by: Paul Cotcher [ ]
The IAI Kfir
The Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) Kfir was the product of a French arms embargo that ended the sale of the Mirage 5J to Israel. This new Mirage was the product of extensive input to Dassault from their Israeli customers who were looking for a bomber version of their mainstay Mirage IIICJ. Shortly after the embargo the IAI Neshar was developed, an unlicensed copy of the Mirage 5J developed from plans stolen by Israeli spies. The Kfir was subsequently developed from the need for an improved Neshar. The GE J79 engine was selected - in no small part due to the license to produce the Israelis had purchased as well as the commonality to the engine being used in IAF F-4 Phantoms. The Kfir first flew in 1975. It saw first combat in 1977, and drew its one and only air-to-air kill in 1979 downing a Syrian MiG-21MF. As the US types, particularly the F-15, moved into Air Superiority roles, the Kfir was relegated to bombing duties. As a result the Kfir C.7 became the standard in the early 1980s seeing new builds as well as upgrades to the existing C.2 airframes. The Kfir was withdrawn from frontline IAF service during the later half of the 1990s after over 20 years of service. The Kfir did see export to Columbia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka. Exports were limited because of the use of the J79 engine, and the need for US State Department approval of the sale.
Prior to 2013 modelers were required to either build the massively inaccurate ESCI 1:48 Kfir, or undertake a conversion to one of the many Mirage III kits available. These conversions, while accurate, were expensive, and often, difficult to execute. 2013 saw the release of not only this kit but also the Kinetic Kfir relegating older Kfir projects to shelves of doom everywhere.
This is the inaugural release from AvantGarde Model Kits (hereafter referred to as AMK). Tooling is VERY crisp for an opening release. One of the interesting observations over the last few years has been to watch the Chinese modeling companies evolve, where you typically see each new release improve over the previous. With that in mind, what you find in this box should give modelers great hope! Parts are presented in standard gray polystyrene plastic. Finish of the parts is very smooth and with a nice polished appearance. In checking through the parts there was negligible flash and pin marks were obviously carefully thought out in placement, as unlike many kits, there aren't large pin marks in the detail of a two-sided part (such as a landing gear door). Panel lines are engraved. The engraving is crisp and even if a little on the heavy side - when compared to the current state of the art in tooling. One curious thing seems to have been the designer's use of rivet detail for the kit. Clearly the molds supported rivet detail as most, if not all of the access panel detail had fastener detail in the form of "sunken" rivets. However, this was the extent of the rivet detail in the kit, so the result is, it looks a little funny (again, when compared with the state of the art). I'm sure it's something they'll get a better feel for as they produce more and more kits. Perhaps it is a design feature that is a result of the push back against the "mad riveter" sort of design that we have seen far too commonly, particularly in earlier Chinese kits. I wouldn't want to see masses of rivets added, but perhaps appropriate rows along panel lines and similar. Overall it is a very favorable first impression opening the box.
The kit contains a handful over 250 parts molded in gray PS plastic (one tree of clear parts). A large portion of the parts count is accounted for by the weapons (nearly 100).
A: Fuselage Halves
B: Lower Wings
C: Landing gear struts, doors, main weapon pylons, cockpit details, exhaust nozzle.
D: Upper Wings and Kfir C.2/C.7 Specific Parts (this is important)
E (two included): Afterburner, wheels, additional pylons, sway braces
F (two included): Under-wing drop tank and pylon
G: MB Mk.6 Ejection Seat
H: MB Mk.10 Ejection Seat
J: Clear Parts
V (two included): Laser Guided Bombs
X (two included): Python 3 Missile
Y (two included): Mk. 82 Bombs, Multiple Ejector Rack
Building the Kfir
Construction of this Kfir follows fairly standard convention. As has been typical of my other reviews, I'll provide some commentary on alternate possibilities. The instructions provided take the form of a nicely printed sixteen page booklet. Illustrations are clear, particularly where the differences in variants are concerned.
Step One: Build the cockpit - two different instrument panels are included for the differences between the C.2 and C.7 versions. Sidewall details are molded to the fuselage halves.
Step Two: Build the nose wheel well - these parts are added to the cockpit sub-assembly.
Step Three: Assemble the fuselage halves - the cockpit/nose well sub-assembly is trapped between the main fuselage halves. Before doing this, I would add the nose halves (assembled in step 13) to each fuselage half to minimize the seam work.
