Sunday, March 23

Gary reviews Eduard's "Tarantula" of the skies - the Mig-21PFM in 1/48th scale

The Eduard Mig-21 “Fishbed” has seen many incarnations in 48th scale – and just like the real thing these aircraft are not all the same as each other. Gary shows us how many of the parts of this  - the "ambush" version of the  Fishbed - the “PFM” Mig-21, differs from the others already released by Eduard in today’s review…

Eduard MiG-21PFM 1/48 
Kit No: 8237
1/48 scale
Plastic Sprues: 7
Clear Sprues: 1
Photo Etch Brass Fret: 2
Decal Sheet: 2
Available from Eduard Directly

Eduard continues to steadily expand its family of MiG-21 kits in 1/48. This time around we review the PFM variant as used by the North Vietnamese, Czech, USSR, Egyptian and Polish air forces from the ‘60s to the 1990s. I’ve built the MiG-21MF kit from Eduard (in the funky Bunny scheme here) and can tell you the fit of these kits is every bit as good as how they look in the box.

The Aircraft

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (Russian: Микоян и Гуревич МиГ-21; NATO reporting name: Fishbed) is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was popularly nicknamed "Balalaika", from the aircraft's planform-view resemblance to the Russian stringed musical instrument or ołówek (English: pencil) by Polish pilots due to the shape of its fuselage.
Early versions are considered second-generation jet fighters, while later versions are considered to be third-generation jet fighters. Approximately 60 countries over four continents have flown the MiG-21, and it still serves many nations a half-century after its maiden flight. The fighter made aviation records. At least by name, it is the most-produced supersonic jet aircraft in aviation history and the most-produced combat aircraft since the Korean War, and it had the longest production run of a combat aircraft (1959 to 1985 over all variants)
The MiG-21PFM (1964; Izdeliye 94) with NATO reporting name of "Fishbed-F" was a modernised MiG-21PF, with an upgraded RP-21M radar, SRZO-2 Khrom-Nikkel IFF transponder and other changes in avionics. Further, later-production PFMs reintroduced cannon armament, in the form of the capability to carry a GSh-23 cannon and 200 rounds in an underbelly pod. Following tests in 1966, MiG-21PFM aircraft built after 1968 could carry the Kh-66 air-to-surface missile. The PFM also introduced a conventional cockpit enclosure, with fixed windscreen plus side-opening canopy in place of the earlier PF models’ single-piece front-hinged unit.

P = Perekhvatchik ("Interceptor")
F = Forsirovannyy ("Uprated")
M = Modernizirovannyy ("Modernised")

The Kit

With each new release Eduard are moving backward along the MiG-21 evolution timeline. From their initial “Generation 3” kit releases (MF, BIS and SMT variants) Eduard have more recently released “Generation 2” airframes in the form of PFM and most recently the R variant.

The upshot of this is that many of the weapons provided on the kit sprues are suitable only for the more modern MiG-21s. As you can see from the sprue layout diagram, many of the parts are not relevant to the PFM (those shaded in blue).
Sprue M contains the main fuselage halves, the forward and rear airbrakes and two R-3S (AA-2 Atoll) missiles.
The rear airbrake can be displayed in the open or closed position. Eduard have kindly provide two parts depending on which option you choose. One has the airbrake closed and the other the brake itself is provided as a separate part. This is an excellent touch as it makes the decision to close the brake a lot less troublesome.
The kit comes with the forward airbrakes moulded in the closed position. If you wish to display them open you need to cut open the fuselage and use parts M7 & M6 as the interior of the brakes. This is actually fairly tricky and my advice is to proceed carefully if you take this option.
Once you have opened up the holes for the airbrakes you can use parts M10 & M5 for the brakes themselves.
The R-3S is very nicely moulded and not surprisingly looks a lot like a Sidewinder (from which it was copied by the Russians)
Sprue L contains the upper and lower wing parts. The Eduard MiG-21’s come with separate flaps and ailerons. The all moving horizontal tails are also provided on this sprue as is the ventral fin and rudder.
To highlight the very fine surface detail on this kit I have taken some high contrast photos. The sharpness of the panel lines and rivets is as good as any Tamiya kit I have seen. That’s about as good a compliment as you can give a model.
Sprue N contains parts for the tail and spine, the GS-9 gun pod, several cockpit parts (including some instrument panel options and front shroud) and nozzles for the SPRD-99 RATO pods. Most of the fins for the assorted missiles are also present on this sprue. Pylons and assorted antennae fill out the remainder of the available space.
This review kit is a ProfiPack edition. This typically means the inclusion of a small photo-etch fret, pre-cut mask and loads of decal options. In the event you do not wish to use the provided PE parts for the cockpit IP and side consoles (some folks don’t like working with PE much) you can build the cockpit with just plastic (as will eventually be released in the Weekend Edition which do not come with any of the bells and whistles, or the price tag, of the ProfiPack)
Part N9 (left) is for those that do not wish to use the pre-painted PE parts. To save you some time when using the optional Photo-Etch IP part N8 (right) is provided and is totally flat and ready for the PE to be simply glued into place.

