On The Bench

Dassault Mirage 2000C - Build Review
Kitty Hawk (KH32020)
Scale: 1:32
Started: June 2020
Finished: Sept 2020
Gallery: Finished Model Photos
The Dassault Mirage 2000 is a French multirole, single-engine fourth-generation jet fighter manufactured by Dassault Aviation. It was designed in the late 1970s as a lightweight fighter to replace the Mirage III for the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air).
The Mirage 2000 evolved into a multirole aircraft with several variants developed, with sales to a number of nations. It was later developed into the Mirage 2000N and 2000D strike variants, the improved Mirage 2000-5 and several export variants. Over 600 aircraft were built and it has been in service with nine nations.
The first production Mirage 2000C (C stands for Chasseur, "Hunter") flew on 20 November 1982. Deliveries to the AdA began in 1983. The first 37 Mirage 2000Cs delivered were fitted with the Thomson-CSF RDM (Radar Doppler Multifunction) and were powered by the SNECMA M53-5 turbofan engine. The Radar Doppler Impulse (RDI) built by Thales for the Mirage 2000C entered service in 1987. It has a much improved range of about 150 km, and is linked to Matra Super 530D missiles, which are much improved compared to the older Super 530F. Look-down/shoot-down capabilities are much improved as well, but this radar is not usually used for air-to-surface roles.
The Mirage 2000-5F is first major upgrade over the Mirage 2000C. It replaces most cockpit displays with several large multi-function displays, and upgrading the stores-to-aircraft interface for the use of targeting pods and a wide variety of guided air-to-ground weapons, as well as a radar upgrade to provide guidance information for MICA missiles

KIT OVERVIEW - Kitty Hawk 1:32 Mirage 2000C (KH23020)

At the time of writing Kitty Hawk have now released 1:32 Mirage 2000 kits in both single (C) and dual (D/N) configurations. As has now become normal with each new Kitty Hawk release the forums have been abuzz with detailed analysis of the pros and cons of both kits. I find it generally interesting to read the comments of people who know way more about the aircraft than I do and from these observations I then decide which, if any, of the deficiencies in the kit I will look to fix or ignore.
In line with other recent Kitty Hawk releases included in the box is a basic photo-etch fret, a reasonable single piece resin exhaust and seated pilot figure. I have noted some modellers on the internet having issues with possible shrinkage of the resin exhaust part (causing undersize fit problems) so be sure to check your kit for this.
As with most Kitty Hawk kits I have built or reviewed, what you get in the box is a mixed bag. The Mirage 2000 single seat aircraft comes in three main variants from what I have read:
  • 2000C - Initial production variant of the single seater. Mainly used by the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air)
  • 2000E - A blanket designation for several export variants of the Mirage 2000, including Greece (EG/EGM), Taiwan (EI), Qatar (EDA) and UAE (EAD)
  • 2000-5 - First major upgrade over the Mirage 2000C. Replaces most cockpit displays with several large multi-function displays, and upgrading the stores-to-aircraft interface for the use of targeting pods and a wide variety of guided air-to-ground weapons, as well as a radar upgrade to provide guidance information for MICA missiles
The differences between these variants is quite visible and to be able build any one of them accurately requires the kit to include the right parts. Kitty Hawk provides most, but not all, of the needed parts in the box. Frustratingly, even where KH does provide multiple options on the sprue the instructions give you absolutely no help in determining which option is the correct one for your chosen scheme. In other cases multiple options are provided on the sprue but the instructions mention only one to be used, ignoring the others. This to me is the achilles heel of all KH kits, the instructions and marking schemes constantly let down the kits plastic parts.
Because of these shortcomings it's really left to the modeller to figure out which options to use (and which are missing) before you embark on the actual build. As an example, if you decide to model a -5 variant you would probably want to know up front that KH does not include the correct instrument panel.

Based on my build I found seven (7) areas that required you to make a choice between optional parts. You will need to determine which options are correct for your build (as KH is no help whatsoever):
Instrument Panel
Unfortunately KH only includes one IP in the kit. This is suitable for a standard 2000C but not for a -5.

