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JL-9 Plateau Eagle Kit

Trumpeter 1/48 JL-9 Plateau Eagle Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2015 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject JL-9 Plateau Eagle Scale 1/48
Kit Number 2879 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice detailing Cons See text
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $49.95

First Look

JL-9 Plateau Eagle Kit
JL-9 Plateau Eagle Kit
JL-9 Plateau Eagle Kit
JL-9 Plateau Eagle Kit

Many dismiss the Chinese aerospace industry as being little more that copycat manufacturers. While it is true that they don't waste much research and development funds with new projects when they can copy or reverse engineer aircraft and weapons systems that meet their needs. Nevertheless, they have a long history of improving on any given design to meet their needs. When Shenyang began production of the MiG-19 Farmer under the designation of J-6, they soon recognized the aircraft's the aircraft's weaknesses (nicknamed the 'widow maker' by Russian and export recipients of the MiG), Chinese engineers made the J-6 safer and more reliable than its Soviet counterpart.

Enter the Chengdu J-7 (MiG-21 Fishbed). Developed from the MiG-21F-13 Fishbed E, the initial J-7s were simple copies of the Soviet airframe, but many of the improvements introduced by the MiG OKB in later versions of the MiG-21 were added to production J-7s as well. Features including four pylons, side-opening canopy, plumbing in the outer pylons for external fuel tanks, etc., were introduced in their domestic J-7 as well as their export F-7 Airguard. Only the original centerbody radome and single starboard-side cannon remained of the MiG-21F-13. Then Chengdu did something interesting, they added a double delta to the J-7E with reduced sweep outboard sections of the wing and added leading edge flaps to reduce take-off and landing distance.

Fast forward to the JL-9, Guizhou has taken the MiG-21 to a completely new level. The intake has been split and relocated to either side of the cockpit. In its place is room for a larger radar system. The wings are lifted from the J-7E and the canopies are similar to the Mirage 2000D/N. The gun is downsized to the 23mm cannon mounted internally between the main wheel wells. What's also new is the fixed air refueling probe which makes this one of the first of the MiG-21 family to be air refuelable. While the aircraft is designed as a trainer, like many contemporary trainers today, this aicraft is fully combat capable. There is also the JL-9G which features some additional external differences and is used for advanced carrier pilot training.

Here is Trumpeter's new JL-9 kit in 1/48 scale and it appears to be a really nice kit. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on eight parts trees plus one tree of clear parts and one small fret of photo-etched parts. Among the features and options:

  • Nicely detailed cockpits
  • Photo-etched crew restraints provided for the ejection seats
  • Photo-etched boarding ladders
  • Positionable canopies
  • Detailed engine though you won't see those details nor the compressor face down the intakes after assembly

The kit provides a nice array of external stores though you'll only be using three of them including:

  • 2 x PL-8 AAM
  • 2 x PL-9 AAM
  • 2 x external fuel tanks

Unlike other MiG-21s, the external fuel tanks mount to the inboard pylons. If the missiles look familiar, the PL-8 is developed from the Python 3 IR missile while the PL-9 bears a good resemblance to the AIM-9L/M.

Profiles are provided for two examples:

  • JL-9, 60781, PLAAF
  • JL-9, 81479, PLAAF

The decal sheet also provides generic red and yellow side numbers so you can create your own subjects. The sheet also provides a nice set of airframe stencils as well. The instructions indicate that two examples were silver, but if you look at online images, the images show the aircraft a very light gray with bare metal in the rear around the afterburner section. In addition, there are some interesting blue and gray camouflaged JL-9s shown online which provide some interesting alternatives.

If you're a fan of the MiG-21, here's a design that might have been a what-if concept in the MiG OKB, but is now reality for the PLAAF and PLANAF.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!