Conversion: Academy 1/72
scale MiG-27M to MiG-27UPG of the Indian Air Force
When I first started off with this kit, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It started off as a thought and led to something totally unconcievable for a novice modeler like me. I am the type of guy who loves camouflages and builds OOB. The type of guy who had never done an aircraft in the single-color all-grey (Tipnis Grey) scheme and had done minimal scratch building. So here goes the story:
A little waffle and the kit:
A proposal was put up to organise a comprehensive upgrade of the aging MiG-27ML fleet to transform the aircraft into a potent, accurate, all weather, day or night interdictor. Fortunately, foreseeing the government stalling the proposal, the IAF began discussing the possibility of a fully Indian upgrade program involving HAL and the Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE).
The MiG-27 needed plenty of work. Equipment that went into the upgrade included a HUD and a full colour high definition display (HDD). The core of the upgrade involved two new pieces of computer equipment in the Flogger's nose bay. A new laser ranger replaced the old KLEN system. The main nav sensor, the INGPS along with VOR/ILS were also located in the nose bay. The new electronic warfare suite included a new radar warning receiver, an ELTA podded jammer and counter-measures dispenser system (CMDS). The upgraded aircraft was also made capable of carrying a laser designation pod and a photo recee pod.
The upgraded cockpit is, neater, de-cluttered and much more functionally ergonomic as compared to the non-upgrade cockpit. The RWR and CMDS were placed in the pilot's primary field of vision. An indigenous MFD displayed maps, horizontal situation and laser pod video. With time required to feed in date pre-mission reduced by a factor of four, and less time for alignment, the time for launch was brought down dramatically.
The MiG-27 upgrade has made possible to substantially reduce the pilot's workload. He no longer has to pay as much attention to navigation as he used to, situational awareness is no longer a daunting challenge even while flying at low levels and routine tasks have been shifted off the pilot's plate, allowing him to focus less on flying and more on tactics and the mission at hand.
Target acquisition is also remarkably more efficient and intuitive now. The upgrade has given the MiG-27 new modes of attack, including CCRP, CCIP memory and Target of Opportunity - these have given pilots the flexibility to attack planned and unplanned targets with equal efficacy. On the upgraded MiG-27, virtually attack parameters can be adjusted with a flick of a control switch now, and will no longer involve untimely sweats in the cockpit.
Weapon accuracy was a real concern. The MiG-27s electronic warfare suite underwent many substantial changes. The front antennae of the Tarang 1B radar warning receiver (RWR) were moved from the wing leading edges to the nose, removing the earlier problem of masking which has apparently plagued the Tarang experience in virtually every other aircraft it has been used on. Incidentally, the upgraded MiG-27 is now the only aircraft in the Indian inventory that provides true 360-degrees, mask-free RWR cover. The self-protection jammer and and countermeasures dispensing system (CMDS) can now be auto-cued by the RWR, and the new integrated display provides, for the first time on the MiG-27, a perfectly clear picture of the electronic orbat around the aircraft.
I picked up the seemingly simple looking, soon to be realized as deceptive (and I'll come to this in a bit), Academy 1/72 scale MiG-27M and had thought of making a MiG-27UPG of the Indian Air Force, currently in service. Nice thought! Anyway,
With all those electronic, sensor and avionics upgrades, the MiG-27UPG had a lot of external differences as well and these had to be kept in mind when I undertook the project. With some careful study and expert advice from a MiG-27UPG flyboy, I set out to build it. The cockpit was pretty basic and had no details at all. So I scratch built the seat belts using masking tape and added a the cockpit decal. Once the cockpit was assembled inside the nose rear section, the next step was to extend the nose which in the academy kit, was shorter in scale by roughly 1cm. Thankfully the nose is in 2 pieces on the sprue; the front cone and the rear section leading to the back of the cockpit. So I used Fevicryl Shilpkar 2-part epoxy putty to construct the 1cm extra length. Once the putty had dried off, I began grafting the nose to shape it. This itself took almost 8-10 hours of work with continuous shaping and monitoring for alignment while using progressive dry and wet sanding with a 100-220-400-600-1200 grit sandpapers.
The bullet fairings on the wing upper and lower leading edge roots, are not present on the Indian MiG-27s. So I simply chopped off the fairings with a snipper, filled the space with Comfill automotive filler and sanded and smoothed it out flush with the wing leading edge root. The rest of the fuselage was built as per the instructions and the model quickly took the shape of the MiG-27. The next step was to scratch build the "million" antennae/sensors which I started doing with plasticard...well essentially a cellphone sim card sprue to be precise.
So, the first 2 constructions were 2 small round ball-like antenna (Tarang 1B radar sensors) on either side of the nose front of the nose just behind the pitot static tube.
Next were 2 small antennae, one vertical fin shaped, and other a flat squarish one, on top of the nose in front of the canopy windscreen equidistant from each other and from the front of the nose and the windscreen respectively.
Next I constructed the cockpit side armor plates and the LERX on each side of the wing root.
The Comm. antenna on the MiG-27M which is right in the middle of the fuselage is not present on the UPG. This has however, moved to just aft of the canopy and is a smaller in size antenna in an airfoil shape, which I scratch built.
Next were the chaff dispensers which are clearly visible on the rear of the fuselage undersides, slightly offset behind the ventral fin. I scratch built these.
Next I constructed a small blister antenna on the left side of the fin close to the first part the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer.
Finally I scratch built two small triangular shaped antenna on the top near the trailing edge of the vertical stabilizer, which are the IFF antennae.
All this took many hours of cutting, sanding and shaping and needed countless hours of concentration and patience to get them to look right.
Once all this scratch building mayhem was over, I could take a sigh of relief and think of painting.
images below to see larger images
I primed using Bosny grey primer and then pre-shaded using Fevicryl "black". Post the pre-shading, I began painting the IAF Tipnis Grey. This color was created by a mix-n-match of Black, White and Sap Green. The painting was quick and easy since it was all in a single color and was completed in a single sitting of 3-4 hours.
Once the paint had dried off, I gloss coated the model and began decalling with the "Bright Spark" set of IAF decals which I had available with me.