Israel Aircaft Industries Finger by High Planes Models
Kit No. HPK072102
Decals: Four versions – all for Fuerza Aerea Argentina (Argentine Air Force)
Comments: Engraved panel lines; photo-etch details; option for French or Israeli 500-liter drop tanks beneath wings; centerline 1300-liter drop tank; includes parts providing option to build one of five versions of the Mirage V (as flown by Peru, Venezuela, Chile, or Argentina)
The lineage of the Israel Aircraft Industries Finger can be traced back to the Mirage V, the supersonic fighter by the French firm Dassault which was swept up in the French government’s arms embargo against Israel, imposed after the 1967 Six Day War against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria (ironicially, the Mirage V had been designed specifically for Israel). Not to be deterred when their defense was at stake, the resourceful Israelis mounted a major espionage operation to acquire the plans for the Mirage V, a jet fighter that externally was very similar to the Mirage IIIE.
With the Mirage V blueprints in hand, thanks to the MOSSAD, Israel Aircraft Industries were able to reverse-engineer the Mach 2-capable Mirage V, producing a slightly modified fighter which they dubbed the Nesher. Most of these aircraft were later sold to Argentina by 1980 and re-named the Dagger. While an outstanding aircraft, the Dagger did not perform as well as was hoped during the 1982 Falklands War — they operated from mainland airbases and the Falkland Islands were at the limit of their operating radius, leaving little time for dogfighting by the time they reached the islands. At least 13 Daggers were shot down by British Sea Harriers during the conflict, although Daggers managed to damage several Royal Navy ships with bombs.
The IAI Finger was the result of a modernization program to upgrade many of Argentina’s Daggers. In 1981, Israel launched a program known as the SINT (Integrated Navigation and Tire System) project, which incorporated the Elta M 2001B Radar, a new ADC (air data computer), Ferranti electronic units (only 11such units were ultimately purchased), and a new Canadian Marconi HUD (Head Up Display). The goal was to improve the Daggers receiving these avionics upgrades to a standard similar to that of the IAI Kfir C.2. Unfortunately for Argentina, the Falklands War intervened.
When the South Atlantic hostilities began in the Spring of 1982, the employees of the English and Canadian companies of Marconi and Ferranti were forced to leave Argentina by order of their headquarters offices, bringing the Finger modernization to a halt virtually overnight. This did not stop the Argentine technicians, who by August of 1982 created an independent Argentinian program of REI (English equipment replacement). By 1983, the Argentine Air Force (FAA) began to fly the first prototype Finger I (C-402) with software designed by their in-house technicians and a HUD with French electronics, although the Argentines were unable to design a replacement for the Israeli-built air data computer.
But soon, budget cuts to the FAA forced postponement of the program. Finger I was followed by Finger II, another attempt at completing the modernization, and this would give way to the Finger IIIA and IIIB versions. The IIIAs would carry the 11 Ferranti, HUD Thompson CSF and original software and the IIIB would use the electronic unit and HUD Thompson CSF with the software developed by FAA people and an interface capable of making the radar and the Israeli ADC able to work. These became the definitive version of the Finger.
In 1984 the Fingers received a new trunk similar to that used by the Kfir, and only in 1987 were the upgrades to the Finger standard completed for the bulk of the fleet. They remained in service until they were withdrawn from the Argentine Air Force inventory on November 29, 2015, along with the rest of the Argentine deltas (Dassault Mirage III and Mirage 5P Mara).
High Planes Models’ IAI Finger is injection molded in grey plastic and consists of 120 parts (of which six are clear) and a photo-etch fret containing an additional 77 small detail parts for external sensors and various antennae. This kit is one of the more recent (released in 2012) of the Mirage family produced by High Planes Models since the 1990’s, and appears to be more directly descended from a retooled version of the Mirage IIIO released by HPM in 2011. The cockpit is highly detailed, featuring raised relief on the main instrument panel and multi-part seat. The ejection seat assembly includes at least one photo-etch part for the Martin-Baker overhead pull handles which trigger the ejection sequence.
The kit includes highly detailed landing gear and wheel wells, in addition to structural detail on the interior of the main landing gear doors. A detailed three-part engine exhaust assembly is also included. There are separate parts for four ventral wing fences as well as a large center line ventral fairing. The engraved detail on the fuselage and wings is meticulous, if a tad heavy.
The kit also includes parts for four different noses, reflecting the fact that in addition to the Argentine Finger, modelers have the option to build up to ten alternate versions of this aircraft including an Argentinian Mirage IIIIEA (featuring a shorter nose found on many of the earlier Mirages); an Argentinian Mirage 5P; a Brazilian Mirage IIIEBR, featuring the short nose but also a ventral fairing below the cockpit; a Venezuelan Mirage IIIEV which also featured the short nose; or one of two Colombian Mirage 5’s with longer noses of different lengths, one of which is almost certainly a reconnaissance version; a Venezuelan Mirage 5 V; two Peruvian Mirage 5’s; and finally a Chilean Mirage 5O. Nose weights are recommended for all versions. Markings are only provided for Argentine machines, however.
The instructions include a head-on illustration explaining how to place the kit’s drop tanks, and a separate schematic providing guidance on placement of various other under-wing stores, none of which are included in the kit. These include Matra Magic and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, along with various configurations of bombs. Other than the drop tanks, absolutely no other stores or ordnance are provided. The kit markings provide for low- and high-visibility versions of FAA aircraft and appear to have a nice, semi-gloss sheen to them and will not need to be trimmed with great care, as that has already been done.
Although the kit features only drop tanks and has no offensive weapons, these are easily acquired from aftermarket sets manufactured by Hasegawa or Italeri. This is a highly detailed kit with an abundance of photo-etch and decal options (at least if you stick with the Fuerza Aerea Argentina). Highly recommended.
- Jet Fighters Inside Out by Jim Winchester; Copyright 2010 by Amber Books, Ltd.; London.