Step Four: Build the main landing gear wells and add them to the lower wings.
Step Five: Add the upper wing halves to the lower wing assembly.
Step Six: Whoops editing error - there is no step six!
Step Seven: Add the wing assembly to the fuselage assembly. The intake splitters are added at this point as well.
Step Eight: Outer intakes and canards. The airframe is largely complete at this stage. There are NO intake trunks provided with the kit, but given the small nature of the intake openings with the shock cone inside, it would be difficult, if impossible, to see to the back of the intake trunk.
Step Nine: Add upper fuselage details. Scoops and similar details are added at this point.
Authors note - I would finish the airframe details at this point (parts of step 10, 11, 12 and 16) as well as the nose (step 13) and then paint the model before proceeding.
Step Ten: Attach the main landing gear doors - these are curiously added before the main struts are added.
Step Eleven: Main landing gear - the remainder of the main landing gear parts are added (I'd swap steps ten and eleven).
Step Twelve: Nose landing gear - the nose gear parts are added as well as a number of under fuselage scoops and vents - these are parts I would add prior to painting.
Step Thirteen: Attaching the nose. As noted, I'd move this all the way back to step three. I'd add the nose halves (D7 and D19) to the fuselage halves. Then after the overall fuselage halves were assembled, I'd finish the other parts for step 13. Here is where you need to decide if you're building a Kfir C.2 or C.7 as the Pave Penny pod is added at this point.
Step Fourteen: Build the burner can and exhaust.
Step Fifteen: Add the burner can and exhaust to the airframe. Conveniently, this assembly can be added to the already assembled and painted airframe. Save this step for final assembly.
Step Sixteen: Exterior details are added. Note that pylons added at this point are for the C.2 ONLY!
Step Seventeen: build the C.2 ejection seat. Instructions for adding the closed canopy are shown.
Step Eighteen: build the C.7 ejection seat. Instructions for adding the OPEN canopy are shown.
Obviously only one of the two steps will be required. It is worth noting that the ejection seats are each nicely detailed, multiple part affairs lacking on in belt details.
Step Nineteen: Build the various weapons and pylon sub-assemblies. Pythons and the Napgach MER rack are shown.
Step Twenty: Weapons part two. Griffen and GBU-12 LGBs, main drop tanks.
Step Twenty One: Weapons painting and markings
Step Twenty Two: Weapons placement diagram for C.2
Step Twenty Three: Weapons placement diagram for C.7
Note: these are not the only configurations possible for each variant, but rather a suggestion given what's included in the kit.
The instructions conclude with the markings and paintings diagrams.
Colors and Markings
Two markings possibiliies are included in the kit:
Kfir C2 #874, First Fighters Squadron 1979 - This aircraft is in the two-tone gray air-superiority scheme. This is the aircraft, as previously mentioned, that shot down the Syrian MiG-21. Markings include a Syrian roundel "kill mark."
Kfir C7 #555, Arava Guardians Squadron, 1990 - This aircraft is in the well known three-tone Israeli camouflage scheme.
It is worth noting that full stencil details are included in the decal set.
We can hope that the layout of the sprues hold some signs to the future of the Kfir and Mirage family from AMK! As noted above Sprue D contains not only the later Kfir specific wings with the dog tooth leading edge, but also the Kfir nose, later canards and under fuselage fairing. Given that the wing leading edge is entirely molded to the upper wing, it would be somewhat simple for AMK to swap out the upper wings for those without the dog tooth and release a Kfir C.1 / F-21. With this mod, a fuselage with an adjusted back end (for the French Atar motor) could be added and you'd basically have the Mirage IIIE/V/50 family started. So we can hope this points to some forward thinking on the part of AMK as to what's left to come from this base tooling.
A look in the box gives a very favorable impression of what this kit holds in store. That said, it's even more important as to how the kit builds and what the finished product looks like. One of my good modeling friends had started the Kinetic Kfir kit prior to the release of this model. He abandoned the Kinetic kit in process and built this kit in very short order and speaks very highly of the build. That speaks volumes as to the quality of the kit, and should give you cause for thought if you were to embark on deciding whether the Kinetic or AMK Kfir was right for you!
Note the price listed is based on the current order price from a Hong Kong based supplier. AMK is aware of the distribution issues for their kits and are working on getting dedicated distribution channels setup in each country. Stay tuned for improved availability (but could come with a price change).