Dassault Mirage IIIC by High Planes Models

1/72 scale
Kit No. 72031
Cost: $25.00
Decals: Three versions – All French Air Force
Comments: Short run injection molded kit; engraved panel lines; resin cockpit and forward wheel well, white metal landing gear; vacuform canopy

History

The Mirage IIIC was the first major production variant of the famous series of Dassault Mirage III fighters.  It flew for the first time in October 1960, culminating a development program that began in the mid-1950’s with the MD (for Marcel Dassault) 550 Mirage I, a small, delta winged fighter intended to incorporate the lessons of air combat learned during the Korean War.  At the time of the Mirage III’s debut, French aircraft manufacturers were focused on meeting a standing Armee de l’Air requirement for a high altitude interceptor, resulting in a trend toward fighters with a hybrid design consisting of a main turbojet and a rocket motor for extra boost under actual combat conditions.  The Mirage IIIC was no exception, featuring an ATAR 09B turbojet as its primary powerplant (capable of 9,370 lbs. dry thrust and 13,228 lbs. with afterburner), and a SEPR 841 support rocket. It was also fitted with Cyrano radar, and two 30mm DEFA cannon which featured integral gun ports, one under each air intake. Early IIIC production variants also had three stores pylons, one under the fuselage and one under each wing.

An additional outboard pylon was soon added to each wing, for a total of five, excluding a sleek supersonic tank which also had bomb-carrying capacity. The outboard pylon was intended to carry an AIM-9B Sidewinder air-to-air missile, later replaced by the Matra R550 Magic, and also was armed with the radar guided Matra R530 Missile on the center line pylon. Deliveries of the Mirage IIIC to Armee de l’Air units began in July 1961.

Although provision for the rocket engine was retained as production continued, by the early 1960’s the day of the high-altitude bomber seemed to be over. Since the threat of Soviet bombers had been the main motivation for this design featre, the SEPR rocket engine was rarely fitted in practice. In the first place, it required removal of the aircraft’s cannon, and in the second, it apparently had a reputation for setting the aircraft on fire. The space for the rocket engine was instead used for additional fuel, and the rocket nozzle was replaced by a ventral fin at first, and an airfield arresting assembly later. If the Mirage IIIC had a major flaw, it was that it was subject to unusually high stalling speeds, prompting the need for fast landings and the incorporation of a drogue parachute. Pilots who overlooked the need to come in fast upon landing could easily crash.

 

The largest export customers for Mirage IIICs built in France were Israel, which operated the Mirage IIICJ variant, and South Africa, which flew the Mirage IIICZ.  After the outstanding Israeli success with the Mirage IIIC, scoring kills against Syrian Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 and MiG-21 aircraft and then achieving an impressive  victory against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the Six-Day War of June 1967, the Mirage III’s reputation was greatly enhanced.  The “combat-proven” image and low cost made it a popular export success.  The aircraft remained a formidable weapon in the hands of the Pakistan Air Force in No. 5 Squadron, which was fully operational by the 1971 War. Flying out from Sargodha, along with a detachment in Mianwali, these were extensively used for ground attacks. No Mirage was lost in the war.  The Mirage fleet is currently being modified to accommodate Aerial Refueling and to carry Hatf-VIII (Ra’ad) cruise missiles.  In wake of delays from JF-17 Thunder, aging Mirage IIIs continue to serve in the Pakistan Air Force, the only remaining air arm that flies the type (as of 2013).

The Kit

High Planes Models’ Mirage IIIC, a product of Australia, is injection molded in light blue plastic and features delicate engraved panel lines throughout the airframe. It consists of 42 injection molded plastic parts on three sprues. Many of the parts contain a fair amount of flash which will require clean-up; none of them bear locator pins, so care will be needed throughout assembly to ensure a good fit to all parts. The main landing gear wheel wells are boxed in and are highly detailed, and the interior side of the main gear doors also sport rather nice raised detail. There are parts for three drop tanks, a center line tank below the fusleage, and two more on inboard, under wing hard points for which pylons are provided. There is a fairly large ventral fairing situated well aft near the jet exhaust nozzle.

