by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
It's probably an apocryphal story that an old Frenchman was disturbed from his afternoon nap by the testing of the Rafale prototype. Storming out of his house, he asked a passer-by what the aircraft was that was causing such a terrible din. On hearing that it was the latest French fighter, patriotism took over and his attitude changed immediately - "Ahh, such power, such beauty, such grace!" he cried. True or not, the story pretty much sums up the Rafale - surely one of the best-looking fighters in the world.
The kit Hobby Boss's new kit arrives neatly packed in a sturdy box. All the sprues are individually bagged but, unlike the recently reviewed A-10, the clear parts aren't in a separate compartment - this makes for a slightly smaller box and the parts still arrived perfectly intact.
The Rafale comprises:
154 x grey styrene parts
4 x clear parts
Decals for a single colour scheme
The kit is very neatly moulded - there's hardly a sign of flash and the detail on items like the undercarriage legs etc. is really crisp. Surface finish consists of nicely engraved panel lines throughout and some embossed rivet detail in places which I'm not so sure is appropriate on a modern fighter. There are a few ejector pin marks (such as in the wheel-wells and on the inside of the wheel doors) that will be visible on the completed model, and I found a hint of sinkage here and there on some thicker parts - but nothing a quick bit of work won't fix.
The fuselage is split laterally and a sign that a two-seater could be on the way soon is that the dorsal spine is a separate part. The wings feature separate flaps and control surfaces and the canard fore-planes are joined by a connecting rod to ensure they stay symetrical when moved. The fin has a separate rudder.
Detail-wise, the cockpit has some good detail moulded onto the side consoles of the one-piece tub. The instrument panel is very basic - just one piece with a hollow to represent the centre computer display - it's a shame decals aren't included for this and the smaller side screens. The ejector seat is built up from 5 parts and features a rather faint moulded-on harness.
The undercarriage is well detailed with good interior detail in the bays and separate retraction arms and oleo scissors for the gear legs. The main-wheel tyres have an unusual square cross-section and embossed radial lines so i'll be worth finding some photos to confirm this.
The canopy can be posed open and the main section includes internal framing and a clear bulkhead. The area under the canopy behind the ejector seat (Part B4) is a bit weak on the review sample, with slightly uneven ridges. They might sand smooth but, otherwise, shouldn't be too hard to replace.
There's a good selection of stores included:
2 x Apache
2 x 2,000lt drop tanks
2 x 1,250lt drop tanks
2 x MAGIC A-to-A missiles
4 x MICA
To illustrate the various load-out options, Hobby Boss have included a useful weapons chart.
The instructions are broken down into 11 stages and are clear and neatly drawn. I do wonder, though, at the logic of the assembly sequence - attaching items like the undercarriage and open canopy before completing the basic airframe seems to be asking for trouble... The instructions make no mention of adding weight in the nose to avoid the completed model being a tail-sitter, so a test fit to get an idea of how it will balance on its undercarriage is definitely recommended.
Painting and decalsHobby Boss offer just one paint scheme - the striking all-black paint job worn by the Rafale C01.
The decals are thin and very glossy and seem excellent quality, with clearly legible stencils and good register. The paint scheme is illustrated in colour and the diagram also serves as a guide to placing stencils. Some of the items on the sheet aren't shown on the diagram and seem to belong on the weapons but, unlike with the A-10, the various stores aren't shown in the painting guide, so you'll need to refer to photos to determine the positions for them.
ConclusionHobby Boss's Rafale looks like it'll build into a very attractive model and seems good value for money at £16.99. The detail looks a little simplified in places, but the construction looks straightforward enough to make it suitable for all fans of modern jets and will provide a sound basis for the superdetail sets that will surely be following hot on its heels.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.