Italeri 1/72 Rafale M Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||August 2005||Manufacturer||Italeri|
|Kit Number||0036||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nicely detailed exterior||Cons|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$14.00|
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.
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 Dassault’s 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.
Now here is another classic back from Italeri. This re-issue was first released not long after Rafale M01's first flight. This was the first production Rafale used for carrier qualifications, systems testing and orientation. This version differs from the original Rafale A prototype with several aerodynamic improvements and, of course, provisions for catapult launch and arresting gear.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and is presented on two parts trees, plus one small tree of clear parts. The panel lines are all raised, and the details are sharp, clear and will be easy to work with.
This should be a VERY easy build as the wings are integral with the fuselage halves, to there is no way to mis-align the wings. The cockpit tub is installed in the upper fuselage half and interlinked canards are trapped between the two fuselage halves.
From here, you start adding various details to the airframe, starting with the radome, nosewheel well, and intakes. If you take a little time to dry-fit and trim each part as necessary, you should be able to get a clean fit.
The aircraft comes with a mix of Matra missiles on underwing and underfuselage weapons stations, plus a pair of Magic missiles on the wingtip launchers. A set of distinctive external fuel tanks round out the external stores for this kit.
Markings are included for the French Navy's first production aircraft, Rafale M01.
If you ask me to name the three most beautiful aircraft ever built, my choices would be F-14, Su-27/37, and Rafale, and not necessarily in that order. Rafale, like my other two choices, is one of those aircraft you can look at and know she'll fly and fight.
If you're looking for a 1/72 naval example of Rafale, your wait is over. At present, the Italeri kit is the only version of the naval fighter Rafale M. The Air Force Rafale C single-seater, Rafale B two-seat trainer and Rafale A prototype have previously been released in this scale.
My sincere thanks to Testors for this review sample!