What Else Can Be Said?
At this point, most of us are out of superlatives to use on the Eduard MiG-21 series. While Eduard has refined their releases since this family of kits first burst onto the scene in "Miguary" 2011, many still regard this family as the first release in the modern/current age of Eduard releases.
Designed around the basic ProfiPACK layout, the kits include nice details, extensive stores and "extra" parts, basic color photo-etch details for the cockpit and some external details, decals (usually printed by Cartograf), and masks. The kits however are also designed with the whole Brassin series of upgrades in mind, where the kit parts can be easily swapped for resin upgrades that significantly up the detail. And easily swapped is the key, the resin parts literally drop into place. Gone are the days of trying to squeeze a resin cockpit into one of these kits where the plastic and resin has to be sanded within microns of ruining the parts, these parts are computer designed to directly replace kit components.
So it is on this "platform" that Eduard brings forward their fifth MiG-21 release. This time the MiG-21R recconaissance version, often referred to as "generation 2.5" in the evolution of the MiG-21. This variant was the interim variant that bridged the gap between the 2nd gen MiG-21P series and the 3rd gen MiG-21S/M series.
The MiG-21R was created from a requirement in the early 1960s where the VVS reconnaissance platforms of the day (Yak-27, Il-28, MiG-19) were quickly becoming obsolete. The MiG OKB was quick to point out that their relatively new MiG-21 platform was ideal for the high speed reconnaissance role. Starting with a MiG-21PFS, which was the most advanced version at the time the project was launched. Because the types primary reconnaissance pod was to be interchangeable and ride on the aircraft centerline replacing the availability of a drop tank, the wing was modified to receive a second set of hard points that were plumbed for drop tanks. Additionally the prototypes began to incorporate the side-opening canopy and new KM-1 ejection seats as were coming into service on the MiG-21PFM. As such the Ye-7R was effectively a MiG-21PFM with modifications for reconnaissance (four hard points and interchangeable centerline reconnaissance pods).
Service trials quickly showed that even with the added pair of drop tanks on the wing hard points, the aircraft had insufficient range compared to the required specifications. As such the Ye-7R was further modified to include an increased internal fuel load, this came with the modification of the spine. Where the MiG-21P series had the "half spine" the MiG-21R was the first type to introduce the "full spine" that would become common on the soon to be introduced MiG-21S/M series.
Multiple reconnaissance pods were designed including day and night camera pods, this was also the first type to include ELINT capabilities along with the reconnaissance capabilities. As such additional pods were developed including the R, RV and similar types with different mission-specific capabilities.
Often referred to as "generation 2.5" of the MiG-21 series, the MiG-21R bridged the gap from the 2nd gen MiG-21P series to the 3rd gen MiG-21S/M series. The type entered service in 1964 and remained in production until 1971, and in service well into the 21st century. It served across most of the Warsaw Pact, but then also with many third-world client states as well.
What's in the Box?
This kit is a continuation of the series first introduced in 2011, and as such it shares much in common with the previous releases, in fact, much of this kit (plastic trees A through H) is the same as the MiG-21MF release.
A: Fuselage halves and fuselage details
C: Landing gear wells and cockpit
D: Landing gear, wheels and detail parts
E (two included): Missiles, weapons and missile rails
F: Weapon fins and detail parts
G: Clear Parts
H: MiG-21R/S/M spine and vertical fin
Newly introduced in this kit are trees P and the aptly named R:
P: Wings - the wings have improved detail and are molded with the wingtip ELINT footballs in place.
R: Reconnaissance parts - Type D, R and RV pods are included along with chaff and flare dispensers (these are nice additions as they can be used on other modern builds of the MiG-21). Also included here are the MiG-21R specific cockpit parts.
The new parts are as crisply and cleanly molded as all the previous MiG-21 offerings from Eduard. The wing details are improved in that some of the panel line detail and rivet detail has been made slightly deeper, as some was perhaps a bit understated on the original release of the MiG-21 requiring careful paint application so as to not obscure the details.
Perhaps one of my only (and it's a minor one) complaints about this kit is that it comes with the wingtip ELINT footballs molded in place. These were not always fitted on the MiG-21R, depending on the time frame and operator. So consult your references and if required you will have to remove these and re-contour the wingtips to their more standard configuration.
