1/72 Amodel Yakovlev Yak-28P Firebar

by J.C. Bahr 

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The Yak-28P Firebar can trace its lineage back to the Yak-25/27 Flashlight series of aircraft that were designed as all-weather radar interceptors to help protect the vast expanses of the Soviet Union's Northern flanks from U.S. bomber attack that at the time was expected to come over the Arctic at the top of the world.  Naturally, performance of the series steadily improved with the Yak-25 Flashlight-A being subsonic, the Yak-27 Flashlight-C being supersonic and the Yak-27 Flashlight-K having missile armament over the previous gun armament, but there were design flaws that prevented the type from going into full-scale mass production in the 1950's.  In 1960 Yakovlev took their improved bomber version (the Brewer) and using lessons learned with the Yak-25/27 interceptors, came out with the Yak-28P Firebar whose armament centered around the R-8M-1 (also known as the R-98 and AA-3 Anab) missile.  This air-to-air missile was based on the K-8 that was originally used on the Yak-27K.  The Anab came in two flavors: passive infra-red (IR) homing and semi-active radar homing (SARH).  The theory was that one of each would be carried and would both be salvo'd at a target for a better kill probability if the target used electronic counter measures (ECM).  Later on, the armament was doubled with the addition of two K-13M1 (also known as R-3S or AA-2 Atoll) IR-homing missiles which were a reverse engineered copy of the U.S. AIM-9 Sidewinder.  The K-13M1's were carried outboard of the R-8M-1 on the wings.

435 examples of the Firebar were manufactured between 1962 and 1967.  The only known actual air-air combat that the Firebar ever participated in (besides interceptions of reconnaisance balloons launched from Western Europe and the interceptions of other nations aircraft flying near the borders of the Soviet Union) was against one of the Soviets own aircraft, an Aeroflot An-2 Colt!  A Soviet air force defector had stolen the aircraft in Tuapse, Georgia and attempted to fly to Turkey.  Not wanting to risk military secrets being compromised by the defector, the order was given to shoot him down.  A Yak-28 and a Mig-17 were sent, with the Mig acting as a communications relay.  The Yak was unsuccessful in bringing down the defector with its missile-only armament having a hard time getting a lock, so the Yak and the Mig were ordered to switch roles and the Mig brought down the An-2 with its cannon armament.

The Firebar would serve a long career well into the 1980's with units trading in their Yaks for both Mig-31 Foxhounds and Su-27 Flankers.

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After seeing the awesome scratch-build that "Bondo" Phil Brandt did in 1/48 scale:

http://hsfeatures.com/features04/yak28ppb_1.htm

I had to have one for my own collection!  As Phil stated in his article, there's a certain "swoopiness" about these birds that really epitomizes the Soviet Cold War era.  Kind of reminds me of almost being like a twin-engined version of the early Mig-21 with the appearance of the engine intakes.

My lovely spouse got me this kit for Christmas in 2006 (After a not-so-subtle Christmas list recommendation was e-mailed to her!) along with Amodels Tu-128 Fiddler and their Su-15 Flagon.  I was looking for a nice natural-metal project to build and in appreciation to my spouse, decided to pull down one of these kits from the stash pile and give it a go.

A "decent starting point to get from point A to point B" might be one of the best analogies for these decidedly limited-run kits.  If you absolutely have to have one in your collection, these are the only way to go and will give you what you want... BUT you're going to REALLY have to both want it and work for it!  This one fought me every step of the way and very nearly ended up going on a real test-flight several times throughout the build!  This was probably the most patience-taxing build I've ever done and the only way I would ever do another one is if a more mainstream manufacturer comes out with a much better quality and better engineered kit.

I had hoped to spruce up the cockpit a bit on this one with the addition of two Neomega KK-2 ejection seats, but unfortunately they were way too tall to get the canopy fitted over them, so I ended up trying to do the best I could with the kit provided seats and did some modifying with Evergreen plastic and wiring.

The fit of the parts everywhere is pretty much horrendous with no really good positive locators and will require a lot of the filler of your choice.  As you can see in one of the in-progress photos I've included here of one of the engine nacelles, there are many places you will run into, that will need filler to get them smoothed out properly.  Plastic shims are another form of gap filler that you will become very familiar with in trying to tackle this kit.  Also, using the idea posted in the ARC forum by another ARC member (thanks BTW) I would highly recommend rebuilding the intakes and the exhausts using brass tubing... which you can see my approaches to this in these photos here as well.

Another recommendation I would make is to use scrap styrene sprue as spacer bars inside the engine nacelles to help fill the gaps when the nacelles are attached to the bottom of the wings, as these nacelles were slightly bowed in on the sides anyway.  I was able to manage hardly any gap at all, so filler in those areas was kept to a minimum thankfully.

In one photo of the interior of the rear fuselage bulk-head, you can see where I added a section of Evergreen styrene to give a more positive reinforcement for later attachment of the rear main-gear strut.

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The rest of the build wasn't too bad, but just tedious and time-consuming in trying to get everything filled and sanded smooth, which is not easy to do, given the nature of the set-up of the airframe on this particular aircraft.  It's hard to get to the seams on the underside between the fuselage and engine nacelles.  I also had to fill and rescribe a lot of the panel lines between the fuselage and the engine nacelle on the upper left wing as they did not line up correctly with the opposing lines on the right wing... would have looked really strange once painted.

All of the little intakes found on this airframe were replaced with new ones made from Evergreen styrene rod, which gave them a much more realistic appearance as the kit provided ones are covered in flash.

In painting this one, I used several different shades of natural metal acrylics and enamels: Hawkeye's Talon acrylic Aluminum, Floquil Platinum Mist enamel, Model Master Chrome and Citadel's acrylic Mithril Silver, Chainmail and Boltgun Metal.  Pollyscale's acrylic RLM 02 was used for the interior of the gear bays and I used Model Master acrylic Dark Ghost Gray for the interior of the cockpit and the gear struts.  The radome was Model Master enamel Light Gray and the wheels and rear dia-electric panels were done in Anita's acrylic Foliage craft paint from Hobby Lobby.

Decals are the kit supplied ones and though useable, could have been a lot better.  The clear film is not the best and they are also very fragile and prone to cracking and breaking.

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The R-8M-1 missiles are from the kit and took some work as they are pretty rough.  I was unable to locate any suitable after-market replacements so went with what I had here.  The K-13M1's are slightly modified AIM-9B's from a Hasegawa weapons set as I decided not to mess with the ones provided in the kit.

The odd-rods, rear antennas and the pitot are all differing sizes of wire and rod.  The landing gear struts, save for the lower portion of the front strut and the main rear strut, are all scratch-built using Evergreen rod of various thicknesses, as the kit supplied versions I found near impossible to work with, due to their resulting seams from the moulding process.  It was just easier to make them new without having to worry about cleaning up the seams on such little pieces.  The main wheels were replaced with Equipage examples that look much better as the kit supplied wheels are too big and have bad ejector pin marks in them.  I think I would prefer that Equipage do away with the vinyl/rubber tires that they mould with these though, as seam clean-up is a royal pain in the rear with these.  Would be better if the entire wheel/tire assembly was done out of resin as it's much easier to work with in my humble opinion.

This one did not finish as well as I had initially hoped, so it will never see a contest table, but it did make into a good 3-footer and looks nice (providing a nice counter-point) sitting next to my Grandfather's RB-47E.  I have seen a beautiful photo of one of these flying close formation just off the left wing of a SAC RB-47... and with the RB being one of the most beautiful bombers ever built, the Yak truly has to be one of the most beautiful interceptors ever!  Thankfully, they never really had to face-off against one another!

J.C.

Reference: Aerofax "Yakovlev Yak-25/-26/-27/-28, Yakovlev's Tactical Twinjets" by Yefim Gordon.  Midland Publishing.  Copyright 2002.  ISBN 1 85780 125 3

Walkarounds:

http://walkarounds.airforce.ru/avia/rus/yak/yak-28p/index.htm

http://www.photoka.info/jak28/index.htm

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Photos and text by J.C. Bahr