"A Fistful Of Ferrets"

3 Italeri 1/72 MiG-37 Ferrets

Gallery Article by Scott Diamond on Sept 26 2016

 

      

Believe it or not, one day when I was out of my mind, I decided to build three of those Italeri 1/72 MiG-37 Ferret pretend stealth planes. Nifty looking little buggers, but a real pain to fit properly so there is endless sand n' fill with them. Especially onerous with three of them.

To do this thing right I wrote up a brief history on the variants to lend some method to my madness and make sure the planes "worked" as realistic-seeming aircraft.

In any case, the "historical facts" of the lineup start with the original MiG-37B Ferret E in black with the dazzlers and all the stock stuff. That was the original production model from, say, 1983. Top Secret n' all but glimpsed over Panama when the first picture of the F-117 was taken in the same place. Glide bomb and two R-31 (NATO= AA-8b Asp) stealthy IR missiles in the two bays. 

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The second is the Mig-37STK Ferret G variant, also known as the "Sneaky Weasel" by NATO forces in Europe, who saw the thing on East German runways in 1985. Painted in the typical patterns for the region it was obviously not for pure stealth missions but for a ground support role, probably to enable it to close as fast and near as possible to ground AA and SAM sites, as well as ground control stations to open strike corridors for conventional ground attack planes. It has a Gsh-23L two-barrel 23mm cannon pod and two wing hardpoints for deadfall or guided bombs, as well as the rear bay for another bomb or anti-radiation guided A-G missiles. The forward bay is sealed to hold fuel and cannon ammunition. It has laser guidance to support terrain masking and for marking targets, though, generally it was expected the plane will would be working in tandem with heavier bombers by marking for their heavier guided bombs. In this target-tagging role the Sneaky Weasel's stealth capabilities might have actually been useful. The plane's nose gear was ruggedized for landings on unprepared strips by using the same nose gear as the MiG-25, and that gave this variant of the Ferret a characteristic nose-high look.

For defense, in addition to the usual suite of ECM systems the Sneaky Weasel had the jammer- dazzlers on the wing tips and intakes replaced with smaller, more efficient anti-missile countermeasures and flares. This plane's version of the K-36 ejection seat was improved for not only faster zero-zero performance, but also allowed for faster inverted ejection by ejecting the pilot either through blown-out floor panels or through the canopy, depending on if the plane was inverted or not. Unfortunately, early teething problems resulting in pilots being suddenly ejected into the runway under the plane during rougher than usual landings grounded the fleet for three months after it was initially deployed. The East Germans refused to fly the planes even after the seats were fixed, instead trying to trade the planes to the Poles for conventional MiG-23 Floggers, but the Poles merely laughed at them and refused. The East German pilots assigned to the planes were especially happy about the German Reunification when the West Germans sold the planes to Iran, where they became the basis for the notorious F-313 Conqueror stealth fighter program. 

The last is the final MiG-37M Ferret L that was heavily modified for air-to-air combat. No dazzlers, all-internalized and more sophisticated ECM and counter-missile systems as evidenced by the numerous bumps and blades on the fuselage, and large dielectric panels on the wings and tail fins. This version still uses a non-afterburning Tumansky engine pairing, but since it is difficult to detect on radar and IR sensors until it is inside effective missile range the lack is a positive for the plane. The plane has had the rear bay replaced by a fuel tank for greater range and two external hardpoints for either R-60 Aphid or R-23T Alamo missiles. The rear bay carries a pair of the more advanced version of the R-31. This variant of the Ferret is coated with a secret two-tone radar-absorbing paint much improved from the original version that easily peeled at the speeds needed for higher-altitude air-to-air combat; sheets would fly off and scuff the paint on the pursuing aircraft or cover the canopy windscreen. However, it did increase the plane's stealthy look by nearly 20% and received positive points for style at the 1987 Paris Air Show.

Changes to the kits:
On a couple of the planes I dropped the beavertail vector vane in the rear to simulate loss of hydraulic pressure when powered down. Seemed logical and it helped fit the part between the tail fins better in a couple of cases. 

Nothing was modified on the original kit for the Ferret E version except cut the main wheel covers to make them into mudguards like you see with the MiG-23 Flogger. The gear on these Ferrets is obviously sourced from that plane so it was an obvious thing to do to keep the covers from probably banging into the ground on landing given how low to the ground the plane is. I painted it Polly S Railroad Colors Guilford Gray and Model Master Russian Interior Blue for the cockpit.

The East German ground attack version had the 'dazzlers' removed from the intakes and wingtips as "redundant and messed with low level cornering given the plane's mission environment". Or something like that. The cannon came from a 1/48 Trumpeter MiG-23M kit mounted in half of one of the Ferret kits' bombs as a gun pod. The seat is a Verlinden K-36 resin replacement to "update" the variant. Extra bombs from the three kits went on the wings. It is painted with Model Master paints, but I can't remember the exact ones other than the Russian Underside Blue. The nose gear came from a Zvezda 1/72 SU-25 kit.

The interceptor variant was "cleaned up" by having all the "dazzlers' removed and extra bumps and blades added from random bits of shaved and sanded plastic. The seat is the other K-36 from the Verlinden box, and the wing pylons and APU's came from that much-gutted Zvezda 1/72 SU-25 kit, as did the R-60 AAM's on the wings. The canards are reshaped horizontal stabs from the same long-suffering kit. The paint scheme was done with assorted Polly S and Tamiya paints and was a sort of "figure it out as I go" scheme. I kind of knew I wanted something "stealthy" to the eye in low light conditions, but not the usual grays and black. I went with the gray-green spectrum with Polly S RLM02, Tamiya RLM Gray, and Tamiya Black-Green (RLM70). The pattern wraps around the plane and had a 1-drop to a cup of thinner (water) filter of RLM Gray to bring it all together and soften the sharp color differences. To keep the pattern together I temporarily mounted the gear covers to the plane, then cut them up (they come one-piece in the kit).

In all cases the kit decals were translucent but that worked to my benefit in some ways, and it definitely made the red stars low like lo-viz stealthy markings. The East German decals from some long-forgotten kit make a less stealthy contrast suitable for its mission.

All in all I really like the way the planes turned out given the vast amounts of sanding and filling I had to do around their tails and intakes to get them to look blended and seamless. I have two more of these beasts in my stash and might cut them up and kit-bash them into a maritime 2-seat jump jet version in the future. 

Whew! Hope y'all enjoy!

Scott Diamond

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Photos and text by Scott Diamond