1/48 Italeri MiG-23 Flogger

Gallery Article by Malcolm Reid on Apr 26 2010


This is a rebox of the Esci MiG-23 Flogger which was an early version – I think based on the visit of 5 or so MiG-23s to Finland in the 80’s to great fanfare – remember those days ? Now we don’t think twice about seeing Russian aircraft at air shows – we’ve even had them here in South Africa – that was until BAe and SAAB got the lucrative Gripen/Hawk/Lynx contract !

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Anyway, I love Russian aircraft due to a combination of their odd design features (folding ventral fin?) and agricultural looks. Unfortunately, the Italeri kit is largely a bunch of anaemic looking plastic pieces sort of resembling the outline of a MiG-23. I therefore decided to spend a bit of extra time trying to make it more representative of the late model MiG-23MLD Flogger K. This was the ultimate MiG-23 variant and modifications focused on improved aerodynamic performance. It also had an improved radar system with look down/shoot down capability. The MLD was not built new - former ML versions were converted to MLD. I've read a couple of articles which consider the MLD to be the equal of the early F-16A series…...

The following modifications to the kit were brought about :

  • The leading edge fillet on the vertical stabilizer is cut short on the MLD – I pared the kit unit down and finished off  with a mix of plastic card and Milliput
  • The MLD has a distinctive notched at the wing leading edge/intake junction – major surgery (in 48th scale terms !) was required to cut the kit parts and fair them into something resembling a dog tooth – again lots of Milliput and sanding
  • The MLD has a small aerodynamic vortex generators either side of the pitot probe – thin plasticard was used to replicate this.
  • The MLD has a fatter more ogival shaped nose than that provided by the kit – the most difficult part of the build was getting the correct shape using Milliput and lots of sanding, repeated several times.
  • Reshaped IR housing beneath the nose just forward of the nose gear bay.
  • Use of larger nose wheels - the MLD had larger diameter tyres than earlier versions.
  • IFF odd rods replaced by later single blade IFF antenna.
Other essential bits required to make a decent MiG-23 are the Neomega cockpit set (the kit is really lousy in this area) and the Eduard photo etch exhaust which is way better than the shallow kit part. I added corrugations to the inside of the exhaust duct using stretched sprue and thin plastic card. Some detail was added to the bare undercarriage bays. I also added chaff and flare dispensers to the upper fuselage – these were very prominent on MLDs. Additional panel lines were scribed all over the fuselage and wings using 3-view reference drawings.

I decided to equip the aircraft in the air-to-air role (that’s after all what the MLD was meant for) with two AA-7 Apex (R-23) missiles on the fixed wing stations and four AA-8 Aphid (R-60) missiles on dual rails beneath the fuselage. Kit weapons are rubbish and I scratch built the AA-7 missiles using the kit missile bodies, but adding fins from thin plastic card. I scratch built both the AA-7 and AA-8 launch rails from plasticard – however, by this time I was not in the mood to produce four Aphids from scratch. So the racks went empty.

Other minor mods/additions were :
  • Open up the auxilliary air intake doors each side of the fuselage.
  • Yaw and AOA vanes made out of stretched sprue and thin plastic card.

The colour scheme chosen was a late Soviet tac scheme. Painting was accomplished using Gloss Xtracolour paints and an airbrush. I don’t think I got the colour mix right but the colours used were :
X616 East German MiG-29 dark green + 20% X-2 white
X617 tan + 5% Tamiya X-2 white
X618 Czech MiG-29 dark green + 50% X-2 white
X619 Czech Mig-29 reb.brown + 20% X-2 white
Undersurface painted X625 Czech Mig-23 undersurface grey/blue + spot X-2 white

Decals were then added – again, the curse of my modeling career – they all silvered irrespective of the fact that I used gloss paints and liters of MicroSol. So out came the Tamiya superthin glue – it helps to remove the silvering by melting the decal to the paint. Tricky operation as too much will make the decal colour run or the base paint wrinkle. Weathering was applied using pastels and sealed with a matt varnish.

On the day I completed this long winded task, Trumpeter announced a 32nd scale Mig-23. Go figure. Let’s hope it’s an MLD followed by a late version MiG-27.

Malcolm Reid

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Photos and text © by Malcolm Reid