The -5 introduced a new glass cockpit layout borrowed from the Rafale program, featuring three color MFDs; a dual linked wide-angle HUD / head-level display; and HOTAS controls.
Vertical Tail
The kit includes a total of four (4) tails options. The variations are due to the different configurations of self defence SERVAL RWR, SABRE RF Jammer and LAM (Mica) uplink antenna's fitted to members of the Mirage 2000 family.

The Greek Mirage EG(M) featured an "ICMS 1" defensive countermeasures suite, which was an updated version of the standard Mirage 2000C countermeasures suite, characterized by two small antennas near the top of the tail-fin

Once again you will need to rely on your own research and reference photos of your chosen subject to select the correct tail.
Both early 2000C (RDM/RDI) and late 2000-5 (RDY) radomes are included.

The shape of both radomes is identical with the difference being the -5F does not have the pitot tube (ignore what the KH instructions say) and has the integrated IFF antenna ribbing along the base of the radome.
Wing Tip SERVAL RWR Antenna
Two styles of wing-tip antenna are included on the sprues for the Thales SERVAL (Systeme d'Ecoute Radar et de Visualization de l'Alerte) radar warning receiver (RWR).

The Greek EG aircraft have additional RWR antennas added to the standard wing-tip SERVAL units. I would use part 38 if modelling a Hellenic Mirage 2000-EG with ICMS 1 upgrade. For French aircraft I would use part 39
SPIRALE Chaff/Flare Dispenser
The original Eclair chaff-flare dispenser (not included by KH in the kit) was eventually replaced by the Matra SPIRALE dispenser, with a capacity of 112 cartridges. One was fitted on an extension behind the rear of each wingroot, giving a total capacity of 224 cartridges.

Two options are provided in the kit, one for the wingroot with the dispensers (D72/D73) and one without the dispensers (D51/D52).
SABRE RF Jammer Pod
The Dassault SABRE (Systeme de Autoprotection par BRouillage Electromagnetiques) RF jammer is fitted into a pod below the bottom of the tail-fin. The pod extends out over the exhaust nozzle.

Two options are provided in the kit, each with a slightly different panel design and end. Check your references to determine which is appropriate for your model.
Kitty Hawk like to provide a large number of marking options out-of-the-box. The problem is they tend to be lazy when it comes to the specific differences between each scheme and the aircraft its applied to. I'm well past the point of trusting much of what Kitty Hawk provides in their color callouts and you certainly can't rely on the drawings to identify visible differences between the variants they include.
My advice is to pick a scheme/aircraft you want to model and then go and find photos of the real thing. Use that as the basis for your build rather than the KH instructions. I know that sounds harsh but they have been found wanting on so many occasions that it's just now safer to assume they are wrong upfront than accept what they supply only to find halfway through a build they were wrong.
The last thing I wanted to mention before getting to the build was reference material. There are quite a few good photos of Mirage 2000's around the internet on which you could rely when building your model. If you, like me, really like to have top notch photos of the subject from many angles then I can highly recommend the book Mirage 2000 Under the Skin from Eagle Aviation eagleaviation.gr

BUILDING - Kitty Hawk 1:32 Mirage 2000C (KH23020)

