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MiG-23

Trumpeter 1/48 MiG-23M Flogger B Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

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

First Look

MiG-23
MiG-23
MiG-23
MiG-23
MiG-23
MiG-23
MiG-23
MiG-23

The MiG-23 series marked the beginning of the generation three fighters on the Soviet side and represented a major advance over previous Soviet designs. Built from the outset to operate from forward area locations, the aircraft had rugged landing gear to allow operations from bare fields and battle-damaged runways. The MiG-23 was the first Soviet design to employ full span moving wings (the Su-17 also had moving wings, but the inboard sections of the wings were fixed). The R-29 engine had significant power improvements over previous generations and could move the MiG-23 swiftly up to Mach 2.2+ at altitude.

The design of the MiG-23 is graceful in its execution as it incorporated numerous features found on other designs from around the world. The fuselage and swept wing design is similar to the Mirage G8. The high-mounted wing gloves allowed for the placement of larger weapons on a fixed portion of the structure to eliminate the complexity of pivoting wing pylons as used on the F-111 and not used on the F-14. The side-mounted intakes bear a strong similarity to the F-4 Phantom II with the splitter plates so similar that they have the bleed air holes in the plate as well as the three cable cutter bars between the splitter plate and the fuselage on each side.

The MiG-23 was developed around the Saphir-23 radar and R-23 missiles purpose-built for the aircraft. Unlike the early radar-equipped MiG-21s, the MiG-23 was armed with a cannon system in every operational variant. It could also employ a variety of other weapons still in service from the MiG-21 in the air-to-air role as well as a variety of 'standard' rockets and bombs for the air-to-mud role. While there were several variants of the MiG-23 that were purpose-built for air-to-ground missions with the MiG-23B/MiG-27 series 'Utkanos' (duck nose), most fighter aircraft that were no longer on the leading edge of air superiority were also relegated to the mud-moving mission.

Here is the first installment in Trumpeter's long-awaited Flogger family - the MiG-23M/MF Flogger B. As many of you know, Trumpeter has previously released this subject in 1/32 scale with the MiG-23MF, MiG-23ML, and MiG-23MLD kits. These kits were the first models of the Flogger family produced in styrene in 1/32 scale. Such is not the case in 1/48 scale, but anyone that loves this subject knows that the only option available until now was the ESCI/ERTL kit that was more recently reissued by Italeri. There is also the Hobbycraft kit which is essentially a copy of the ESCI/ERTL kit. While there have been a number of aftermarket sets produced for the ESCI/ERTL/Italeri/et.al. kits, the tooling is old and not exactly easy to correct some of the glitches in the kit.

With the release of the Trumpeter tooling in 1/48 scale, we now have some rather exciting possibilities in our futures. Before we go there, let's look at the basics. Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on 12 parts trees plus two trees of clear styrene parts, and one fret of photo-etched details.

So let's get to the features. Below is the same list of features from the 1/32 scale kit, but while this release is a scaled down version of the 1/32 kit, some of these options were not brought down to 1/48. I'll cross off those that were removed from this release as a point of reference:

  • At first blush, the kit features a nicely detailed KM-1M ejection seat, but it is missing the bottom portion that is the survival kit that the pilot sits upon. You'll have to go to an aftermarket seat and there are plenty available
  • Nice looking cockpit that captures the shape and layout of the front office. The only thing missing here is the throttle handle which is VERY easy to fabricate and attach to the slide mechanism correctly molded into the left side wall
  • Positionable canopy
  • Nose gear strut effectively captures the details of the full-scale strut down to the water shields and photo-etched reinforcements
  • The splitter plates are interesting as they've captured the three cable cutters between the fuselage and plate, plus added a section of photo-etch to replicate the perforated look of the boundary layer holes
  • Positionable suck-in doors on the intakes
  • Positionable leading edge and trailing edge flaps
  • Positionable spoilers
  • Positionable stabilators
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable speed brakes
  • Positionable ventral fin (only goes down when the landing gear comes up)
  • Synchronized (geared) movable wings BUT mount the flaps up and the spoilers down or you will be sorry
  • Nicely detailed main gear wells though it looks like it is missing the Soviet and NATO-styled single-point refueling ports
  • Nicely detailed main landing gear struts (note that you'll have to modify these to an un-weighted angle if you pose the aircraft in-flight with the gear down as these look really different in flight - check your references)
  • Intake ducts back to the engine face
  • Gorgeous R-29 engine
  • Removable tail section to reveal that engine
  • Choice of open or closed afterburner nozzles
  • Very nicely detailed GSh-23 gun pack that looks to be removable to reveal the ammo pack
  • Optional tail section cart

