1/72 Heller AlphaJet

Ivory Coast Air Force 

by Fernando I. Moreno Villa

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Ivory Coast acquired a small squadron of 6 AlphaJets. When they were operational in 1980, the Force Aérienne de la Cote d’Ivoire became, for some time, the most powerful of the area, before being ravaged by political unrest and a bloody civil war.

THE KIT

This is a classical Heller kit of raised panel lines and no interior detail. It had the necessary pieces to build both versions: E for training and A for attack. No armament is included but only an Aden cannon.  

CONSTRUCTION

Cockpit tube and seats were scratchbuilt almost completely. Seats were very basic but I had no intention to spend resins on this kit, so I decided to make them myself using some reference pictures of the Martin Baker 4. Floor and control panels were made of plasticard.  

The assembly of the fuselage was difficult. It was divided in three pieces: both fuselage sides and the belly. All had a very bad joint and I needed a lot of glue, putty and sanding to make it right. Canopy was also a problem because its shape was oversized. I added as much weight as the nose space allowed because it was going to be a tail sitter. Wings and stabilizers also supposed a challenge, they were very difficult to align correctly and joints had gaps, which were filled with a lot of putty. I replaced the small antenna located just behind the cockpit. At the end, I added a small strip of plasticard as the dorsal avionics bay.  

Landing gear, doors and weapons were left for the final stage, painting them apart.

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PAINTING

Following several color plates, pictures and references, I started painting the whole lower section in Light Ghost Gray, masking only the two tiny jet exhausts with Tamiya Tape. As I applied a pre-shading, my lack of experience made me to cover the effect with the second hand of Gray. I decided to continue painting the model and then to see how to work the light-shade effect. Masking the already painted areas with more tape, I sprayed a first coat of MM Medium Green. Then I made the camouflage pattern with the "Blue-Tac like" gum, and airbrushed Tamiya Nato Green, which matched better the color seen in pictures. Jet Exhausts were painted in that same metalizer color.  

DECALS

As this kit was a bagged one without decals, I used all the stencils from a Fujimi kit. After many posts and requests to different distributors, I found that Zotz Roundels of the World I and II were practically impossible to obtain. In order to finish this project this year, I went for the option of printing them myself. I made many fitting trials and when I thought they were OK, I print them over white decal paper. Then I cut the roundels with care using a very sharp Xacto blade. After the first coat of Future, they were placed without problems and for me they look very well. All ID numbers and letters were printed in clear decal paper for laser printers, and the same procedure was followed. Finally all decals were sealed with another coat of Future, using a wide paintbrush.

WEATHERING

As my pre-shading was a fiasco, I tried to darken all panel lines with pastels, but for me it didn't look convincing. So I tried with a thin coat of highly diluted Black, and it worked much better. Now I'm using that technique more frequently. No other weathering was applied.

CONCLUSION

This is an old kit that demands a lot of work from the modeler. It is not worth for any kind of aftermarket item. I really suggest the Fujimi kit which has finely engraved panel lines and much better detail overall.  

I really hope you like this exotic version of the successful AlphaJet.  

Thank you. Saludos desde Monterrey, Nuevo Léon, México…

Fernando

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Photos and text © by Fernando I. Moreno Villa