IAI Nesher (נשר) S, aircraft 592 of the 113 Tayaset "Ha'Tsira'a (The Wasps)", Heyl Ha' Avir (Israeli Air Force); Hatzor/Israel, late 1973 (Whif/Heller kit conversion)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Israel Aircraft Industries Nesher (Hebrew: נשר, "Vulture" - often mistranslated as "Eagle") is the Israeli version of the Dassault Mirage 5 multi-role fighter aircraft. Most were later sold to the Argentine Air Force as Daggers, and later upgraded as Fingers.
Israel had to replace more than 60 aircraft lost during the Six Day War and the War of Attrition which followed. Before the war, Israel began co-development with Dassault to build the Mirage 5 and it was eventually built by Israel and named Raam in Hebrew (thunder).
Dassault Aviation had developed the Mirage 5 at the request of the Israelis, who were the main foreign customers of the Mirage III. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) wanted the next version to have less all-weather capability in exchange for improved ordnance carrying capacity and range as the weather in the Middle East is mostly clear.
In January 1969, the French government arms embargo on Israel (in response to the 1968 Israeli raid on Lebanon) prevented the first 30 Mirage 5 aircraft (which were already paid for by Israel) plus optional 20 from being delivered and cut off support for the existing Mirage IIICJ fleet.
This was a setback for the Israeli Air Force, who needed the new Mirage to compensate for the losses of the Six Day War and was still using the Mirage IIIC. Israel then decided to produce the (Raam A and B project) airframes as it had the necessary plans, although Israel did not officially obtain a manufacturing license.
Officially, Israel built the aircraft after obtaining a complete set of drawings. However, some sources claim Israel received 50 Mirage 5s in crates from the French Air Force (AdA), while the AdA took over the 50 aircraft originally intended for Israel.
Production began in 1969 with the first empty airframes with no weapons, electronics, seat, or engine included, delivered directly from Dassault Aviation. The first Raam A was delivered in May, 1971. In November, 1971 the plane was renamed Nesher.
The Neshers' airframe was identical to the Mirage 5, but there was an extensive refitting of Israeli avionics, a Martin-Baker zero-zero ejection seat, and improved provisions for a wider range of AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles), including the Israeli Shafrir heat-seeking missile.The Nesher had simpler avionics than the Mirage IIIC but was slightly less maneuverable. However, it had longer range and bigger payload. The reduced maneuverability did not prevent the Nesher from performing well in air combat during the Yom Kippur war (see below).
The first Nesher prototype flew in September 1969, with production deliveries to the IAF beginning in May 1971 at Hatzor in May of 1971, with veteran test pilot Danny Shapira at the controls. In the months that followed, additional Nesher planes equipped this squadron, making up for the insufficient number of Mirage IIIs and raising the number of serviceable planes in the squadron. When the rate of production picked up at the Nesher assembly line at IAI, two new squadrons could be established, based solely on the Neshers. The first new squadron inaugurated 'Etzion Airbase at 'Bik'at Hayareakh' ('Valley of the Moon') near Eilat, in September of 1972, and the second was founded in March of 1973 at Hatzor.
When the Yom Kippur War broke out, in October of 1973, the IAF had 40 Nesher planes in its ranks, serving in the First Combat Squadron and in the two new squadrons.
Although they were originally intended for attack missions, in the course of the war the Neshers were primarily used in air-to-air combat. The IAF command decided to use the Phantoms, Skyhawks and Sa'ars against ground targets, and assigned the Mirages and Neshers the task of fighting enemy aircraft and establishing air superiority over the battle zones.
The Neshers proved to be good fighters and overcame their adversaries (MiGs and Sukhois) with relative ease. The first aerial victory of a Nesher took place on January 8, 1973, when 4 Neshers from the "First Fighter" squadron escorted F-4 Phantoms into Syria to attack a terrorist base. In an engagement with Syrian MiG-21s, 6 MiGs were shot down, two by the Neshers.
Neshers also took part in the Yom Kippur conflict later that year. One of the first air victoriy of the war was not an aircraft but an AS-5 Kelt air to ground missile launched against Tel-Aviv by an Egyptian Tu-16 Badger on the first day of the war, October 6th, 1973.
