Trumpeter 1/48 MiG-3 'early'
KIT #: 2830
PRICE: $25.00 SRP (yes, really)
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Dave Cummings
NOTES:

HISTORY

The Mig-3 was a product of the newly formed design team of Mikoyan and Gurevich and the first operational Soviet fighter of the “modern formula” to be delivered in quantity to the VVS beginning March of 1941.  It is a tribute to man’s pursuit of excellence that anything innovative could be produced in light of a Soviet dictatorship that smothered initiative and offered little personal incentive to achievement yet grave consequence for failure.  War was inevitable and there was a rush to modernize the force so technical problems and delays in producing the new fighter had Stalin demanding someone’s head.  Mikoyan was investigated, but happened to have a brother who was the Minister of Foreign Trade.  Mikoyan being too politically well connected to shoot, another scapegoat had to found.  Major General Filin was the officer in charge of aircraft development making him a suitable replacement, so he was shot.

The MiG-3 met a VVS demand for a high altitude interceptor to defend against strategic bombing attack so was designed for maximum performance at altitudes above 15,000 feet.  It was therefore unfortunate that air combat on the Russian front typically took place at lower altitudes.  The Germans never mounted a strategic bombing campaign and air combat revolved around tactical support of ground forces.  Coupled with inferior armament and difficult handling, the MiG-3 quickly found itself at a disadvantage when it faced Luftwaffe fighters. Nevertheless, it was fast and many Russian “aces” achieved impressive results with the type.  Production ceased in the spring of 1942 with a total of 3,322 being produced.

THE KIT

When travelling on business with some time left to kill I like to look up local hobby shops for something to do.  While in Salt Lake City recently I found Mammoth Hobbies in the phone book and gave it a go.  Marvelous place, huge stack of kits to rummage through like a kid in a candy store.  And there it was, a MiG-3, which fits in my narrow collection theme of Golden Age thru early WWII in 1/48.  What caught my eye was one of the offered color schemes of white winter camo with a big red arrow on the side.  It was love at first sight, even though it was a Trumpeter kit.  You never quite know what you are going to get with them.  I had built their P-40B which was excellent in engineering but wrong in shape and dimensional accuracy.

Fortunately this kit appears to be spot on in accuracy as well as great engineering.  Sprues are light gray and well packaged in poly bags and a big strong box. It has a segmented canopy which is well done and fairly clear. The windshield is molded with a section of fuselage and when in place looks part of the airframe instead of something stuck on later as an afterthought.   Also on the clear sprue are landing light lense, reflector gunsight, and even separate wing tip navigation light lenses.  Detailing is excellent with crisp engraving and rivet detail.  Interior is done as a self contained unit with sidewalls.  Detail here is good (for my standards at least) lacking only seat belts.  The wing root intakes are separate inserts, no seam to clean up down in that difficult to get to hole.  The fabric over frame effect of the ailerons seems a bit overdone as does the rivet detail, but it all looks good under paint.  The rear half of the fuselage and outer wing panels are smooth reflecting their wood construction.  Sprue attachment points are a bit heavy and require careful cutting of smaller, easily broken parts.  But the plastic is rather soft and easily cut.  In fact, to me it was almost like working with a resin kit.  The wheels are nicely done though not flat spotted.     

Options are canopy position, rockets (thought the holes in the wing are pre-drilled so maybe not really an option), and markings for three aircraft. Ailerons and flaps are separate but there is little detail on the interior side of the flaps and none in the wing itself so probably designed to be attached in the up position, the instructions are not clear on the subject.  No information is given about the markings. In fact there is no written information about anything.  Instructions are pictures only.  One set is the well drawn construction steps and the other is a color page of the three aircraft options.  Paint references are for Gunze / Mr. Color.  The box art plane is green upper, light blue lower and a black engine cowling. The all white one with the red forward spinner and arrow is another and the third is green upper and light blue lower with a yellow spinner. The decals have a lot of red stars of various sizes that depict marking schemes over succeeding periods of time.  The RO-82 rockets are well done and were commonly found on this type, used both air-to-ground and air-to-air.

With no information given and being unfamiliar with the type I first set about doing some research to see just what it was I would be modeling.  I first checked the reviews in Modeling Madness (of course) and then found an amazing website for WWII Soviet aircraft; The VVS Research Page by Massimo Tessitori.  I really can’t tell you what a wealth of information and pictures is available there you must check it out for yourself.

