I always have a soft-spot for aircraft with delta wings and I think the Dassault Rafale stands as is one of the sexiest fourth-generation aircraft in the world today. The Rafale is surely an interesting subject. For that, I could totally be biased, of course.
So much has been said about Revell’s version of the Rafale M (Kit No. 04517). Originally released in 1999, Revell re-issued the kit several times with new parts and decals. My copy includes long-range drop tanks, bombs, missiles, and decal options for aircraft that took part in the 2011 Libya conflict. What I like most about this kit is the level of detail: The cockpit, ejection seat, and exhaust pipes had fine raised surface details; and the exterior was no exception with intricate recessed panels and rivets. This included well detailed landing gears, pylons, and weapons. However, the fit was rather a mix bag: some areas were great but others needed intensive filling and sanding.
The cockpit came together with no hassle. Reference photos showed that this section came in a monotone black. So to make it more interesting, I varied the color using different shades of black and dry-brushed the raised details XF-19 Sky Grey. I painted the triple MFDs XF-5 Flat Green and sealed it off with a coat of clear gloss. Then I painted the ejection seat black and cushion XF-58 Olive Green.I fond out that jumping through – rather than following – the instructions sequence actually helped build a better Rafale.
One area that took a lot of attention was the front fuselage section. Once you have inserted the cockpit and put the two fuselage halves together, you should jump straight into installing the intakes and nose cone (step 13-14). Word of advice: attach the canards later (step 8). This would extremely help you fill and sand areas around the intakes and get a smoother finish. I also suggest you insert enough weights into the nose cone and securely glue it in place.Up to this stage, the biggest hassle is the intakes. Whatever you do, you will be confronted by ugly steps. To minimize them, I aligned the intakes to the lower fuselage. As the area is packed with intricate details, aligning this way put filling and sanding to a minimal.
I used slow-curing glue like Tamiya Extra Thin cement to buy time to micro-adjust the alignment. On the upper side, the step was dealt by first scraping the surface, leveling it with regular putty, and sanding. For a better finish, I dabbed a thin layer of CA glue across the work area to close any tiny pores, and sanded smooth with #1200 sandpaper.Another challenge with this kit was keeping the dihedral angle consistent for the delta-shaped wings. I had no guidance so again I was up to eyeballing reference photos for the right angle. I secured a pair of copper wire in each wing to make the bond stronger.That was not all. The second challenge with the wings was smoothing out the seam lines running through the lower side of the wing roots. Packed with fine details, traditional filling and sanding might damage the area. I limited the spread of putty by masking off the seams and left 3-4 mm for the putty. Once set, I removed all excess using cotton swabs and used cloth dipped in nail polish remover liquid. After a few swipes, voila, the gap was gone while keeping the surface details intact.
One of the most impressive parts of the kit was the front landing gear. As you may know, the carrier-borne version has a longer and sturdier front landing gear and I should commend Revell for successfully replicated that look. I painted the landing gear struts and wheel hub with Alclad ALC 101 Aluminum. To get the tires a “weighted” look, I sawed off a tiny portion (0.5mm) from the base of each of the tires. After masking, I sprayed the rubber tires XF-85 Rubber Black.Revell gave a really nice load. I got each a pairs of MICA RF (active radar), MICA IR (infra-red), S.550 Magic II air-to-air missiles, and six GBU-12 laser guided bombs. Sadly, the box only had minimum decals for a pair of MICAs and none for the Magic II missiles! Some masking and painting were next. Again, reference photos to the rescue. The base color is XF-2 Flat White and Mr. Color no.8 silver for the tip. I use Mr. Mask Sol R to mask the clear IR sensors. Mr. Mark Sol R dries into a very thin layer and is great for masking irregular surfaces. For the GBU-12s, the warhead section was painted XF-58 Olive Green, while the tail, and guidance and control units were painted Mr. Color 307 grey and XF-10 Flat Brown.My procedure for the clear canopy parts was to dip them in a Future bath and let dry for 48 hours. I always like to have them in the same tone as the model, so once dried I masked them off and fixed all the cleared parts onto the fuselage. I noticed a gap near the windshield and I filled and sanded it smooth. With the cockpit sealed, the model was ready for its first drop of paint.The navalized Rafales got a lot of hands-on attention from crews and are exposed to grease, oil, and the elements. They get pretty dirty very fast as many reference photos show this. My goal was to paint the model in layers of analogous grey colors until it was completely opaque. The different shades of grey – from darker shades to lighter shades were meant to break the monotone grey and make my Rafale looked more interesting and weathered.Once I laid down a basecoat of Mr. Surfacer Black 1500 primer, I started the marbling process with XF-54 Dark Sea Grey that was highly diluted in thinner. Randomizing my spraying pattern, I did this for the next consecutive layers, building up opacity while mixing XF-19 Sky Grey into the ration to vary the base color. For the metallic, the engine exhausts and APU exhaust got a spray of Alclad ACL101 with an overlay of Model Master Steel and Burnt Metal Metalizer.
Once I was done with the base coat, I sprayed several thin layers of X-22 Clear mixed with Mr. Leveling Thinner to gloss-up the model for the decal process. I wanted to build a battle proven Rafale, so my choice was for an aircraft from Flotilla 12F that participated on Operation Harmattan, the French involvement in the Libyan conflict (2011).The kit’s decals were thin and in-register. With a little dab of Mr. Mark Setter and Softer, the decals set itself nicely onto the surface.To emphasis the panel lines, I used Tamiya Panel Line Accent. However, all three of Tamiya’s products are too dark, too brown, or too light. So I mixed the black and grey (or together with brown) and work the panel lines from there. The mix should not be too contrasting, but just enough to make it a bit darker than the base color.
To re-create the grime, filth, and streaks I used several materials. The filthy underside is replicated by airbrushing a combo mix of X-19 Smoke, XF-10 Flat Brown, and XF-1 Flat Black. The streaks are done by laying down a small drop of black enamel paint and swiping a flat brush consistent with the direction of the airflow. The oil stains are created by dabbing a mix of highly diluted red brown and black using a finely pointed brush. I studied a lot of reference photos to ensure that the weathering is kept irregular and random.I loaded the Rafale with all three 1000 gallons external tanks, six GBU-12 smart bombs, a pair of MICAs on the outer pylons, and R.550 Magic 2s on the wing tip rails. Pretty much this is a heavy load! Revell’s included no instructions for installing the Damocles targeting pod, so I relied heavily on reference photos to pinpoint the exact location when installing the Damocles’ pylon. To secure all of them in place, I drilled out holes in the bombs, pylons, and wings for the copper wire (7mm) before adding some drops of CA glue.Final touches included adding the pitot tube, gluing the wheel bay doors, and securing the main clear canopy in an opened-position.