|KIT:||Italeri 1/72 Rafale M|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The Rafale is a French twin-engine delta-wing multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. It is being produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based naval operation with the French Navy. The aircraft has undergone a protracted development, for mostly political and economic rather than technical reasons; the first demonstrator flight was in 1986 but the first production aircraft entered service only in 2002. No foreign sales have yet transpired.
The Rafale carries, for the first time in aviation history, an integrated electronic survival system named SPECTRA which features a software-based virtual stealth technology.
The current Rafale variants are marginally capable of supercruise with light weapons loads. A planned engine upgrade, according to some sources, will allow the Rafale to supercruise with more realistic loads at around Mach 1.4.
The Rafale M is around 1,000 pounds heavier than the Rafale C due to the need to have a stronger airframe for naval operations. With the retirement of the F-8 Crusader, French carriers do not have any fast jet strike capabilities until the Rafale M. Despite desiring commonality with land based Rafale C's there is considerable difference in the parts of the two aircraft. Unusual in modern Naval fixed wing aircraft, the Rafale M had no folding wings; part of that desire for commonality.
Though it is in a new box, this is not a new kit. The give-away is that it has raised panel lines, something that most modelers would shun in favor of the more modern molds with engraved detailing. I also believe that this is a boxing of the Maritime prototype as the markings include a large 'M-01' for the fin tip and my understanding of these sorts of codes indicates a prototype. How much has changed in the shape of the aircraft since then I do not know as I don't keep abreast of modern aircraft development. I'm sure there is a reader who can lead me on the path of true enlightenment in this regard.
The two sprues that come loose in the box are very well molded. Transparencies are in their own bag. On my never ending quest for ejector pin marks or sink areas, or flash, I did find some of the first two. Ejector pin marks are on the inside of the main gear doors, on all the pylons and on all the missiles. Sink areas are on the upper wing where the outer portion of the lower wing attaches.
The cockpit is just a tub, stick, instrument panel, and seat. No decals are provided for the instrument panel as there is raised detail. I'd prefer a decal myself, but others would rather do without it. The fuselage is divided horizontally and one needs to open up any holes for pylons and such. The canards are a single piece and are to be trapped between the fuselage halves. Since Italeri's plastic is a bit soft, I doubt if they will stay in one piece for long. Nose weight is needed to prevent tail sitting and it should all fit in the nose cone without too much trouble.
For things under wings/fuselage there are two large drop tanks, Two AAMs for the wing tips and a number of other longer range missiles for the fuselage pylons. One can substitute two more of these missiles for the drop tanks if one wishes.
Instructions are well done and use Testors Model Master enamels for color references. The lone aircraft is basically in Dark Ghost Grey overall. The markings and painting guide are repeated in color on the back of the box. The small decal sheet is well printed and should work just fine.
Overall, this is a nice kit. Modern aircraft fans will enjoy building it and it isn't so complex that a near beginner wouldn't be able to do a good job on it. I only wish there were more marking options, but that won't happen for quite a while. The 'what if' crowd can have a ball with this one!
Thanks to for the review kit. You can find Italeri kits at your favorite hobby shop or on-line at www.testors.com
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