with resin exhaust, Redux resin seat and Isradecals decals
101 Squadron, Israeli Air Force, Israel 1975
I started building this kit alongside the French version. However, I was determined to build this aircraft as #159 because of the numerous kill markings on the nose, yet I discovered that the original #159 had an Atar 9C engine, rather than the 9B provided in the kit. Since the Atar 9C and 9B look completely different this project stalled while I decided what to do. I placed a message on the ARC forums and a very nice gentleman from Germany told me of some resin conversion sets he had that provide the new engine. Unfortunately, the first set was lost in the post, but eventually I received the new resin engine and rear fuselage, along with some replacement wheel wells. A very friendly chap from the US sent me a spare Redux resin seat he had and I also acquired the Isradecals set for Israeli Air Force Mirages. With the Atar 9C in hand, construction recommenced.
My Mirage did not go together very easily. There was significant mould misalignment, especially on the tail fin and some smaller parts, and the scribing was incomplete in several places, most noticeably around the rear wing roots. The scribing was, however, better than on my other Eduard Mirage. Nevertheless, I rescribed the entire kit for consistency and spent a while cleaning all the parts up.
I used the coloured photoetch parts for the cockpit that came with the profipack boxing, but some didn’t fit that well. I used few of the other photoetch parts; most were simply too fiddly for me. The Redux seat is very nice and just needed the Eduard seatbelts and ejection handle to be added. I didn’t use the replacement resin wheel wells as I had already constructed the kit examples when I received them and they don’t provide much extra detail.
For the first time I exclusively used superglue for construction of the major components rather than liquid polystyrene cement. I did this to try and elimate ghost/sunken seams, and it worked; this is probably the best kit I have built in terms of seam elimination. I will now be using superglue for all major assembly of future kits. Fit of the model is average to poor — the fuselage halves were warped as was the lower wing; the wing to fuselage fit was improved by adding a spreader bar of old sprue inside the fuselage, but the fit was still very poor around the nosewheel well; and there was a significant gap at the base of the fin on the port side. The replacement resin rear fuselage and engine were of good quality and fitted quite well. The hardest part was recribing in the panel line; I can’t find dymo tape in China or a suitable alternative.
The windscreen was too narrow and I caused some stress cracks to appear as I squeezed it to make it fit. The front of the windscreen was also too high. I really wish that when the windscreen fairs into the fuselage via a slope (as on many jets) manufacturers would mould the whole assembly in clear plastic rather than making the windscreen meet a raised plastic lump; the fit here was extremely poor and I’m not happy with how it looks on the final model. I used a small amount of superglue on the windscreen, which had been dipped in Johnson’s Klear and there was a small amount of fogging.
The Isradecals instructions comprise a booklet containing lots of black and white photos of Israeli Mirage IIIs throughout their service lifetime. The vast majority of the Mirages shown don’t seem to have aerials along the fuselage spine, so I ignored Eduard’s instructions and didn’t add any. On Atar 9C equipped Mirages I also couldn’t see any probes (I don’t know what they are) which Eduard would have you add near the engine on the rear fuselage, so I also left these off. The nose pitot was replaced with brass rod, wire and superglue. I mislaid the kit gun barrels so used some made from brass rod.
Many people have commented on the inaccuracy of the Eduard kit markings for #159. I used Yoav Efrati’s article on the Mirage IIICJ (Scale Aircraft Modelling December 2004) as my guide, along with the instructions from Isradecals. In short, the main things which concerned me were the colour of the ID triangles (not orange enough and in the wrong place), the 101 Squadron badge (too small), the rudder stripes (red and white should be of equal thickness) and the tail number (wrong font), hence the (expensive) purchase of the Isradecals set.
