backgroundThe Dassault Mirage F-1 is a French air-superiority fighter and attack aircraft 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 multipurpose fighter and has been exported to about a dozen nations. More than 700 F1s have been produced.
The French Air Force also ordered 20 Mirage F1B, a two-seat operational conversion trainer; 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 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 F1B is a combat-capable aircraft and it can compensate for the lack of internal space by carrying external cannon pods and fuel tanks.
Kitty Hawk's Mirage F1B arrives in a compact and deep box. The designers obviously like this style, and it does have an impact on the kit's design, as we'll see later. Each sprue is bagged separately, and a novel touch is the way the mouldings are "folded" in half to fit in the box. So, the first job is to gently pry them apart to make it easier to access the individual parts. The kit comprises:
251 x pale grey parts
9 x clear parts
22 x etched brass parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
Moulding is generally very good, and the airframe parts have a smooth satin finish, with delicately engraved panel lines and embossed rivets - really very nice indeed. I noticed a couple of very faint exterior sink marks on the sample kit where locator pins are positioned, but there appear to be a couple of more major ones on the main undercarriage legs, along with a few projecting ejector pin marks to deal with. One odd point - which seems to be common among several Kitty Hawk kits I've examined - are a few small "pin-pricks" and "nipples" dotted across the exterior of the rear fuselage halves (rather like on vacuformed kits). They'll only take a few moments to tidy up, but I'd be intrigued to know the reason for them, as I haven't seen them on other manufacturers' models. I noticed a bit of flash on one of the sprues, which is a little surprising on a brand new tooling, but it doesn't extend to the actual parts.
To produce as many variants from a shared set of basic moulds, as well as a possible consequence of squeezing everything into a small box, means the fuselage construction is a little unusual. Rather than moulding a full-length 2-seater fuselage, Kitty Hawk have opted for a separate forward fuselage that joins just aft of the wings' leading edges with large clips to support it, along with a dorsal spine that sits in a recess bridging the two sub-assemblies. The fit is pretty good, but the mating edges are faintly rounded, so there is inevitably a prominent seam to fill. A nice touch is that this time Kitty Hawk have included substantial internal "semi-bulkheads" which support the engine and also keep the rear section much more rigid than on their Jaguar. In spite of this, I'd still be tempted to run a strip of styrene along the inside of the belly joint to support it along its length to minimise the need for any filling that will risk damaging the surrounding detail.
Unlike the Jaguar, the wing joints follow full-sized seams, and the wings' lower panels have spars on the inside to keep them straight. The separate vertical tail fits neatly enough, while the one-piece stabilisers look to be clip-fits (the instructions don't indicate that they are movable, but their locating pivots are split-pins which should allow them to be posed realistically).
A few details
Construction begins with the nose-gear, which comprises 8 parts that fit into a neatly-detailed one-piece well that also forms the basis of the cockpit above. Over 40 parts make up a well equipped tandem "office", with a mix of styrene and etched parts. There's a choice of ejector seats offered (although the instructions don't indicate which to use) with brass harnesses, and the instrument panels and side consoles have etched fascias. Oddly, the panels have solid bezels with simple raised details for the instrument faces, which for me misses the prime benefits of using etched parts in such areas.
The engine is straightforward and built from 11 parts, all held firmly inside the fuselage where it will be almost totally hidden, as the jet intakes are blanked off to prevent a "see-through" look.
Each main gear assembly comprises 8 parts. The legs are split into two sections with a separate axle assembly to get over the complex shape of the original. Obviously, make sure the joints are absolutely dry before putting any weight on them - and it may be wise to reinforce them with brass pins too.
Separate air brakes are supplied - but they are shown closed in the instructions, despite the wells having some detail inside.
The transparencies are beautifully clear, and the centre canopy section includes an integral internal rear windscreen. Both canopies can be opened and there are etched rear-view mirrors provided.
A huge array of under-wing stores included, but only the following are shown as used on the F.1B: a pair of Matra 530F air-to-air missiles on the inboard pylons, and optional 1,200 lt and 2,000 lt centre-line drop tanks.
Last but not least, a 2-part boarding ladder is provided for the front cockpit.
Instructions & decals
The assembly guide is printed as a 16-page A-4 booklet and is very clearly illustrated. Construction s broken down into 19 easy stages, but I do think the suggested sequence is inviting problems - e.g. adding the landing gear and small external details before joining the fuselage sections and attaching the wings and tail. Experienced modellers will want to assemble the basic airframe and take care of any filling required (which is likely, given the modular nature of the kit's design). Gunze Sangyo colour matches are given for most details.
A full colour painting guide illustrates two very attractive schemes:
A. Mirage F1B - 3/33 D-Day 60th Anniversary special livery, wearing "invasion stripes" and a "60 ans" logo on the tail.
B. Mirage F1B - 33-FS, with a tricoleur fin and rudder with a large crest.
The decals are spread across two sheets - a glossy finished one for the D-Day stripes, and a matt finished one for the rest of the markings. I was somewhat wary of the decals after those provided with the Jaguar and, sadly, once again they look fine from a distance but closer inspection reveals the matt markings are printed as a pattern of fine dots. The yellow areas are the most obvious, but look closely enough and you can spot the pattern on the darker colours too. I hasten to add that the accompanying scan really doesn't do the deals any favours, and the problem isn't nearly as bad as it appears here. The glossy "invasion stripes" (which, ironically, many modellers will prefer to paint on) are fine, so I really wish Kitty Hawk would get all their decals printed conventionally with solid colours.
Kitty Hawk's Mirage F1B is a neatly designed kit that will build up into very attractive model, but once again slightly let down by the decals. The construction breakdown might make it a bit of a handful for beginners - and the instructions won't help in that respect - but anyone with a little experience should have few problems and it looks likely to be a very enjoyable build.
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