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KIT REVIEW


Eduard #8223
MiG-21SMT ProfiPACK Edition -- 1:48 Scale

The MiG-21 Fishbed is one of the most widely produced and storied fighter jets in the history of aviation.  It was a front-line Soviet fighter and interceptor for a good portion of the Cold War, and many of the later variants are still in service with former Soviet client states.  There have also been a few hundred MiG-21 kits produced by many injection-molded plastic kit manufacturers from 1:144 to 1:32 scale.  Yet, the undisputed best MiG-21 can be found in the family of 1:48 scale Eduard Fishbeds.  They’ve recently reissued one of their kits in this series: the MiG-21SMT. Here, we take a look at the ProfiPACK edition of the “Fatback” Fishbed.   

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The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 started out as a second-generation jet fighter and was an evolutionary development of the early Soviet jet fighters extending back to the MiG-15 and MiG-17.  Design work on the delta-winged MiG-21 (NATO reporting name: Fishbed) started in the early 1950s.  It was a lightweight Mach 2-class aircraft than blended the strengths of a fighter with that of an interceptor.  The MiG-21 was also distinctive for its prominent air inlet shock cone.  It was an agile fighter and remained quite controllable at the margins of the flight envelope.  Still, the Fishbed was plagued by notoriously short range and endurance and usually had about 45 minutes worth of gas onboard before the tanks ran dry.

More than 10,600 Fishbeds were mass-produced by the Soviets with several hundred others produced under license in India and Czechoslovakia.  Fishbeds were also produced for export, with many additional versions going to more than 60 export customers.  MiG-21s have seen a lot of action in the hands of these air arms, perhaps most infamously during the Vietnam War as operated by the North Vietnamese Air Force.  MiG-21s downed 56 U.S. aircraft (mostly F-4s and F-105s).  The U.S. claimed 92 MiG-21s destroyed throughout the war, with 60 as air-to-air kills.  Following the change in American tactics and technology in the wake of the Vietnam conflict, MiG-21s have, nearly universally, not since survived encounters with U.S. jets or those flown by U.S. allies.  Fishbeds have also been involved in nearly every Arab-Israeli war, hostilities between India and Pakistan, the Angolan Civil War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the ongoing Syrian Civil War among many other smaller conflicts. 

The MiG-21SMT and its immediate predecessor, the MiG-21MT, was a member of the third generation of upgraded Fishbeds, and it was given the NATO codename Fishbed-K.  It was a contemporary of the MiG-21M, MF, MT, and ST.  The MT was given the in-house designation Izdeyle 96B and the SMT as the Izdeyle 50.  Both were powered by the Tumansky R-13F-300 afterburning turbofan.  The MT (Fishbed-J) was based on the MiG-21MF, and the SMT derived from the MiG-21SM.  Fitted with the Saphir-21/RP-22SM radar, Fishbed-Js and Ks were an all-weather interceptor and fighter-bomber and could employ a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.  Most notably, the MT and SMT featured an extended and enlarged dorsal spine that carried 160 gallons of additional internal fuel.  This feature garnered the nickname “Fatback” for the Fishbed-J and -K.  The extra gas came with a trade-off, as the enlarged humpback spine conferred upon the MT/SMT degraded flying performance, and by the late 1980s, they were being phased out towards an early retirement.  All MTs and SMTs were operated by the Soviet Union as the Fatback Fishbed never attracted export customers.  Consequently, these versions represented only a small contribution to the overall MiG-21 production run.            

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The MiG-21SMT kit contains 424 dark gray injection molded plastic parts on seven sprues, 26 clear parts on one sprue, 11 cast resin parts, 26 pre-painted photoetched parts on one fret, 27 unpainted photoetched parts on an additional fret, and one precut vinyl mask for the canopy, windscreen and airframe details (e.g., conformal antennas on the vertical stabilizer).  Approximately 53 of the plastic parts (mostly small detail parts) won’t be used on the SMT variant.  Decals appear to have been printed in-house by Eduard on a two decal sheets covering five jets markings and complete airframe stencils for.  The instruction booklet is printed in color and guides the build over very clearly defined and manageable steps (but the steps are not numbered).  The markings guides are likewise beautifully rendered and very easy to follow.  While the box says “MiG-21SMT,” there’s really no external difference between that and the MiG-21MT, and Eduard knows this.  So, the scale modeler wins!  Markings options includes choices to build both types:

Strengths: I must admit that I have not built any of Eduard’s prolific 1:48 scale MiG-21 family, though I have been accumulating a few of these kits and the aftermarket parts to go along with them in my stash.  I am quite familiar with the kit (in the box at least) and a number of scale modelers whom I know have built it and they rave about the kit.  Across the hobby, Eduard’s 1:48 scale MiG-21 has earned the reputation of being the best Fishbed on the market since the first kit in this family was released in 2011.

The Eduard MiG-21 tooling is well known for its excellent quality and high fidelity.  It is also very accurate by my assessment, the shapes, sizes, and panel line configurations of the Eduard MiG-21 all appear flawless.  The clear parts possess excellent optical quality.  The canopy, rudder, flaps, ailerons, and horizontal stabilizers are all separate parts and can be positioned as desired, but the mounting tabs have these parts going straight-in, so modifying those (simply, just remove them with a swipe of a knife blade) will be needed to achieve an alternative position.  The three ventral speedbrakes can also be built as close or deployed. 

My test fits of the wings and fuselage demonstrate an airtight fit.  Those who I know to have built this kit rave about how enjoyable it is to construct.  The external surface details are subtle and beautifully executed.  Some of the recessed rivets, such as on the wing surfaces, are very fine (shallow), so be mindful when painting so as not to fill them with paint or primer.

The specific MT/SMT parts come on a new sprue (Sprue K) that has the “Fatback” spine and vertical stabilizer split into left and right halves.  It’s thankfully a simple parts breakdown that is refreshing in this day of often over-engineered kits.  The kit also provides parts for external stores:  two styles/sizes of drop tanks, along with parts for two S-24 rockets, two R2-US, R-3S, R-3R, and R-13 air-to-air missiles each, eight FAB 100 bombs, two FAB 250 bombs, and a pair of rocket-assisted take-off (RATO) bottles.

The Profipack parts complement and build upon the strengths of the plastic in this kit.  The pre-painted fret, which contains the instrument dial faces, instrument panel, side consoles, ejection seat harnesses and belts, and ejection handle is just amazing.  The resolution of such fine detail that Eduard is able to represent on their pre-painted parts never ceases to amaze.  The unpainted fret contains parts for the afterburner flameholder, wing fences, antenna, and other airframe details.  Again, the quality is awesome.  The Brassin resin parts provide a pair each of UB-16 and UB-32 unguided rocket pods and they also receive some great photoetched metal details, too.  The pre-cut self-adhesive masking set is more than handy, and it will save a lot of time making your own masks.    

Both decal sheets look really great.  In terms of production quality, colors look excellent and everything is printed crisply, colors look great, and all is in register.  I really like the choice of markings options.  All are distinctive and they represent a really great variety of subject matter.  Both the primary decal sheet and the larger, second sheet contain an exceptionally complete set of airframe maintenance stencils and munitions stencils.  Some are quite fine, but the largest of the stencils are quite legible.

Weaknesses:  I’ve got very little to offer here.  This kit is really outstanding.  I can offer only two minor observations.  First, this kit is a tail-sitter if you don’t add weight in the nose behind the intake shock cone.  While the instructions do take note of this, a suggested quantity of weight would be very helpful to know how much to put in there.  Second, I plan on doing a bit more research on loadouts.  A guide to what goes where and on what hardpoints is of course provided in the instructions, but for me, some real-world documentation will help maximize the specific MT/SMT mix-and-match possibilities of the really great munitions provided in this kit.   

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The MiG-21SMT is an excellent offering from Eduard that really captures the “Fatback” Fishbed.  The combination of great plastic kit detail and engineering, fantastic detail parts, great decals, and excellent markings options make this kit a winner several times over.  And for those interested in even more detail, Eduard also produces additional detail sets, from a Brassin cockpit to other photoetched metal details.  Sincere thanks are owed to Eduard for the review sample.  You visit them on the web at http://www.eduard.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EduardCompany/.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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