When Libyan Mirage 5s entered the fighting all Israeli Mirages and Neshers were marked with large yellow triangles bordered by a thick black frame to prevent a case of mistaken identity. At least two Mirage 5s were shot down by Neshers, as well as an Israeli Phantom shot down by mistake, the navigator and the pilot, a former Nesher squadron commander, parachuting to safety.
According to the statistics published after the war, there were 117 dogfights in the course of the Yom Kippur War (65 over Syria and 52 over Egypt). 227 enemy planes were shot down in these confrontations, and only six Israeli planes were shot down (they had been on interception missions, and were either hit by cannon fire or by sirface-to-air missiles). The Nesher squadron from Etzion was one of the leading squadrons, tallying 42 kills without a single plane lost.
The Neshers did not just go out on interception missions: they also carried out several attack sorties in the Golan Heights and on the southern front. The action was intense, with every pilot carrying out numerous sorties every day.
The war proved just how vital the Nesher's reinforcement of the IAF's order of battle had been, and convinced the defense community of the importance of continuing to develop fighters in the IAI. In 1975 the first Kfirs entered service, and the Nesher was gradually relegated to a less central role. All the Neshers were concentrated in two squadrons, and were transferred - in late 1976 - to Eitam Airbase, whicch had been newly dedicated in the northern Sinai.
Nesher production ended in February 1974 after fifty-one fighters (Nesher S) and ten Nesher two-seat trainers (Nesher T), and the type did not serve long with the IAF. In the late 70's there were already enough Kfirs in the IAF for completely replacing the Mirages and Neshers.
The Kfir was a significantly more advanced plane than the Nesher, boasting better performance as well as more sophisticated systems, and upgrading the Neshers was not deemed to be a worthwhile investment.
In 1981, the Kfir had supplanted the Nesher in Heyl Ha'avir, and the Neshers were renovated, for sale overseas. Neshers were sold to the Argentine Air Force in two batches, 26 in 1978 and 13 in 1980, under the name Dagger, comprising 35 Dagger A single-seat fighters and four Dagger B two-seat trainers. The Daggers then saw much action against the British in the Falklands War.
Length incl. pitot: 15.65m (51 ft 3 in)
Wingspan: 8.22m (26 ft 11 in)
Height: 4.25m (13 ft 11 in)
Wing area: 34.8m² (373 sq. ft)
Empty weight: 6,600kg (14,535 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 13,500kg (29,735 lb)
SNECMA Atar 09 engine with 4,280 kg (9,430 lbf)dry thrust
and 6,200 kg (13,660 lbf) with afterburner
Maximum speed: mach 2.1 (39,370ft)
Range: 1,300km (810 ml), clean and with internal fuel only
1,186km (736 ml) with 4700 litres of auxiliary fuel in drop tanks
plus 2 Air to Air missiles and 2600 lb of bombs
Service ceiling: 17,680 (55,775ft)
Rate of climb: 16,400ft/min (83.5 m/s)
2× 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA 552 cannons with 125 rounds per gun under the air intakes
Five pylons for a wide range of up to 4.200kg (9,250 lb) of disposable stores
The kit and its assembly:
This short notice build towards the end of the 2016 "Cold War GB" at whatifmodelers.com was inspired by a CG rendition of an IAF F-4 in the unique brown/blue paint scheme, posted by fellow user SPINNERS a couple of days before. Seeing that design variant I wondered how a Kfir in this livery would look like...?
I had a C-2 Kfir in the stash, but also stumbled across a Heller Mirage IIIE/R/5BA kit without a real purpose in the stash and remembered the Kfir's predecessor, the Nesher, which was more or less a bluntly copied Mirage 5. Since the type was earlier and more appropriate for the brown/blue livery, I decided to convert the Heller Mirage into a Nesher, since it comes pretty close.
The Heller kit is old and rather basic by today's standards. You get fine but raised panel lines, only a rough interior, mediocre fit and a brittle plastic that catches scratches and dents when you only look at it.
Anyway, creating a Nesher from the Heller kit is not really complicated. Two major mods have to be made: the fin has to be enlarged or replaced, and the nose needs a special pitot installation.
