Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kit Review – The 1/72 Scale Mirage F1CE/CH Spain & Morocco by Frank Colucci

With its high swept wings, big tail fin, and pointy nose, the Dassault Mirage F.1 looks like every kid’s dream jet fighter. Airfix, Heller, Hasegawa, and ESCI all released 1/72 scale models with good and not-so-good points. However, the new Special Hobby kit is a jet modeler’s dream come true – it looks accurate and fits pretty well, and it’s packed with extra pieces for different versions of the swept-wing Mirage. 

All the options mean you have to be careful about what parts, weapons, and decals you want on your model. French Mirage F.1CRs with camera bulges did double-duty as recon airplanes and bombers from Operation Desert Storm to Mali, and F1C fighters became F.1CT smart bombers with laser designators. The Mirage F1 has been exported to 14 countries and scored air-to-air kills for Ecuador and South Africa. An Iraqi Mirage F.1EQ-5 hit USS Stark with an Exocet missile during the Tanker War in the Persian Gulf, and Iran co-opted Iraqi aircraft running from Desert Storm. The new Libyan government is still flying Mirage F1EDs, and Argentina is just now getting a dozen retired French aircraft to replenish its fighter fleet. 

The Special Hobby Kit comes in three versions – a single-seater with Spanish and Moroccan decals, a single-seater with Greek commemorative markings, and a two-seater with French and Spanish markings. The decals look great, and there are loads of aftermarket sheets for other countries. I started on the Moroccan F.1CH because those aircraft had a combat history and desert camouflage. The kit also contains neat resin flare dispensers scabbed on Moroccan Mirage F1s to defeat shoulder-fired missiles. 

Unlike the Hasegawa, Heller, and Airfix Mirage F1s, the Special Hobby kit has neatly engraved panel lines and a nicely furnished cockpit. Special Hobby instructions call out part numbers for the correct instrument panels and (excellent) ejection seats. Again called out by part number and paint job, you get three nose halves to build an aircraft with or without an air-refueling probe. 

The two-part fuselage mates with the nose and tailpipe pretty well. The bottom wing plugs have to be sanded to fit flush, but the wings and tail have big locating tabs to line things up properly. The kit has three vertical tails, one with a probe seen on regular Mirage F1Cs and most export aircraft, one with a radar warning box for French F1CR/CTs and modernized Moroccan aircraft, and one plain tail for purposes undetermined. The parts fit without heavy filing or shimming, but I still smeared and sanded Gunze Sanyo Mr. Surfacer on most seams. The air intakes fit really well, but the clear searchlight plugs on each intake cheek needed some sanding to make them sit flush. 

The stalky, complicated Mirage F1 landing gear wasn’t difficult to install, but you do need to be careful about locating the legs properly. There are some tiny rods that have to be placed carefully. Unlike most previous Mirage F1 kits, you can hang all the gear doors open the way parked aircraft sometimes sit for maintenance. Again, lots of little locating nubs and pins help you get things to line up. 

Ordnance is interesting. You get two wing tanks with long pylons for tanks or bombs, a centerline pylon for three recon pods used by French Mirage F1CRs (Moroccan airplanes use a different pod developed in-country.). The kit has American Sidewinder, French Magic, and South African Kukri missiles on wingtip rails, and big Super R530s with dedicated underwing pylons. Also in the mix are American GBU-12 laser guided bombs to replace the wing tanks and French flare and jammer pods on outboard underwing pylons. For some reason, the kit includes resin underwing pylons in addition to the plastic ones for the pods. I don’t see the resin advantage for flat shapes like pylons or launch rails, but the option is there. More sensible, Special Hobby also offers you resin radar seats and other parts for purchase separately. 

Really nice and essential in this kit are the color instructions that call out the different parts for the different versions and camouflage schemes. The Spanish aircraft are Mirage blue or desert camo. The Moroccan airplanes are desert camo with and without air refueling probes, as called out in the assembly and decal guide. The camera and laser parts are there for French Mirage F1CRs and F1CTs if you have the aftermarket decals. 

All-together, the Special Hobby Mirage F1 sure looks like the handsome real thing. About the only thing missing that would let you build any Mirage F1 is the shorter nose on South African AZ and Libyan AD attack versions and the extended vertical tail seen on Libyan and some Iraqi airplanes. The kit also lacks the humongous belly tank included in the Heller F1CR re-issue. I expect Special Hobby will include those pieces in future issues, and I’ll be happy to buy them. 

~Frank Colucci

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