by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundJust as the once-nimble MiG-21 was steadily transformed into a heavyweight bruiser, so too the supremely elegant MiG-29 has been radically modified to produce the enhanced MiG-29 SMT 9-19. One can’t help but wonder what the original design team must think of this latest incarnation of their classic late- Cold War dogfighter.
The ‘SMT features a massively enlarged fuselage spine that holds extra equipment and an increased fuel capacity, endowing the fighter with a range of over 2,000 km on internal fuel. The modified profile hardly wins any prizes for beauty - “brutally efficient” is perhaps the most complimentary description I’ve read. Along with an increased weapons load, the MiG-29’s avionics have also been upgraded and allow for the incorporation of foreign-produced systems - although the currently frosty relations between the West and Russia may limit what is available.
The KitGWH’s ‘SMT is based on their existing MiG-29 kits, and combines newly tooled parts with sprues from the previous versions. It arrives in a distinctive new style of packaging, and I must admit I was initially disappointed by what looks like a standard end-opening box. however, opening it reveals a sturdy inner tray that both keeps the parts safe in transit and can act as handy storage during assembly.
In fact there’s a further box within the box, because the new-tool parts are packed in a white cardboard insert. The remaining sprues are bagged individually - except, as usual, for GWH’s remarkable mouldings for the AAMs, which arrive in a moulded plastic bubble-pack for protection.
The new MiG comprises:
244 x grey styrene parts (30 not used)
8 x clear styrene parts
64 x etched brass plus clear film
The kit is moulded in quite hard styrene and the detail is very nice and crisp throughout. Surface finish comprises delicately engraved panel lines and embossed fasteners, while the control surfaces have a raised panel effect which I’m tempted to knock back a bit.
There's no sign of any sink marks in the sample kit, and the designers have done a good job of keeping most ejector pin marks out of sight, the only ones I've found that look a bit awkward are on the inside of the gear and airbrake doors where there's detail on both sides and they're hence pretty inevitable.
The core of the new version is a completely revised upper fuselage / wings moulding to incorporate the radically redesigned cockpit and dorsal spine of the full-sized machine. The fit with the original lower section is excellent, and I was particularly impressed at the way the scribed detail extends ‘round the “undercut” thanks to clever use of a multiple-part mould, with just the very faintest of seams to clean up.
A Few DetailsConstruction begins, as you’d expect, in the cockpit, which is built from a mix of some 25 styrene and brass parts. The 8-part ejection seat is enhanced with etched straps and leg restraints. The finished seat won’t cause aftermarket producers any sleepless nights, but it should look quite decent enough with careful painting and the supplied stencil markings applied.
The flight controls are unchanged, but the cockpit sidewalls and instrument panel are all new. the panel boasts very crisp detail and should look very effective once the 15(!) decals are in place.
Assembling the basic fuselage moves on quite quickly. The wheel wells are beautifully detailed with some crisp moulding that will really “pop out” with subtle weathering and highlighting. There’s a choice of open or closed upper surface fuselage intakes, and etched louvres.
GWH have been rather clever in how they tackle fitting the appliqué brass formation lights to the fins. They’ve provided etched templates to allow you to mark the positions accurately.
Once again, the engines are very impressive mouldings, and it’s tempting to really go to town detailing and painting them. Be warned though, they will be all-but hidden when installed, and there’s no option to open up any servicing panels to reveal them. GWH obviously consider the engines good enough to display separately (I don’t blame them), because the kit includes a neat servicing/display stand on which to mount one - but if you do that, you’re left with a gaping maw in the fuselage, because no spare exhaust is provided to fill the void.
Next up is the new canopy. This is designed to be mounted open or closed, and comes complete with rear-view mirrors. The canopy itself is beautifully clear, and a very nice touch is that it arrives with a piece of protective film on it to preclude any scuffs or scratches in transit.
The undercarriage is good and sturdy, while showing some very crisp detail. The wheels have nicely moulded hubs and weighted tyres. The latter won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I welcome them as they’ll help to impart the sheer bulk of this impressive fighter. There’s no mention of the need for any nose-weight to avoid the kit being a tail-sitter, but there’s plenty of room in the radome and in front of the cockpit tub if required.
The stores load-out features:
2 x PTB-1150 fuel tanks
2 x R-77 air-to-air missiles
4 x R-73
As we’ve seen in GWH’s previous MiG-29s, the missiles are quite remarkable mouldings, featuring detail that rivals many resin aftermarket sets. The stores and their associated pylons are supplied with a mass of tiny stencil markings.
Finally, the kit includes a boarding ladder, which is a nice touch - but a standing pilot figure would be the icing on the cake. The ladder looks quite hefty - perhaps that’s accurate, but I’ll check references before using it.
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly guide is produced as a 13-page A4 booklet and is neatly illustrated and straightforward to follow. Construction is broken down into 17 steps – all quite manageable, and in a pretty logical sequence. Colour call-outs are given throughout for Gunze Sangyo, Vallejo and FS matches.
Decals are included for a pair of aircraft - “Red 08” and “Red 23” - both of the 14th Leningrad Guards Fighter Air Regiment, based in the Kursk region. Both sport an attractive identical multi-tone grey splinter camouflage.
The decals are very cleanly printed in perfect register and look to be excellent quality. The only surprise is that they are very matt, which does tend to highlight the carrier film on the sheet. Hopefully, this will disappear under a coat of varnish to even out the finish.
ConclusionGWH’s latest MiG is a very impressive kit, well detailed, yet straightforward enough to be suitable for all modellers with a little experience of working with etched parts. While you could hardly call the MiG-29 SMT beautiful, GWH’s model is sure to turn heads everywhere. If you want a Fulcrum with a difference, they don’t come much more different than this! Recommended.
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