AMK’s Kfir is a lovely, uncomplicated kit let down by fiddly landing gear.
I fancied a quick, simple build and AMK’s Kfir seemed ideal. This is a small and simple kit of an interesting aircraft, which I bought after getting interested in the Israeli Mirages while building the Mirage III last summer.
The Kfir is essentially a re-engined Mirage III with updated avionics and canard wings. Built domestically by IAI after France embargoed the agreed export of modernised Mirages (allegedly after Israeli intelligence acquired the information required to build them), the Kfir could be one of the few cases where a reverse-engineered aircraft actually performed well.
Much has been made for example of the Soviet Tu-4, a direct copy of the B-29, but that aircraft is a good example of why this is so difficult. For example, it became significantly heavier than the original because the Soviets had to err on the side of caution when it came to materials thickness, and their domestic aluminium production was in metric thicknesses which didn’t quite align with the American imperial ones. Also, despite having better engines than the conventional narrative credits them with, Soviet supercharger technology was not as advanced and they had less access to high-octane fuels, so the aircraft was also underpowered. This makes the Kfir a significant achievement.
While the Kfir was originally conceived as a multi-role air superiority and strike aircraft, its long gestation meant that it arrived in service only one year prior to Israel’s acquisition of the F-15, which was a step-change in air superiority fighters. As such, the Kfir soon became relegated to a pure strike aircraft, and received upgrades to use more advanced precision-strike weapons as these became available.
A curious thing while researching this aircraft is that despite a service life with the IDF of over 20 years, there are very few photos of in-service Kfirs, even compared to the original Mirage III. I don’t know whether this is because of some official reticence to publicise it due to its origin, or because it was overtaken by the F-15 and later F-16 as the “exciting” plane, but I do find it curious.
Like the MiG-31, this kit provides a surprisingly nice build experience, except for the landing gear. The difference is that the MiG gets them out of the way early, whereas this plugs them in right at the end, so that pain is what you remember.
I say “plug in”, but that implies that there is a nice, solid connection and indeed that would be lovely indeed. But no: the locating holes are shallow, the locating pins don’t seem to fit them very well, and neither provides a positive location. Add to that the bay doors that just seem to balance on the lower fuselage, and the whole experience is very frustrating.
The rest of the kit however is very nice. The cockpit has decent detail and goes together well, the long fuselage seam needed just a tiny fill where the two halves join, but nothing to raise an eyebrow at. The wing clips on very easily and sits comfortably. It’s a very nice kit.
The exhaust (thankfully this one omits the full engine) is a little odd. The kit seems to intend for you to slot it in nicely once the build is complete, and slot in it does. Everything seemed perfect, it butted up against the retaining ring and then… it popped through. For a horrible moment I thought I had lost the exhaust up inside the plane, but it hadn’t moved far and it could be extracted undamaged.
I painted mine to represent a very early Kfir C2 in the air superiority role, carrying a pair of interestingly chunky Python 3 missiles and a supersonic drop tank. There were very few photos of this scheme so I used early F-15s in their Compass Ghost as reference.
Continuing my thoughts of how to get paint looking interesting, I used a mottle of several different pale blue-greys for each of the light and dark grey areas. Areas which were going to look darker from staining got some NATO Black and Warsaw Pact Chestnut worked in too: these warm browns should darken but also desaturate the blue-greys. After painting, I used a lightened shade of each top coat in areas which I felt might fade from sunlight.
The only additions to this kit were a twisted-string ejector seat pull handle and a Master Models pitot.