to produce white metal three-bladed props too (catalog number DB53), but they are long out of production. Contrails (formerly In Formation) sells 3-blade props, available with either resin (CM72-C130A-RP) or pewter (CM72-C130A-PP) blades.
The nacelle situation is a fairly complicated situation, with a confusing engine numbering sequence. Here's the best information available at this time, courtesy of Grant Matsuoka:
the C-130A had T56A-9 engines in short nacelles. The T56A-9 nacelles were placed more aft, resulting in a shorter nacelle ahead of the wing, and the exhaust fairing under the wing extends up to the flap (inner engine) and into the flap (outer engine). The turbine warning stripe on the nacelle lines up with the front spar, and the prop warning stripe is almost touching the leading edge of the landing gear sponsons.
a small batch of RAAF C-130A's had the T56A-11 engine, that differed among others in a gearbox similar to that of the -7 engine, allowable fuels (Jet A aka JP-1 but not JP-4) and some prop specification differences. The prop warning stripe is in the same position as on USAF C-130A's, therefore nacelle location appears to be identical to the T56A-9.
the C-130B and C-130E had T56A-7 engines. The T56A-7 nacelles were placed more forward, resulting in longer nacelles ahead of the wing, and the fairings under the wing stopped before the flaps. The prop warning stripe is some distance forward of the leading edge of the landing gear sponsons.
the C-130H had T56A-15 engines, that have the same length as the T56A-7 engine. They are housed in the same nacelles as the C-130E. Previously it was reported here that the C-130H nacelles were longer than those of the C-130E, but that was not correct
the inboard and outboard nacelles are of different lengths (short inboard - long outboard) so the prop discs line up
the Italeri model has the short T56A-9 forward nacelle combined with the short T56A-7 rear nacelle.
If you want to build a DC-130E or DC-130H you will need to modify the nacelles. There are (were) several resin nacelle sets available:
Ron's Resins C-130H/J Hercules correction set RR7215 also contained long nacelles, but it is out of production. Shown below is set 6172 that is titled 'C-130 Hercules engine nacelles'. It's uncertain whether this is the C-130H engine set or maybe a set for an earlier version.
The 'RAF C-130 Hercules engines for Airfix kit' set by Heritage Aviation (catalog number 72009) can also be used. The RAF Hercules C1 (C-130K) used T56A-15 engines as used in the C-130H.
the Eggversion Conversions set mentioned above
on Ebay I've also come across an MC-130E resin conversion set consisting of four engines and a nose, but no manufacturer was mentioned
in 2012 Oz Mods issued a set of four resin C-130E & H exhaust pipes (OZCONV 7213). A similar set for the C-130A is included in the C-130A conversion pack (OZCONV 7201)
in 2014 Wolfpack Design issued a 'JASDF C-130H conversion set' for the Italeri 1/72 model (catalog number WP72064). It contains four nacelles, sponson fairings and a self defence package (sensors and chaff/flare dispenser with pylons). There are 17 resin parts, photo etched parts and decals for eight aircraft.
in 2016 Attack Squadron from Poland issued a 'C-130E/H Hercules engine nacelles and propeller (for Italeri kit)' set in resin, with four corrected nacelles and props with spinners. Catalog number is 72036
The main landing gear sponsons also changed during the production history of the Hercules. The C-130A to E sponsons are all similar. Part way the C-130H production run, the sponsons were extended forward and an enlarged air conditioner intake was added to the right sponson. The first aircraft to feature these changes was construction number 4619. The single DC-130H was construction number 4131 and therefore has the old style sponsons.
The fuselage cross section is not correct. Where the cabin floor intersects the fuselage sides, there is a very noticeable sharp fold. Only the original Airfix kit got this right. The rear upper fuselage shape is too square, it should have the same cross section as the front fuselage. The front top fuselage has a flat area that should be cilindrical.
A detailed comparison of good and bad point of the various Hercules models can be found on the 72scale.com site (end of the page)
Grant Matsuoka discusses the many differences between Hercules variants in great detail and lots of photos on the Aircraft Resource Center forum
Scale Aircraft Conversions (SAC) issued a white metal landing gear for the Italeri/Testors model in 2016 (catalog number 72129). Generally SAC white metal landing gears are straight copies of the kit parts
Attack Squadron issued a resin flap set in 2016 (ASQ72089)
Regarding the 1/48 scale version of this kit, the same comments apply. However, only two aftermarket sets are available:
Cutting Edge produced a 'Pinocchio' nose for DC-130s & Special Purpose C-130s, catalog number 48415. Cutting Edge stopped production in 2008. A short review can be found on Modeling Madness. Tim Rathbone studied the shape in detail and reports that it is close but not quite correct.
in 2016 Attack Squadron from Poland issued a 'C-130E/H Hercules engine nacelles and propeller (for Italeri kit)' set in resin, with four corrected nacelles and props with spinners. Catalog number is 48015