Heller 1/48 Mirage 2000C

KIT #: 80426
PRICE: €35
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas


The origins of the Mirage 2000 could be traced back in the early 70’s when Avions Marcel Dassault-Breguet Aviation (AMD-BA) decided to develop a secondary fighter project named “Delta 1000”, as a more affordable alternative to the interdictor Mirage G8, then envisioned as the "Avion de Combat Futur" (ACF) of the Armée de l'Air.

Armée de l'Air wanted a fighter and not an interdictor aircraft incapable of dogfighting, as was the Mirage G8, with Dassault deciding to redesign it into the twin-engine Super Mirage G8A, which in turn proved to be too ambitious, expensive and over-engineered, especially compared to the F-16 that had just won orders from a number of European countries.

Consequently, during a meeting of the National Defense Council on 18 December 1975, it was decided to cancel the Super Mirage project and instead offer to the Armée de l'Air the single engine and more affordable Mirage 2000 that had originated from the “Delta 1000”. Its primary role was interception with a secondary ground-attack capability. Three prototypes were immediately ordered, with the first production machines delivered in 1983.

The type was further developed to the 2000N and 2000D nuclear and conventional strike variants respectively, whereas from roughly the start of the 90’s the vastly upgraded Mirage 2000-5 version became available. Apart from France, another 8 countries operated the successful fighter, which has participated in a number of operational missions, like in the the Gulf War, where Armée de l'Air performed high-altitude air defense for USAF U-2 spy aircraft.

A total of 601 machines were built, before the production line was shut down in 2007, the last machine being the s/n 555 Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2, delivered to the Hellenic Air Force.

This is the venerable Heller kit, with its origins traced back in 1991 and regularly reissued ever since (not that often lately). Clearly an elderly kit, with sparse or simplistic details at some key areas (cockpit, landing gear and exhaust nozzle, among others), but with accurate general shape and sufficient external details, which are of the engraved type. The molds are showing their age, with details becoming softer and flash being increasingly present at many places, deeming clean-up of practically all parts a necessity, with the soft plastic being an ally. In fact, it will not be far away from the truth to consider the kit as “limited run” nowadays.

For a more extensive look at the kit contents, you may have a look at the preview 

I started by attaching the instrument panel and rear wall onto the cockpit tub. The cockpit was then trapped between the fuselage halves, together with the nose landing gear bay. A generous amount of fishing weight was also trapped in the nose area, secured with glued styrene pieces and modeling clay. Basic cockpit color was Hu64 gray with black dashboard, stick grip and consoles. Three good looking decals were affixed at the instrument panel, with a tiny blob of clear green paint depicting the Head Down Display (HDD) tinted glass. Some red and yellow “knobs” were added all around with a fine brush. The seat would be assembled and attached at later stages.

Moving to the intakes, I attached the “interception identification light” (also known as "police light") and "refueling light" transparencies from the inside of the port and starboard intake walls respectively, then assembled the intakes and attached them in position. Intake innards were painted Hu127 light gray with their bland ends matt black, in order to give an illusion of depth.The lower wing half is provided in two pieces: a main rear and a smaller front one, which were joined, then attached underneath the fuselage, followed by the top wing halves. Some extra attention is required here, in order for the above parts to rest onto their “natural” positions.

The two piece fin was then attached, followed by the chaff dispenser dummies that were attached at the wing root aft areas. As a side note, the kit provides both normal chaff dispensers (crudely molded, to be honest) and dummies, so you may check your references regarding the specific machine you are building.

The cannon exit grooves have three mini filets towards their front, (to possibly disperse the exit gasses, so that they will not be ingested from the starving intake and stall the engine). Since they are visible at side and underside views, I decided to replicate them with tiny pieces of stretched sprue.

Upon engine shutdown, all three LG main doors remain in fully locked position, but, immediately after, the mechanic manually unlocks them to inspect all three bays, then closes them back. However, after this second "closing" the doors do not fully lock, but remain tad protruding, which is the normal Mirage2000 posture when it is parked (the doors fully lock upon engine start). To replicate this slight hanging down, I attached all three main doors at a very slight but noticeable angle.

Also upon engine shutdown, all four elevons of the Mirage 2000 droop at about 40 degrees (they are kept horizontal by hydraulic pressure when the engine is running). The Heller kit has them molded horizontally with the wing, which is wrong for a static plane (the Kinetic kit correctly provides them separately, so they can be posed accordingly). I thus decided to separate them, which was performed by carefully running the back of my hobby knife into their well defined borders. The tradeoff for this operation is that the loss of material will result in a reduction of their overall length. A remedial action would be to add material and sand to shape, something I elected not to do due to laziness (and something that I regretted later for not doing!).

Having a more or less complete basic model, I went and coarse sanded all areas due to fit being less than perfect all around, then applied liquefied styrene as primary filler (which alo double acts as bonding agent), followed by sanding. It was only afterwards that I attached the delicate intake mounted strakes, the generator exit scoops and the VOR antennas. Since the elevons were going to be attached “drooped'', their 8 underside fairings (they house the servo actuators rods) had to be split in twos, with their front halves attached to the wing and their rear halves to the corresponding elevon areas.

The model then received a secondary filling and sanding round (with normal filler this time) and headed to the paint shop!

I first gave the radome a coat of Hu64 gray. After masking it off, I sprayed the whole model with Hu127 Light Ghost Gray, which would be the basic camo color, followed by freehanding the intermediate blue, for which I used Hu144. The fin-top bilaterally mounted VOR aerials, as well as the dielectric fin tip fairing were next painted white. The distinctive (beautiful to most) Mirage 2000 scheme that emerged was sealed with a coat of Future to get prepared for decaling.

