The MiG-21 needs little introduction. The most produced jet fighter in history served with Soviet, eastern block and for Soviet client states worldwide. Involved not only on the front lines of the Cold War, but also in nearly every third world conflict right up until today, as MiG-21s are involved in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Originally designed as a day fighter in the 1950s, the MiG-21 evolved through what are commonly referred to as four "generations" of development.
Beginning with the original MiG-21F series the first generation were day fighters. While the first generation MiG-21F fully delivered on the 1953 specification, the early MiG-21F series did little to satisfy the needs of the Soviet air defense command (IA-PVO). With the vast size of the Soviet Union, and the world's longest borders to defend, large, costly interceptors of the time - such as the early Sukhoi Su-9, Su-11 and Su-15 were too few in number. The original MiG-21F had only basic gunsight ranging radar. Thus a new specification was delivered for a lower-cost interceptor, and work began on the Ye-7 family that was to become the MiG-21P - P for Perekhavachik or Interceptor - series.
Building on the MiG-21F, the original Ye-7 prototypes added the new Sapfir radar and many electronic upgrades to support the new radar. The addition of the new radar caused a complete re-design (expanded cross section) of the nose. The electronics upgrades added a new hump to the spine of the aircraft blending to the rear of the main canopy. The original Ye-7/1 prototype first flew in 1958. Eventual improvements to the series led to the introduction of the new R-11F2-300 engine and a re-design of the rear of the fuselage in the Ye-7/3 prototype. Production began for the MiG-21P series in 1960 and continued into the last portion of the decade as the initial variants of the third generation of the MiG-21 began to appear in the MiG-21S and MiG-21M series.
The MiG-21P and its main variants the MiG-21PF and MiG-21PFM have fought in conflicts around the globe. Both variants seeing extensive service with the VPAF during the Vietnam war. India used variants during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. And, of course, MiG-21P variants have been used extensively throughout the various conflicts in the Middle East.
Just as the MiG-21 needs little introduction as an aircraft, the Eduard series of MiG-21 kits needs little introduction. First introduced in 2011 with the MiG-21MF the initial three kits represented the third and fourth generation of MiG-21 types - MF, SMT and the bis. This kit builds on the toolings delivered in 2011 with the middle of the second generational MiG-21s the MiG-21PFM. Their tooling strategy makes complete sense, as this kit utilizes many common components from the original MiG-21 kits - but doesn't backdate all the way to the MiG-21PF which will require a new canopy and ejection seat.
The photos that I have taken for this review focus on the new parts and the specific changes between this kit and the previous releases, so Iím also including the Eduard marketing photos of the kit contents.
Previous reviews of the Eduard MiG-21 series more than adequately cover the breakdown of the kit, so this review will focus more closely on the changes included in this release, as the first big change to what was introduced in 2011. And while Eduard could have gotten away with some very basic changes, a detailed study of the kit shows that they really did their homework.
At first glance, the MiG-21PFM appears to have the same basic fuselage and wings as the MiG-21SM/MF variant already released, and that this is yet another "spine only" change, as were the MiG-21SMT and MiG-21bis. In fact the now hopelessly dated Academy 1:48 MiG-21 kits attempted to get away with just such a cost-cutting measure, and as a result that kit suffers from being a hopeless amalgamation of variants that regardless of swapping spine parts, is incorrect for ANY MiG-21 variant.
Parts Breakdown / Box Contents
Sprue M is a newly tooled sprue that contains the main fuselage. This replaces sprue A from previous Eduard MiG-21 kits. Eduard has removed the AOA sensor from the port side of the fuselage, and changed panel lines where necessary. These steps could have been easily skipped instructing the modeler to delete/fill panel lines from the previous kit and simply grind off the AOA fairing. Additional changes on this sprue include changes for the forward airbrakes, and the monson style missile pylons for the Polish marked aircraft.
Sprue L is a newly tooled sprue that contains the wing pieces. This replaces sprue B from the original kit. While the wing parts are the only change here (the other pieces being common to the previous MiG-21MF and similar kits), the fact that Eduard took the time to make these more subtle changes shows the level of dedication they've put into this newest variant. Panel line changes, on the leading edge, are well done, as are the new oval inspection hatches on the upper surfaces. These represent subtle construction differences in earlier MiG-21 variants. The changes for the shape of the forward airbrakes are represented, as is the deletion of details for the GSh-23 cannon. It would have been very easy for Eduard to include the same wings for this kit, as these are details that only the most hard-core russophile would have caught.
Sprue N is a completely newly tooled sprue that contains the tail, spine and smaller detail parts. This replaces sprue H from the MiG-21MF kit (and similar sprues from the other variants). This contains the spine, vertical fin, GP-9 cannon gondola, new cockpit details, antennae, and similar detail parts. It would have been easy for Eduard to just include this sprue with the existing kit and call it the proverbial day, as this includes all of the major changes for the backdate to the MiG-21PFM. Fortunately for us, they did do all the extra tooling.
Sprue G contains the clear parts and while common to previous releases, this sprue does include upgrades and additional lenses that are version specific.
Sprues C, D and E are common to the previous kits. These contain the weapons, landing gear, gear wells, cockpit and engine parts.
Additional components include the color photo-etch pieces and masks common to the Eduard "ProfiPACK" style of release. Decal options for five countries, a separate sheet of decals for the maintenance stencils, full color instruction booklet (the best instructions in the business come from Eduard), all packaged in the usual stout box with attractive box art.
Building the MiG-21 & Eduard's Kit Philosophy
The build sequence of the kit is broken down over nine pages in the instructions in an unnumbered sequence. Construction is straight forward starting with the cockpit, moving through the other internal structures and then into the assembly of the overall airframe, finally adding the smaller bits to the outside.
