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Academy 1/48 MiG-21PF Fishbed D

By Frank Crenshaw



During the Gulf War, Iraqi MiG-21s were ineffective and were little more than manned targets for the patrolling F-15s. But it was it was not always this way. When the MiG-21 first appeared on the scene during the Vietnam war, it was very effective. This fighter was fast, agile, and dangerous in the right hands, though its major limitation was its short range. Even so, USAF losses to Vietnamese MiG-21s were high. In many of the wars and skirmishes around the war that have occurred since it was first deployed, the MiG-21 has been in the thick of things. No other aircraft is more associated with the middle years of the cold war than the MiG-21.


The Academy 1/48 scale MiG-21PF kit is very nicely engraved and has finely molded parts. The ailerons and wing flaps are molded separately, but dropping the flaps would more difficult than just tilting them down -the MiG-21PFs flaps extend on rails. The airbrakes are molded separately and are positionable. The landing gear wells look sparse but do contain the basic structural shapes. The landing gear and wheels are just fabulous and are the highlight of this kit. The cockpit is bare and requires some detailing - MiG-21 cockpits were busy. The kit includes markings for the Soviet, Egyptian and North Vietnamese Air Forces. My reference indicates that most MiG-21PFs were overall natural metal, but Academy includes painting instructions for some camouflaged aircraft as well.. In armament, the kit includes three drop tanks, four rocket pods, a centerline gunpack, and four missiles.


Kit construction began in the cockpit. At the time that I built mine there were no aftermarket sets available, so I added my own details. There is a lot of equipment in a MiG-21s cockpit. I did not go for absolute accuracy, I just tried to capture some of the business of this cockpit. While I had intended to open the canopy, I realized too late that the cockpit tub is short by approximately 3mm. The rear cockpit wall needs to be moved aft (part of the rear cockpit wall in an integral part of the kit ejection seat). I realized this shortcoming too late and decided it would be easier to close the canopy than redo everything. The canopy is beautifully molded. I removed the fine seam line using 3000 -6000 grit sanding cloth and polished it up. After a dip in Future it was clear enough to see much of the detail that I added through it. All MiG-21PFs had a visible gasket where the canopy joined the canopy frame. In the early version of the PF this gasket was black. To simulate this gasket, I just drew around the canopy with a .05 black ink pen.

The next challenge is the fuselage. The instructions tell you to assemble the front section, then the rear, then join them. I deviated from the instructions here. I glued the front and rear fuselage sections together before trying to join the halves as making these parts fit after joining seemed like a lot of work that was just not necessary. Another deviation was that I cut the shock cone off of its vertical mounting plate and installed a similar plate made from sheet styrene in the fuselage halves. This allows you to fill in the intake seam without having the shock cone in the way. Once painted the cone is easily mounted in the nose on this plate.

The rest of the kit went together without a hitch. I added some wire to the landing gear struts to simulate hydraulic lines. The join line for the front and rear fuselage goes right through the forward speed brake wells. I decided not to deal with this seam and modeled my speed brakes so that they are only partially open, thus hiding this seam.

There are several small probes, sensors, and vents to install. Experience has shown me that the best way to keep these parts from flying off into the abyss is to drill very small holes into these parts, and into their corresponding location holes on the fuselage, and insert a small diameter copper wire to help hold them in place.

The early Vietcong MiG-21s did not carry guns or rockets. Standard armament was two AA-2 Atoll missiles. The kits missiles are not accurate versions of the AA-2 Atolls used on the early MiG-21s. Fortunately, the AA-2 is an almost identical copy of the AIM-9B Sidewinder missile. I happened to have a Hasegawa F-86 Sabre kit handy and it has two lovely AIM-9Bs that work perfectly for my AA-2s.


I tried to capture the grungy "used" look of a war machine, but still have it look like a metal finish. I used "Old Silver" paint, and the results look great. I had not intended to use the kit decals, but I could not find aftermarket decals for a Vietnamese MiG-21. I was amazed at how good the kit decals were! They went on easily and I had no problems with them at all. I highlighted my panels using darker shades of Old Silver, and added a burnt sienna wash to areas that were exposed to oil leaks and fuel stains.


This kit is fantastic. I really enjoyed building it and will surely do another. Since finishing this model I have picked up the "4+" publication on the MiG-21 and am really wishing I had added more detail to the landing gear bays and cockpit. The MiG-21PF is an important warbird and the Academy kit does it justice. I highly recommend this model.

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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

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PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM
(505) 881-9621

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