Trumpeter 1/48 MiG-23M Flogger B Quick Build
|Date of Review||September 2012||Manufacturer||Trumpeter|
|Subject||MiG-23M Flogger B||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||2853||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Simple build||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$57.95|
For a bit of history on the aircraft and a look at this kit as it comes out of the box, look here.
As I mentioned in the in-box review, this kit is a scaled-down version of Trumpeter's 1/32 MiG-23M/MF kit and unfortunately inherited some of that kit's bugs. I started a build on the 1/32 MiG-23MF and the problems I had with that kit were the ejection seat, intake splitter plates, and weapons pylons. The ejection seat was cured with an aftermarket replacement and the other issues were fixed by some beautiful resin parts from Zactomodels. I stopped when the owner of Zactomodels had provided some interesting photo evidence that the intakes were not shaped quite right and I had been quietly waiting to see if there'd be another nice correction from Zactomodels. I think I'll just get them done as-is since they are close enough for government work.
In this 1/48 scale version, the kit showed a few of the same problems as it's larger cousin, but introduced some new challenges as well. Let's take a look:
First, I am using Tamiya Extra Thin Cement and the occasional spot of cyano for this quick build. There is no use of putty, filler, paints, primers, or anything else. What you see is the kit coming together straight off the sprues with a little fitting and trimming. As you'll see in the images, I do use a few clamps here and there to help hold this project together as I am moving rather quickly through the assembly process. The simplest thing is to run through the assembly step-by-step:
Step 1 - Yes, just like the 1/32 scale kit, this seat is missing the seat bottom. The seat pan is there, but it would be very uncomfortable to sit directly in that pan. Unlike the 1/32 scale kit, the photo-etched restrain system (seat belts, shoulder harness, and integral parachute harness) are all nicely done. For whatever reason though, the instructions don't tell you how to install the full harness system, just the rear-most parachute harness web. This problem was the first symptom of the real issue with this kit - the instructions. More on this later.
Step 2 - The cockpit goes together rather nicely. The instrument panel mounts between two sub-panels. I followed the instructions and later found an alignment problem with the glare shield/gunsight part that overlays the top of the center instrument panel. Next time around, I'll install the instrument panel at the end of the project, not at step 2.
Step 3 - The afterburner chamber is rather complex but only requires painting on the inside as the exterior detail on the rear of the chamber is not visible after assembly.
Step 4 - I suddenly remembered some Russian profanity at this point. This is a simple four-piece subassembly that makes up the nose gear well. In short, the parts don't fit very well and I will file off the offending details next time around to get the right fit.
Step 5 - These are the intake ducts and the shape is just right to remove the seam lines after assembly.
Step 6 and 7 - The cockpit sidewalls go into the fuselage halves but the instructions simply show that they go 'somewhere over there.' They go into the recess shown in the instructions, but they slide as far forward as possible before gluing them into place. That's the missing information in the instructions. The ventral fin mount, intake ducts, and nose gear well are installed at this time. The same vague approach is used with the intake ducts as it shows that they go inside the fuselage halves (thank you) but not how to align the ducts relative to the exterior intake trunks. The forward edge of the intake ducts should mount flush with the outside edge of the intake fairing (look at the image below to see what I mean). The stub molded to the lower halve of the trunks will lock into the fuselage rib to hold the subassembly in place.
Step 8 - The cockpit tub slides in above the nose wheel well and around the cockpit sidewalls. If you have those out of place, you'll know that here. The afterburner chamber is also installed in this step and once again the instructions are rather ambiguous on how this mounts relative to the aft ribs. After some trial and error, I found that the aft end of the afterburner chamber should be flush with the rear of the fuselage.
Step 9 - A new bug in the MiG - the folding fin mounts over the pins in on the ventral fin mount installed above and the ventral stub. The problem here is that only one pin was molded and what should have been the other pin was actually a hole instead. Next time I'll make a pin that will go into that hole and provide a solid mount for the ventral folding fin. The instructions show this fin being mounted in the extended position. You'll see the first time you put this model on its landing gear that this won't work. The instructions do not tell you that the fin is folded to starboard when the landing gear is extended.
Steps 10 and 11 - The intakes go together at this point and once again Trumpeter uses photo-etched parts to represent the vent holes in the splitter plates. They also use inserts (parts N3/N11) that mount to the rear of each splitter plate - I don't know why these weren't molded integral to the splitter plates since they don't provide any value here.
Step 12 - The main wheel wells go together a little differently than the 1/32 scale kit and this time there is detailing on the ceiling of the wheel wells. Unfortunately the detailing is still incorrect in there as there is a duct and a few other items stowed into the empty space of these wheel wells that are not at all empty in the real aircraft. Aires produced a nice replacement wheel well set for the 1/32 kit and perhaps we'll see that scaled down for this kit as well.
