MiG-19S in 1/72 by KP

(August 2020) 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.