Trumpeter MiG-17 Fresco in 1/32 scale

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One of the most spectacular attempts on the life of President Soekarno happened more than 57 years ago. Daniel Maukar, an Air Force Lieutenant at the time, piloted a MiG-17 Fresco and strafed the Indonesian Presidential Palace in broad daylight.

This incident happened on March 9, 1960 during Indonesia’s tumultuous times. The lone and disgruntled pilot shot the palace up with a barrage of 23 mm canon shells. Daantje or Danny – as his friends called him – was one of the most talented pilots in the former Indonesian Air Force (AURI).

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The alleged MiG-17 ‘1112’ that was flown by Danny, crash landed on a rice field in Garut, a rural municipality in West Java Province. (Photo: Riauonline)

As the canon shells landed and exploded, it shook the Presidential Palace. One of the large pillars fell short of Soekarno’s desk. Luckily, the first Indonesian President was chairing a meeting in another building near by. Maukar himself denied having tried to kill Soekarno as he claimed the action was just a warning. Before strafing, he had to make sure that the Palace did not raise the yellow flag – a sign that the president was there.

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The Indonesian Presidential Palace in Jakarta, as seen today (2008) from a distance. (Photo: Michael J Lowe, via Wikipedia.or.id)

The adventure of the ‘Tiger’ – his call sign – ended soon after he force landed his Fresco on Garut’s vast rice fields. Danny was eventually court-martial and sent to serve eight years in prison, though later President Soekarno pardoned him.

The Mikoyan  designed bureau developed the MiG-17 to fix some of the shortcomings of its predecessor, the MiG-15. The MiG-17 Fresco had served in twenty-two countries, including Indonesia. Many countries liked the Fresco simplicity, ruggedness, excellent dog-fighting ability, and lethal canons. The Vietnam War proved the MiG-17 was capable facing larger and more modern foes.

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In the 50s and 60s, Indonesia once had a mighty Air Force that comprised of hundreds of Soviet-built fighter jets and bombers (Photo: Kohahudnas)

My Fresco model is similar to the jet that Danny took to the skies on that fateful day, and represented one of the many MiG-17s that served proudly with the former Indonesian Air Force.12635262923_24d704b69f_bTrumpeter issued the 1/32 scale MiG-17PF Frenco kit (No. 02206) in 2004. This kit,  measuring 50 cm when completed, was Trumpeter’s early products. The dinosaur kit was far from perfect. It took a lot of time and effort, wrestling and swearing to make it looked ‘okay’. The quality of the plastic was rather abysmal and details were none to be seen. It parts numbers are so low that I think anyone could assemble this kit in a few hours.12635116735_7c75ab599b_bI worked on this project for almost about a year, and wrapped it up shortly before the closing months of 2014. In a scale of priority, I focused on super-detailing the cockpit and Klimov engine since those are the two areas I planned to exposed most. I decided to open the engine compartment to show of the wired-up Klimov. 12635195425_7bc22a58ac_bAs for the cockpit, I thought that the bubble shape canopy would expose much of the interior but it didn’t. That was a bit of a let down. At any rate, the cockpit at this scale needed detailing, regardless. 12635184875_67e5016acf_bOf course there are other parts of the model that would require fixing but that would just prolonged the project – something that I vehemently avoid.  Both had just the bare minimal of details. The tub from the box had sufficient surface details to represent the panels and layout of a MiG-17’s cockpit , but nothing more. I added cut some gauges for the instrument panels. and included harness for the ejection seat using masking tape. 12635349563_e118230f89_bThe engine was rather basic but it had good features that represents it was actually a Klimov. Spicing up the engine to a certain level of detail was mandatory knowing that it would be eventually exposed in the open.  My upgrade consisted of adding rivets and wiring up the engine with styrene rods and stretched sprues.

