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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby # SH72291
Mirage F1B/BE -- 1:72 Scale



The Dassault Mirage F1 was one of the most notable combat aircraft of the 20th century.  This French light multirole fighter became operational in the 1970s as a successor to the Mirage III family and was exported to more than a dozen countries and has seen its fair share of combat operations.  One of the less commonly produced variants of the Mirage was the F1B – a two-seat trainer.  This variant has not seen much attention in the world of injection molded kits and particularly in 1:72 scale.  Here, we'll take a look at Special Hobby’s Mirage F1B/BE kit.           

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The Mirage F1 emerged from a series of mid-1960s internal design studies by Dassault Aviation that examined follow-on designs to the Mirage III and Mirage 5.  A series of proposals were considered, and finally, a slightly smaller but all-new Mirage was selected for production by the French government as an all-weather interceptor:  the Mirage F1.  This new airplane was only a bit smaller than the Mirage III and Mirage 5 and was powered by the same SNECMA Atar powerplant found on the Mirage IV.  There the similarities ended. The F1 design departed from its delta-wing predecessors with the inclusion of a high swept wing and conventional horizontal stabilizer.  The F1 also carried more gas and demonstrated superior maneuverability, thanks to double-slotted trailing edge flaps and full-span leading edge slats that reduced combat turn radius by some 50% compared to the Mirage III.

The first F1 prototype first flew just before Christmas 1966.  By May 1973, the first production airplanes were delivered to the French Air Force.  These first Mirage F1s were outfitted with a Thomson-CSF Cyrano IV radar that possessed a basic multimode capability for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.  Its SNECMA Atar 9K-50 turbojet engine was rated at 15,000 pounds of thrust.  The F.1 was armed with a pair of 30 mm cannons and just one Matra R530 medium-range air-to-air missile in its early days, but was later upgraded with the R550 Magic, Matra Super 530F, and eventually, the AIM-9 Sidewinder in addition to a range of air-to-ground munitions as the air-to-ground role was progressively expanded.

Some 720 Mirage F1s were built across 12 different variants and flown by the French Air Force and a dozen other nations including Spain, Ecuador, Iraq, and South Africa.  The F1 saw extensive combat with the French, beginning with 1984 actions over Libya and concluding over the skies of Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Mirage F1s also saw notable combat engagements with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, with Ecuador during the mid-1990s Cenepa Border War with Peru, and in various African conflicts undertaken by Morocco, South Africa, and Libya.  The last of the French F1s were retired in 2014 and Spain said goodbye to the F1 in 2013.  It is still operated by Iraq, Gabon, Libya, and Morocco.  Iran flies perhaps two dozen ex-Iraqi Air Force F1s that defected during Operation DESERT STORM.  The Mirage F1 will no doubt continue flying for years to come in the hands of these various nations.

The Mirage F1B was a two-seat operational trainer.  A total of 38 were built.  Twenty were produced for the French Air Force and delivered between 1980 and 1983.  Based on the single-seat F1 design, it accommodated a second cockpit by stretching the fuselage. Though this only added a foot in total length, it was at the expense of an internal fuel cell, deletion of the gun, and added 500 pounds in total gross weight.  The Mirage F1BE was specifically produced for Spain.  Six BE airframes were delivered between 1980 and 1981.  

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Special Hobby’s 1:72 scale Mirage F1B/BE kit consists of 143 injection molded medium grey polystyrene parts on six sprues, 21 clear parts on one sprue, and four resin parts.  However, on this version of the F1, only about 75 parts actually get used.  For example, everything but the drop tanks on Sprue D (weapons) is left off the model.  The full color instruction booklet guides assembly over 12 steps.  Decals provide markings for two F1Bs and one F1BE:

Strengths:  I am surprised at my interest in this kit.  Part of this reactions comes from the fact that we are looking at a very well made and nicely designed kit.  It is based on their 2016 new tool release of the single seat F1C/CH kit, but has new parts – two entirely new fuselage halves and a second cockpit.  The parts breakdown is rather straightforward and it will be a relatively simple, hassle-free build.

For a 1:72 scale kit, it is well detailed, too.  The cockpit parts, wheel wells, landing gear, intakes, and afterburner nozzle interior stand out as being quite nicely done.  On some level, it’s too bad this trainer version does not make use of the ordnance on Sprue D since they are all really nicely done injection-molded munitions.  I did a quick fit-check between the fuselage halves and the wings.  The fuselage halves came together perfectly, but a little bit of work is needed to get the wings to fit seamlessly (see below). 

For this scale, instrument panels have raised relief but decals are intended to represent all the instrument panel details.  I am usually hesitant to use decals for any instrument panel, but here, I think the decals work since they are finely printed and have a lot of detail (thanks, Cartograf!).  There are also very nicely cast resin parts for the wingtip missile rails and the chaff dispensers that are a modular assembly that adds onto the outboard sides of the ventral strakes.  Yet, for these three versions, it does not look like countermeasure dispensers were fitted to any of them.  The instructions also make note of small details for the F1B/BE that require attention, such as removal of an air scoop, filling of underwing pylon attachment points, and how the second paint scheme requires one to steal the in-flight refueling probe attached to one of the unused single-seat F1 noses in the kit.

The choice in paint schemes here are each a winner – with each one being quite attractive. For me, the Spanish F1BE in its desert Tiger Meet scheme is almost irresistible.  The decals were printed by Cartograf and are exceptional, from their vibrant colors, great print quality, and highly restrained carrier film.    
 
Weaknesses:  This kit has a few weak spots to consider.  For one, I do consider the recessed panel lines to be somewhat overdone.  They are a bit too deep and wide for 1:72 scale, but a few coats of paint will help fill in and lessen this effect.  There are no rivet or fastener details.  Wing fit was close to seamless and perfect, but there’s a bit of a fit conflict between the inboard side of the leading edge slat and the fuselage that throws off fit at the wing root ever so slightly.  A few passes with a sanding stick took care of the problem, however.  Some of the pour gates attaching part to sprue were gargantuan, and I opted to use a razor saw to separate the tops of the fuselage from the sprue rather than using a regular sprue snipper.

It’s also too bad the control surfaces and speed brakes were not separate parts, as it would have made for greater visual interest in the finished model (at least for me).  The kit ejection seats are okay for 1:72 scale but they have an anomalous oval depression in the seat’s backpad that I know not to be present on the Martin-Baker Mk. 10.  

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Special Hobby’s 1:72 scale Mirage F1B/BE kit is a really nice kit and it has a lot of potential. It receives high marks in overall quality, design and parts breakdown, detail, and decals/paint schemes.  CMK also offers a number of resin upgrade parts, from the Cyrano IV radar to the afterburner nozzle, wheels, and ejection seats.  Master Models produces a new metal pitot tube, and a few sets of aftermarket decals are out there, too, for the two-seat Mirage F1B.  At the very least, I’d swap out the kit’s ejection seats with resin parts.  Yet, this is a nice kit that it invites even more detail still, so when I build it, I’ll probably use various aftermarket detail sets to complement the qualities and strengths of the base kit.    

Sincere thanks are owed to Special Hobby for the review sample. You visit them on the web at http://www.specialhobby.info and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/specialhobby.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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