PJ Production 1/72 Mirage IIIE
KIT #: 721026
PRICE: $29.50 from PJ Production
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Multi-media kit with resin and etched brass

HISTORY

While the Mirage IIIC was being put into production, Dassault was also considering a multirole/strike variant of the aircraft, which eventually materialized as the Mirage IIIE. The first of three prototypes flew on 1 April 1961.

The Mirage IIIE differed from the IIIC interceptor most obviously in having a 30 cm (11.8 in) forward fuselage extension to increase the size of the avionics bay behind the cockpit. The stretch also helped increase fuel capacity, as the Mirage IIIC had marginal range and improvements were needed. The stretch was small and hard to notice, but the clue is that the bottom edge of the canopy on a Mirage IIIE ends directly above the top lip of the air intake, while on the IIIC it ends visibly back of the lip.

Many Mirage IIIE variants were also fitted with a Marconi continuous-wave Doppler navigation radar radome on the bottom of the fuselage, under the cockpit. However, while no IIICs had this feature, it was not universal on all variants of the IIIE. A similar inconsistent variation in Mirage fighter versions was the presence or absence of an HF antenna that was fitted as a forward extension to the vertical tailplane. On some Mirages, the leading edge of the tailplane was a straight line, while on those with the HF antenna the leading edge had a sloping extension forward. The extension appears to have been generally standard on production Mirage IIIAs and Mirage IIICs, but only appeared in some of the export versions of the Mirage IIIE.

The IIIE featured Thomson-CSF Cyrano II dual mode air / ground radar; a radar warning receiver (RWR) system with the antennas mounted in the vertical tailplane; and an Atar 09C engine, with a petal-style variable exhaust.

The first production Mirage IIIE was delivered to the AdA in January 1964, and a total of 192 were eventually delivered to that service.

Total production of the Mirage IIIE, including exports, was substantially larger than that of the Mirage IIIC, including exports, totaling 523 aircraft. In the mid-1960s one Mirage IIIE was fitted with the improved SNECMA Atar 09K-6 turbojet for trials, and given the confusing designation of Mirage IIIC2.

THE KIT

For years PJ Production has been well known for its superb resin kits. Now, in conjunction with High Planes models, PJ Production has offered its first multi-media kit that is basically injected styrene.

It only makes sense that their first kit is of a subject that has been previously released in resin, the Mirage. In this case, it is the Mirage IIIE, probably the most popular version of the Mirage III/V family and a type bought by a number of nations around the world. This particular kit is for what you might call the base Mirage IIIE as operated by the French.

It is pretty obvious when looking at the sprues that these are intended for all the different Mirage versions. You get a bunch of different noses and different fuel tanks along with other bits and pieces like a fin fillet radio antenna not used on the versions kitted.

The injected parts are actually rather well done. The engraving is a tad on the 'soft' side compared to Hasegawa, for example, but is still quite acceptable to the majority of modelers. The wings are pretty standard as Mirage kits go and the fin is a separate item. Also separate is the forward fuselage. This is to allow the two seat version to be kitted later. The clear sprue includes both the two seat canopy as well as two windscreens; one of them unframed.

Of course, there is resin. This consists of drop tanks, a new fin with a larger ECM antenna, the lower fuselage doppler radar bulge, that is also included in plastic if you want to use that, bang seat, control stick and instrument panel.  A photo etch fret includes a boarding ladder, sensors, antennas and canopy mirrors.

Instructions are quite well drawn and let you know which of the optional bits are to be used for which set of markings. Color information is also provided during the build. There are four markings options, three of them in the disruptive scheme of green and grey uppers with painted aluminum undersides. However, the first option is in overall unpainted metal.

This first aircraft is one that was with EC 2/13 in 1966 and is shown on the box art. It has the rudder stripes and intake flashes along with a very colorful unit fin marking. These folks later turned to the Mirage 5F. Another is from EC 2/4 in 1979 with the stork and indian head markings on the fin from 1979 and with the yellow surround to the insignia. The third French option is with EC 3/3 and has the smaller insignia without the yellow surround. I believe EC 3/3 was the last French operator of the type and this one is as shown in 1991. The fourth option is for the Spanish Air Force in 1992 with Ala 11.

The camo and markings sheet is in full color and the decal sheet is superbly printed with all the various data markings. The roundels have separate centers to prevent issues with registration.

CONSTRUCTION

One should treat this kit as a high end short run kit. By that I mean that there are ejector marks that might have some additional flash on them that have to be cleaned up to get a good fit. I found this to be the case when I built up the wings, the first construction step. For those wanting to use the center pylon for a centerline tank, there are holes that need to be opened.  Next, the fuselage halves were assembled with the appropriate additions, followed by the exhaust and tail cone. The upper fuselage spine is next and PJ Production provides options for the antennas in p.e. if wanted. To use the resin fin the parabrake housing on the injected fuselage needs to be removed.