In both instances, the key was not to add “everything”, but to add “enough” details so both gave the impression that it looked “busy”. 12635189735_3370c1a2b7_bI worked with different thread sizes, notably using 0.7mm (copper) phone cables and melted sprues in various sizes. Other details included adding bolts and new parts using 0.5mm Tamiya Pla-plate. I used used Tamiya Extra Thin on all the gluing parts except for the copper where I used cyanoacrylate (CA glue).12696669183_96ed53667b_bIndonesian MiG-17s were given natural metal finishes. When I started painting the Fresco, I didn’t have my regular Alclad as I was working on the model in a city away from my workbench. To that end, I relied on decanting a can of RJ London chrome silver. RJ London is a local brand of spray cans that was quite easy to find where I live at that time. As with any decanting process, I poured the can’s contents into the cup of my airbrush. Then, after the aerosol has left the paint, I add a few drops of lacquer thinner to dilute it. 14647787426_fc96a9f39c_bOne thing I noticed with RJ London’s chrome silver was that it didn’t quite work well with masking. I like the color that it produced, but the fact was that masking tape of any brand – including the fool-proof Tamiya tape – tend to pick up parts of the paint, leaving nasty patches of underlying primer on the surface.14771317634_428a4ea651_b I sprayed several layers of of the chrome silver until I get the right look. I then covered it with a coat of clear gloss using Future Floor Polish. I was hoping that this would protect the natural metal finish and eventually stop the paint from lifting.

For the cockpit interior and wheel bay, I used XF-23 Light Blue with a dash of XF-5 Flat Green to stimulate the interior of Duck Egg Blue Russian planes at that time. While the interior of the engine bay and tire rims were given XF-61 Dark Green.14777647012_1ba8d4679a_bInstalling the Klimov onto the fuselage required some simple math work to have it placed squarely in the middle. I add some odds and ends onto the firewall to make it look busy and painted it XF-61. As plumbing was needed, I added lengths of cables made out of stretched sprues. All this was done before I inserted the engine piece.  12703113494_3ba0b94ac9_bTo paint the VK-1 engine and its exhaust chimney, I use a variety of metallic colors, ranging from  X-32 Titanium Silver, X-10 Metal Gun, XF-56 Metallic Gray. To add variety of shades, I added XF-24 Clear Yellow into some of the metallic paint mix. The wheel struts were given XF-16 Flat aluminum while the tyres were left as is, in their original vinyl rubber.14775648644_b809580462_bOne of the most visible inaccuracies of the kit is the shape of the front wind shield. Somehow Trumpeter got it all totally wrong. The only way to solve it is either to buy a after market replacement canopy. Or try my luck in modifying the original piece. I decided to try the latter. The first thing that I did was to shave off the front wind shield with a stainless mini saw.14778026772_48bf290b0c_b The next step was to add a piece of 0,2mm clear plastic – that was cut to shape – to replace the windshield. I used Tamiya Extra Thin to glue the pieces together. And then followed by sanding, find sanding and polishing up with Tamiya 3-step compound set. Once masked and painted, nobody would able to know that the windshield was a replacement piece.14591644880_9aa048231f_bObviously, I had to make my own decals for the Indonesian MiG-17. I downloaded the Amarillo USAF fonts for the ‘1162’ stencils and printed them on transparent decal paper using an Epson inkjet printer. I chose to have my Fresco as 1162 as opposed to 1112, but was still based on an identified image of an actual aircraft that served with AURI. 14798211663_4a44d439e3_bFor the AURI roundels and red-and-white fin flash, I used masking technique like the original aircraft. To start, I made a master template for the pentagram – one for white and one for red and airbrushed the red and then the white in that order. Masking is more tedious and takes longer but the result is very satisfying. 14591683619_6626490ca0_bLastly in the list was installing the drop tanks, canons, door bays, and pitot tubes. That’s pretty much how I wrapped up this project.

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Trumpeter provided the kit with crew ladder and trolley for the aft tail section. Both were subsequently painted yellow

If I had to go back in make this kit again, I would probably relocate the fuselage antenna and further smoothed out the slight orange peel plastic surface that came with the kit.

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The Fresco on a ‘tropical’ scene photo shoot.
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A clean-built MiG-17. Maybe if I had another go at this kit, I would do a weathered one instead.

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