Wherever possible I like to upgrade the kit seat with a (usually) superior aftermarket replacement. It's virtually impossible for kit manufacturers to get even close to the level of intricate detail needed for a realistic scale ejection seat and so we normally turn to resin sets. Fortunately I had a spare cockpit set for the Revell 1/32 Tornado and as both the Mirage 2000 and Tornado share a common seat, the Martin Baker Mk.10, I was able to swap it in with a few minor adjustments.
The cockpit tub is very nicely done by Kitty Hawk. I did not have much reference for what exactly was on the shelf behind the seat but made an educated guess to supplement the kit parts with some lead wiring and control boxes.
After some small detailing adjustments to the resin seat headbox it only then required a few mm's to be shaved off the sides to allow a snug fit into the kit tub.
In common with most current fighters, the Mirage 2000 has undergone a radical cockpit modernisation. Compared to the 2000C, the 2000-5 has a vastly improved workspace. The Sextant TMV-980 data display system has been replaced by the Sextant Comete system, which employs a wide-angle HUD, three HDDs and a head-level display below the HUD.
KH does provide one set of markings for a 2000-5 and indeed most of the specific parts needed for the -5 (such as the radome, antennae and weapons) are also included but they once again disappoint by only providing the earlier instrument panel. It would have been so easy for them to include a second IP designed for the -5 layout. This is classic KH to come so close but fall short with silly omissions like this.
Luckily there seems to be a good supply of fairly decent photos of the Mirage 2000 available on the internet. I prefer to use photos like this one of the cockpit to determine my own color matches rather than rely on the color callouts listed by kit manufacturers.
Both the cockpit and seat were first undercoated in black. Thin coats of the top colors are then applied to achieve a acceptable depth of coverage. I always try to avoid even uniform coverage as that tends to make the finish look flat and less realistic.
I had originally planned to use the provided decals for the side consoles and instrument panel but these proved to be so thick that they would not settle down over the raised detail. I reverted back to detail painting using Vallejo acrylics followed by a wash of Tamiya Panel Liner Dark Grey to try and give a tired grubby appearance. For the instrument panel I made use of the excellent AirScale decals which never fail to impress me.
The nose wheel well received some additional detailing using a mix of copper, brass and lead wiring. These days I don't tend to go overboard on wheel wells (you hardly ever see them) but as I had good reference photos I felt in the mood to jazz up this area.
The nose gear is designed to be fixed in place as you assemble the bay. I always try hard to find a way to avoid doing this as having parts protruding from the model as I work on it is a recipe for many breakages. In 1/32 the significant number of pipes and tubing on the Mirage nose gear is well worth the effort to reproduce. I used a combination of lead/copper wire (0.3mm) and a new product called 'elastic string'. This is a stretchy vinyl like thread which I found worked really well giving realistic scale bends. It was secured using normal CA/Super glue and seems to take a coat of paint as well.
The completed nose wheel bay was painted using the same technique as the cockpit with the metal piping being picked out with Tamiya X-11 Chrome Silver (Enamel) paint. It's a bit rough but looks better than the molded on detail provided in the kit.
Initially I planned to close up the gun bays but later decided they would add a bit of interest to the underside if I left them open. I added a little bit of ribbing from plasticard to make them look less bare. If you plan to model an early C (pre -5) aircraft then you will want to fill in the mounting holes for the two forward fuselage pylons (shown here) and the rear fuselage pylons.
To make things a little easier for myself I added some tubing between the gun bay and the gun port along which I could insert the barrel later on. The barrel (which is quite long) can now be inserted after painting from either the front of the rear end.
Another quick modification to allow me to slide the engine in from the rear after joining the fuselage was to cut it in half. The best place to cut is just forward of where the afterburner section fits inside the engine.
