Kit No. 48052
Decals: Two versions – both Soviet Air Force (VVS)
Comments: Highly detailed early WWII Soviet fighter; detailed engine and cockpit assemblies; engraved panel lines and flush rivet detail
The MiG-3 was the result of advanced development work on the MiG-1, a light fighter produced by the Polikarpov Design Bureau to have the kind of high power-to-weight ratio that made for an outstanding high altitude interceptor. In this capacity, the MiG-3, until its very latest variants, was a disappointment. It was difficult for pilots to handle from the outset, having a tendency to stall and spin, and with its high wing loading it was plagued by a lack of directional stability. Alexander Pokryshkin, a top ace of the VVS during WWII, compared it to an unruly stallion: “Under a skillful rider it rushed along like an arrow, but when you lost control you could end up beneath its hooves.”
Although instability is often a hallmark of a successful fighter, in the MiG-3 this trait was accompanied by inadequate oil and fuel pressure at altitude; the combination severely compromised the MiG-3’s performance, and it was soon relegated to low-altitude ground attack missions, a role in which it did not fare much better despite ongoing modifications. After the installation of oil and fuel pumps, and modifications to its supercharger, the MiG-3 successfully performed a high altitude reconnaisance role, due to its service ceiling of 44,000 feet.
A major problem was that production variants of the MiG-3 never received the high performance powerplant around which the aircraft was designed: the Mikulin AM-37 engine. Although the AM-37 was employed successfully by design chief Nikolai Polikarpov in the MiG-3 prototypes, the engine was never available in sufficient quantities to be installed in production models. The MiG-3 was rushed into production in December 1940 with the less powerful AM-35, attaining fairly high top speeds in excess of 400 mph, but still failing to meet the design specifications laid out for it by the Soviet Air Force. The result was that it was always somewhat underpowered, particularly after armor plate, larger fuel tanks, and heavier, stronger landing gear were added. After the June 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the priority shifted to producing the AM-38, an even more powerful engine destined for the legendary Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik. It was the end of the MiG-3 design efforts.
The “MiG” designation for this fighter is a bit inaccurate, and has more to do with Soviet politics than the origin of the aircraft. It is through and through a product of the Polikarpov Design Bureau, and had Polikarpov been allowed to oversee the production of the aircraft, its history might have been very different. But Polikarpov fell out of favor with Stalin around the time of his November 1939 trip to Germany to tour several aircraft manufacturing plants. He returned home to find his team of engineers scattered, and control of the final design and production of his new fighter turned over to Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, who would later form their own design bureau, MiG.
With the change in design teams, the MiG-3 went into production prematurely, before its intended powerplant was ready. This was a pivotal decision which limited the MiG-3’s effectiveness to the point of shortening its service career. It still attained a speed of 402 mph in trials, but did not perform up to the desired specifications. Nonetheless, it was put into production, with the first MiG-3 rolling off the assembly line on December 20, 1940. It saw combat even before the German invasion, downing two German Junkers Ju 86 reconnaissance aircraft. By the time of Operation Barbarossa, over 1,200 MiG-3’s had been delivered.
Even with the MiG-3’s limitations, Aleksandr Pokryshkin, the second leading Soviet ace of the war, scored most of his 59 victories while flying a MiG-3. One final attempt was made to save the MiG-3 by installing a Shvetsov ASh-82 radial engine, the same engine used in the Lavochkin La-5, developed from the LaGG-3. The prototypes were designated I-210 and I-211, and the result was successful enough that production was considered under the designation MiG-9 (not to be confused with the later jet). However, the I-211 did not offer the air force anything that it did not already have in the La-5, and the former never went into production.
ICM’s MiG-3 is molded in white and bears engraved panel lines and flush rivet detail. It consists of 120 parts, 5 of them clear plastic. The level of detail is breathtaking, from the 29-piece engine to the cockpit cage, to the engraving on the interior of the landing gear doors and detail on the wheels. Ailerons are separately mounted and there are underwing racks for six rockets in addition to a detailed paint guide.
As a bonus there is an additional sprue containing two pilot figures (one seated, one standing), and four additional ground crew with accessories including a work bench with a vise, ladder, oil drum, bucket and jerry can. The decals include markings for two versions: The first is a MiG-3 of the 402 IAP (Fighter Regiment), North-Western Front, Straraya Russa, July 1941; the second is a MiG-3 flown by Major N. Krasnov of 31 IAP, Brjanski Front, Straraya Russa, March 1942. Major Krasnov was a Hero of the Soviet Union, with 44 confirmed victories, 15 of them scored in the MiG-3. The decals provide two types of red stars, one with a black border and one with without. The black-bordered stars are not in register and should be avoided. Aftermarket decals may be a realistic option.
The only drawbacks to the kit are that for all its allure, ICM opted for a decal instead of molded detail for the instrument panel; and the clear plastic parts for the canopy are soiled with some kind of residue and will need washing and a treatment with Future before the modeler can hope to make them presentable. It may be better to look for aftermarket replacements for both.
A beautifully engineered kit, loaded with detail. Highly recommended.