Originally named the Bisnovat OKB for its chief designer Matus Ruvimovich Bisnovat, the company now known as Vympel GMKB has long been associated with the design and production of Russian/Soviet aircraft weapons. Nearly all of the notable types of air-to-air missiles have come from this bureau, including the original R-3 “Sidewinderski” all the way up to the modern R-27 and R-73 missiles commonly seen on Fulcrums and Flankers of the present day.
The R-23 and R-24 missiles, all designated AA-7 “Apex” under the NATO code system are a medium range family of missiles entirely dedicated to the MiG-23 family of fighter-interceptors. Roughly analogous to early generation US/NATO AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, the R-23/24 family ranges around 20 km (depending on variant). The missiles are built on 200mm airframes are 4.25 meters in length (again depending on variant) and weigh 200 kg.
The R-23 was designed to serve on the first generation MiG-23 variants – MiG-23M, MF and MS. It comes in two variants R-23R radar guided and R-23T thermal/infrared guided. Wings and rudders are common to both variants. The R-24 took advantage of the lightweight construction of the MiG-23ML family, was lengthened by .34 meters, and the wings/rudders were slightly modified as well. Again produced in R (radar) and T (thermal) variants, the R-24 featured longer range (50 km) and improved performance over its R-23 older brother. The R-24 is also the direct predecessor of the ubiquitous R-27 family of missiles common to nearly every currently active Russian type.
What you get
Each kit comes with two missiles. The main body is molded as one piece with the rudders molded in place. The main wings are separate parts, as are the upgraded pylons. A common photo-etch fret is included in all sets, this includes the forward fins for both the R-23 and R-24 (the R-24 forward fins are slightly larger), the fuse covers and umbilical harness. A common decal set is also included, this includes stencils for specific to all four types of the missile as well as the pylon stenciling. In addition to the fuse covers on the photo-etch set, the seeker head covers are also included should the modeler wish to display the missile in a pre-loaded state in a diorama. For the “T” (thermal) variants, a separate clear seeker head is included that will add a degree of realism to the finished product.
Aeroline have produced five sets for this family of missiles:
AL4019 R-23R – Radar guided (not available for photography for this article) for MiG-23M/MF/MS variants
AL4020 R-23T – Thermal guided for MiG-23M/MF/MS variants
AL4021 R-24R – Radar guided for MiG-23ML/MLD/P variants
AL4022 R-24T – Thermal guided for MiG-23ML/MLD/P variants
AL4023 UZR-23 – Captive training round – similar to the “blue” US/NATO missiles, this provides a seeker head and airframe to train pilots on the locking and launching of the specific missile type. Equipped with an inert rocket motor and warhead, and without the wings of the live rounds, they for training only. (Not available for photography for this article)
It is important to note which missiles are for which variant of the MiG-23 family. Currently Trumpeter has only released the “M” (Soviet) and “MF” (Export) versions of the MiG-23. Based on the tooling in the kit, and on what is available in 1:32 scale, we expect the ML, MLD and P variants before long, however as of this writing no specific release date for these variants has been announced.
The second point of reference for modelers, for the MiG-23M and MF variants, the aircraft could fly with only one type of missile. In other words it would fly with two R-23Rs OR two R-23Ts. Later variants were able to fly with one of each variant should mission parameters require that war load. In any case, outside of test cases/examples only, all MiG-23s flew with two of these medium range missiles only. So one pack of missiles is enough for one model. Unless the modeler is choosing to model a later type with a mixed load of one R-24R and one R-24T.
How Good Are They
It is clear that these, like so many of the latest resin accessories, are from computer generated masters. Each missile body is molded in one piece, which minimizes cleanup and assembly issues. Attachment points to the casting blocks are minimal which should facilitate easy clean-up. Casting quality is superb and is on-par with any mainstream resin manufacturer today. Casting is done in the now common gray resin, parts are bubble free, and the missile bodies, in these samples are largely straight with only slight (and very correctable) warpage. Detail is exceptional. The missiles are a MASSIVE improvement over what’s in the Trumpeter kit (the missiles in the older ESCI kit aren’t even worth calling that). These will make quite an upgrade!
These are provided without editorial for the modeler to make their own value judgment on whether these are important or not:
1) The anti-flutter weights on the R-23 missiles are very fine and on the one set that I have available for photography only two out of the eight anti-flutter weights stayed attached. Some of the broken bits are floating in the bottom of the blister pack, others are just gone. Regardless, it would be difficult to re-attach these at best. I would recommend that Plusmodel look at a different casting setup on the missiles in order to protect these fine bits. R-24 missiles DO NOT have the anti-flutter weights, and consequently, this is only meaningful to the R-23 missiles.
2) The aft end of the missiles are molded flat to the casting block, no exhaust section is included. Instructions ask the modeler to drill out the exhaust without any detail as to diameter or depth.
3) No stand of any kind is included. With the inclusion of the seeker and fuse covers, a diorama stand or similar would be a recommended product for Plusmodel to consider.
4) No extras are included for the smaller parts. If you lose a fin, it’s gone and your missile will be incomplete.
As Eduard have already produced R-23s (both R and T variants) in their Brassin line, the first question many modelers will ask: which set is better? Unfortunately it’s not a simple answer:
- In my Eduard/Brassin example of the R-23, seven out of eight anti-flutter weights are still attached. The Eduard anti-flutter weights are slightly larger and more out of scale though than the same detail on the Aeroline example.
- Eduard provides a photo-etched ring to detail the exhaust area. This is a step better than the Aeroline product.
- Eduard’s main wings feature rivet detail, where the Aeroline are smooth. Each style will appeal to different modelers.
- Eduard’s forward fins are resin and feature a cross section and beveling, where the Aeroline are flat and photo-etched.
- For the “T” Variants, Aeroline features the clear resin seeker head where Eduard’s are molded as part of the body and consequently opaque.
- Aeroline currently offers R-24 missiles where Eduard do not.
- Aeroline offers the captive/training round where Eduard do not.
With the onslaught of resin weapons upgrades that we have seen over the last three plus years, these missiles are up to the standard of anything else available. Each is a small model unto itself, but also represents a massive upgrade over any kit parts. Due to the smaller parts, and the clean-up required, these are recommended for modelers with experience in resin preparation and comfortable working with small parts.
We would like to see handling equipment made available to take advantage of the seeker and fuse cover options. But due to Eduard’s existing coverage of these missiles, perhaps Aeroline should turn their attention to missiles not yet covered by the more mainstream manufacturer – particularly the R-3/13 family and the R-8/98 family both are applicable to a wide variety of presently available models.
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