Thursday, August 13

Build Review Pt. I - Kitty Hawk's 32nd scale Dassault Mirage 2000C

Gary Wickham is one of the best at analysing a kit and getting the best out of what is offered to him. Today he begins his analysis and build of Kittyhawk's 32nd scale Mirage 2000C single-seater kit. See what he thinks of the model and how to get the best out of your own kit in part one of his build...

Build Review Pt. II -Dassault Mirage 2000C 
Kitty Hawk
Kit No #KH32020
1/32nd scale
Available from Hobbylink Japan for  at this link

The Dassault Mirage 2000:
The Dassault Mirage 2000 is a French multirole, single-engine fourth-generation jet fighter manufactured by Dassault Aviation. It was designed in the late 1970s as a lightweight fighter to replace the Mirage III for the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air).
The Mirage 2000 evolved into a multirole aircraft with several variants developed, with sales to a number of nations. It was later developed into the Mirage 2000N and 2000D strike variants, the improved Mirage 2000-5 and several export variants. Over 600 aircraft were built and it has been in service with nine nations.
The first production Mirage 2000C (C stands for Chasseur, "Hunter") flew on 20 November 1982. Deliveries to the AdA began in 1983. The first 37 Mirage 2000Cs delivered were fitted with the Thomson-CSF RDM (Radar Doppler Multifunction) and were powered by the SNECMA M53-5 turbofan engine. The Radar Doppler Impulse (RDI) built by Thales for the Mirage 2000C entered service in 1987. It has a much-improved range of about 150 km, and is linked to Matra Super 530D missiles, which are much improved compared to the older Super 530F. Look-down/shoot-down capabilities are much improved as well, but this radar is not usually used for air-to-surface roles.
The Mirage 2000-5F is the first major upgrade over the Mirage 2000C. It replaces most cockpit displays with several large multi-function displays and upgrading the stores-to-aircraft interface for the use of targeting pods and a wide variety of guided air-to-ground weapons, as well as a radar upgrade to provide guidance information for MICA missiles

KIT OVERVIEW - Kitty Hawk 1:32 Mirage 2000C (KH23020)
At the time of writing Kitty Hawk have now released 1:32 Mirage 2000 kits in both single (C) and dual (D/N) configurations. As has now become normal with each new Kitty Hawk release the forums have been abuzz with detailed analysis of the pros and cons of both kits. I find it generally interesting to read the comments of people who know way more about the aircraft than I do and from these observations, I then decide which, if any, of the deficiencies in the kit I will look to fix or ignore.
In line with other recent Kitty Hawk releases included in the box is a basic photo-etch fret, a reasonable single piece resin exhaust and seated pilot figure. 
I have noted some modellers on the internet having issues with possible shrinkage of the resin exhaust part (causing undersize fit problems) so be sure to check your kit for this.
As with most Kitty Hawk kits I have built or reviewed, what you get in the box is a mixed bag. The Mirage 2000 single-seat aircraft comes in three main variants from what I have read:
  • 2000C - Initial production variant of the single-seater. Mainly used by the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air)
  • 2000E - A blanket designation for several export variants of the Mirage 2000, including Greece (EG/EGM), Taiwan (EI), Qatar (EDA) and UAE (EAD)
  • 2000-5 - First major upgrade over the Mirage 2000C. Replaces most cockpit displays with several large multi-function displays, and upgrading the stores-to-aircraft interface for the use of targeting pods and a wide variety of guided air-to-ground weapons, as well as a radar upgrade to provide guidance information for MICA missiles.
The differences between these variants is quite visible and to be able to build any one of them accurately requires the kit to include the right parts. Kitty Hawk provides most, but not all, of the needed parts in the box. Frustratingly, even where KH does provide multiple options on the sprue the instructions give you absolutely no help in determining which option is the correct one for your chosen scheme. In other cases, multiple options are provided on the sprue but the instructions mention only one to be used, ignoring the others. 
This to me is the Achilles heel of all KH kits, the instructions and marking schemes constantly let down the kit’s plastic parts.
Because of these shortcomings, it's really left to the modeller to figure out which options to use (and which are missing) before you embark on the actual build. As an example, if you decide to model a -5 variant you would probably want to know upfront that KH does not include the correct instrument panel.

