MiG-21 SMT Humpback by Fujimi

1/72 scale
Kit No. 27022
Cost: $15.00
Decals: One version
Comments: Engraved panel lines; two-piece canopy; detailed cockpit and pilot figure; under wing stores include four R-55 heat-seeking air-to-air missiles and two 490 liter drop tanks

History

The MiG-21 made its maiden flight on June 15, 1955. It has a prominent place in Russian aviation history as the country’s most successful jet fighter.  At the height of its operational life, it was in service with 50 air forces around the world, including both Eastern Bloc and non-aligned nations.  It remained in production for 28 years, significantly longer than its predecessor, the MiG-19, or its successor, the MiG-23. Chinese copies in the form of the Shenyang J-7/Chengdu F-7 remained in production at least until 2013.  The MiG-21 was designed in the mid-1950’s to replace the MiG-19 and to fulfill the need for a simple, lightweight yet rugged Mach 2-capable point defense interceptor.  Early design work took two forms: one with a tapered, swept wing set at an angle of 55 degrees, similar to the wing of the MiG-19; and the other with a then-new delta wing set at an angle of 57 degrees.

The initial concept was for both designs to have fairly light armament of three 30mm cannon and two 8-round packs of 57mm unguided rockets mounted beneath the wings.  Initially no provision was made for other under-wing stores, since the aircraft would fulfill a very specific mission requirement — it would make single-pass attacks en masse at incoming enemy bombers, firing its rockets and then guns, and break for home.  On both prototypes, the guns were reduced to two in number during the production phase to save weight.

Comparison of the flight performance of the two prototypes showed that the delta wing design offered lighter structural weight, greater internal fuel capacity, and better overall performance in terms of roll rate, turning radius, and slightly higher maximum speed. This design was approved for production and became what the world came to know as the MiG-21.

The MiG-21 SMT was a version featuring a huge increase in fuel capacity in the form of an enlarged dorsal spine extending from the cockpit to a point halfway along the tail fin, then tapering to meet the rear parachute housing (used to slow the landing speed). This modification allowed it to carry an additional 3,100 liters (818 U.S. gallons) of fuel. It also featured an R-13F-300 turbojet engine, more powerful than the R-13-300 powerplant of previous versions in that it provided an additional 4, 180 lbs. of thrust in afterburner mode while operating at low altitude at speeds close to Mach 1. The performance of the SMT at low altitudes and its increased range were critical since one mission it was specifically designed for was delivery of tactical nuclear weapons, either in level flight, or via the bomb-tossing method involving acceleration to 1,050 km/h (652mph) at an altitude of 100 meters (330 feet), followed by a 45-degree climb to 1,500 meters (4,920 feet) and release of the weapon, which would detonate 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) away. In this regard, the SMT had a similar mission to that originally envisioned for the American Republic F-105.

The large spine was reduced somewhat in later versions due to directional stability issues which adversely affected control, and subsequent aircraft carried 150 liters less fuel. The overwhelming majority of the 281 SMT’s produced were retained for use by the Soviet Air Force; their only recorded foreign service was with a Soviet fighter-bomber regiment stationed in East Germany. The basic MiG-21 was always considered something of a brute, but the SMT with its longer legs and extra power afforded by the R-13F-300 was well suited to the low-level nuclear fighter-bomber role.

The Kit

One look at Fujimi’s MiG-21 SMT and it will be obvious why one Israeli pilot referred to the basic type as “a rocket.” It also won’t take much imagination to understand why latter types such as the SMT were deemed brutes among a family of jet fighters known for sheer power. Opening the box, the main sprue containing the fuselage grabs your attention due to the sheer length of the fuselage halves, even in 1/72 scale. The dimensions are important only because they signal the power of the MiG-21’s engine. Fujimi’s MiG-21 SMT is injection molded in grey and consists of 93 parts, three of which are clear plastic, and one of the clear parts forms the entire instrument panel.

The MiG-21 cockpit with its distinctive emerald-turquoise green panels.

The kit features engraved panel lines and raised detail on the main and side instrument panels in the cockpit. Raised detail can also be seen in the wheel wells, even those in the razor thin wings. The pilot figure and exhaust fan for the turbojet engine are likewise exquisitely detailed — this appears to be a kit in which Fujimi took a special interest. In terms of under wing stores, the kit includes two of the MiG–21’s standard 490-liter drop tanks, and armament consisting of four infra-red R-55 air-to-air missiles (the SMT also carried a 23mm GSh-23 cannon, in a recessed position in the forward fuselage).

There is a two-piece canopy, separately mounted ailerons, and a ventral dive brake that can be assembled open or closed. There are decals for one version (Soviet Air Force) but sufficient markings are provided to provide multiple choices as to the aircraft number. The kit’s paint legend calls out Gunze Sangyo colors only.

Conclusion

This kit looks as if it will build up into a beautiful example of a MiG-21 SMT — once a key component of the Soviet Union’s tactical nuclear strike capability.

Reference

  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 by Alexander Mladenov; Copyright 2014 Osprey Publishing Ltd.
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