South Africa Air Force (SAAF) was the largest operator of the MB-326 Impala
Mk.II, and named it after the most common antelope found in South Africa. Nearly
100 Impala Mk. IIs were manufactured under licence by Atlas Aircraft
Corporation of South Africa. Powered by a Rolls Royce Viper 540 engine, and
spotting larger set of air intakes, the Mk.II were equipped with a pair of
DEFA 30mm guns, along with various dumb bombs and Matra rocket pods. During the
Border War, the Impala played a major role in air-to-ground operations. Flying a
mere 50ft over flat and featureless terrain, the SAAF pilots became the
pioneer of modern ultra low-level munitions delivery tactics. It was alleged
that Impala pilots could fly 'free & easy' in harsh and flat
terrain, despite equipped with a navigation system...a system they hardly
a couple of these were lost to ground fire due to their ultra low-flying
tactics. In 1992, several Impala squadrons were disbanded and its
ground attack roles were taken over by Cheetah Es. Many were either scrapped,
served as gate guardians, or sold to overseas buyers. The last 2 units to
operate them were 8 Sqn at Bloemspruit and 85 Combat Flying School at Hoedspruit.
During late 2003, the SAAF acquired the BAe Hawk Mk.120, replacing the
very last Mk.I trainers.
I first picked up the ESCI 1/48 MB-326K more than 15 years ago, I was surprised to
see those great looking recessed details and a nice decal sheet. Back
then, such quality were almost unheard of. Even Hasegawa pales in
comparison, where most of their kits then were those of raised panel lines and
thick decals (still is!). Being a newbie, my butter fingers got the better of
me, making a mess out of the kit. Colours were hand painted as I couldn't afford
to buy a cheap airbrush. It sure looked crappy to me and I wasn't happy at
all....until last year, I came across the same kit while on a business trip to
Athens, Greece. Picked up without any hesitation and told myself I will give my
best shot this time round. Ok, enough ranting, here goes :
the kit was built OOB since no aftermarket stuff are available. The only
scratch building done were the Martin Baker Mk.IV seat, rearview mirrors, Matra
F2 68mm rocket pods. Do not use the kit-provided Matra rocket pods & wing
gun pods. These were never used by the SAAF. Some issues to note:
noseweight! This kit is a tail-seater.
2) Wing root requires some putty since they don't 'align' with the fuselage.
3) Decals - though they looked crisp, it shatters when placed in water!
4) Kit colour instruction - inaccurate. Check your references.
5) Large a/c number below wings to be omitted for late Mk.IIs. Some early
Mk. IIs that I came across excludes that as well.
images below to see larger images
model here depicts the early Dark Earth, Dark Green & Light Grey (later Blue Grey) underside,
which took part in the Border War operations. Gunze H309 Dark Green FS34079 ,
H310 Brown FS30219 (mix to get correct tone) and H308 Gray FS36375 for bottom
fuselage. A coat of Future was required to 'treat' the matt-looking ESCI decals.
Weathering were done using pastel chalk-dishwashing liquid. Since the Impalas
were low-flying over dusty flatlands, i replicated the dusty look with pastel
mixed loadout of 2x Matra F2 68mm rocket pods, 2x Mk.81 250lb bombs and 2x drop
tanks were chosen, along with the internal DEFA 30mm gun packs attached to both
sides of the front fuselage.
images below to see larger images
highly recommend those who are into obscure subjects to grab this if you see
them. Though not Tamigawa by today's standard, it sure looks good still!