CONSTRUCTION

Build up of the cockpit is pretty straight forward.  Interior color for the MiG-3 is a blue-grey.  Not wanting to go the time and expense of buying a bottle of Russian Interior Grey for the only Russian cockpit I’m likely to do in the foreseeable future, I mixed my own blue-grey using ……some blue and some grey.  Color photos of a MiGs interior show the floor to be some green/brown color.  I deduced Olive Drab to be close enough and painted my floor accordingly.  Flat black panels, a little dry brushing, some instrument decals from the spares box, looks good to me.  I cut some strips from a manila envelope for harness straps with a drop of silver on the ends for hardware (I hear ya, you guys can buy all the photo-etch seat belts you want, not me brother). 

The cockpit insert, radio deck and tail-wheel were glued in place in the right fuselage half.  The instructions are not clear about positioning the radio deck but when you test fit it becomes apparent where it goes.  The fuselage halves were then cemented together.  Problem!  Huge gap in the lower rear, the halves did not want to mate together.  I concluded that the upper tail-wheel strut detail was the culprit and sanded it down with an emery board.  It was better but I still had to slop some more glue on and hold it tightly with my hands to get a half way decent fit.   It finally set up OK, but it had put up a good fight so I stopped for the day to get my blood pressure back under control.  Trumpeter is famous for providing some beautifully detailed parts that are completely invisible when the airframe is closed up.  My tail-wheel strut was an example of more trouble than it’s worth.

OK, back to work.  Some Mr. Surfacer and sanding on that fuselage glue seam.  On the positive side it only involves the rear half of the fuselage and there is no panel detail here to be re-scribed. Cement the wings together.  Attach the wing root intake inserts, a little fiddly, but they fit OK.  The wing to fuselage join is very tight and  took a little wedging here and there to get it seated, but the result was very little gap which is appreciated.  A bit of Gap Filling Super Glue and a little sanding was needed around the intake inserts.  Next are the cowl panels, upper first.  The spinner backing plate closing off the nose is not listed as a part of this step and is scheduled for a later step.   I deviated from the plan here and cemented this nose part before the cowl panels had set as it assisted me in getting everything aligned.  I like the way the cowl panels mate along panel lines doing away with that pesky fuselage center glue seam.  Fit was OK but required some filling and sanding in a few places.  In photos these engine covers don’t appear to be precision fits anyway.  Horizontal stabilizers, ailerons, and flaps presented no problems.  The radiator housing under the belly is a separate piece and when glued in place covers another one of those habitual problem areas, the wing trailing edge to fuselage belly seam.  Good thinking.   I masked the canopy with scotch tape and cut the framing out with a surgical blade (ever wonder what’s in those drawers in the exam room at the Docs office while you’re setting there waiting).  The framing is well molded but not very prominent so much care is needed to guide the blade.  I then attached with clear parts cement (expensive white glue).  Fit here is very good.

Having a completed airframe at this point, I flew it the obligatory two laps around the room to confirm that, indeed, I had still not grown up, and landed her at the paint booth.  By the way, Trumpeter’s commitment to detail and accuracy extends to the accurately portrayed weak tail-wheel strut that plagued the real aircraft, be careful with it. 

COLORS & MARKINGS

On Mr. Tessitori’s website I found a color profile and a colorized photo of the white plane with red arrow and patriotic slogan that had caught my eye.  It is from the 122d  IAP, and it was…….. What’s this?  There are two versions of the MiG-3, early and late?  Mine is the early, the beautiful white plane with red arrow on the box was really a late version!  Damn, what to do?  Ok, I’ll just pretend I never saw this website…..no one will know…….Drat, I’ll know.  OK, Plan B.  Perusing the website for more white MiGs I found that a great many winter camo Russian fighters have no other markings but the red star insignias, all else being painted over.  I found one with a red spinner belonging to 12 victory ace I.F. Golubin of 16 IAP based in the Moscow area winter 41/42, and it is an early model.  Had to give up that neat red arrow but this scheme is at least similar. So indeed one can do a great many different aircraft with the decals provided as all you need is the national insignia, and you get several versions of those.

Painting was done with a metal Aztec A7778 and mini-compressor.  I just bought the set which is my first really serious air-brush and this is the first model I have used it on.  I love it.  It’s easy and makes me look a better painter than I really am. 

