DML 1/72 Jian Ji-5 (MiG-17F)
|PRICE:||$ Currently out of production|
|NOTES:||First in a series of North Vietnamese MiGs|
Not long after the MiG-15 went into production, work was already underway on its successor. The design team of Artyom Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich decided on using the general layout and some of the components of the existing fighter, while incorporating some major improvements. The new aircraft featured a larger, all-new wing with a higher leading edge sweep angle of 49 degrees at mid-span, and 45.5 degrees to tip (compared to the MiG-15’s 35 degree sweep). Fuselage was substantially lengthened, and aircraft fitted with an improved VK-1A engine with 5,952 pounds of thrust.
The prototype, designated I-330, first flew on January 13, 1950. Production aircraft were designated MiG-17 (NATO code-name “Fresco-A”), and were produced in satellite countries as well as the Soviet Union including China, Czechoslovakia and Poland. The MiG-17 was the first Soviet fighter to exceed Mach 1, although this was achieved in a shallow dive and not in level flight. An improved, afterburning VK-1F engine of over 7,200 pounds of thrust became available after short production of the initial Fresco-A and -B models, and production was underway of the MiG-17F (“F” for the Russian word “forsirovannyi” or “boosted”, indicating the afterburner).
The MiG-17F (known to NATO as “Fresco-C”) became the definitive version of this aircraft, with examples built in China as the JI 5 or F-5, Czechoslovakia, and in Poland as the Lim-5 and Lim-6. Over 9,000 MiG-17s of all variants were produced, before production ceased in favor of newer designs. In the hands of an experienced pilot, the MiG-17F was a lethal and effective fighter aircraft, due to its excellent thrust-to-weight ratio, outstanding maneuverability, and potent armament of two 23mm and one 37mm cannon. MiG-17s were used by Egypt and Syria in various Middle East conflicts, and were used extensively by the Vietnamese People’s Air Force (VPAF, North Vietnam) in Southeast Asia against the U.S. from 1965 to 1973.
As the war in Southeast Asia began to escalate, communist North Vietnam began to receive a steady supply of weaponry from both the Soviet Union and China. In August 1964 the VPAF received its first 36 MiG-17s from the Soviet Union, these being the “Fresco-A” version. This first batch of aircraft was assigned to the 921st Fighter Regiment based at Noi Bai, north west of Hanoi. During the entire conflict with the U.S., the VPAF received roughly 200 MiG-17s, MiG-17Fs, MiG-17PFs and Chinese built F-5s.
The 1950s-vintage aircraft made good account of itself against a numerically and technologically superior United States Navy and Air Force, utilizing its excellent maneuverability and potent cannon armament. The 921st and 923rd Air Regiments were the two units equipped with the MiG-17. The VPAF claims to have shot down at least 71 U.S. aircraft during the Air War years 1965-1972 with MiG-17s alone. These include the F-8 Crusader, F-105 Thunderchief, F-4 Phantom II, A-1E Skyraider, Firebee Drone, RC-47, and at least one CH-3C helicopter. Three pilots, Le Hai, Nguyen Van Bay and Luu Huy Chao, all of the 923rd Fighter Regiment, became aces while flying the MiG-17. The VPAF took its licks, however. Several MiG-17s were lost to US Aircraft, friendly fire, accidents and general attrition in an extreme climate of intense heat and humidity. By the end of 1972, the VPAF MiG-17 force was severely battered, many of the rough-duty aircraft in need of extensive maintenance and repair, and some quite simply beyond that point. The VPAF used the aging MiG-17 “Fresco” alongside the newer, Mach 2 MiG-21 “Fishbed”, serving gallantly in primitive and harsh conditions in an aerial struggle lasting nearly a decade.
