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KIT REVIEW


Kitty Hawk MiG-25RB/RBT -- 1:48 Scale

The MiG-25 was in various ways among the signature achievements of Soviet aircraft engineering.  It was among the fastest and highest-flying airplanes in history.  It is the fastest aircraft in operation today.  The MiG-25 has also been the subject of a few 1:48 scale kits over the years, such as Revell’s long-lived 1977-era kit and more recent new tool kits from ICM and Kitty Hawk.  A sample of Kitty Hawk’s second MiG-25 kit, which represents the RB and RBT variants of the Foxbat, arrived on our review bench.  Let’s take a look at this Russian Mach 3+ aircraft.  

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The Cold War arms race was at a fever pitch in the late 1950s.  Soviet defense planners accurately gauged that their current fighters were not up to the task of intercepting the high-flying U-2 reconnaissance plane, the Mach 2+ Convair B-58, and the Mach 3+ North American B-70 Valkyrie.  This led to the 1958 requirement for an interceptor capable of reaching 1,800 mph at altitudes in excess of 88,000 ft.  

The Mikoyan Design Bureau started work on the new aircraft in mid-1959, and according to some sources, the North American A-5 Vigilante was its design inspiration.  It was the last plane designed by Mikhail Gurevich before his retirement.  The first prototype was designated in-house as the Ye-155-R1 and was a reconnaissance variant.  The interceptor prototype, the Ye-155-P1, flew in September 1964.  It was unveiled to the public in 1967 and the type began to set multiple speed and performance records, including one zoom climb that reached 123,000 feet.  The jet was given the NATO reporting name “Foxbat.”  More than 1,100 airframes were produced into the 1980s across several variants operated primarily by the Soviets, though export versions were sold to Iraq, Libya, India, Bulgaria, Syria, and Algeria.

Foxbats used large proportions of nickel steel in their construction partly because Mikoyan engineers not yet worked out titanium manufacturing to the same degree as seen in the West, and that the cost of titanium was prohibitive for such a large production run.  Typical armament included four long-range R-40T/TD (NATO reporting name: AA-6 Acrid) air-to-air missiles.  The massive Tumansky turbojet engines could push the MiG-25 into a Mach 3.2 dash, but just one such speed run would fatally damage the engines.  Thus, the operational maximum airspeed was established at Mach 2.8 with an optimal cruising speed of Mach 2.3.  Maximum airframe loading was just 4.5 g, and with external stores, limited to 2.2 g.    

The MiG-25 became operational in 1970 and it was a major source of consternation for Western intelligence.  Its existence shaped a number of design features of the F-15 Eagle.  The Foxbat remained shrouded in mystery until 1976 when pilot Victor Belenko defected to Japan, allowing for systematic study of his airplane before it was returned.  The MiG-25 was certainly a dangerous adversary but was not the extraordinary super-fighter that West had long dreaded. 

Operationally, Soviet MiG-25s regularly performed intercepts of SR-71s, with some attempts getting closer to the Blackbird than others.  MiG-25s participated in a host of Middle Eastern wars since the 1970s including the Iran-Iraq war where Iraqi AF jets accumulated upwards of 20 kills.  Elsewhere, when faced by F-15s flown either by Israeli or American forces, Foxbats were on the losing end of air combat engagements.  Still, an Iraqi MiG-25 did down a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet in Operation DESERT STORM and a Predator UAV in 2002.  Today, dwindling numbers of MiG-25s remain operational, mostly in Russian service as the sun has yet to set on the Foxbat’s 50+ year-long career.        

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Kitty Hawk’s 1:48 scale MiG-25 RB/RBT Foxbat kit comes on 13 injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 570 parts.  Of those parts, 382 of them (on four sprues) are for weapons and most of them are not used here.  Also included are nine clear parts on one clear sprue, eight photoetched metal parts on one fret, and 10 cast resin parts.  Markings are provided on one decal sheet that is accompanied by one small insert.  The full color instruction booklet organizes the build over some 25 steps.  Markings options cover six Foxbats:

Strengths:  This kit has parts to represent two types of the Foxbat-B.  One build option is the MiG-25RB a reconnaissance/strike version of the Foxbat.  It could carry about 1,000 lbs. of ordnance and was fitted with a Peleng automatic bombing system to provide a fairly rudimentary air-to-ground capability.  The MiG-25 RBT was also a reconnaissance variant with cameras in the nose but added the Tangaz ELINT system gear.

