Revell-Germany's 1/48 Dassault Rafale M
Revell-Germany's brand new tool Rafale M comes on four medium grey and one clear sprue. Tooling is completely modern state of the art and the result is a very nicely detailed and delicate model of one of today's major players in the fighter arena.
The Rafale is largely a result of France's insistance on a fighter tailored to meet her requirements with no concessions to other countries; that they have achieved this completely on their own is a testament to their ability to produce exactly what they want in these days of collaborative projects, though it is likely to be the last combat aircraft ever built in Europe by a lone country. That the aircraft is oozing Gallic flair and is the best looking of the new generation jets is just a bonus in my opinion!
Building The Kit
The way in which Revell have tooled this model makes it obvious that there are other variants to come, and the price the modeller pays for this is in the way the fuselage is broken down, with inserts needed both for the single seater spine and the nosewheel bay (naval Rafales have a bigger nosewheel with catapault launch bar). Fortunately, with a bit of care and some gentle trimming, these parts can be made to fit very well, with the nosewheel insert needing just a light sanding and the merest dab of filler for a flush finish. The spine insert is best held in place and glued from the inside to avoid marring the beautiful detail surrounding the spine on the fuselage. When dry my example had a very small gap on the starboard side, and to deal with this I applied tape to the surrounding detail and filled it with a bead of superfine white milliput first pushed into the gap and then wiped over with a wet paper towel to remove the excess, then the tape was removed. A very light rubbing over with steel wool when dry and this operation was done.
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Revell supply a very nice interior with the model, representing the fully ergonomic cockpit of the Rafale very well. The interior is a shallow bathtub due to the heavily reclined seat (some 29 degrees) and has a sidestick and throttle set up rather like the F-16. The instrument panel is moulded in clear , so masking the MFD's and painting them from behind before painting the rest of the panel should make it look very nice indeed. Unusually for a modern fighter, the Rafales cockpit is black rather than the more normal mid grey. To paint my interior I first masked the instrument panel and then decanted some Halfords black paint into an airbrush cup, to which I added some Humbrol white to tone the black down and shot it through my Badger 200. When this was dry the tub was drybrushed with various colurs to pop out the detail. It is difficult to get a really "busy" looking cockpit in an aircraft like the Rafale because the cockpit is so well designed and totally clutter free that it can verge on the sterile! The ejection seat (a Martin Baker Mk-16) is a five piece affair with very nice detail (especially the back insert), but I was unconvinced of the shape of the headbox, since a look at photos showed a more conventional headbox than the one in the kit, which is an odd shape and tilted forward. That said, although difficult to tell properly, some shots I looked at of M-02 showed a different shaped headbox than normal, a case for some research I think (I will settle for the kit seat for now with some detailing and not glue it in place tightly in case more evidence and/or a good aftermarket seat shows up)
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Along with the interior, the kit requires the main (and very nicely detailed) wheel bay to be glued in place on the lower fuselage. Before doing this I sprayed the main and nose bays with SNJ metal; detailing would be done with enamels and washes later. Both the Undercarriage bay and interior, once assembled, have very positive locations in the fuselage. It was simply a matter of holding these in place with finger pressure and running a bead of superglue around the location points for a solid "going nowhere" assembly.
With these parts in place you can now assemble the fuselage halves (The instruction would have you trap the canards between the halves before assembly. . . . but none of us would do that right?) They would be painted and positioned at the end of assembly. Due to the complexity of the mould some care is needed to get a good join between the halves of the fuselage. I did this in several stages, firstly the rear fuselage was taped together, aligned and carefuly glued. This was allowed to set for an hour or so before a similar job was done on the forward fuselage. Although quite some hauling about was needed with masking tape to get the join together, once in place everything clicked together very nicely and join clean up was minimal- mainly just a light sanding with the odd drop of superglue to fill some tiny gaps and then a restoration of panel lines with a needle and straight edge.
One thing to be careful of is the forward fuselage light which sits right on the edge of the chine, meaning you get half on one fuselage piece and half on the other; take care to line this detail up as if it is misaligned the only alternative I can see is to remove it altogether and restore however you see fit. I also managed to knock off a bit of the starboard rear fuselage corner, but this was easily remedied with repeated applications of superglue and some light sanding.
