MiG-29A

Page 3

Front landing gear

    Front landing gear is not perfect and has its problems, but can be quite easily modified to look better. The upper part of the gear strut has incorrect shape, but it will be hidden inside the gear well. I only cut a part of the plastic triangles that were there to change them into two struts. I added some scratch built details to the nose wheel steering unit, some thin aluminum wires and hydraulic lines from black vinyl - I used stretched sprue from "rubber" tires of some armor model. Later I started using copper wires and thin solder wires as they are much easier to shape. I also replaced the plastic mudguard with the one from the Eduard's photoetched set and replaced the strut supporting it with a finer one. I also modified the way this strut is attached as it was not correct in the model. I hollowed the landing light and made lens from the Microscale Kristal Kleer. 

    Nose gear assembly was painted with Humbrol 127 paint. It was not the best choice. I should have used a bit lighter shade of gray. Wheel was painted green (I used mixture of Humbrol paints matched to the pictures of the real thing) and tires were airbrushed with matt black, dark gray and Testor's rubber color. I used Eduard painting masks to make the wheel painting process easier. The bare metal part of oleo was painted gloss black first and then airbrushed with Alclad II Stainless Steel.

Front landing gear with many details added.
Click on the pictures for enlarged versions.

 

Main landing gear

    As mentioned in the kit review main landing gear has to be shortened to make the rear of the model seat lower. I decided to cut about 2 mm from the main landing gear struts. I also flattened the tires using hot iron. These two changes lowered the rear of the plane to more accurate height. I removed ejection pin marks from struts and added some wiring (this time I used aluminum wire and copper wire) and replaced plastic scissors with brass from Eduard set thickened with 0.01"/0.3 mm styrene. The same paints were used to finish the main gear as with the nose gear. I printed a decal on a laser printer to represent the small placard present on the gear strut of the real aircraft. Similar decal was applied to the front gear strut.

Main landing gear with some details added. Tires may be flattened a bit too much, but only slightly - in prototype these are low pressure tires designed for landing on primitive airfields and they flatten a lot, particularly when the airplane is fully loaded with fuel and armed.
Click on the pictures for enlarged versions.

 

Landing gear doors

    I removed the ejector pin marks from the inside of all landing gear doors, but could have done it better.  Shapes of the main gear door wells and corresponding doors are not right but it would be an extremely difficult task to correct it, due to very complex shape of these parts. After some thinking I decided to leave the shape of wells and doors unchanged and not add any details inside wells. I modified the retraction mechanism of main gear largest door scratchbuilding most of its parts and repositioned the landing lights to their correct position. I modified the attachment slabs of doors to make their installation to the fuselage easer. 

Landing gear doors. You may notice that I failed to cleanly remove 
ejector pin marks that Academy chosen to place on the inside of all doors...
Repositioned landing light will have power cable added later - above the light 
you can see scratch built part of modified retraction mechanism.
Click on the photo for enlarged version.

    I didn't change the incorrect shape of rear part of front gear well and doors, I only changed the shape of the front part of the portside door to recreate the "tooth" shape present there on the real thing (see the modified part on the picture above). This is the only part of the doors that can be seen when looking at the aircraft from the side. It does not match the shape of the well now, but I decided to ignore it  ;-)

    All doors were painted at the same time as the whole airplane, but were left unattached until final construction steps.

 

Armament

    In fact this model could just as well be sold without any missiles as those included are unfortunately useless (at least for me).  You can read more about it in the kit review

    Luckily for me Polish MiG's usually have two APU-470's and four APU-60's hanged under wings, so I could at least install the right pylons. I modified slightly the upper part of the APU-60 pylons, nearest to the wing to give them more accurate shape and filed the front part of the launchers to give them more pointed tips. I also shortened the nose part of APU-470 pylons. I added small pieces of styrene rods in drilled holes to bottom of all pylons to make attachment of missiles easier. Unfortunately I still needed four R-60's and two R-27R's. I was able to obtain a set of missiles from Trumpeter Su-27 (poor copy of Academy Su-27), but missiles there are not much better than those in Academy kit. R-60s are basically the same as those in my MiG, with the same large fins. R-27R are much better - at least they are almost correct length, but mold quality is so poor that fins are 1 mm thick! On the other hand the missile body is a bit too thin - it should have a diameter of 4.8 mm (230 mm in full scale), but has almost 1 mm less. 

