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Revell 1/48 MiG-21PF Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2011 Manufacturer Revell
Subject MiG-21PF Scale 1/48
Kit Number 5482 Primary Media Styrene
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $19.95

First Look


The MiG-21 was the first generation of Mikoyan production aircraft designed to operate above Mach 2. Evolved from the MiG-19 series, the MiG-21 featured a delta wing and the R-11F-300 afterburning engine. While the MiG-21 retained the nose intake of its predecessors, a movable centerbody shock cone was used to manage the volume and velocity of the air reaching the engine.

The first generation of MiG-21 to enter production was the F-series (MiG-21F, MiG-21F-13) which were armed with the NR-30 30mm cannon internally as well as the ability to carry IR-guided missiles on two underwing pylons. This first MiG-21 series was a day-only interceptor as it did not have an intercept radar.

The next generation included the P-series (MiG-21PF, MiG-21PFM) which have an air intercept radar, but no internal gun and was still limited with two underwing pylons. It was powered by the slightly improved R-11F2S-300 afterburning engine. Like the first generation MiG-21s, the MiG-21PF was also equipped with the supersonic crew escape system which used the forward-hinged canopy as part of the ejection seat to protect the pilot from otherwise fatal injury from Mach 1+ wind blast. The reason this system never progressed beyond the MiG-21PF was that while the canopy did protect the pilot from wind-induced injury, it also gave him a commanding view of where he was going to impact the ground as the canopy would sometimes remain with the seat after the ejection trapping the pilot and preventing deployment of his parachute.

Revell has reissued their venerable 1/48 scale MiG-21PF Fishbed D kit. I shudder to think how old this kit tooling is though I believe the MiG-21PF was still operational (and that was a LONG time ago). Despite its age, the tooling has held up very well and there isn't any sign of flash or other mold defects usually seen with worn-out molds.

I'm not sure who did the box art, but this would have been the last few seconds of this poor pilot's life. The art depicts the aircraft in a full afterburner take-off with his flaps up (not advised) and while his centerline speed brake is closed, the forward speed brakes are fully open. Since this aircraft didn't have a zero-zero ejection seat, the pilot would likely be part of the resulting fireball off the end of the runway...

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on three parts trees plus a singe tree of clear parts. Like most Revell kits of this generation, the kit is a very simple build so it has a very basic cockpit. Also like many Revell-Monogram kits of Soviet subjects before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the cockpit layout is based on fuzzy photos or conjecture. This isn't a criticism, this was reality in those days. Today there are a variety of aftermarket cockpits and detail sets for the Academy kit that will work in the Revell kit as well.

This kit was the first MiG-21PF in 1/48 scale and remained as such until the release of Academy's MiG-21PF a few decades later. Surface detail on the kit is raised and unlike the Academy kit, the fuselage bumps for the main wheel wells are in the correct position.

The afterburner section has no depth - it is simply a representation of the afterburner injector rings over the turbine face attached directly to the afterburner nozzle. Like the cockpit, this can be easily remedied as well.

So if this kit is nothing more than an ancient tooling, why not buy the Academy kit and call it a day? Several reasons:

  1. This kit has the main wheel well fuselage bumps in the correct location
  2. This is the only kit to offer the narrow and wide-chord vertical stabilizer
  3. The AMS modeler can have some serious fun with this one

The instructions don't acknowledge the narrow-chord tail but this was the tail most often seen on the aircraft in its early operational period. The wider chord tail appeared sometime during MiG-21PF production and is the tail seen most often at the end of its operational life. Check your photo references, but if you have Yefim Gordon's book on the MiG-21, you can see many other production changes added to the aircraft during the PF's production run.

The wings are actually PFM wings as the flap seams are the in the same place on the top and bottom of the wings. On the MiG-21PFM and later MiG-21s, this flap would hinge down and use an engine-fed boundary layer blower to reduce stall speed. On the PF and earlier, they had Fowler flaps and these would travel aft and then down to increase wing area for lift. If you can use the wings as-is with the wide-chord tail and forward-hinged canopy to build the early MiG-21PFM, but to do the PF, fill in the scribed flap hinge on the upper wing and scribe that raised panel line on the flap about midway through the flap. Now you have Fowler flaps in the raised position. To make lowered Fowler flaps, you've got some more work ahead of you, but you can read more on wing flaps here.

The MiG-21PF carried a centerline fuel tank and a pair of K-13 (Atoll) missiles and both of these are provided in the kit. I'll probably replace the centerline out of my spares box and ditto on the K-13s. By the way, the K-13 is literally a copy of the AIM-9B Sidewinder, so you can use some nice AIM-9Bs to replace those K-13s.

The kit provides markings for two options:

  • MiG-21PF, Bort 23, Soviet Air Force, 1964
  • MiG-21PF, C588, Indian AF

Interestingly enough, the color profile depicts Bort 23 with the narrow-chord tail but the instructions don't tell you of this option. I'm not too convinced about that 1964 camouflage on the MiG-21PF as the vast majority of Soviet combat aircraft in those days were bare metal. Camouflage would come along in the late 1970s and early 1980s for corrosion control as well as for camouflage, but the paint scheme looks more like a museum paint job rather than an operational scheme.

This kit has lots of promise to render one of the early Gen-Two MiG-21s that will look really nice alongside the new Gen-Three MiG-21s coming from Eduard. If you build this kit straight out of the box, you can have a really nice model with little effort. For AMS modelers, this kit provides an inexpensive foundation for a much more serious projects. Either way, I'm glad to see this kit back on store shelves and I may have to stash a few more away.