Fonderie Miniature 1/48 Mirage III E




$69.95 ($62.97 at Squadron)


five aircraft


Scott Van Aken


Short run, multimedia kit


To many modelers of my generation, when you ask me to name a famous French jet, what comes to mind is the Mirage III series. These were designed as point defense interceptors, very much like the Mig-21 and had to reach altitude in 3 minutes or less. That meant a small airframe and the most powerful engine that could be found.

Well, like many aircraft of this ilk, the mission was soon added to and that meant weight and more stuff under the wings. To increase range, wing tanks were added. To increase capabilities, more avionics were added and so on. The aircraft in various forms was widely exported with specific capabilities added or deleted depending on what the customer required. It produced a dizzying number of subtypes that only a true Mirageophile can decypher.

The most widely used in France was the Mirage IIIE and was able to be used for both air interception and ground attack as need be. The type entered service in the early 1960s and was finally withdrawn from French squadron use in the early 1990s. A few are still being used as chase planes and other missions with French test units.




The first thing I said when I opened the box and saw this was 'cool, a 1/48 Mirage IIIE'. The next thing I said was 'Why pick this as a subject when it has been done before' (ESCI). Well the only thing I can think of is that the ESCI kit is rather old and rather hard to find. It is also not well detailed and those who know Mirages say it has some shape problems. This one looks right to me and will not be lacking from detail and stuff to stick under the wings.

This is very much a typical French short run kit. There are a variety of resin and metal parts, all fairly well done, but all requiring some clean-up of flash and even some use of filler as some of the metal parts have small pits in them that need filled. The plastic bits have a grainy look and feel to them, show varying levels of flash from little to lots, and many of the thick parts have sink areas of varying degrees. Some of the missile pylons have huge sink areas. I recommend epoxy filler or superglue to fill these chasms.

What you see in the image above is only half the kit. You see, F.M. decided to use the Heller 1/48 Mirage B/C kit to supply the wings and some of the other smaller bits. This makes quite a bit of sense, for the Heller kit is not bad at all and has engraved panel lines. One thing it means is that the parts put serious strains on the box, which really is a tad too small for all the bits, and it also means that you'll have a LOT of parts left over.

Included in the F.M. parts are a Matra R 530 missile with separate metal fins, proper pylons for the outer wing Sidewinders and the missiles themselves, and a replacement undercarriage with more detailed gear doors and wheel wells. A pair of 1300 liter fuel tanks is also includes as are the proper pylons for them. A full resin cockpit and seat are also supplied that are miles better than the Heller kit bits. Of course, a completely new fuselage is also part of the mix. A few pieces, such as the gunsight, will have to be scratch-built.

The instructions have improved over previous sets by providing color information for the various bits and pieces in both English and French in a separate table. The instructions themselves are on both sides of three small sheets of paper. They are not logically compiled, but you can find the various construction steps with a bit of looking.

Markings are provided for five aircraft, all of the French and all from EC 2/3. The first two are bare metal aircraft with the large red intake flashes and the tricolor rudder. Next is a camouflaged version that is quite similar but without the intake flashes and just a band. Next is a versions with the smaller roundels, smaller tail markings and with the codes moved to the nose. These are the markings it wore in its last years. Finally, a special version with a dark brown and orange red fin to commemorate the 40th anniversary of EC 2/3 in 1985.  The decals themselves seem to be well done and I didn't see any problem with registration. They are matte and those I've used before will react to setting solutions, but were a bit brittle. Not shown are several smaller sheets of the various roundels. The decal placement and color guide is quite good and show all the proper placement of the various data markings.



As you can probably guess, this is a kit for the experienced builder. I've noticed that F.M. kits have been getting better with each release, but they are still far from being easy. I fully expect to have fit problems and already have the filler out and ready for this one. I can also say that with careful building, you will have a model you can be proud of.

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