The interior of the engine exhaust (like most modern engines) is made from heat resistant ceramic material which has a white appearance. The Mirage engine has very distinctive stains that run the full length of the exhaust and I have added these freehand with my airbrush.
A test fit of the engine and resin nozzle shows a pretty good fit. I have seen other modellers comment that their resin nozzle was undersized (possibly due to shrinkage). Luckily KH is very good with supplying spare and replacement parts, you just need to email them.
The Mirage has a couple of glass 'windows' on the fuselage. The one on the port intake houses a searchlight. Of course on the real thing the glass is flush with the outer skin of the aircraft. KH provide the glass as a clear part which is designed to be mounted from the inside (good idea so far). Unfortunately the thickness of the clear window is not the same as the thickness of the intake skin. This results in the glass sitting way too low and looks silly. To fix you can either cut the clear part to fit inside the hole, then mounting it flush or do as I did by thinning the intake plastic (with my Dremel motor tool) so that the clear part now fits properly.
The intakes require a bit of prep work before attaching to the fuselage. I would recommend you glue them on before joining the fuselage halves rather than after as indicated by KH. I was not exactly sure what color the intake trunking should be but from photos they mostly look like a grey not white like most other modern aircraft. Now is the time to also paint the inside edge of the intake lips to match the camo color you will be using. Because I will be doing the Gulf War (Operation Daguet) desert sand scheme I have used Mr Color 313.
Prior to mating the intake to the fuselage I have also pre-painted the inner parts of the fuselage that will still be visible on the finished model but very hard to paint later on. Pre planning tasks like this is a good habit to get into to make your life a lot easier.
When test fitting the intake to the fuselage I noticed that there was a noticeable step between the two parts. In order to eliminate (or at least minimise) any such mismatch I used plasticard blocks on the inside of the join to help force the parts to mate up correctly. This worked a treat and meant that I needed no filler or sanding on the seam line (which is also a panel line). The other subtle benefit of fitting the intakes now (before mating the fuselage halves) is that I could gain access to apply all the liquid glue from the inside of the join. This meant no visible glue marks or damage was made on the outside seam.
The same idea of using alignment/strengthening tabs can be applied to the fuselage main join. Due to the length of the Mirage fuselage there is a lot of flex along the join which can interfere with obtaining a strong bond. The addition of several plasticard tabs across the join helps a lot to take the flex away once glue is applied.
With all the preparation complete its time to start gluing parts into the fuselage interior. The cockpit and nose wheel well are secured on one side making sure to eliminate any gaps while the glue dries. The fit is good with only minor trimming needed to get everything lined up.
I've been a user of CA (Super) Glue as a filler for many years. I like to use it in places where I know I will need to re-scribe the surface after filling and sanding. I've occasionally seen other modellers mention mixing other material with the super glue to give it more strength and 'body' when used as a filler. Material like talc powder or baking soda (bicarb soda) are often mentioned. I was curious if it really made any difference so on this model I have been using a range of mix ratio's of super glue & talc powder. The jury is still out on the benefits over using straight super glue alone but so far I can say that it does sand smoother and more easily. Larger gaps can be filled more easily and consistently due to the thicker mix. On the downside it does seem to go off quicker so you can't muck around.
Sometimes when sanding it's impossible to retain all the surface detail, especially across seams. Rescribing straight lines over such seams is not so hard with the help of vinyl tape but when you have complex curves or angles you need some help from a template. If you are lucky and its a standard shape (oval or square) there are many spring metal 'scribing templates' available to purchase but what happens when its not a standard shape like I came across on the base of the vertical fin here.

