Italeri 1/48 MiG-23MF Flogger B Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|MiG-23MF Flogger B
The development of fighter technology took a major turn with the introduction of the jet engine into combat aircraft designs during World War II. The Soviet Union, like the United States, put their first successful production fighters in the air powered by British centrifugal-flow engines. As the technology of jet engines advanced, axial flow engines that were led by German wartime designs were adopted. The MiG-19 was the first of the axial-flow turbine-powered fighters from the MiG OKB, and was the first of the supersonic generation of Soviet fighters.
Even with these advances, combat commanders wanted fighter aircraft with speed, range, payload, and maneuverability. With the early jet fighters, you could really only have two attributes at a time. With the MiG-21, the first of the Soviet Mach 2 fighters, you could achieve three of those attributes at a time, but the trade-off for even three of these attributes required longer runways for take-off and landing. The requirement was put forth for a new generation of fighter that would operate from shorter runways, have similar speed and maneuverability, and offer greater range and payload than the MiG-21. In short, they wanted all five attributes in one package. That aircraft was the MiG-23.
Employing a variable geometry wing, the aircraft could operate from shorter runways and even unimproved conditions with its wings swept fully forward, and once airborne dash to its target at Mach 2+. It had a radar that was vastly superior to the MiG-21 and lofted the R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) dogfight missile and R-23 (AA-7 Apex) medium range missile. For close-in encounters, the aircraft was also armed with the twin-barrel GSh-23 cannon.
One of the more unique features of the aircraft was a folding ventral fin that was activated by the landing gear switch. With the gear down, the fin was stowed to prevent it from plowing the runway, but with the gear up it would extend downward to augment the vertical stabilizer for greater yaw stability.
This kit was originally released by ESCI of Italy WAY back when the only MiG-23 photos available were grainy black and white images taken by folks pretending to be bushes around an airfield perimeter. While the information that has come available since that time have revealed some minor discrepancies in the kit, what comes in this box is still pretty good considering the information they had at that time.
This was actually one of two kits released – the other was the MiG-27 Flogger D kit which we look at here. The real difference between the fighter and mud-mover versions of the Flogger are in the forward section of the airframe and the engine. ESCI capitalized on this fact to render to distinct versions of the aircraft from one set of tooling.
Since ESCI’s original release, this kit has shown up in a variety of boxings including AMT, ERTL, Hobbycraft, and now Italeri. I’m sure there were a few others out there, but suffice it to say that the tooling is the same.
This kit (and its predecessors as far as I know) is molded in light gray styrene and presented on three parts trees, plus a small tree containing the clear parts. The molds have held up very well in all of these releases. Surface detailing is raised.
As you might imagine, any resemblance that this kit’s cockpit has to reality is strictly coincidental since there was virtually no references available for the cockpit at that time. Since then, we’ve had a very nice resin cockpit produced by Neomega, and more recently Eduard has developed a gorgeous color photo-etched cockpit set for this kit. Eduard also produces an exterior detail set that details up the wheel wells and provides the corrections to get the main gear stance just right.
The wings are movable similar to the Academy F-14 and F-111 kits if you don’t want to glue them into position. There were only three wing positions for the Flogger, 16 degrees (full forward), 45 degrees (cruise), and 72 degrees (go-fast). Wings at 72 degrees was also handy for stuffing the MiG-23 into an aircraft shelter so you won’t ding a wingtip (or worse).
The kit landing gear and ventral fin can be positioned for in-flight position should you want to hang the model up or place it on a stand of your own making.
External stores include a pair of Aphids on the under-fuselage stations and a pair of Apexes under the wing gloves. MiG-23s also carried the K-13 (AA-2 Atoll) on occasion, so you can raid any early jet fighter kit for some AIM-9B Sidewinders (these were identical to the K-13). The K-13s could be carried on any of the four missile stations, but you’ll also want AIM-9-styled missile rails for the job as well.
A centerline external fuel tank is provided as well as a pair of under-wing ferry tanks. You’ll see some interesting shots of the MiG-23 performing intercepts over the Baltic with these under-wing tanks installed. These tanks were nice as it extended the range of the MiG-23 comfortably for over-water operations, but the under-wing pylons did not pivot, so the wings had to remain at 16 degrees while they were installed.
The GSh-23 gun and fairing is provided as well for installation forward of the centerline pylon.
The decal sheet included in this kit provides markings for six colorful examples:
- MiG-23MF, Blue 60, Soviet AF, East Germany, 1989
- MiG-23MF, Shadow 36, Soviet AF, Altenburg, East Germany, 1987
- MiG-23MF, Black 3922, 1st Fighter Regt, Czech AF, Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic, 1990, Sharkmouth
- MiG-23MF, Red 115, 28 PLM, Polish AF, Gdynia Babie Doly, Poland, 1982
- MiG-23MF, Red 12, 47 Tac Fighter Regt, Hungarian AF, Papa, Hungary, 1992
- MiG-23MF, Red 206, Cuban AF, San Julian, Cuba, 1979
The decal sheet also provides a nice set of maintenance stencils.
This is the nicest MiG-23 available in 1/48 scale. It is also the only one out there for at least the next year or two. The kit builds into a reasonable representation of this much-overlooked subject, but with the addition of the Eduard detail sets, the kit will really start to come to life.