RT-11 Iskra

Gallery Article by Dave Bailey, aka The Rat on Jan 6 2021

Silly Week 2021



On 27 December 1971, a Fairchild C-123K Provider enroute from Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base was reportedly shot down by anti-aircraft fire approximately 35 km east northeast of Xieng Lom resulting in the loss of four crew members. Viet Cong operatives recovered one of the General Electric J85 engines intact, and it was passed on to Russia. Due to the engine’s known reliability and ease of service, copies were constructed and made available to Warsaw Pact countries.

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Poland saw an opportunity to modify its TS-11 Iskra trainer, which utilised the WSK SO-3 engine. The J85 could transform it into an aircraft that would be much more efficient, as it promised weight savings of 300lbs, a much smaller size, and a dry thrust increase of over 500lbs. The variant chosen was a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, with extended wings, two cameras in the nose, and a single crew member. Intakes were significantly increased in size to provide air for the new powerplant, and conformal fuel tanks were added to the side of the fuselage, above the wings and behind the cockpit. A service ceiling of 75,000 ft was projected, but flights are reported to have successfully reached 81,000 ft.

The new aircraft was designated the RT-11, with RT standing for ‘Rozpoznanie Taktyczne’, Tactical Reconnaissance. Such was their ability that many were used by different WARPAC nations, and following the American philosophy of ‘plausible deniability, they carried only serial numbers, no national markings. Paint has been described as black or extremely dark blue, and to this day questions still elicit passionate responses and fights on internet forums. 

The build
This was one absolutely rotten model. I’ve had bad ones before, but this may have been the worst. One of those Russian thingies, I think. If built ‘as is’ it will not go together and look like an Iskra, that is certain. The nose needs large molding blobs carved from it, it has a larger circumference than the fuselage it is supposed to go on, and wheel wells are non-existent, The interior is minimal, but good luck seeing anything through the canopy. Paint was Tamiya XF-17 Sea Blue, decals came from the spares bin. Intakes were enlarged by mounting the kit intakes on top of the wing instead of under it, and using an old drop tank to make the bottoms. An old drop tank was also used for the conformal tanks.

Dave Bailey

Photos and text © by Dave Bailey