MiG-19S in 1/72 by KP

The MiG-19 (with the NATO reporting name ‘Farmer’) was the first Soviet designed and built supersonic fighter and the world’s first mass produced supersonic fighter. It was a development of the earlier MiG-17 powered by two jet engines and more streamlined to make use of the additional power. The prototype first flew in May 1952 and they began entering service in 1955. The Russians produced over 2,000 between 1954 and 1968 and the Chinese produced over 4,500 as the Shenyang J-6 between 1958 and 1986. They flew with almost every air force of every nation allied or associated with the Soviet Union and China for two or three decades.

They say, and why wouldn’t they, that the aeroplanes, cars or tanks we best like the look of are the ones that we grew up with. In my case they might be right because in the late 1950s the top of the game for me were that first generation of supersonic fighters, the Grumman F11F, the North American F-100 and the MiG-19. They all came from a period when the aerodynamicists were trying to work out the best shapes for high-speed fighters so this generation still had a lot in common with the first jet fighters that disappeared with the next generation that included the McDonnell F-4 and Lockheed F-104, the Mirage III and the MiG-21. Pictures of the F-100 were commonplace, those of the F11F were not so much so because it was not very successful, but photos of the MiG-19 were almost non existent. Those that did exist showed a sleek and powerful looking fighter that was designed for speed.

Making a model of the MiG-19 was very high on my list when I started making scale models. Unfortunately the lack of information available about them meant that any kits made in the West had very little to do with what they actually looked like. Kits made behind the Iron Curtain were likely to be more accurate, but they were unavailable in the West. (The same also applied to other Soviet designs including the MiG-21 which was poorly represented in the West at that time.) The only MiG-19 kit that seemed likely to be reasonably accurate was produced by KP in Czechoslovakia and they did not become available in the West until the 1980s (as I recall) when a few copies made their way to the West. Somehow I managed to get copies of both the MiG-19 and MiG-21 and they seemed to me to be a vast improvement over what had previously been available, at least in terms of accuracy.

By the standards of the early 1990s the KP MiG-19 (the MiG-19S, ‘Farmer-C’) was not a very impressive kit, looking rather blobby with fairly coarsely moulded parts. Disappointed, I put it aside and hoped for something better. A few years later I came across another kit of the MiG-19 made by Plastyk which, after I’d bought it, looked to me to be a reboxing of the KP kit. So I gave up and made it. The result was a fairly unenjoyable modelling experience and a merely mediocre model, but it was a MiG-19 and the only game in town, so I kept it.

Time for a short technical note on 1/72 kits of the MiG-19. According to Scalemates Eastern Express made a new tool kit of the MiG-19 that was subsequently reboxed by MasterCraft. ZTS Plastyk and Bigmodel. Also according to Scalemates the Plastyk reboxing was released in 2006 but my records tell me that I made the Plastyk kit in March 1998. To add to this confusion, I would swear on a stacks of expensive Hasegawa kits that the Plastyk kit I made was so similar to the KP kit as to make them the same kit. That kit was first released by KP in 1972 and subsequently in reboxings by Aero Team, Kopro-MasterCraft and Smer. There was also supposed to be new tool Bilek kit of the Farmer-C and Farmer-B but, knowing that manufacturer’s track record, it is highly likely to be instead a reboxing on the KP kit. There’s also a 1970s Bandai Farmer-B that I haven’t found and a Heller kit that is really not worth finding.

All this boils down to the fact that there has really only been one kit of the MiG-19 available since 1972, a very strange situation indeed given the important place that the aeroplane has in aviation history and that it wasn’t a very good kit. True, Trumpeter has been promising us a MiG-19PM (Farmer-E) for quite a few years and it has not appeared, even though they offer Farmer-Cs, Farmer-Es and a trainer version in 1/48. Anyhow, the Farmer-E is the one with the fat upper intake lip which spoils the look of the aeroplane, to me at least.

