Started: Feb 2019
Finished: Apr 2019
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The MiG-25RB was a single-seat reconnaissance-bomber derived from the high-altitude daylight reconnaissance variant MiG-25R. The RB was fitted with improved reconnaissance systems and a Peleng automatic bombing system. In addition to its main reconn role, the RB was designed to also be capable of carrying a bombload of up-to eight 500 kg (1,102 lb) bombs. The MiG-25 RB entered service in 1970 and was assigned the NATO codename Foxbat-B
The MiG25-RBT was a further improved reconnaissance-bomber, being fitted with Tangaz ELINT equipment. The RBT retained the NATO codename Foxbat-B.
Coming into this build my only experience with ICM aircraft models was based on their much older 1:48 P-51 family. These kits, which dated from circa 1990's, were a solid starting point for a Mustang build but nothing to rave about. I was far more familiar with ICM's range of 1:48 figures as these are very nice and readily available. They even pop up from time to time bundled with the likes of Tamiya etc.
It was around 2014/15 that ICM started to get serious about aircraft models once again with the release of new tooled Ju-88's and Do-17's in 1:48. Even this did not really peak my interest and it was not until 2016 when ICM released a new tooled MiG-25 family in 1:48 I started paying attention. During 2017/18 ICM have gone from strength to strength with new 1:32 tool releases and a bunch more great figures.
Having built the challenging Kittyhawk 1:48 MiG-25PD I was not interested in another 1:48 build but when ICM scaled down their MiG-25 to 1:72 and released it as the reconn RBT version I was up for it.
To date ICM have announced three boxings of the MiG-25 in 1:72, each of them variants of the reconn version, the RBT, RB and most recently RBF. I expect (hope) that they will eventually release the interceptor version (PD/PDS) in 1:72 as well (like they did in 1:48)
When ICM say these kits are "100% New Molds" they are not kidding. They bare little or no resemblance to their earlier cousins. The precision of the detailing, the engineering / fit and attention to detail is excellent, on par with Hasegawa and dare I say approaching Tamiya.
I'll admit that I initially thought the parts breakdown, especially for the main fuselage, seemed excessive for 1/72 scale. However, after building the kit I now feel that the breakdown is actually sensible and the fit being so good that the extra seams caused little or no problems.
If I had one thing to feedback to ICM it would be their suggested assembly sequence. In just about every step I found myself deviating from their build order because to not do so would have caused me more work with alignment and/or seams further down the track.
With so many parts to this model it's important that you ensure all the sub-assemblies will align properly when eventually bought together at the end and so I spent plenty of time test fitting, thinking about the optimal assembly sequence and fine tuning the parts alignment as the glue dried.
ICM includes a sensible number (four) of marking options on the decal sheet covering two Soviet and Iraqi / Libyan aircraft. They also provide a comprehensive set of Cyrillic stencils.
The cockpit and nose wheel well are best assembled in place against each fuselage half. The fit is gap free and thus allows you to paint each half and then bring together with the fuselage later on without the worry of avoidable gaps. As I plan to have the canopy closed (with a pilot in place) I did not feel the need to add any extra detailing here.
The surface details is nicely done and it was at this point that I first deviated from ICM's suggested build order. The nose is designed to be modular (to allow ICM to release different variants no doubt) and as is normal they suggest you glue the two nose halves together and then mate them to the forward fuselage. This is not required until close to the end of the build at step 67. I have learnt that it's best to instead glue each nose half to the corresponding fuselage half and by doing so achieve a much better join than otherwise possible. Trying to fight a poorly aligned nose to fuselage join down the track is thus easily avoided.
As I planned to have the model displayed in flight I needed a pilot. ICM do not provide one in the box so I raided my spares. He is actually from a Hasegawa S-3 Viking and needed some minor knee surgery to get his legs to cooperate. I also made some enhancements to the helmet to make it look a bit closer to the Russian style. The seat harness was made from strips of Tamiya tape which were sealed in place under a coat of clear gloss.
A test fit of the pilot and seat revealed the need for some height adjustment and this was taken care of with some 20" card.
