In-Box Review
PZL 23B Karaś

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

The original Karaś A was hamstrung by numerous technical problems, which rendered it largely useless for operational flying. While the early machines flew on in training roles, urgent efforts were made to correct the defects, resulting in the Karaś B. The most important change was to the engine, with the Pegaz II M2 replaced by the more powerful Pegaz 8. The new engine was fitted to the 3rd prototype and the improvement was instantaneous - service ceiling soared from just 3,000m to 7,300m at a stroke!

There were also a number of external changes, including the deletion of the temperamental leading edge slats and the fitting of new elevators with a larger balance area. The plan was to equip Karaś Bs with a pair of forward firing machine guns, so an additional cut-out was added behind the engine cowling. However, due to insufficient production of MK 33 guns, Karaś Bs could still only be fitted with a single machine gun fitted, as before, on the starboard side.

With the improvement in performance offered by the new aircraft so obvious, it was demanded that the production of the Karaś A be cancelled after just 40 had been built, with the remaining 160 ordered being completed a 'Bs, with a further 50 ordered before production ceased in February 1938 The Karaś arrived at a critical time, marking the transition from biplanes to monoplanes with much higher landing speeds, so accidents were inevitable and in the 18 months leading up to WW2 it became apparent that there were not sufficient aircraft to keep units at full strength. By the outbreak of war the situation was critical. There were just 114 operational PZL 23s; Bomber Brigade flights had 50 machines, with Army units an additional 64. There were just 10 aircraft in reserve; the rest included 45 in training roles and an amazing 55 (more than the total in service with the bomber force) undergoing repair and overhaul.

During the invasion of Poland, the combined Bomber and Army forces flew a total of 400 sorties, dropping 84,000 kg of bombs. Losses were appalling; 120 PZL 23s of all types - about 86% of the operational force - were lost, giving the Karaś the unfortunate distinction of suffering the highest loss-rate of any Polish aircraft involved in the struggle against the Wehrmacht.

The kit
When Mirage Hobby released their excellent PZL-23A Karaś earlier this year, it was immediately a clear contender for kit of the year. This relatively small company took a long-requested subject and treated it to a superbly detailed kit. Now a few months later, a new version is available, with even more detail and a set of extra resin parts to take the original kit to new heights.

When I reviewed the original PZL-23A, Steffen Arndt (Alpha_Tango) posted the intriguing news that a strictly limited version was also available. Well, I'm delighted to see that this kit, complete with extra etched metal and resin parts is now more widely available. The release reviewed here is labelled "UK Version" - which opens the possibility that this special edition may also appear in other guises.

So what's new about the Limited Edition. Well, first off, this kit includes parts and decals for the operational Karaś B - and addresses my only real disappointment with the original kit by including a set of resins bombs, plus a crew of 3 resin figures. The new kit contains:

133 x Grey styrene parts
15 x Clear styrene parts
178 x Etched brass parts 66 34 78
23 x Resin parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes

The box is labelled "Warsaw Model Center" (which I assume is an arm of Mirage Hobby) and, as you'd expect, the new kit is based closely on the Karaś A, with most of the basic parts identical between the releases - so I won't bore you with repetitions of the earlier review . However, the difference is evident from the word go as you compare the instructions - with the new kit including painting guides for the resin bombs and crew on the first page. The assembly diagrams are printed once again in colour with rendered 3-D CAD illustrations and, although the general sequence is unchanged, there are a number of new stages inserted to cover the extra etched details of the Karaś B.

New Etched Parts
The already exceptionally detailed cockpit receives quite a number of additions, including a choice of etched pilot's seat-backs, rudder-pedal straps, additional frame and bulkhead details for the sidewalls and a delicate framework to represent stringer detail in the top decking between the navigator's and gunner's positions. Type-specific extras such as the Karaś B roll-over frame, oil deflectors and aerial are included.