So sadly I’ve been living in a Farmer wasteland for decades. (I’ve also been living in a Grumman F11F wasteland too but at least we’ve had the good quality Hasegawa kit since 1981, and in service and Blue Angels markings too.) My hopes for a better MiG-19 were lifted a couple of years ago when KP announced that they would be releasing a new version of the Farmer-C but there was a lot of speculation about whether or not it would be yet another reboxing, or something new. The company owner assured people that it would be a new tooling, not a reboxing, so when Hannants finally announced it was available I hoped for the best and ordered three – because the kit was being released in three decal versions.

The first thing to say about the kit is that it is a new tooling. For one thing, it comes crisply moulded in two sprue frames rather than the separate sprue trees of the previous KP kit (which means the box is four times the size of the previous moulding in its first boxing). In addition, the mouldings are new and crisp, showing no signs of wear that had become visible on the old kit. The details are finely engraved, in comparison to the previous raised line details, and there is a fairly well detailed cockpit whereas the previous version was not so well endowed. The decal sheet is also a vast improvement on previous versions.

Overall this kit gives the impression of having been designed by the same people who do the design work for many of the current crop of Czech kits. There is a lot of attention to detail and yet there are also some strange arrangements that means fit part is not as positive as you tend to find in modern kits from Asia. For example, it takes a bit of test fitting to get the nose intake and cockpit to locate properly, but once you’ve got it in place the fit is excellent. Another example is the very prominent wing fences which are nicely moulded as separate parts (rather than being moulded in place in the previous kit) but are only butt joined and in a location that is not clearly marked on the wings. In comparison the drop tank pylons have little locating pins that fit very nicely in the under wing indentations provided for them. One of the horrors that I still remember from making the previous kit was trying to align the wing root cannons that were just butt joined and at first it looked as though I faced the same night mare this time. However there are tiny indentations in the wing roots and even tinier little pins on the cannons themselves that you can barely see, but ensure that the parts join fairly well.

If I was rating this kit I’d probably give it something like a 75 per cent. It is significantly better than the previous kit but yet not as good as I would have liked for a 2019 kit. There’s something about the feel of this kit as you put it together, a kind of fragility that most other modern kits lack. The undercarriage is perhaps the best example because it is good and properly to scale, but every time I picked the kit up I felt as though I was going to break something. Indeed, the nose undercarriage did come off at one point and I was never able to get it to go back quite right. The pitot tube was a particular horror, nice and to scale but the version I wanted to make had a series of red bands around it and the amount of handling necessary to achieve that meant the thing broke before I had finished. (I scratch built a replacement but did not feel brave enough to try painting the red bands again.)

It took me much longer to build this model than I had expected, frankly because I didn’t enjoy the experience and could often find something else to do instead of working on it. Apart from that sense of fragility I mentioned, and a few quirks to the kit, it is excellent and I highly recommend it. I suspect that the problem might be with me because I’ve been feeling a bit distracted of late (haven’t we all) and because I couldn’t make up my mind about how to finish it. This kit offers decals for four Czech aircraft, all possibly in bare metal finishes but with some flourishes that were apparently applied for wargames. The indecision came from what the generic word ‘silver’ on the colour guide meant. Did it mean ‘silver’ as in a protective silver paint or did it mean ‘silver’ as in bare metal. Looking at photos on the interweb only heightened my indecision because most of the photos are of restored Farmers (which is not very helpful) and the ones of operational aircraft are generally so poor as to be of little assistance. In the end I gave up worrying and used Tamiya AS-12, and then quite a few other metallic shades on the airframe were also required. I’m quite happy with the end result but I didn’t enjoy the process of getting there.

It is interesting to compare my two MiG-19 models. Assuming that the second kit is accurate it shows that the first kit was fairly accurate too. However, the second kit is a lot more precise looking than the first one in many ways including the engraved detailing and, for example, the difference in the undercarriage doors and detailing is remarkable. Looking at the older model I get the impression that I must have lost patience with it and just finished it off basically to get it done. It looks as though I solved the question of ‘silver’ by just applying good ol Modelmaster silver and none of the other metallic detail, and sanded off the raised detail.

