On to the finishing stage! First up are the decals after a gloss coat. The decals are designed by Canuck Models and printed by Cartograph. While generally printed nicely, the red bands that go around the bottom fuselage were slightly out of register. Pity.
These went on beautifully and are really easy to use although I think slightly oversized when I compared to references. As usual with aggressor aircraft, markings are limited with a general lack of stencils. Not that I’m complaining.
Kinetic’s markings callout was vague in some parts (black line pointing into a black area…. really, Kinetic?) So I ended up referring to reference photos instead. Based on these photos, Kinetic also missed out on some markings on the bottom. I wasn’t able to figure out where marking B15 went on so I left it off.
Once cured and given another gloss coat, I began the weathering process with raw umber oil wash for the panel lines.
Unfortunately, the wash brought up a molding mistake on the port wing: there’s ONE missing rivet. Yeesh. Now I can’t unsee it but I decided to move on.
Photo references show that these aircraft are maintained very well so I went with a cleaner finish.
There are minor wear and exhaust streaks on the bottom of the stabilizers and fuselage.
After a day of curing, I flat coated and gave the kit another half day to cure. For final assembly. I installed the pylons, sway braces, fuel tanks, gear doors, wheels, wingtip lights, various pitot tubes and antennas that line the Alpha Jet. These were attached with either CA or PVA glue. Predictably, all of these parts required minor trimming and adjustments to fit and the sway braces in particular didn’t fit right. The fuel tanks don’t hang right to my eye.
The ejection seats are finally installed and these fit quite securely without cement.
Just some final painting of the various antennas, pitot tubes, canopy actuators and wingtip lights and I can finally call this done!
Painting begins as is usual now with a base color of Tamiya XF-1 Black thinned with lacquer thinner.
Reference photos show that the Top Aces Alpha Jets are maintained very well with very smooth paint jobs. I decided to take some artistic license by adding some subtle variation to the colors for visual interest. So I added marble coating with Mig AMMO Medium Gunship Grey and Model Air Light Grey. This should create a subtler effect than my usual white marble coat. BTW don’t mind the photo, I realized too late I didn’t take a photo of the kit with just the marble coat.
The Top Aces Alpha Jet is painted in a very nice 3 tone livery of white, light gray and light blue. First up I sprayed the white. The instructions call for Gloss White (FS27874) which I replaced with Model Air Insignia White.
After a day of curing, it was time for the light blue color. Masking was done with rolled blutack and backfilled with Tamiya tape.
I used Mig AMMO Dark Grey Blue in place of the called for FSXXXXX and sprayed quite tightly against the blutack as references show that the demarcations are quite solid. While they have different FS codes, the blue looks good when compared to many photos I found online.
Then it’s more masking to prep for the gray color.
The gray is Model Color Medium Sea Grey.
As usual for me, once all the masking tape and blutack have been removed, there are various spots that require fixing and finetuning. This stage usually takes a bit of time due to the multiple colors involved. I also found more seamlines and had to fix those. One particularly obvious one is on the nose.
Kinetic missed out 2 notable things with the livery. The first is they have the pattern wrong in the bottom aft of the fuselage and the tailfin which I have to redo.
The other is that the the splitter plates and the leading edges of the intake lips, wings, stabilizers, tailfin and pylons are black. Kinetic only got the deatils of the splitter plates and intake lips color right. Anyway, after fixing all the various livery problems, it was time for more masking.
These sections are painted Model Air Dark Panzer Grey.
The canopy frames were painted Mig AMMO Gunship Grey as per reference photos. Kinetic’s instructions shows the frames are a different color from the rest of the camo but they don’t specify which color it is.
The pylons and fuel tanks are primarily Model Color Medium Sea Grey with the leading edges Model Air Dark Panzer Grey. Gear doors and wheels were also finally prepped.
And could it be that I’m almost done?! Decals and finishing are next!
To address the step between the front canopy and the nose, it was a matter of putty + elbow grease with a sanding sponge. However, the way the front canopy attaches to the nose, the port side joint is only (at most) 0.5mm away from a panel line. Naturally I managed to obliterate part of the panel line so some rescribing was needed.
