Disclaimer: I was originally writing two reviews. However, I found that both kits were so similar it was pointless to do two reviews when I could combine them into one streamlined review.
The humble Alpha Jet is one of my favourite aircraft of all time. The mount of the Patrouille de France and formally of Asas de Portugal, it ticks the boxes for me for display team mount. It also has a plethora of interesting paint schemes from the French, Belgium, and German airforces (and a couple from Portugal too).
A jet trainer designed between Dassault of France and Dornier Flugzeugwerke of Germany – it was designed to meet the requirements of jet trainer and light strike aircraft. The general look of the aircraft was the same between both forces, but a main noticeable distinction was the pointed nose on the German “Alpha Jet A” models compared to the “Alpha Jet E” version for France. Most of the kits allow the construction of either model – to some extent at least.
Several air forces still operate the Alpha Jet in it’s main role – most prominently France and Belgium.Some of the other operators include Canada as an aggressor role aircraft for training, Cameroon, Egypt, Thailand, Portugal, and the UK (via QinetiQ).
Germany chose to retire it’s fleet of Alpha Jet A’s in the 1990s due to post-cold war military cuts – selling aircraft mainly on to Portugal and some private operators – such as Red Bull
With an aircraft of such fame, many manufacturers have taken the task of producing adequate kits for the aircraft. Heller was one of the largest Alpha Jet kit producers in 1/72. Featuring kits that sold as German and French airforce variants (though you could produce either from each kit). Their kit is also viewed as one of the best scale versions of the Alpha Jet.
So, what’s in the box?
Let’s be clear here. There are 2 versions. The Airfix one (used for later Heller boxings when Heller and Humbrol merged) and the Heller version (now used for Revells latest boxings). The parts and builds are almost identical. I suspect they actual are pretty much the same mould, but I can’t find any proof of this. They are listed everywhere as being separately developed kits about 3 years apart.
The box consists of a couple of sprues and a separate sprue for clear plastic parts. The parts are well shaped, with minor raised panel lanes and recessed for the major control surfaces. For their age, they feel relatively modern. Certainly, I have seen kits that are newer that bare less resemblance to their subjects. The plastic varies depending on their manufactures, as do some of the parts.
The Heller boxing contains more weapon options that are available, as it is meant to be able to build the German atttack version or French training version. The Airfix version is still meant to build both variants, but for the British QinetiQ ex-Luftwaffe aircraft or a Belgian Air Componant trainer (like I have built). Both kits, then do contain the seperate noses (pointed on the attack version, rounded on the trainer). The Heller attack-version nose is a lot better than the Airfix boxing. It’s overall shape is much more correct-looking.
I found the Airfix decals to be of good quality in terms of print and look – but fell apart for the most part. This could be age, but I’ve found this with every boxing (sealed or not). However the Airfix version is giving you an opportunity to build the unique QinetiQ Alpha which is still seen flying around the UK and as a static aircraft at airshows.
Assembly is quite simple. The cockpit is basic but looks pretty decent for a 1/72 modern jet. once fully assembled and painted.It is quite easy to add aftermarket seats, but I’m not obsessed enough to do this. The fuselage joins pretty flawlessly – but be careful with the cockpit tub as slight misalignment of that will affect the fitting of the rest of the entire kit. This isn’t the easiest tub I’ve had to fit so I feel that this is a fair warning.
My main issue with every Alpha Jet kit I’ve ever touched is the landing gear. Landing gear is always fragile, of course. Yet I find every Alpha Jet I’ve touched to have extremely fragile/weak undercarriage. To the extent where it’s had to be repaired a good 4 or 5 times. You can’t actually assemble the kit and paint it without the landing gear and then fix it together afterwards. This is due to the main landing gear being attached to the inside of the bottom part of the model – something I feel was a poor decision.
To my great happiness and pleasure there are a plethora of aftermarket decals around. Including pretty much markings for every airforce who have used the Alpha, from Thailand to Egypt. I even asked Dekl’s if they’d consider making a Portuguese display team variant as it was something the market place has wanted for many years and they actually released it not long after my request – a review of these decals can be found separately on the site (click here to venture to that review).
I’d conclude that this you should definately buy an Alpha Jet kit if you see it. You can build such varied looking aircraft. The Airfix or Heller/Revell kits will look perfectly fine next to each other (as I have had them side by side at shows) and both build wonderful looking kits with not too much filler. They’re normally pretty cheap now too – found for around €6-8 at shows, or €10-€14 online.
If you can’t work it out – I used the Heller boxing for the Portuguese variant, and Airfix boxing for the Belgian variant.
Review by Lexi (Little Miss Modeller).