On The Bench

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Mikoyan MiG-21MF Bunny Fighter
Eduard
Scale: 1/48


Started: Feb 2013
Finished: April 2013
In late 1995, the Democratic Republic of Congo acquired eight ex-Czech MiG-21MF aircraft. During the 1997 civil war (also known as the War of June 5) the forces of the Congolese Labor Party led by President Col. Denis Sassou Nguesso used these aircraft along with Chinese made F-7 Skybolt in a series of brutal attacks raging across the country. Due to a lack of local skilled pilots capable of flying these aircraft, foreign mercenaries were regularly employed, most coming from the Ukraine and other former soviet block states.

In addition to the major fighting between the Lissouba and Sassou forces in the major capital city of Kinshasa, skirmishes would regularly break out across the country with local warlords hiring (or capturing) any nearby military assets. The extreme corruption of the air force meant that aircraft were more often used for private 'business' of their fliers and their superiors than operations against rebels.

One of the more unusual disputes centered around the ownership of local carrot fields with neighboring country Angola. This fight, the so called "Carrot War" saw a short, but bloody, ground and air war in and around the border town of Tshikapa. One of the more colorful Ukrainian mercenary pilots (Igor Valenchenko) had one of the Congo MiG fighters painted in an outlandish "Bunny" scheme. Valenchenko used this unusually colorful MiG as bait to lure Angolan aircraft into a fight. This proved to be a highly successful tactic which earned Valenchenko three kills, in addition to a number of ground kills on Angolan light armour.

As with most Congolese military aircraft, the service life of the MiG's was short. Like the other services, the Congolese Air Force was not capable of carrying out its maintenance responsibilities. Even today few of the Air Force's aircraft are currently flyable or capable of being restored to service and it is unclear whether the Air Force is capable of maintaining even unsophisticated aircraft.

Unfortunately, the fate of this distinctive MiG was the same as most Congolese aircraft. It now sits derelict in an aircraft graveyard on the outskirts of Kinshasa subject to the ravages of the harsh African climate and looters.

As I prepared for this build I realised that as I was not using the Brassin resin sets that came with the BFC edition the kit instruction sheet would be of little use to me (its written as if you plan to use only the resin parts and does not cater for using the provided plastic parts). Not too worry because Eduard is one of those great modeling companies that provide high resolution PDF versions of the instructions sheets for ALL their kits, and what I needed was the instruction sheet for the MiG-21MF Weekend Edition

