by: Vance [ ]
HistoryThe MiG-17 was an evolution of the famous MiG-15 design, and corrected some high speed stability issues its predecessor suffered from. Changes include a lengthened fuselage, wing fences, and a greater wing sweep (changed from 35° to 45°). Entering frontline service in late 1952, the Fresco A retained the original MiG-15 power plant, but this was upgraded with an afterburner in the MiG-17F model, which began production the following year. Other smaller changes were made from the MiG-17A to F as well, such as the configuration of the air brakes. Armament included two 23mm cannons and a single 37mm cannon, and the aircraft was reputed to be a very stable gun platform. The MiG-17F was license built in Poland (Lim-5) and China (J-5 or F-5). In excess of 10,000 were built.
The MiG-17 missed the Korean War, where it would have been a serious threat. It eventually equipped the air forces of all Warsaw Pact allies, as well as many African and Asian countries. Its first action was over the straights of Taiwan, where PRC Frescos tangled with F-86 Sabers from the Republic of China (Taiwan), though it was in the skies over Vietnam where MiG-17 scored their first victories against more modern American built and flown adversaries. Though technically obsolete by then, the superior agility of the Frescos made them a dangerous opponent.
The Mig 17 has been kitted before in 1/48th scale before by Hobbycraft, OEZ, and Smer, but none of these compare favorably to the modern molds that grace other, more popular aircraft. HobbyBoss has finally come to the rescue with this surprise release of a newly tooled MiG-17F Fresco D. It appears that they also intend to release J-5 and Mig-17PF (the variant has a radar blister on the nose) kits as well in the near future.
The KitAt first glance, this kit looks beautiful lying in the box. Panel lines are well executed - narrow engraving with sufficient depth to not be easily sanded away. A once over reveals several pleasing features such as nice detail in the main wheel wells, lots of detail in the flaps, an extensive engine assembly, and finely executed moldings for wing fences, ventral fin, antennae, and such. HobbyBoss was, thankfully, restrained with their use of rivet detail in this instance as well.
Closer inspection does reveal some faults, which are listed below. The majority of these flaws are minor and are overlookable or easily corrected. They are listed mainly to make the reader aware, but are not at all intended to condemn the kit, which is actually quite good overall:
- Cockpit detail is passable, but looks quite bland compared to the real thing. The MiG-17 has a very busy looking pilot's office and would be a joy to model accurately. The kit instrument panel is particularly dull, being virtually 2-dimensional. The basic shapes are essentially correct, so if the builder does not wish to resort to an aftermarket replacement, missing details could easily be added from scratch to create a proper impression of this area.
- The main canopy suffers from a heavy handed attempt to mold in the de-icing heater wiring array that is seen on some MiG-17 canopies. Nice thought, but it essentially ruins the look of the canopy. It would have been better to leave this detail off and let super detailers add it themselves. Most modelers will likely want to try to find a vac-u-formed replacement because of this, or go thru the hassle of sanding off these ribs and polishing the canopy back out to clear.
- The profile of the wing fences is not quite correct. they are molded admirably thin (though scale thickness would be even less) and look reasonable at first glance, but if you compare to the real thing (see picture), you'll see they to do not wrap around the front edge of the wings enough, the middle fence is a bit too short on the tail end and suffers from a dip near the leading edge, and the inner fence is supposed to be about 30% higher than the rest (the kit has them all the same height). The basic contour of the inner fence is not quite accurate either, especially near the trailing edge. However, the wing fences are likely acceptable for most modelers who do not suffer from AMS. Photo etch replacements would be welcome however.
- The wing flaps are constructed such that they are open by default and will take some (admittedly limited) manipulation to model in the closed position. I have looked at hundreds of pictures of MiG-17s, and have yet to see a single one, be it on the service line, in a museum, or sitting derelict, parked with its flaps down.
- Minor sink marks on rear of front fuselage halves and on air brakes.
- The fit of the bulkhead that holds the engine assembly in place to the rear fuselage does not inspire my confidence. I suspect its diameter will have to be built up a bit in order for the engine assembly to be secure inside the fuselage. The engine and bulkhead parts do look suspiciously similar to the Trumpeter MiG-15 molds, and one has to wonder how well the undersized bulkhead would fit in the Trumpeter kit.
- The fuselage is divided into quarters: front right, front left, rear right, and rear left. While the corresponding left and right halves mate wonderfully well, the front and rear assemblies are going to be a different matter. This is compounded by the fact that the bulkhead mentioned above (that does not fit so well) is essential the joining of the front and rear fuselage assemblies. Care will have to be taken in this stage of assembly, and the join will likely still be weak. On the upside, it is apparent that the wings, once attached, will reinforce the join between front and rear. On the other hand, attaching the wings will be difficult if the front and rear fuselage halves are not mated correctly.
- Test fitting the wings to the forward fuselage haves reveals a fair match up with only minimal work needed to make it perfect, though the moldings seem to bias the position of the wings slightly on the high side on my example.
- Detail inside the airbrake does not seem to correlate terribly well with pictures of real MiG-17 airbrake wells. It does, however, look reasonably convincing. Attachment of the airbrakes in the open position is going to be fragile at best. But, like the flaps, the airbrakes are rarely open on parked Frescos anyway (but, unlike the flaps, you can occasionally find instances of this). The air brakes do fit admirably well in the closed position.
- The detail on the tires of the main gear wheels looks off. The radial lines are overdone (though they do indeed exist on MiG-17 tires), and the concentric treads are not prominent enough (the latter is likely a mold limitation).
- The nose area is a complex assembly that will likely take some effort and forethought to get right and may be frustrating to less experienced modelers.
The reader should not be put of by this list of flaws as accounted by a very critical reviewer though. The highlights of this kit, its overall accuracy, and the things done right far outweigh the negative points. I am confident the end result will fully look the part of the brutish MiG-17 and will look good in any collection. The following is a list of things done right in the kit. I feel the need to restate that the overall detail is excellent and the shape of the main components seems accurate.
In ConclusionWhile I have been very critical of the kit in pointing out its flaws, it is important to remember that these are all relatively minor issues that should be easy enough to correct, ignore, or overcome with only modest modeling skills. This kit is good enough that it could easily have been the definitive MiG-17 kit, but HobbyBoss didn't quite come thru on some of the finer details. The canopy is probably the kit's biggest sin. Also, some aspects of assembly are likely to require patience and some modeling experience. That said, this is certainly the best quarter-scale MiG-17 available and should build into a good replica straight form the box. With a few aftermarket parts like a resin cockpit, PE wing fences, and a vacuformed canopy, this kit will be a real winner without excessive work. While I would not recommend this kit to a novice builder, an experienced modeler should be able to make an excellent replica from it.
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