Italeri 1/72 Kfir
Model, Text and Photos by: Mike O'Hare
Italeri's 1/72 Kfir is a fairly typical Italeri kit. Somewhat wide, somewhat soft recessed panel lines, minimal detail throughout, with a non-existent cockpit, and a decent fit overall. It will benefit from any additional detailing, however you can still make a decent replica straight from the box. I'd originally intended to build the kit as out of box as possible, but I just sort of kept fixing things. It's really not "superdetailed" or even "accurized", more just a mish-mash of detailed and not.
Construction starts, as always, with the cockpit. My biggest complaint with Italeri's 1/72 kits is that, while there's rarely any cockpit detailing, you don't even get so much as a decal for the instrument panel and sidewalls (or at least not anything useable). I don't really mind decals for 1/72 cockpits - they can look quite convincing - but it's aggravating to have nothing but a couple of bare panels.
Rant over. The Kfir's cockpit is black, so mine was painted with a dark grey to allow for shading and contrast - black would just be too dark. Sidewalls and instrument panel were gloss coated, and some spare Hasegawa cockpit decals used, most likely out of a Phantom kit. I added a rudimentary throttle from a section of stretched sprue, cut in half, then shaped to look roughly similar to the Kfir's throttle base. On top of this was mounted a carved scrap of styrene as the throttle proper. I tossed the (ugly) kit seat, substituting it with a spare out of a Hasegawa Phantom, complete with tape and lead foil seat belts, and copper wire ejection handle. There are many options for a resin replacement, but I decided to try my hand adding the detail myself.
The seat is really about the only thing you will be able to see in the cockpit, so it's definitely worth spending some time to replace. Unfortunately, it'll take a bit of work to shoe-horn in, as the kit tub seems a bit shallow and narrow, and the canopy is fairly thick - my seat's seat more or less rests on the floor. That said, the clear parts don't fit well to begin with, so it's easy to "cheat" and pose the canopy slightly open, as I did.
After that, it's on to the fuselage. You'll probably want to snip off the pitot probe as soon as possible and put it somewhere safe. I've now made it a habit to re-scribe all my Italeri kits with a straight pin chucked in a pin vice. It deepens and sharpens them, greatly improving their appearance. Fuselage construction is pretty straightforward, though there's a pesky seam where the fin meets the fuselage. There is also a tricky seam under the fuselage, where the fuselage, intakes and lower wing join, endemic to the type. The wings fit quite well otherwise, but the main landing gear wells are open. I didn't really fancy the idea of boxing them in, particularly since they're invisible unless you turn the jet upside down, though I probably will for my next one. I did, however, replace the exhaust assembly.
Italeri tooled the exhaust with the rear fan/flame holder at the back of the "turkey feathers" (an unfortunately common problem among 1/72 jet kits, and another pet peeve). Simply put, there's no depth to the exhaust. I hacked the turkey feathers off a spare Hasegawa Phantom exhaust (Hasegawa's F-4s are a great source of spares, if you hadn't guessed), drilled out the flame holder assembly on the Kfir exhaust then joined, blended and sanded out the two. They fit remarkably well, and with a bit of gunmetal paint in there to simulate the infamously sooty J-79, the join is virtually invisible. On order to ease painting, I left the engine out until final assembly, though this required trimming of the locating flanges on the exhaust, and leaving the seam under the aft fuselage unglued - the belly fuel tank will cover it up, so it's no big deal.
I wanted to build my Kfir with the large ID triangles seen on Israeli Mirages, though this posed several problems. The kit includes markings for either a 1990's "F-16 scheme" Kfir (different green, and camoflage pattern) or a 1980's Ghost Grey Kfir. The first batch of Kfirs, the C.1, did indeed wear the desert scheme, but it was somewhat difficult discerning whether the C.2 (of my model) had. With the help of another local modeller (thanks Tom), I figured there was sufficient time overlap between the changing schemes and production batches that it wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that at some time, a Kfir C.2 may have been painted in the desert scheme with ID triangles. With even more help from Tom, we managed to guesstimate a probable squadron and BuNo for the jet. And just to prove how twisted the gods of model building can be, I've recently come across a series of black and white reference shots that show C.2's in the desert scheme with ID panels, complete with squadron badges and aircraft numbers. At least I was right.
The paints are all Model Master - Pale Green, Sand, Military Brown over Duck Egg Blue. I scanned and enlarged drawings of the camouflage scheme, then printed them out to use as masks. It is thesingle easiest way to mask complex, soft edged paint schemes. Cut out each "block" along the demarcation line, then cut out the centre of the mask section so it can be taped down from the middle, thus leaving the edges slightly raised. It gives a fantastic, "scale" looking soft edge. Once the basic colours were blocked in, the ID triangles were masked off and sprayed white. I then mixed and sprayed the yellow-orange shade. Once dry, the centre sections were masked off, and the black edges sprayed. The model was then gloss coated in preparation for decals.
I used a mixture of kit decals and spares from the Sky Decals Israeli A-4 sheet. The kit decals were a bit fiddly - especially tricky for the long red wing walk lines. I didn't like the colouring of the Star of David on the kit's roundels, and so opted for Sky Decals instead. The A-4 sheet also supplied squadron badges (none in the Italeri kit) and tail numbers.
On to the finishingtouches.
The landing gear is a bit on the skinny side, though it's not noticeable unless you flip the model over, or put it on a mirror.
All you get in the box is a centreline drop tank, and outboard wing pylons with what are supposed to be Shafrirs. I wanted a warload (hey, if I'm going to stretch the truth with the paint scheme, squadron and aircraft number, might as well keep going and say it flew over the Beka'a), so basically everything was replaced.
I swapped out the Shafrirs for some AIM-9J's from Hasegawa. I robbed some spare Sgt. Fletcher drop tanks out of a Hasegawa Phantom for the wings (the Kfir occasionally mounts these for longer bomb hauling), and modified a MER with Mk.82's for the centreline. The MER as mounted on the Kfir seems to sit further forward, and so has an extra brace above the front bomb cluster. It also seems to have had the bottom front mounting assembly deleted, so that only two munitions can be carried up front (aerodynamics, presumably). I simply trimmed off and filed away any traces of the assembly on mine, and added the additional bracing from a shaped section of sheet styrene. The whole assembly was then mounted under the fuselage, onto the drop tank pylon.
All that remained was to add some Hebrew Remove Before Flight flags to the assorted intakes and exhausts (rather than drill them out). Finally, insert a straight pin for the pitot probe (I didn't trim it at the start, and didn't put the broken off piece in a secure place), and it's done.
It's not a bad kit, and I am quite happy with it, now that it's done, though much of that is the time spent on the ordnance, which gives the model a menacing air. Sure, the details probably aren't accurate, but who cares - it looks good. And, in spite of the gripes, and work needed, the kit itself is dirt cheap, so it's hard to complain. It's a good model to slam out of the box to do some of the cool Kfir schemes out there (Equadorian, Sri Lankan, three Israeli, a few American, Colombian .), and also serves as a good base for additional detail work.
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