Given the lack of interest in the MiG-19 shown by kit makers I expect that the KP kit is as good as it is going to get. I had problems with it but, on the whole, that was down to me. Do yourselves a favour and get one or two of these. The camouflaged Pakistani one should look very attractive.

Models for August 2020

This month has been a less productive one than most. This is because I decided to make a change and make some smaller models which, I thought, would take less time to make. I was wrong, the smaller models took more work than usual and hence more time.

The first example is this tiny Stransky 1/144 Learjet 35. I thought that putting it together would take no time at all, but it turned out that getting the fit right took almost as much time as it would on a larger kit. Then there was the masking and painting which was extremely fiddly and quite stressful. The result was that this model spent a lot of time sitting on the shelf while I worked up the nerve to get back to it. If I was going to do this again I’d find a 1/72 kit which might require a bit more work but would not be quite so much of a challenge. On the other hand, this kit comes with this lovely Wards Express livery which I haven’t seen in the larger scale.

French modeller Adrien Roy has sent me three of his newly created kits of French aeroplanes from the interwar period and, of course, I could not resist starting one immediately. This 1/72 Bernard 20 is a beautiful little resin creation, finely crafted and moulded and is a real joy to put together. If I had to make a list of my favourite kits of 2020 this would definitely be towards the top of the list. If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, but very pretty, I’d recommend you get this, but only if you know what you’re doing with resin. The thing that took me so long with this kit is that I worked at it very slowly for fear of making a mess of such a lovely kit. I’m a little suspicious of the colour, Roy’s model is a lot more subdued in tone than mine but, as he says, we don’t have any colour photographs of this aeroplane so I’m as likely to be right as he about the exact colour.

This new KP MiG-19S is a kit that I’ve been waiting years for. I think the MiG-19 is one of the most elegant looking of the 1950s jets and this new kit certainly portrays that look. The kit itself if fairly simple to put together and the fit part is very nice. One of the main reasons that it took me so long to complete this is that I was unsure of the way that the finished model should look and took a lot of time cruising the interweb trying to find some guidance. However, there were so many MiG-19s made and they stayed in service so long that there is a photo of this fighter in almost every finish and condition that you can imagine. This is another kit I would recommend and, unlike the Bernard 20, it was an important aeroplane historically and now that KP have released this new kit there is no excuse for you not to add one to your collection.

Here are some I made earlier.

This MiG-15 is the much older KP kit that has been around for many years and had been well and truly superceded by the newer Airfix kit. As you can see from the look of this model, I was experimenting with bare metal finishes and this highly polished one didn’t turn out so well. I made this one about twelve years ago and since then I’ve settled on the range of Tamiya lacquer metalic finished that stand up to the wear and tear of modelling a lot better than this one did.

One of the reasons I like making models in constant scale is because it allows me to see the relative differences and changes that took place in aeronautical production over time. By coincidence I pulled out the KP MiG-15 just as I completed the MiG-19 and it is interesting to put them together. It would be interesting to put the MiG-17 in as well to see the progression between the earlier and the later design but I think that these couple of photos shows the similarity between the two MiGs and the advanced that took place in aeronautical design in only a few years.

It is interesting to see the BAC Lightning in comparison with the MiG-19 and see the comparisons, although the contemporary of the Lightning is really the MiG-21. This is the 1/72 Trumpeter Lightning F.6 of No 11 Squadron RAF, right at the end of its service life in 1987.

This little Dujin 1/72 SAN Jodel 140 is an example of why I am such a fan of Dujin kits. They are quite rare these days and fetch good prices on ebay but some are being re-released by a consortium under the FGMmasterdujin label. However, both those and the original Dujin kits are hard to find these days. Fortunately I have quite a few stored up for my eventual retirement.

