|KIT:||Scarebei 1/72 MiG-9 UTI|
|NOTES:||Crude, but workable|
In Stalin's Soviet Russia, just as the Great Patriotic War (that's World War II for those of us in the west) was coming to an end, the first Soviet jet fighter was still a year from its first flight. On April 24, 1946 the Soviets entered the jet age with the near-simultaneous first flights of the MiG-9 and Yak-15. The MiG-9 was the more advanced of the two with its all-metal construction and twin turbojets, but only a year later would be made obsolete by the birth of the MiG-15 with its vastly superior performance due to its swept wing aerodynamic layout. Within a few short years the MiG-9 was largely forgotten.
As development of the MiG-9 progressed, it was clear that such an advanced aircraft would need a suitable trainer to familiarize pilots only used to propeller-driven machines. The first attempt, dubbed the FT-1, was judged unsuitable because of poor visibility from the instructor's rear cockpit. The design was refined with the rear cockpit being raised resulting in the long canopy having a sloped appearance from the side, and the aircraft was put into production as the MiG-9UTI.
The MiG-9 as a modeling subject was largely overlooked until the fall of the Berlin Wall with the exception of the occasional vacuform kit (and a resin one as your editor built one about 20 years ago. ed). Since the 1990's, however, several attempts have been made in the injection-molded kit community. Most center on the MiG-9F, numerically the most important variant, but the Russian firm "Skarabei" (which may also be spelled "Scarabey", "Skarabey", or "Scarabei" depending on how the Cyrillic alphabet is translated) released two kits of the overlooked variants, namely the MiG-9M and the MiG-9UTI trainer. Typical of many Eastern European kits, the molding is fairly crude with very rough fit, but fortunately it does appear possible to make an acceptable model of the UTI if one is not averse to working the raw modelmaker's skills. Both kits have also been reboxed by the Maquette company with improved decals, the UTI as kit# MQS0003.
Let's just state right away that this will never be on the same level as the current Tamigawajimi "wonderkits", or even anything from the past 20 years or so. Still, this does not mean that the kit has nothing to offer. Besides the fact that this is the only injection-molded option in any scale for the MiG-9UTI (as of this writing), a respectable level of effort has been made in some areas to offset its rather obvious shortcomings.
The UTI kit is molded in four sprues plus the cockpit transparencies, and actually the non-transparent sprues contain all parts for both Skarabei kits. Indeed, the only difference between each kit seems to be the transparencies included, as even the decal sheet is common between kits. In examining the major airframe components, it appears certain that major gaps will be encountered, especially in joining the forward fuselage plug. Airframe detail is raised, but the flight control surfaces are recessed, though very wide and deep (think Matchbox).
Good effort was made for the cockpit, and indeed is far
superior to the first-generation Hasegawa kits where an L-shaped plastic slab
used to suffice for an ejection seat and a control stick and cockpit floor was
nonexistent. Skarabei actually offers multi-part ejection seats, control
sticks, full cockpit flooring, rudder pedals, and a simple instrument panel with
decals for instruments. It's certainly no True Details cockpit, but honestly,
it's probably plenty since the canopy does not have the option of being
positioned open. Good attention has also been given to detailing the landing
gear struts, traditionally a badly lacking feature in Eastern European kits.
The canopy, although very thick, is also nicely transparent and smooth, and not
cloudy or brittle.
Decals are minimal, and are under a single, solid sheet of decal film instead of the more traditional method of individual films for each individual marking. To their credit, the white background of the red star is provided as a separate decal, so if the colors are misaligned, then it can only be your fault! On the other hand, the white is admittedly NOT very white (and is pretty much invisible against the off-white paper backing in the photo), so their separate printing may be a moot point at best. Fortunately, replacement stars are readily available on the aftermarket decal scene. I can't vouch for their quality in use as yet, but I personally would opt for aftermarket replacements. As mentioned earlier, you will find the same decal sheet in both the UTI and the 9M kits, although the Maquette release has definitely improved decals.
If you're used to the so-called "shake-and-bake" Japanese kits, you will likely have some frustrations with this one. If, on the other hand, you're familiar with the "diamond-in-the-rough" Eastern European kits, where the filling of massive gaps and treating misaligned parts is a way of life, then this could be a neat little project just for something completely different. The shape seems reasonably close, and it is the only option other than scratchbuilding or kitbashing to make a trainer MiG-9. Besides, you can't beat the price!
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