Also new are a mass of exterior inspection covers to adorn the fuselage and wings, replacing the engraved details if you so chose. Separate instructions are included for the intricate 2-part covers which are intended to be displayed closed but, of course, they could also be built open with a bit of ingenuity - increasing the diorama possibilities for servicing scenes etc.

The kit actually includes all the parts needed for the earlier Karaś A - leading-edge slats and cowling cover - but do note that all the decal options are all Karaś Bs, despite the old parts still appearing as options in the assembly sequence.

New Resin Parts
All the parts are cast in Mirage's distinctive pale grey resin. The casting is pretty good with few signs of bubbles or other problems on the detail parts and figures.

Using the resin crew will require a little lateral thinking as the pilot and bomb-aimer are cast complete with their seat and couch respectively. The instructions don't illustrate fitting the figures, but you're basically faced with two choices; trim down the figures to use the plastic items, or dispense with the plastic/etch pilot's seat and go with the resin version. The bomb-aimer doesn't really offer a choice - his cast couch will sit proud, so there's not much choice other than to trim it away.

The bombs are the major plus point for me, as the original kit looked rather bare with no offensive load. The bombs' bodies are neatly cast with retaining straps and they are certainly a distinctive shape, unlike anything I've got stashed away in the spares box. The fins are a little distorted in the review kit, but the fins of the full-size ordnance might also have been prone to becoming bent - I don't know, that's definitely something to check in reference photos. It won't be hard to replace the fins with plastic card if you feel it necessary but, with such a wealth of etched parts in the new kit, it's rather a shame that etched fins weren't also included.

Painting and Decals
Once again Mirage include a detailed description of both the exterior and interior colours of the Karaś, with reference to few surviving relics of the original aircraft. The instructions include keys to the Vallejo range of acrylics which Mirage market in Poland, along with FS equivalents where possible. Interestingly, Mirage have also developed their own set of Polish WW2 colours in collaboration with Vallejo.

A huge sheet of TechMod decals is included for 3 aircraft. As you'd expect from TechMod, the designs are printed in perfect register and are thin and glossy with minimal carrier film.

1. PZL 23B "White 3", 44.67, 22nd Line Flight, 2nd Air Regiment, Cracow-Rakowice, 1938
1. PZL 23B "White 6", 44.214, 41st Line Flight, 4th Air Regiment, Torun, 1938
1. PZL 23B "White 7", 44.??, 32nd Line Flight, 3rd Air Regiment, wearing a white fuselage band during training exercises in 1939.

The aircraft are each adorned with attractive unit emblems on the fuselage and, by way of a final bonus, the kit includes a resin badge for scheme #1. This is cast in the form of a drinks coaster and, surprisingly, the surface is rather pitted with small bubbles - but these should be quite simple to fill and the badge should look very attractive painted and displayed separately, or incorporated onto a display-base

I was hugely impressed by Mirage's original Karaś A - and the Limited Edition Karaś B only increases my high opinion of the kit. With the extra etched details, plus resin bombs and crew, this is the definitive version and the one to go for if you spot it on the shelves. Highly recommended.

"PZL.23 Karaś" - by Tomasz J. Kopański, Mushroom Model Publications #8101, 2004
"The PZL P-23 Karaś" - by Jerzy B. Cynk, Profile Publications #104, 1966

Thank you to Mirage Hobby for kindly supplying review sample.
Following on from their excellent kit of the PZL 23A Karaś, Mirage Hobby have released a revised model of its successor - the far more potent Karaś B, reviewed here in it's Special Edition form, which features extra resin parts and etched details.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 134833
  PUBLISHED: Aug 16, 2006

