Eastern Express MiG-21 UM 'Mongol'
KIT #: 72104
PRICE: $12.98 MSRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


With the huge success of the MiG-21F interceptor, it was realized that a dedicated trainer was needed to transition pilots from the more sedate MiG-17 to the much faster and more difficult to handle MiG-21. Its high landing speed was something that was the major cause for concern as once in the air, the aircraft flew beautifully.

Based on the MiG-21F-13, the MiG-21 UM was basically the same except for two major areas. One was the addition of a second cockpit for the instructor. This resulted in a loss of fuel capacity so a large spine section was added to help return some of the MiG-21's limited on-board fuel. The other major change was to a broader fin as was seen on later variants. A bulge in the fuselage side was to allow the use of larger wheels and tires. The wings were able to handle two pylons as in later MiG-21 variants, and were often used to hold fuel tanks. Though the gun was removed from the trainer, it was able to carry air to air missiles.


It is difficult to review a 1/72 MiG-21 without comparing it to what has come before. In this case, the comparison is with what most consider the best 1/72 MiG-21 kit on the market at the time this preview was written, the one by Fujimi, and the still nice, but older KP kit. Since then there have been a number of nice looking MiG-21s produced by several companies including RV and Zvezda.

I can confidently tell you that this one is closer to the Fujimi kit than it is the KP version. The grey plastic is nicely engraved, though perhaps a bit lightly for some builders as I can see this easily disappearing under any sanding. The sprue attachment points are generally rather large so care is needed when removing parts. I also found that most parts had some level of flash or at least thick mold seams that will need removed. The cockpit consists of a pair of somewhat generic looking seats with belts faintly molded on them. I'd suggest replacing these with some resin bits. There are also two control sticks and two instrument panels. There is no detail on the panels or side consoles, this being represented by decals.

Moving to the fuselage, all the various scoops are separate parts that will need to be added to engraved areas on the fuselage. There are two drop tanks and two missiles provided. The missiles are rather generic looking and would really benefit from replacement. Two even worse looking rocket pods are also provided. Four wing pylons and a centerline pylon are part of the suite as is a gun pod, which I don't believe is used on this variant. The front gear has the wheel/tire molded as one part. The main gear legs are really devoid of any detail at all, though the wheels and wheel wells have some. The clear bits are fairly well molded though they have flash. They are a bit distorted and have some mold flaws. I'd say that the windscreen is too pointed, though you'll probably not be able to find a decent replacement.

The instructions are fairly well done and well drawn. There is no color information provided at all so you are on your own in terms of interior and wheel well colors. The instructions show main gear retraction struts, though none are provided. Nose weight is needed to prevent tail sitting. Markings are provided for three aircraft though none are shown anywhere in the kit or instructions. There is a set of markings for a Russian plane, but no indication as to if it is bare metal or camouflaged. Also included on the sheet are a Finnish AF version and one for the unified Germany Luftwaffe. There is no stencil placement guide even though there are stencils on the sheet. The decals are very matte and have large clear carrier film.


This is pretty much a short run kit. You need to go into building it with open eyes and lower expectations than you would something from Revell or Tamiya. After that, it is a pretty straight forward build as long as you don't get frustrated by the dodgy fit and lack of detail. Every part has to be cleaned up in some way or another. Every part either has some flash or overly large seam or suffers from mold mismatch. Some have all three.

First step was to construct the cockpit. Instructions are somewhat vague about how the bulkheads fit, but of one fits it into a fuselage half before they dry and plunk the seats in there as well, it will be pretty easy to get this right. The control sticks suffer from mold mismatch so one has to be careful about thinning them down. Leave the seats out until you are ready to close the canopy. They are at most general shapes of the seats that should be there, but they fit and besides, unless you leave the canopies open, you won't see much. There are decals for the instrument panels and side consoles. After painting all the interior bits and sidewalls with Testors Soviet Interior Blue-Green, I glued in the cockpit. There is a shelf on which it sits. Tape the fuselage halves together while this dries to ensure it is square. The exhaust compressor face was also glued in at this time as was the intake cone after it was painted green.

