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Revell's 1/48 scale Rafale B & M
NSAWC Rafales

by David W. Aungst

 

"NSAWC Rafale"

 


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Introduction



I do not think that France ever got interested in the EFA (Eurofighter) project. They decided instead to pursue the development and production of an indigenous aircraft on their own. The Dassault Company pitched and subsequently won a contract for an aircraft that became known as the Rafale. The Rafale is a sexy, curvaceous aircraft that has the look of a real thoroughbred. After a somewhat long development cycle, production airframes are finally being delivered to the French Armed Forces.

The Rafale was largely ignored by most of the model manufactures. A notable exception is the French Heller company, which produced a model of the original Rafale A prototype. Having never seen the Heller kit, I do not know what it is like. I do not remember ever hearing anything bad about it, but it was of the prototype, not a production machine. Eventually, Revell undertook the production of a Rafale kit. The Revell kit has been released in two version -- the single-seat naval Rafale M and the two-seat Rafale B. Both of these are based on the development aircraft, not full production aircraft, but they are much closer to production versions than the Rafale A was. These kits are excellent. It is a pair of Revell kits that I have built here.

 

Model Picture

 

A friend gave me the Rafale M kit for my birthday shortly after the kit was released, citing how hard it is to buy me a gift. Most everything he would get me, I already have. So, he bought me "a kit I would never buy for myself". What he did not know is how close I was to ordering this kit, just the week before he gave it to me. My friend was very pleased to hear he had gotten me something I really would have gotten myself, but that I had not yet done so.

On checking it out, I found the kit to be quite a gem. It is well molded and fits together quite well, in spite of having a rather complex outline. In fact, I was so interested in what I found in the box, I started building it almost immediately. My building the model lasted for a couple days until I ran into some questions concerning paint colors that I could not easily answer.

  Instruction Sheet Colors
Rafale_NSAWC-Colors.jpg
 
The kit instructions call for some extremely generic color names with no matching provided to any form of color standard. All I could figure out from the instructions is that the cockpit, wheel wells, and airframe are "some gray". Gee, thanks Revell. This made it interesting to decide what colors to paint the various items. Note the colors in the chart to the left (scanned from the instruction sheet).

I could figure out some of the colors, but a few key ones were a mystery. What exactly are "Dark Gray", "Medium Gray", and "Light Gray"? I know there is a US color called "Flat Gull Gray", but is this US color the color that letter M is referring to? And, how about the "Light Olive", "Light Yellow", and "Bronze Green"? Each of these descriptions can cover a wide selection of colors.

I was left with too much uncertainty over these colors. In fact, it was this uncertainty that was the nail in the coffin for re-boxing the kit. Not feeling up to figuring out the answers for what colors to use, I chose to re-boxed the kit to await inspiration to dig it out again.

In a fit of defiance over these unhelpful color call-outs, I thought to myself, "Why don't I just make something up?" Then, I started seeing other Rafale models on various web sites where the modelers chose to make "what if..." models of their Rafale kits. I found I was not alone in my dissatisfaction over the colors named in the kit instructions.

This started my wheels really turning. What if the US Navy leased some Rafale aircraft from France for dissimilar air combat training, like they once leased Kfir aircraft from Israel? They would no doubt paint the aircraft into camouflages using US colors, and that would solve my problems with figuring out the right French colors for the model. SOLD!!! I dubbed this latest acquisition by the US Navy the F-55 Rafale. The single-seat aircraft is the F-55A, the two-seat aircraft is the F-55B.

 

Model Picture

 

With my inspiration re-kindled, I re-opened the Rafale M box (along with a newly acquired Rafale B kit) and started working on both of them. This time I was ignoring the French camouflage and markings and building some hypothetical F-55 Rafales from the Naval Strike Aerial Warfare Center (NSAWC). To those not familiar with this unit, this is what the Naval Fighter Weapon School ("Topgun") morphed into when it was disestablished at NAS Miramar and moved to NAS Fallon. 

 

 

The Revell Rafaele Kits

 

Revell has released a couple 1/48th scale Rafale kits. I am building one of each in this posting - a single-seat Rafale M and a two-seated Rafale B. The two kits are over 75% the same with only a couple sprues swapped out to make the specific versions.

The Rafale kits are extremely nice and are on a level close to Revell's 1/48th scale F-15E Strike Eagle kits. I consider Revell's Strike Eagle kits to be the best 1/48th scale modern jet kits on the market (IMHO). The Rafale kits are really not much different in their quality. Revell successfully captured the complicated lines of the Rafale without making the kit impossible to build. Everything fits together great and the overall finished model scales well to the dimensions of the Rafale I found on the Internet.

Scribing in the kits is all of the engraved style. There are a couple minor places that have raised scribing, but Revell did this because the raised scribing is more accurate in those places. One of these places is on the external fuel tanks. Most external fuel tanks are a welded construction with weld beads along the outside. Raised scribing better replicates this detail and Revell did it this way on the external fuel tanks.

The only real negative I can give the kits regard the instruction sheets and their lack of any helpful painting instructions. See the following images to see the layout of the parts sprues. Click to enlarge any of the sprue shots. The letters are just my assignments to make it easier to refer to specific sprues in the text. Revell does not seem to letter the sprues like other model companies do.

 

Fuselage Parts
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Sprue A
This common sprue holds the main fuselage parts. Through the use of an insert for the spine, the same fuselage parts can double for either the one-seat or two-seat versions of the kit.
Tail & Details
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Sprue B
This common sprue holds the vertical tail, wing details, engine details, external fuel tanks, and some weapons (AAMs). In the Rafale M kit, this sprue has an extension on one end that provides the single-seat spine, cockpit insert, and canopy insert.
Wing Parts
Click to Enlarge
Sprue C
This common sprue holds the main wing parts, along with the engine intakes.
Rafale B Parts
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Sprue D and E
These sprues are only found in the Rafale B kit. They provide the less bulky land-based landing gear, the second cockpit with details, and extended weapons stores options. Interestingly, the smaller pointy fuel tanks seem to be the only ones used by operational aircraft. You need the Rafale B kit to get them.
Rafale M Parts
Click to Enlarge
Sprue F
This sprue is only found in the Rafale M kit. The main things found here are the beefed up landing gear for carrier operations. A third large size fuel tanks is present, as well as some additional missiles and a nicely molded Lightning pod.
Clear Parts
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Sprue G
These are the clear sprues from both kits. The part highlighted by the yellow dot is the main instrument panel of the Rafale M. This part does not come in the Rafale B kit. Note that since the windscreen is the same between the versions, and since the windscreen comes with the single-seat canopy, you get both canopies in the Rafale B kit.
 

The specialized parts sprues provide a wide array of pieces, making the two Rafale releases (the two-seat "B" and the single-seat "M") very different. To get the smaller fuel tanks that are more typically seen on operational aircraft, you must get the two-seat Rafale B kit. As seen on the tabs molded at the corners of some of the parts trees, Revell is also planning the release of a Rafale C in the future (sometime).

I have found that sprue trees A and B have been tweaked between the original Rafale M release and the later Rafale B release. These tweaked moldings are nicer with more details and are only found in the Rafale B kit. The tweaked A tree provides a few minor updates to the upper fuselage scribing and a couple newly added antennae. The tweaked B tree provides the four triangular vanes on the lower forward nose which the Rafale M kit did not include. Also changed on the B tree was the vertical tail with an added heat shield under the rear radome and a revised antenna pod on the upper tail.

As for the kit decals, both of the two kits provide markings for the respective development aircraft as well as a best guess at what unit markings could have looked like. Bear in mind that both kits were released prior to the aircraft reaching operational units. From what I have seen in on-line images, the operational markings on these decal sheet are not really to close to being correct for either the Rafale B or the Rafale M. Rafale B Decals
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Rafale B Decals
Rafale M Decals
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Rafale M Decals

The Revell 1/48th scale Rafale kits are great. You can buy them with confidence and build them with pleasure.

 

Construction Begins

 

 
  Cockpit - Painted
Rafale_NSAWC-C01.jpg
 
As with most aircraft kits, construction started in the cockpits. I chose to break from the instructions a little and mounted the instrument hoods into the fuselage ahead of time. This allowed me to take care of any glue marks, then paint the cockpit sills and instrument hoods all together as one. While I was at it, I also attached the spine pieces.  

The beauty of "what if..." is the freedom to paint things the way you want and ignore whatever references you don't like. I found a couple images of Rafale cockpits on-line. It was tough to tell which images belonged to which aircraft. But, in all of them, it appeared the cockpits were gray with gray panels and black buttons/dials. I much rather prefer the US style of gray cockpits with black panels and gray buttons/dials. So, since I was making a "what if..." US Rafale, I chose to use US color patterns. I justified this to myself by saying the aircraft were fitted with US instrumentation in place of the French instruments, so the colors would shift in this way.

The cockpits are painted overall D.Gull Gray (F.S.36231). This closely resembled the French interior color, anyway. The instrument panels are Interior Black. The buttons are D.Gull Gray with highlights in L.Ghost Gray (F.S.36375), silver, yellow, and red. Right or wrong, this looked good to me.

The ejection seats on real Rafale aircraft seem to be split between gray and black. Operational aircraft all seem to have black seats. Since I like the look of black, I painted the ejection seats Interior Black. The seat pans are Green Drab (F.S.34086) and the back cushions are SAC Bomber Tan (F.S.34201) with an Israeli Sand (F.S.33531) pads and harnesses in Intermediate Blue (F.S.35164). I know, fabric items do not have standard numbered colors, but these are the colors I used. Other details of the seats were painted in white and silver.

 
Main Wheel Well - Painted
Rafale_NSAWC-C02.jpg  
 
The wheel wells and landing gear gave me a bit of a problem. While I could explain away the cockpit color changes, I saw no reason why the wheel wells would ever get re-painted to the US standard of Gloss White. So, I left the wheel wells in gray. I chose Neutral Gray (F.S.36270) for these areas. The landing gear was also left in the French standard of unpainted metal, which I chose Steel metalizer for the purpose. A wash with thinned black paint and some light dry brushing picked up the details of these areas quite nicely.  

With the interior areas painted, I assembled the fuselages. The engine intakes have no ducting or even a blanking plate, thus letting you see into the inside of the model if you look inside them. I chose not to mess with this as the intakes are deep enough as provided to look fine when the model is just sitting on the display table.

Assembling the fuselage brought up a decision point regarding the forward canards. As provided in the kit, they are interconnected to each other and need to be inserted as you assemble the fuselage. This will put them in the way later when doing the camouflage painting. So, I chose to cut them apart and would insert them later after I finish the camouflage painting. Fortunately, I found the holes for the canards were a tight enough fit that the finished models do not need to have these glued in place.

One of the few changes I made on the kits was to cut and droop the wing flaperons. The kits provide these molded onto the wings in the neutral position. I like the look of them drooped, and almost all the images I could find on-line of Rafales on the flight line showed drooped flaperons. So, I separated them from the wings before attaching the wings to the fuselage. Some minor filing to bevel the leading edges of the flaperons allowed them to droop without leaving too large a gap on the top of the wings. The drooped flaperons then required a cut and change to the flaperon actuator fairings under the wings.

 

Drooped Flaperon - Top
Rafale_NSAWC-C03.jpg Drooped Flaperon - Bottom
Rafale_NSAWC-C04.jpg
 

Another minor change to only the two-seat aircraft involved some parts swapping with an extra Rafale M kit. As I was building two naval aircraft, I thought they both should have naval landing gear and other accessories. I cross-kitted the landing gear and other details (like the arresting hook and vertical tail) from another Rafale M kit so that I was really building a two-seat naval Rafale M instead of a land-based Rafale B. I do not think there is such an aircraft as a two-seat Rafale M at this time, but hey, this is my fantasy.

As a side note, this parts swapping will not waste the "donor" Rafale M kit. The B landing gear and other pieces will convert the Rafale M into a Rafale C. I plan to build this other kit sometime in the future as another "what if..." subject.

I assembled and attached the tails on top of the fuselages; I attached the fairings between the engine exhausts; and I attached the nose cones to complete the fuselage assemblies.

To simplify some painting, I also chose to attach a bunch of details so I could deal with any glue marks before I did painting. To that end, I attached the long weapons pylons under the inboard wings and fuselage center lines. I attached the arresting hooks under the rear fuselage. I also attached all the navigation lights. The aerial refueling probe gave me some grief as Revell did not mold the attachment end with the right contour. I filed the attachment end so the probe was at the correct angle, then drilled and pinned the probe to the right side of the nose with some brass wire.

At this time, I built-up the engine exhausts, but I did not attach them to the fuselage. I was waiting until after I painted before I attached them. What I found when I dry-fitted the exhausts to the kit was that the right engine exhaust did not fit into the fuselage on either of the kits I was building. The left side fit fine on both kits. I either made the same mistake twice, or the kit has a minor flaw with the right rear fuselage. A little work with an X-Acto blade opened the rear fuselage enough to accept the engine exhaust.

The last construction item was to permanently attach the windscreens and "loose mount" the canopies for painting. I finished painting the details of the instrument hood areas, attached the HUD glasses, then attached the windscreens using liquid cement. The canopies were "loose mounted" as outlined in my Masking Cockpits posting, then the canopies were masked using Parafilm-M. It was now time to paint the camouflages.

 

 

Painting and Markings

 

I used all Testors Model Master enamel paints and metalizers. I tossed the color recommendations on the kit instructions out the window and painted everything in US colors as would be found on something like the VFC-13 F-5s at NAS Fallon. Take that, Revell!

Camouflage Diagram
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Click to Enlarge
 
Camouflage Diagram
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I got so fired up over creating my own camouflages for the Rafale that I created no less than 54 different camouflage patterns using all sorts of colors. Click here to see a small selection of the camouflages that I came up with. I've created many more since this time -- I am up to over 165 camouflages, now.  

The images to the left show my final choices for the camouflages of the models. It was not an easy choice sifting through 54 camouflages to come up with two (and only two) winners to apply to these models. I narrowed the choices down to only a few, then posted a question on the HyperScale forum to get a definitive final choice. Voting was fierce with a tie coming between the blue scheme shown to the right and an all green scheme (10 to 10). I allowed my wife to cast the deciding vote and the blue scheme won (sorry, Wookie). The colors for the camouflages are stated in the diagrams. These are all standard US Navy aggressor colors that I could get straight out of the bottles from the Model Master paint line.

For the aircraft markings, I sourced the decals from both after-market decals and custom printed decals. I custom printed the unit markings since they were mainly in black. See below to see my art work (reduced in size to save space). Note that the gray markings in this image are printed in white.

I scanned the NSAWC markings from some TwoBobs NSAWC decal sheets. Since black is easy to print, there was no reason to waste the TwoBobs sheets on the Rafales. The lightning bolts are from the F-18 sheet (48-002), which are larger than the ones on the F-16 sheet. The "NSAWC" writing, however, is from the F-16 sheet (48-069) as it is smaller and fit the Rafale tail better.

 
  Custom Decal Artwork
Rafale_NSAWC-Decals.jpg
 
The block numbers are from a US Navy font I bought from TLai Enterprises. Other standard computer fonts provided the rest of the writing. I used some built-in functions in MS Paint to skew/slant the numbering as needed. I was on the fence about white-shadowing the nose numbers, so I included the large white numbering as separate decals so I would have the option to shadow or not.  

Yes, that is my name on the middle left side of the custom decals. I am the pilot in the single seat aircraft. My wife (since she picked the camouflage) with one of her friends are the pilots of the two seat aircraft (my wife is tickled to be such a permanent part of the model). Since my wife is a hair stylist, it was a natural to pick "Scissors" as her call-sign (thanks, Skip, for the suggestion).

The bottom quarter of the decals are devoted to the weapons. As no one makes decals for practice weapons, I needed to make some for myself. I got a little carried away with twelve little decals on each AIM-120 and eight more on each Sidewinder. What can I say? I like data markings.

The after-market decals for the project came from the following sheets in my stash.

  • I obtained the NSAWC badges from a spare blue splinter Tomcat TwoBobs sheet (48-007).
  • I wanted light gray aircraft data on the blue aircraft. I got this data from a SuperScale F-18 sheet (48-338). These are printed in a light gray very closely matching L.Ghost Gray (F.S.36375).
  • I wanted dark gray aircraft data on the orange aircraft. I got this data from a different SuperScale F-18 sheet (48-331). These are printed in a dark gray very closely matching European Gray (F.S.36081).

