Hobbyboss 1:48 Yak-38M Forger

I wish to thank Marcus Nicholls of Tamiya Model International Magazine for sending me this sample to build for an article that is published in Issue 205, November, 2012.


TMMI used this model for an advertisement for Creativemodels in the UK.



The Yak-38 was designed as a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft specifically for shipboard operation. Its role was for fleet air defense against shadowing maritime surveillance aircraft, reconnaissance and anti-ship strike. The purpose for this child of the Cold War was to counter (or in competition with) NATO Nations’ Hawker Harrier, but it was an abysmal failure. You know it is a failure when pilots tried to get out of the flight program to save their butt. CRACKED.com has a very funny analysis of why the Yak-38 was not a good idea. This ‘fighter’ lacks an internal cannon, does not have a radar, a small wing which resulted in small lift capability, and a high crash rate. The Designers felt so insecured of the plane such that they design an automatic seat ejection system to eject the pilot once the aircraft rolled past 60 degrees during take-offs. The thought of a low altitude ejection from a plane would not be conducive to flying this plane!

The prototype first flew in 1971 and the first shipboard trials were conducted aboard the Moskva in 1972. The Yak-38 entered service with the Soviet Navy in 1978. Progressive development resulted in the Yak-38M, which, with 1000kg more engine thrust. During 1980, it was evaluated under operational conditions in Afghanistan under the code name “Operation Romb-1” for about a month. The trial was unsuccessful as the engine lack sufficient power in the “hot and high altitude” environment. The aircraft also was shown to have poor gunnery and bombing accuracy. Worst of all, the aircraft had only a 15 minutes flying time when fully loaded with bombs, which makes it impractical for operational use. By 1995, the Yak-38s were removed from service. Today, many are found preserved and sitting outside in weed infested military museum lots in Russian cities as historic memorial, with its paint fading away while waiting for the eventual destiny at a scrap yard. It is this fate which I will render for this new model from HobbyBoss of the Yak-38.

The Model

This is not exactly a good-looking aircraft and the colour scheme it typically had during its service was not an interior designer’s dream.  Hence, I choose to model it as a beat up and severely weathered old soldier sitting outdoor in a Russian museum similar to the one shown below.


The Model Kit

For a really excellent kit review and history of this aircraft, I refer you to a good web page at IPMS Philippines. So far, from my inspection of this kit it appears to be a decent kit. On initial inspection, I thought the lower fuselage joints at the exhaust end looks like it will need some putty to cover up some nasty seams. However, as I started to glue the parts together it looked really good.

Not knowledgable about this plane, I did a lot googling and found out that this kit is not very accurate for the final version of the Yak-38: The Yak-38M. The final M variant was supposed to have a wider air intakes but I can’t tell the difference when I compare photos of the two variants.

The cockpit is very disappointing when compared against the promotional 3D CAD images of the prototype. The kit seat look nothing like the detail-filled 3D image of the prototype. The head rest is too small when compared against photos of a typical K-36 seat. If I wanted to show the cockpit open then I must get a resin pit replacement. I will use a Neomega K-36DM seat to replace the kit seat. When the two are placed together one can see the quality difference between the kit seat and the resin replacement.

Since I will render a museum static display aircraft the canopy will be closed and the interior won’t be too visible as a result. Therefore, I only need to add a few more details to the HUD which can be seen through the blown windshield. Following reference photos of the HUD area, I scratch build the control boxes around the HUD to give it more of busy look. A much better representation of the HUD display was made.


The cockpit of this kit is acceptable but fell short from the teasing promotional 3D computer graphics test shots which shows a highly detailed cockpit and ejection seat; which looks more like an aftermarket resin set. The kit seat looks a bit off shaped and elongated when compared against reference photos. I happen to have a NeOmega K-36 DM seat in my spares box and I felt that it looks closer to the real seat than the kit’s seat and so I used it to replace the kit’s seat. I realized that there is slight difference in details on the top of the head rest between a K-36VM and a K-36DM, but I feel that I can live with the slight difference.

To enhance the kit’s cockpit, I used styrene cards to extend the back wall of part C19. Two simple throttle handles were added to the left side console. The HUD needed a lot more detailing. I enhanced the kit’s HUD by building up “boxes” type details around the kit’s HUD area. The glass holder frame was built up from cards to allow me to slip in a clear sheet later for the HUD glass. A few pieces of fine diameter lead wires around the HUD finishes off this area with enough details to look close enough to the real thing.

DSCN4425DSCN4418DSCN4411 panelDSCN4408

The cockpit walls and tub were painted with Gunze H67 RLM65 Light Blue. This colour looks close enough to the blue-grey the Russian uses in their aircraft cockpit. The seat is painted with Gunze H301 dark grey to simulate a black chair and the seat belts are painted with H306 grey. To make the chair look more interesting, I choose to paint the leather head rest in a brown leather instead of a black leather. The kit provides the instrument panel moulded in clear plastic and I think the manufacturer expected me to put the instrument panel decal behind the clear part. I did not like the kit’s instrument panel decal detail and so I opted to paint the instrument panel and then added my own home made instrument dials decal which I printed from my ink-jet printer.


I painted the model using a mix of Gunze H54 Navy Blue, H25 Sky Blue, and H67 RLM65 Light Blue for the top surfaces and Vallejo 70967 Olive Green for the underside of the plane. The top surfaces is wearing a sun fade Navy Blue: To simulate that I mix the three bottles of blue paint to get 3 different shades of blue for my monochromatic blue paint job. The decals are “sun bleached” by over-spraying a thinned out H67 to tone them down. I painted the shading between paint fading in a restraint and very subtle way: As such, some of the shade differences might not show up too well on photos. This is a heavily weathered aircraft so a heavy use of a dark blue enamel wash is very appropriate as supported by my reference photos.



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