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Hi Rowan! Nice kit and nice review! But I don't like this "U.K. only" thing! Doh... I hope they have somethng similar in mind for France... with extra Red Wine, Camembert and Baguette resin parts! :-) Jean-Luc
AUG 16, 2006 - 11:26 AM
Hi Jean-luc What a great idea! I just had a quick check in case I missed anything in the Karaś box - sadly, the UK Special Edition doesn't include a plate of fish & chips, with a pint of Tanglefoot to wash them down... All the best Rowan
AUG 16, 2006 - 05:41 PM
I think the policy is to issue the special edition in different language versions. While messing about on their web site last week I came across a screen that seemed to suggest that there would be French, German and other versions including I think Japanese. However I could not find the page today. For one Euro you can have your name printed on the box and for two some text to personalise it. NB the URL is LINK A magazine has already misprinted it as LINK If you go there you will find a Polish shopping site where you can buy lots of things but not a Karaś (Ka-rash). I bought the Polish version a couple of months ago. Mirage must use low-pressure moulds as it suffers from their typical sink marks (more like pot-holes.) As well as the usual suspects (propeller) there are eight beautifully symmetrical holes around the exhaust collector ring. They are so good many people will think they are intentional. They are not and need to be filled. There is also a flow mark on one of the fuselage halves that looks like it will need attention. I donít think paint alone will hide it. Despite the inclusion of bombs the choice of markings are curiously mostly for aircraft from 1938 not authentic September 1939 examples. In 1939, before war broke out, the under wing buzz codes changed from two digits to three. Some sources say that the colour changed as well. When you look at photos you see examples of black and white being used both before the war and during the September Campaign. Photographs of wrecks and captured aircraft taken by the Germans after the September Campaign show that mostly white codes on the Karaś whereas those of P.11s are mostly black. There is one very rare photograph taken during the September Campaign of 41 Eskadra aircraft parked under trees at Zdunowo airfield. It is not possible to identify any of them but you can see that the wingtips are painted white and there is a white letter N under the wing of the first aircraft. Itís not in the Mushroom book so donít waste your time looking for it there. There also seems to be a difference of opinion on the background colour of some of the emblems. Sometimes they are shown as white not pale blue. Techmod have even taken to printing two versions on some of their decal sheets. As the editor of one model magazine has failed to realise when reviewing the Mushroom book, the home bases of the various air regiments were peace time only and not for use during conflict. The first stage of mobilisation was for the units to move to emergency airfields. That is airfields for use in a national emergency not for making emergency landings. The second stage, when conflict appeared imminent was to move to their secret war time airfields. These were extremely rough as it was imperative that enemy reconnaissance should not be able to identify them from the air. Polish aircraft were designed to operate from these rough airfields and the Air Force spent the summer months engaged in realistic exercises that duplicated the conditions of wartime operations. In the case of the Karaś, to facilitate operations from rough airstrips, the wheel spats could be removed. If you wish to show your model in that configuration it is quite legitimate and not a gimmick as they were very often removed. The bombs, however, are another matter. When operating from these rough airfields the bomb load was limited to a maximum of 400kg Ė thatís four of the six 100kg bombs in the kit. Other configurations that could be carried were one row of eight 50kg bombs, the extra two under the fuselage (it looks a tight squeeze) and two rows of six 12.5kg fragmentation bombs under each wing (24). Combinations of all three could also be carried. The 12.5kg fragmentation bombs are the same as could be carried by the PZL P.11. So you only need to buy six of the Mirage kit to have enough for a Karaś. I cannot find a single picture of a Karaś carrying bombs so what a typical load looked like is anybodyís guess. Some people are confused about the configuration of the gun sights. If you can bend those tiny bits of brass, the spike goes at the front and the flaps bend