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MiG-21bis

Eduard 1/48 MiG-21bis Kit First Look

by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2012 Manufacturer Eduard
Subject MiG-21bis Scale 1/48
Kit Number 8232 Primary Media Styrene, photo-etch
Pros Still best kit of the MiG-21 in any scale Cons Decal stencils (see text)
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $59.95

First Look

For a brief history of the MiG-21, please look at our previous reviews of the Eduard MiG-21MF or MiG-21SMT kits.

The MiG-21bis was the final production variant of the MiG-21 series and while classified as a third generation MiG-21 along with the MiG-21M/MF and MiG-21SMT, the MiG-21bis was fitted with the Tumanski R-25 engine with improved dry and augmented (afterburner) performance. Where previous variants of the MiG-21 were lumped into common ASCC designations (i.e. MiG-21M, MF, SM, etc. were all designated as Fishbed J), the MiG-21bis actually received two designations. The original MiG-21bis was designated as Fishbed L and when the same aircraft was equipped with two distinctive antennas for the radio system for short range navigation (RSBN), these MiG-21bis were designated as Fishbed N. No other variants of the MiG-21 were produced with the RSBN system though the system would appear on next-generation aircraft like the MiG-23 Flogger.

Eduard has released the final variant of the generation three MiG-21s, the MiG-21bis. This first release is actually Part 1 meaning that we'll see other releases with additional marking options in the near future. This is the variant I've been waiting to see in kit form since Eduard first announced the series last year. Among my various encounters with the type, I remember while I was stationed in Berlin during the early 1980s when the first Polish airliner had been hijacked into Berlin-Tempelhof (the USAF station in Berlin). After the hijacker was treated as a hero for escaping the bonds of communism, the door was thrown open to numerous other hijackings into Tempelhof. In fact, the Polish airline was LOT (which unofficially stood for 'Lands On Tempelhof') and we were 'visited' by a wide variety of Ilyushin and Tupolev passenger aircraft during the subsequent hijackings. We were even going to open a ticket counter for LOT since each departing flight had at least one seat vacant...

And with each hijacking, the airliner would be escorted by Soviet or East German (or both) MiG-21s all the way to touch-down at Tempelhof followed by some afterburner fly-bys. Most of these were the MiG-21bis and one East German hot-dog buzzed our hangars while stroking that R-25 afterburner while trying (unsuccessfully) to break some windows in the process. So how did those hijackings finally stop? When one LOT pilot had enough and fooled the hijacker into thinking that they were landing at Tempelhof when in fact they were landing at Berlin-Sperenberg (Soviet AF). The hijacker was captured and no-doubt televised before likely ending up in a landfill somewhere, significantly curtailed future hijackings.

As with the previous releases, this kit is molded in dark gray styrene and presented on eight parts trees, plus one tree of clear parts, and two frets of photo-etched parts. Two sheets of decals and a set of yellow masks round out this kit.

MiG-21bis MiG-21bis MiG-21bis MiG-21bis MiG-21bis MiG-21bis MiG-21bis

When you open the box, you can quickly see that this series from Eduard is still the best MiG-21 produced by anyone in any scale to date. While I do like the Trumpeter 1/32 MiG-21MF and MiG-21UM kits, they have a few issues that are not in this box. First of all, the detailing is sharp and petit, no sign of the 'mad riveter' here. Second, the kit isn't over-engineered - you don't have details rendered in areas where you'll never see them again once the kit is built.

This kit is the second MiG-21bis produced in 1/48 scale plastic. The only other is the older OEZ kit which had many details in the box but the surface of the model had a grainy texture that was hard to overcome.

Like any good aircraft kit, construction begins with the nose wheel well. Okay, so it is supposed to start with the cockpit, but once you get the wheel well walls and bulkheads in place, you flip the part over and install the cockpit - close enough. The cockpit comes with a nice set of color-printed photo-etched parts as only Eduard can do them. Take care to match the turquoise blue-green color on the rest of the cockpit interior and the hard detailing is already done for you. The kit provides two different sets of side walls for the cockpit as well as two variants of the right sub-panel - one set is for the standard Soviet-built aircraft and the other set is for a Croatian airframe that has been fitted with NATO-compatible avionics. Very nice attention to detail here.

Next is the afterburner chamber and nozzle assembly. You're going to love the depth of the flame holder away from the turbine face (something that is usually molded together).

This kit has the entire interior fuselage mid-section here that represents in full-depth the main wheel wells. If you want to see some interesting engineering origami, watch some You-Tube videos on the MiG-21 and MiG-23 landing gear retraction tests and see how those wheels are moved around to fit into those unusual spaces.

This is one of very few kits that got the unique centerbody radome shape captured right. When you have the cockpit, afterburner section, and wheel well section completed, these all go together with the centerbody inside the fuselage halves.

Like OEZ, Eduard did a nice job in making the kit adaptable to easily render the other third-generation MiG-21s out of this tooling with minimal parts changes. The main difference - the dorsal spine - requires different parts for the spine and vertical stabilizer as the spine fairs into the tail in different places depending on MiG-21 variant. These are provided on their own trees and the bis tail is natually in this box.

The forward airbrakes are molded closed on the kit to ease assembly and filling, but if you want to portray these open, simply remove the air brake petals along the cut lines, insert the well interiors, then install the brakes themselves.

The wings, like the rest of the kit, are common to all three variants that will be portrayed by Eduard.

Among the features of this kit:

  • Detailed cockpit w/color photo-etched parts
  • Detailed KM-1 ejection seat
  • Positionable canopy
  • Detailed afterburner chamber and nozzle
  • Detailed main wheel wells (nose gear well nice too)
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable flaps, ailerons and stabilators (with some minor tweaks)
  • Positionable speed brakes
  • Choice of plastic or PE FOD shields under auxiliary blow-in doors
  • Choice of plastic or PE wing fences
  • Optional RSBN antennas
  • Paint masks

External stores include:

  • 2 x RS-2US (AA-1 Alkali)
  • 2 x R-3S (AA-2 Atoll)
  • 2 x R-3R (AA-2 Atoll)
  • 2 x R-13 (AA-2 Atoll)
  • 4 x R-60 (AA-8 Aphid)
  • 2 x S-24 240mm rockets
  • 8 x FAB-100 bombs
  • 2 x FAB-250 bombs
  • 2 x UB-16-57 rocket pods
  • 2 x MERs
  • 2 x external underwing tanks
  • 1 x centerline external tank
  • 2 x SPRD RATO bottles

Markings are provided for five aircraft:

  • MiG-21bis, MG-129, 31 FS, Kuopio AB, Finnish AF, 1980-81
  • MiG-21bis, Bort 0880, 1 AD, Gdynia AB, Polish Navy, late 1990s
  • MiG-21bis, Bort 1874, 47 CAR, Papa AB, Hungarian AF, 1991
  • MiG-21bis, C2305, TACDE, Jamnagar AB, Indian AF, 1986
  • MiG-21bis, Bort 115, 22 FS, Pula AB, Croatian AF, 2008
MiG-21bis MiG-21bis

The distinctive markings are will done and provide some nice variety of subjects. The second sheet contains the most extensive set of maintenance stencils I've seen beyond Begemot, and while they're supposed to be in Russian (Cyrillic), they are still in Gibberish like the stencils in their MiG-21MF release. In the MiG-21MF's stencils, it looked like the Cyrillic had been double-printed and this batch are not double-printed, but the printing is still fuzzy and what I can read still looks like Gibberish. Get the Begemot MiG-21 stencil sheet (look here).

Painting instructions are given using equivalent Gunze paints, and while some of them are close, others are not so close. We've 'translated' the Soviet colors from Gunze to AKAN (with the available equivalents) to get you closer to the correct colors (see here for an example).

Aside from the stencil sheet problem, this is still the nicest MiG-21 produced to date in any scale (less than 1:1). I don't doubt we'll be seeing a few more releases of the MiG-21bis in our future with more Soviet and Warsaw Pact examples to be sure.

This kit is definitely recommended!

My sincere thanks to Eduard for this review sample!

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