If you are fan of Soviet and Russian aircraft, the model gods are listening and continue to produce kits which fill gaps in coverage in 1/48. A-model had released the Yak-28 family of jets in 1/72 and now it looks as if Bobcat Hobby will do the same in 1/48. This is a straight styrene-only kit, with a manageable parts count.
First out of the gate is the Yak-28P “Firebar”. Never exported, this was a Soviet interceptor from the 1960s and 1970’s that had that classic Soviet propaganda appearance. A stable flight platform, it carried a more powerful radar and complex weapons systems than the single engine interceptors. It was eventually replaced by the Mig-23 family. Since it was only in Soviet service, and has been out of service for 35 years, few reference photos are available. The best source of photos, are walk-arounds of preserved airframes, but many of these aircraft are incomplete and there are no clear cockpits photos, except for a few period shots.
Before assembly you need to decide between an early and late version Firebar. The early version has the shorter radome, the canopy without the centerline frame, and the one set of missile rails between the fuselage and nacelles. There are two tails provided and either can be used with the long or short radome version, so it depends on which plane you build. The instructions call this out. They are less clear about other minor variant differences – instead relying on pictograms. I opted for a later version aircraft, with the canopy closed for aesthetics.
Detail is decent, the weak point being the ejection seats. The instrument panels are quite nice, but need decals for the instruments – none are provided for either the front or back panel. The cockpit tub is pretty well detailed, but the sidewalls are sparse in detail. Bits of styrene and solder would help, but again reference photos are lacking. The front throttle is provided but the rear throttle is missing, yet a stick is provided (Soviet two seaters had a way for the radar operator to get the jet home). I made a throttle from a bit of styrene rod. The ejection seats used in the “Firebar” were a one-off Yakolev and I found few reference pictures. Since the kit seats were woefully lacking detail, I decided that KM-1 seats are close enough. I used the True Details (48419) seats and made modifications with styrene to get them closer in appearance. The detail really makes the cockpit busy. The front coaming has nice details, like a resin set. The rear instrument panel has an ugly seam behind the pilot, so I cut a .010 styrene sheet glued to the rear of the panel to hide the seam. The rear panel then sleeved over the raised assembly it mounts to - no seam. I used dark gull gray for the cockpit, with a black wash. I could not find images of the side panels of the “Firebar” but I did find images of the inside of the Yak-28PP (“Brewer”). There the tops of the side panels are black, so I made the assumption that they were the same in the “Firebar”. I painted the instrument panels black and dry-brushed the details and added Early Soviet Jets Instrument Dial Decals (AS48 SJET) by Airscale (sourced through Sprue Brothers). I used Future to set the decals. The decals look great and match photos I have.
The shock cone bullet assemble is nice, and while it could use some cleanup, the seam is in a location that is not be visible one the nacelles are assembled. The shock cone has three attachment points, not all of which meet the sidewalls when in position; and they are not positive attachments. Attach the shock cone on the side wall opposite where the burner can fits and the cone will be on centerline. I added a wedge to the one leg so it would meet the opposite side. The burner can builds without issue. I used medium green for the afterburner ring and exhaust petals. The inserts for the landing lights fit okay. They have a tendency to recess slightly. The two halves of the Nacelles have a good fit along their length but have a slight step if not carefully. The exhaust shields fit well but the intake ring is a different matter. I could not get the intake ring to fit with its designed overlap, and I tried it in every position through 360 degrees. To make it fit, I had to sand it down to achieve a butt joint and even then I have a little step inside the lip.
A Tale of Two Wings
The left wing went together smoothly with very little issues getting the upper portions of the nacelles in place and the combination probe and wing tip wheel well piece in place. The latter practically snapping in place. The right wing required a lot of filing, sanding and test fitting until I could get the wheel well in place and the upper nacelles in place. For the most part the fit of the upper and lower wing is good, with only a little cleanup to get tight joints. The fit of the ailerons and flaps was pretty tight, but required a little shimming with .010 styrene.
