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MiG-23MLD

Trumpeter 1/32 MiG-23MLD Flogger K Kit First Look

by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2011 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject MiG-23MLD Flogger K Scale 1/32
Kit Number 3211 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) $149.95

First Look

MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD
MiG-23MLD

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.

The MiG-23MLD was the ultimate version of the fighter Floggers even though it was never produced. The MiG-23MLD was a MiG-23ML (Flogger G) airframe that had a number of avionics improvements as well as a distinguishing aerodynamic improvement. When the MiG OKB had developed stronger wings for the MiG-23ML, the aircraft was soon put into higher angle-of-attack/higher G maneuvers in training as well as in combat. At these higher G-loads, the vertical stabilizer was blanked out from smooth airflow by the upper fuselage and that tall tail was getting buffeted by unstable air. While it isn't clear if one (or more) of these tails broke off in flight, but MiG developed a simple fix, notches cut into the leading edges of the wing gloves. These notches resemble smaller versions of the intake notches for the F-105 Thunderchief. These notches create tornadic vortices at high alpha that travel past either side the tail and minimize the buffeting back there (similar to the fences added atop the wing gloves of the F/A-18 Hornet for the same reason).

Here is the third installment in Trumpeter's Flogger family - the MiG-23MLD Flogger G. The MiG-23MLD looks like the MiG-23ML except for the aforementioned notches in the wing gloves and the addition of new weapons that could be carried due to some avionics updates added during the aircraft's MLD modifications.

Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on 31 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 and ML kits, 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
  • Afghan war dorsal chaff/flare launchers
  • Dual-rail ventral missile pylons

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

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)

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-23MLD, Bort 57, Soviet Air Force, Sharkmouthed Afghan veteran
  • MiG-23MLD, Bort 07, Soviet Air Force, Sharkmouthed Afghan veteran

The markings in this release are on five sheets. The first sheet covers the cockpit interior, the second two cover the two subjects, the fourth sheet provides the national markings and airframe stenciling, whilst the fifth sheet provides stenciling for the vast array of external stores provided in this kit.

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.

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.

While I am still hoping the Trumpeter will tackle the MiG-27 and MiG-23BN mud movers next, I am quite pleased with this release as this is my favorite version of the Flogger and I see a few in my future. The kit will build nicely straight out of the box, but for those of us afflicted with Advanced Modeler's Syndrome (AMS), this kit provides some great opportunities for super-detailing and tweaking to render the this aircraft in its various configurations.

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