I used the kit decals, in order to depict the 45/5-OM machine of EC 2/5 “Ile de France”, as it stood during the Gulf War in Al Asha, Saudi Arabia. Decals were slightly off registered, something typical for Heller decals back then, however their color shades were acceptable. They detached easily from their backing paper and adhered well, following all surface contours and snuggling down sufficiently to panel lines. However, quite a bit of silvering took place, with a good portion of it taken care of by following Tom Cleaver’s advice to slice the silvered areas with my hobby knife and flood them with decal solvent. Still, an amount of silvering remained, possibly having to do, apart from operator error, with the elderly decal base material.

The Mirage 2000 scheme is one of those that actually looks even better with all the bazillion of stencils added. All in all, 106 decals were affixed! A coat of Future sealed them.

The three piece quite good looking SEMB (French built Martin Baker) Mk.10 seat was assembled. Its framing was painted medium gray, its cushion and oxygen hose olive drab, its headrest black and top parachute cover dark green. The prominent ejection handle was not supplied, so it was fabricated from stretched sprue and painted yellow/black, together with the quick release side handles. No seat belts were also supplied, an equally prominent and colorful feature of the particular seat: they were fabricated out of suitably painted masking tape pieces, their buckles replicated by “touches” of my fine tip silver pen, with the completed seat finally attached in position.

It was then landing gear time: the bays’ visible areas received some “ribbing” from stretched sprue for busier looks and the main gear doors received connecting linkages to the leg also from stretched sprue. I attached all three gear legs with their corresponding retraction cylinders, then attached the wheels, followed by the dragged gear doors. Finally, the distinctive paired transparency of landing/taxi lights was attached.  The main gear legs received brake lines and the nose one electrical cabling, all made from stretched sprue, with the main wheels filed down to look weighted. Attaching the above parts is a wobbly process that not only requires a patient step by step approach, but also, once installed and aligned, the model should rest for many hours, in order for the glue to cure completely and secure the assembled soft plastic parts in position. Basic color for bays, door innards and all landing gear parts was steel, tires, brake lines and cabling were black, brake housings were gunmetal and oleos were highlighted with a fine tip silver pen.

The elevons were next attached “drooped”, followed by the top IFF and bottom VHF and radio altimeter antennas (all painted lemon yellow). The refueling probe was painted black with gunmetal receptacle and attached in position. Since it was a loose attachment, a pin part had been attached via a hole in its base with a corresponding hole drilled to the model, to provide some means of reinforcement.

The exhaust nozzle was painted Testors burned metal and attached. Typically I managed to break and lose one of  the wing tip countermeasures, so I fabricated one from a cylindrical styrene piece. Both countermeasures were painted dark gray with “sand” mini radomes. The guns were replaced with needle pieces that were annealed by flame, in order to obtain a “gunmetal” look.

It was then time for some weathering. I first gave all areas a light black wash to highlight all engraved detailing, then, a heavier black wash was added to the landing gear parts, inside the bays and the elevon hinge areas. Some oil/grease leaks were applied at places that occur in reality (like turbine oil breather exit at the fin base, or grease at the elevon hinges), faired towards the airflow direction. Finally, some dark brown / black dry pastels were subtly used to represent some slight dirtying all around (those machines were kept pretty neat, even in the harsh desert conditions). A final satin coat gave the bird its final finish.

The head up display was added, followed by the windscreen and canopy, which had their well defined frames hand painted beforehand. The canopy needed some trimming in order to fit, especially at its back end that sat too high. The HUD base received a tiny blob of green clear paint, in order to represent the projection lens.

The wing tip lights were represented with blobs of red and green clear paint, whereas the strobe and tail navigation lights were highlighted with a fine silver pen. The nose pitot tube and the static ports were attached and painted gunmetal, before calling the elegant fighter done!

Though elderly, this is still a decent  kit of the charming French fighter. General shape looks very accurate and external details are sufficiently represented. On the other hand, cockpit detail is sparse, intakes are shallow and landing gear leans towards the simplistic side, the same being true for the exhaust nozzle, issues more or less expected from the elderly kit origins. The lack of centerline tank and air-to-ground ordnance is also notable.
Fit is at places challenging and the best approach is to treat it like a limited run kit, meaning clean everything and test fit twice before gluing. Instructions are clear (though they need some study, as some steps are too dense). Decals were slightly off-registered and silvered quite a lot. Though not a “shake and bake” kit (meaning not for the absolute beginner), a nice rendition of the beautiful Mirage can emerge out of the box. I was also really surprised to see the vast amount of aftermarket available, addressing all of the kit's shortcomings.

This kit is not that easy to find nowadays, its last reboxing took place some 10 years ago 9as of 2022). The wonderful Eduard beefed-up reboxings are even scarcer. Since Heller tends to periodically reissue their kits, we might possibly see this kit reissued sometime in the future. Your other option is the modern Kinetic kit, definitely more detailed than the Heller oldie. Like many Kinetic kits, it is not among the easiest of builds, but it is available and offered at sensible prices.

I would dare to say that the Ηeller kit is for the Mirage 2000 what the Monogram kit is for the P-40B: definitely oldie, simplistic at some areas, maybe rough around the edges, with molds showing their age and challenging fit, but with a very accurate shape that promises to deliver a true replica of the plane for the modeler who will be committed to spending some extra hours working on the kits’ bugs. So if you have one (or you are lucky to find one), go on and build it! It will for sure require your quality time and attention, but will gratify you with a beautiful and accurate model of the French Delta lady.

Happy modeling!

Spiros Pendedekas


29 August 2022

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