Fitting the nacelles to the wings was the same as the assembly. The left nacelle fit well; the right nacelle needed a lot of fitting a sanding to achieve a good fit.
Assembly of the tail was without drama, though the rudder required a little work for a tighter fit. I used the later style tail.
Centerline Landing Gear
The way the forward wheel well assembles, it has to be built with the landing gear in place. The assembly and fit are pretty straightforward and the nose gear assembly, pretty sturdy. I painted the well dark gull gray, added a wash, and dry-brushed before installation. The rear well assembles easily and is such that the landing gear can be added after the fuselage is buttoned up. The forward landing gear was more complicated and had to be assembled as the well was assembled. The tires assembled with no issue and I really like that the hub is separate for ease painting.
Once the wheel wells were painted and assembled, I began assembly of the fuselage. For ease of seam removal, I cut off the molded centerline pitot tubes on the dorsal and the odd rods IFF antenna on the nose (to be added later). I also removed the tear drop shaped fairing forward of the wind screen location. I then inserted the cockpit and the wheel wells. No real issues, though I took care to ensure the rear turtledeck behind the cockpit was straight. I also left off the canopy prop for displaying the canopy open. I worked slowly to glue up the fuselage, leaving the belly insert out for ease of gluing. In hindsight it might have been easier to glue it to one side. I found that the insert a bit challenging to fit into place due to its length. Plus, I was not happy with the panel line seams around the insert. The belly panel has the option for a socket to attach the model to a base, but since the model does not come with a base (nor would I have used it) I installed the plane center panel. The dorsal fin at the tail results in a heavy panel line around it. I think it would have been better to not mold a portion of the fuselage to the fin – I would have preferred a more traditional engineering approach. The tail attached with little issue except where it met the dorsal – that resulted in an ugly seam which required a lot of sanding and filling. The horizontal stabilizers, were in contrast an easy tight fit. I then sanded the edge of the radome and installed it, adding no weight since the plane is a tail sitter. The tail cone went on without issue. With both the radome and the tail cone, I left off the pitot tubes until final assembly. I also added all of the cooling scoops.
Next I fitted the wings to the fuselage and again the left wing fitted perfectly with little gapping, but the right wing needed coaxing. I managed to achieve a tight fit with no gapping. Once they were in place, I fitted the wing tip outrigger landing gear with the same issues between the wings. But in the end I achieved a very positive lock for a seemingly spindly assembly. I chose to glue the doors on the outriggers at the same time. I then dry fitted the wheels to the centerline landing gear to see how well the plane sat. Tandem landing gear with outriggers, presents the challenge of achieving four points of contact. When I flip the plane over for the first test, it failed miserably. The aft centerline landing gear was clearly .25 inches off the table.
This issue took this “quick” build into a modeling odyssey which I had never experienced and delayed completion by two months while I worked to overcome the issues presented. At first I thought I could correct it by adding weight forward of the rear wheels. So I drilled a hole in the underside and added a lot of lead balls held by epoxy, the gear got closer. So then I cut the oleo on the rear landing gear and extended it by 1/16 in to get more clearance. I was close but the plane kept springing up. That is when I noticed that I had achieved excessive anhedral, far more than is prototypical. No other reviewer reported this problem, so I assumed that I created the problem by focusing on a very tight fight at the fuselage and the nacelles. Frustrated, I could only come up with one solution. Cut the wing and add spreaders to reduce the anhedral. With great trepidation I did. I ended up cutting each wing in three places, using a sharp No. 11 blade to work to scribe a cut. It was slow and tedious work. Complicating the surgery was the fact that I had already attached the weapons pylons, which made it hard for my hands to reach the cutting areas. Once I had the cuts, I worked in strip styrene in order to reduce the anhedral. I found as I did this other seams at the nacelle and fuselage popped, complicating later work to hide the scars of surgery. Eventually I achieved a four point stance, plus I filled the hole in the underside from the weight insertion.
