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KIT REVIEW


AvantGarde Model Kits 88001
IAI Kfir C.2/C.7 1:48 Scale

AvantGarde Model Kits (AMK) is a new model manufacturer based in Macau. The 1:48 scale Kfir is their first injection molded kit, and will build into either the C.2 or the C.7 versions. This was AMK’s first release in 2013, and was the first of the three kits AMK sent to Detail & Scale as review samples.  It was also my first time having a chance to examine this model.


The Israeli Kfir (or Lion Cub in Hebrew) occupies a unique niche in the history of Middle East conflicts. The origin of the Kfir dates back to 1968. In the wake of the 1967 Six Day War, France levied sanctions against Israel, who had been operating French-built Mirage IIIs. The French embargo prevented the delivery of a previously placed order of 50 Dassault Aviation Mirage 5Js. In response, Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) began to produce their own (unlicensed) Mirage airframes, designated the Nesher. Yet, an eye was put towards further improvement, and the result several years later was, in many ways, a very different airplane.

         
The Kfir emerged from the goal of creating a multi-role Nesher. The initial focus was on an uprated powerplant. The General Electric J79 motor, common to the F-4 Phantom II family, was selected for the job, first fitted in an IAF Mirage IIIc in 1970 and a Nesher testbed in 1971. By 1973, the first definitive Kfir took flight, outfitted with indigenous Israeli avionics, canards, and reconfigured internal fuel cells.  Initial operations were in 1975. Some 12 variants of the Kfir were eventually produced by IAI for Israel, the United States, Columbia, Ecuador, and Sri Lanka. In Israeli service, Kfirs were, for a short time, the IAF’s principal air superiority platform before the F-15 came into the inventory. The Kfir’s first combat sortie was in 1977 over Lebanon. In 1979, it recorded its first air-to-air kill against a Syrian MiG-21. During Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982, the airplane’s air-to-ground capabilities were called upon. The Kfir’s self-defense capability allowed them to fly unescorted. This freed up IAF F-15s and F-16s to focus exclusively on the destruction of enemy air assets, and was one factor leading to the “Bekaa Valley turkey shoot.” By the mid-1980s, IAF C.2s were upgraded to the C.7 variant that featured enhanced performance, upgraded avionics, new cockpit displays, and new ejection seat. By the mid 1990s, the Kfir was retired from IAF service after nearly two decades of service.

The first impressions of the AMK kit are very strong. The graphic design and box art is inviting. The box is just large enough to snugly fit the sprues. The 15-page instruction booklet is crisply printed in color, detailing the build in 20 relatively straightforward steps. The alternate parts callouts for the C.2 and C.7 variants are consistent and clear.

The kit itself consists of 18 sprues containing 270+ parts, though the external stores accounts for nearly a third of the total parts count. The parts breakdown is very straightforward and logical, making construction accessible to even those with limited experience in the hobby. The sprues are bagged in the self-adhesive, re-sealable clear plastic bags.

Strengths: The first impression one gets from examining the parts (even before opening the bags) is of very high-fidelity injection plastic molding. Ejection pin marks appear to have been very strategically placed so as to necessitate almost no clean up (thank you, AMK!).  The one major exception is inside lip of the intakes, and maybe the cockpit floor where the injection pin mark would be visible. The quality of a few parts in particular, including the ejection seats, first stage compressor blades, triple ejector racks, and landing gear all caught my attention due to their notably high quality and crisp relief.    

Starting with the cockpit, AMK has provided a reasonably accurate cockpit, but the cockpit represents the one inconsistency within the kit. This contrasts with the overall quality of the kit and the Martin Baker JM6 and IN10LH ejection seats. While lacking harness and belt details, the rest of the seat details are of excellent quality.

The airframe appears to accurately capture the shape and proportions of the Kfir as far as I can tell. I first test fit the fuselage, and the fit is nearly immaculate. Recessed panel lines allign up perfectly across the seam from the left fuselage half to the right. Similarly, the upper and lower halves of the wings dry fit in nearly airtight fashion. The fit between the fuselage assembly and the wing assembly is equally well engineered, with gaps between the parts equivalent to the width of the recessed panel lines everywhere else on the surface of the kit. Also, for an injection molded kit, the nose and main gear wells are nicely detailed for a plastic kit, though they are a bit simplified.  I also commend AMK for molding the wheel hubs separately from the tire halves.  It’s a thoughtful, time-saving way for modelers to do wheels.   