In this case I once again turned to my new favourite tool, the Silhouette Portrait Cutter, which allowed me to design and fabricate a custom scribing template from 0.25mm plastic card. It worked very well and I'll be adding this use to the growing list of things I can now use my cutter for. If you are wondering what the black liquid is, it is Tamiya Panel Liner (Black). I have started using this to check my surface detail work prior to paint as it's much easier to visually find bad panel lines and rivets at this stage of the build.
Of course once you realise you can quickly and accurately make up scribing templates you find lots of places to use them. Many of the hatches, panels and rivets on the rounded 'shoulder' area of the fuselage were poorly molded. These would not have taken a wash after paint etc so now is the time to find and fix them.
The bottom of the fuselage is covered in hatches, rivets and vents just like the real thing. Some of these needed sharpening up with my scriber, but for the most part the detail is sharp and ready to comfortably hold a wash. You can see I have spot primed areas where I have filled and sanded seams to check my work. Never assume a seam will be ok until you have at least put a coat of paint on it.
One of the ventral vents (some form or exhaust I imagine) located just behind the nose gear bay has four louvers that KH have lazily molded into each fuselage half. They expect these louvers will match up and you will sand them to remove the seam. Well good luck with that because I found it much easier to cut away the overscale kit parts and replace each one with 0.25mm strips of Evergreen plastic. This is a super simple solution to bad design by KH.
The rear lower fuselage likewise has a myriad of panels which look great but care will be needed as you fill and sand the main centerline join. As I plan to attach the centerline fuel tank much of the main center seam will be hidden by the pylon (whew, what good luck), so I have tidied it up a bit but will not fill or sand.
I had now reached the point where I needed to make some decisions on which of the optional parts I should use. Using photos (where possible) of the real thing is always the best option, especially given the somewhat shabby experience I have had in the past trusting KH's instructions. This photo, taken in 1991 during Operation Daguet (Desert Storm) shows me the correct tail configuration and various other useful little details about the aircraft.
After locating the correct tail top option (of the four provided on the sprue) I glued it in place on the tail base. Checking photos I realised that the horizontal join lines did not fall on any natural panel lines and so I would need to eliminate them. The first step was to fill the seam, without doing extra damage to the surrounding detail. For this I applied tape close to the seam and spread a thin layer of Tamiya Basic Putty. I left the tape in place as the putty dried and also when I began wet sanding with 600 grade wet n dry paper.
The tape does a good job of protecting the surrounding detail from a) the initial application of putty and b) damage done by the sanding block. It's expected the tape will be worn away by the sanding but in this case that's exactly it's job. You should end up with a smooth result but as mentioned before I never trust what I see until its under a coat of grey primer. In this case I was not entirely happy that the seam had been eliminated completely and so I applied a second layer of putty and repeated the sanding.
The end result shows the horizontal seams have been eliminated and the lines of rivets have now been replaced (using my 1mm rivet wheel). The grey primer coat gives me absolute confidence that the job has been done properly. It's also worth noting the Milliput filler I had to use on the gap at the base of the vertical fin. Some gaps are in such an awkward place that filling and sanding with normal putty is not practical. In these cases using an epoxy putty like Milliput is ideal as it can be applied into the gap and cleaned up with water using a cotton bud to smooth it off.
Whilst researching the configuration of the French Mirages 2000C's deployed to the Gulf I noted that each of them had ECLAIR-M decoy dispensers fitted. These were a bolt on pack (in different layouts) for flares and chaff canisters.
As Kitty Hawk does not provide the ECLAIR I once again turned to my Silhouette cutter to design and fabricate one from 0.25mm card. I have been advised that the layout of canisters I used is not accurate but I'm ok with that.
Next up on the list was the cockpit windscreen and canopy. First step was to install the HUD. Kitty Hawk provides the HUD frame as PE parts (which is great) but the reflector glass parts are way overscale. To correct this I used clear acetate film and cut some new glass parts to shape. This was all glued together using CA and PVA.
The canopy benefited from some additional detail items such as latches, grab handles and a PE mirror I had in my spares box. Tamiya tape was used to mask the canopy both inside and out.
The masked windscreen was now glued in place using Tamiya Quick Dry Extra Thin cement. I like this glue for tasks where the parts can be held together and the glue then run into the seam.
The completed fuselage is now ready for the wings.
The first task for the wings is to decide whether you want to show the leading edges slats extended (as designed by KH) or retracted (as commonly seen on parked Mirages). The extended option is the easiest because that's the way that KH has engineered the parts on both the wing and separate slats themselves. I wanted to have the slats retracted into the wing and so a little surgery was needed. The first step was to thin the slat so that a clean fit could be achieved when mated with the wing. Once this was glued in place I needed to fabricate replacement parts for the activation struts shown in the closed position. To ensure all the plastic inserts were exactly the same size I used my RP Toolz cutter. I've only recently purchased this cutter as for a long time I had the Northwest Line "Chopper". The RP Toolz cutter is a precision tool with all metal construction and can accurately cut through quite thick styrene with ease.
