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Trumpeter Tupolev Tu-128M “Fiddler”

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/72 scale aircraft kit with good fits
The Tupolev Tu-128 (NATO reporting name “Fiddler”) was designed as a long-range interceptor to fend off nuclear-capable U.S. bombers such as the B-52. It first entered service in the mid-60s and most of the 198 built were upgraded to the M designation in 1979. It is the largest “fighter” ever produced and remained in service until 1990. Until now, the only 1/72 scale Fiddler was the short-run kit from Amodel.

Neatly packed in a sturdy box, Trumpeter’s kit comprises 120 light gray plastic parts with fine recessed panel lines, a small photo-etched (PE) fret, and decals for two aircraft. The 12-page instruction booklet breaks the assembly sequence into 10 steps with clear exploded-view drawings. There’s not a lot of detailed painting instructions however, so do your best to find some references. I didn’t have a lot of luck in that regard, so I took my best guess at some colors.

Construction starts with the front wheel bay and cockpit. The cockpit tub has molded detail for the side consoles and separate dividing wall. Decals detail the instrument panels; a good soaking with Microscale Micro Set helped them conform to the molded details. The seats are three-piece units with decent detail, but they seem a bit too large.

The nose-gear bay builds from separate ceiling, end pieces, and side walls that trap the gear leg and retracting strut during assembly. It’s a fairly stout assembly but that still means it’s going to be hanging out during the rest of the build. 

There’s a discrepancy between the assembly instructions and the marking guide as to the color of the wheel wells and gear legs. The instructions say light blue, but the marking guide says intermediate blue — I chose the latter. The completed wheel bay and cockpit get sandwiched by the forward fuselage. Fit of the halves was excellent, with only a little filler needed to eliminate the seam in a couple of spots.

The rest of the fuselage comprises left and right halves, and an upper panel at the rear. I had a little trouble getting the pieces flush with each other. As a result, much of the time on the build was spent filling and sanding, then re-scribing lost surface details. The upper rear panel appears to join along existing panel lines, but still needed work for a satisfactory result.

Part of the main gear legs are trapped between the halves of the inner gear wells leaving them exposed like the nose gear. Unfortunately, they are not as sturdy as the nose gear and I broke one during painting. 

The wings required only minor seam work at the rear of the gear pods. I trimmed the locator tabs on the separate control surfaces to better fit the corresponding slots.

Fit between the wing and fuselage was perfect topside but it took minor finagling get the fit underneath as close as possible. The vertical stabilizer and tail planes fit perfectly.

Diverging from the instructions, I attached the landing gear doors before installing the main parts of the gear legs. Otherwise the wheels get in the way. I left the PE antennas off for painting.

After checking and rechecking seams, I base-coated the airframe with gloss gray enamel. I let this dry for two days then polished the paint. Then, I built up layers of Alclad II polished aluminum until the Fiddler was bright and shiny. I masked and painted the nose cone and anti-glare panel.

The decals performed well but the stencils were nothing more than a block of dots.

I spent about 35 hours building Trumpeter’s Tu-128, much of it filling and re-scribing the main fuselage and prepping it for the natural-metal finish. This is one big airplane! It scales out pretty close to specifications found on the internet, measuring just a little long and wide. 

Nothing in the build was anything that someone with a kit or two under their belt shouldn’t be able to handle. It certainly makes for one impressive model!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the May 2019 issue.
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