Saab J-21R by Special Hobby

1/72 scale
Kit No. SH 72207
Price: $22.00 — 26.00
Decals: Four versions – all Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force)
Comments: Engraved panel lines, resin wheels with radial tread, highly detailed cockpit including PE and film parts, PE exterior detail parts

History

The Flygvapnet entered the jet age when a decision was made in the Autumn of 1945 to develop a jet fighter version of the Saab J-21. Four J-21A airframes were converted as prototypes using as a powerplant the British DeHavilland Goblin turbojet. The first of these aircraft took its maiden flight on March 10, 1947. Although initial estimates were that only 20% of the airframe would need converting, in fact 50% of the piston-engined version of the airframe was completely redesigned, since dramatic changes were necessary to install the Goblin turbojet in the rear of the now widened fuselage. Air intakes were installed on either side of the fuselage, and the tail plane/elevator connecting the twin booms was raised to the top of the tail fins to clear the jet exhaust. The entire airframe was structurally strengthened to accomodate higher speeds. Space for fuel in the fuselage was at a premium in this redesigned aircraft, so much so that its operational range was limited throughout its service life.

The J-21R had the same armament as the J-21A, four .50 caliber machine guns and a 20mm cannon in the nose, with the option for rockets under the wings, and a gun pack underneath the fuselage containing an additional eight .50 caliber machine guns. Entering service in early 1950, the J-21R was well-armed but offered disappointing performance in that it was not as fast as had been hoped, with a maximum speed of 640 km/h or 390 mph, poor maneuverability, and a very short endurance. Subsequent versions with more powerful engines were introduced in the form of the J-21RA (Goblin II) and J-21RB (Goblin III, license-built by Svenska Flygmotor), but the type had a short career as a fighter, being quickly converted to an attack aircraft before being withdrawn from service in 1954.

The Kit

Special Hobby has produced a kit that aficionados of the Saab J-21 have, until now, had to build as conversion kits: the jet-powered J-21R. This kit is molded in grey and comes on three sprues of injection molded plastic, one photo-etch fret, and two small resin blocks for the wheels and other small bits. All parts, including decals by Aviprint, are in a resealable clear plastic bag. There are 57 plastic parts, including a three-piece canopy with an option for two different windshields, and two resin blocks with an additional 12 parts, including wheels detailed with radial tread. The kit looks very accurate, with painstaking engraved detail and (thankfully) intakes that are an integral part of the fuselage halves, saving modelers a fair amount of time that would otherwise be spent puttying and sanding. The decals are high quality Aviprint, completely in register, and provide four different versions of Flygvapnet aircraft in service between the period 1950-54.

The instructions feature fairly large, clear images detailing construction, but do not provide much in the way of a paint guide until the kit is complete (i.e. exterior paint guide only), so some research will be necessary to determine appropriate cockpit and wheel well colors. In the cockpit, there are both photo-etched and film details for the instrument panel, as well as PE details for the seat straps, rudder pedals, and levers on the sidewall instrumentation. Likewise there are PE detail parts for the exterior control surfaces and landing gear details. There is also an option for a separate pod suspended from the belly of the fuselage by “N” struts containing the eight-gun gun pack.

Conclusion

While an interesting experiment in jet powered fighter aircraft for Flygvapnet, the J-21R suffered from the inherent limitations of shoehorning a turbojet into a piston-engined design that upon inception was never intended for such a powerplant — with predictable results. Nonetheless, this kit is highly recommended for its quality, uniqueness, and historical significance.

References

  • Combat Aircraft Since 1945 by Stewart Wilson; Aerospace Publications, Fyshwick, Australia; Copyright 2000
  • Profile Publications No. 138: The Saab 21 A & R; Copyright 1966

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