Revell 1/48 Mirage IIIE
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||Reboxed ESCI kit|
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.
As mentioned in the notes, this is a reboxed ESCI kit. I don't know how old it is, but do know that my kit came with no decals. This is normally not a big deal, however, ESCI relied on decals for the instruments on the main panel and side consoles, so in this case it was an issue.
The kit is of the raised panel line type and is relatively basic. The cockpit tub attaches to the nose gear well and contains a seat shape, flat instrument panel and control stick. The seat/well assembly fits into the forward fuselage when the halves are closed. There is an insert for the base of the fin as ESCI produced versions with the extended fin base.
Wings are a single lower piece with two upper sections. Holes for the fuel tanks and seaparate flaperon fairings are already drilled. Intakes are typically shallow and the part with the gun opening is a separate piece. Landing gear is well done with the nose gear legs being in two halves and trapping the nose wheel between them. There is a separate doppler antenna fairing for the lower nose and the two piece nose cone is shown to require 5 grams to prevent tail sitting. The only weapon carried is a Matra R.530 missile on the centerline. The wing tanks are the smaller supersonic tanks. Canopy and windscreen are separate so you can display the model with the canopy open.
Instructions are well done with color information provided, all in generic terms. The four markings options are a natural metal Swiss plane and three camouflaged planes for France, Spain and Australia. Can't comment on the decals as my kit did not come with any, but if they are typical of ESCI, they would be unusable at this time. ESCI decals generally do not age well. Fortunately there are aftermarket ones out there.
It took me a long time to get this one started. The first thing I needed was some sort of decent cockpit. After much web searching, I found an Aires set in Hong Kong. However, it had no photo etch and no instructions. I could live with that so ordered it.
While waiting, I started building the wings. The join between the upper and lower wing results in a rather large seam all along the underside of the forward section. I also glued together the nose and the fuel tanks. Eventually the cockpit set arrived and that was duly painted, airbrushed and assembled. I did have to cut away the old instrument panel anti-glare panel. Fitting the cockpit was not a major problem, but one does have to be prepared to wiggle things around a bit. The cockpit itself does not slot into the nose gear well as far as one would think. I discovered this by first gluing the gear well to one side of the fuselage, taping the fuselage and letting it all dry. Then I inserted the cockpit minus the instrument panel piece to ensure a decent fit, taping the fuselage halves together again in the process. Getting the instrument panel assembly took a bit of "glue, hold and add accelerator" to get it properly situated.
With that out of the way, I glued the fuselage halves together, attached the wings, and the intakes. These all had seams of some sort to deal with and after I had that done, I lost interest in the kit and allowed it to marinate for a few months before getting back into it. This is not unusual for me and is undoubtedly the reason for a rather large pile of incomplete projects.
Slowly getting back into it, I decided to start with the Martel that I was going to use. This is a PJProduction resin set and consists of a two piece missile body and the fins. I always have trouble with two piece, butt join, tubular thingies and this was no exception, requiring filler. Attaching the fins was pretty easy as they are quite thin and I drilled out the holes for the rear fins to ensure a good fit. I did not bother to research if the RAAF Mirage III carried this or not, so if it did not, keep it our secret.
While working on that, I glued on the forward fin insert on the fuselage as well as the exhaust. The fit of both was such that filler and lots of sanding were needed; the exhaust being a bit oversize. Next step was the installation of the Martel's pylon on the centerline. This was accomplished with minimal fuss though one does have to be sure that the mounting surface is flat. When it came to the Sidewinder pylons, I first glued the elevon actuator housings in place using only the back hole. Actually, there is no front pin and one is left with an off center hole as the fore and aft holes for the outside housing do not line up properly. Anyway, once dry, I used a razor saw to cut into the piece level with the hinge line. Then it was a simple matter of gluing the resin pylon in place.