With those items in place, I found a 5 gram weight as recommended and fit it into the nose. I also glued in the instrument panels. The front panel only fits with the control stick behind it. Making it a bit tricky for the student pilot to fly the plane. With those firmly in place, the other fuselage half was attached. This takes a lot of dry fitting and trimming to get in place and this is followed by a lot more. The intake ring is oversize and with all the sanding the overly shallow engraved detail will disappear.

A myriad of scoops have to be attached to the aft fuselage. These need plenty of early attention to get to where they don't look horrible. Attachment areas are so lightly engraved that I had to use a 10x loupe to see where the scoops went. While all this was drying, I filled the outer wing pylon holes as the UM only has two inner wing pylons. During this, I painted the seats dark grey using Vallejo acrylics. This stuff does not stick well to unprimed plastic and it took several coats. The Tamiya khaki I used for the 'cushions' went on with one coat. These were then installed.

After getting a pretty good dry fit, I installed the wings and the horizontal stabs. Note that the tabs on these have ridges on them that make it nearly impossible to fit into the slots so these ridges need to be sanded down. With those on, a set of wing pylons were installed. The little mounting tabs are miniscule and easily broken. I then glued on the clear bits. These are poor with major stress cracks along the upper portion and they are not very clear. Once on, they were masked as best I could.

I decided (foolishly) to do a four color camo scheme for this one using markings on KoPro sheet 94152 reviewed here a few years back. It offers four UM options and I picked the one for the Libyan Air Force at Tobruk in 2007. Thanks to AK Interactive, I had all the shades I needed for this one. I also decided to freehand spray the scheme. In hindsight, masking would have resulted in a much nicer looking scheme as I had to go back over and hand paint about all the upper surface scheme.

After all the initial colors were sprayed on, I decided to go ahead and put it on its landing gear. The nose gear includes the wheel and required the attachment hole to be opened up more. The main gear are little more than sticks with an axle stub and a place to attach the retraction struts. I used super glue after standard cement to get a good fit. Gear wells and inner doors were painted a dark grey. Photos showed a variety of shades that could be used on these planes. The burner section was painted magnesium as steel just looked too dark. Actually, I should have used two metallic shades, but didn't.

Once on its gear, the brush touchup and gear door/main wheel/antenna attachment was done. The radio altimeter antennas are far too thick and do not really fit well unless you do some trimming to leave something of a tab to fit into the holes in the lower wing. The actual placement marks for the long nose probe and the shorter probe disappeared sometime during sanding so I guessed at those. Eventually, I got all the bits on and everything painted. The airframe was given a gloss coat for the decals.

Thankfully, there are not a lot of decals for this particular scheme. All twelve markings went on without a hitch. One thing I have noticed about some of KoPro's decals is that solid colors tend to have a slightly darker edge to them. Not sure why this is the case, but it is. I would have used some of the data markings from the kit, but the not only was there no data placement guide, but the decals themselves did not match either the box art or the lone profile in the instructions. When done, the airframe was given some semi-matte clear to hold in the decals and the masking was removed from the clear bits. A bit more touch up painting was needed and I was done.

This is yet another 'three footer' as the quality of the parts and my poor skills mean no contests for this one! I'm unaware of any other two seat MiG-21, though would be happy to have a better kit of this type in my collection if there was one. Perhaps it is a bit strange that there are not more 1/72 MiG-21 kits produced by what we would call mainstream model companies. Revell has a very nice F-13, but that seems to be the end of it. Bottom line seems to be if you want a lot of MiG-21s you need to build some short run kits or those of fairly mediocre quality. Want a two seater in this scale? This one seems to be it.

20 July 2017

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Thanks to KoPro for the decals.

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