After the styrene was glued in placed, I used CA as the primary filler. It took many applications with intervals of primer to check the work to get the wings close to being ready for a natural finish. The first coat of aluminum revealed many more issues and I ended up sanding the whole plane two more times until I achieved an acceptable finish
Fitting the canopy was not easy. I put the windscreen right where it belonged, but the result was that the canopy would not seat properly, being pinched. So I went back and forth sanding and fitting the canopy, until I took too much off and had to add filler. It would have been easier to leave the canopy open, but an open canopy really detracted from the aesthetics of the plane. Plus the canopy opening was molded slightly convex and the canopy was straight. Once the canopy was in placed I masked it in preparation for painting and painted the interior color on the frames.
Painting and Decaling
Since I had a fair amount of masking to do, I opted for a base coat of Alclad Aluminum over the base plastic, which I polished where I could. My Pasche H medium tip kept clogging, but I was finally able to get a smooth hard finish after many redos as I removed blemished and ghostlike panel lines. I sprayed the Alclad three times before all was said and done. I had planned to use Alclad Duralumin to highlight panels, but I had a bad bottle. Instead I blended bottles of Model Master Metalizer to achieve the same affect. Since I lacked a lot of pictures of differing aspects of the aircraft, I did not go overboard on highlighting panels. Once done, I masked the nacelles to highlight the intake rings and the exhaust ends. I then masked and sprayed the radome Flat Gull Gray. Then I carefully masked and sprayed Humbrol Faded Black for the anti-glare panels forward of the windscreen and the inner side of the nacelles. After all of the painting was done, I applied the kit decals. I opted to dip each in Future since I did not plan to clear coat the model. So the future acted as a both a sealant and helped the decals settle into panel lines. There are a lot of stencils and fortunately the instructions were clear. Plus, the kit provides a lot of Bort Number options which will help fill the spares box.
After decaling I added the details which I had left off up until this point. First I attached the wheels to the centerline landing gear and did more weathering in the process. The gear doors fill well and had positive lock point so they had the right angles. This kit provided the actuator rods, which is a nice detail and they fit well. I added the tail section pitots, which do not have a positive fit, so I filed them flat and used Tamiya Thin Cement to attach. I used CA to attach the dorsal pitot tubes. During the build, I put the nose pitot tube in place and left the dorsal blade antenna. Both survived handling during the remainder of construction. I also added the clear lens for the marker lights and landing lights. I like these wing tip lights that you install after painting. The left wing tip light slid in no problem, the right one I had to trim to fit. Once in I used Tamiya clear to color them. I added a new teardrop shaped object on the front fuselage from a spare marker light, to replace the one I cut away. I did not like the landing lights in the nacelles, so I made new ones from polish clear sprue and glued them in with Krystal Klear. Finally I made new blades antennas for the Odd-Rods IFF system out of .015 x .03 styrene stock and painted them black.
I opted for a full load out of air to air missiles for this build. I built up 2 AA-2 Atolls and 2 AA-3 Anabs – one a semi-active radar guided variant and one an infrared variant. I painted the missiles Model Master Classic white with a Flat Gull Gray radome on the one AA-3. I then applied the decals to each missile. Once done I clear coated the decals and applied a semi-gloss to the missiles. Then I added the clear noses for the IR seekers which I coated with Tamiya Smoke. I highlighted the panel lines with a very sharp no. 2 mechanical pencil.
The Yak-28 “Firebar” is a large and impressive aircraft and this Bobcat offering fills this large void in Soviet tactical aircraft. Despite some issues in construction with the right wing, and perhaps my self-induced issues with anhedral, this is a good kit with nice detail. For the most part I like the parts breakdown and build up. I recommend this kit and am looking forward to the planned “Brewer” and “Mangrove” variants.