There appear to be panel lines of two distinct widths on AMK’s Kfir. Most are fairly wide and deep. Other panels, especially access panels, appear appropriately fine in 1:48 and just perfect to the eye. Recessed rivet and screw details are deep but of appropriately small diameter.  They’ll work well especially for modelers that will use oil or sludge washes to bring out rivets and screws in the later phases of weathering.

The canopy and windscreen are crystal clear and were evidently produced in a slide mold that eliminates the presence of that pesky seam that goes down the middle of many canopies in so many other kits. Again, this is another consideration the manufacturer seems to have held in mind for the builder.

The kit comes with all the right stores to go to war with your Kfir – two Python 3 air-to-air missiles (almost as nice as Great Wall Hobby’s Pythons in their F-15 kit), six Mk. 82 slicks, two GBU-12s, two Griffin laser guided bombs (the latter being an indigenous Israeli munitions), and a PAVE PENNY laser designator pod. A centerline NAPGACH pylon with countermeasure dispensers for the Mk. 82s is provided, along with and a centerline (supersonic rated) and wing (subsonic rated) drop tanks.  All stores, pylons, and sway braces look great.  In sum, there’s a wide range of stores configurations one can model for both the C.2 and C.7 variants.      

The kit comes with decals for two iconic Kfir schemes. First, Kfir C.2 874, was the first Kfir to claim an air-to-air kill (the aforementioned splashing of a Syrian MiG). This scheme depicts 874 as it appeared in 1979 in the two-tone air superiority gray scheme worn by the jets of the First Fighter Squadron.  The second option is the four-tone brown, tan, green, and gray tactical scheme worn by Kfir C.7 555 of the Arava Guardians in 1983.  Color callouts are given in FS numbers and what looks like Gunze Sangyo numbers.  Cartograf printed the decals, and they are just exquisite. It's not possible to say enough good things about the detail and printing quality of the decals.  Stencils are also provided for both paint schemes, and they appear extensive and complete.

Weaknesses: While the appropriate alternate parts for a C.2 and C.7 instrument panel are supplied, the surface details on both instrument panels are also very low relief. They would be difficult to pick out even with very skilled dry brushing, in my opinion. The instrument dials are really just circular depressions. 

The only shortcoming in the airframe, one might argue, is that the trailing edge flaperons are molded integrally into the wing rather than being separate, positionable parts. On the top aft fuselage, a few of the panel lines are of an inconsistently depth and one even wavers just a little. A light pass with a fine panel scriber would take care of this issue, totaling about five seconds of work.

I have heard modelers discuss the curvature of AMK’s canopy could be more accurate (more of in inward curvature towards the bottom of the canopy frame). I don’t necessarily disagree, but for me, I’d have to do more research to confirm this possibility. If the curvature is indeed off, it would seem quite subtle.  

AMK’s first kit receives high marks.  It is on par with the quality of contemporary Hasegawa kits.  In this scale, its competitors are the old ESCI kit (known for a range of inaccuracies) and the Kinetic/Wingman Kfir family. At least speaking with other modelers, opinion seems divided: some say they Kinetic/Wingman Kfirs are generally on par with the AMK kit, while others feel the AMK is superior in several respects.  To get around the problem of the somewhat indistinct instrument panels and lack of ejection seat belts and harnesses, modelers can purchase Eduard’s photoetched Zoom or full interior detail sets for either the Kfir C.2 or C.7. All four of these Eduard photoetch sets are also highly recommended on their merits alone.    

While there are some inconsistencies (panel lines, cockpit details) and one missed opportunity (flaperons are not separate parts), AMK’s Kfir is an overall a great kit.  In fact, I had to exercise some restraint not starting to build the kit following the completion of this review. It is clear that AMK put a lot of thought, research, and effort into their first offering.  It will build up as strong representation of the Israeli Kfir.  What’s critical to me is that AMK nailed the fundamentals  – great fit and great engineering – along with many details to make their Kfir an intensely inviting kit. Modelers of nearly every skill level will have an enjoyable experience building this model.

Sincere thanks to AMK for the review sample. You can find them on the web at http://amkhobby.com/home/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/avantgardemodelkits.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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