Model Review: 1:288 (6mm) Eastern Express Antonov AN-71 “Madcap” AWACS

Summary:
The EE Antonov AN-71 is a fun, quick little build that will look fine as a gaming piece. Probably not the best overall choice for a “serious” micro-mini modeler, who will be screaming and flinging it out the window within minutes. 1:288/6mm scale makes it compatible with quite a few wargames, including Micro Armor, Fistful of TOWs, Battletech, and Robotech RPG Tactics. The limited historical deployment of this particular aircraft will hurt its utility for historical gamers, but other models in the series would likely serve them much better.
For Robotech Tactics modelers, the AN-71 is also an excellent base for an alternate version of the ES-11D “Cat’s Eye” recon – one of the guys on the Robotech Tactics Facebook group did up a conversion you can see here if you’re a group member.

Background:
First off – a little history. In 1984-ish, the Antonov company put together a bid for a new AWACS version of the AN-72 light transport airframe (NATO callsign “COALER”). It was intended to vector in ground-attack forces at the tactical level (taking the load off of the larger “MAINSTAY” and “MOSS”, which were busy handling strategic responses and combat air patrol), while taking advantage of the AN-72 airframe’s ability to make use of short, poor-quality runways and improvised airfields. While loosely equivalent to the role of an E2-C Hawkeye in USN service, the AN-71 was supposed to be a land-based design (the naval role was supposed to be taken by the Yakolev YAK-44, which never surfaced).  NATO assigned the bird the reporting name “MADCAP” after its first flight in 1985. Unfortunately, the USSR only ever made three AN-71 airframes before the economic collapses of 1986-88 killed the program. One of those three prototypes was shipped off to the Ukraine for their new Air and Space museum while they were in the process of seceding from the SSSR, which is why this particular model was originally Ukraininan.The Eastern Express company put out a series of models based on the Museum’s holdings, all nominally in 1:288 scale. Toko seems to have put out a version of the series as well, and you can find a box in the US from Imex (I got mine on the ‘bay for $4, so always check your supplier..)

The AN-71 herself is pretty unique – a STOL design that uses engine exhaust to increase lift over the wings. Unfortunately this design, while efficient, tends to be damned noisy for the poor saps inside the cargo bay, but hey. Whatcha gonna do? *(cancel it if you’re Boeing, of course. Keep using it for fifty-plus years if you’re a Russkie..)

Surviving AN-71 on display in the Ukraine

The Good: Simple, clean instructions. Good decals, although I have no need for them. Generally decent fit and polish on the kit.
The Bad: Lots and lots of flash on frame “A”. It cleaned up well after a quick pass with an emery board. Some gates on detail elements distorted the radome and tail. Shallow detail cuts had to be sharpened.
The Ugly: Does not include any parts to make closed landing gear bays. The engine mounting surfaces were poorly-designed, and the wing overall required a lot of work to mount.
Full model build/review under the cut. My apologies for the poor quality of a couple of the images -I plead being sick as hell and having a shit phone.

 

Sprues:
So, what’s in the box?
Rick Hunter/Hikaru Ichijyo will be accompanying us along this ride for scale. Although I initially bought the model as a possible source for an AWACS radome on a VE-1 Valkyrie sculpt,  the model itself was charming enough that I immediately wanted to work on her. The instructions are bilingual, in Ukranian and English, which is pretty nice. Sprue A has the radome, fuselage, and horizontal stabilizers;  B is the wings, engines, and landing gear; C is the clear frame, and has windows for every model in the series (which was honestly probably a good move on EE’s part, since it would cost less to throw one in every box than deal with making ten different frigging dies and sorting them). Good source of clear rod and in-scale windows for your 6mm building needs.
I had the wrong settings on my camera for this and didn’t notice until I finished cutting Sprue A – so this is the best overall shot I have. See below for some specific notes on each sprue.

Assembly Notes

Overall assembly time was about ten minutes, using good ol’ Testors plastic cement. Plus another ten minutes hunting a sub-quarter-inch turbofan that finally turned up inside my belly button ><;;.

There are a couple of problems here you should note – the gates on the horizontal stabilizers are RIGHT between the mounting pins. Heavy flash here as well, which meant I had to recarve the pins before the model would fit. Be sure to check and preserve the camber on the mounting surface – these stabilizers should kick up at about a 30* angle. The rest of the flash cut/filed off with little fuss.

Second – note the placement of the gates on the tires. This is a universal problem on aircraft models, but on something this tiny can be maddening. I’d recommend using 400 or higher-grit sandpaper taped to a sheet of glass for smoothing this one. Also, LABEL the engines before you cut assemble them, there’s a subtle outward curve on each side.

Main fuselage. There was some small flash around the mounting holes for the horizontal stabs that needed a couple quick passes of the emery, and the pin for the AWACS radome also needed to be cut down to size for it. The remaining alignment was acutally really clean and easy despite (of because of..) how few pins were in the frame; I sanded both mating sides of the fuselage with two passes on the old sandpaper-and-glass and she was ready to go. There’s a small gap in the radio bulge behind the main wing mounting that appears to be for adding a brass-etched antenna mount (not included): I have some from the old Space Battleship Yamato game that ought to fit, but you can just fill it if you want.

Dry-fit the wing BEFORE you cement the damned thing. I had to be pretty vigorous with the emery before the damned thing would mount flush – shaved close to half a millimeter off of the bottom and a couple hundredths each off the front and back. After taking this pic I went back and hit the front of the wing root again to kick it down a little. Instead of using a sheet of plasticard to mount her, I used a Robotech Tactics Regult Assault pod “swoosh” cut and sanded to fit, along with a standard 40mm RRPGT base. Magnets in the stem and fuselage allow me to quickly disassemble the model for transport. Note that the model is balancing here without magnets OR glue on the radome and stem.
Inked for detail, with a couple scale references. This was another quickie shot, right before drilling the magnets.
Painting:
I went with a simple “Brownie” UNSDF scheme. The Macross timeline assumes that the USSR survived the fall of the SDF-1 and was part of the Anti-UN coalition in the Global War which followed; I assume the AN-71 program in that timeline would have survived, possibly augmented with Overtech, until the UN absorbed the remaining AUNC vehicles and weapons following the war. Here she is awaiting final inking, basing, and the “special project(note: if you speak Japanese, the music in that link is NSFW as fuck I have in mind for her radome.

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