Kit No. 7201
Decals: Two versions (Polish Air Force)
Comments: Unusual Eastern Bloc aircraft; engraved panel lines; option for two-seat trainer or single-seat attack/reconnaissance aircraft
The PZL TS-11 Iskra, or “Spark,” was designed in response to a Polish Air Force requirement for a jet trainer. Design work began in 1957, and the prototype took its maiden flight on February 5, 1960, powered by an imported British Armstrong Siddeley Viper 8 engine of 1,750 pounds of thrust. Two subsequent prototypes, powered by a Polish copy of the Viper engine, the WSK HO-10, flew for the first time in March and July 1961. The Iskra’s chief designer was Tadeusz Soltyk, hence the designation TS. The TS-11 was the first jet indigenously produced in Poland, and remains the standard trainer for the Polish military today, the oldest jet aircraft still in active service with the Polish Air Force — although an advanced trainer, the PZL IS-22 Iryda, may someday replace it. Since 1969, TS-11’s have been operated by the Polish aerobatics team, “Bialo-Czerwone Iskry” (“White-and-Red Iskras”).
In 1964, using a completely redesigned engine, the TS-11 broke 4 world records in its class, including one for speed, 524 mph (or 839 km/h). The Iskra competed to become the standard jet trainer for the Warsaw Pact, but due in part to internal Warsaw Pact politics influenced by the priorities of the Soviet Union, the Czechoslovakian Aero L-29 Delfin was chosen. Poland became the only Warsaw Pact country operating the Iskra, although 50 of the Iskra bis D version were exported to India in 1975, and an additional 26 aircraft in the 1990’s. By the time production halted in 1987, 424 of the type had been built.
In terms of design, the Iskra appears to borrow certain features from America’s first jet, the Bell P-59 Airacomet. Like the P-59, the Iskra has trapezoid shaped wings swept at a very slight angle that are mounted mid-fuselage, with jet intakes located in the wing roots. In terms of powerplant, the Iskra and P-59 part company, as the after fuselage sweeps back into a slender boom, beneath which is mounted a single jet engine. The Iskra has the expected tandem two-seat cockpit, with ejection seats, and only one version (the TS-11R), contains radar. It can also be fitted with cameras for a reconnaissance version.
In 2002, Poland still had 110 TS-11s, including 5 TS-11Rs. The Iskra became Polish first and only jet trainer so far – the programme for a successor, the PZL I-22 Iryda (later designated M-93 Iryda), failed for several reasons and few were built. India withdrew its last Iskra from service in December 2004.
Maximum speed: 720 km/h (450 mph)
Range: 1,260 km (780 mi)
Service ceiling 11,000 m (36,100 ft)
Rate of climb: 14.8 m/s (2,910 ft/min)
Wing loading: 213 kg/m² (43.6 lb/ft²)
Armament: 1x 23 mm NS-23 or NR-23 cannon in the nose; 4 underwing pylons with up to 400 kg (880 lb) of bombs or unguided S-5 rocket pods Mars-4 (4 rockets) or Zeus-1 gun packs.
The Iskra is molded in white and consists of 58 parts. It can be built as either the standard two-seat trainer (TS-11 bis D), or a single-seat attack/reconnaissance plane (TS-11 200 BR). It has nicely engraved panel lines, parts for the internal jet engine, and underwing stores in the form of two drop tanks and two rocket pods. There are decals for the two instrument panels and a paint guide contained in the instructions. The kit overall is very nicely done and surprisingly detailed. The only drawbacks are that the pilot figures and their seats contain sink holes, and the decals may be a bit thick for the scale. The Mastercraft box says “Made in Poland” and there is no copyright date but it probably isn’t more than 10 or 12 years old given the level and quality of engraved detail. There are illustrations for two versions, one a natural metal TS-11 Iskra bis D (standard two-seat trainer), the other a camouflaged version of the TS-11 Iskra 200 BR. An unusual subject — Highly recommended.
- Mastercraft TS-11 Iskra instructions
- Institute of Aviation, Warsaw, Poland (www.ilot.edu.pl)
- Modern Military Aircraft, International Masters Publishers AB, 2004