While the general fit of the canopies look OK, I decided to leave them open for this build. And since they are quite bare, I also decided to torture myself and add some handles and rear view mirrors. First up is masking.
The insides were also masked…
The rear view mirrors are put together from 0.2mm plastic plate and a bit of stretched sprue.
I used thin solder wire for the handles. The design and placement of these are based on photos I found online.
Looks acceptable after a spray of color. Might be a tad oversized and crude but I’m moving on.
After some more masking of the cockpit, intakes and the main landing gear, it looks like I’m finally ready for painting!
In between sessions of gap fixing, I started on the things under the wings. The kit comes with 4 gas bags but I decided to go with just the 2 outer ones. The wheels all come with the rim and tires being separate but while that makes them easy to paint, they needed trimming and a healthy dose of sanding to fit together.
I first inserted plastic plates to to fill a majority of the gap in the coaming, then the rest will be handled by filler.
I did the same for the gap on the main gear door.
The speed brakes are also usually closed when the plane is on the ground but these don’t fit well at all.
To make my life easier, I cut off the legs of the speed brakes, trimmed everything, then fit them that way. The cut marks will be tackled with more filler.
The gap fixing is taking a while…
The main issues being the intake lips to intake fit and the exhaust housings which have big steps all round the joint areas.
The canopy parts were given a dip of Future and left to dry for close to 72 hours and were test fitted onto the fuselage. The fit is decent but I think I’ll leave the canopies open, which means I’ll have to detail up the inside of the frames.
The instruction calls for a clear piece for the HUD projector (?) but I decided to replace this with G-Option’s Aurora Film. I punched out a small round piece and stuck it into the hole. Looks good!
The HUD itself is a piece of photoetch which I folded carefully. The kit parts for the glass were replaced with thinner acetate and given a brush of Future.
After masking the inside of the front canopy, I sprayed Panzer Dark Grey. Referring to photos I found online, I added ‘a round thing’ and 2 ‘side blocks’ (yes those are the technical terms) using plastic plate and stretched sprue.
The front canopy is molded with a part of the nose. But it sits just slightly proud so more elbow grease is required.
It’s been slow going, but I’m getting there!
With everything requiring multiple dryfits, trimming and adjusting, progress is going slower than I would like. Anyway, onwards we go. First up though, is a picture of the seats by themselves which I forgot to show in my previous WIP post.
The Alpha Jet’s flaps remain raised while on the ground so while it’s nice Kinetic offers the flaps down option, it simply means more work in this case.
The flap actuators fit fine but some of the holes for the pins are too large and will require filling.
There are blocks and sockets for the wings to fit into the fuselage but the sockets are bigger than the blocks so they aren’t of much help for alignment and to get the correct anhedral of the wings. In the end, due to the loose fit, I focused on the proper alignment and fit for the leading edges and will fix the gaps on the trailing edges.
This picture also shows the big gap right behind the cockpit. Since I doubt normal putty will be able to cover this, I filled with epoxy putty from the inside, pushed it out and trimmed off the excess.
To distract myself from the monotony of getting all the parts to fit with minimal gaps, I decided to try my hand at scratchbuilding brake lines on the landing gear. On the Alpha Jet, there’s only 1 cable on each gear leg so I figure it’s the best time to practise.
I used 0.1mm copper wire and 0.4mm masking tape for the bands. I think the copper wire is too thin but it’ll have to do. The result looks good but not really noticeable.
The main landing gear needs to be attached into the fuselage before the bottom plate is installed.
I don’t like this arrangement but there’s no way around it. I reinforced the joints with diluted PVA glue and then the bottom plate then gets fitted. Luckily it went on with only a little trimming.
While the cockpit tub fit OK, there is a noticeable gap on the instrument coaming. There is also a slight short molding of the coaming on the port side which leads to a very unsightly gap.
Kinetic molds the gear bay doors in the open position but all the photos I’ve seen show that almost all of them are closed while on the ground. The attachment guides were cut off and I took a while to get them to close up.
The nose gear doors didn’t turn out that well but like a lot of the other parts so far, filler will fix it.
With the huge gap on the starboard gear door, it’s clear to me that the bay doors were never designed to be closed in the first place. Interestingly, the port side fit alright.
The good news however is that there is light at the end of the tunnel.