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With the fuselage together the intakes can be added. These are a complex shape and will need fiddling and trimming to get the best fit. The best method I found was to remove the locating rim at the rear of the intake and then trim the boundary layer splitters to get a good fit on the bottom. This will result in a fairly messy join at the top that will need some filling and attention, but is not too critical as the canard covers most of it. . I used some .010 plastic card and acryl blue to blend these areas in. One shame is that there is no intake trunking supplied, which gives a see through effect. This leaves you with a few options: live with it (my route!), build an intake trunking (complex shape, looks difficult, maybe a job for Seamless Suckers?) or make some intake FOD covers (I may yet do this). This is one of the few disappointments with this model for me, but I do regard as a minor niggle rather than a major hassle (easily pleased I guess).
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The wings and vertical tail were next on the agenda. The wings are unusual in that the entire flap and slat arrangement is moulded in with the lower wing rather than the more usual upper side. This means that care is needed as any sloppy assembly work here will stick out like a sore thumb. Fortunately the fit of the wing halves is very precise indeed, the only proviso being to make sure you don't overdo it with the cement, as any melted plastic/cement oozing out of the flap/slat lines would be very ugly and difficult to make good. As long as you take heed of this aspect of assembly the finished result is excellent. There are leading edge lights in each wing, and for these I first painted the recess black before supergluing and blending the clear portions in place, later to be polished and masked before painting. Fit of wings to fuselage is generally good, mine needed a little trimming and test fitting before gently gluing in place with liquid cement. Once they were in place reasonably securely I ran superglue into the joints to get a good bond. As the wings are belended into the fuselage much like an F-16's; some filling was still needed, and for this I used Milliput superfine white, having first masked off adjacent detail to prevent it being filled. As the line of filler was very fine only a little sanding and polishing was needed for a good join.
The beautifuly rakish vertical fin is in two parts and there really is not a lot to say here, the fit is good and when I came to add it to the fuselage I first glued the rear portion with its fairing, let this set and then held the forward portion in place whilst running some plastic weld along the joint. This part needed just a polish up with steel wool when dry to blend in very nicely.
With all these parts of the model together and blended to my satisfaction, I could begin to think about the final finish, and it is here that things get really interesting! The model includes decals for two aircraft, prototype M-02 and a hypothetical Flotille 12F aircraft. I had already decided to model M-02 to try to achieve the incredibly subtle disruptive pattern on top. The cockpit and wheel wells were masked off with tissue and maskol and the nose cone and tip of the tail were sprayed Humbrol 127 (36375) and masked off with tape. The small exhaust at the base of the tail was sprayed with SNJ aluminium mixed with a bit of black and orange to get a burnt steel effect, and whilst this was in the airbrush the exhaust petals were sprayed too. I misted coats of this colour over the exhausts, adding more and more black to the mixture and misting again until I got the result I was after. In some pictures, the small converter ring between the exhaust and fuselage appears to be black and this was sprayed with satin black mixed with a little SNJ to get a metallic black effect.
With these parts masked off the overall scheme could be applied. For the base colour I used Humbrol 128 (36320) though I have since decided that 36270 is probably nearer the colour. The disruptive pattern was applied with Extracolor 36251 applied freehand. With the pattern in place I removed the masking from the nose cone and this received a misting of 36251 as well to darken it a bit. All colours were thinned with artists turpentine; this makes the paint flow beautifully and goes on silky smooth unlike most thinners I have tried.
After the camouflage had been applied, the contrast was subtle but still too much, so some blending was in order. All the markings painted on M-02 seem washed out, and so before I blended any I applied all the painted markings on the decal sheet. This needs to be looked at carefuly, as markings such as stencils and the like are usually some form of self adhesive and so look quite stark against the camouflage. Therefore all basic markings like national insignia and prototype markings were applied with Johnsons Klear and allowed to dry. Markings not applied at this point included all stencils, the slime lights and the patch on the starboard side of the nose to mark the aircraft's deployment to the carrier "Foch." When these were dry, the model was lightly oversprayed with very heavily thinned Humbrol 126 (36270) to blend everything in, and then the rest of the decals applied. With all decals in place a few more coats of Klear were applied and then we were on the home straight.
