Review: ClearProp 1/72 Tu-143

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The Tupolev Tu-143 Reys was a Soviet unmanned reconnaissance aircraft in service with the Soviet Army and a number of its Warsaw Pact and Middle East allies during the late 1970s and 1980s. It contained a reconnaissance pod that was retrieved after flight, and from which imagery was contained.

The Tu-143 was introduced in 1976. It was a short-range (60–70 kilometer) tactical reconnaissance system and had low-level flight capability. The Tu-143 was truck-launched with JATO boosting, recovered by parachute. The initial version carried film cameras, but later versions carried a TV or radiation detection payload, with data relayed to a ground station over a datalink. Some 950 units were produced in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Tu-143 was used by Syria in reconnaissance missions over Israel and Lebanon during the 1982 Lebanon War, as well as by Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the Soviet–Afghan War.

There has been one other kit of this reconnaissance drone and that was made in resin by Ludek Vys in 2011 and reboxed by Decarli Models in 2012. This is the only kit of this drone in plastic that I am aware of.

ClearProp has 3 levels of kits, each requiring different skill levels of the builder. Paraphrasing from the ClearProp site…

“…for experienced modellers it is necessary to create the kits which will include all additional parts in order to create a model copy that will repeat the original as much as possible. Such kits have been called “EXPERT”.
Despite this, many of our kits will also be available in “ADVANCED” and “STARTER” options, which will allow reducing the cost of the kit for the consumer. “

The kit comes in an end opening box. All the parts are inside a resealable bag with various parts inside their own bags as well. The packaging is good. In the box we have:

  • 55 plastic parts
  • 5 PE parts
  • 1 brass part
  • painting mask sheet
  • decal sheet
  • full colour 5-page glossy paper instruction sheet

The level of detail is very nice and the main parts have fine recessed panel lines. The attachment points are small and they attach to the mating surfaces. There are no alignment pins on the main parts of the fuselage or wings so you will have to take care during assembly. You have a choice of 2 styles of camera windows. I think one was for image cameras and the other for film cameras but I’m not sure which is which.

You can display the aircraft one of 3 ways and some steps are not needed depending on which option you choose:

  1. In-flight
  2. On a transport trolley
  3. On undercarriage stands.

The kit is built in 13 steps.

  1. Putting together the main fuselage with a 2 part engine intake with turbine blades at the end of it.
  2. Here you add 2 camera lenses to part C10.
  3. Here you add 3 camera lenses to part C12.
  4. In this step, you use one of the items you made in steps 2 and 3 and match it up with either clear part B1 or B2 depending on whether you need 2 or 3 camera windows. You then mate this with part A6 to make the nose of the aircraft.
  5. Step 5 adds the wings, nose and a few other small parts to the fuselage from step 1. You add the brass pitot tube to the nose.
  6. This step is where you can optionally add the undercarriage, such as it is. You either add the undercarriage doors in the closed position or add the basic legs that it stands on.
  7. In this step, you make the JATO booster if you want to use it.
  8. Step 8 makes the in-flight stand.
  9. Step 9 makes the transport trolley the aircraft can sit on.
  10. Here you add a single piece of PE to the fuselage.
  11. In this step, you scribe a panel line using a template from the PE fret.
  12. In this step, you optionally put the aircraft onto its rudimentary transport trolley.
  13. The last step is where you would put the aircraft on the stand to simulate it being in flight.

The painting guide gives you 4 options, all in light grey. Colours are named and called out in Humbrol colours. Extra painting steps are called out as needed throughout the instructions. For the decals you get one sheet to show you where the stencils go and then 2 sheets show you your 4 options, which are:

  • Ukrainian Air Force 2012
  • Russian Air Force early 2000s
  • Czechoslovak Air Force  1990s
  • Romanian Air Force late 1990s

The decals were printed in Ukraine by Decograph and look to be in register with good colours.

This kit is available direct from the factory here for US$42.00.

Conclusion: This is a very nice little kit with lots of detail and the resin and PE makes it a good choice. It’s easily the best kit of this aircraft out on the market right now.

Paul Tosney – Editor
ModelBuilder International
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