reviewed by Marcus Hanke





MiG-21 MF 'German Migs'

MiG-21 PF (late) 'Indian Tiger'




 Kit No.


H 23


MiG 21 FL, No. 8 Squadron/Indian Air Force 1971 (foreground),

MiG 21 MF, Czechoslovakian Air Force 1989 (background)




It is needless to write much about the 'Fishbed's' story, since it is so famous that everybody interested in aerial history knows about it. Its conception dates back into the days of the Korean war, when it was believed that supersonic speed would be a decisive factor in any future air war. The advent of American bomber types such as the B-47, the B-52 and most notably the supersonic B-58 `Hustler; further stimulated the development of fighter planes able to intercept these bombers and to engage their fighter escorts. The new soviet fighter type should be extremely fast, agile and able to climb at an enormous rate. But these abilities could be reached only at the cost of other factors: A large and effective radar was deleted from the specifications as well as the heavy cannon armament present in former MiG designs, and - this being the permanent Achilles heel of the `Fishbed - the plane's small size allowed no provision of a large fuel capacity.

The MiG-21 and its Chinese derivatives have been produced in higher numbers and are serving longer than any other jet fighter, and even today, when aerial combat is seemingly ruled by long-range radar missiles, computers and stealth technology, in the hands of an experienced pilot the `supersonic sportscar; - as a `Fishbed; pilot once has described his plane - can still pose a serious threat to any of our modern superfighters.



But the MiG-21 has its main shortcoming in common with many other contemporary fighter designs from the Sixties, like for instance the American `Starfighter;, the British `Lightning;, the French Mirage III and the Swedish `Draken;: The lack of internal fuel together with the old jet engine's thirst make it very short-legged, so it is less than probable that the `Fishbed; will reach its possible top speed before running out of fuel.

The jet has equipped several dozens of airforces and has served in nearly every armed conflict which took place during the last thirty years, additionally it has been built in a dozen variants and subvariants at least, so it is strange that this attractive and successful plane did not make a similar impression to the mainstream plastic kit manufacturers. Especially of the early, sleeker and generally more attractive version F-13 there exists only one old injection molded kit, and besides some rather simple kits from Airfix and Heller only Fujimi is offering a line of high-standard `Fishbed; kits in 1/72. This series consists of three mainstream MiG-21 variants: the earlier PF, its successor MF and the final MiG-21bis. The first production version, the F-13 and some intermediate variants such as the PFM are not available from Fujimi.



The kits:

In-box impression and instructions:

The two particular kits reviewed here are the MiG-21 MF in markings of the West German Air Force shortly after Germany's unification, when some `Fishbeds; were taken over and evaluated in flight before either being sold or - more likely - scrapped, and a MiG-21 PF of the Indian Air Force. The designation of the latter is not totally correct, since India produced the `Fishbed D; in their own production facilities and gave them the official designation `FL;.

On opening either of the kit boxes one finds finely detailed and flash-free sprues of light grey plastic. Every single of these sprues is packed separately in a clear plastic bag which is an unnecessary waste of energy and raw materials - it would have been enough to pack only the clear parts and the other sprues separate from each other to prevent loss of parts and scratching the canopy. The layout of the kit parts makes it clear that they were de- signed in order to make several different versions possible, so each kit also contains parts from other versions (fins, spines, seats etc.) which are not to be used but are a welcomed addition to the spares box. Another thing typical for such kits is that all the bumps, vents and antennae which differ from version to version have to be glued on separately, sometimes they are really tiny and can easily be lost in the ubiquitous carpet.

The instructions are clear and without problems, except the following: If you plan to use the under- fuselage drop tank, be advised that you cannot build the ventral speedbrake in the open position, other- wise it would collide with the tank. The instructions do not mention this problem.


