AMK 1/48th MIG-31, Part 1
Inspired by Boris’ magnificent two-parted building report of Airfix’ P-40 here on iModeler some weeks ago, I’m following in his footsteps and give the same concept a try with my recent MIG-31 project. Please see part one here, part two will follow in a couple of days.
You cannot tell the story of the MIG-31 without telling the story of the MIG-25. When the huge fighter first appeared on the stage, it had a considerably worrying effect on the West. Because of its unseen, yet convincing architecture and design, rumors spread about impressing flight characteristics and performance. The Soviet Union seemed to have created a Mach 3 capable combat aircraft with a pair of the most powerful engines of the time and its impressive wings promised to enable superior maneuverability. In 1976 Soviet pilot Victor Belenko high jacked a MIG-25 to Japan and the USA were able to examine the aircraft. Miracle stories that are said to even have inspired the design of the F-15 cooled down subsequently. It was found out that MIG had managed the high speed capability of the aircraft by accepting far going compromises in weight, autonomy and turn flying.
By its makers, the MIG-25 was not supposed to be a combat aircraft, but was designed to intercept high flying reconnaissance aircraft like the SR-71, cruise missiles and the Mach 3 bombers that the USA seemed to be developing. The concept was targeted to a powerful high speed, rocket launching platform or reconnaissance aircraft, not a dog fighter.
Development and testing of the MIG-25 had not been free of trouble though and the fact that NATO now was aware of the aircraft’s technology, motivated the Soviet Union to dare a second attempt. In order to resist the high surface temperatures of Mach 3 flight, at the MIG-25 the material of choice was a special steel, not aluminium and MIG had developed a specific welding technology to master this material. Based on the same metallurgic and aerodynamic concept, but equipped with a new, modern radar named Zaslon and an updated turbine design, the MIG-31 stepped in the 25’s shoes. The now two seated aircraft, from the mid eighties on had the ability to trace and fight multiple targets and share information about the enemy among other MIG-31.
AMK’s1/48 kit of the MIG-31 has been subject of countless reviews and building reports in 2016, e.g. here at iModeler. In fact the kit is impressive.
Packaging, detail, surface quality and fit in general are remarkable, though I find some articles out there are a bit too enthusiastic. The several sub-assemblies align nicely but if you expect Tamiya-like snug fit in every detail, disappointment is waiting for you. Extensive test fitting, sanding sticks and some gap filler are your best friends to succeed with this kit. If you can accept this, the build will proceed without major traps. The instructions are at the same level of other Chinese manufacturers which doesn’t bode well for an accident free build. Especially the assembly instruction of the front landing gear unit is misleading, proven by many builds out in the web thats nose stands too high from the ground. Painting instructions are of the kind that lets you look for good reference material.
Building and Painting
An extensive building report can be found in the forum section, so let me just sum things up quickly here.
Most joins are positioned along panel lines and can therefore be filled easily.
The cockpit doesn’t pose major challenges either.
The fact that the first release of this kit came without any offering for instruments and seat belts – forgiven and forgotten. I partly used an Eduard instrument panel set and adopted the MIG-23 seatbelt set from HGW.
The kit comes with a classy depiction of the turbines. Though nothing at all can be seen from them once the fuselage is closed, I put some attention on the paint job. They are just too beautiful to be left aside.
For the landing gear, a very nice add-on set from the kit manufacturer is available and I strongly recommend to use this. It’s not too expensive, much easier to handle and gives stability to this fragile assembly.
Like at so many others, the wheels are a weak part of this kit, both in looks and the care the moulds received to make the parts build-up properly. They were replaced by Eduard’s set which is definitely worth a purchase.
Very good reference of this aircraft is available on the web at http://scalemodels.ru. This allowed to really go to town with the weathering of e.g. the wheel covers.
Have you ever used Mr. Paint before? If yes, I’m sure you’ll be as enthusiastic as I am. If not, I strongly recommend to get some on your work bench for your next project. Everything about this product is cool.
I used an elaborate painting process to bring the aircraft’s uniform grey painting scheme to life a bit. It’s described in more detail in the forum section, but the basic idea was to paint panel by panel allowing some irregularity, highlighting panel centers with a lighter tone and darkening panel borders accordingly. A bluish filter would blend it all together.
To be continued soon …
2 additional images. Click to enlarge.