by Werner Scheibling
I wonder how many modellers out there will still be bothered to tackle the ageing Classic Airframes / Flashback kit after ICM surprised us all (and especially me, again...) with an unexpectedly beautiful MiG-3.
Firstly there could be modellers who would like to build an early short-nosed version (in any other colour than white with red wings - sorry, only joking...) or secondly there might be modellers who are not really challenged enough by a kit that falls together easily. They would need to fill, sand, drill and, and... If you'd like to read more about the history of that small and elegant fighter now, I'd suggest Tom Cleaver's Feature article of 10th October 1999 here on Hyperscale.
And I'd suggest you also have a look into Steve Mazzarelli's Feature article of 28th December 1999. His 'long-nosed' MiG-3 (white '42') let's you compare similarities and differences between my early and his late model MiG-3 - and also between the two kits that follow completely different philosophies.
The Flashback limited-run kit is - apart from the decal options - completely identical to the earlier 'Classic Airframes' issue as it springs from the same moulds. I'm absolutely positive about this as I had both kits opened next to each other in the model shop. The 'Flashback' MiG is manufactured in the Czech Republic and thus markedly cheaper than the original offering. So if you have a choice you should know what to choose.
The main components are moulded in light grey plastic with a very smooth and hard surface (too much for my liking). There are underwing machinegun-pods, wheel-well inserts and a cockpit-tub in resin that looks very convincing after a patient paint job. Patient, because the cockpit is a one piece resin casting and thus extremely tricky to finish.
A small brass PE frame holds the seat harness and a few more fiddly details, like undercarriage actuating rods and rudder pedals. And there's a nice instrument panel in the 'Eduard'-style.
The decal sheet looks well printed and gives you two options (white 67 in summer camouflage, flown by the Soviet ace A.I. Pokryshkin and black 7 in winter camo. flown by A.V. Shlopov). I can't comment on it though as I used 'Aeromaster' decals instead.
The canopy (two, in case you slip with your scalpel) comes as a vac-form part. The material is unfortunately not very clear, extremely tough to cut and reacts to nothing else but five-minute-epoxy. The fit is perfect, though.
On the first look I did like the delicate surface detail, the beautifully thin horizontal stabilisers and the remarkable amount of fine detail for that sort of kit. There was only little flash on my sample. That lulled me into the wrong impression that this kit would create only few problems during assembly. Wings and fuselage had to be heavily sanded to achieve acceptably sharp trailing edges. That was not a surprise.
A real pain and the big downside of this kit were the wing - fuselage joints, and I mean all of them. To achieve a proper wing - fuselage angle and clean seams all tricks had to be used. Uncountable dry runs, sanding on one side, varying layers of plastic sheet fillets on the other, filling, sanding - you name it.
Unfortunately - as a result of all that surgery - the wing root air intakes ended up in slightly the wrong shape. There was no possibility (for me) to correct that. The typical asymmetric fuselage radiator intakes had to be drilled and milled out with a rotating tool, as they came as solid plastic mouldings.
The gun ports were represented with inserts of hypodermic needle tubing.
The shape of the cowling was another point of concern. Whoever engineered the moulds of this kit preferred straight lines, where there should be delicately curved and tapered ones. Above the exhaust stacks, to follow the shape of the cylinder banks, for instance and in front of the fuselage radiator inlets, where Messrs. Mikoyan and Gurevich designed two unnecessarily tricky concave shapes.
Additional details that I built from scratch were the leading-edge landing-light in the left wing, the gun-sight and the semi-opened radiator shutter.
The tyres unfortunately lack their characteristic tread (horizontal grooves) that I noticed on all MiG-3 photos so far. Some time after I had finished my model I found out, (without knowing what they look like) that 'POMK' (Pend d'Oreille Model Kits) in the USA produce a set of resin MiG-3 wheels. Too late... The wingtip position-lights were cut from toothbrush-handles, glued in place with superglue, sanded into shape and polished.
Now this is a tricky subject. I'm fully aware of the minefield qualities that discussions about Soviet camouflage colours hold. And I certainly don't want to start another flaming argument about the right hue of undersurface blue.
So let me put it simply. I got all my wisdom about that subject from Erik Pilawskii's seemingly well researched essay that you can find via the links that I've provided underneath. I have also read nitty-gritty criticism on that work uttered by other historians/researchers. So in the end you have to come to your own conclusion who you want to trust.
Rather undisputed seems to be the fact that most Soviet fighters wore a two-tone camo-scheme of alternating segments in light green and dark green at the beginning of the 'Great Patriotic War'. Later the dark green colour was replaced by black.
I decided to finish my model as 'silver 04' because Aeromaster provided a very neat set of decals and the Finnish reference book 'Red stars' shows two pictures of that aeroplane, taken from the left and the right.
I copied the shape of the camouflage segments from these pictures as good as possible and cut appropriate paper masks for airbrushing. For the brighter shade of green I used Aeromaster's Russian topside green. The darker colour was blended from simple acrylic hobby colours - some sort of forest green, toned down with black.
To make the undersurface colour (again Aeromaster, Russian undersurface blue) appear slightly stronger, I pre-painted the underwing and -fuselage areas with an intensive and rather dark blue. Then I applied various light shades of Aeromaster blue until it looked right.
The decals went on without the slightest trace of silvering, even without gloss pre-coating. I must say that I always use 'Set' and 'Sol' solution, even on completely smooth surfaces.
If you look closely, you'll see a slight difference in the shape of the two numbers '04'. Aeromaster have done a very nice job replicating the hand-painted appearance of these Soviet ID-numbers. The photos of the original also clearly show this slight variation.
My MiG carries upper wing red stars, as they can be seen on the photos of the original plane. This indicates that the pictures must have been taken in the first few weeks after the German assault on the Soviet Union. These insignias were quickly deleted to make the aeroplanes less conspicuous on the ground.
If there was a wet-&-dry sanding diploma, I would have acquired it with outstanding bravery. Still, I did enjoy building this kit very much.
Now that we have the Yak-1 and the MiG-3, the kit industry shouldn't deny us a decent LaGG-3 (that is at least what Mr. Lavochkin would say).
Model, Text and Images Copyright © 2000 by Werner