|KIT:||Skarabei 1/72 MiG-9/9M|
|PRICE:||$5.00 or so|
|NOTES:||Not easily recommended|
In Stalin's Soviet Russia, just as the Great Patriotic War (that's World War II for those of us in the west) was coming to an end, the first Soviet jet fighter was still a year from its first flight. On April 24, 1946 the Soviets entered the jet age with the near-simultaneous first flights of the MiG-9 and Yak-15. The MiG-9 was the more advanced of the two with its all-metal construction and twin turbojets, but only a year later would be made obsolete by the birth of the MiG-15 with its vastly superior performance due to its swept wing aerodynamic layout. Within a few short years the MiG-9 was largely forgotten.
Although a good first attempt at a jet fighter, the MiG-9 had one fundamental shortcoming, one which is easy to recognize today but was pretty much unknown to anyone at the time; specifically, the fact that jet engines do not ingest cannon exhaust gasses very well! And so it was that, as the first propeller-less fighters took form, its designers at last saw an opportunity to place the guns in the "ideal" position of front and center without having to work around those darned spinning prop blades. In the case of the MiG-9, it was two 23mm cannon on the bottom lip and a monstrous 37mm cannon in the middle of the intake splitter! Once this "ideal" arrangement was tested in flight, it was noticed that whenever the guns were fired, a horrendous loss of power and sometimes flameouts resulted. Those early turbojets must have been tough, as it apparently was not quite bad enough of a problem to cancel the project entirely.
The MiG-9M was a radically different member of the MiG-9 family, the only one to successfully eliminate the flameout problem which it did by installing the cannon behind the intake and in the side of the forward fuselage, F-86 style. As it actually entered its limited production run mere months before the MiG-15's first flight, it is natural that some features to appear on the -15 would also be introduced on the -9M. Close scrutiny of the few available photos of MiG-9M's shows what appears to be the same style canopy as on the MiG-15. In addition, the only photo I have seen showing a MiG-9M's intake from the front shows what appears to be a rounded MiG-15-style intake with a deeply recessed splitter (All other MiG-9's had an oval intake with the splitter flush with the rest of the intake lip).
The MiG-9 as a modeling subject was largely overlooked until the fall of the Berlin Wall with the exception of the occasional vacuform kit. Since the 1990's, however, several attempts have been made in the injection-molded kit community. Most center on the MiG-9F, numerically the most important variant, but the Russian firm "Skarabei" (which may also be spelled "Scarabey", "Skarabey", or "Scarabei" depending on how the Cyrillic alphabet is translated) released two kits of the overlooked variants, namely the MiG-UTI trainer and the second giving the modeler the choice of building either a traditional MiG-9 or the MiG-9M. Credit where it's due, this is a wonderful proposition on paper. Both kits have also been reboxed by the Maquette company with improved decals, the 9/9M as kit# MQ7245.
Let's just state right away that this will never be on the same level as the current Tamigawajimi "wonderkits", or even anything from the past 20 years or so. Typical of many Eastern European kits, the molding is fairly crude with very rough fit. If one wishes to build a standard MiG-9 or MiG-9F, then one would be far better served by the very good releases by either Amodel or MPM. On the other hand, this is also the only injection-molded attempt in any scale for the MiG-9M (as of this writing), and a respectable level of effort has been made in some areas to offset its rather obvious shortcomings. Still, by building out-of-the-box with the given parts, a true MiG-9M simply cannot be achieved.
The MiG-9/9M kit contains all the same sprues as the MiG-9UTI kit except the transparencies. Indeed, even the decal sheet is common between both Skarabei kits. In examining the major airframe components, it appears certain that very major gaps will be encountered, especially in joining the forward fuselage plug. Airframe detail is raised, but the flight control surfaces are recessed, though very wide and deep (think Matchbox).
Good effort was made for the cockpit, and indeed is far superior to the first-generation Hasegawa kits where an L-shaped plastic slab used to suffice for an ejection seat, and control sticks and cockpit floors were nonexistent. Skarabei actually offers multi-part ejection seats, control sticks, full cockpit flooring, rudder pedals, and a simple instrument panel with decals for instruments. It's certainly no True Details cockpit, but honestly, it's probably plenty since the canopy does not have the option of being positioned open. Good attention has also been given to detailing the landing gear struts, traditionally a badly lacking feature in Eastern European kits.
Separate forward fuselage plugs are provided to accomodate the different canopies of the -9 and the -9M, although the shape of the -9M's canopy lacks the tapered trailing edge of the real thing. To its credit, the canopies are very clear and smooth, although very thick, rather than the brittle and cloudy items usually produced for Eastern European kits.
Perhaps the biggest failing is the intake; separate intake splitter plugs are provided for the -9 and -9M, the former having the locator hole for the 37mm cannon, and the latter being essentially the same part without the hole. However, one cannot simply remove the guns from the intake of a standard MiG-9 and have a MiG-9M as can be seen in the provided photo showing my partially assembled Skarabei MiG-9M intake next to a photo of the front of a real MiG-9M. It is my firm conviction in examining the photo that it should have a rounded MiG-15 style intake with the intake splitter located deeper inside the intake lip.
Decals are minimal, and are under a single, solid sheet of decal film instead of the more traditional method of individual films for each individual marking. To their credit, the white background of the red star is provided as a separate decal, so if the colors are misaligned, then it can only be your fault! On the other hand, the white is admittedly NOT very white (and is pretty much invisible against the off-white paper backing in the photo), so their separate printing may be a moot point at best. Fortunately, replacement stars are readily available on the aftermarket decal scene. I can't vouch for their quality in use as yet, but I personally would opt for aftermarket replacements. As mentioned earlier, you will find the same decal sheet in both the UTI and the 9M kits, although the Maquette release has definitely improved decals.
There are plenty of diamonds-in-the-rough to be found in Eastern European kits, meaning kits which look fairly crude at first but with some good effort can produce a real eye-catcher. I myself normally delight in such items, even where the filling of massive gaps is often involved. Sadly, I do not find this kit to be one of them. Even if one overlooks the fact that far superior MiG-9's can be built from more than one other competing companies, the one redeeming chance this kit had as a MiG-9M has failed to produce the target airframe by a wide margin.
If one was eager to build a decent MiG-9M, I would recommend kitbashing the intake and canopy of a KP or Dragon MiG-15 onto an Amodel or MPM MiG-9. Fortunately for Skarabei, my opinion of its MiG-9UTI kit from almost entirely the same sprues is far better. Hopefully my small investment has been your gain in knowledge. Happy building!
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