Step 13 - The nose gear goes together with no issues. I didn't add the photo-etched frames to the splash guard but they will provide the nice detailing here.
Steps 14 and 15 - The wing halves go together with no problems.
Step 16 - The upper fuselage receives the wings onto hinges and synchronizing gears. If you lose track of which side of the wing is the upper surface, look for the two holes on each wing where the drop tanks mount - those are on the bottom. There are no pivots on the MiG-23's wings, so when the tanks and pylons are installed, the wings cannot be swept without causing some catastrophic damage. Oh yes, once the wings are installed, add a dab of white glue or cyano into each of these external wing tank holes if you're not going to install them as you won't see those holes when not in use.
Step 17 - The dorsal speed brakes, dorsal rear fuselage vent scoops, and other details go on with no issue. You do have a choice of open or closed speed brakes.
Step 18 - Take your time here. The main wheel wells go into the main fuselage followed by the upper fuselage/wings section and finally the intakes. You can see in the images that I'd need a little filler at the seamline behind the cockpit where the upper fuselage/wings section mount to the main fuselage.
Step 19 - Here you have your choice of open or closed nozzle that mounts to the rear of the fuselage onto the rear of the afterburner chamber. If you put the chamber in correctly, the nozzle should butt against the rear fuselage.
Step 20 - Here is where I ran into the alignment problem of the instrument panel to the glare shield that is installed now. As I mentioned above, in the future, I'll wait to install the instrument panel and its subpanels unit this step. If the glare shield doesn't align properly, it will push the windscreen off-center as well. The vertical stabilizer and horizontal stabilizers are installed next with no issues (as long as you remembered to open the flashed-over hole in the upper fuselage where the forward tab on the vertical stabilizer will go).
Steps 21 and 22 - The port and starboard main landing gear assemblies go together and you'll need to take your time here as the orientation of the parts and how they mount to one another is rather critical.
Step 23 - The landing gear and main landing gear doors as well as the infrared searh-track set and ventral speed brakes are installed here. No issues.
Steps 24 and 25 - The radome, nose gear doors, GSh-23 gun, and lots of antennas and sensors are mounted completing the basic airframe. I didn't mess with the smaller antennas for this quick build.
Steps 26 through 38 - This is the coverage for assembling the weapons, pylons, missile rails, and external tanks. You will pick and choose the ones you'll want to use for your build as you get far more than you'll need.
Update: Since the time of this review, Trumpeter has shipped over the missing weapons trees that we reported missing in the original version of this review. If your kit is missing the sprues, contact the hobby shop where you purchased your MiG-23 that they can obtain the missing weapons trees from the importer that serves your country or region. Kudos to Trumpeter for fixing this issue!
So let's review the stores in this kit that can be used in this build:
- 2 x APU-23 wing glove pylons
- 6 x standard external stores pylons
- 2 x APU-60-1 missile rails
- 2 x APU-60-2 dual missile rails
- 2 x K-13-type missile rails
- 2 x R-23R (AA-7 Apex) radar-guided missiles
- 2 x R-23T (AA-7 Apex) IR-guided missiles
- 2 x R-13M (AA-2 Atoll) IR-guided missiles
- 2 x R-13M1 (AA-2 Atoll) IR-guided missiles
- 2 x R-3R (AA-2 Atoll) radar-guided missiles
- 4 x R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) IR-guided missiles
- 1 PTB-800 centerline drop tank
- 2 x under-wing ferry tanks (these do not pivot)
For this quick build, I used the configuration that was easily available in the original version of this kit - dual missile rails on the intake trunks (typically single rail for early MiG-23s) and K-13 missile rails on standard pylons on the wing gloves (a common sight in the early days). The PTB-800 centerline bag rounds out the external load.
As you can see, the kit does build up nicely despite the instructions. When I do this again, I'll be armed with some experience and a few ideas for the next builds. I did get a note from Zactomodels that indicated a problem with the canopy, but I didn't see any problems in my parts.
Despite the instructions, this kit does build into a nice MiG-23. It is far superior to the alternative - the venerable ESCI/ERTL/Italeri kit. While I learned a few lessons about the kit in this quick build, I like how well this kit assembles versus the 1/32 scale versions. While the 1/48 scale kit doesn't have as many options as the larger kit, it has far more possibilities with the wide range of aftermarket details and decals that have been on the market over the many years for the ESCI/ERTL/Italeri boxings of the old-tooled kit.
My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!