back behind to each side like horseís blinkers. The originals were like a capital letter I in section with a top and bottom. The pencil sketch on page 89 of the Mushroom book shows them backwards. Part 11W. A quick and easy enhancement is to drill out the circular vents. Parts 32W are gun cameras and I think only used in training. The one of the machine gun was attached to a bracket that bolted to the left side of the gun. If you want to fit it you will have to scratch build the bracket. If you are desperate to know what it looked like email me and I will send you a picture. Genuine callers only please. Part PE34 painted silver. This can be seen in photographs but not all aircraft had it. There is something similar on the PZL 11c which has been mistaken in the past for a window. It is in fact a data plaque with instructions for servicing the starter and fuel installation. So part PE34 is probably something very similar. Part have issued two PE sets for the Karaś, interior and exterior. These are for the extreme modeller, replacing most of the interior with brass. In the set for the P.11C they left one of the instrument dials clear so you can paint the reverse in the correct red colour. They donít seem to have done this for the Karaś so you may prefer to use the kitís decals. Together they cost more than the kit. You can gaze in wonder at them here LINK and here LINK In the UK you should be able to get them from Aeroclub. Most will I think prefer Eduardís offerings. Techmod have already produced resin engines for the other Mirage kits of the P.11c and P.24 variants so I should think they will eventually provide one for the Karaś. If you are thinking of opening up panels then you might want to wait awhile to see if one turns up. Painting your Karaś. This is a translation of what Mirage have to say on the matter. I expect the English version will have something similar. "Preserved fragments of PZL P23s seem to prove the theory that the PZL factory at first used a khaki paint composed of FS20122 and FS30108. Later, the PZL factory changed the khaki colour to a greener shade - FS 34087. The colour used earlier most likely bleached quickly and in doing so lost its camouflaging properties and (probably) this is why the recipe for mixing the pigments in the paint was changed. The new khaki colour was most likely used for painting export aircraft and new types such as the PZL P37 Los or the PZL P43. This seems to confirm the colour photographs taken by the Germans at Okęcie in 1939. We managed to get hold of a fragment of paint from a PZL P37B Los and on the basis of this sample, we selected a mixture of Vallejo paints. The new khaki colour was most likely used on the late-series Karas B and most likely also on refurbished Karas As, and other aircraft repainted as the need arose. As of this moment, we've not been able to discover what colour the interior of the Karas was painted. No information on this subject has survived; we've not been able to find any artefacts. Studying photos, we can make out that the interior is painted in some dark colour, and neither silver nor light blue. The fragments of the P.23 interior exhibited from time to time at the Aviation Museum in Krakůw were painted a dark greyish blue. Summing up, the prototypes and early production examples were probably painted silver. Later production machines were probably painted dark greyish-blue or khaki green. The 'shelves' between crew members were painted khaki green. The most likely variant: walls painted dark greyish-blue, the floor black. All equipment, such as the camera, radio, bomb sight, were left in the colours that they were when they left the factories from which they originally came. Stencils (lit. 'utilisation lettering') (on the decal sheet nos. 20, 21, 22, 23) were probably not painted on Karaś. As; we've left them on the sheet as they might well have been applied when the aircraft were being refurbished. An example might be the inscription "NIE DEPTAC" (do not tread) which can be seen on a/c no. 44.30." Mirage is the Polish agent for Vallejo and now only give mixtures from this range. Out of curiosity I obtained them to see what they produced. The colours, black, chestnut brown, yellow, and two greens, are not what I would expect to produce khaki. One of the greens is like hair dye, leaving the bristles of my paint brush green. I got what I expected, three slightly different shades of chocolate brown with a horrible dirty bottle green cast. When I put them through an airbrush the first layer paint appeared dark green turning to dark brown as the thickness of paint built up. The overspray was also a dirty bottle green. Nothing