Building ICM's 1/48 MiG-3 with PART PE

By Kelly Jamison

Background

The MiG-3 was a design correction to the MiG-1, the first aircraft out of the new Mikoyan & Guryevich (MiG) Design Bureau (OKB). The MiG-1 was the fastest fighter of its day with a top speed of nearly 400 MPH and powered by the 1,350 hp AM-35A. Unfortunately, its short tail section caused longitudinal stability problems that made the MiG-1 unsuitable for use by any but the most experienced pilots. The MiG-3 corrected this deficiency, as well as a few other 'bugs' uncovered during early testing.

The MiG-3 was an outstanding interceptor and fighter above 16,000 feet, as a number of Bf109 pilots discovered. Below 16,000 feet, however, the MiG-3 was better categorized as a 'target'. Nevertheless, the MiG-3 was employed in its element very effectively, and as AM-38 engines became available (a powerful low-altitude engine that powered the Il-2 Shturmovik), many MiG-3s were re-engined to tackle the low-altitude threats as well.

The Kit

My first complaint about this kit is the box. ICM makes a really flimsy box that cannot stand the rigors of shelf wear much less packing, shipping and moving. It gets its strength when it is wrapped in plastic at the factory but once the wrap has been broken the box offers very little protection.

My second complaint has nothing to do with the kit it has to do with available research on this plane. I thought late war Luftwaffe was bad! The excellent and highly recommended website Modeling the Aircraft of the Soviet Voyenno-Vozdushne Sily (VVS) 1930-1945, calls for a confusing (not on their part) array of color combinations depending what year and where the plane was made. From 1939 to 1941 common interior finishes consist of two main types. On wood parts a color called Wood-Use Aerolak is used. On aircraft built in the Moscow area this was used on metal parts as well. It is a light blue-gray color. The other color used on interiors is a Industrial Blue-green called Metal-Use Primer. There are no sure FS or RLM color matches for these colors. Inconsistencies from different regions and different factories let you off the hook for exact color match. Give it your best shot and weather it to your taste and you will be as accurate as the experts. A close approximation is Wood-Use Aerolak: FS 26320 + FS 26176 and Metal-Use Primer FS 34664 or 34670 or 35622 or 34350 with white and gray mixed in. Now you understand why a good guess will be just fine.

Construction

Like most models I started in the cockpit area. The kit instructions call for Humbrol 64 Matt Light Gray which I did not have access to, so I went with Testors Acryl Model Masters RLM 65 with a touch of gray and green added. I will be using some of Part's very nice set of photo-etched fret MiG-3 # S48-061 made for the ICM kit. I clipped all the cockpit parts off the main fret and got them ready for painting. They are very well laid out and you don't have to hunt down each part on different frets.

I have been working with a re-discovered material called "U-Kneed-It. It is a rust colored putty material that holds things in place much like Blu-Tac but it leaves absolutely no residue on your project. It is very good for making those tight camouflage patterns the British loved so much. I use it like reusable solder to make jigs or to place parts on the end of a paintbrush for fine detailing.

My first step was to use the stock rudder pedals and superglue new photo-etched footpads with straps onto them. That assembly got glued to the kit floor, which received new footpads and a small center inspection hatch on the floorboard. On the left side of the cockpit framing there is an accessories junction box that needs to be sanded smooth and replaced with the clear film dial sheet and painted photoetched panel. Make sure to paint the back of the instrument panels white so the gauge faces show up clearly.

I went to a website called Arsenal Drawing Download and got the scale drawings for this kit so I would have reference for the interior. It is an all-Russian site but you can figure your way around it easily enough. I scratchbuilt some pieces to those plans and assembled the office accordingly. Everything got a coat of the RLM 65 concoction and was superglued into place. The latter-box type construction of the cockpit tub is a little awkward to glue into the fuselage halves but looks terrific once in place.

I discovered during dry fitting the fuselage halves that there is a bit of plastic on the left fuselage half at the tail that needed to be trimmed off before it will fit right. My kit had badly warped forward portions of the fuselage. Without the forward upper and lower cowling to give rigidity to the halves, the front end twisted and the forward cowlings will not fit right. I superglued the cockpit structure to the left fuselage half and test fitted the two fuselage halves again, then slowly glued the two fuselage halves together. I decided not to glue the exhaust stacks on until after the plane was painted. I would leave off the lower engine cowling to give me access to the exhaust ports.

Next came the main engine upper cowl and the machine gun cowl. They fit poorly and needed some work before being glued into place. The windscreen, which acts as the far aft section of the engine cowl, was dipped in Future to stop any fogging from superglue. It was then superglued into place then sanded smooth. It will be polished and masked before painting.

Now for the wings. They are a nine-piece affair that needs lots of test fitting and fine-tuning before they all fit right. The best way of assembling the wings is to glue the upper halves to the lower halves then fit the center section to the two wing panels. On the left wing is a space for the landing light lens. Its fit was not the best so I superglued it down and sanded it with progressive grits of sand paper until I polished it out with a soft cloth. It got a layer of masking tape on it for protection. There are some complicated forward wing root pieces that complete the inboard leading edges. Again take your time in fitting these pieces. It is a bit of a three-dimensional puzzle but all the pieces go together. I don't know how worried I am about the exact fit of these pieces. If you ever get a close look at a Russian aircraft you will notice that the fit of the engine cowls and the wing panels are not that precise.

I was impressed with how thin the engine radiator cowling was molded. I added some micromesh on both sides of the cooler and painted the interior black. It fitted to the bottom center wing section with no problem. Once I let the wing dry overnight I glued it to the fuselage. It was a tight fit that took a lot of tweaking to get right. I used superthin Superglue to glue down one section at a time. The whole thing was put away while I worked on the large sinkholes on the backside of the prop. It is a three bladed prop molded as one piece.

The next day I filled in all the areas at the base of the wing root and at small blemishes on the wing and fuselage. The ailerons are molded separate and overdone in its modeling of the fabric surfaces. I sanded these down smooth and while I was at it I did the elevators and rudder. I glued the ailerons in a slight right hand roll position and put the rudder in a very slight right hand turn. I had placed the rudder pedals and control stick to reflect this earlier in the construction.

Painting

I prepped the plane for painting by masking over the canopy glass and cockpit areas. Lots of detail and cleanup work is needed. Smoothing and blending of almost every surface is required. The first thing to go on was the SNJ Metal on the nose. I let it dry for about a day then moved on to the white of the fuselage, inside wing roots and tail. I used Polly S RLM 21 White thinned with alcohol.

Next came the light blue bottom of the plane. I used a lightened version of Testors Acryl RLM 65. I taped the camouflage lines along the side of the fuselage and towards the nose. It is a sharp color separation between these colors according to the pictures and instructions.

Now the most distinctive part of this paint job, the top of the wings painted red. I used Badger Flex Insignia Red being very careful to mask along the wing splice. I didn't put the leading edge slats on yet in order to be able to paint the area below them on the wings. I decided to paint them while they were still on the tree. This later proved to be a bad idea because the things still had to be cut off and that ruined the paint that caused me to break out the airbrush for the 100th time. After I shot the red, the model got another coat of Future. It dried the rest of the afternoon. I gave it a very light wash of black color to highlight some of the surface details.

Decals

The decals are very thin and would not look too good on a dark green or multi-color camouflage. But on the white surface they looked great and snuggled down with a drop of Solva-set. They are standard red stars so you should have no problems if you wanted to replace them with something from your decal dungeon.

Final Touches

The landing gear glues to a yoke type piece that sits in the wheel well with no real discernible place to stick them. You have to see how the parts fit together and the instructions do not help much. I cleaned up the struts and linkage. The shock struts are covered with leather boots so you do not have to worry about that. I just painted the leather boot area with Testors Acryl Rust and washed it in a thinned black to show the creases in the leather.

The wheels seem soft in their molding and should be replaced. I would bet that a Lavotchkin La-5 or some other Yak sub-type has the same type of wheel. True Details makes a set (#48097) that should work just fine. I put some brake lines and detailed out the strut linkage.

Next came the tail wheel. It looks toy-like and is molded as a single piece. I would probably look for a replacement or build my own. The tail wheel doors are very thickly molded but look right when glued into place. The spinner fit is tight against the aft body of the prop and the propeller sandwiched well between these two pieces. I painted the spinner the same color red as the wings and the prop got a layer of SNJ silver. Once that had dried I masked off about the last third of the backside of the prop as seen in Osprey's Soviet Aces of World War II page 14 and painted the rest of the prop Testors Model Masters Acryl Aircraft Interior Black.

The canopy comes in a three-piece unit that you must put the windscreen on first. It also makes up part of the aft engine cowling s discussed earlier in this article. The aft glass section should be glued into place and sanded down to match the fuselage. (Something I did not do and regret) The main canopy section is not too bad once you clean it up and dip it a few times into Future. I am still not sure if it slides back or hinges to the right. I have seen it both ways and I have even seen it removed altogether so there is an option there also, but I think that is for the summer versions only. I masked it all off and sprayed it the light blue concoction that the cockpit interior got then sprayed a coat of white and lastly a coat of Testors Acryl Flat Clear.

I shot the whole model including the aluminum front cowl with the Flat clear. I painted the wing tip lights and coated them in Future to give them a glassy look.

The gun sight was a bit of a pain to fit into the cockpit but with a few choice words and sticking your tongue out right, it will set in just right. I painted the cross bar the gun sight sits on my interior blue mix that I made up from earlier in the construction and the gunsight I painted black making sure not to paint over the reflective lens.

Last step was to put on the antenna mast and string the antenna wire from it to the tail and back to a point on the right side of the cockpit near the back of the windscreen. The pitot tube on the right side of the lower wing is a bit suspect. It is square in shape and warped so I had to straighten it out. I might replace it at a later date.

Conclusions

The kit had some very frustrating fit problems and I lost interest a few times but I like the end result and it does make a very good addition to the steadily growing VVS collection I am acquiring.

I recommend this kit to someone who is used to ICM and limited run kit building but it is not for the beginner. The only real gotchas are the complicated wing root to fuselage and engine not fitting within the cowl.


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