Heller 1/72 Mirage IIIE/R/5BA
|PRICE:||$5.00 (second hand)|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
While the Mirage IIIC was being put into production, Dassault was also considering a multi-role/strike variant of the aircraft, which eventually materialized as theMirage IIIE. The first of three prototypes flew on 1 April 1961.
The Mirage IIIE differed from the IIIC interceptor most obviously in having a 300 mm (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 ofMirage IIIC2.
A number of reconnaissance variants were built under the general designation ofMirage IIIR. These aircraft had a Mirage IIIE airframe; Mirage IIIC avionics; a camera nose and unsurprisingly no radar; and retained the twin DEFA cannon and external stores capability. The camera nose accommodated up to five OMERA cameras.
The AdA obtained 50 production Mirage IIIRs, not including two prototypes. The Mirage IIIR preceded the Mirage IIIE in operational introduction. The AdA also obtained 20 improvedMirage IIIRD reconnaissance variants, essentially a Mirage IIIR with an extra panoramic camera in the most forward nose position, and the Doppler radar and other avionics from the Mirage IIIE.
In 1968 the Belgian government ordered 106 Mirage 5s from Dassault to re-equip No 3 Wing at Bierset airbase. All aircraft but the first one were to be license-built by SABCA in Belgium. Component production at the SABCA Haren plant near Brussels was followed by assembly at the SABCA plant at Gosselies airfield, near Charleroi. The ATAR engines were produced by FN Moteurs at this company's Liège plant. SABCA production included three versions: Mirage 5BA for the ground attack role, Mirage 5BR for the reconnaissance role and Mirage 5BD for training and conversion.
By the end of the 1980s, a MIRage Safety Improvement Program (MIRSIP) was agreed to by parliament, calling for 20 low-time Mirages to be upgraded. Initial plans included a new more powerful engine, but this idea was abandoned to limit cost. The upgrade eventually included a new state of the art cockpit, a new ejection seat, and canards to improve takeoff performance and overall maneuverability. A new government canceled MIRSIP however. SABCA, having a watertight contract for MIRSIP, was allowed to complete the update of the 20 aircraft. After completion, the Belgian government sold all 20 at a loss to Chile.
The Heller Mirage III E is by no means a new kit nor is it unknown to most modelers. What is really surprising is that in the 30 or more years since this kit was originally introduced, aside from a very nice resin kit by JP Production, there hasn't been a new mold kit of this widely produced aircraft.
This is probably the first issue of this kit as Heller stuck a Mirage IIIC on the box art. However, inside is the now familiar grey plastic with very nice raised detailing on all surfaces. As this is a first mold kit, there is no flash, no sink holes and aside from the usual ejector pin marks on the inside of gear doors and on weapons pylons and such is a pretty clean kit. There isn't even any flash on the canopy sprue.
As one who has built probably ten or more of these kits in the past (though not in the last 20 years or so), I can tell you that there will be fit issues with the intakes and sometimes the wing to fuselage join on the front forward section can be problematical. I can also tell you that this kit has a very strong nose gear with molded in nose wheel, and some of the most spindly and weak main landing gear around. Only the Matchbox Mirage III has gear that is weaker.
There is an OK interior with a somewhat generic looking bang seat so if you want to show off the inside (which you can as the canopy and windscreen are separate), at least get a decent aftermarket seat. Some other features are a rocket pack for the IIIE, and smaller fairing with tail hook for the 5BA, a doppler fairing for the IIIE, a lower clear bit for the IIIR, and a longer, more pointed nose for the 5BA. You also get two types of lower wing fuel tanks. The larger tanks and the skinny supersonic versions. No outer wing or center fuselage pylons and no missiles or bombs. I don't think that nose weight is needed, though I usually added some.
The decal sheet provides markings for three aircraft; one of each variant. The IIIE is provided Spanish markings, the III R has French markings and the 5BA has markings for a Belgian plane. All are camouflaged. The large instruction sheet is in French, though later boxings did have an English addendum sheet. Decals are quite matte and are yellowed with age. Not a problem as there have been considerable aftermarket sheets done for this kit. If you do use the kit decals, you'll find that they stick rather well, but are immune to most setting solutions.
So there you have it. These kits are not impossible to find as I see them quite frequently from vendors at shows and swap meets. Despite its age and the need to modify it for those nations that had the HF system installed, it is still a very nice kit of this important French aircraft.
Thanks to me and my ability to get a cheap kit from time to time.
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