Wingman Models 1/48 Fouga Magister

KIT #: WMK 48007
PRICE: £59-00
DECALS: Ten options
REVIEWER: Frank Reynolds
NOTES: Two kits, resin and p.e. for one

HISTORY

The Fouga Magister can lay claim to being the World’s first purpose-built jet trainer. First flown on July 23rd 1952, it was built to a specification for the French Air Force and after an initial batch of 10 trials aircraft proved the new technology it entered squadron service in 1958, serving until replaced by the Alpha Jet in the 1980s.

 Its distinctive shape became well known to European air show fans when operated by the Patrouille de France aerobatic team and Belgium’s Diables Rouge. 397 aircraft were built for France. Heinkel of Germany undertook a production run for the Luftwaffe, totalling 188 aircraft. A long term user was Israel who undertook licence production and the Magister was used as a light attack type in the 1967 Six Day War, while an upgraded version with a glass cockpit, known as the Tzukit, was introduced in the 1980 and continued in service into the 21st Century. Finland obtained a production licence and after receiving 18 aircraft from French production in 1958, built a further 62 at the Valmet factory and the fleet served until 1988. 

The Magister ceased production in 1967 after nearly 1000 aircraft were constructed and the type served with 25 air forces spread across Africa, Asia, Europe, the  Middle East and South America. One user was Lebanon, which received five ex-Luftwaffe aircraft in 1966 and  a further five in 1972.

THE KIT

The presentation of this package is first class.  It is supplied in a sturdy top opening box with a high gloss finish and each face of the box top has a full colour photograph of a Magister. This is as much a project package as a kit, for this particular boxing is dedicated to the Fouga Magisters of the Israeli Air Force with one bonus option for a Lebanon Air Force example. It is advertised as a limited edition of 500; with Wingman also releasing a similar package for Luftwaffe and Irish Magisters, also limited to 500. 

The plastic parts originate from a Kinetic kit and each parts frame is duplicated in the package to provide two full kits as standard. The mouldings look good, with subtle recessed detail and each kit has three frames of grey plastic and one of clear. There is a mass of small detail parts for external bulges and intakes and gear bays. Two types of canopy are provided – a long one piece unit for a closed version and a five-piece assembly for open cockpits.

The instructions consist of two booklets of stapled A4 sheets in full colour.  The first is a six page section of assembly instructions consisting of parts charts and five pages of exploded views covering 21 stages of construction.  

The second booklet has 14 pages of information on the ten colour finishes on offer, nine of them from the IDF/AF at various times of the plane's operation and one in Lebanese markings.

There are two principal decal sheets to cover all of these options, to include comprehensive stencilling and airframe numbers, full dayglo striping, wing and fuselage striping for the aerobatic variant, instrument panels, nose anti-glare panel and nose/wing tank striping for the Lebanon version. The decals are by Cartograf, with good detail and dense colour.  One set of paint masks is included, for canopy and wheels.

There is a separate colour guide with all colour call outs referenced to RAL paint numbers and two pages of detailed drawings for placement of the stencil decals, then fully seven pages of photographs, mostly in colour, of the Fouga in Israeli service, including some very useful close up and cockpit shots. There is a slight limitation in the colour information, in that a minority of the choices have only one fuselage side view. 

The kit includes a comprehensive set of upgrade parts, but only sufficient for one of the kits in the box. This includes three brass frets of detail parts for the cockpit interior, speed brakes and mass balances. One of the small frets is duplicated since the air brake fingers and mass balances are not provided in Kinetic’s original plastic. The accompanying resin parts are a delight. Crisply cast in dark grey, they provide a whole new cockpit interior, featuring cables and wires to the rear of the instrument panel, and replacement seast with belts. A pair of new upper wing tank sections is provided to build the Israeli version and the undercarriage wheels are also duplicated in resin.

The comprehensive instructions are entirely geared to the upgraded version of the kit, with many components on the parts chart flagged up as “not for use”, yet during the build there are options that need to  be spotted in advance, particularly in terms of armament fit and external aerials.

I thought that there might be a problem with the absence of instructions for the plastic-only build but a quick check on Wingman Models website revealed a link to Kinetic’s original instruction that can be downloaded as a pdf. This yields another ten pages of instructions. The Wingman website mentions that there is a further upgrade kit available for the Tzukit variant – an upgrade for an upgraded kit, if you like. 

For this build, I chose to do the basic kit, without the extensive resin and etch upgrades, since this would provide a shallower learning curve.