Once that was completed, I assembled the wings and then glued those in place. This was to help align the fin. Once that was one and the usual filler applied, the resin tale was installed. Fit is fairly good. Then to the cockpit. The resin set includes a great instrument panel but the plastic is not designed to use it. The kit one is not bad, but does not have the detail of the resin piece. The only items from that resin sprue that are used are the bang seat and the control stick. The interior is matte black and was painted using Tamiya XF-1 from the bottle. I glued in the control stick then installed the interior/nose gear well into one half of the forward fuselage. I crammed weight into the small space available in case it was needed and then glued the other half. The instrument panel was then glued in. I should note that the nose gear well detail is superb with all sorts of pipes and wires running in there.

The next step was to attach the nose to the rest of the fuselage. I expected difficulties and found them. It is an interesting way to attach the nose, but it seems as if the aft section was a bit wider than the front. On my next build of this or a similar kit, I'll try gluing the forward fuselage halves to the main fuselage halves before joining the main halves together. Other modelers have had success doing this and perhaps this kit will benefit from this angle. The usual filler was then applied to take care of the joins. Meanwhile, I glued the radome sections. This traps the pitot tube in between them, which seems like just asking for the pitot to be broken off. We shall see.

The cockpit was painted and the canopy masked and tacked in place. On the underside, I glued on various vents, the landing gear without the wheels, fuel tank pylons and the aft area that used to carry the rocket motor. The doppler radome was also attached at this time. I then sprayed the entire kit with Tamiya grey primer which showed up several sections that needed more filler work. I then attached the inner main gear doors and small nose gear door.

COLORS & MARKINGS

Once I was sure I had all the egregious gaps taken care of, more primer was applied and when dry, the underside was painted Alclad II aluminum. I then masked off the doppler radome and painted it white. The area around the lower aft fuselage is apparently chromate green so that was masked and painted as well.

In 1/72 scale, a hard edge between upper surface camo colors looks as good as any fine airbrush work so I first masked off the lower demarcation line and then painted the entire upper surface in dark grey using Xtracolor's French NATO Blue-Grey. It turned out too dark for my tastes so I tried something lighter. When that was dry, I did a lot of masking  before spraying on some French NATO Dark Green. This was unmasked and the nose was painted black.

The kit includes decals for the fin dielectrics and so I started applying decals. The wing walk markings are very long pieces that one cuts to the length needed once applied. The decals come away from the backing quite quickly and have a very short work time before the glue on the backing goes away and one has to peel the decal from the backing paper. They respond well to setting solution. I decided to do the second of three markings options with EC 2/4 'Lafayette' in 1979. This scheme still has the yellow surround roundels and more colorful wing walk and speed brake warning areas. I then sprayed on some near matte clear to seal things in and take off the shine.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

This consisted of attaching all the bits left in the box. First the wheels had to be attached. I had no trouble getting the nose wheel to fit, which was an earlier concern. The remaining gear doors were glued in place as was the nose gear landing light assembly. I have to confess that I managed to knock off several of the doors during the process. I also had to fuss with the tiny nose mounted sensors and the fuselage antenna. These were later painted once they were firmly affixed. I surprised myself through the entire build process by not breaking off the nose probe, though I did bend it quite a bit a few times! The exhaust section was also glued in place and the last things attached were the large fuel tanks. A bit of final touch up painting including the formation lights on the wings, brush painting the red warning stripes around the intake, and the bare metal cap for the parabrake housing. The masking was removed from the canopy that that was it. I decided not to have the canopy open and so did not attach the boarding ladder.

CONCLUSIONS

I have always found it to be fairly surprising that so many kit companies have produced modern models of the early Mirage IIIC when there are so many more operators and schemes for the Mirage IIIE. PJ Production in concert with High Planes have helped alleviate that situation with this and other kits in the series. While it is true that the kit needs to be treated somewhat like a short run kit and does require some of those modeling skills, it is great to have it available to us. This one is no more difficult to build than the old Heller kit and has landing gear that are a lot more solid that the somewhat flimsy main gear that the Heller kit provides. It also has a lot more detail. Were I to wish for anything, it would be for some weapons. French weapons sets in 1/72 are not exactly easy to locate here in the US and it would have been nice to have added some air to air missiles to the mix as the pylons for them are included.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the way the kit turned out and would not hesitate to recommend it to those who consider themselves to be intermediate level builders.

REFERENCES

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirage_III

May 2013

Thanks to PJ  Production for the preview kit. Get yours at the link.

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