After checking my photos of the `Fishbedit is clear that this situation is present on the original plane as well, the pilots either have the fuel tank or the ventral speedbrake, but never both. I think this is the reason why the `Fishbed has two additional speed- brakes further forward. Another small glitch is that the instructions of the MF version advise you to use only two underwing pylons, which is wrong, since one of the most apparent improvements of the MF over its predecessors was the presence of four underwing stations, of which two were capable of carrying drop tanks. The parts for the additional two pylons are on the sprue, you only have to open up the other two holes in the wing to mount them. Unfortunately the sleek supersonic wing tanks, which are smaller than that under the fuselage, are not included in the kit. So the only way to use the four pylons is either to put the included missiles on them or to leave them blank - contrary to many western jets it is common practice with MiG-operators to leave the pylons and rails on the plane even if they are not in use.

Generally one should study the instructions carefully, since there are many tiny variant-specific parts which can be easily overlooked, it is advised to take a pencil and mark every part on the instruction sheet after it has been glued on the plane.





The painting instructions seem to be exact, but instead of the described mixing procedure in order to obtain the blue-green cockpit colour unique to soviet military aircraft I used the corresponding colour from Xtra-Color. Only afterwards I saw pictures which showed the cockpit interior of Indian MiGs being grey, so I seem to have been wrong on this.
Since I had found a nice Propagteam decal sheet (no. 72-012/05) for a Czechoslovakian MiG-21 MF with big nose art I decided to use my `German MiG kit for these. The Propagteam instructions told me to paint the plane `aluminum, this could mean that the plane was left bare metal, but I presume that in 1989, when the specific plane wore the special scheme, no MF was left unpainted any more, so I think that the original plane was coated with aluminum paint.

On the Indian MiG I wanted to apply a bare-metal scheme, since I do not own an airbrush I had absolutely no hope to succeed in the complex band-type camouflage scheme proposed by the painting instructions. But in 1971 most MiGs were flown unpainted, so I did not worry about unsharp paint edges. Both kits depicted here were painted with the same paint, Humbrol Metalcote Polished Aluminum, but on the MF the paint coat was left untouched to simulate the silvery aluminum paint on the original. On the FL several panels were painted with Aluminum paint, mixed with some drops of various shades of grey, then the whole plane was polished until the desired bare-metal effect came out.


Both kits' decals are relatively thin and in register (except the Egyptian roundels in the MF kit), the German `Iron Cross national markings consist of two parts which have to be stacked correctly. The few stencils are rather heavy and blurred. The decals which I used for the Indian MiG had problems with the Gunze Mark Softer setting agent: especially the orange parts faded rather heavily, so I stopped using a setting solution on them and nonetheless they sat into the panel lines smoothly.


While nothing can be said against the kit decals from a technical point of view, the choice of the decal subjects should be criticized: The FL-kit is named `Indian Tiger, so it is astonishing that just the originators of this name, the illustrious No. 1 Squadron `Tigers with their colourful markings are banned from the decal sheet. Instead the buyer gets 22 (!) Indian AF roundels - what a waste of carrier sheet! But this is only a slight annoyance compared to the MF `German Mig kit: Besides the markings for a camouflaged West German `Fishbed the lover of colourful jets is pleased to see the very bright decals for a white plane, painted this way for the unit's disbandment ceremony. You can throw the decals away. Or store them for further use, but not with the Fujimi kit, since these decals are for a MiG-21 PFM which is basically a PF with the MF's sideways opening cockpit. The decaling instructions laconically state: "Remodel hump-back"- that's it. First, there were more differences between the MF and the PFM, and secondly it would have been a better start if Fujimi had packed the PF spine and fin into the kit box for this particular version. But to remodel the `bis spine of the MF-kit into that of an PFM surpasses the abilities of the average modeler. As already stated I used the Propagteam sheet no. 72-012/05 instead. Since individual markings had been generally forbidden in the airforces of the Warsaw treaty it was only after the fall of the Soviet Union that nose art appeared on eastern European MiGs. A fine example of this new-found individuality was this MiG-21 MF stationed at Pardubice in 1989. Fujimi too had released their MF kit with these markings once. Typically for Propagteam the print quality is very crisp with bright and opaque colour layers, but the decals are very brittle. Additionally one has to be careful about the correct orientation of the Czechoslovakian national insignia, the simple decal instruction sheet does not show that the red segments always are orientated towards the plane's centerline.


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