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Eduard 1/48 MiG-21MF Kit First Look

by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2011 Manufacturer Eduard
Subject MiG-21MF Scale 1/48
Kit Number 8231 Primary Media Styrene, photo-etch
Pros Best kit of the MiG-21 in any scale Cons Decal stencils (see text)
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $59.95

First Look


The MiG-21 is one of the most successful supersonic fighters ever produced. The first production MiG-21 was a day fighter that was equipped with 2 NR-30 30mm guns and a range-only radar that would provide optimum firing range data for the pilot, similar to the F-100 Super Sabre. Like the F-100, these early MiG-21s were not effective in clouds or adverse weather, so an air-intercept radar was added along with two infrared homing missiles (K-13 Atoll) and the guns were deleted. This first all-weather interceptor was the MiG-21PF (NATO Codename: Fishbed D). To enhance landing performance as well as pilot safety, the next version would replace the Fowler flaps with engine-blown flaps to reduce landing speeds as well as replace the forward-hinged canopy that acted as a supersonic shield during high-speed ejections. The problem with the canopy was that while it protected the pilot from supersonic wind blasts during ejection, it was also notorious for not coming off the seat after ejection to allow the pilot to deploy his parachute. This new version was the MiG-21PFM (NATO Codename: Fishbed F) and all subsequent versions of the Fishbed were equipped with a side-opening canopy and the KM-1 ejection seat.

The MiG-21R (NATO Codename: Fishbed H) was a dedicated reconnaissance variant that carried a recce pod on the fuselage centerline instead of an external fuel tank. To compensate for this fuel loss and to enhance its range, the MiG-21R had two more pylons added to the outboard section of the wing plumbed for external fuel tanks. These outboard pylons could also carry any of the weapons that could be loaded on the inboard pylons. This four-pylon wing configuration would appear on all subsequent MiG-21 variants.

Following the MiG-21R was a wide range of MiG-21s that represented the first increment of the Generation Three fighters and were all NATO Codenamed Fishbed J. These included the MiG-21M, MiG-21MA, MiG-21S, MiG-21SM, and the primary export variant, the MiG-21MF. The reason all of these variants were given a common NATO designator was that the Soviet model numbers were not commonly known in the west and externally, they all looked alike (especially in grainy black and white photos). Like the MiG-21R, the MiG-21MF (and its kin) had four underwing pylons, centerline pylon, and a new addition - the GSh-23 twin-barrel 23mm cannon. The gunfighter had returned. In combat operations, the MiG-21MF (and its kin) could carry weapons on its two inboard pylons, but for the first time it could also carry two underwing fuel tanks and a centerline tank for extra range and tops this off with the new gun. One other improvement not immediately evident with the Fishbed J was the R-13 engine that replaces the R-11 used in previous MiG-21 variants. US aircrews knew that they could fly faster than the Gen 1/Gen 2 MiG-21s on the deck, but the R-13 added a two-stage afterburner that gave the pilot two thrust settings: fast and faster. With the R-13 in the North Vietnamese MiG-21MFs, US aircrews couldn't shake off these new MiGs quite as easily.

Eduard has released the first installment of their long-awaited MiG-21 series in 1/48 scale. Was it worth the wait, let's take a look:

The kit is molded in dark gray styrene and presented on eight parts trees, plus one tree of clear parts, two frets of photo-etched parts, and a set of rocket pods cast in resin. Two sheets of decals and a set of yellow masks round out this kit.

When you open the box, you can quickly see that this is the best MiG-21 kit 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-21MF 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. Before you write an email reminding me of the Academy kit, the box may say MiG-21MF on it, but it is the MiG-21bis inside the box. The fuselage bumps that represent the wheel well accommodations are in the wrong place on the Academy kit, a painful error to correct.

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.

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 tree. The kit does provide two different types of instrument panel and three sets of canopies to render the MiG-21MF (or SM if you'd like), MiG-21SMT, or MiG-21bis.

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. One exception is an oblong panel on the upper surface of the wing near the wing root. For this detail, Eduard provides your choice of photo-etched scribing mask or decals to replicate that detail.

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
  • 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)
  • 2 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 six aircraft:

  • MiG-21MF, Bort 7628, unknown unit, Tanta AB, Egyptian AF, 1988
  • MiG-21MF, Bort 9712, 9 FS, Bechyne AB, Czech AF, 1989-93
  • MiG-21MF, Bort 7713, 4th Flight, Silac AB, Slovakian AF, 1999
  • MiG-21MF, Bort 7809, 10 FS, Lask AB, Polish AF, 2001-2003
  • MiG-21SM, Bort 127, 812 UAP, Kupyansk AB, Soviet AF, 1991
  • MiG-21MF, Bort 687, JG 3, Preschen AB, EGAF, 1990

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 they're provided in your choice of two languages: Czech and Gibberish. It looks like the Gibberish was supposed to by Cyrillic, but they are unreadable in any language. If you're doing the Czech or Slovak subjects, you'll have some impressive stencils for your airframe and weapons. For the other subjects, no so much. Find the Begemot MiG-21 stencil sheet ( look here).

Aside from the stencil sheet problem, this is easily the nicest MiG-21 produced to date in any scale (less than 1:1). I'm looking forward to seeing the other installments in this Generation Three MiG-21 series and hope that Eduard will go back to Gen Two and even Gen One for the day fighters.

My sincere thanks to Eduard for this review sample!