A couple of interesting 'glitches' in the kit:

  • KM-1M ejection seat is missing the seat bottom. There is no kit part for the survival pack/seat bottom that goes into the seat pan of the ejection seat
  • The ventral folding fin is portrayed in the instructions as a smaller fixed ventral fin. The kit fin is hinged and is fine as-is

I can't believe that Trumpeter carried forward the KM-1M problem, but at least there is no shortage of aftermarket ejection seats available. None of the features crossed off the list above are show stoppers and actually make the kit easier to build in this scale. If you want to have your Flogger with the flaps extended, the 1/32 kit is still available.

The design of the kit is modular so you will be seeing some interesting variants coming in the future. One of those variants that have some of their unique parts in this kit include:

  • MiG-23ML Flogger G - instrument panel and IRSTS are in this kit

One of the other major features also in this box is the array of armament. All of these weapons sprues are new. What we have for external stores options include:

  • 2 x APU-23 wing glove pylons
  • 6 x standard external stores pylons
  • 2 x K-13-type missile rails
  • 2 x APU-60-1 missile rails
  • 2 x APU-60-2 dual 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)

With this armament line-up, you can easily represent this MiG-23M or MF in any Soviet, Warsaw Pact. or allied colors. The weapons set also provides the R-24R/T (AA-7 Apex) missiles as well as the AA-11 Archer for later version of the MiG-23 and are not used here.

One question I get is about that folding fin under the tail. Whenever the landing gear is down, that fin is folded. To avoid the possibility of landing with that fin deployed, the MiG designers put that fin system on the landing gear switch. Gear up/fin down, gear down/fin up.

The kit provides markings for one subject:

  • MiG-23M, Bort 49, Soviet Air Force

Markings are provided on three decal sheets, one with the airframe and subject stencils and markings, one with the cockpit details, and one with the stenciling for all of the weapons and pylons.

The Future

With the modular design of the 1/32 kit, there was hope that we'd see the MiG-27 family released, but so far that hasn't been announced. You can see in the images above that the fuselage in this release is the air defense form factor, and given the IRSTS parts, we're likely to see the MiG-23ML Flogger G and MiG-23MLD Flogger K coming in our future. Unlike the 1/32 scale releases however, we're not locked into these subjects. Take a look at the table below at the features and differences between the Flogger variants:

MiG-23/27 Flogger B C D E F G H J K
Single Seat X   X X X X X X X
Two-Seat   X              
Large Radome X         X     X
Small Radome   X   X          
Duck Nose     X   X   X X  
F-4 Splitter Plates X X   X X X X   X
Small Splitter Plates     X         X  
Two-Frame IRSTS X                
Three-Frame IRSTS           X     X
GSh-23 Cannon X X   X X X X   X
Gatling Gun     X         X  
Large A/B Nozzle X X   X X X X   X
Short A/B Nozzle     X         X  
Long Tail Fillet X X X X X   X X  
Short Tail Fillet           X     X
R-23/24R Apex X         X     X
R-23/4T Apex X X   X   X     X
R-60 Aphid X X X X X X X X X
R-13 Atoll X X X X X X X X X
R-27R/T Alamo                 X
R-73 Archer                 X
R-77 Adder                 X

For as many years (decades) that the ESCI/ERTL/Italeri/et.al. kits have been on the market, there have been a number of conversions and corrections that can help you render nearly every version on this kit. Two different companies have produced replacement forward fuselages to convert the fighter into the Utkanos (duck nose) MiG-27/MiG-23BN - one in resin, one in vacuform. There have been a number of detail sets produced, especially from Eduard. If you're a hard core Flogger modeler, chances are that you already have most of these parts in your collection but just didn't feel up to the work needed to fix the basic airframe. With this release, you can really have some fun!

We'll soon see how well this kit goes together and we'll judge at that time whether we can finally retire the ESCI kits to the kit swap table. I'm also looking forward to the next two variants from Trumpeter but I really hope they get around to the Utkanos soon.

For a look at this kit built-up, click here.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!

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