KP 1/72 Yak-23 'Flora'
|Good, cheap, fun
Tom Cleaver's 2012 review of a 1/48 Bilek boxing of the Yak-23 "Flora" provides a solid history of this early Soviet jet interceptor.
That said, for this modeler there's always more to the story than the technical and operational histories. This aircraft encapsulates an industrial-design aesthetic we simply do not see in aircraft today. The Yakovlev jet looks like a pilot compartment wrapped about a giant engine. That's not far off. The Soviet copy of the Rolls-Royce Derwent V was a beast, and one can see a Yak-3 piston-driven fighter from the cockpit aft.
The USSR had developed both the Yak-3-based models 15 and 17 around other jet engines, but the 23 really captures an early-50s mood perfectly: a battering ram at transonic speeds. Clearly, planes like the MiG-15 and F-86, with their swept wings, speed brakes, and other features were the future for jet fighters, but Yakovlev's early jets remind a viewer of certain American Muscle Cars from the late 60s and early 70s. Like a '71 Road Runner, this plane is all long nose, sinister front end, and a lot of power half-hidden there. The difference from a Muscle Car? The Yak-23 was not only fast but could also maneuver.
I happened upon a small pile of 1981-issue KP Yak-23s in Front Line Hobbies, a Staunton, VA shop that stocks a number of out-of-production kits. It was formerly Jack's, and the man himself, a bit of a local legend, is always on hand when I pop in, helping the new owner, Christian. He'd discovered the kits in their storage area, and I happened to see the Yak-23's distinctive looks out of the corner of my eye. I loved it. I'm certain that I've seen one before, but as I'm currently building both an F-86 and MiG-15, I wanted a Yak to go on the shelf with these, as well as a Me-262 in my stash. I need a Meteor and Tunnan, as I already have a Vampire in my favorite scale.
This KP kits is not modern by any sense of the word, but the simplicity of 32 parts on a few sprues commends itself for a quick build. The plastic looks soft and is molded in off-white. The panel lines are fine and raised, not a concern to me as I find they look fine on a silver aircraft; I plan to build the kit's Polish example. Other OOB markings include a test aircraft in civil markings and a Czech air force plane.
The kit's canopy is thick and reputedly hard to fit properly. The kit arrives with a V-shaped clear stand reminiscent of the current US Space Force logo. I'll save that for making a wargaming starship miniature.
I plan to add a jet exhaust to the tail, and I'm looking now for the right diameter tube. I'll also busy up the tiny cockpit, though not much will show with the canopy in place.
Special Hobby has released a reasonably priced Yak-23 in this scale. The plane is small in 1/72 (and not huge in 1/48). It would make a nice addition to any collection of early jets, and KP's vintage box-art itself takes one back a few decades to simpler (except for the Cold War) times.
Give it a try.
(I highly recommend getting one of the newest boxings as the early ones have decals that are nearly transparent. Ed)
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