For weathering, I kept it light. I lightly black-washed the panel lines and followed that with some light air brush shading. I also did a black-wash and brown wash of the landing gear and wheel wells to better highlight the kit detailing of these areas. For a more complete discussion of what I do to weather my models, see my posting on "Weathering Aircraft".

 

 

Construction Continues

 

With the camouflages and decals completed, I turned my attention back to construction and attaching of detail parts. First things to do were to pop off the canopies and unmask the glass. Parafilm-M did its thing and the glass looked good. I placed the canopies aside to detail and attach as the final items that would finish the projects.

Next up was to attach the landing gear and wheel well doors. Following the kit instructions, these fit on with mostly no troubles. There is a "Y" brace on each of the main landing gear that I could not for the life of me get to go into place, so I left them off. They would not really be visible on the model, anyway. The landing gear is quite solid on the finished models. Also, the wheel well doors all have positive alignment and bracing to hold them in place. This is nice as I have built too many models where the doors are hanging by just a fragile edge-on super glue joint.

  Under-Nose Strakes
Rafale_NSAWC-C05.jpg
 
Looking through on-line images pointed out the need to have four small triangular strakes under the nose. Comparing the Rafale B and Rafale M kits, the Rafale B kit provides these while the Rafale M kit does not. The trouble was that the ones provided in the Rafale B kit were too thick, and I needed two sets of the four strakes. Eduard makes a photo-etch set for the Rafale M kit that includes these strakes. I quickly ordered a couple Eduard sets from Squadron. After Fed-Ex lost the first shipment, I finally got a replacement shipment and added the strakes to the models.

The weapons loading became my next issue. I find it hard to believe NSAWC would use French weapons, even in training. Thus, US weapons were needed to replace the kit provided French weapons. Also, NSAWC seldom carries live weapons, so I needed to paint and decal the weapons as practice rounds (using blue) and include Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) pods. After some thought about replacing the French launch rails on the wing tips, I decided to keep this simple and just applied the US weapons to the existing rails.

 

Left Wing Weapons
Rafale_NSAWC-C06.jpg Right Wing Weapons
Rafale_NSAWC-C07.jpg
 

The ACMI pods come from the Hasegawa weapons set "D". The AMRAAM and Sidewinder missiles come from a spare Hasegawa F-16 kit in my stash. While these AMRAAMs are not truly accurate, they are close enough for my purposes on this project. I filed off the rollerons on the Sidewinder rear fines to have them better represent practice missiles.

I chose the loading positions on the aircraft with an eye toward balancing the aircraft. I figured that the ACMI pod and Sidewinder together on one wing would be a good counterbalance to the AMRAAM on the other wing, so I hung them that way. Also, the Sidewinder missile bodies were a bit too small (thin) to fit the wing tip rails properly. Hanging the Sidewinder from the under wing missile rails worked better.

Since the NSAWC aircraft do a lot of ACM training, I chose to keep the rest of the weapons loading light with only some fuel tanks. I went with only a center line tank on the single-seat aircraft, but I figured the space occupied by the rear cockpit likely took away internal fuel capacity, so the two-seat aircraft got two wing tanks.

As is usually the case for me, adding the ejection seats and detailing / attaching the canopies concluded the projects.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Everyone should toss accuracy to the wind once in a while and just build something that does not have any chance of existing, but would be so cool if it did. I thoroughly enjoyed this trip down the "what if..." path. I built these models to take a break after a very involving build of a Testors U-2S. The break was very enjoyable. Perhaps I should cap off this project by making a full diorama of a section of the NAS Fallon flight line so the models can be seen "in their element".

 

 

Additional Images and Project Summary

 

Click the thumbnails below to view images full-sized.
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Project Statistics

Completion Date:

4 April, 2006

Total Building Time:

39.6 40.9

Research:

0.5 2.0

Construction:

11.1 11.8

Painting:

17.3 15.5

Decals / Markings:

8.8 9.4

Extra Detailing / Conversion:

1.9 2.2


Model, Description and Images Copyright 2006 by David Aungst

Page Created 28 April, 2006
Last Updated 28 April, 2006

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