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MiG-21MF/MiG-21UM Variants in Detail

MiG-21MF/MiG-21UM Variants in Detail Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2005 Title MiG-21MF/MiG-21UM Variants in Detail
Author Frantisek Koran, Josef Martinek, Stanislav Rogl, Petr Soukop, and Miroslav Khol Publisher Wings and Wheels Publications
Published 2004 ISBN 80-86416-40-2
Format 216 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $50.00


The MiG-21 was probably the most feared fighter when it appeared in various cold war and combat theaters due to its petite size, tremendous maneuverability, and firepower. Capable of speeds in excess of Mach 2, the MiG-21 was certainly one of the most widely exported Soviet fighters ever developed, many of which are still in service today.

The MiG-21MF (Code-Name: Fishbed J) is probably the most numerous of the MiG-21 family, a product of the lessons learned from previous MiG-21 variants. The MiG-21F and MiG-21F-13 were armed with the 30mm cannon and two K-13 (Codename: AA-2 Atoll) missiles (copies of the AIM-9B Sidewinder), but were limited to fair weather operations due to the lack of an intercept radar. The MiG-21PF deleted the cannons and featured an all-weather intercept radar. Like the MiG-21F/F-13, the MiG-21PF also featured a forward hinged canopy that (on paper) supported supersonic ejections by covering the pilot during ejection. Unfortunately the canopy didn't always separate from the seat after ejection, leaving the pilot trapped on the falling seat. All of these MiG-21s carried a centerline external fuel tank.

The MiG-21PFM was the same as the MiG-21PF except it replaced the canopy with a more conventional windscreen, side-opening canopy and ejection seat. Like the previous MiG-21 models, the PFM still only had two underwing pylons for Atoll missiles and a centerline external fuel tank. The MiG-21R was a dedicated reconnaissance aircraft that carried a centerline camera pod and retained weapons capabilities on the underwing pylons. To compensate for the lost centerline fuel tank, outboard wing pylons were added that were plumbed for external fuel.

The MiG-21MF built upon the MiG-21PFM with the radar, standard windscreen/canopy/ejection seat, and possessed the four underwing pylons of the MiG-21R. This gave the MiG-21MF the centerline fuel tank, two outboard external fuel tanks for additional range, and two Atoll missiles (or other weapons) on the inboards. Alternatively, the aircraft could use all four underwing pylons for weapons. Most importantly, by now the Soviets had learned the same lesson as the US with the F-4 Phantom II and put a gun back on the aircraft, the GSh-23 twin-barrel cannon.

While a few other variants were built beyond the MiG-21MF, this was the most widely produced and deployed machine. Of course a two-seat trainer was required and for some reason, the Soviets never did produce an equivalent two-seater to the MiG-21MF. The MiG-21UM was the second and final version (not counting minor production improvements) but never received an intercept radar.

The authors have collected a significant number of nice color photographs for the MiG-21MF/MiG-21UM Variants in Detail. The title is 216 pages FULL of color photographs of operational MiG-21MF and MiG-21UM examples, not derelicts or museum pieces. When I say they've photographed about everything you can think of on these two types, I mean everything! There are also some great detail shots of the MiG-21MFN, the updated aircraft that can carry updated weapons including the R-60 (Codename: AA-8 Aphid).

If you've seen DACO Publications' fantastic books on the F-16 and F/A-18, this title blows them away in coverage and content! This incredible compilation of MiG-21MF/UM material far surpasses any aircraft photo reference I have seen to date!

If you want only one detailed photo reference on this versatile MiG-21, sell the others off and get this one. You will not be disappointed. If you have either (or both) of the Trumpeter 1/32 MiG-21MF or UM kits this is just what you'll need to get everything looking 'just right'. I definitely hope that the authors will keep up their momentum and cover the MiG-21bis (Fishbed L/N) and the MiG-23 family just as thoroughly! I rate this a must-have!

Definitely recommended!