like the olive green of the illustrations on the instruction sheet which I assume is meant to represent the sort of colour you want. For a while I thought that these mixtures might have been made from a different range of paints and simply translated to the nearest Vallejo equivalents. Frankly I think you would be wasting your time and your money if you buy these paints for this purpose. (No complaints about the paint, itís the colours that are at fault.) There are easier and cheaper ways to get the right colour. Early Faded Khaki. The PZL P.11c in Krakůw Museum has a history of restoration and repainting and cannot be relied on as an example of what was Polish Khaki. (It is said that the present colour is not correct, too green.) According to the instructions with Mirageís P.11 kit restoration work on Krakůwís P.11 revealed the colours faded khaki FS30118 and FS 30108/FS20122 in hidden areas. Now RAF Dark Earth is usually described as FS30118, so that colour must be what Polish aircraft looked like after they had been in the sun for a while. Eh, no! Mirage recommends (PZL P.11c kit) Humbrol H142 Ė Field Drab. For the colour in the hidden areas they say add 8% H163 (green). First obstacle. H142 is no longer available and nowhere have I been able to find out how you can mix it. But the local model shop has an old Humbrol booklet that has all the old colours in it and it turns out that H142 is, as I suspected, a khaki colour more greenish than Dark Earth. It has been suggested that Dark Earth can be substituted but I do not think so. I think it is too brown. When I was a boy everyone I asked, including one of my teachers who flew P.11s, said the colour was khaki. My father said it was similar to the colour of vehicles used by Post Office engineers. This fits with H142. Dark Earth is brown and I donít think anyone would call it khaki. But help is at hand. Agama have authentic colours for pre-war Polish aircraft but you can only get them from the Jadar Shop in Warsaw. LINK (NB On my laptop screen they looking nothing like the colour of the paint. When I printed the web page they looked very like the actual colours.) They have Polish Khaki. It looks right. A kind of dull khaki with a touch of green and it looks like H142. So I painted some on the end of a plastic plant label and off I went to the model shop. Agama Polish Khaki is an exact match for H142. So Agama is faded Polish Khaki FS30118. The nearest Humbrol colour is H155 Olive Drab. I bought some and painted some next to the Agama. Under a gloss coat you can hardly see any difference but under Matt Cote H155 became a darker, browner colour. I thought adding white would produce a too bleached effect but was surprised to find it matched the Agama colour quite well and I think many people would be happy with the result. Late/Export Khaki. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence from veterans that the P.37 Łoś (pronounced like the English word wash not loss) in particular was painted a green or perhaps greener colour. When a boy I knew very well Group Captain Stanisław Cwynar who flew the P.37 before the war and in the September Campaign as commander of the XV Dwyizjon. He had two gouache sketches of a P.37 painted by one of his ground crew and the colour was green not brown. FS34087 is USAAF Olive Drab so why do you have to mix it? You donít. Mirage now have a pack of Vallejo paints for mixing the PZL colours LINK In it they include 70887/093 Brown Violet for Late Khaki in place of the mix they give in the instructions. This matches exactly Humbrol 155 Olive Drab. However, this still looks a little too much on the brown side, not what someone would describe as green or greenish. At the moment my own preference is White Ensignís ACUS15 Olive Drab 41. This has more of a green colour to it and look more like the olive colour of the instruction sheet illustrations. Polish Light Blue. This is in fact a blue/grey colour something like a paler version of Humbrol 145 Medium Grey. Sometimes RLM 65 has been recommended as a substitute. It is too blue, certainly Humbrol H65 is. I could not find anything in the model shop to match the Agama version. The plastic top of Tamiya XF23 is very close. Thatís the colour of the plastic cap not the contents. The paint is darker and bluer. The nearest Humbrol colour is H127 US Ghost Gray. I was able to get an almost exact match by adding some H89 Middle Blue. I had to make the mix slightly lighter as it dries a darker shade. I should think that there are many other combinations of grey and blue that would give correct colour. The interior.I have always thought that an aluminium interior seemed