Based on my build I found seven (7) areas that required you to make a choice between optional parts. You will need to determine which options are correct for your build (as KH is no help whatsoever):

Instrument Panel
Unfortunately, KH only includes one instrument panel in the kit. This is suitable for a standard 2000C but not for a -5.
- The -5 introduced a new glass cockpit layout borrowed from the Rafale program, featuring three colour MFDs; a dual linked wide-angle HUD / head-level display; and HOTAS controls.
Vertical Tail
The kit includes a total of four (4) tails options. The variations are due to the different configurations of self-defence SERVAL RWR, SABRE RF Jammer and LAM (Mica) uplink antenna's fitted to members of the Mirage 2000 family.
- The Greek Mirage EG(M) featured an "ICMS 1" defensive countermeasures suite, which was an updated version of the standard Mirage 2000C countermeasures suite, characterized by two small antennas near the top of the tailfin
- Once again you will need to rely on your own research and reference photos of your chosen subject to select the correct tail.
Both early 2000C (RDM/RDI) and late 2000-5 (RDY) radomes are included.
The shape of both radomes is identical with the difference being the -5F does not have the pitot tube (ignore what the KH instructions say) and has the integrated IFF antenna ribbing along the base of the radome.
Wing Tip SERVAL RWR Antenna
Two styles of wing-tip antenna are included on the sprues for the Thales SERVAL (Systeme d'Ecoute Radar et de Visualization de l'Alerte) radar warning receiver (RWR).
- The Greek EG aircraft have additional RWR antennas added to the standard wing-tip SERVAL units. I would use part 38 if modelling a Hellenic Mirage 2000-EG with ICMS 1 upgrade. For French aircraft, I would use part 39 instead.
SPIRALE Chaff/Flare Dispenser
The original Eclair chaff-flare dispenser (not included by KH in the kit) was eventually replaced by the Matra SPIRALE dispenser, with a capacity of 112 cartridges. One was fitted on an extension behind the rear of each wing root, giving a total capacity of 224 cartridges.
- Two options are provided in the kit, one for the wing root with the dispensers (D72/D73) and one without the dispensers (D51/D52).
SABRE RF Jammer Pod
The Dassault SABRE (Systeme de Autoprotection par BRouillage Electromagnetiques) RF jammer is fitted into a pod below the bottom of the tailfin. The pod extends out over the exhaust nozzle.
- Two options are provided in the kit, each with a slightly different panel design and end. Check your references to determine which is appropriate for your model.
Markings in the kit:
Kitty Hawk likes to provide a large number of marking options out-of-the-box. The problem is they tend to be lazy when it comes to the specific differences between each scheme and the aircraft it is applied to. I'm well past the point of trusting much of what Kitty Hawk provides in their colour callouts and you certainly can't rely on the drawings to identify visible differences between the variants they include.
My advice is to pick a scheme/aircraft you want to model and then go and find photos of the real thing. Use that as the basis for your build rather than the KH instructions. I know that sounds harsh but they have been found wanting on so many occasions that it's just now safer to assume they are wrong upfront than accept what they supply only to find halfway through a build they were wrong.
Mirage 2000C, 118-AX, French AF

Mirage 2000C, 330-AS, French AF, "Tiger Meet" colours
 Mirage 2000C, 5-OP, French Air Force
 Mirage 2000C-5, 2027, Republic of China Air Force
 Mirage 2000C, 103-KV, French Air Force, Tiger Meet scheme
 Mirage 2000C, 118-AX French Air Force
 Mirage 2000-EG, 239, Hellenic Air Force
 Mirage 2000H, KF101, Indian Air Force
 Mirage 2000C, 4949, Brazilian Air Force
The last thing I wanted to mention before getting to the build was reference material. There are quite a few good photos of Mirage 2000s around the internet on which you could rely when building your model. If you, like me, really like to have top-notch photos of the subject from many angles then I can highly recommend the book Mirage 2000 Under the Skin from Eagle Aviation.