Dragon Models Limited, DML, released several 1/72 kits of both the MiG-15 and MiG-17 in the early-90s. Kit number 2512, “MiG-17 Fresco” is the early, non-afterburning version, and our subject, number 2513, is listed as the Jian Ji 5, and is the MiG-17F with afterburner. Both kits are identical, except for the aft fuselage section (with early or late air brakes, depending on version) and exhaust tailpipe. The earlier kit, 2512, is now re-boxed by the Czech company Bilek as kit number 965 with a great decal sheet by Tally Ho. Be warned, however, that this Bilek box says “MiG-17F”, but the kit inside is in fact the non-afterburning MiG-17 “Fresco-A”.
Kit contains 50 parts, and has good detail throughout. It has crisp, clean molding with little to no flash, and excellent engraved panel lines. The overall thickness of flying surfaces is on the money for 1/72 scale, particularly the leading and trailing wing edges. The overall shape, proportions and accuracy are correct. This kit does a couple of things very well. The first thing is to be the best 1/72 MiG-17 there is, completely blowing away the older Hasegawa and KP kits. The second is to really show just how small the MiG-17 is. The 60s-vintage Hasegawa kit (radar-equipped PFU) looked OK from a distance, but had several inaccuracies, including, above all, scale. It was probably the only “1/68” MiG-17 kit out there!
The KP MiG-17PF was closer to scale, but is inaccurate in all the flying surfaces, particularly the wing shape and size of the horizontal stabilizers. It baffles me that in Czechoslovakia, where several of these full-size aircraft were available for inspection and measurement, a better kit was not produced. After all, some of KP’s earlier kits, including the MiG-19, were more accurate.
Getting back to the DML kit, it is also the first and only injection-molded “non radar-equipped” Fresco in 1/72 scale. The two-piece canopy is even molded with overhead defroster grid; not an easy task in this small a scale. Decals cover five different aircraft, including China, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Syria and Vietnam, but are a bit pale in color. Aftermarket and alternate kit decals will be used for this very basic Vietnamese scheme. In any case, the kit has the right amount of detail, and looks to be a fun and easy build.
Starting with the cockpit, consisting of the tub itself, a 3-piece ejection seat, stick and instrument panel, everything was painted Testors Model Master FS 36270 neutral gray, with details on the instrument panel and stick done in flat black and silver. I am not a big cockpit detail guy; if a kit has a simple, 5-piece cockpit, I am OK with that. On the other hand, if a kit has a well-detailed cockpit, as in many of the 1/48 kits out there these days, I will detail it out to the full extent of the stock kit parts. It is not a big priority for me to have PE seat belts, etc.
After gluing completed cockpit tub assembly to right fuselage half, it was time to put some weight in the nose. Only noted problem with this kit is that the lower front fuselage (gun section and nose gear bay) intrudes into and is visible in front intake section, at lower part of splitter. To “kill two birds with one stone”, nose weight was installed just ahead of cockpit, then a piece of Plastruct sheet was cut in a circular disc matching forward fuselage inside diameter, and installed just aft of splitter. I painted it flat black, to give it a look of depth behind the splitter. I then trimmed the front of the nose gear bay to fit behind the Plastruct disc, and fitted the gun and nose gear bay assembly to the main fuselage.
As previously mentioned, this kit was made in two different versions, and to accommodate this, the rear fuselage section is separate from the forward fuselage section, somewhat like a larger kit with viewable engine and removable tail section, as on the real aircraft. Because this kit does not have engine detail, the rear halves were glued to the front section, then the vertical fin and rudder installed. Wings and horizontal tail feathers came next, all true-sighted head-on. MiG-17 has slight wing anhedral, and the fit at wing roots is very good.