    As there were no aftermarket sets of Russian air-to-air missiles available in 1/48 scale when I was building my model, I decided to scratchbuild my own set of missiles from various styrene rods and sheets (UPDATE: I don't know if these were available at the time I was building my model, but now you can get resin + PE R-60 missiles from TallyHo!, and various R-27 missile bodies - turned aluminum?... - from ModelPoint. Both are available from http://www.victorymodels.com. I have not seen any of them, so I can't comment on their quality). I used styrene parts form Plastruct range and based my missiles on scale plans in Czech 4+ publication about MiG-29. I cut off the radomes of the kit's R-27 missiles and attached them to my missiles. Of course the diameter was not correct, so I applied a putty around the small radome and then sanded it to the correct, bigger shape.

    I painted missiles using Tamiya gloss white acrylic paint, finishing details with various Humbrol paints. I used various shades of gray paints to paint missile launchers, as the color of real APU-470's is  lighter than the color of pylons and bottom of the aircraft, and APU-60's are usually painted in darker shade of gray. I applied a cote of Future floor polish to all pylons to prepare them for decals. I printed some stencils decals for pylons on a laser printer, some others where cut from Hi-Decal decal sheet for Su-27. I also hand painted some stencils. After applying decals I sealed them with another cote of Future. Final clear lacquer cote was applied on pylons at the same time as it was sprayed on the whole model.

R-60 missiles - my own product (not finished yet) above the original Academy's one.
Click on the photo for enlarged version.

R-27 missiles - Trumpeter's missile on top, my product in the middle 
and the ridiculously small Academy one at the bottom (missing its seeker head 
that I used as "the core" of the new head of my missile).
Click on the photo for enlarged version.

Slightly modified APU-470 and APU-60 pylons and launchers (see text).
Decals were printed on the laser printer, some stencils were hand painted.
Click on the photo for enlarged version.

 

Painting

    With the fuselage and all subassemblies ready, I was able to proceed to painting. I started by washing all parts in water with mild detergent and from this moment I only touched model in vinyl examination gloves (my girlfriend hates it when I wear them - some unpleasant associations ;-) ). As I planned to use Alclad II metalizers on some panels, I decided to use acrylic paint as a primer. I've chosen Pactra light gray paint to do it. I masked cockpit with Tamiya tape and airbrushed Pactra paint on the whole model. Now I know I will never use Pactra paints again. At least not those available in Poland. They are very thin and cover poorly. They clog the airbrush in just a few seconds. And they don't stick to the plastic surface well - later in the process of building this model I used Tamiya masking tape over the primed areas, and during the removal of the tape, pieces of the paint chipped off! It never happened to me with Humbrol, Model Master, or Tamiya paints!

    Next I airbrushed Alclad II Dark Aluminum on all landing gear wells and the gun muzzle panel. One of panels with gun cooling vents was painted Alclad II Aluminum. The same paint was used to paint some of the PE antennae and sensors that were to be attached to the model later. Leading edges of horizontal stabilizers were painted with Model Master Magnesium metalizer. The small section of fuselage where afterburner exhaust nozzles are attached was painted with Model Master Exhaust metalizer. Areas painted with metalizers were sealed with MM Metalizer Sealer. I painted radome, tips of tail fins and antenna covers (on dorsal spine and two on leading edge of each LERX) with Humbrol 27 dark gray (this was not a good idea - it would be much easier to apply this dark gray paint over the camouflage colors later, as masking of these painted panels, particularly those on LERX's edges was difficult).

    All painted areas were masked with pieces of Tamiya masking tape cut to shape. Then main camouflage colors were applied. The bottom of aircraft was painted with Model Master Light Ghost Gray (1728) lightened slightly with white paint (1768).  Also some areas of landing gear wells were painted in this color. Upper camouflage was applied with two paints: Model Master Light Ghost Gray (1728) and mixture of MM Fulcrum Gray/Green (2134), Light Ghost Gray (1728) and a drop of Gunship Gray (1723). Camouflage was airbrushed "free hand" with no templates. In retrospective I can say that while my mixed Gray/Green color was very well chosen, the grays were not. I should have used Light Ghost Gray lightened with white on upper surfaces, and even more lightened on lower. Gray colors I used are almost OK, but are too dark and there is too little contrast between gray and gray/green areas. Anyway, don't use the MM Fulcrum Gray color, as it looks nothing like it should - it is more gull gray than ghost gray and is much too light.

    Area ahead of windshield was painted with black acrylic Pactra and weathered slightly with MM Aluminum Plate paint. FOD screens were painted flat white, but I'm not sure if this is the right color. It is possible that they should be light gray, although on some pictures they look white to me.

    Some areas (e.g. around gun muzzle, APU exhausts) were weathered with black dry pastel dust.

    Canopy was painted separately. The same mixture I used for cockpit interior was used to paint the canopy inside. Then using Eduard vinyl masks I painted the pink (mixture of Humbrol red and white paints) sealer and finally applied gray-green camouflage color.

    Some small details on the airplane were painted black, red, orange etc.. Also some of the photoetched antennae not yet attached to the model were painted red.

    Later Future floor polish was airbrushed over the whole model to prepare it for decals, except for "bare metal" panels that were masked. (Actually I didn't use original Future, as I didn't have it yet when I was working on MiG. I used Polish floor-care product called Sidolux, that is similar to Future but is milky in color, not clear. It wasn't perfect substitute however - it added slight yellow tint to white FOD screens. I decided to refer to this product as Future in this article, as this is the name most modelers are familiar with and this is the product you should use to get better results.)

Decals

    I have bought two aftermarket decal sets for MiG-29, both with Polish markings, but none of them was really what I need. I have a Hi-Decal set and a Cutting Edge set. 
   
Hi-Decal set includes decals for two Polish planes: red 66 and red 89. There are also two sets of Polish national insignia and two sets of mermaids (insignia of 1PLM). Red 89 is supposed to be one of the airplanes acquired by Poland from Czech Republic in 1995 and 1996 and is painted in typical Czech four color camouflage. Red 89 is not on the list of planes acquired by Poland, printed in "Wielozadaniowy Samolot Bojowy MiG-29" by J.Gruszczynski and M.Fiszer (Magnum X, 2002), so this number can be incorrect. Anyway, I'm not interested in ex-Czech plane. I want to make a replica of one of the planes that came to Poland from USSR in the first batch in 1989 in the original Russian gray / gray-green camouflage. This batch included red 65, 66, 67 and 70. Unfortunately Hi-Decal set includes markings for the red 66 in the new Polish three tone gray color scheme. In this scheme mermaid colors are much darker and red digits have different shape than in the original scheme from 1989.
    Cutting Edge set includes decals for one Polish airplane - red 67 from 1990. It could be exactly what I needed, unfortunately blue color on the mermaid insignia is printed much too dark and the shape of the red number is again incorrect.

    None of the aftermarket decal sets I had includes any stencils. Hi-Decal have a stencils set for MiG-29 on their future releases list for some time now, but when I contacted them recently they were not able to give me any release date. I decided not to wait for them but to prepare my own decals.

    I designed new decals on my PC and printed them on a color laser printer (at work) on the Xtradecal clear decal paper (from Hannant's). There are two problems in creating decals this way - office color laser printers offer only resolution of 600 dpi, what is a bit too low for printing stencils; and color toner is transparent. Transparency of the toner makes decals printed in bright colors on a clear decal film useless, unless you want to apply them on white background. Unfortunately the main color of mermaid logo is yellow. I printed it, but tests proved that it will almost disappear on grey-green background. Also some of the stencils are yellow, but I had a few sets of decals for other Russian fighters that include similar yellow stenciling, so I were able to use them.

On the left you can see my decal sheet and the one from Hi-Decal. 
On the right is a close-up of some stencils. Text is not readable, but at least it looks like a text.
Click on pictures for enlarged versions.

    Decals printed on color laser printer appeared to be a bit blurred, so I decided to use only blue stencils and to print some of decals again - mostly black and red ones (including red 67) - on my home inkjet printer on Expert's Choice inkjet decal paper (also from Hannant's). Inkjet decal film is thicker that the one for laser printing, particularly after applying a layer of Microscale Liquid Decal Film (required to seal the ink and make it waterproof), so it shows more after application on the model. The red ink is just as transparent as the toner, so the red stencils and markings look a bit too dark after application on the model.