As is typical for the ProfiPACK releases, the kit includes a small "ZOOM" like photo-etch set and mask sheet. The masks work very well, simplifying the process of painting the dielectric panels, canopy frames, and similar.
Curiously the photo-etched parts are still included with the MiG standard "jade green:" color for the cockpit. As I noted in the MiG-21PFM review, I have read and seen photos that indicated the jade green color did not come into common use until the MiG-21SM/MF series, and that the earlier types (PFM, R, M, S, etc.) featured a dark gray even interior black type of color. As always standards were not quite as "standard" for Soviet types, so I will have to defer to Eduard on this. That said, I'd still like to see an alternate set for the earlier types that includes a gray or blackish color for the interior.
Upgrading the MiG-21R
Construction of this kit follows the same sequence as the other MiG-21s, so any further discussion of building this kit is somewhat irrelevant at this point. What's perhaps a more needed bit of information is how you, the builder, might want to upgrade this kit.
With other MiG-21 releases thus far, Eduard has released a series of Brassin upgrades for each kit - cockpit, landing gear, wheels, engines, etc. In the case of the MiG-21R, they have only released the cockpit. Don't fret, all the other upgrades are available, they'll just have to be sourced from the other MiG-21 types.
Cockpit: As noted, there is a dedicated MiG-21R cockpit - see Our Review
of that item for further details.
Landing Gear Wells: Set 648049 is actually generic across all types released thus far, and as such, is perfectly appropriate to the MiG-21R
Engine: Use 648117 the MiG-21PFM Exhaust for the MiG-21F
Wheels: Both the MiG-21PFM (648110) and the earlier (648026) wheel sets apply. If you use the earlier set, make sure to use the spoked hubs. The only difference between the two sets is that the earlier set includes the later, non-spoked hubs.
Weapons: Many of the Brassin weapons already produced are utilized by the MiG-21R when not in a dedicated reconnaissance configuration.
These upgrades all can significantly enhance your model if you are so inclined - but as it stands, it's a great model out of the box. As noted, the primary reason for publishing this is because of the lack of dedicated MiG-21R upgrades, and any confusion that might arise out of which upgrades to purchase if you were so inclined to make the upgrades.
Colors & Markings
As is typical, the kit includes five distinctly different sets of marking for the kit. These include:
USSR: 263 IRAP, 1981 - Operating out of Kabul Afghanistan in the distinct three tone patchy camouflage.
Yugoslavia: 353rd Reconnaissance Air Squadron, 1971 - Overall natural metal finish
Czech Republic: Air Test Department, 1994 - In the typical Czech two tone red-brown and green camouflage.
Poland: 32nd Tactical Reconnaissance Air Regiment, early 1980s - Overall natural metal finish
Cuba: No unit specified, markings for the unique Cuban blue and green camouflage from the 80s/90s time frame.
This is a good selection of markings, actually a vast improvement over the selections for the MiG-21PFM. While the MiG-21PFM featured several "end of life" types, only the Czech example in this kit was from outside the main operations period for the aircraft. Most are true "Cold Warriors," with the inclusion of the Soviet aircraft in an operational scheme being MOST welcome (previously only the MiG-21SMT included operational Soviet markings).
Decals are printed by Cartograf and as such are vivid, beautifully in register, with super-fine detail.
Conclusion and Future
As we began this review, we say again: What else can be said? This is another superb kit from Eduard, and another superb offering in the MiG-21 series. The attention to detail and changes for the MiG-21R are commendable. While there are almost certainly smaller issues with the kit, those are only going to be known to the most diehard MiG-21 fans, and likely not important to 90% of the potential builders of this kit. This, like the other MiG-21s, is a project to be enjoyed!
With this release, there is really only one MiG-21 left for Eduard to release, that will be the MiG-21PF (although we could certainly recommend a few more variations for them to look at). While we've been watching the Eduard news letter pretty closely, there's been no specific mention of when this will come. That kit will be the most changed MiG-21 yet, as it will be everything from the MiG-21PFM, but with a new set of tooling for the cockpit, ejection seat and new clear parts for the forward opening canopy. Obviously when we learn about it, we'll report the news here right away.
In the interim, plenty of MiG-21s to build - so let's see what you've done!
Our thanks to Eduard for the review sample, we will put it to good use with the kit soon! As always stay tuned to RedStars for the latest in Russian modeling!