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MiG-23ML

Trumpeter 1/32 MiG-23ML Flogger G Kit First Look

by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2010 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject MiG-23ML Flogger G Scale 1/32
Kit Number 3210 Primary Media Styrene, photo-etch, white metal
Pros First styrene kit of this subject in this scale; very nice detailing throughout Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $169.95

First Look

MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML
MiG-23ML

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.

Where the first generation of MiG-23 was primarily intended as a fighter/interceptor, the second generation evolved the design by reducing airframe weight while strengthening the airframe for higher sustained G-loads, adding improved avionics and a higher thrust engine. The resulting aircraft became the MiG-23P for the PVO Strany (air defense force) and the MiG-23ML for the tactical air forces. Further improvements to the MiG-23ML combined further improvements in avionics, compatibility with the new family of missiles equipping the MiG-29, and aerodynamic updates to enhance stability/controllability at high angles of attack. This final update was designated MiG-23MLD (Flogger K).

Here is the second installment in Trumpeter's long-awaited Flogger family - the MiG-23ML Flogger G. The MiG-23ML is recognized by the much shorter vertical stabilizer fin base compared to the earlier members of the MiG-23 and MiG-27 family.

Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on 29 (!!) parts trees plus four trees of clear styrene parts, one set of rubber tires, one fret of photo-etched details, one set of white metal landing gear strut cores, and a handful of separately packaged gray styrene parts. Many of the parts trees in this box are common to the previously released MiG-23MF kit, but there are some nice surprises in here.

So let's get to the features:

  • 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
  • The kit also provides a nice K-36D ejection seat which wasn't used in the MiG-23 so save this for another project
  • 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

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

  • MiG-23MLD Flogger K - dog-toothed wing roots are included
  • K-36D ejection seat - I'm not sure why Trumpeter included this seat in the Flogger kit and I did some research to see if the ML or MLD were retrofitted with the K-36D during their service lives but I haven't found any instances of such a conversion so far

One of the other major features also in this box is the array of armament. I've seen some speculate that these sprues are out of their 1/32 Russian Aircraft Weapons set, a quick look here will set that rumor straight. All of these weapons sprues are either new or perhaps shared out of the MiG-21 kits. What we have for external stores options include:

  • APU-23 wing glove pylons
  • 1 x R-23R (AA-7 Apex) radar-guided missile
  • 1 x R-23T (AA-7 Apex) IR-guided missile
  • 1 x R-24R (AA-7 Apex) radar-guided missile
  • 1 x R-24T (AA-7 Apex) IR-guided missile
  • 4 x R-13M (AA-2 Atoll) IR-guided missiles
  • 4 x R-13M1 (AA-2 Atoll) IR-guided missiles
  • 4 x R-3R (AA-2 Atoll) radar-guided missiles
  • 4 x R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) IR-guided missiles
  • 2 x Kh-23M (AS-7 Kerry) missiles
  • 2 x RB-250 bombs
  • 2 x RBK-250 bombs
  • 2 x RBK-500 bombs
  • 2 x UB-32-57 rocket pods
  • 2 x B8M1 rocket pods
  • 2 x S-24B 240mm rockets
  • 2 x UPK-23/250 gun pods
  • 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-23ML in any Warsaw Pact or allied colors, and with a little tweaking of some airframe details, render the MiG-23P in PVO service as well.

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 two distinctive subjects:

  • MiG-23ML, Bort 26, Soviet Air Force, 1978
  • MiG-23ML, Bort 4644, CIAF '99 airshow, Czech Air Force

The first of four sheets of decals has all of the tiger stripes for the Czech AF airframe. The second sheet has all of the distinctive markings for both airframes as well as a set of maintenance stencils. The third sheet has the canopy frame seals and the instrument panel faces and side consoles. The fourth sheet has all of the stenciling for the weapons pylons and the vast wealth of armament included in this box.

A note about the color profiles in these Trumpeter kits. When we take these color profiles and add our full color charts to the subject, I receive irate emails from folks wondering why I am not including the recommended colors from the Trumpeter color profiles. We do our best to correct some of the errors in these charts. Take the Czech example - this should be easy given that it only has two major colors: FS 36320 over FS 36375 (based upon the Gunze selections). The real aircraft does indeed appear to have those colors BUT the tiger-striped decals that need to match FS 36320 really don't match that color at all and the closest matches are Gunze H67, Humbrol 87, and Model Master 2728, and even these are only 97% close to the decal colors. In terms of FS colors, the gray tiger stripes come closest (within 94%) of FS 25352, not that it helps much. Your choices are to use one of the above recommendations with the decals; use the decals as paint templates and spray your own tiger patterns; or follow the instructions and live with the differences.

The Future

With the modular design of this kit, I don't know how many variants Trumpeter will eventually release, but with some careful parts swapping, most of the variants can be built with the tooling completed by Trumpeter. With the exception of the two-seat Flogger C and the small-nosed Flogger E, it looks like the rest of these aircraft can be rendered with the parts previewed. Here's a look at the key features of the Flogger family and while there are a few exceptions to every list, it gives you a look at the parts swaps to render the MiG-23/MiG-27 series:

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

In the case of the missiles, most of the weapons listed here are in the Flogger box. The latest weapons like Archer and Adder can be found in the previously mentioned Soviet Weapons Set mentioned earlier, or you can use Zactoman's beautiful resin missiles done for the MiG-29 and Su-27 series for the MiG-23MLD Flogger K when it comes out.

Most of the differences between Soviet/Russian service aircraft and their export counterparts showed up in the antenna details. If you look at your references, you'll see a few extra antennas on the domestic aircraft that aren't typically there on the export aircraft. Also note that the IFF antennas were all the three-dipole 'Odd Rods' antennas in the early days and were eventually replaced or augmented with updated small blade antennas later in service. You'll see a variety of configurations depending on the year your reference photos were taken.

I have been waiting for this kit ever since this subject was first announced and I'm glad to see that some of the Flogger K parts are in here as well. Now it is time to put my Flogger production line into operation. Check back for some new build reviews of these beautiful kits!

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

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