Red 67 and other printed decals. Yellow symbol is from Hi-Decal Su-27 decal set
Click on the picture for enlarged version.

    I decided to use national insignia from Hi-Decal set, so the only problem was the mermaid. Finally I decided to do the patchwork - I used the yellow mermaid carefully cut from Cutting Edge decal set and printed the blue and red elements of the insignia on inkjet printer. Then I just applied one decal above the other (see picture below). I'm not fully happy with the result - the blue color on the insignia is lighter then the one on Hi-Decal and Cutting Edge sheets, but still is too dark. It looked better while still on the white paper sheet, but after applying on greenish background, it darkened significantly. At least the 1PLM insignia on my model now has more correct shape than on any available decal sheets. Hi-Decal Su-27 decal set was a source of "radiation" marks near the radome and also of yellow "hook" decals on various places on the model.

"Patchworked" mermaid. White elements of insignia were painted with 00 brush.
Click on the picture for enlarged version.

    I applied all decals using photos in several books as placement guides (see references list at the end of the article). I used Microscale Set and Sol to help decals blend with background. Decal film of decals printed on laser printer disappeared completely after a couple of applications of Sol, but it is still quite visible on those printed on inkjet printer.

 

Panel lines wash and final lacquer cote

    I sealed decals with a cote of Future. Then I applied a dark wash to all panel lines using the mixture of each camouflage color and a bit of black artist oil paint heavily thinned with turpentine. I used three basic camouflage paints to prepare three different washes for various areas of model. I was able to achieve the effect I wanted - panel lines are just subtly marked and don't make the aircraft look like it is about to fall apart to pieces (I think that black washes in panel lines give this effect). Excess paint was removed almost immediately after application of wash with a piece of paper towel, slightly wetted with turpentine.

    To give the model the right sheen I airbrushed Testor's Model Master semi-gloss clear lacquer (2016) on the whole model. I removed masks from cockpit and from "metalized" parts and proceeded to final assembly of my MiG.

 

Final assembly

    First I glued the engine nozzles, then the landing gear, making sure that all struts are at right angles. Then I attached all the landing gear doors using superglue. With doors in place I was able to add electrical cable from thin solder wire to the landing lights. It was painted black after gluing in place with superglue. Next I glued all pylons and missiles to wings, also with superglue.

    Another step was gluing all the small photoetched and plastic antennae, angle of attack sensors, pitot probes etc. Main pitot probe on the tip of radome was made from three sections of surgical needles inserted one to another. 

    The very last step was to glue the canopy in open position. After that the model was finished - my first airplane in 1/48 scale! It was not exactly easy build and there were moments when I wanted to quit this project, but I somehow managed to finish it after all...

    Now you can go and see the result of my work in the Gallery.

 

References

The collection of books and publications I used as references.

    I used following books and publications as references. Those most useful are listed first.

- Mikoyan MiG 29 A/C, Zoltan Buza, edited by Willy Peeters,
    Lock On No.19, Aircraft Photo File, Verlinden Publications, 1993. 

- MiG-29 all variants, Bi-lingual English/Czech,
    4+ Publication, 4+ Publishing Co., Prague 1995/1999. 

- MiG 29, Przeglad Konstrukcji Lotniczych,
    Agencja Lotnicza Altair Ltd, Warsaw 1992. 

- MiG-29 Fulcrum in action,
    Aircraft Number 112, Squardon/Signal Publications, 1991. 

- Wielozadaniowy Samolot Bojowy, J.Gruszczynski, M.Fiszer,
    Biblioteka Magazynu Lotnictwo Wojskowe 8, Warsaw 2002. 

- Samolot mysliwski MiG-29, Jerzy Grzegorzewski,
    Typy Broni i Uzbrojenia 200, Dom Wydawniczy Bellona i Agencja Wydawnicza CB, Warsaw 2002. 

- Russian Falcons, The New Wave of Russian Combat Aircraft, Steven J. Zaloga,
    Concord Color Series 4007, Concord Publications Company, 1992. 

- Poland's Armed Forces in the '90s, The Decade of Change, Frank & Malgorzata De Sisto,
    Concord Publications Company, 1993. 

 

    I also used pictures found on many Internet websites. Some of the most useful were:

http://www.b-domke.de/AviationImages.html

http://aviation.pol.pl

http://www.fulcrum.prv.pl/

 

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