But this doesn't truly tell the tale of the quality of this (or other recent Eduard kits). While I have not yet built this specific variant (more on that shortly), I can speak from the experience of having build one MiG-21SM (MF) and having one MiG-21bis in progress. These kits build beautifully requiring little filler. While the kits appear "parts heavy," most of the parts count is tied up in the multitude of weapons options.
Like previous releases the panel and rivet detail is both crisp, subtle and consistent. Some of the detail can only be seen if the parts are held "just right" to capture the shadow of the ultra-fine rivet detail. The detail is so fine that careful painting will be required to not obscure the detail.
Thoughtful design inclusions such as the lower wings molded to the lower fuselage allow for the best possible alignment of the wings. As the wings have slight anhedral on the real aircraft, it would be easy for modelers to overlook this and build the model incorrectly. Internal bulkheads are added during the fuselage assembly that give this model a real rigidity that is rarely seen. The bulkheads further enhance the kitís alignment.
And finally the way Eduard handles the detail components reflect their long history with the "aftermarket" of modeling. The cockpit, wheel wells, and engine are all models unto themselves. The detail is very well done for an injection molded kit. But at the same time they are all molded away from the main kit parts so if the modeler is inclined to do the more detailed build by including the Eduard Brassin components, the inclusion of the aftermarket detail in your project is a snap! Having put the full suite of parts into my MiG-21SM, I can easily say this is pure modeling pleasure, and a far cry from some of the "aftermarket" inclusion I have done on other kits!
While we do not have the newer Brassin components for the MiG-21PFM, we hope to see those soon for a more detailed look, and for inclusion into a progressive build to be published here on Aeroscale.
This is the ONE spot where the kit is an ever so slight letdown. The markings included in the kit cover:
A: Vietnamese People's Army Air Force, 921st Fighter Regiment, 1968
This is an excellent representation of a standard VPAF MiG-21 with the splotchy green camouflage. Notes credit the aircraft to a particular pilot, Nguyen Van Coc, credited with nine kills.
B: Czechoslovak Air Force, 11th Fighter Regiment, Zatec AFB, March, 1991
A later-day Czech AF aircraft in natural metal. The town emblem for Zatec is painted on the nose. A yellow band around the rear of the fuselage represents an aircraft rejected from service headed for disposal.
C: Soviet Union, Baurnal Higher Air Force School, Kamen na Obi / Slavgorod AB, 1988
A training school MiG-21. Painted in an interesting three-tone camouflage with the three-digit training school number on the nose. Provides an interesting contrast to more operational schemes.
D: Egyptian Air Force, Inshas AB, early 1980s
One of only a handful of the 235 MiG-21s to survive the Six-Days War. This aircraft later participated with US Forces during the Bright Star exercises in 1982.
E: Polish Air Force, 1st Squadron of the 62nd Fighter Regiment, Poznan - Krzesiny AB, 1994
Shown in the markings for the 40th anniversary of the unit's establishment. This particular aircraft was armed with the GP-9 gun pod and was fitted with the Monsun rack allowing the fitment of two R-3S missiles per wing.
While the markings choices may work for many modelers as they are attractive and brighter markings, I often find myself longing for more Cold War appropriate markings versus the later day markings included in the kit. The Soviet/Russian choices in a couple of the Eduard kits have been later-day training school aircraft. There are several extensively published photos of Soviet aircraft in operational markings - even in camouflage. While a plain natural metal MiG-21PFM may be boring to some, it is more representative of the aircraft as it operated during the majority of its service. The inclusion of a handful of extra ďbortĒ numbers on the decal set would be little extra cost for Eduard and would allow for a broader set of possible subjects for the kit. This is important as Soviet types rarely receive support from the aftermarket decal suppliers.
Perhaps Eduard will see fit to do further releases of not only this kit, but perhaps their MiG-21SM/MF and MiG-21bis in "Cold War" offerings with earlier markings included.
The Curious Green Photoetch
As is typical for Eduard ProfiPACK kits, this kit includes a set of pre-painted photo-etch parts, with the majority designed to detail the cockpit. Challenges in matching the underlying paint aside, the choice of green seems strange for this kit. Most of my references show this color used for MiG-21M and later types. Even the initial third generation MiG-21S aircraft had the same dark gray or even black cockpit as the earlier types. So the use of green for the photo-etch for the MiG-21PFM seems strange. Strange, but not unheard of. There are photos available showing green MiG-21PFM cockpits - but no rhyme or reason as to when the change was made. May have been a factory specific paint spec, may have been a depot change later on. As is true of most Russian aircraft the rules for colors and markings are less rigid, and as a result, it's hard to say this is wrong - it's just not the way some would represent the color of a MiG-21PFM cockpit. According to photos, the color photo-etch in the Brassin set also uses the jade green color. Perhaps they'll do a later set for an "early" MiG-21PFM, and include the dark gray color instead?
As this kit holds strong ties to the previous releases in the Eduard MiG-21 series, I have included links to the previous reviews as in many ways they are applicable to this release:
Final Thoughts / Summary
This kit is another absolute winner from Eduard. This company continues to demonstrate why they are the gold standard in scale modeling right now. The kit is well engineered for any level of modeler. The detail and research behind the subject is second to none. The quality of tooling is nothing short of superb. If you're interested in the MiG-21 at all we HIGHLY recommend this kit.
At least two further releases are planned in the series, including a MiG-21R (due in late 2013) that will represent the hybrid "gen 2.5" version that it is - this kit with the spine of the MiG-21MF, as well as the inclusion of the recce pods and sensors. The MiG-21PF will come in early 2014, and will be this kit with the inclusion of the earlier one-piece, forward opening canopy and earlier cockpit configuration with the SK-1 ejection seat. We look forward to covering these in detail when they are released.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE