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Mike

Mig-31 BM/BSM Foxhound 1:48

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Mig-31 BM/BSM Foxhound
1:48 AvantGarde Model Kits (AMK)


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At the height of the Cold War, the West was terrified of the Mig-25 Foxbat, which was touted as a formidable aircraft that was capable of all manner of things, which was probably part propaganda on the Soviet's part, and part scare-mongering from those wishing to further fighter development in the West. As it turned out, the Foxbat was a big compromise, and was only really good in a straight line as an interceptor. A dog-fighter, it was not, and its handling at low level and low speed was also a little scary. In the mid-70s these failings led to a new requirement to replace the Mig-25 with a more capable airframe. It remained a closely guarded secret with much speculation surrounding it until the West eventually found out that it was in work, and promised to be the aircraft that the Foxbat wanted to be.

Elongated to accommodate the additional crew-member, the Foxhound shares a lot of design cues with its predecessor, and could be mistaken for one by the uninformed (or for an F-16 by the modern press!). it is at heart still an interceptor, but is also able to provide air defence cover when necessary, as well as its core interceptor role, which includes the look down/shoot down of aircraft and cruise missiles. The production went on until the mid-90s, and they are still in service with Russian and Kazakhstan forces, with a replacement still some years away.


The Kit
There has been quite a hubbub about this new tooling from relative newcomers AMK, who although they only have a few kits in their roster so far have come up with some lovely toolings and have many many more to grace their 2016 catalogue. It's an exciting time to be a modeller! AMK's ethos is to get it as close to the real thing as they can, which means that the gestation of the kit can sometimes be longer than originally anticipated when additional information comes to light. We've been following progress on Britmodeller for some months now, and now we have the kit in our hot hands. It arrives in a nicely appointed box with a picture (rather than a painting) of a Foxhound taking off on the front, and inside there are three smaller boxes to keep the upper fuselage, missiles and nose section safe from harm, with the rest of the sprues taking up the remaining space. There are fifteen sprues including the two fuselage halves in mid-grey styrene, plus another twelve one-piece sprues for the superb slide-moulded weapons load, a sizeable clear sprue, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) parts, two small white metal weights, and finally the instruction booklet with painting guide to the rear in full colour.

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Apart from the initial "ooh, that's big!" impression, the overall package is of a high standard, giving plenty of cues in the shape of the inner boxes, the re-sealable bags for each sprue, inclusion of weights, and the general level of high detail throughout the model. The instructions are also to a high standard, and the use of slide-moulding to manufacture parts such as the nose area in one piece is pretty impressive. Attention to detail is good, even to the extent that a separate canopy has been included to ease the way for those of us that prefer to pose our models with the canopies closed. The quality of moulding on the weapons is jaw-dropping, and even the moulding seams are minimal, with no evidence of mould-slip. My one tiny gripe is that there are some ejection pin marks that are in tricky places such as on components with cylindrical surfaces, and in the low areas of ribbed panels. Sadly, that's one of the unavoidable by-products of injection moulding, but with a little work, they can be rendered invisible.

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Breaking with tradition, the build starts with the engines! There are a pair of engine carcasses that fill up the internal space within the fuselage, but aren't really meant to be displayed open, just to act as place-holders for the detailed two-stage front face of the compressor, and the exhaust tube, which is made up from a number of cylindrical sections to avoid annoying filling of seams within the confines of the trunking. This slips inside the engine "tube" and both engines are set aside for a while as the intake trunks are built up. They are handed, and include the main gear bays in their make-up, starting with the main trunk that is split vertically, to which a top and bottom section are added toward the front, which has a more squared-off profile, transitioning to circular aft of the gear bays. A ribbing detail part and bay sidewall are added to the underside, and then various small equipment, bulkhead and actuator details are installed. Repeat this for the other intake, then activity begins on the lower fuselage, which also includes the fuselage sides of this slab-sided monster. An insert fits within the belly, a gun fairing is added on the starboard side, and weirdly the instructions tell you to add the bay doors at this stage, which I'd ignore because they just wouldn't survive to completion! Flipping over the lower fuselage allows the intake trunking and engine/exhaust tube to be installed, with the nose gear bay placed between the two forks of underside at the front, just in front of the moulded-in bulkhead through which the intakes pass.

