Monday, February 18

We review the 1/48th scale Mirage F.1B from KittyHawk

When he isn't working hard making models for his excellent site (definitely worth a look guys) - Gary Wickham has some time to review for us too – today he examines in depth the new F.1B Mirage two seater from KittyHawk for us – see what he thought after the jump....

Manufacturer: Kitty Hawk Models
Kit Number: 80112
Subject: Dassault Mirage F.1B
RRP (US$) $59.95
10 sprues in Grey plastic (inc.1Photo Etched sheet)
Available from: KittyHawk’s Distributors worldwide

The Aircraft

The Dassault Mirage F-1 is a French air-superiority fighter and attack air-craft designed and built by Dassault Aviation as a successor of the Mirage III family. The Mirage F1 entered service in the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air) in the early seventies. Powered by a single SNECMA Atar turbojet providing about 7 tonnes-force (69 kN; 15,000 lbf) of thrust, the F1 has been used as a light multi-purpose fighter and has been exported to about a dozen nations. More than 700 F1s have been produced

The Mirage F1B is a two seat combat trainer version requested by the Kuwait Air Force, first flying in May 1976. The French Air Force ordered 20 Mirage F1B, these were delivered between October 1980 and March 1983. The extra seat and controls added only 30 cm (12 in) to the length of the fuselage, but at the cost of 450 litres less internal fuel capacity and the loss of the internal cannon.

The empty weight increased by 200 kg (440 lb), partly due to the addition of two Martin-Baker Mk 10 zero-zero ejection seats, in place of the Mk 4 used in the F1C, which had a forward speed limitation.

In all other aspects the F-1B is a combat-capable aircraft and it can compensate for the lack of internal space by carrying external cannon pods and fuel tanks. (source Wikipedia & Aerofax Minigraph 17)
The Model

The Mirage F1 has been fairly well represented as a scale model over the years. In 1/48 the ESCI kit which was released in the mid 80's, with its fine recessed panel lines has stood the test of time well, being re-boxed most recently by Italeri in the early 2000's.

Kittyhawk is a recent entry in the scale modelling world, having to date released a small number of 1/48 aircraft (F-35 JSF, Jaguar A and now the Mirage F.1)

The two seat Mirage F.1B has to my knowledge only been kitted once in 1/48 by Fonderie Miniatures. In this respect, the Kittyhawk model is highly anticipated and a clever move on their behalf to find and fill a gap with a modern tooling.

After looking closely at the sprues, it's fairly safe to assume that Kittyhawk plan to release a single seat version of the kit in the future.

The layout of the seven sprues is busy without feeling cramped, making removal of the parts easy enough. Two complete sprues are dedicated to weapons meaning you will have a lot of spares (which is always a good thing). All the parts relating to the F.1B two seat version are on a single sprue (its the only sprue labelled as F.1B with all the others simply labelled F.1, hint, hint ....)
The cockpit parts are fairly basic, but like most 1/48 kit cockpits will benefit from some scratch built detailing or a resin replacement. The inclusion of a refuelling probe on the F.1B specific sprue is a nice touch considering that neither of the French aircraft provided in the decal sheet have a refuelling probe fitted.

The F.1B specific spine is nicely detailed with access panel and rivet detailing. I like that Kittyhawk have provided solid mounting points for the antenna, which I normally like to add at the very end of a build and not having to guess where to position them is appreciated
A full length representation of the SNECMA ATAR 9K engine is provided, but unless you intend to display this outside the airframe, virtually none of it will be seen. No intake trunking is provided which ensures that you will not see any of the engine from the front either.A nice touch is the inclusion of a boarding ladder. No pilot figures are included, unlike Kittyhawks F-35 kits, which is a pity as I think the Mirage F1 looks great in flight.
The surface detail is quite refined, on par with Revell and Trumpeter’s latest efforts. The panel line and rivet detail should look convincing under a coat of paint and a panel wash. In fact, I'll be lightly re-scribing the panel lines prior to painting to ensure a panel wash is viable. Thankfully the surface shows no signs of the dreaded "orange peel" roughness indicative of EDM or spark erosion moulds

The cockpit side consoles and instrument panel faces have been provided only in photo-etch. I would have preferred if they provided these in plastic with the option to use PE if so desired (as an upgrade if you like). The relief on the PE fret is not so good and I think painting this will be a challenge, far more so than a plastic equivalent.
Kittyhawk have provided both the original MB Mk.4 seat(s) and the later MB Mk.10 seats. My understanding is that the French operated F.1B's only had the Mk.10 seats fitted, so I'd guess these sprues will be re-used in a later boxing of the single seat F.1C or perhaps the export variants of the F.1B two seater used the Mk.4 seats. The instructions do show the seats as interchangeable which is odd as the kit only provides decal options for French aircraft. Inexpensive resin alternative for both MB seats are fairly readily available from Pavla, Aires and True Details. Its also a fairly safe bet that someone will soon come out with optional decals for this kit.
Countries that operated export variants of the Mirage F1B include:

Mirage F1BD : Export version of the Mirage F1D for Libya. Six delivered 1978–1979.
Mirage F1BE : Mirage F1B for Spain, local designation CE.14A. Six delivered 1980–1981.
Mirage F1BJ : Mirage F1B for Jordan. Two built.
Mirage F1BK : Export version of the Mirage F1B for Kuwait. Two built.
Mirage F1BK-2 : Multi-role two-seater for Kuwait, equivalent to F1Dl. Four built.
Mirage F1BQ : Two-seat trainer for Iraq, some of which fitted with dummy flight refuelling probe. 18 ordered of which 15 were delivered between 1980 and 1989.

Sprue G has several of the engine detail components, including the nozzle which is provided in three parts. I hope the fit of these parts is good as this tends to be a very visible part of any jet model.
The ATAR 9K nozzle is nicely detailed both inside and outside and matches up closely to the real thing.

The weapons and stores provided in this kit are very generous. Two types of fuel tanks are provided, the centreline 2000 litre tank and two 1200 litre wing tanks. The instructions only refer to assembly and fitting of one weapon, that being the Matra Super 530F missile, but I'm sure other combinations would be equally valid
Other weapons provided are a combination of various Matra missiles (550 Magic, Super 530D) a single AM.39 Exocet (ideal for using on your Falklands era Argentine Etendard), two GBU-12 500lb Paveway II bombs, two Matra BLU-107 Durundal anti-airfield bombs and what appear to be Bavar F4 Practice Bombs with LBF2 launch pods. You also get what looks like a couple of AGM-65 Mavericks, but I'm pretty sure the French did not use Mavericks, so not sure what these are exactly. Finally you get a single Barax dual band light weight detector/jammer ECM pod. All in all a pretty comprehensive set of French weapons
I did not compare the shape of these weapons to any trustworthy source (say the Hasegawa weapon sets) but just trusting my Mk.1 eyeballs, they look pretty reasonable and I'd happily use them as is.The final sprue (H) contains mostly miscellaneous parts such as the undercarriage, wheels, pylons etc. A nice feature (which you don't get with the older ESCI kit) is the option to display the air brakes open.
The main undercarriage legs have fairly noticeable sink marks which will need to be dealt with (a dab of your favourite putty will do the job)
The main wheels and struts match up pretty well to photos of the real thing. I’d expect that suitable resin weighted replacement would appear in time.

The rear section of the fuselage is not attached to a traditional sprue, with both halves coming in their own bag. There appear to be a lot of access panels that span the centreline join and will almost certainly be lost during sanding.

The clear sprue contains the windshield and both canopies. All the clear parts are blemish free and the canopy framing is nicely done and will be no problem to mask prior to painting.

The inclusion of a small photo-etch fret is becoming common place these days and this contains the instrument panels and side panels for the cockpit, the harnesses for both seats as well as the prominent canopy breakers for the headrest of the MB Mk.10 ejection seats (this is a nice touch imho). Rear view mirrors and ejection seat activation pull handles (for MB Mk.4 seats) are also provided and finally the two largest parts on the fret are the wing spoilers. Again it would have been nice to provide these spoiler parts in plastic as well as PE and let the modeller choose which one to use. A lot of modellers are not comfortable working with brass PE and to make this the only option is limiting.

The decals seem to be suitability thin with a minimum of clear carrier film. There is no evidence as to who these are printed by (I'd assume a local Chinese supplier as opposed to the more up market Cartograph) and the surface finish of each decal is flat and they therefore remind me of those offered in Revell Germany kits. This does give me a moment of pause because I have not had a good track record with Revell decals .... time will tell.
The invasion stripes are provided as a decal for the D-Day Anniversary scheme but I’d expect that most modellers would prefer to mask and paint these instead
Marking are provided for two commemorative aircraft. These add a bit of colour to the otherwise bland blue paint scheme of the French Mirage F.1's

As I write this review I just happen to be half way through building the Kittyhawk F-35B so I have some hands on experience with how their kits perform, and my general opinion is pretty darn well. The detail and accuracy is certainly there where it counts, the parts are well moulded and the fit is on par with other mainstream model makers. The only unknown for me is how their decals will behave.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands dirty with this kit and I personally hope that some alternative decal options come along between now and then.

Many thanks to Kittyhawk for providing the review kit and for providing modellers of modern jets another excellent addition to our collections :)

Gary Wickham.