The MiG-23 Landing Gear Pickle

Last week, I finally got to the point of installing the gear struts on my 1/32 Trumpeter MiG-23MLA (the kit is technically the MLD, but being built as a Bulgarian MLA). And…fuck. The thing looks like it’s standing on its tip-toes.

Since I’m currently about 1700 miles away from my bench, I’ve been thinking about it from afar, and thought it’d be useful – at least to me – to do a little exploration into what the fuck is going on.

First, A Lesson in Floggers

“But Floggers sit really nose high!”

This is a piercing insight I’ve read multiple times since I put the -23 on its feet. But here’s the thing. It’s wrong.

The early Floggers, like the MiG-23MF, sat nose high. Like so.

Later Floggers, like the MiG-23ML, MLA, and MLD, had a rather different stance.

That last one seems to have the nose gear at full extension…but other late -23s look like they’re sitting on almost collapsed nose struts.

As you can see from all of these images, the late model MiG-23s sit a lot more level than the early ones. And that level has some variability to it depending on the height of the nosegear and I’d guess hydraulic pressure/weight of fuel impacting the rear struts.

TL;DR? Floggers have quite variable stances and it’s the early ones that were ass-draggers.

Trumpeter’s MiG-23…What the Fuck?

Late MiG-23s have varying stances, but none of them look quite so high as where I ended up.

And judging by other builds of the 1/32 Flogger, I’m not the only one who’s ended up here.

Though I should add that the light table can be deceiving. When shot in profile, it doesn’t look that far off of some of the reference photos (pardon the shitty shot – the phone decided to focus on the background, but it’s what I’ve got to work with at the moment).

But still, something seems amiss.

Maybe I built the gear legs wrong? That might be a possibility, except that there’s quite simply no way to do that. Putting the lower legs on backwards or upside down or whatever would mean that other linkages simply would not fit. And they fit quite nicely.

There is Another

Here’s a thing. Trumpeter has made three different 1/32 MiG-23s. An early MF, and then the ML and MLD.

To account for the difference in stance, Trumpeter uses two different lower leg parts. The MF (top) has a compressed damper, and a very shallow angle. The parts intended for the ML and MLD (bottom) extend the damper, and in so doing create a steeper angle coming off the lateral arms.

My Theory

Here’s what I think happened. Trumpeter designed the MF variant first. MFs, again, typically have a very tall nose strut, and an ass-dragging stance.

To support the weight of the kit, Trumpeter uses metal cores for its nose strut and the main gear lateral arms. While the outer parts of the ML/MLD nose gear are different, the metal core is the same, necessitating a fully extended nose gear at an angle you don’t see on the late Floggers very often.

When they changed the stance for the late MiG-23s, then, they raised the main gears by adding angle to the lower gear arms and extending the dampers. But they did so against the very tall nose gear. Resulting in a too-tall Flogger.

Other Factors

Could other things be at work?

Sure. Perhaps Trumpeter has the angle right on the lower legs, but just made them too long.

Perhaps the resin gear bays sit in slightly different locations, with millimeter differences that snowball.

Perhaps the resin tires are too big.

Perhaps I’m missing something.

Am I Going to Fix It?

No. I’m already fighting to overlook the MiG-23’s numerous small accuracy foibles. One of the reasons I chose it as a subject is that I don’t (or didn’t) know all that much about it, and wasn’t particularly interested in doing so. The more I’ve had to research and learn, the more glaring the accuracy goofs have become. And if I let myself get sucked into them, it’ll never get done.

Maybe if I’d kept the MF lower legs I’d consider giving them a go – but I set those aside early in the build and ultimately tossed them.

Of course, I say all this now. When I get back to the bench it may be a different decision. Fuck.

 

5 thoughts on “The MiG-23 Landing Gear Pickle

  1. Keep in mind that you never know which subject a model is based on. For example, Kitty Hawk’s MIG-25 was, I believe, based on the aircraft in Dayton. That aircraft was pulled out of the desert with no engines (at least they were removed when I saw it), no fuel and no ordnance. The unusually light airplane lead to the model sitting up much higher than a normally loaded machine. Many manufactures (Tamiya included) model aircraft with oleos/scissors fully extended- you would never see this in the real world. Museum/mothballed aircraft are very poor representations of what goes on in reality.

  2. Interesting trivia–according to Yefim Gordon, the MiG-23 landing gear was an engineering student’s PhD thesis. Looks like one, too. Not surprised Trumpeter had problems with it.
    Rob, the AF museum is rumored to be quite nasty about access to its exhibits by scale modelers or kit companies. The museum airframe is an RB recon/bomber, not a PD as depicted by KH, and in fact I’d be quite surprised if KH did much in-depth research at all. Given what I’ve read about the kit–not personally acquainted with it.
    If I were a kit mfr, I’d give the customer three options for every subject–loaded oleos for a ground pose, simplified gear-up door parts for in-flight, and extended oleos for depicting the plane just after takeoff or just before touchdown, over one of those cool blurred-runway diorama bases!

  3. Matt… do you think the effect is compounded by the lack of gear doors at this stage? I think the addition of the nose gear doors and the clamshell door on the main wheels would help the situation.

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