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Building PJ Production's Mirage IIIE

Mastering a plastic and resin 1/72 scale kit
RELATED TOPICS: AIRCRAFT | MILITARY

Before scratchbuilding a hardened aircraft shelter in the March 2016 FSM, I built PJ Production's plastic and resin 1/72 scale Mirage IIIE.

It was a real pleasure to open the box of this extraordinary kit. PJ Production from Belgium, well known for its range of high-quality resin kits, took a different tack in this joint venture with High Planes Model to produce a 1/72 scale Mirage in injection-molded plastic with resin and photo-etched details.

The instructions are clear and assembly is mostly trouble-free. Close examination of the sprues showed a lot of parts, including optional nose cones and exhausts, that aren't used for this version. Also there are several places where you need to choose either plastic or resin parts.

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The cockpit

I used the superbly detailed resin instrument panel and ejection seat.

The cockpit, including the instrument panels and seat were painted flat black, then detailed with some colors on buttons and knobs according to photos. A little gray dry-brushing highlighted the gloom.

I painted the seat's upper cushion light green, but it could also be light tan.

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Pilot

I planned to put the Mirage in a diorama of a fighter leaving a shelter, so I wanted a pilot in the cockpit.

PJ Productions seated French pilot was perfect for the project with crisp details and a good rendition of the helmet.

After test-fitting him to the seat and cockpit, I shortened his legs.

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Airframe

The main parts of the Mirage went together with few problems.

I hand-painted the exhaust with Humbrol buffing gunmetal.

A resin vertical fin replaced the kit's plastic tail.

The wing comes in three parts — a complete underside with left and right upper panels — and fits without problems.

After attaching the intakes and dorsal fillet, I filled the minimal seams with Squadron and Vallejo putties and smoothed them with 600- and 1000-grit sandpaper.

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Painting and decaling

I hand-brushed Tamiya flat black acrylic to pre-shade panel lines and access doors.

Starting the camouflage with the upper surface, I airbrushed LifeColor dark sea gray. Liquid mask protected the gray while I airbrushed LifeColor RLM 70 schwarzgrun, a good match for the French dark green,

A day later, I masked the upper surfaces and painted the underside with Tamiya spray-can gloss aluminum. A coat of Pledge FloorCare Multi-Surface Finish sealed the paint in preparation for decals.

Working with the kit's decals, I chose to mark my Mirage for the Escadron de Chasse 3/3 Ardennes, based at Nancy-Ochey airbase in northeastern France. The decals responded well to Microscale decals solutions. I cut the long, thin red walkway lines on the wings into several parts to ease handing and minimize breakage.

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Weathering

I applied a wash of black artist's oils thinned with turpentine to the panel lines in the gray and aluminum areas. After 45 minutes, I wiped the excess off with a scrap of cotton cloth pulling it in the airflow direction.

I repeated the process with a gray wash in the green areas.

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Finishing the model

To blend the windshield with the fuselage, I first attached with Microscale Kristal Klear. Then I applied a small piece of Bare-Metal Foil across the gap at the front and painted it to match its surroundings. Voila! Invisible seam.

I scratchbuilt a canopy breaker and other details inside the canopy from thin cardboard. Then I carefully aligned and attached the kit's PE mirrors.

The landing gear went together quickly and is easy to align. The diorama shows a Mirage taxiing, so I closed all of the gears doors that should be closed when the engine is running and the hydraulic systems are operational.

Finally I installed resin 1,700-liter fuel tanks under the wings for a long-range mission. I painted the tanks green over a silver base coat, then used a fiberglass pen to erode the camouflage around the tips.

The tiniest parts were attached last: two white antennas on top of the fuselage and the pitot tube on the nose.

LifeColor clear flat dulled any shine and finished the model.

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