The Nesher carried the bigger Mirage III/5 fin, and the Heller kit only bears the short version. Since I had a donation PM Model Nesher/Dagger kit in store (horrible kit, it rather resembles a mutated Mirage III but neither the israeli nor the Argentinian aircraft!) I just transplanted the fin. This appeared easier than adding a fin fillet, and having just the right donation part at hand made the decision even easier. :D
The nose is the Mirage 5's, but the tip was slightly modified and the pitot needed a separate fairing/attachment under the nose tip. The latter was created from a piece of round styrene and blended with the lower front fuselage.
After the major body work was done, some antennae/sensors were replaced or added, a Panzer IV’s sprocket wheel as an afterburner interior (just to have something inside the gaping exhaust hole) as well as launch rails under the outer wings for a pair of Shafrir-2s. The sleek drop tanks come OOB from the Heller kit – it only offers a pair of bigger tanks with fins, but no offensive ordnance at all.
In the cockpit I used a Martin Baker ejection seat from an Italeri Kfir, a slightly better option than the OOB part.
Painting and markings:
This is the actual whif aspect about this build, which is just the fictional application of a real world IAF scheme that was in use about 10 years before the Yom Kippur War. In real life the Nesher just came too late to carry the murky brown/blue pattern, because it was phased out in 1967, after the Six Days War. But putting it onto a more modern aircraft creates interesting results!
The scheme is based upon the original grey/green French pattern, just with the colors replaced with RAL 8000 (Grüngrau) or Field Drab (FS 30215) and RAL 5008 (Graublau), the authentic upper surface tones for this strange camouflage.
I’ve already built a (real world) IAF Ouragan in this style, so I had some practice and good references at hand. Model Master 1702 (alternatively: Humbrol 142) is a good option for the brown/tan tone, even though it is a bit too dark for my taste. "Israeli Armor Grey" from ModelMaster is a more approriate tone - it's lighter and actually an equivalent for RAL 8000, which is also used on Israeli tanks!
For the greyish-green dark blue I used Humbrol 77 (Navy Blue) which comes IMHO close. The undersides were painted in a pale grey, I used FS 36440 (Light Gull Grey, Humbrol 129 in this case). Some sources claim it to be RAL 7044 (Seidengrau), but the FS tone is practically identical.
All Neshers (even in later Argentinian service) had their nose painted black. There was no radar oder radome fitted, it was rather a deception in order to make enemies confuse the simple ground attack Neshers with the more potent (and radar-equipped) Mirage IIIs.
The kit received a light black ink wash and some dry-brushing for panel emphasis. The decals come mostly from the PM Model Nesher, including the large, yellow Yom Kippur War ID triangles which create a powerful contrast on the dark underground. Interesting result!
Anyway, while the decals might be the best thing about the PM kit, they have thier drawbacks, too. While they are 100% opaque the carrier film is thick, stiff and brittle, and they do not adhere well to the underground, despite decals softener and other tricks. :(
As a small detail I put the aircraft's tactical code on a silver background, as if the aircraft had originally been bare metal with the camouflage rather hastily applied. Since I had no IAF squadron markings left I added a yellow/black checkerboard pattern to the fin's rudder - the marking of the 113 Tayaset "Ha'Tsira'a (The Wasps), which actually operated the Nesher in the Yom Kippur conflict, just with a different camouflage.
Finally, the kit received some smoke/exhaust marks with graphite and was sealed with a coat of matt acrylic varnish. To make matters worse, the Revell varnish turned white, so I had to repair that damage as good as I could, and the finish now is far from what I had originally hoped for, despite the general troubles with the PM Model kit's decals.
A rather subtle whif, and even the aircraft itself is real (or at least a "realistic" model replica). Anyway, the paint scheme application changes things considerably, and the model ended - with the ID trinagles and the other bright markings - more colorful than expected. But the finish ended up rather poor, so that I am a bit disappointed.
Besides, a highly recommended source for this aircraft is Amos Dor's "IAI Nesher (From Mirage to Kfir, pt. 2 of 3)" book from "The IAI Aircraft Series", AD Graphics/Milano, 2000. All the other publications from this series of books are also generally recommended for any IAF builds.