Much like with the slats you need to decide how you want the airbrakes (wing top and bottom) to be displayed. Once again the default for the KH kit is to have them open, which is not normal for a parked aircraft. I did a quick test fit of the kit parts and found quite large gaps which would need to handled once they were glued shut. For filler I used Super Glue + Talc powder as I originally planned to re-scribe the shape of the airbrake using a custom template.
After doing some testing with making a custom scribing template I realised that I could instead cut a new airbrake using my Silhouette Portrait from 0.125mm (5thou) sheet. Plastic this thin is about the thickness of paper and you need to be very light handed with any glue or it will deform or pit. Once the glue was dry I further thinned the brake by sanding lightly as I did not want it to be obviously sitting on top of the wing.
The fit of the wings to the fuselage was quite good. About the only gap I had to deal with was along the upper join where the fillet stood a little proud from the fuselage. An easy fix for this type of gap is to use Milliput which can be pushed into the gap with a toothpick and then smoothed off with a damp cotton bud until smooth. Once dry you can go back and lightly scribe the Milliput to re-create a sharp panel line.
The main gear doors (and in fact the nose gear door) are normally closed on a powered down Mirage 2000. They are only opened when the gear is cycled after take off or for landing. The fit of the main gear clamshell doors was a bit rough, needing some plasticard strips along the outer edges to close up the gaps.
The main gear on the Mirage 2000 is very sturdy but not overly complicated in design. Several hydraulic cables can be found running the full length of the gear to operate the anti-skid breaking system on the wheel hub.
Whilst the kit plastic wheels are quite passable, I happened to have access to a set of the ResKit replacement wheels designed for the KittyHawk Mirage kits. These are a substantial upgrade in terms of detailing especially around the wheel hub, side wall detailing and the inclusion of tread pattern.
I expected the ResKit parts to be a drop fit onto the kit axles but alas this was not the case. Because of the corrected (thicker) inner hub detail provided by ResKit the wheel sat further out from the strut than the kit parts. To remedy this I needed to fashion a new axle from Evergreen round rod which would allow the ResKit wheel to sit closer to the gear strut.
With the new wheels fitted I was now able to cable up the main strut using some "elastic string". This is a new material I had not used before and it's typically used for crafting and is readily available on eBay in assorted sizes. I used 0.5mm string here and I really liked that it bent very realistically and could be firmly attached with normal super glue.
The main gear on the Mirage 2000 sits at a noticeable angle when the wheel is perfectly vertical. The outer main door is attached to the main strut and closes with the gear itself. Notice how the door also sits vertical in line with the wheel rather than the angled leg. The main retraction strut is quite large and is hinged where it attaches to the leg and the fuselage inside the gear bay.
Kitty Hawk have done a respectable job of replicating the main gear angles and placement of the retraction strut. The locating hole for the main leg is not what I would call a positive fit and allows the leg to move around a bit too much for my liking. Make sure you give yourself enough time to align the main gear properly when committing to glue. For this I like to use 5 minute two-part epoxy glue as it has a long curing time and is one of the strongest glues you can use on a model.
Primary armaments of the Mirage 2000C in the CAP (Combat Air Patrol) role were the Matra Super 530 medium-range semi-active radar-guided air to air missile (AAM) on the inboard wing pylons, and the Matra Magic short-range infrared-seeking AAM on the outboard wing pylons. The Mirage 2000C could also carry air-to-ground stores, such as iron bombs, cluster bombs, or Matra 68-millimeter rocket pods, in its secondary strike role. It had no smart munitions capability, though it could carry laser-guided bombs (LGBs) if another aircraft or ground forces provide designation.
Kitty Hawk provide a comprehensive set of pylons and weapons in the kit. As I wanted to replicate the loadout used for CAP missions during Operation Daguet in 1991 I selected the appropriate pylons for the Magic-2, Super 530D's and the centerline fuel tank. As a general observation I found the shape of both the weapons and pylons to be pretty good (based only on photos I could find to compare with). A couple of easy tweaks I carried out involved corrections to the pylons for the Super 530's and the centerline tank as follows:
I have learnt over the years that most model manufacturers fail to provide adequate mounting points for the pylons to the wings and weapons to the pylons. These days I routinely add my own pins, from either brass or in this case plastic rod. This makes it easier when I come to the end of the build (and my supply of patience has long run out) to have the stores line up properly and attach securely.
One area that most kit weapons fail to cater for is the engine exhaust at the rear. For both the Magic and Super 530 missiles Kitty Hawk have just left the back end of the body flat. A useful tool for helping to hollow out (not drill though) such 'flat bottomed holes' is available from Galaxy Model. I was able to use a couple of the available sizes (ranging from 1.0mm to 6.0mm in 0.5mm increments) to help me add a simple recessed filler cap to the tank and a similar cutout for the rear of the Magic-2.
