by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundThe Mikoyan MiG-29 (NATO reporting name: "Fulcrum") is a fourth-generation jet fighter aircraft designed in the Soviet Union. Developed by the Mikoyan design bureau as an air superiority fighter during the 1970s, the MiG-29, along with the larger Sukhoi Su-27, was developed to counter new American fighters such as the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, and the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. The initial production version - the 9-12, entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1983, with the NATO reporting code "Fulcrum-A". Unofficially, some Soviet pilots made use of the NATO designation "Fulcrum" for the type.
While originally orientated towards combat against any enemy aircraft, many MiG-29s have been furnished as multi-role fighters capable of performing a number of different operations, and are commonly outfitted to use a range of air-to-surface armaments and precision munitions. The MiG-29 has been manufactured in several major variants, including the multi-role Mikoyan MiG-29M and the navalised Mikoyan MiG-29K; the most advanced member of the family to date is the Mikoyan MiG-35. Later models frequently feature improved engines, glass cockpits with HOTAS-compatible flight controls, modern radar and IRST sensors, considerably increased fuel capacity, and some aircraft have been fitted for aerial refuelling.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a number of successor states have continued to operate the MiG-29; the largest of which being the Russian Air Force. Following a series of accidents related to poor maintenance, the Russian Air Force has begun upgrading most remaining aircraft to the modernised MiG-29SMT configuration. The MiG-29 has also been also a popular export aircraft, over 30 individual nations either operate or have previously operated the aircraft to date; India being one of the largest export operators of the type. As of 2013, the MiG-29 still remains in production by Mikoyan, a subsidiary of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) since 2006.
the kitThe Great Wall Hobby kit arrives in a very attractive conventional box, with the sprues and accessories all bagged separately. A nice touch is the way the impressive one-piece fuselage/wings top half is taped to a cardboard insert for protection. It's a good idea, but unfortunately the package containing the sample kit had clearly had a rough journey and arrived rather squashed, and as a result the part in my kit will need a little TLC to straighten the wings. There were no such problems with the set of highly impressive air-to-air missiles is sealed very securely in a plastic bubble-pack.
The kit comprises:
200 x grey styrene parts
8 x clear styrene parts
45 x etched brass parts
1 x printed film
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
A frameable print of the boxtop artwork in a clear plastic folder.
The immediate impression upon opening the box is of some superbly crisp detail moulding. There's a wisp of flash here and there, and just a couple of faint sink marks. The surface finish is superb, with very delicate engraved panel lines and embossed riveting and fasteners. The only odd point I noticed is the control surfaces, which have an exaggerated and rather soft effect similar to the way fabric-covered areas are often represented in kits. In fact, checking photos of the full-sized aircraft, the real thing is simply the result of overlapped metal sheets - much crisper and shallower - so I'll try to do something about that when I build the kit.
Test FitThe upper and lower halves clip together very precisely, trapping the pivots for the all-flying tailplanes. The vertical tail fins attach to the side of the rear fuselage, hiding the seam between the upper and lower halves. The engine intakes and covers are full-length, attaching to the underside of the fuselage after the engines (more on them later) have been fitted, forming the wheel wells in the process. One point to watch is that the rather flimsy static dischargers are moulded in place and are easy to damage.
A few detailsThe cockpit should look very effective when complete. Construction begins with a 12-part ejector seat, to which is added an etched harness. Each side console consists of 3 crisply detailed parts and these combine with a floor and rear bulkhead to form the basic "tub". The rudder bar is quite simple, but has etched toe grips to add. The main instrument panel is nicely moulded and brought to life with no less than 22 individual decals. One point to note: the drawing of the near completed cockpit tub shows a "mystery object" next to the ejector seat that doesn't belong there - it is in fact Part C33, part of the canopy mechanism that comes later in the instructions and attaches under the rear of the open canopy.
Staying with the canopy, it is thin and beautifully clear. Strangely though, despite being bagged separately, the one in the sample kit is a little scuffed and will need polishing. At first glance it looks as though there are a couple of mould lines on the windscreen, but these actually represent the thin metal bracing, so you can leave them be. Etched mirrors complete the inside canopy of the main canopy, while an etched HUD and film insert nestle under the windscreen.
The wheel wells display some excellent detail, with internal structure and delicate wiring that should "pop out" nicely with a wash and careful highlighting. The main gear legs look simple and good and solid, while the nose leg is quite a complex affair - no less than 14 parts in total. A nice touch is that the wheels are weighted, and they inlclude fine raised lettering on the sidewalls.The hubs are separate with nicely defined details. No mention is made of the kit needing any weight to avoid being a tail-sitter. If it does, there's plenty of room in the nose to add some if you leave the radome off until after the model is standing on its undercarriage.
The engines look quite superb, 17 parts each with some of the crispest detail I've ever seen. The main exterior is festooned with pipework and cabling, and separate blocks of auxiliary equipment units make for a really busy appearance. The fan blades and afterburner look very nice and 6-part exhaust petals should more than satisfy most modellers. GWH provide a neat engine stand so you can display one of the completed units in its own right - but there's no spare exhaust to fill the empty hole that'll be left on the airframe.
If the engines are one highlight of GWH's MiG, then the ordnance is certainly another. The kit includes the following:
A large centre-line fuel tank
2 x Under-wing fuel tanks
2 x R-27R (AA10 Alamo) air-to-air missiles
4 x R-73R (AA11 Archer) air-to-air missiles
The missiles are astonishing one-piece mouldings! Thanks to slide moulds, they are beautifully detailed from every angle and the fins are realistically thin. There are light mould seams to clean up, but in terms of detail and finesse, they really rival resin aftermarket products. I've certainly never seen anything quite like them included as standard in kit.
Instructions & decalsThe construction guide is printed as a 14-page A4 booklet on good quality stock. The diagrams are quite clear and uncluttered, but I do question some of the suggested assembly sequence that would have you add many delicate exterior details before the basic airframe is completed. It runs counter to conventional modelling wisdom, and looks to be asking for problems.
Colour are given for most details, matched to Gunze Sangyo and Vallejo paints.
Decals are provided for three aircraft:
1. "Blue 44", Russian Air Force, 20th IAD/404th IAP/Sqn. 1, Orlovka AB, Far Eastern DD
2. "Blue 91", Soviet Navy/Black Sea Fleet, 119th MIAD
3. A MiG-29 of the Syrian Air Force
The decals look to be very good quality, printed in perfect register on the sample sheet with quite a matt finish. There's a comprehensive set of stencil markings included, both for the airframe and ordnance, and the positions of these are clearly marked in the full-colour painting guide.
ConclusionGreat Wall Hobby caught everyone off guard towards the end of last year with the announcement that their next kit would signal their first sortie into the world of modern jets. It was a bold move - and one that's certainly paid off, because the maker's stock of the first run had apparently already sold out by Christmas (and I still haven't seen it for sale in the UK!). Looking at the kit itself, its success is hardly surprising, because it really is a beauty, incorporating state-of-the-art moulding techniques to produce some excellent detail.
Anyone who missed the first run needn't worry, as a new boxing with different decals is planned. Furthermore, the runaway success of this version has made a new-tool 9-13 version a priority project for release early this year.
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