Once the main airframe assembly was completed and dried, gentle sanding followed by wet sanding with 400, then 1000 brought all seams closed. The fit of this kit is very good overall, and no filler was needed. Once the sanding was completed, main gear legs and struts were installed, as were the wing antennae, inboard main gear doors at wing root, nose gear doors, and cannon. Wherever possible, landing gear legs are attached to the model before painting, to insure a stronger joint. Now the MiG was ready for paint.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Using the excellent Osprey Publication, “MiG-17 and MiG-19 Units of the Vietnam War” by Istvan Toperczer as a guide, a camouflaged MiG-17F from the 921st Fighter Regiment was chosen. VPAF MiG-17s were predominately natural metal, and a few were painted in medium gray. From 1968, however, U.S. air raids were becoming more common, and several of the VPAF MiGs were hastily painted in dark green cammo schemes in attempt to better conceal themselves beneath trees and foliage. Some were two-tone green, and some others had tan or khaki in the mix, and no two were alike! I chose aircraft number 2072, featuring a two-tone green scheme with tan spots. This scheme looks a bit WWII Japanese or Italian. The entire airframe was first sprayed with Testors Model Master II 2027 Dark Green (B-52), FS 34096. Then a random, scattered spotting of the second green, Model Master 1713 FS 34102 was applied. It is possible that these MiGs were painted green overall, or that the wing undersides were left natural aluminum. This is still under investigation, so I chose to paint wing undersides in the same green. Once this had dried, the tan spots were applied to the upper surface using a 50/50 mixture of Model Master II 2110 Italian Sand and Model Master 1706 FS 33531 Sand. Once the paint had dried overnight, a coat of clear gloss was applied to aid in decal adhesion.
The VPAF insignia (a “star and bar” which in shape and style looks a lot like the US insignia, in completely different colors, of course) was not uniformly proportioned on all aircraft. The bars were in different sizes in relation to the star and circle from plane to plane, and MiG-17s had insignia in different sizes. A good photo of 2072 in the front of Dr. Toperczer’s book shows that this aircraft had smaller insignia. At the time, I had no good examples of the insignia in 1/72, so I opted to use the VPAF insignia from the 1/48 Academy MiG-21 decal sheet. Sizing is just right. VPAF aircraft all had tactical numbers stenciled in red on the front fuselage sides. Mark Borer made the number decals on an ALPS printer. Mark made VPAF numbers and insignia in 1/72, 1/48 and 1/32 scale for all future projects, and did an outstanding job. Once decals were applied and Micro Sol used, two coats of Testors Dull Coat were applied. Remember that VPAF aircraft were all subject to rough duty, and none were pretty!
On the actual aircraft, the camouflage was applied very hastily, so often the canopy frame was left unpainted on many of the VPAF MiGs. I used Model Master Aluminum Non-Buffing Metalizer for the canopy frame as well as the drop tanks, which were either natural metal or camouflaged, depending on how many sets of tanks were used since the camouflage was applied. Intake splitter was done in FS 36375 Light Ghost Gray. Wheel wells, gear struts, inside of gear doors and wheel hubs painted in Neutral Gray FS 36270. Strut details, pitot tube tips and fuselage antenna mast all done in silver or aluminum. Afterburner tailpipe was painted with Testors Burnt Iron Metalizer, as were cannon barrels.
Straightforward assembly of landing gear wheels and gear doors, except that there is more room to install the main gear doors if the drop tanks are fitted after the gear is completed. This was found out after the fact, but a steady hand and some tweezers got those main gear doors in place without too much fuss. Canopy installed with white Elmer’s glue. This was the last step in construction.
The MiG-17 is a historically significant jet fighter. Over 9000 were built, and it was used by dozens of Soviet-friendly countries, from Cuba to China, and had its greatest combat success in Vietnam. While it is surprising that there aren’t more kits of this aircraft, this DML release has absolutely “nailed it” on accuracy. The kit has no flaws to speak of, and is straightforward in construction, the only thing to watch being nose weight and the front gear and gun bay intruding on the intake. There are many aftermarket decals available for this little guy, and if you are a MiG fan like I am, choose your favorite paint and markings and build one of these for yourself. I highly recommend it. This kit is very rewarding, but it may take a little effort to find, now that it is out of production.
Osprey Combat Aircraft number 25, MiG-17 and MiG-19 Units Of The Vietnam War, by Istvan Toperczer. 2001 Osprey Publishing Limited.
Koku-Fan The North Vietnam Forces In The S.E.A. War, 1973 Bunrin-Do Publishing Co.
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