A final test fit of all the associated parts before paint is best practice. Not shown here but I also fitted the clear parts to ensure they would seal closed properly as well.
The cockpit and wheel well were primed in black and then MRP-001 Russian Turquoise was applied to the cockpit. The wheel wells (main and nose) on the MiG-25 are natural metal and so I used my go-to metal paint, Alclad ALC-101 Aluminium.
Detail painting was done by hand with Vallejo acrylics and a light wash using MiG Oilbrushers followed.
The pilot and seat were likewise painted (no, I'm not a figure painter). Again knowing that the canopy would hide much, if not all, detail in the cockpit I did not attempt to overdo this stage.
Knowing how grubby wheel wells can get I applied a generous wash here and sparingly cleaned off the excess. In 1:72 I felt no desire to enhance the adequate detailing provided by ICM.
As I planned to have the aircraft in flight, with the undercarriage down (aka landing or taking off) I need to lengthen (extend) the drop of the nose wheel strut. A couple of cuts and a brass rod for strength did the job. The milliput was used to cover the brass rode and simulate the canvas boot. A test fit of the nose wheels showed that my adjustments had not interfered with their location.
With the forward fuselage complete my attention turned to the larger and more complicated intake and rear fuselage parts. ICM details a modular, and to my mind, overly complicated sequence of assembly for the intake trunking and alignment with the fuselage sections. Instead I pretty much assembled the entire intake front to back in one step. I didn't see any reason this module could not be attached later to the fuselage as one piece. This module was later painted inside using an airbrush from the front and rear.
As the glue was drying on the intake assembly I attached it to the fwd fuselage to ensure the parts were aligned properly. As I worked on this section (which has a lot of parts) my respect for the ICM engineering grew as I realised everything fitted wonderfully and sat in the right place with me having to fight it.
The main wheel wells are very well detailed as are the main gear struts. Unfortunately it is necessary to attach the main gear into the bay during assembly of the fuselage. The strut is sandwiched between the inner and outer walls of the well and this needs to be done during assembly and not left to the end. The good news is that the fit of the support holes was very solid.
The main wheel hubs are well done as is the ribbing on the tire, although it should be said that this should be raised and not recessed.
The "side" of the fuselage is provided by ICM as a separate part which sandwiches the main gear strut in place when attached. Multi-part fuselages like this are normally susceptible to alignment challenges but not so here. Well done ICM.
Now was the time to paint the interior of the wheel well and once again I used Alclad ALC-101 Aluminium with a heavy wash of MiG 1618 PLW Deep Brown.
Whilst in a painting mood I dealt with the wheels using Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black and MRP-032 Green For Wheels. To bring out the detail in the wheel hubs I applied a wash of Mig PLW Deep Brown.
The intake assembly was now mated to the rear fuselage (minus the forward fuselage which again deviated from the ICM guidelines).
The sidewalls and main gear struts were added next. The sidewalls are cleverly held in exact position with a rear internal bulkhead and the same bulkhead used to properly align the intakes.
A view from below better shows the fit of the sidewalls and how virtually no alignment problems arose in this area. The protruding main gear was a constant source of worry for me as I half expected I would break it off at any moment.
The fuselage top was next and this clicked reassuringly in place and was then glued with Tamiya Extra Thin liquid glue. The engine exhaust tubes were also installed now thus giving the upper part a solid mating surface to ensure perfect alignment.
To complete the main fuselage assembly the tails were added as were the top of the intakes. To eliminate seams I used tape to protect the surrounding panel lines and applied Tamiya Basic Putty. The vertical tail parts are unusual in that they combine the tail, fuselage side and ventral fin in one piece. This is the first time I have ever seen this way of approaching it.
A couple of the seams for the side panels and tail did not fall on natural panel lines. These were filled with Tamiya basic putty and sanded smooth. The tape is to ensure the messy putty stays where it should.