In the weekend edition you use decals for the cockpit instrument panel and sidewalls, which is actually not bad because the decals supplied by Eduard are pretty darn good. One thing that did stump me for a while (I checked the sprues 3 times) was the reference to a "plastic" part in the assembly for the cockpit. It finally dawned on me that I had to provide the plastic part myself (ie scratchbuild) which I still find a bit odd.
A high resolution scan of the kit decal sheet was made and used to make templates of the cockpit sidewalls.
The copied decal has served its purpose well and now we have an exact duplicate in 10" plastic card on which the real decal can be placed.
The newly fashioned sidewall is glued in place on the kits parts. I was happy with how well the decal template technique worked as I did not need make any adjustments to the part to get to fit into the tub.
The cockpit tub and nose wheel well are molded in a single unit. The fit is very good requiring only minor adjustments (probably due to my scratchbuilt sidewall)
Milliput is an interesting product. As it is a two part epoxy putty it hardens based on a chemical reaction and does not need air. This means it can harden underwater for example (not sure thats gonna be useful for our purposes but its an interesting tidbit I guess) it also means you can paint over it immediately (which is useful for us modelers). It also does not shrink as it dries (also nice)
You may not be able to see it clearly but in addition to the flaps being dropped the ailerons are also slightly ajar. I noticed while studying photos of abandoned aircraft that the control surfaces almost always end up in extreme positions because the normal safely locks are not in place.
If I could get model manufacturers to do just one thing it would be to only ever use neutral gray plastic for sprues. It may be boring but it just the best color for us modelers to work with and always provides the best results.
I really can't recommend Alclad Metaliser paint highly enough. Its easy to use, dries quickly, looks amazingly real and is robust when compared to previous model metalic paints.
The Grass Mask I used here can be ordered from Eduard (or most other hobby shops). Here is the link to Eduard's information page
I found this trick with the Mr Color Leveling thinner coat quite by accident. Because the light blue coat was gloss I noticed that it was drying with a bit of orange peel roughness. To try and level this out I loaded up the brush with just straight Leveling Thinner and proceeded to spray a fairly heavy coat on the gloss blue (this was done within a few minutes of the blue being applied so it was still fairly wet). I had done this on the green underneath and it had done the job nicely. I however noticed that as I applied even a fairly light coat over the blue as it hit the model the blue paint started to "fade" as if the paint was being thinned (which I guess it was). I immediately stopped what I was doing fearing the worst. Instead the paint faded to a certain point and stopped. After a closer inspection I decided that I quite liked the effect and proceeded to carefully finish the job. Its a bit hard to see properly in these photos because of the lighting but in real life it looks very effective as if the paint has worn down thin.
Whilst I wanted to have fun with this paint scheme, I did want to apply some realistic limits as how someone would paint an operational combat aircraft. The idea of painting the dielectric panels on the tail and radome in bright orange just did seem credible (ok its funky, but not believable).
The interior of the airbrakes is not the same as the wheel wells, rather its clearly a lighter gray when you look at reference photos. Its the same color as used on the landing gear struts
It's worth mentioning why I used the Hannants Flat Clear on this model, rather than my normal Polly S Flat Clear. I have found that Alclad Metalic colors react differently to different brands of flat clear. Hannants Xtracylix and the new Tamiya Flat Clear seem to co-habitate over Alclad quite well, wereas the Polly S flat clear (which gives a far more dead matt than the other two) turns the Alclad non-metalic.
The Eduard panel lines and rivet details on this model are incredibly fine and I was a bit concerned that under a couple of coats of paint that a panel wash would not hold. This did happen in a few areas underneath and I should have taken more time to pre-scribe them, but for the most part I'm satisfied with the result on the more visible upper surfaces.
After the dirt base was dry (the spakfilla and future coats I mean) it was painted with Tamiya Buff and when dry a light wash of raw under oil paint was applied. I like how its turned out as it looks realistically to scale next to the MiG.
The graveyard accessories all came from the spares box, the spare wheels are from the Tamiya F-3 Meteor kit, the boarding ladder from an F-4 Phantom. The 44 gal drums are from the very nice Tamiya Jerry Can set. Other spare panels are from Skyhawk and F-16 kits. Just use your imagination (and don't look too closely :)
The final weathering effect I applied to the model / base was a coat of MiG Productions (ironic I know) weathering powder. I used the "Gulf War Sand" powder and just generously applied it with a soft brush. I dirtied up the clear parts as well because nothing looks sillier than a flithy airframe and perfectly glistening canopy !! You can see how this powder has settled nicely in the tarpaulin behind the cockpit.
Well the first thing I have to say having now built this kit is that whether you build this crazy Bunny Fighter or any of the other marking options Eduard has released over time, if you are a 1/48 jet guy get yourself one of these kits. The engineering and fit of this model is second to none. These models are every bit as good as Tamiya's latest offerings, no kidding.

I really have no negative comments about the build experience. Everything you need to build a fantasically accurate MiG-21 is right there in the box. If you choose you can enhance the model by using any of the resin goodies available both from Eduard themselves and other well know aftermarket manufacturers

What would I change ? Well I'd ask Eduard to ditch the colored sprues. I know it goes along with the crazy Bunny theme but no-one who buys this kit (with all the Brassin goodies) is gonna build it without painting it and boring old grey plastic is simply the best color to work with !!

I applaude Eduard for trying something a bit "out there" and from reading their blog site its been quite a success with over 700 kits being sold in the first few weeks. Combine the value you get with this kit by itself (which includes Brassin, PE and masks) with the ongoing 15% discount from the automatic BFC membership and its quite the deal.

I look forward to Eduard's next 1/48 modern kit (the new Spitfire does not count) and hope I get the chance to review it.

The finished photos of this model can be found in the gallery section here here.