The MiG-21PFM was not equipped with an internal gun, although it was possible to mount a GP-9 gun pod on the centreline pylon in place of the external fuel tank. Such a fit significantly reduced the fighters range, however the North Vietnamese PFM’s were not delivered with the correct wiring to allow the GP-9 pod to be fitted, although this technical oversight was subsequently corrected. (source: MiG-21 Units of the Vietnam War, Osprey Combat Aircraft #29)
The GP-9 pod houses a twin-barrelled 23mm GSh-23 cannon and 200 rounds of ammunition
The GSh-23 works on the Gast Gun principle developed by German engineer Karl Gast of the Vorwerk company in 1916. It is a twin-barrelled weapon in which the firing action of one barrel operates the mechanism of the other. It provides a much faster rate of fire for lower mechanical wear than a single-barrel weapon, although it cannot match the rate of fire of an electric Gatling gun like the M61 Vulcan. The Gast principle has been little used in the West, but was popular in the former Soviet Union on a variety of weapons. (source:
The front cockpit shroud is fairly basic in plastic. You can either spruce this up with some basic scratch-building or purchase the optional Brassin resin set designed specifically for this kit.
The SPRD-99 was a RATO system developed for the MiG-21 and first introduced with the PFM. The bottles were mounted on the MiG-21’s lower rear fuselage, one on each side. They shortened the MiG-21’s take-off run from 2727’ to 834’. Each SPRD-99 provided 5508lbs of thrust. The bottles burned for about six seconds and dropped off the plane once it was airborne. They were not reusable.

A useful period photo of a Soviet MiG-21 with a SPRD-99 fixed to the fuselage just behind the main wheel well. Also note the R-3S IR (AA-2 ATOLL) missile attached to the wing pylon and finally the PTB-490 fuel tank attached to the aircraft centreline pylon. This would have been a very common lead-out over the skies of Vietnam as all kills by North Vietnamese pilots where with the R-3S missile.

A graphic photo of a Czech MiG-21 struggling to maintain control on take-off with the forces being applied by the RATO packs.
Sprue C contains most of the fuselage interior components including the cockpit floor, cockpit bulkheads and cockpit side consoles, the main and nose undercarriage bays and exhaust tube.
Sprue E (x2) is dedicated to stores and includes weapons and drop tanks. The bodies of the SPRD-99 RATO bottles are also contained on this sprue.
The bulk of these sprues are not for use in this version of the MiG-21 so you will end up with quite a few spares.
The weapons designed for use on the real PFM were fairly limited. Remember that this aircraft was designed to be an all-weather interceptor and if needed dog fighter (relying primarily on missiles as the PFM had no internal gun). The primary weapons were therefore air-to-air missiles, namely the R-3 (NATO reporting name AA-2A 'Atoll'.) which is similar in appearance and function to the American AIM-9 Sidewinder from which it was reverse-engineered. The North Vietnamese used the AA-2 missiles to good effect during the Vietnam war scoring kills against both US F-4 Phantoms and F-105’s.
The RS-2US (aka K-5MS, NATO reporting name AA-1 'Alkali') was a beam-riding AAM. The difficulties associated with beam-riding guidance, particularly in a single-seat fighter aircraft, were substantial, making the 'Alkali' primarily a short-range anti-bomber missile. Around 1967 the RS-2 was replaced by the K-55 (R-55 in service), which replaced the beam-riding seeker with the semi-active radar homing or infrared seekers of the R-3 (AA-2 'Atoll').
The S-24 is an un-guided rocket weapon designed and used by the Soviet Air Force. It remains in use by the Russian Air Force today. The name is based on the diameter of the rocket, 240 mm (9.45 in).The Soviet Union was an early, enthusiastic user of rocket weapons, employing them as early as the 1930s. The S-24B is 2.33 meters (7 ft 8 in) long, with a launch weight of 235 kg (518 lb). It has a 123 kg (271 lb) blast-fragmentation warhead. Its range is about 2-3 kilometers (1.3 - 1.8 miles). The S-24B is carried individually on weapon pylons, rather than in pods.
All versions of the MiG-21 have a ‘wet’ centreline pylon permitting carriage of a 490-litre (107.8 Imp. gal.) The PTB-490 drop tank is of circular cross-section with a pointed nose and cruciform fins. The tank weighs 70 kg (154 lb) empty and 470 kg (1,036 lb) full. The MiG-21PFM was not capable of carrying fuel tanks on the wings as wet wing pylons were not introduced until the MiG-21R.
Sprue D contains most of the small parts across the entire airframe. A mixture of wheel hubs, tires, main and nose landing gear struts, gear doors, refuelling probe, nose cone, exhaust nozzle and all parts for the KM-1 ejection seat.
The kit provides wheels and tires which are separately moulded. This makes the painting a much easier task as it relives us of the task of masking.
Sprue G is the clear sprue. It includes multiple canopies as used across most Generation 2/3 MiG-21 variants, windshields and clear instrument panels (for those who like this option)

Paint Schemes and Decals

Being a ProfiPack release this kit offers a substantial number of marking options. Five schemes in total are included covering North Vietnam, Czech, Egypt, Poland and of course the USSR. As with all previous Eduard MiG-21 kits a separate decal sheet containing over 100 stencils is provided (ouch!!)

I noticed recently that a Weekend Edition of this model has now been released with a single decal option that being the Polish one.
As usual the Eduard kit decals are of a high quality being thin and in register. I used the kit decals on my previous Eduard MiG-21 build and can confirm that they respond well to most setting solutions and conform exceptionally well to panel and rivet detail on the model surface.

The stencils provided with these kits are extensive and will occupy a large amount of your time in the decaling phase.
Eduard continues to provide us with interesting MiG-21 subjects and along the way they are getting every bit of use out of the engineering investment they made in the original tooling. I don’t expect that many modellers will desire to build every variant of the MiG-21 but if you have a particular favorite you can pretty much be assured that given time Eduard will satisfy you with a kit of it, and what a kit it is. These models are works of art in their fit, accuracy and attention to detail.

I hope that the Eduard exploration of the MiG-21 family continues further into the earlier Generation 2 variants and we see a PF or earlier airframe (those with the front hinged canopies). This would require a fair amount of tooling changes and may not be cost effective but it does not stop us from hoping.

Highly Recommended.

Gary Wickham

Thanks very much to Eduard for the review kit.