The Isradecals instructions, whilst providing lots of photos, are actually pretty useless for decal placement and the camouflage scheme. The camouflage scheme they show for the plan and port views contradict each other, and what the starboard side looked like is anyone’s guess. I used the Eduard instructions to help, but there is a lot of difference between them and the Isradecals interpretation. I initially primed the model using Mr Surfacer 1000 and used this colour for the four panels on the spine/tail. Isradecals’ artwork implies the panel on the forward fuselage spine should be grey, but this is not clear. I did find a photo on the web of several camouflaged Israeli Mirage IIIs in flight and they had the panel in grey, so that’s why mine is grey too. I preshaded using black and painted the black sections of the grey panels. The four-tone camouflage was applied using Mr Color paints. Eduard misidentify the correct Mr Color numbers; they should be 314 (blue), 313 (tan), 312 (green) and 310 (brown). I post-shaded the colours by adding a little white. The overall effect is too patchy, but this was my first attempt at using a double-action airbrush and I wanted to see what I could do; I make no pretence of accuracy! The scheme was masked using rolls of blu-tac to get a soft edge between the four different colours and Tamiya tape to fill in the gaps. No paint was pulled up by the tape (a first for me when using this brand of paint). Johnson’s Klear was airbrushed on as a gloss coat.
Onto the decals. Obviously I used the aftermarket set. I first applied the underside ID triangles. The fit was good and I applied Mr Mark Softer to bed them down. That was a mistake. The decals did not settle into the detail and bubbled a little in some places. Concerned, I tried a new approach for the upper wing triangles. I flooded on Mr Mark Setter and added the triangles without wicking away any excess water or setting solution. This worked wonders and sucked the decals right down into the scribed detail. I followed this practise with all the other decals and didn’t use any Mr Mark Softer since it was unnecessary. Once the triangles were on, I sprayed them with Klear and then added an oil wash to the panel lines of the entire plane. I also did a little post-shading along the panel lines on the triangles. The effect is too strong, but I was experimenting. The remainder of the decals were applied, some from the Eduard sheet as they are not provided by Isradecals. The stencils are mostly guesswork since Isradecals provide practically no information on them and the photos are not clear enough to show what should and shouldn’t be there. In addition, the placement guides for various decals contradict each other in some photos (e.g. decal numbers 75/76/78 are often mixed up). The most tricky part was applying all the kill markings. Each roundel consists of three decals: The red/white roundel, a black centre dot and the green dots between the red and black circles. That tried my patience; the kill markings account for a total of 39 decals. The finesse of these markings is far better than provided by Eduard, but it was difficult to get them all lined up. The Eduard markings were out-of-register anyway and I believe they rendered the Syrian roundels upsidedown; Isra certainly illustrate them the other way up. Unfortunately, some of the Isradecals were also out-of-register; the red/white kill roundels were a little out, and some of the red walkway markings had a fine white line along them. This was disappointing from such expensive decals that were otherwise excellent.
I used my usual mix of Pollyscale Flat and Satin varnishes to try and tie the final finish together. I say ‘try’ since the Mr Mark Setter stained the surface in places and left a thickish residue that is hard to clean off. This is a shame since the product works very well. I am still not satisfied with the final finish, but then there’s always something wrong! The smaller parts were added along with the undercarriage, which was extremely difficuly to get aligned correctly. The last addition was the open canopy.
Overall this build was a little frustrating, since I felt the promise of what Eduard provide in the box was not met. I might call it a triumph of style over substance. In the box the kit looked great — photoetch provided, noseweight provided, lots of markings and big decal sheets, coloured placement sheets, etc. But the realisation was not so positive: Less than stellar fit, warped parts, mould misalignment, missing scribing, inaccurate decals. The Isradecals set helped, but the instructions were very weak and leave the modeller to make a lot of guesses; the out-of-register decals were a little hard to swallow in such an expensive set as well. But I am pleased with the final product and grateful to be able to add this beautiful plane in very interesting markings to my collection.
A very special thanks to Petr Pastera and Eric Larson for providing the resin parts.
Year bought: 2004 (Hannants, Lowestoft)
Year built: 2007 (Caiyuan, Zhengzhou, China)