unlikely. All those reflections, especially from the cockpit framing wouldnít, I think, be tolerated. In their monographs on the PZL fighters Warren Eberspacher and Jan Koniarek say the interior of Polish aircraft were painted grey. The interior of the fuselage of the museumís P.11c is a light grey but I donít know if that is authentic or restoration. Vallejo 005 is Intermediate Blue so perhaps Humbrol H144 can be substituted? I havenít checked that out yet. Other references. White Eagles. The Aircraft, Men and Operations of the Polish Air Force 1918 Ė 1939, Belcarz & Pęczkowski, Hikoki. Some photographs not found in the Mushroom book. Colour profiles. Can get it for less than half price from Midland Counties. Wrześniowe Straty 1939 September War Losses, A Glass, Mirage. LINK Polish Text with English summary and captions. Some of the few hundred photographs taken by the Germans of crashed, abandoned and wrecked Polish aircraft from the September Campaign. Some large (A5) photos of Karaś with missing panels. Could be useful for super detailing. Higher standard of reproduction of photographs that have been published elsewhere. Was available from Hannants, still should be able to get it from Midland Counties. Mini Replika 46. Polish model magazine. 12 page article on building the P.23A. Despite the all Polish text I thoroughly recommend getting a copy. There many black and white and colour photos of the build of the interior from which you can get ideas for adding more detail. (Yes it is possible to add more detail.) You can also get a good idea of what the interior should look like and help clarify any tricky bits that youíre not sure about. And yes, itís not painted with Vallejo paint mixes. It is easily obtained by mail order from the Jadar Shop. You can see some example pages here. Page down, donít click on enlarge. LINK With the exception of some obvious items such as White Ensignís paint everything I have mentioned can be obtained from the Jadar Shop by mail order. There is an English version of the web site and you can see prices in US $ or Euros. No problem ifyou want to e-mail them in English. LINK
AUG 17, 2006 - 03:58 PM
Hi Antoni! Thanks a lot for these informations! Interesting read... Jean-Luc
AUG 17, 2006 - 04:58 PM
Last week Midland Counties Bookstore sent me their latest list of second-hand books. On it was Monographie Lotnicze No 23 PZL P.23 the Karaś. Long out of print. I ordered it immediately and today it arrived. (£3 + £2.50 postage and packing, not quite more than the book.) I thought there might not be anything new in it but it is quite useful. A few photos I havenít seen and a section of interior photos from the manual that are the best reproductions I have seen. A section with photos of Bulgarian and Rumanian aircraft. Plans also include interior detail. There are also four pages of colour profiles but these can be found in other publications as well. On the back cover is a colour cut-away drawing and a colour drawing of the cockpit. Despite being all Polish it makes a very useful reference. Looking at it I am not sure it really is second-hand. It doesnít look to have been touched and the old price tag is still on the back. Perhaps it came from a book shop that closed or something like that. So there might be a remote possiblity that they have more than one copy. If you want one the code is B511. I suggest that you e-mail or phone them as I have never been able to find any of the second-hand books by searching the website. Tel. 01455 254450 [email protected] They also had listed both the PZL P.11c books.
SEP 08, 2006 - 11:54 PM
The latest release of Mirageís PZL P23.B Karaś appeared on the Jadar Shop website today (3/12/2006 or 12/3/2006 if you live on the other side of the Atlantic). This is the September 1939 issue. From what I can see it is very similar in contents to the first kit of the P23A. There are decals for four aircraft: 44.211 Ď5í of the 55th Independent Bomber Flight, Bomber Brigade (Tiger) ĎN-08í Ď1í Personal aircraft of commander 12th Battle Flight 1st Air Regiment (Fox) Ė This aircraft actually dates form 1938, buzz codes changed to three digits in1939 shortly before war broke out. 44.62 ĎK-610í Ď5í Light Bomber Flight, Bomber Brigade (Lion) ĎK-941í Ď9í 24th Reconnaissance Flight (Gazelle). Polish Price is 119 zł (about £21 on a credit card rate of exchange), US$38 or 30 Euros. LINK
DEC 02, 2006 - 08:22 PM

Click image to enlarge
  • Mirage_PZL23B_Boxtop
  • Mirage_PZL-23B_Etch
  • Mirage_PZL23B_Figures
  • Mirage_PZL23B_Bombs
  • Mirage_PZL23B_Fins
  • Mirage_PZL-23B_Resin_Colour
  • Mirage_PZL-23B_Colour_1
  • Mirage_PZL-23B_Colour_2
  • Mirage_PZL23B_Badge