CONSTRUCTION

This was part of my Telford Treat for 2014. I made my annual pilgrimage to Scale Model World, the annual two-day extravaganza of IPMS UK. I brought away a couple of short run kits but I like to treat myself to a deluxe modelling package and this certainly fits the part. I was able to buy direct from Wingman models stand and I find that this enhances the experience.                 

With two kits in the box, the simpler one and the upgraded version with all the etch and resin, I elected for the all-plastic version for this build, as this provides a shallower learning curve and the version with all the bells and whistles can wait for another day

This kit is so well packaged it is almost a shame to break open the bags and to start cutting parts from the frames. I noticed that the “C” parts frames, which provide most of the small fiddly bits, showed lines of flash and shallow ridges around many of the parts. This was not excessive and fairly easily dealt with using a fresh scalpel blade, but it did make construction more laborious. The instructions, both from Kinetic and Wingman, repay careful study and double checking everything before committing glue to plastic, since there are some errors where part numbers are transposed and in the case of the nose leg assembly, the drawings appear to be a mirror image of the plastic parts.

I try to find a sub assembly for an easy start and the wings were an obvious choice. They have a conventional break down of parts with left and right wings in upper and lower panels, with the wheel well detail moulded into the upper half. The tip tanks are moulded integrally with the wings, but flaps and ailerons are separate and small tabs have to be trimmed away according to whether you choose to fix them extended or retracted. The small finger-type spoilers on the upper and lower wing surfaces have alternative inserts for retracted or extended options. I chose to fix all of the control surfaces closed up and the parts almost clicked together to provide the basic wing structures.

The kit has separate ducts for the intake/exhaust system, split lengthways and before their halves are joined two tiny compressor faces are trapped deep inside, so deep that a boroscope would be needed to see them inside the narrow ducting. The parts were pre-painted in aluminium silver before assembly. The long ducts are threaded inside each fuselage half through the inlet areas and secured on pins, before the front and rear tapering sections of the engine fairings are added around the inlets and exhausts. The parts were not a perfect fit – probably builder error – and I found it easier to cut about 3mm out of the centre of the ducting to enable all of the parts to interlock satisfactorily. The missing area is buried deep within the fuselage and cannot be seen, except with the mythical boroscope. The intake lips were left off so they could be painted separately and added later.

Construction now moved to the interior – mostly painted Black. There is a full length cockpit tub with raised side wall detail and a rear bulkhead. The two control sticks and pairs of rudder pedals were glued in place. The non-ejector seats were detailed according to the colour photos in the instruction sheet and were painted in Tamiya XF-15 Flesh with red- brown seat cushions.  The seat belts came from an Eduard/Cyber Hobby set of fabric belts with etch buckles, originally intended for a 1:32 Bf109, but they  looked the part and were fixed in place with superglue. When dry the seats were given a coat of Citadel Sepia wash to give them a used look. The seats were added to the tub, along with the two instrument panels which are finished with decals from the kit’s sheet. Finally I added the pair of oxygen bottles that sit behind the front seat, painting them silver.

Before the fuselage halves were joined I cut plastic card to form an extension to the rear bulkhead, closing off the rear of the void below the cockpit tub and creating a compartment for a nose weight. The cockpit side walls locate the tub into stepped grooves in each fuselage half and they were a tight fit, requiring a number of dry runs and adjustment before the fuselage halves were glued together, trapping the tub in place. When dry, the fuselage halves were seam filled and smoothed before proceeding further, in order to avoid damaging any of the small add-ons during the cleaning up process.

The small details proved to be something of a challenge, consisting of a series of small scoops and acorn fairings clustered around the upper and lower curved surfaces of the engines. Small parts like this, with compound curves, I find are near-impossible to pick up with tweezers and after having consigned a couple of them to the Parts Eating Carpet, I picked them up by impaling them on the tip of a fresh scalpel blade and then holding them against the surface, applying a tiny drop of liquid cement, then removing the scalpel with a twisting motion. Any tiny scalpel-induced dings in the parts can be covered over at the paint priming stage.

The pre-assembled wings were now glued onto the fuselage sides and the kit has an unusual joining method, the wings having two spar stubs that slot into vertical slots in the fuselage, mimicking the full size method of joining. The wings have chamfered edges to the joining faces to ensure a smooth fit against the compound curve of the fuselage – a nicely engineered feature. The wings were secured with liquid cement run into the joints. Each side of the V-tail consists of upper and lower panels with a separate one piece ruddervator and these fitted positively into small recessed boxes in the fuselage sides to form a strong joint.  A small faring closes off the intersection of the V-tail and the tip of the rear fuselage.

