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Rafale

Revell 1/48 Rafale M Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review 1998 Manufacturer Revell
Subject Dassault Rafale M Scale 1/48
Kit Number 4517 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Great fit Cons  
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $30.00

First Look

The rumors of a state-of-the-art model of the French Navy's newest fighter, the Rafale M, are true. Revell-Germany has released this beautiful machine in 1/48 scale and from all appearances, its molding and detailing are on par with the Revell-Monogram Junkers Ju52! If this trend continues (and I sincerely hope it does) the Revell name will rank up there with Hasegawa and Tamiya for outstanding model products.

During the late 70s/early 80s, the French Air Force began its quest for the next generation of fighter. Two of the primary candidates for domestic and international sales were the single-engine Mirage 2000 and the twin-engine Mirage 4000 from Dassault. While the Mirage 2000 was adopted by the French Air Force as its lead air-superiority fighter, the Mirage 4000 never made it beyond the prototype stage.

Rafale

The French Navy was next in the budget queue for a replacement fighter for the LTV F-8 Crusader currently serving aboard ship. Dassault introduced the Rafale design and was authorized to build prototypes. The Rafale appears to have grown from the Mirage 4000 concept, incorporating Dassaultís experience with the Etendard family of carrier-based strike aircraft and the air-to-air success of the Mirage 2000. Rafale shares a common attribute appreciated by naval aviators around the world: two engines!

While the Rafale was to be powered by SNECMA M88s, the engines were not going to be ready in time for the prototype's flight schedules. The initial prototypes were powered by the GE F404 (same powerplant as the FA-18, JAS-39 and F-20). The experience gained from the prototypes have lead to the production of the aircraft, designated Rafale M.

The early Rafale prototype was released in 1/48 by Heller a number of years ago. While Heller captured the basic shape of the aircraft, the raised panel lines and spartan details did little to inspire the modeler.

Rafale

The wait is over - Revell has recently released the anxiously awaited Rafale M kit in 1/48 scale. This kit continues the trend of the Revell family of companies' trend of producing top-notch kits, including the 1/32 Hawker Hunter, the completely redone 1/32 Panavia Tornado, the 1/48 Ju52, and the new 1/72 line of WW2 fighters. If you have seen and/or built any of these recent kits, you know that the rules have changed. The Rafale kit is no exception.

The kit comprises 131 parts, molded on four trees of light grey and one tree of clear styrene. The panel lines are all engraved throughout the kit. The only raised detail is appropriately the radar absorbing material placed on strategic portions of the airframe to make the aircraft stealthy.

The dorsal spine that runs from behind the cockpit to the tail is molded as a separate piece, leading me to believe that there is a two-seat Rafale possibly coming our way in the future. The canards are molded with an interconnecting rod that enable you to position them, if you are so inclined. The wing and tail control surfaces are not separately molded.

The cockpit is beautifully detailed with five-piece ejection seat (with harness detail provided), throttle and side-stick, rudder pedals, and nice instrument panel. The side-opening main canopy is a four-part assembly as well. On the flip-side, the separately molded main gear well is surprisingly detailed considering how little of it is visible when the aircraft is complete. The nose and main gear struts are also highly detailed complete with flattened tires. The underside of the model is just as detailed as the topside. Bravo Revell!

RafaleAnother facet that is impressive about this kit is the attention to details regarding antennas. The kit provides a variety of blades and bumps to represent the ECM and navigation features of the aircraft. Speaking of antennas, something that will catch your eye on opening the box is a patch of foam tape on the nose of the lower fuselage half. Revell placed the patch on the kit (see photo at right) to ensure that it keeps an antenna from breaking off before you get the kit home. This is another sign of Revell's attention to detail!

In the external stores department, Revell provides you with several configurations in the air-to-air arena. The kit includes three of the uniquely shaped external fuel tanks, a pair of Magic missiles and four Mica missiles. Also included, though not mentioned in the instructions, is a laser designator pod, which leads me to expect another version of this kit in the strike (air-to-mud) configuration.

The Rafale has to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing shapes in flight. Revell has captured this aircraft beautifully in 1/48 scale and I would not hesitate to recommend this kit to any intermediate-to-advanced modeler. The new modeler might run into problems with all of the detail parts in this kit. Revell rates this kit a 4 on their 1-5 skill level chart.

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