The second prototype managed to get a fairly well used look soon into the test programme; not tatty exactly but "busy," and I decided to try and replicate this as best I could. To highlight all the panel lines I mixed some black and white oil paint together to make a medium grey (in retrospect I wish I'd made it a bit paler than it was) and rather than thin this as a wash I decided to just paint it directly into the lines and then wipe away the excess with kitchen towel. Although in the early stages the model looks a real mess, continued use of fresh kitchen towel to polish and scrub the excess oil paint away followed by a final wipe over with a very lightly moistened piece renders a great looking result- just work carefully and a section at a time. This was given a day or so to dry, then some streaks and the like were added with raw umber oil paint - just place a small dot of it where you want the streak to start and then wipe in the direction of airflow with a paper towel or (in my case!) a finger. Keep in mind that with this kind of weathering less is more, you can always add a bit more if needed right up until the final varnishing. Due to the protective acrylic coat and the oil paint's slow drying time, any major mistakes were easily removed with towel moistened with thinners.
Final varnishing was carried out with standard Humbrol varnishes- a mixture of clear 35 and matt 49 to kill the dead flat appearance of #49 on its own. These varnishes are the original yellow kind; however I decided to go with them for several reasons: these included the fact that there is no white on this model to be discoloured by the varnish, the varnish coats would be so thin that there would hopefuly be minimal chance for yellowing anyway, and because I have always found these varnishes to be 100%, totally predictable in every way, something I have never found of any of the acrylic varnishes or super clear oil based varnishes such as Humbrol matt/gloss cote. I could spray these confident in the finish I was going to get - there was no gambling involved. Two thin coats were sprayed on- the first coat was polished with Kitchen Towel ( I find that Safeway value brand is very slightly abrasive and perfect for polishing paint!)and the second was heavily thinned and misted on a day later. The final finish was exactly what I wanted: basically matt but with a very slight sheen.
With the model now basically complete and painted, final assembly could commence. The undercarriage (especially the nose) is a real work of art, and repays careful seam removal and assembly handsomely. All U/C legs and wheels were painted with SNJ and then washed with black oil. The oil paint made the SNJ craze and blister a little, but luckily it settled back down on drying and you'd never know. . . but not a risk I'll be taking in future! Tyres were painted dark grey and then the U/C assemblies added to the aircraft. Go steady and follow the instructions, and adding the U/C is trouble free with all parts clicking into place nicely. Finally she stood on her own!
With the U/C in place next was the armament fit. All three tanks had been assembled and painted along with the rest of the aircraft and these were now added, along with Mica active radar homing and two Magic2 IR missiles. . this plane is loaded for bear! Missiles had been painted 36375 with, in the case of the Mica's off-white noses. The Magics have clear noses provided seperately in the model, these were simply overpainted with the main colour, and after varnishing some worn wet-n-dry was used to sand through the paint to the clear plastic and a dab of Klear applied to render a shiny lens; easier than trying to mask it I thought. All the missiles have stencil detail provided on the decal sheet and look great when finished. There are a few aerials to add, and also there are four little blades forming a kind of "moustache" around the Rafale's lower nose that aren't provided in the kit. I presume these are AOA/yaw sensors (the Typhoon has a similar set-up); whatever their purpose, it was but a few minutes work to add them from .010 plastic card.
The seat and HUD were added to the cockpit (with the HUD tinted clear green). I added a few details to the seat head-box with tape to hide the seam, but other than this it looks pretty good when painted carefuly. Finally the canopy was ready; there are internal details to be added to this, so be careful with the glue. The canopy needs tinting, and whilst it is supposedly a gold tint in many pics it looks more like smoke, and this is what I used. Unfortunately, I seem to have run out of clear smoke paint and so was forced to try another idea. I added some Tamiya gloss black to Johnsons Klear and painted that on with a wide flat brush in several coats. The result wasn't perfect but not bad either for a spur of the moment brainwave!
And there she was. . finished. This model represents in my opinion a new high for Revell-Germany's toolmaking skills, and can be very highly recommended to all as a beautifully-engineered model of a thoroughly beautiful aeroplane. Roll on the twin seater and the Air Force C!
Thanks go to Hannants for providing the review sample.
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