I first pre-shaded the panel lines with flat black enamel.  Pre-shading really highlights the contrast of the mixed metal and wood construction of the airframe.  Next up was the light blue undersides.  Let’s see, no Russian Light Blue.  Plenty of Model Master RLM 65 though.  I mixed in some dark blue a couple drops at a time until it looked right to me and thinned with alcohol (What? You can’t tell the difference).  The demarcation line was masked with Tamiya tape.  Model Master Insignia White was thinned 50/50 with alcohol and sprayed in light coats.  This let me build up the paint until I had good coverage with just enough pre-shading showing through.  There were many variations of winter camo applied to VVS aircraft so you have to know your subject.  They vary from hastily applied tempura white washes that wear quickly and show a lot of the underlying green to pristine solid white factory painted examples depicted by that colorized photo of the beautiful white Mig with red arrow and patriotic slogan (sigh).  The photo of Golubin’s MiG and attendant color profile drawing shows it to be overall white upper with faint patches of green showing through in places.  That being the case I elected to paint the white first and add the green splotches over so I could better control where they appear. 

The highly thinned white paint needed a couple of days to cure and dried sufficiently glossy to allow decaling without need for a clear gloss overcoat.  The spinner was masked which is not easy to do on round parts.  Tamiya tape was cut into thin strips so it conformed to the curvature then larger pieces to mask off the remaining white.  The nose cap was then sprayed Insignia Red.  I thinned some Tamiya Clear Green acrylic to simulate the underlying green showing through in the spots I deemed appropriate.  I dabbed it on with a soft brush then blotted with a damp cloth leaving a spot that looked appropriately translucent as if the white had worn just thin enough for color to show through.  I think the effect conveys the story I was trying to tell with it quite well (it is art you know).

Again the photo purported to be Golubin’s MiG shows only the black bordered stars on fuselage and tail.  By the end of 41 upper wing stars were rarely being applied but the lower wing stars remained to signal nervous ground troops.  Trumpeter’s decals are well printed and thin.  They take a minute of soaking and another minute to release easily.  Get them in position without delay as they want to stay where they are put, keep them wet while you are working them.  Over the smooth wood fuselage and wing they required no setting solution.  The stars on the tail were hit with a little Micro-Sol to settle them into the ribbing detail of the rudder.

The next order of business was to apply a wash of black acrylic and water.  Some may think Trumpeters rivet detail is overdone but I liked the way it accepted the wash.  The wash really popped the paneling detail and I applied it liberally to help “grime up” the white paint.  Pastels were used to further grime up the airframe, these aircraft operated under very harsh conditions.  There are a lot of little air scoops on the cowl that need their openings painted black.  Exhaust stains on photos of MiG-3s are the most pronounced of any aircraft type I have seen.  What was that, cheap gasoline?  An engine designed for high altitudes running too rich at the lower altitudes?  Whatever, it is common to the type and stands out starkly.  I used black pastel chalk smudged on with my little finger.  Lastly was some paint chipping using silver enamel (but only the metal areas, duh).  I then sealed everything with a coat of gloss and finished off with Testor’s DullCoat  

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

At this stage of the project I could see it all coming together as I had visualized.  I am then tempted to hurry up and finish it so I can get it under the lights of my display case for all to gaze in wonder and amazement.  Actually, I am the only one in the family that possesses any wonder at these magnificent machines and the intrepid soles that flew them.  At best I get, “ooh, I like the yellow part, it goes with the curtains.”  Anyway, I have to remind myself that there is still much to do that will take some patience.  A wheel is a model in itself and every part is important to the whole.   

 I put a small drop each of blue and red in the wing tip navigation light cutouts. With the paint dry it’s time to affix the clear lenses.  These have to be the tiniest plastic model airplane parts I have ever encountered. You must carefully cut them off the sprue so that they don’t go flying off to neverland.  Then you have to clean up that sprue attachment point on a part really too small to see well let alone hold with forceps.  At least I assume that’s the way you do it.  Myself, I just filled the openings with clear parts cement.

The gun barrels were painted Gun-Metal and glued into their holes in the cowl.  The landing gear was painted assembled and attached.  Photos show everything underneath: gear well, doors, struts, etc. all painted the light blue underside color.  The strut attachment point in the wing allows a solid join for the gear.  The RO-82 rockets were assembled, painted O.D, and glued in position. Next was the prop and antenna mast.  I am a bit ambivalent about antenna wire and didn’t use one this time.

CONCLUSIONS

Trumpeter’s MiG-3 is beautifully engineered and molded.  But don’t let that fool you, test fit everything and make sure you understand what the instruction diagram is really trying to convey. This kit may not be right for inexperienced modelers.  There were no real problem areas but a little modeling experience is helpful with this one.  Overall it was a good build experience and makes an excellent replica of the type.  I highly recommend it and am sure I will build another.  Maybe a late version, a white one with red arrow and patriotic slogan, yeah….

REFERENCES

Web sites: VVS Research Page by Massimo Tessitori and MM Kit Reviews.

 Dave Cummings

October 2012

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