The massive Tumansky R-15 engines are one of the signature features of the MiG-25, propelling it to speeds in excess of Mach 2.4. The ICM engines are actually fairly basic especially the outer nozzle petals but when combined and suitably painted do an acceptable job for 1:72.
With the main fuselage complete its time to finalise preparations of the forward fuselage before mating. The canopy and windscreen are masked and a coat of the interior green applied so as to be visible through the canopy later on. Note how good the fit of the clear parts are to the fuselage, something I was now starting to take for granted with this kit.
The camera bay has four camera ports which ICM provides as shallow recesses with no center hole. It occurred to me that these would look more realistic by simply drilling out the center parts and allowing the dark of the interior to show thru. The clear camera window still has enough beveled edge to rest upon.
The fit of the camera bay to the nose underside is possibly the worst I encountered in this build. I needed to fill the seams with super glue, sand smooth and re-scribe to get a suitable result. Speaking of re-scribing work the whole nose is full of small panels and rivet work that sits right across the join and must be dealt with.
The camera port windows have been secured using PVA clear glue and I'm glad I drilled out the centers as the dark interior looks better for sure. All of the panel lines and rivets around this nose section have been reworked and sharpened as I plan to use a wash after painting.
With all preparation complete the two fuselage sub-assemblies are bought together. The fit is spot on with only the smallest amount of sanding needed to blend the seam. Its also worth noting that the alignment of the two parts is perfect as well, which is important as even a small mis-alignment at this point would stand out like a sore thumb.
The final touches are now added including the wings, which have handy alignment tabs to ensure they sit correctly. I needed a small seam of Milliput along the wing join to smooth it over. The flaps and ailerons are provided as separate parts which was appreciated as I wanted to lower the flaps a small amount. As I was not using the large centerline fuel tank I needed to plug the mounting holes with plasticard.
Only a minimum amount of masking prior to the first coat of paint and I've found that using foam for deep holes like intakes and wheel wells is a big time saver. Of course masking tape is still ideal when you need a sharp edge in places like the intake edges. Masking the protruding main gear struts was a bit fiddly especially around the back where the gap is very tight.
A base coat of Tamiya X-18 Semi Gloss Black is applied thinned with Tamiya's own Lacquer thinner. Once dry I set to work laying down the natural metal finish that is present on the rear fuselage due to proximity to the massive engines. A primary coat of Alclad Stainless Steel is followed by selective masking and application of Pale Burnt Metal and Exhaust Manifold colors.
There are plenty of reference photos of this area of the MiG-25 out there on the internet and I did my best to match the subtle color changes on the NMF bought about by heat effect over a prolonged period.
In addition to the NMF I also painted and masked off the multitude of dielectric panels over the tail and nose of the big MiG. I used a couple of different colours for the dielectric panels as these seem to fade over time. This tends to be most noticeable on the port vertical tail panels
With the second round of masking complete the main color is now applied. MR Paint produces a specific paint that is for the MiG-25/31, MRP-189 Traffic Grey. Light, random coats of the acrylic lacquer were mottled over the black primer and slowly built up to provide a complete, but not uniform cover. I then used a lighter grey (MRP-186 Light Grey) to provide some extra variation to the finish. The trick here is to not make it consistent. Don't stick to the panel lines or panel centers, instead mix it up. Last step in this phase was to use some XF-55 Deck Tan to pick out selected spots to give a base for some grime further down the track. It looks overdone here but once we blend it in and apply subsequent washes it will all but disappear.
The last area that needed masking is the anti-glare panel. Although probably not needed, I took my new Infini Model cutting mats out for a spin to help me with some of the curves to be masked. These are great tools as they have engraved channels on the mat that you use to guide your blade to cut the tape to shape. Simple but effective. Once masked I applied some hairspray to allow for some minimal chipping of the black.
I still felt that the surface of the model looked too uniform with little visual contrast. I wanted to break up that ocean of grey and decided to try out another new tool for the first time. I like the truly random effect that can be obtained from salt masking but do not like the mess involved, so when I came across the Artool FX Texture mask set I placed an order.