Building Kitty Hawk's 1:32 Mirage 2000C (KH23020)
Wherever possible I like to upgrade the kit seat with a (usually) superior aftermarket replacement. It's virtually impossible for kit manufacturers to get even close to the level of intricate detail needed for a realistic scale ejection seat and so we normally turn to resin sets. 
Fortunately, I had a spare cockpit set for the Revell 1/32nd scale Tornado and as both the Mirage 2000 and Tornado share a common seat, the Martin-Baker Mk.10, I was able to swap it in with a few minor adjustments.
The cockpit tub is very nicely done by Kitty Hawk. I did not have much reference for what exactly was on the shelf behind the seat but made an educated guess to supplement the kit parts with some lead wiring and control boxes.
After some small detailing adjustments to the resin seat headbox, it only then required a few mm's to be shaved off the sides to allow a snug fit into the kit tub.
In common with most current fighters, the Mirage 2000 has undergone a radical cockpit modernisation. Compared to the 2000C, the 2000-5 has a vastly improved workspace. The Sextant TMV-980 data display system has been replaced by the Sextant Comete system, which employs a wide-angle HUD, three HDDs and a head-level display below the HUD.
KH does provide one set of markings for a 2000-5 and indeed most of the specific parts needed for the -5 (such as the radome, antennae and weapons) are also included but they once again disappointed by only providing the earlier instrument panel. It would have been so easy for them to include a second IP designed for the -5 layout. This is classic KH to come so close, but fall short with silly omissions like this.
Luckily there seems to be a good supply of fairly decent photos of the Mirage 2000 available on the internet. I prefer to use photos like this one of the cockpit to determine my own colour matches rather than rely on the colour callouts listed by kit manufacturers.
Both the cockpit and seat were first undercoated in black. Thin coats of the top colours are then applied to achieve an acceptable depth of coverage. I always try to avoid even uniform coverage as that tends to make the finish look flat and less realistic.
I had originally planned to use the provided decals for the side consoles and instrument panel but these proved to be so thick that they would not settle down over the raised detail. I reverted back to detail painting using Vallejo acrylics followed by a wash of Tamiya Panel Liner Dark Grey to try and give a tired grubby appearance. 
For the instrument panel, I made use of the excellent AirScale decals which never fail to impress me.
The nose wheel well received some additional detailing using a mix of copper, brass and lead wiring. These days I don't tend to go overboard on wheel wells (you hardly ever see them) but as I had good reference photos, I felt "in the mood" to "jazz" up this area.
The nose gear is designed to be fixed in place as you assemble the bay. I always try hard to find a way to avoid doing this as having parts protruding from the model as I work on it is a recipe for many breakages. In 1/32 the significant number of pipes and tubing on the Mirage nose gear is well worth the effort to reproduce. I used a combination of lead/copper wire (0.3mm) and a new product called 'elastic string'. This is a stretchy vinyl-like thread which I found worked really well giving realistic scale bends. It was secured using normal CA/Superglue and seems to take a coat of paint as well.
The completed nose wheel bay was painted using the same technique as the cockpit with the metal piping being picked out with Tamiya X-11 Chrome Silver (Enamel) paint. It's a bit rough but looks better than the moulded-on detail provided in the kit.
Initially, I planned to close up the gun bays but later decided they would add a bit of interest to the underside if I left them open. I added a little bit of ribbing from plasticard to make them look less bare. If you plan to model an early C (pre -5) aircraft then you will want to fill in the mounting holes for the two forward fuselage pylons (shown here) and the rear fuselage pylons.
To make things a little easier for myself I added some tubing between the gun bay and the gun port along which I could insert the barrel later on. The barrel (which is quite long) can now be inserted after painting from either the front of the rear end.
That is it for part I! To keep it flowing and break up the experience part II will come next week here on the news...

Gary Wickham

Thanks to Kittyhawk for sending this kit to Gary for him to build and to review. You can see more about Kittyhawk's models on their Facebook page and right here on the news...
If you like Gary's work then please do go to his website for a whole lot more of that...