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The upper fuselage included the inner wing panels, with separate outers added to the full-width lower wing part, which is inserted in the fuselage from below, hiding away the lattice of stiffeners that hold the wings to the correct angle. The lower wing panel also has ribs and stringers moulded into it to reduce flex of the wings, which seems to be a theme for the model, as they are also present inside both fuselage halves. The multi-part leading edge slats are fitted on their tabs in either raised or lowered poses by using different parts with appropriately shaped tabs, with the flaps on the trailing edge using the same method of positioning. A single wing fence is glued on the upper wing and covers almost the full chord of the wing at that point. The upper fuselage and wings are then added to the lower fuselage, and it starts to look like an aircraft.

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There's still quite a bit of length missing from the Foxhound at this point, as the nose and intake parts are still on the sprues. The cockpit is built up first though, with a nicely detailed tub, sidewalls, and control column added, and then slid inside the impressive single-part nose moulding. With it glued in place, the two coamings can be added, plus a choice of closed or deployed refuelling probe, with and without fairings, depending on which decal option you choose. The nose cone and complex probe on the tip are also glued in place, and set aside while the intakes are built up. They have inner and outer skins, with both sides ending up well-detailed, and during assembly on the fuselage, the drop-doors are added in the open or closed position. The nose is also installed, and this butts up against the moulded-in bulkhead, and it is held in the correct position by a couple of sturdy pegs with corresponding holes in the bulkhead.

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She's still not at full length, as the tail fin also has a chunk of fuselage moulded in. The fins have a separate insert on one side, as well as a poseable rudder, and the ventral strake that fits on a long tab so that it stays vertical. The elevators are single thickness at the trailing edge, but the "meat" of them are two-layers, using an insert that follows convenient panel lines to avoid sink-marks due to over-thick plastic. They attach to the two tail sections using a set of four T-shaped parts that are inserted from within the fuselage, but the instructions aren't particularly clear that you only use one of each of the tab-parts for level flight and the other for them deflected down. The drawings show both inserted even though there is only space for one, and there is no annotation to give you a clue when inserting the tabs. You should be able to work out what goes where pretty quickly once you have the parts in your hand however. Both tails are then added to their cut-outs in the rear of the fuselage, and a very nice exhaust added to each engine. Now she really looks like a Mig-31!

To get her sat on her own legs, you have the nose gear leg already installed during the nose gear bay construction, and the main wheels fit into substantial holes in the bay walls, with successive scrap diagrams showing their correct orientation. The horizontal portion is then added, along with some additional struts, after which you can add the wheels, with one on each end of the horizontal strut, each of which is made up from two tyre parts and two hubs. The tyres are well detailed, but would benefit from a rub with a sanding stick to give the impression of a bit of weight on them. The nose gear leg has two similar wheels, and is enclosed at the bag by a large mud-guard that clips to the axle ends.

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The cockpit is finished off by building up the two detailed K-36DM ejection seats, which are capable of turfing out the pilots safely either in flight or on the ground, which must be comforting for them! They are installed in the cockpit, and the modeller can choose whether to display them by leaving the canopies open, or button it all up to show off the 31's sleek lines. Either that, or you messed up the cockpit! AMK kindly provide a four-part canopy for the opened option, and a two-part canopy split at the windscreen to pose it closed. The mirror on the rear canopy can be posed up or down too by using the delicate plastic & PE parts supplied. The canopies in the up position have styrene inserts that fit within them and give a good representation of the interior detail that most manufacturers don't bother with. It's something that I would like to see become a trend, as a smooth glossy canopy interior isn't very realistic – good work guys!