Nieuport 11 in 1/72 by Toko

The Nieuport 11 was one of the best of the first generation of fighters. It was derived from a racing aeroplane developed before the war and had such potential that it was ordered by both the French and British governments. It entered service in August 1915 and its high speed, excellent manoeuverability and high climbing speed soon helped the Allies overcome the ‘Fokker Scourge’ of the previous few months. An important feature of the design was the wing arrangement in which the area of the lower wing was only half the area of the upper wing, a feature that was used in the later Nieuport 17 and in German aeroplanes such as the Albatros D.III and D.V. As the Nieuport 11 flew before the invention of synchronised machine guns its only armament was a Lewis gun mounted above the upper wing outside the propeller arc. This aeroplane was so successful that it was built in large numbers in Italy, Holland and Russia as well as France and was also flown by the Belgium air service and Britain’s Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service.. It was very popular with its pilots and many famous aces started off in it, Bishop, Ball, Navare and Nungesser among them.

As soon as Toko arrived on the scene they brought a new standard to kits of World War I aeroplanes. Other manufacturers had done them before, usually the Sopwith Camels, SE5As, Fokker Dr.1s, all the usual fighters, and usually rather chunky looking too. Often the best way to make World War I aeroplanes look as light and fragile as they really were was to make vacforms, and I wouldn’t wish that on a dog. Toko were a breath of fresh air with a range of World War I aeroplanes never before seen and with such a lightness in the mouldings that they looked fine and light. Toko has now stopped making kits but their moulds have gone to another Eastern European maker and the people who worked for Toko have started up a new company making the same kinds of kits. We have been very lucky!

This little kit is a joy to put together. The parts are generally well formed though some need a bit of attention to get rid of some of the mounding seams. Many of the parts are extremely fragile so I had to go patiently and carefully so I didn’t break anything, which would have been easy since the plastic is a bit soft. There is a pleasant amount of cockpit detail that can be brought up nicely with a little bit of dry brushing but there is no sign of any instruments or instrument panel. I have no references for what’s in the cockpit of a Nieuport 11 so I had to trust Toko, but it does look a bit odd. There is an uncalled-for lump of plastic on the front edge of the cockpit opening and it took me a while to realise that Toko had moulded the windscreen as though it was part of the fuselage. All you have to do to make yourself happy is cut away the plastic lump and make a little windscreen out of some thin clear plastic.

I’m a little confused about the lower wing on this aeroplane. The kit has it swept back a little but the photograph of the aeroplane I’ve included shows it straight. I can’t imagine that Toko would have made such a simple error but I have no other material to check which is right. Anyhow, trying to straighten up the wing would have caused all kinds of grief with mounting the top wing so I decided to pretend that there was nothing to worry about. For once the top wing was easy to mount and lined up nicely. Unfortunately, after I’d gone to so much trouble to make sure the narrow track undercarriage on the He178V-1 didn’t cause problems with the way the model sits I forgot with the Nieuport 11, and guess what happened. Such is life!

The kit comes with a choice of five markings, four Nieuport 11s and a Nieuport 16. The first four are all silver so that makes life very easy while the Nieuport 16 is camouflaged and equipped with rockets mounted on the wing struts for shooting down balloons. The Nieuport 16 had a more powerful engine so I don’t know if something should be done to represent that if you were to go for the 16, but since I decided to make a nice French Nieuport 11 I didn’t have to worry about that.

In fact I didn’t worry about much with this kit, I just enjoyed putting it together and I enjoy looking at it, it’s so pretty and petite.

(September 2000)

Models for May 2020

The Minicraft 1/144 Douglas DC-8 kit is about the best game in town though there are Welsh Model offerings, if you like resin and vacform, and there is probably the old Revell kit too. The nice thing about the Minicraft kit is that there are indentations inside the fuselage halves to show you where to cut to make the versions with the shorter fuselages, though which cuts to make is left up to the modeller. There are also wing tip extensions so that, after a bit of research, you can work out how to make all the different versions of the DC-8. The engines are a different thing and though various versions of the kit offer engines for the -60 and -70 versions, you have to go to aftermarket sources for engines for the earlier versions.