The cockpit is perhaps the most detailed assembly of the kit. It is comprised almost entirely of resin parts — a cockpit tub, a highly detailed ejection seat, and a detailed main instrument panel — with the lone exception being a white metal part for the control yoke. There is a resin insert for the nose gear wheel well with good internal detail. The only under wing stores are the three drop tanks, along with a pair of rails for air-to-air missiles (not included). Aftermarket options such as the Hasegawa or Italeri modern aircraft weapons sets will provide the necessary ordnance, if desired.

The assembly instructions consist of a single sheet containing four exploded drawings, one for the cockpit, one for the major airframe components, and two for the landing gear. There is another small drawing providing the dimensions to which the part forming the ventral fin should be sanded. The engine exhaust assembly is three parts, two halves of a cylinder forming the jet pipe, and an exhaust fan face which is cemented at one end. Two splitter plates and two intake covers will require some clean-up but will provide a measure of detail. The intake trunking is blocked off as part of the molding of the fuselage halves, so there will be no worrry about being able to see deeply into a hollow fuselage.

The kit features a single and entirely smooth vacuform canopy, on which it appears no attempt has been made to scribe any vestige of anything resembling canopy framing. Tape may suffice to provide substitute canopy framing. The instruction sheet includes very detailed written assembly instructions on the reverse side of the exploded drawing schematics.  A second sheet contains black and white, three-view illustrations of all three versions for which markings are provided: 1) Mirage IIIC No. 31 (serial 10-RF) based at Criel, and this version is in overall natural metal with curved red trim along the lip of the intakes, a trademark minimalist scheme of many early Mirage III variants.; 2) Mirage IIIC No. 10 (serial 10-RJ) in a scheme featuring PRU Blue top surfaces with all undersides in matt silver, and vertical red trim along the lip of the intakes; 3) Mirage IIIC No. 70 (serial 10-RC), with smaller low visibility roundeles and squadron insignia. This version also features PRU Blue top surfaces with all undersides in matt silver; 4) and finally Mirage IIIC No. 44 (serial 3-10-LC) from EC 3/10 based at Djobouti in 1988.

This version features a camouflage scheme of Light Tan and Brown. Nose cones of all versions are flat black, and the dive brakes found on the dorsal surfaces on the wings of all versions are either red, or if you wish to depict them as faded, dull pink. For this latter version, it is important to remember that it depicts a version deployed to Africa, where harsh sunlight can make all colors in a paint scheme look washed out.

Decals

The kit decals are by High Planes and include dark blue and light blue dots to complete the roundels, as well as red markings to delineate the dive brakes. All markings have a very flat sheen which could complicate a modeler’s efforts to have the borders of the decals fade into the background, if not become virtually invisible, providing that “painted on” look.

Here the assembly instructions and paint guide point to the short run nature of this kit.  The resin cockpit is remarkably detailed, but the white metal landing gear may require some rehabilitation before they are presentable.  While pylons are provided for weapons, air-to-air missiles are not included with the kit.

The schematic at right highlights the success of the Mirage as an export, depicting two aircraft of the Republic of Djibouti, both in a tan and brown paint scheme.

Conclusion

This is a kit for fairly experienced modelers, based on the degree of flash on the parts evident at a glance, the lack of locator pins and the lack of detail on the vacuform canopy. This kit will not fall together a la Hasegawa; the parts will require some clean-up, and it may be an effort to get everything to fit properly, but with persistent effort this looks like it will build up into an excellent Mirage III.  Highly recommended for those intrepid enough to tackle a short-run kit.

References

  • Mirage by Paul Jackson; Copyright 1985, Ian Allen, Ltd.; Shepperton, Surrey, England.
  • Marcel Dassault Mirage III by Pere Redon; Copyright 2013 by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. Atglen, Pennsylvania.

 

A Mirage IIIC of the French Air Force, in the blue-grey scheme which came into vogue with the Armee de l’Air in the 1960’s.

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