by: Jean-Luc Formery [ ]
Originally published on:
HistoryIn the early 1960s, European air forces began to consider the replacement of such classic aircraft as the Lockheed T-33 and Fouga Magister for training purposes. The French began discussions with West Germany for collaboration. A joint specification was produced in 1968. A joint development and production agreement was signed in July 1969 which indicated that the two nations would buy 200 machines, each assembled in their own country. The aircraft had to be powered by twin SNECMA Turbomeca Larzac turbofans. The Luftwaffe had insisted that the trainer have two engines after suffering severe attrition from accidents with their single-engine Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.
The Breguet-Dassault-Dornier TA501 was declared the winner of the competition in July 1970, with full development approved in February 1972. Two prototypes were to be built by Dassault in France and two were to be built by Dornier in Germany. The first French prototype performed its first flight at Istres on 26 October 1973, with the first German prototype following from Oberpfaffenhofen on January 9 1974. The remaining two prototypes were in the air before the end of 1974.
The French Air Force decided to use the Alpha Jet primarily as a trainer, and the first production Alpha Jet for the French performed its first flight on 4 November 1978. The French variant was known as the Alpha Jet E (Ecole) or Alpha Jet Advanced Trainer/Light Attack aircraft. The Patrouille de France, air demonstration team of the French Air Force, fly the Alpha Jet. 176 production Alpha Jet E machines were delivered up to 1985, not the 200 that had been planned.
The Luftwaffe decided to use the Alpha Jet in the light strike role, preferring to continue flight training in the sunny United States southwest on American trainer types instead of performing training in cloudy Germany. The first production German Alpha Jet performed its first flight on 12 April 1978. It was designated the Alpha Jet A (Appui Tactique) or Alpha Jet Close Support variant. The Luftwaffe obtained 175 machines up to 1983.
Manufacture of Alpha Jet subassemblies was divided between France and Germany, with plants in each country performing final assembly and checkout. The different avionics fit makes French and German Alpha Jets easy to tell apart, with French machines featuring a rounded-off nose and German machines featuring a sharp, pointed nose.
The KitDelivered in a thick paperboard box of intermediate size, the resin kit is thoroughly protected by several layers of bubble wrap. Composed of a reasonable number of parts (approximately a hundred), the model seems rather simple at first sight in its design: two half-fuselages, two wings, two elevators, a vertical fin and many details parts packed within several self sealing bags. The canopy is proposed in either opened or closed configuration, as well as in several materials (vacuformed plastic or transparent resin). It should be noted that spares are provided and that resin variants are included to facilitate the cutting of the parts. The general quality of the kit is good and the test fitting of the main parts did not reveal any deformations. The presence of bubbles is also very marginal. The recessed surface detail represents in fact the only real bad point of the kit. It is very soft (at least for my taste) and it will be necessary to engrave anew the kit it in many places.
In general, the use of resin parts always requires a certain preparatory work, but in this case the casting blocks are rather reduced and I think very sincerely that the Fliegerhorst model will not be more difficult to build than any plastic kit. Locating pins are even present on the half-fuselages, the wings and the horizontal stabilizers, which is not always the case on this type of product. Of course, a minimum of experience with such kits is required, in particular as regards the joining of the parts with cyanoacrylate glue and the cutting of transparent vacuformed parts.
The level of detail is very good, especially within the cockpit. On the other hand the landing gear bays are empty. The detail freaks will thus be able to add what is missing and do some scratchbuilding. However, on the ground, the landing gear doors of the Alpha Jet are always closed and they hide all the internal details.
The instructions in the kit are only in German, which is a shame, but many photographs and some sketches accompany the text, which should be sufficient not to make too many errors during the assembly and, as I already said, the model is rather simple in its design. Two decal sheets are provided for two decorations:
- Alpha Jet 40 44 in an anniversary scheme of Jagdbombergeschwader 43.
- Alpha Jet 40 21 in a camouflaged scheme of Jagdbombergeschwader 41.
However, additional numbers and unit badges (Jagdbombergeschwader 49) are provided and other decorations are possible if you have the appropriate documentation. Care will be necessary to cut out each transfer individually because the decal sheets are entirely covered with a single carrier film. Applying all the small stencil decals will represent some hard work for sure!
ConclusionThe 1/32 scale Alpha Jet of Fliegerhorst can be build into a beautiful model and fans of modern subjects and larger scales will certainly like it. Other editions of the kit should follow soon, in particular of the French and Belgian versions and, perhaps, even a Patrouille de France boxing. Moreover, series of external loads will also be available soon. The price of the kit may seem a bit high but keep in mind that Mr. Kappner has a full time job and that producing such a kit represents many evenings of work.