For this early -10 version I used Contrails engines and Vintage Flyer decals. The Contrails engines and the kit wings wanted nothing to do with each other and that was a problem long in the resolution. On the other hand the decals were excellent and went on with no trouble. The decal set also comes with some paint masks which help make the demarcations between the white and silver much easier than usual to work out. After having applied the decals I found out that the option I had made, Delta Air Lines N801E, had made the first passenger carrying DC-8 flight on 18 September 1959.

May a

May b

This Revell 1/144 Airbus A.320 kit is straight out of the box though with the CMF engine option. The paint scheme is over all white, which is how the Ansett A.320s appeared. The only thing that is unusual about this model is the decals which represent the first livery that Ansett A.320s appeared in. Hawkeye make decals for almost all post-war Australian airliner liveries but not for this first iteration of Ansett’s A.320s. Around the same time as that airline introduced the A.320s it also introduced to service Boeing 737-200s and I hoped that if I bought the Hawkeye decal set for that airliner it might fit on the A.320. Unfortunately it did not, the A.320 being a generally bigger airliner than the 737-200. However, I scanned my copy of the decals and, after some experimentation, enlarged the tail markings to 106 per cent and the fuselage logo to about 125 per cent, printed them out and they fit very nicely. (By the way, I well remember my first flight in an Ansett A.320, on the long flight from Melbourne back to Perth. After the sardine can experience of a 737 flight across to the eastern states the A.320 was spacious and very comfortable, even in cattle car, and the Ansett cabin service was excellent, as always.)

May c

May d

The Dewotine 551 was the military version of the Dewoitine 550 which was built to make an attempt on the air speed record. That was, in turn, a conversion of the Dewotine 520 fighter with reduced wing span and weight and more powerful engine. When the test pilot took the Dewoitine 550 up for its first flight in October 1939 he was astounded at its performance and naturally the military took an interest. By the time of the French defeat in June 1940 a handful of prototype Dewoitine 551s had been made but they never flew and the Germans ordered them to be scrapped. However, this fighter would probably have been France’s front light fighter had the war started a year later and so it is interesting from that point of view.

This fully resin kit comes from the group of enthusiasts calling themselves FGM who came together after Jean Pierre Dujin died to reissue some of his kits. Although they are resin kits, their Dujin reissues are fairly easy to put together once you get some experience in the processes involved. This kit, however, is not a produce of the Dujin workshop and is, if nothing else, a reminder of what a skilled craftsman he was. I had to extensively extend my vocabulary of foul language while making this kit. It is a real pain to assemble and would have met its fate in my rubbish bin at almost every stage of construction had I not really wanted to add this model to my collection of French aeroplanes. Let’s not go into detail, suffice it to say that the end result looks reasonably like a Dewoitine 551 might have looked like.

May e

May f

Here are three I made earlier.

I don’t know if there is another kit in 1/72 other than this Airfix Hawker Siddley Gnat T.1. It is ancient by almost any standards and needed a lot of work to make the end result look as though it had come from a more modern kit. This is also your classic tail sitter with almost no space in the nose for weight to counter the trend, but a couple of white metal after market seats helps make the inside of the cockpit make more realistic and keep the nose down. Looking at the model now I suspect that the red I used while making it is more scarlet that the Red Arrows colour scheme actually is.

May g

May h

Here is another ancient Airfix kit, the 1/72 Dassualt Super Mystere. I think that Special Hobby make a more modern kit but kits from that manufacturer are not the easiest to make. In any event, I had bought this kit many years earlier and it is like a lot of Airfix kits from this era, good honest kits but lacking a lot of the detail and fineness of more modern kits but not to be laughed at. The decals came from one of the Model Art sets, a company that specialized in French aircraft.

May i

May j

The Boeing X-32 was a concept demonstrator built to compete in the competition that was eventually won by the Lockheed Martin X-35, which became the F-35 that many people love to hate. The X-32 might have been an excellent aircraft but it is also one of the more ridiculous looking ones and it is probably just as well it did not go into production because who could take seriously an air force what flew aeroplanes looking like that. In any event, this is the Italeri 1/72 kit made straight out of the box.

May l

May k