Using the Galaxy tools is very simple as they behave much like a drill. I did a couple of test cuts on a scrap part to get a feel for the right amount of pressure needed to get the flat blade to cut. The main trick is to keep the blade and part aligned so you get a straight cut.
Happy with the result on the drop tank I used the tool again (this time with a 3mm blade) to hollow out the rear of the Magic-2 body. For this I drilled a small pilot hole as I wanted to make sure the blade was dead center before applying pressure. The result is quite convincing and adds a little more realism to the kit parts. http://www.galaxy-model.com/Wheretobuy.html
With construction mostly complete it was time to begin masking in preparation for paint. A quick tip for masking openings like wheel wells is to use some soft packing foam (the kind that Eduard puts in their Brassin sets works well). I find cutting the foam a little larger than the opening is best as you can then squeeze it into place and it holds without any tape.
Escadre de Chasse 5e (EC.5) provided the French Mirage 2000 air defence contingent during Opération Daguet - Desert Shield - and the 1991 Gulf War. During the early stages of hostilities which began on 17 January, the French aircraft were not used operationally, although they were employed from 6 February onwards as CAP cover for coalition attack and reconnaissance missions. One aircraft, No. 74 5-OP, was painted in-theatre with upper surfaces in two shades of sand camouflage.
A few things to be aware of if you plan to use this marking option from the Kitty Hawk sheet:
  • The refueling boom arm is not painted black but sand.
  • None of the wing walkways or stenciling was re-applied over the sand camo when applied in-theatre. Leave these decals off
  • The darker 'brown' called out by KH (C66 RLM79) for the top camo is way too dark. The two colors used were so close to each other that in some photos the aircraft looks to almost be one color. I settled on C313 Yellow FS33531 and C321 Light Brown.
  • Do not use the ribbed radome as shown in the KH profiles. This is wrong for an early 2000C and only used on the later -5, which incidentally did not have a pitot tube !!
  • The antenna's shown by KH on the lower nose are wrong for this aircraft. Check the photos and make your own blade antennae.
As the paint scheme I had in mind was primarily light colors I applied an overall base coat of Mr Finishing Surfacer 1500. I find this doubles as an excellent primer (with very good adhesion) and a dark base coat to help me get some variation when I apply the final colors. The radome was painted using Mr Color C306 based entirely on my Mk.1 eyeball comparison to photos.
For the underside I was pleased to find that MRP makes colors specifically for the Mirage 2000. I purchased both the light grey (MRP-356 GRIS-BLEU CLAIR, Celomer 1625) for my Mirage and also the darker blue-grey (MRP-357 GRIS-BLEU FONCE, Celomer 1620) which would not be used on this build but saved for perhaps a Kinetic 1/48 build later on. The MRP lacquer paint was applied thinly using my Iwata Eclipse brush making sure to slowly build up the coverage and keep it un-even.
The first upper camo color (C313) is applied and roughly follows where I want the demarcation to be later. Once the C313 was dry I used Blu Tack rolls to form the edge between the two camo colors. I like this method as its pretty much fool proof and I can vary the hardness of the demarcation based on the size of the Blu Tack sausage, thicker for soft and thinner for hard. I use small pieces of tape to backfill the masking to protect from overspray. The second camo color (C321) is then applied, again thinly for an un-even coat over the black primer coat.
To provide more variation in the paint finish I mix some white with the C313 and apply this randomly (well it feels random when I do it) focusing hatches and the center of panels on the aircraft skin. I also applied a light mist coat of the C313 over the darker C321 to try and blend the two together a little more, much like the look of the real aircraft. The idea was too make the surface look un-even or patchy. Don't overdo this or it sticks out at you and is distracting.
This photo of a French Mirage 2000C flying a CAP mission over Iraqi provides a wealth of detail which we as modellers can use on the model. At this point I was most interested in the weathering (oil & fluid stains etc) on the underside. Note how the grime is focused along the centerline of the delta wing, all coming from the engine components inside the fuselage. Note also the staining from the cannon and how the wings and forward fuselage are relatively clean.
With the three main colors now applied I wanted to continue working with the airbrush and apply the beginnings of the underside weathering. For this I use an extremely thin mix of Tamiya acrylic paints (XF range) thinned with pure IPA (isopropyl alcohol). By using IPA rather than normal thinners (X-20A) you can significantly up the thinning ratio without causing the paint to "flood" the surface. It's weird but it works. Using darker (oily) colors I focused on the centerline of the underside near where the engine would leak fluids. What you see here is all done with the airbrush.
Happy with the foundation I had laid with the airbrush I continued on now (prior to clear coat or decaling) with artists oil weathering. Rather than leave this step to the end (where you have no margin for error or are too nervous to experiment) I decided to attend to this now with the understanding that if I made a mistake I could simply overspray with the airbrush and try again. Using white spirit I thinned the various flavours of oil paints and worked them into the semi-gloss MRP paint. It took a while but I got a feel for it and ended up pretty happy with the results. Note how I have avoid the outer wings and even though you can't see it I also avoided the nose area, just like the real thing.