There are some scoops that needed attached, though there is no attachment point engraved on the fuselage and the instructions are vague as to exactly where they go. I then painted the gear wells and inside of the gear doors with Alclad II aluminum and filled the gear wells and the intakes with Silly Putty in preparation for painting. In the front, a piece of acetate was used for the gun sight and the windscreen attached. I then then tried to tack the canopy it place, but it does not fit well in the closed position, being too narrow. As I'd not yet installed the seat, I put Silly Putty in the cockpit and used that to hold on the canopy for painting.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
For this kit I decided to use Caracal Models 48-067 which covers every RAAF unit that ever flew the plane along with most of the available scheme (experimental ones notwithstanding). I chose one of the green/grey over light grey schemes. The underside was painted with light gull grey using Testors Model Master enamel. I then masked off the demarcation line as it is very tight and painted the upper surface with Tamiya Olive Green. A flurry of masking took place that took an age to do and the rest of the airframe was painted with Tamiya Dark Grey. Once the masking was removed, I touched up the inevitable glitches and gave the upper surface a couple of coats of clear gloss acrylic.
Then I started applying the decals, using a nice set of markings for 3 Squadron. Right away, I noticed a glitch. The Caracal sheet is sized for the Kinetic kit, not the ESCI kit. The first markings I applied, the speed brake warning areas, were too small. I also found that the rudder marking was too large (actually too wide as it fit perfectly in the vertical). The fin stripe was also too short. This is a problem one can run into when using decals on a kit for which it was not designed. However, I had no other choice as my kit was devoid of decals. All the decals went on well and other than those mentioned, they worked just fine.
This Caracal sheet has several sections of simply the aircraft designation (in this case A3-) followed by a long line of numbers in white, black and grey. Each has to be cut out and then placed in the arrangement you wish to duplicate the aircraft you are modeling. This is a bit time consuming since you have to repeat the aircraft number in seven locations in two different colors. It also enters in the errors of misalignment this method can produce. It takes me back to the mid 1980s when I used Modeldecal sheets to duplicate these on some of my models. .
In the meanwhile, I painted a number of other bits like the outer gear doors, the missiles, wheels, landing gear legs, nose cone and such. I also painted the very nice resin seat that came with the cockpit set, though I'm sure the colors are not prototypical. Note that the Australian Mirage IIIE does not have the doppler radar housing under the nose. I had stupidly installed it and had to remove it prior to painting.
When installing the main landing gear, I had to break the small gear brace to get the strut to face the proper way (yes, they are on the correct side). The nose gear had to have the mounting holes drilled out and the retraction strut proved to be too short. The main gear retraction struts also were not the best fit. I lost several small pieces including one of the small nose gear door struts, which was replaced with stretched sprue. I also lost the upper nose probes so those are missing. When installing the main gear doors, I found that removing the small 'legs' from the doors made for a much better fit. The inner doors had to be carefully placed to provide room for the Martel. I also had to mount the Martel a bit farther back than I wanted as it interfered with the doors, but looks ok.
I gave the overall airframe a coat of clear satin and continued adding bits. This included the Sidewinders and the high speed fuel tanks. I put 5 grams of weight in the nose as without it the model would tail sit with ease. The cone was glued in place and fit well. Sidewinders were then glued on. Lastly, the masking was taken from the clear bits, the seat installed and the canopy propped open, held up with a small piece of sprue.
It seems more and more often than kits take me longer than originally planned. I guess it is just a combination of not having as much time to work on them as I'd like and having to fix glitches, both kit and self made. I learned several things. One is that the ESCI kit is not all that bad, despite the rather Spartan kit cockpit, but one must get a kit with decals for the instruments. Second is that the Caracal decals for many of the options will not fit the fin properly. Third is that adding aftermarket does make the model look nice, but severely increases the price of the project. Of course, some of this is moot as finding an Aeries cockpit was quite a search, but the PJ Production missiles and pylons do look so much nicer than what comes in the kit. I only wish the missiles came with decals. It also gets a long term build off the 'in work' shelf.
8 September 2017
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