Another sub-assembly is the nose section forward of the windscreen, consisting of 15 parts. The two piece nose leg is supported by a tubular space frame structure that is fixed into a bulkhead and this assembly is trapped between the nose halves, leaving a potentially fragile nose leg poking out throughout the rest of the build. Optional nose halves are provided, according to whether nose guns are to be installed – the Lebanese version is unarmed. A saddleback fairing to the top of the nose can be left off to reveal the complex nose interior.

It was time to add nose weight, using lead shot inserted through the open nose and into the cockpit sub-floor area and I found 15 grams to be enough, so the weights box was closed off with a small panel of plastic card and the nose assembly glued in place.

The basic airframe was seam sealed and any obvious dings and scratches filled with Revell Plasto filler. The canopy was masked up using the pre-cut yellow tape masks provided with the kit, then, not forgetting to add the periscope for the rear cockpit, the canopy was glued in place. This was a good time to revisit every stage of the instruction sheet and carry out an audit to see if there were any other non-fragile parts that needed to be glued on before the painting stage.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 An undercoat of grey auto primer was applied from a rattle can. The wing tip tanks and ruddervators were further undercoated in Tamiya Fine White primer before they were airbrushed in Tamiya X-6 Orange. When dry the Orange areas were masked out and the overall airframe sprayed in Tamiya XF-45 Dark Sea Grey, masked out again and the upper surface shadow shading of green airbrushed in XF-61 Dark Green. I added the previously painted red intake lips and painted the jet outlets Flat Aluminium. Two brushed coats of Future/Klear floor polish were applied as a base for the decals.

Wingman provides a separate comprehensive decal sheet for the Lebanese version and although the decals seemed quite thick, with patience, and the application of two or three coats of Micro Sol and Micro Set, they settled down well.  The striping to the nose and tip tanks, applied to compound curved surfaces, needed extra care. The decals were sealed with a final brushed coat of Future/Klear, which I find gives a reasonable semi-gloss finish applicable to a jet aircraft. (As an interesting note, on the Magister, the wing insignia are upside down when compared to every other fixed wing Lebanese aircraft. I thought this was a glitch at first, but confirmed it when looking at photos of the actual aircraft. Ed)

The undercarriage was added, starting with the second re-gluing of the nose leg, which had broken off as the result of mishandling during the main build. The gear is satisfyingly detailed, especially since the wheel centres are separate from the tyres, making painting easier. The main gear legs have a trident arrangement of small struts at the top, making for a strong and positive location in the wheel wells. The doors are commendably thin and the main doors have small hook-type hinges that make their installation simple. All that was needed now was check around the airframe to deal with the navigation lights and small aerials, then to superglue the etch parts for the ruddervator and trim tab linkages.

CONCLUSIONS

 The basic kit is available with Kinetic branding at around £32-99 in the UK and that also includes two kits in the box. At not far short of twice the price Wingman provide well detailed resin parts, the etch, canopy masks, superb decals and the excellent full colour reference material in the instructions. I bought the Wingman product for the persuasive reason that I liked the picture on the box and that is often the case in my choice of modelling.

 The kit is deceptive, for my first reaction on beginning the build was to expect something of the precision of a Hasegawa or Tamiya kit. In fact as it progressed it was more like a good quality short run production from the likes of MPM/Special Hobby. This is no bad thing but the soft plastic means that parts must be handled with care and some of the smaller parts are difficult to clean up where mould lines occur. The instructions require careful study and pre-planning, more so in the case of the Kinetic instructions than Wingman, but the exploded views are more of a guide to the relationship between groups of parts than they are sequential assembly instructions. Few builders would expect, for example, to add aerials to the fuselage halves before the wing and tail assemblies have been glued on.

 There is plenty of scope for those who like detail to leave hatches and canopies open. There is some minor criticism in the fact that when building the second kit a canopy mask must be found elsewhere, and unless building the minority choice Tzukit version, some instrument dials will have to be sourced also.

This kit is a challenge in planning, but less so in execution, It is an education for the fact that comprehensive decals and colour information are provided and it was a pleasure to build. Probably more suited to an experienced modeler, but recommended. It is a uniquely shaped aircraft and an unusual subject for display.

Frank Reynolds

January 2015

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