You basically hold the mask over the model surface and spray through it with alternate colors (in my case I used both darker and lighter greys). In places I was a bit heavy handed and in other I did not keep the mask moving enough but overall I like the effect. To tone down the overdone areas I loaded the brush with the original Traffic Grey and over-sprayed the whole model to blend all the other parts back together (but not entirely)
With the main painting complete an overall clear gloss coat of Tamiya X-22 thinned with Mr Color Leveling Thinners is applied. ICM provide a choice of four marking options and I had decided on Red 16 in Soviet service circa 2001.
I found the ICM decals to be thin but initially very uncooperative. They took a very long time to release from the backing paper and once you applied them to model surface they would grip and refuse to move around into position. I was using Microsol Setting solution (as I always do) and even this did not coax them to behave. In frustration I tried using more water which seemed to help a little and then I applied a couple of drops of mild washing detergent (Morning Fresh) to the water and onto the model surface and finally the decals seemed happier.
Luckily there were not that many main marking decals but I still had to face that dedicated stencil sheet !! By the time I got to the stencils I had refined my application process to use more detergent (to minimise surface tension) and kept the water warm. This seemed like the optimal formula for the ICM decals to come to heel. I was able to apply enough stencils to be happy with (not all of them). The decals settled well enough into the recessed panel lines and rivets so I was happy. A final gloss coat and I was ready for weathering to commence.
First step after decaling is the panel line wash. For this model I wanted a wash color that was not too dark and that had a bit of blue in it to pick up the same color in the primary paint. Mig PLW 1613 Blue Grey seemed like the perfect option. These pre-mixed enamel panel line washes are my favorite these days. They are just too convenient and provide plenty of colors so that you can always find the right one.
The wash takes about two hours to dry enough to allow you to remove it without thinners. I use a paper napkin (or tissue) for the main areas turning to cotton buds for those hard to get at areas. Wipe the excess off the surface slowly and try and go across the direction of the panel line. I needed to reapply a couple of times in some areas where the panel lines were not deep enough to hold the first pass.
For the NMF areas I chose a darker wash (MiG-1617 Blue Black) as I believe the metal panels benefit from the higher contrast the darker wash provides.
Its not really until this step that you know for sure how your decals performed (did they settle down properly) and just how well you have prepared your panel lines and rivets. A well done panel wash really makes the model come to life in my opinion.
To add one last dimension to the surface weathering I applied a very restrained spot application of Oil washes. For this I once again selected the Mig Oilbrusher Starship Filth and heavily thinned it to make a glaze which was applied to areas where grime may accumulate. The interior of the exhaust got a heavier application in keeping with the abuse these parts encounter.
Despite initially fighting the decals I think in the end I learned how to get the best out them. A couple of things worth mentioning is that I over-sprayed the stencils with some Traffic Grey (the primary color) to tone them down as initially they were too prominent. Also note in this photo the extended landing lights on the lower fuselage just behind the nose wheel. These are scratch-built as ICM only gives your clear parts to display them closed (ie retracted).
I was generally happy with the result obtained on the NMF areas at the rear of the model. A combination of paint shades, panel line and finally oil washes give a convincing representation of this part of the real MiG.
To close out the build here are a selection of photos of the finished model mounted on its display base. The base is pre-printed by Coastal Kits and is one of their 'motion blur' range which I really like.
For some time I had been vaguely aware that ICM were producing new aircraft kits, but nothing they had produced seemed to make it onto my build list. That changed when I got hold of this lovely little MiG as I felt 1:72 was the prefect scale for the Foxbat. To be honest, I was half expecting a dimensionally accurate limited run kit which was challenging to build. To my pleasant surprise nothing could be further from the truth.
ICM have come of age, having employed just about every modern technique available to injection molded plastic manufacturers to make a kit that is not only accurate but is cleverly engineered to be a pleasure to build. In truth the only phase of the build I stumbled on was the decaling. The kit decals just did not behave the same way I was used to and once I adapted my approach things went smoothly.
I have no hesitation at all in recommending this kit and am now looking far more closely at the upcoming aircraft release schedule from ICM.