Review: MiG-21bis, Fujimi 1/72

This is one of Fujimi's several MiG-21 kits which share a good number of parts. Upon first inspection the kit looks really good: lots of detail (including a good cockpit) and a very nice decal sheet for both Soviet and Finnish versions. It is rather pricey though (I think I paid about $22), and closer inspection shows it is not entirely without problems.

In general the kit matches published measurements and scale plans reasonably well [3, 5]. Here I say "reasonably," because there are slight deviations. The worst flaw is with the wing: the most often published figure for the wingspan is 23'5.5", but some references like [3] state 23'0" (the difference in 1/72nd scale is about 2 mm). The kit's wingspan is slightly too large even for the larger figure, so I ended up shortening the wing slightly. There are also problems with some parts that do not fit very well (I wonder if the manufacturer ever assembled this kit). Requiring most work is the upper fuselage spine and its seam with the dorsal fin. In general one ends up filling lots of little cracks and seams.

The kit is fairly well detailed, and comes with very subtle panel lines (not subtle enough in my opinion but most people probably find them to their liking). The lines - panel lines as well as lines denoting gaps between separate parts (e.g. between rudder and fin) - are all similar. When looking at photographs of the MiG-21bis, however, it is easy to discern the rudder from the fin, yet panel lines are hardly visible at all. I ended up sanding all surfaces quite a bit, then scribing the rudder etc. lines so that they stand out. Fortunately the ailerons and flaps are separate parts in the kit, so they didn't have the same problem. Trailing edges were moderately sharp but still needed some sharpening.

The landing gear is nicely detailed and quite accurate when comparing with detail photographs. My only complaint is about the outer main gear doors. In the kit these are just one part; in reality there are two doors. The lower part is attached to the main strut, but the upper part has a separate actuating piston. In general I liked the way the kit has been engineered with respect to small details. Most of these (intakes, flap actuator housings, etc.) are separate parts, allowing one to assemble the main parts, fill all cracks and sand down the panel lines without having to worry about destroying all this finer detail. The detail parts match photographs and plans well. The 23 mm cannon is very poor, however, and its shell exhaust chutes are unusable; I built new ones using plastic card and putty. Also, if one plans to use the rear speed brake that comes with the kit, it is better to keep it closed. Underneath the brake (actually above, I guess) the kit has a large cavity, whereas in a real plane this does not exist; furthermore the brake only has slight "dents" to represent the holes of the real brake. Also, the exhaust pipe of the jet engine is too far back, so one has to move it about 1 mm forward.

The cockpit is nicely detailed. Good ejection seat (for a stock kit, that is), side panels and an instrument panel. The kit's decal sheet has decals for the main instrument panel as well as the side panels, however the deep surface detail of these parts makes it virtually impossible to stick the decals on them; I ended up making my own instrument panel from plastic card (the decal was so nice, even had the right color). The canopy is good, although rather thick; I ended up only using the windscreen and made the opening part by stretching heated clear 15-thou sheet over a mold.

In conclusion, this is a good kit. Despite the flaws and inaccuracies one builds a MiG fairly quickly. I built my model to represent a MiG-21bis of HLeLv 31 (31st Fighter Squadron) of Ilmavoimat (the Finnish Air Force) with the early color scheme used on these fighters (two-color upper surface camouflage with large national insignia, large serial numbers, and the "Lynx" squadron emblem bordered in white; [1,2] have good details). The kit comes with a very good decal sheet with the Finnish Air Force roundels and squadron emblems, and with lots of spare digits so one can assemble the tail number of an individual plane of one's choice. The decal sheet also contains a lot of small warning text decals and other little details. The only complaint I have about the decals is that I had trouble getting them to stick properly.

I feel that when building a scale model, in addition to measurements and details one has to capture the important characteristic features of the particular type - in other words the "look and feel" of the plane. If the look and feel are not right, I'm not happy with a model. I watched the documentary film "Wings of the Red Star: Phantom's Foe" to figure out what is characteristic about the MiG-21bis (movies are so much better for this than still photographs).


  1. Chant, "MiG-21 Super Profile", Haynes, 1984.
  2. Keskinen et al, "Suomen Ilmavoimien Lentokoneet 1918-1993" ("Aircraft of the Finnish Air Force 1918-1993", in Finnish), AR-Kustannus, 1992.
  3. Linn et al, "MiG-21 Fishbed in action", Aircraft in Action #131, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1993.
  4. Stapfer, "MiG-21 in Color", Fighting Colors, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1989.
  5. Stapfer, "MiG-21 - Cold War Warrior", Arms and Armour Press, 1991.
  6. World Air Power Journal, Volume 9 Summer 1992.

Below is the finished model. It won 2nd prize (category: 1/72 single-engined jets) at the Shenango Valley Association of Scale Modelers SVASMCON 1995 in Sharon, PA in September 1995.


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