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The Foxhound is able to carry quite a heap of weapons, and its under fuselage is recessed specifically to carry four R-33 missiles in a semi-recessed manner. There are four in the box, and they are moulded as one main part using a sliding mould to get detail on all sides, with additional parts to improve the detail even further. They end up to almost the same level of detail as you'd expect from resin. The missiles fit on short pylons & the tips of their upper fins fold over so they can snuggle down under the fuselage better. There are also two pylons under each wing, and you have the choice of R-73 or R-77 missiles, which again you get four each of. Check your references to get a realistic war-load or training load, as the weapons diagram shows that all wing pylons are capable of carrying either missile.


Markings
There are four markings options in the box, but grey is the only colour, having only their numbers and a few pennants to differentiate. It's a good job the airframe itself cuts quite a dash, as the colour schemes don't, but that's modern camouflage for you! From the box you can build one of the following:

  • Mig-31BM Red 34, Ivan Pilipenko, Russian Air Force
  • Mig-31BM Blue 93, Russian Air Force, Moscow Zhukovsky (Ramenskoye), 2009
  • Mig-31BM Blue 93, Russian Air Force, Moscow Zhukovsky (Ramenskoye), 2013
  • Mig-31BSM Red 25, Russian Air Force, Akhtubinsk Air Base, 2014

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There are two decals sheets included in the box, one of which consists entirely of stencils for the airframe and missiles. It's no wonder then that the stencils are dealt with over four pages, which the decal designers have sensibly placed together on the sheet to save you playing hunt-the-decal too much. There are also written headings to show the theme of each area of the sheet, so you shouldn't go too far astray. The national markings and additional decals are printed on the other smaller sheet, and both sheets have good register, colour density and sharpness, with a thin, glossy carrier film cropped reasonably closely to the printing.


Conclusion
Wow! The aircraft itself is superb to look at, and the model is very well detailed, well-engineered and inspires enthusiasm from the moment you open the box. I'll be building this over the next few weeks and you're welcome to stop by to egg me on with words of encouragement here.

Extremely highly recommended.

Available any minute now from all good model shops & online retailers.

Review sample courtesy of
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Superb review Mike of a superb kit, looks to good to build! Congrats AMK.

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That looks really rather spiffing!

It does rather!

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It just looks incredible on the sprue,the attention to detail and moulding quality is exquisite.I will be following your build with interest Mike.

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Looks superb thanks for the review Mike I will be following your build :popcorn:

Guy

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Great review Mike. Looks like a home run of a kit with a slam dunk at the end.

One thing that couldn't see in the pics, are there any decals or such for the instrument dials?

Would be great to have individual instrument dials as decals to go with those great looking instrument panels.

/Johan

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Thanks for sharing this review. What a big plane it is, so will the model be! I will be following your WIP too. Not sure if I'm gonna buy a Mig-31 but the quality of the sprues and by the looks of it I will definately get an AMK-kit at some point.

Cheers, Evert

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It has, and I've just been spraying a bit of primer too ;)

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Thanks for the build-up log. I'm bracing myself for the MiG-31B/BS boxing (announced for early 2016), but besides weapon pylons, missiles, the cockpit and such, it should be pretty much the same kit.

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That looks the bees knees , I have one on order cant wait to start - bench is cleared ready!

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It's the first kit I've ever built that has made me smile a lot. Everything goes together so nicely that you catch yourself beaming quietly at your desk :blush:

The build is going really fast too :)

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looks stunning what is the RRP here in UK

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Thanks for review Mike! No words! That's wonderful! Best models no ever seen! Very precise detailing! :thumbsup2::thumbsup2::thumbsup2: AMK forever! :speak_cool:

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I don't build jets, I don't build jets, I don't build jets....oh b*99*r. Dear Santa I have been a REALLY good boy this year and I only really want one present this Christmas.....

DC

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Santa's going to be getting a lot of requests on this one... I'm feeling like I really should have another one too. :hmmm: If you've not yet seen how easy it goes together, check out my build thread here and then you'll definitely want one! :lol:

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