1/72 Aeromaster (Heller) Mirage 2000D

by Tom Berres

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      This kit is the now hard to find offering by Aeromaster.  It was actually a nuclear strike Mirage 2000N, with the injection molded portion by Heller.  The kit included a resin cockpit, nose gear well, shock cones, and exhaust.  A photo-etched fret had a superb exhaust nozzle, antennae, and strakes.  Also included were white metal landing gear and a crystal clear vacuform canopy.  Additionally, the kit detailed instructions and fantastic decals. 

     The D model Mirage is the conventional precision strike variant.  Recently, these aircraft have seen combat in Afghanistan.  Although labeled a D, the Italeri offering is actually a hybrid.  Inspired by a feature in World Airpower Journal and excellent walkaround pictures from the web (including ARC and French Air Wings) I chose to convert the Aeromaster kit into a 2000D with the most recent ESM and ECM equipment and weapons.  The Italeri kit was also used for key parts. 

Major Surgery  

     I was dissatisfied with the thin and poorly detailed vertical tail.  Choosing to replace it with an Italeri tail, I cut the original from the fuselage.  Dry fitting the resin exhaust revealed that the rear fuselage also required thinning and that the rear portion of the wing fillet needed to be cut away. 

    I also chose to replace the poorly detailed main gear bays with sheet styrene, strip, and copper wire.  Although only the main strut doors remain open when the Mirage is on the ground, the wheel bay is visible beneath the closed wheel door.  I boxed in the portion of the gear bay which is covered with styrene, adding some solder hydraulic tubing.  Dry fitting the wings and bays, I cut the fuselage beneath the wing fillet to accommodate the new gear bays. 

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Wing Assembly 

   Clearly the wings of this kit were from an older mold than the fuselage.  The wings had raised detail, while the fuselage lines were engraved.  I re-scribed the wing detail.  Next, I painted the gear bays light gray.  Finally I enclosed the gear bays, carefully checking the wing fit.  Significant thinning of the upper wings with a motor tool ensured that the wing profile was not distorted by the deepened gear wells.  The wings were glued together.  After a day of drying, I carefully cut away the flaperons for repositioning at final assembly. 

Fuselage and Cockpit 

     Before taking on the cockpit, I first decided to address the air intake ducts and nose gear bay.  Although not strikingly visible, I wanted to look into the intakes and see the compressor face.  I made a home made resin copy of a compressor from the spares box.  The compressor face was glued to a piece of brass tube.  I carefully trimmed the fuselage sides to center the tube assembly and then glued the tube and compressor in place.  Next, using Milliput and a moistened fuel tank from the spares box for smoothing, I faired the fuselage sides to where they meet the splitter plate.  I also faired inside the forward intake ducts, carefully checking the shape with the shock cone to maintain a symmetrical appearance.  After a few days of drying, the Milliput was further smoothed with sanding.  Imperfections were puttied with Squadron Green and sanded again.

     Next, I assembled and detailed the cockpit.  This was one of the easier tasks of the kit due to the excellent resin parts.  The finished cockpit was painted and installed in the fuselage.  The intake ducts were also painted and the compressor was given a wash to accentuate the detail.  At this point, I also added sheet styrene to seal each fuselage side's intake duct. 

Major Assembly 

     I carefully glued the exhaust duct into the fuselage.  Then, I glued the fuselage halves together with liquid cement.  Before that cement had set, I fit the wing to the fuselage.  By gluing in this rapid succession, I was able to get a relatively good joint and fit.  That said, there was still filling and sanding to be done!  This kit was not cooperative on fit--all the modifications did nothing to aid that situation.  It took considerable work to achieve the correct profile where the exhaust duct meets the variable nozzle.  Once everything was dry, I also added telescoping tubing to align and strengthen the new vertical tail.  The tail was installed and blended with Squadron putty.  The canopy was masked, glued, blended, and then painted black (for the inner frame color). 

Details 

     The D model Mirage 2000 can be distinguished from the N by a lack of a nose pitot, green rather than black radome, wrap-around camoflage, and a new comprehensive ESM/ECM fit.  For the chaff/flare dispensers, I photo-etched the 8-round units to be installed in both dorsal and ventral locations.  I also photo etched the low-light formation light frames.  Using styrene and Milliput, I build up the dorsal launcher assembly, embedding the photo-etched parts in the Milliput before it was set.  This launcher has a hot air exhaust at the back, which was simulated with 0.010' sheet wrapped around a paint brush for shape and then embedded in the Milliput.  The inner wing trailing edge was also modified to include the Spirale countermeasures launcher using Milliput.  The actual Spirale was made with sheet styreen and semi-circular styrene rod.  The ventral launcher was cut into the belly, boxed in with sheet, and the brass pieces glued in place.

     Using styrene rod and sheet, further ESM/ECM antennae were added to the tail.  The weapons came from Hasegawa and Heller sets.  The Atlis targeting pod came from an Italeri Jaguar A kit, with a styrene sheet pylon added.  The large fuel tanks came from the Italeri Mirage.

     The kit was air brushed with Tamiya acrylic paints, hand mixed.  First, Neutral Grey was used as a primer.  After some more filling, sanding, and restoring panel lines, Neutral Grey was again used, now as the base color.  Darker and lighter blends of Grey were used for panel line shading and fading.  Next Olive Drab was painted using the same shading techniques.  Detail painting was performed with Polly-S acrylic.  The whole model was sprayed with Future to prepare for decals.

     The tail squadron insignia (yellow and black flag) was designed on the computer and printed on decal film.  Other decals came from a combination of the kit's set and others scavenged from spares.  The kit was then dulled using Testors Acrylic Dullcote.

     Surprisingly, to date no manufacturer has produced an accurate D model Mirage.  This is a fun and relatively easy conversion.  If you can't find one of the Aeromaster kits on ebay, this could be done with a Heller or Italeri 2000N or D kit (you would have more work in the cockpit and with the exhausts).

Thomas

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Photos and text by Thomas J. Berres II