Monday, 2 February 2015

Build Review - Kitty Hawk 1/48 Mig-25PD/S "Foxbat"

The MiG-25, to those of us of a certain age, brings back many thrilling memories from the 1970s. The name "Foxbat" in itself conjured up an image of something incredibly secret, mysterious, and above all, faster than anything WE had. It inspired Craig Thomas' 1977 novel "Firefox" (and the subsequent Clint Eastwood film) which only served to add more mythology to it. Even when the west finally got their hands on one in 1976, it was many years before us mere enthusiasts learnt anything about it.

We have been waiting a long time for a new tool Foxbat in 1/48, the only existing offering being the ancient Revell mould which is seriously geriatric by today's standard, and I've been itching to get my hands on this one.

This project was inherited from the late, great, Phil Goodier who sadly passed away last year. Phil had already made a start on a few pieces, primarily the cockpit which he had done an excellent job of painting up.

Once this new kit appeared, it was, inevitably, pounced on by the modelling community who fairly quickly identified a string of inaccuracies and failings in that way they do. If you are interested in the detail, a particularly thorough appraisal is given by Gary Wickham with his excellent build review here. However, with a couple of exceptions (see below) I do not consider any of these problems a show stopper, nor do they stop the model looking every part the Foxbat. Neither did my customer, so I steamed ahead with what was in the box.

The kit itself is well moulded, very little flash, with extremely fine panel lines and surface detail. In fact, perhaps a little TOO fine for my liking. I always prime my models and by the time I've added various layers of paint and finishing on top, it is possible to lose the details if you are not careful.

Fit wise, it's not perfect. Generally the fit is as good as you would hope from a modern CAD designed kit, but there are a handful of problematic areas that really should not be present. The fuselage is constructed horizontally, which is good, saving top seams. It is in four parts, consisting of the main rear wing and tail section, then the intakes and cockpit, then a forward section and finally the nose cone. There is some nice radar detail inside the nose but I was not going to leave this open so left it without spending much time there.The main problem is the intake/cockpit section. Firstly, there is no internal intake trunking and you are force to build the intakes with the inlet ramps fully down to hide the interior. There is some debate as to whether this is accurate for this aircraft, but I chose to hide them later with Eduard F.O.D. covers anyway, which seemed a good compromise. However, building the intake section in isolation results in a forward unit that does NOT match up to the main body well at all. It is too narrow. I had to break it apart and artificially force a large gap down the side of the inlet ramps to get this section offered up to the main body without a large step. Even then much filling and sanding was required. Fortunately, the Eduard PE intake set allows you to cover this gap up nicely.

One other oddity is the way that alternate wing tips are provided. This in itself is correct, the interceptor version had a slightly bigger wingspan than the bomber/recon, however the tips are joined with a rather odd stepped joint which is fairly hard to cover up, it certainly down not follow any panel lines. Also, I had to do a large amount of filling around the roots of the two tail fins. The instructions also suggest you drop both ailerons but all reference pictures of a parked MiG-25 I could find showed them as flat.

The other inaccuracy that I could not (even with the most liberal approach) live with was the way the model stood. There is a definite slight "nose up" attitude on the real plane and this is not replicated in the model. I had to extend the nose gear shaft by a few millimetres to get the desired effect. Otherwise, it is fair to say that the model went together without too much complaint.

Replicating the light grey finish is also a little subjective. In the end I used Tamiya XF-19 Sky Grey, subtly lightened with a little white and was happy with this. I also applied a very subtle bleach to the panels to break up the grey a little. I used Tamiya XF-54 Dark Sea Grey for the extremities and Alclad Steel as a base for the metallic areas. The exhausts were painted in various Alclad shades, based on Steel and Exhaust Manifold, and also Tamiya XF-5 Flat Green is a really good imitation of the Russian Green used for the wheels and the exhaust interiors. I dirtied up the exhaust and metallic areas with some light brown pastels.

The customer wanted this model to represent Viktor Belenko's plane that he defected to Japan with in September 1976. This was "Red 31". The kit decals actually contained the red "31" decals as a bonus option against the "in box" schemes, however I took the decision that the "31"s supplied were too small and once applied just did not look right. So I removed them and generated my own laser printed versions. Otherwise I used kit decals and stencils, although avoided the logo on the side of the intakes which was clearly not present on Belenko's machine. His plane was also a P, not a PD, so I had to remove the IR search pod under the nose that is moulded into the kit, and make good the resultant hole.

Fortunately, to depict this machine, I did not need to include any ordnance or stores as Belenko took a completely unloaded machine to Japan. He needed to - Soviet policy meant that the aircraft were kept with a minimal amount of fuel on board to prevent just this type of incident, but he just managed to make it!

The sheer size of this model is impressive. The Foxbat is a big plane, and in 1/48 is as big as many a 1/32 fighter jet I have built. But when all is said and done, despite the problems, this builds into a fantastic representation of this iconic aircraft, and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to build it.