This kit is mostly based on the Kitty Hawk’s 2013 new-tool Foxbat release but there’s a range of new parts here as well.  Much of the plastic is common to that early-generation Kitty Hawk kit and has some areas of concern to keep in mind during the construction process (see below).  Since this kit has been around for some time, it is likely familiar to many readers.  But to recap, the kit features a fairly high level of recessed panel line and fastener/rivet detail.  Molding is crisp and there’s no flash anywhere.  It has a relatively decent cockpit and ejection seat (with photoetched metal belts provided).  The PE parts provide alternate instrument panels which are indeed better than the kit parts, especially for a detail painter.  There’s also a separate and positionable canopy, intake ramps, flaps, horizontal stabilizers, rudders, and speed brakes.  In short, you have plenty of building options.

Sprue RB is new, and it contains the nose section of the MiG-25RB/RBT.  It features all the variant-specific parts including the big camera bay windows and optional blanked-off camera bay windows. 

The kit comes with two sets of Sprues J, I, and Weapon_1 which provide an overwhelming set of munitions, but for the RB/RBT, you’ll only be using the R-60 Aphid and R-40RD/TD Acrid air-to-air missiles along with the FAB-1500 or FAB-500 unguided bombs.  There’s also the really large and distinctive centerline drop tank and the wingtip pods. 

This edition of the kit comes with some very nice cast resin parts.  You get two sets of camera gear with other resin bulkhead parts that allow for the option to display the camera gear bay open.  Single-piece landing gear are also provided, and they are quite detail-rich.  The engine nozzles are provided as a single-piece assembly and they are the single most impressive resin component here.  Kitty Hawk’s resin parts design and casting is up there with the best of them.  There are also resin exhaust FOD covers, too, and parts are provided for their grab handles as well.  Two nicely done standing pilot figures are included.  One is wearing standard flight gear while the other Foxbat driver is depicted wearing a high-attitude pressure suit and helmet. 

The decals seem nicely printed from a technical point of view, and the markings options are all quite good, though I am partial to the Indian AF, Bulgarian AF, and the camouflaged Soviet schemes since these are a little different than the standard, repetitious gray MiG-25 look.   

Weaknesses:  Since this kit is based mostly on the 2013 Foxbat tooling, its shortcomings carry over here, too.  A standard refrain by some, it can be argued that the kit is somewhat overengineered where what could be simple single piece molded parts are broken up into many parts, such as with the speed brake assembly or the separate outboard wing tips.  This kit can also present a number of rather tricky fits during assembly.  For example, take your time with the intakes and forward and rear fuselage fits especially with the conflicts between some mounting tabs.  Likewise, the afterburner engine sections will only fit after some modification that allows them to slide into the aft fuselage.  These are rather well-known “fit gremlins” in this kit – so test fit!  It might represent a little more work and time, but these are not project-ending challenges.

Also, the kit instructions show the intake ramps closing off the intakes as in a MiG-29 or Su-27.  This feature is fictitious, as the MiG-25 had no such FOD doors and it also lacked alternative intake doors.  Of course, when you fix this error, another problem manifests: there is no intake trunking and you can see all the way inside the model.  While the engine exhaust FOD covers are a nice touch, Kitty Hawk should have either prioritized intake covers or worked up parts for intake trunks for this new release. 

The instructions fail to depict how and with what parts one is to use to install the bomb racks the underwing and centerline pylons.  The wingtip mass balancers are misidentified as ECM pods.  There’s a moderate lack of color call-outs for various parts and subassemblies, and at least one is really quite wrong (the cockpit color and ejection seat are not air superiority blue).  The cockpit should be the distinctive blue-green/turquoise used by the MiG OKB and the ejection seat frame is black.  Also, the closest match for the colors of the various dielectric panels and the wheel hubs is FS 34227.

Also note that the markings guide at the center of the instruction booklet is misprinted with interleaved schemes.  Only the centerfold illustration shows the complete markings guide for that one aircraft.  This has been a quality-control problem with some recent Kitty Hawk kits, and to get a full look at the colors and markings for the other five markings options, you’ll have to take out the staples holding the instruction booklet together.

Kitty Hawk continues to get mileage out of their 2013 Foxbat kit with this MiG-25 RB/RBT.  The addition of the cast resin and photoetched metal parts are some really nice added features here.  The kit is shadowed by some fit issues that are well known, but so are the solutions.  With some work and careful effort, this kit can serve as the basis for a very nice replica of the Foxbat.

Sincere thanks to Glen Coleman and Kitty Hawk Models for the review sample.  You can find out more about them and future releases at www.kittyhawkmodel.com

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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