Kit No. 163
Decals: Two versions – both Israeli Air Force
Comments: 1995 kit, engraved panel lines, two-piece canopy; underwing stores include drop tank and two air-to-air missiles
The Kfir has its origins in a French arms embargo against Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War, which denied the Israelis delivery of 50 Dassault Mirage V jet fighters. In a remarkable military-industrial espionage operation, Israeli agents copied the engineering drawings for a Swiss license-built version of the Mirage III and reverse-engineered a version called the “Nesher” (Eagle), the immediate progenitor of the Kfir. The Nesher was basically a copy of the Mirage V, except for Martin-Baker ejection seats and the additional of Israeli avionics. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Nesher was the most lethal fighter in the Israeli Air Force, claiming 100 victories. About 16 of the 61 Neshers were lost due to all causes between 1971 and 1980. Neshers were sold to Argentina as the Dagger, and some were upgraded and dubbed Finger in time for the 1982 Falklands War.
In the early 1970’s, Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) created an all-new derivate of the Nester, powered by the American General Electric J79 turbojet, the same engine that powered the superlative McDonnell F-4 Phantom, which was then in service with the Israeli Air Force. The Kfir (“Lion Cub”) took its first flight in June 1973. The J79 required a shorter rear fuselage, various small scoops on the airframe and a prominent scoop on the base of the fin, providing cooling air for the afterburner. The undercarriage was stronger and slightly longer than that of the Nesher, and the initial C1 model was built in limited numbers, equipping two IAF squadrons from 1974.
The Kfir C2 was in service by 1976. Its most distinctive feature, that which became a Kfir trademark, was a pair of swept canard foreplanes along the fuselage directly aft of the cockpit. The C2 had other aerodynamic improvements, inlcuding extended panels on the outer wing leading edges, giving a jagged appearance, and long strakes beneath the nose. All these features improved maneuverabilty at lower speeds and reduced takeoff and landing runs.
The definitive version was the C7, with a larger-thrust J79 and improved avionics, including HOTAS (hands-on throttle and stick), a new Elta pulse-Doppler radar, a new weapons system, and the addition of an in-flight refueling capability. Two extra weapons hard points and laser-guided bomb and other “smart weapon” features were also new. The improved engine allowed greater take-off weights, a longer mission radius and a better thrust-to-weight ratio for air combat.
The Kfir came too late for the Yom Kippur War but has been employed successfully in the ground-attack role, and scored its only known victory in June 1979 when an IAF Kfir C2 shot down a Syrian MiG-21 with a Shafrir II missile. A second C2 was lost to a MiG-21 in June 1982 over Lebanon. The Kfir found itself in the U.S. inventory when the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps leased 25 C1’s in the late 1980’s for use as adversary aircraft at the Fighter Weapons School at NAS Miramar. The C1’s were modified before delivery to have the C2’s canards and other improvements. Under the designation F-21A Lion, one USN and USMC squadron flew the Kfir from 1985 to 1989. In addition to Israel and the U.S., Kfirs have been sold to Colombia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka, all of which has flown the type in combat. In 1995, an Ecuadoran Kfir shot down a Peruvian Cessa A-37 Dragonfly in a brief border conflict. Colombia has employed its Kfirs against guerillas, and Sri Lankan Kfirs saw extensive action in the civil war from 1195-2009.
Length: 51 ft. 4.25 in.
Wingspan: 26 ft. 11 2/3 in.
Canard foreplan span: 12 ft. 3 in.
Height: 14 ft. 11.25 in.
Powerplant: One IAI Bedek (license-built General Electric J79-J 1E turbojet) rated at 11, 890 lbs. dry and 18,750 lbs. afterburning
Empty: 16,060 lbs.
Normal takeoff: 22,961 lbs.
Maximum takesoff: 36,376
Fuel: Internal capacity:5,670 lbs.; External capacity: Up to 8,216 lbs. in various configurations of drop tanks
Maximum level speed at sea level: 863 mph
Maximum speed at 36,000 ft (clean configuration): 1,516 mph
Maximum rate of climb at sea level: 45,930 ft per minute
Ferry range: 2000 nautical miles with drop tanks
Combat radius: 482 to 737 miles, depending on mission profile and ordnance
Armament: Two internal 30mm DEFA cannon with 140 rounds per gun, plus a range of stores including bombs, cluster bombs, rocket pods, and air-to-air missiles
Italeri’s Kfir has a copyright date of 1995 and is injection molded in gray. It consists of 42 parts, 2 of them clear plastic for the windshield and canopy. The kit has nice engraved detail on the wings, belly, and mid-rear fuselage, but falls down on engraved detail in the nose area when compared with the detailed portrait depicted in the box art. The landing gear is average in its level of detail, but there is an unusual amount of engraved detail on the interior of the landing gear doors, each of which must be cut into three pieces if the Kfir is assembled with its landing gear down — a bit of engineering which raises the possiblity of assembling it to depict it in flight. The cockpit is fairly good with raised detail on the instrument panel, a somewhat detailed although fairly simple seat, and a control stick. The bulkhead forming the cockpit floor doubles as the wheel well for the nose gear.
The air-to-air missiles are not identified by type in the instructions and appear to be of the heat-seeking Sidewinder variety; they are smooth and well-molded but not especially detailed. Each jet intake consists of two parts, onto which a third part, the canard foreplane, is cemented. The “burner can” for the J79 exhaust pipe is fair in detail, tempting one to perhaps replace it with an aftermarket resin example, except that being the improved J79, it appears to be slightly larger in diameter than the burner cans seen on F-4 Phantoms in this scale. A dark wash and a bit of dry brushing to bring out some highlights can make it look quite good.
The decals are Italian in origin and appear to be of Italeri’s usual high quality. They provide two versions (both of which appear to be C7’s, based on the instructions and box art). One is for a camouflaged Kfir sporting a pattern of sand, dark tan and pale green with sky blue undersides (the scheme on the box art calls the color duck egg blue, but to this modeler’s eye it looks more like sky blue as duck egg blue has a faint light green tinge to it). The second version appears to be a U.S.-inspired scheme of dark ghost gray over light ghost gray, a low visibility scheme associated with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force.
This is a simple but fairly well detailed kit that should make for an excellent weekend build. Highly recommended.
- Jet Fighters Inside Out, by Jim Winchester; Amber Books Limited, London, 2010.