Fast forward a little and here I have applied an overall gloss coat (Mr.Color GX100 Super Clear III thinned with Mr.Color Leveling) followed by the Kitty Hawk kit decals (which have then been sealed with the same clear gloss) and finally a panel line wash. It's worth mentioning that the KH decals were a little thick for my liking but they did settle down ok with some coaxing and Micro Sol. One benefit of this scheme is that the decals are minimal as you do not need to apply any of the wing walks or stenciling.
I sometimes get asked if a panel wash is really worth the effort. I firmly believe it is and here is a couple of before and after pics to show you why I like it. A couple of observations: the panel wash helps to bring out the surface details and it helps to visually deepen the colors of the underlying paint. I prefer to think of a panel wash as a way to bring out the detail rather than a weathering mechanism. For example I would still apply a panel wash to even the cleanest of aircraft because without it the model looks flat and less realistic IMO. You of course need to be attentive to what color you use for the wash as this can make or break the effect. I see people often using black for a panel wash. I feel this is not the best options as black is just too stark, better to use a dark brown or grey in my experience and adjust as needed based on the model colors being used.
With all the excess wash now cleaned away we can get a feel for the effect it has on the overall model. At this point I was not happy with the color of the panel wash (Deep Brown) as it was too dark and distracting. I therefore went over the model again with a lighter, more subtle wash, this time Neutral Grey. I was much happier with this result as it blended more realistically with the sand browns and was not as stark.
The Kitty Hawk decals were overly thick but I have learnt that you can "blend" such decals in by sealing them under a couple of coats of gloss clear once they dry. This seems to level them out and as you can seen here they end up looking more like painted on rather than stuck on.
The finished underside with the decals applied and masking removed. In the end I did not apply the gloss coat over the weathered areas, only glossing near the wing tip where the roundel decals needed to be placed. If possible, minimising the number of coats of paint (clear or otherwise) on the model is the way to go.
I wanted to try and reproduce some of the localised exhaust staining that was evident on the wing roots and base of the vertical tail in photos of aircraft 5-OP. For this I once again relied on my Iwata Eclipse to lay down filter coats of thinned Tamiya Black and a home brew mix which approximates Burnt Umber. Personally I feel I was little heavy handed in the application of the stains but will take that on board and work to improve next time.
My home-built ECLAIR-M dispenser was painted and installed above the brake chute housing on the undersides. I also attached the now painted resin exhaust nozzle to the rear of the model. My nozzle was a near perfect fit but I have had feedback from several modellers that theirs was significantly undersized. If you have this kit probably best to check and request a replacement from KH.
In parallel I had been working on the weapons and pylons. Here is the completed Magic 2 missile mounted on the pylon. Whilst there is always room for improvement I have to say that I think KH did a good job here.
The full assortment of pylons and stores are almost complete and close to being ready for attaching to the model. The centerline tank has been weathered to match operational photos of No.74 5-OP whilst the weapons have not had their panel line wash as yet which is why they look so clean.
One of he final tasks prior to gluing the canopy in place was painting and installation of the seat. Whilst not a perfect match, I feel the Black Box Mk.10A with my small modifications is quite passable as a Mirage 2000 seat. The detail was all hand painted using Vallejo acrylics.
So the project is now a wrap and here are some photos of the finished model. My very last task was to add a handful of the realistic 'fabric' RBF tags from HGW to the weapons/pylons to match what can be seen on the real aircraft. I'm really happy with how the model turned out and am glad I opted for the road less traveled by selecting the sand camo scheme for my build.

CONCLUSION - Kitty Hawk 1:32 Mirage 2000C (KH23020)

I have to say that the plastic in Kitty Hawk boxes is definitely improving. This build felt way less over-engineered than any other KH kit I have built or reviewed. The fit and overall shape is good and the options, including decals and weapons, provided in the box represents good value for money.

But ... the elephant in the room continues to be the poor instructions and generic (one size fits all) approach to the marking profiles and odd paint color recommendations. It feels to me like there is very little QA done on the instructions and hence all the hard work done by the kit design team (providing multiple options to represent many variants of the Mirage 2000 etc) goes to waste. The amount of time I wasted having to do my own research on which tail to use, what RWR sensors for what variant etc should have all be taken care of by KH. Other kit manufacturers seem to have this sorted, why not Kitty Hawk.

In the end it really does make into a nice model, but the instructions really hinder rather than help get you there. If you are in the market for a large scale Mirage 2000 then this is the kit for you. Just be warned that you will need to do the leg work on which options are the right ones for your build as KH will be of no help.

Many thanks to The Modelling News and Kitty Hawk for the review kit.