26 June 2019

LAU-10 Zuni Rocket Pod - Model Kits Review

1. Introduction
Basic information about the Zuni 5in (127mm) unguided rocket is available in Wikipedia: link
It was one of the mainstay weapons of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps strike aircraft of the 1960s and 1970s, finding wide use during the war in the Southeast Asia. Zuni rockets were carried and fired from two types of pods: two-shot LAU-33 pods were used only on the F-8 Crusaders, F-4 Phantoms and OV-10 Broncos, while four-shot LAU-10 pods can be carried by almost all types of the Navy and Marines combat-capable aircraft.
For a long time, Zuni rocket pods were overlooked by manufacturers of aftermarket add-ons, but recently a LAU-10 pod set was released by Eduard from Czech Republic.

2. Kits
I've picked a number of "representative" plastic LAU-10 pods from my collection of U.S. Navy / USMC aircraft model kits and compared them with the recent resin set made by Eduard. On the picture below the samples are marked as follows:
 a) Fujimi – A-4E/F Skyhawk kit # 25024 / F24, released circa 1987.
 b) Sword – TF-9J Cougar kit # 72101, released in 2017.
 c) Airfix – AV-8A Harrier kit # A04057, released in 2015.
 d) Academy – OV-10A Bronco kit # 12463, released in 1999.
 e) Eduard – LAU-10/A Zuni set # 672211, released in 2018.
Each of the listed kits, as well as the Eduard's set, gives you two pods.
And here are some measurements:
                  | L     | D    |
Fujimi        | 39.0 | 6.5 |
Sword       | 39.0 | 6.5 |
Academy  | 32.6 | 5.5 |
Airfix         | 33.9 | 5.8 |
Eduard      | 34.0 | 5.0 |
Reference | 33.5 | 4.9 |
In my table, "L" is the length of the pod, without protective caps, without rocket projectiles, in mm, in 1/72 scale; "D" is the external diameter of the pod. Reference data came from an official U.S. Navy manual (NAVWEPS OP 2210) and from a drawing which also appears to be a part of some official manual.

Before we proceed, let us state that neither of the reviewed items contains the frangible protective caps for the LAU-10 pods, and let us agree that this is not a drawback. Now, a few words about each of the items:
a) Fujimi kit.
First and foremost, the Fujimi's pods are significantly oversized: 5.5mm (16%) too long, 1.6mm (32%) too wide. Although the protruding rocket heads are good, the shape of the pod itself is simplified: absent are the "cuffs" on the front & rear ends and small holes on the front & rear faces. No decals are provided.

b) Sword kit.
In size and shape, the Sword's item is identical to the much earlier Fujimi's pod. Draw your own conclusions.
Compared to the Japanese variant, Sword has removed the convenient locator pins and added molding imperfections. No decals are provided.

c) Airfix kit.
This pod has nearly the right length, yet it is still too wide (0.9mm, 18%). Unfortunately, the tail plate of the Airfix pod is just a blank space, which is completely inaccurate. You can attempt to remedy this, but drilling four 1.76mm holes inside a 5mm circle, absolutely symmetrically, is not an easy task. Airfix, however, is the only plastic kit manufacturer in this selection that provides you with decals for the ordnance.

d) Academy kit.
This pod is completely inaccurate: the four rocket channels are two times smaller than they must be, making the whole item nearly unrecognizable.

e) Eduard set.
Positive aspects:
 - Very good accuracy and the level of detail.
 - Unlike the aforementioned plastic kits, this set allows the LAU-10 pod to be modelled in either loaded or empty configuration.
 - Rocket heads are provided separately which immensely simplifies their painting.
 - The pod's body is a single casting, so there is no need to fill and sand the longitudinal seam between the halves (an inherent shortcoming of most of the plastic kits).
 - Decals are included.
Negative aspects:
 - It is regrettable that such bulky casting blocks are used to hold the pods' tail plates. The plates themselves are quite thin, and it is not very easy to saw them off the casting blocks, while ensuring that the cut is aligned with the plate surface.
 - The text on the decal can only be read with a magnifying glass, but if you do so you will see that it contains some gibberish, such as "explosladed rocket", "kt2000lbs", etc. Having browsed the Net, I saw that the same was true for the 1:32 scale LAU-10 set that Eduard has released in 2016. The 1:72 scale set came 2 years later, but they haven't corrected the decal.
 - The instructions tell you nothing regarding the painting of the protruding rocket warheads, leading you to believe that they are to be just as white as the rocket pod exterior (which they are not). I wouldn't consider this a drawback when reviewing a 1980s or 1990s plastic kit, but a brand like Eduard, and in the 2010s, is expected to be thorough in all aspects of their model kits and aftermarket items.

3. Conclusion
Although the recent set released by Eduard is not ideal, it is clearly the best thing available if you want to furnish your 1:72 scale model with LAU-10 Zuni rocket pods. The price is moderate (compared to the resin items of similar size on the market): at the manufacturer's site it's 161 Kč, which amounts to ~6.3 EUR.

4. Reference Data
[1] Basic information on the Zuni rocket in Wikipedia: link