1/48 Esci Impala MkII (MB-326K)

by Malcolm Reid



This is the Esci Aermacchi MB-326K in its Impala MkII version as used by the South African Air Force (SAAF).  The Impala MkII was a single seat development of the two seat MB-326 trainer aircraft produced by Aermacchi.  The Impala MkII (and its two seat counterpart, the MkI) were produced under licence in South Africa by the then Atlas Aviation.  Approximately 100 MkIIs were produced to provide the South African Air Force (SAAF) with a light strike aircraft.  These aircraft saw extensive combat operations in the “bush” war on the border of Namibia (South West Africa) and Angola in the 70’s and 80’s.  One of the most famous stories is of a flight of Impalas ambushing several Angolan Air Force Mi-17 and Mi-25 helicopters on two occasions, in the process scoring 6 kills (http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_193.shtml and http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_183.shtml ).

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The Impala MkII has now been retired from SAAF service and replaced by the Hawk LIFT.  I decided to model an aircraft in the final colour scheme used by the SAAF (as represented in the beautiful book Soaring with Eagles).  The Impala MkIIs received an upgrade during the bush war to provide improved defence against SAMs – this consisted of an RWR system with prominent antennae on each wingtip fuel tank’s leading and trailing edge as well as beneath the nose.  The aircraft was also fitted with chaff / flare dispenser pods beneath each wing just aft of the main landing gear wells. These were scratch built and added to the basic Esci kit.  The Esci kit is actually a peach with finely recessed panel lines and a reasonable level of detail. The kit seat was modified through the addition of seat belts (using Tamiya tape) and other details. Assembly of the kit posed no problems, the fit being rather good.  Weapons choice was a combination of fuel tanks, Mk-82 bombs and 6 shot Matra rocket pods.  The kit rocket pods are of the larger 18 shot type which weren’t used on the Impala.  Luckily, someone on the SA IMPS website provided the solution – the kit gun pods were used as the body of the rocket pod and the front section of each 18 shot rocket pod was cut off and attached thereby providing a neat solution for a 6 shot rocket pod. Mk 82 bombs were found in the spares box.

Painting was done as follows – underside 50% Model Master Intermediate Blue FS35164 and 50% Tamiya X2 white. Upper camouflage was a combination of brown (XtraColour X-224 RLM79 + spot X-18 black) and Green (XtraColour X-113 faded OD over sprayed with X-116 FS14102). SAAF decals are provided in the kit but these were old and cracked up when put in water. No alternative but to make my own – and thus I embarked on a long, tedious and frustrating (but ultimately satisfying) journey of discovery. Using a sample aircraft at the SAAF museum in Pretoria and another at the Johannesburg war museum, I managed to get accurate details of all markings and stenciling of late scheme aircraft. These were replicated and brought to scale using CorelDraw. Printing was done using a Canon inkjet printer onto Experts-Choice clear decal film. The printed decals were then varnished with Testors gloss varnish to protect the ink from running. This worked well and each decal was applied with Micro Set and Sol. A light dusting of semi-gloss varnish was applied followed by weathering with dark grey pastels. A final coat of mat varnish was applied. This is a beautiful little aircraft which packed a mean punch. It will be truly missed – apparently a number of MkI’s have been bought by enthusiasts in the USA and the Brazilian Air Force to supplement their ageing force.


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Photos and text © by Malcolm Reid