The MiG-29 9-12 Early
The MiG-29 was the first Soviet 4th generation jet fighter designed to counter the emerging threat of the US "teen" fighters. The Soviet General Staff issued the directive for the PFI (prospective frontline fighter) in direct response to the US F-X program that resulted in the F-15.
Designed primarily as a frontal fighter, and replacement for the MiG-23 for the VVS the MiG-29 was viewed as a front-line fighter to counter enemy fighter bombers and similar threats along an active battlefield. The MiG-29s much larger cousin the Su-27, while designed in a similar time frame and also for the air-to-air role was designed more as a defensive interceptor to supplement the PVO or Air Defense.
The MiG-29 entered service with the Soviet VVS in 1983. The initial production version to be deployed held the factory designation of 9-12. Here's where the complexity comes in.
Russian/Soviet nomenclature has always been challenging to follow. The service designation, the factory designations (which differ by manufacturer), and variations which don't always have different designations.
Where a US fighter has a type: F-18 - we know this as a Hornet, it's the 18th major design since the US designation system was made common between USAF and USN in the early 1960s. F-18C - C designates the THIRD major design change to the basic F-18. From there there are even lot numbers that designate smaller updates in between the major upgrades (a later lot F-18C has newer antennae straight from the factory - as one example).
In the case of the MiG-29, as noted all of the initial variants of the MiG-29 came under the designation "izdelye 9-12" (MiG used an "izdelye" number for internal designations, while Sukhoi, for example uses a T-# for it's internal system. The Su-27 is the T-10 for example). At least three visually different variants flew under the designation "9-12". With the first release Great Wall covered the most standard MiG-29 9-12, this variation was flown in the largest numbers and exported to a large number of client states.
Earlier variants of the MiG-29 flew with the Soviet VVS (and later, for those that lasted) with Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.
The early variant was most notably characterized by the added ventral fins and different FOD guard on the nose wheel. This is the version which Great Wall has covered in this kit.
The initial variant featured narrow chord rudders that were flush with the rear of the vertical fins as well as a different system of nose landing gear doors - observers sometimes referred to this as the butterfly door. This version IS NOT covered by the Great Wall kit as it would require new rudders and a new nose gear strut and doors. We can hope that this will show up at some point, although it's really only useful for those building the very earliest MiG-29s deployed by the Soviet VVS in the early 1980s.
Some MiG-29 Modeling History
In 1986 Soviet MiG-29s made a visit to Finland marking the first time the aircraft was fully disclosed to Western observers. I distinctly remember being a teenager seeing this on CNN and being fascinated with seeing the newest Soviet beast. Previously all that had been available were poorly drawn artists conceptions showing a type that vaguely looked like a F-15.
I was already a fan of the Russian aircraft at the time and was building whatever kits I could find of Russian and Soviet types. At the time, these were often times utterly crude kits. So it was with some excitement that I faced the opportunity of a new Russian fighter for my collection. Within a year or so, the MiG-29 releases started to show up - with kits from Hasegawa, Fujimi, Ace and then eventually Airfix and Italeri. Each kit had a pretty big flaw, but in the day, they seemed okay. The Hasegawa kit had a fuselage that was too wide and a cockpit area that was shrunken. The Fujimi had a cockpit area that was massively oversized. The Airfix kit (which was released after the MiG-29s made an appearance at Farnborough in 1988), while decent in outline was a challenging (and I'm being kind here) build. Like so many kits, particularly of Soviet subjects, the earliest kits were based on photographic research only and didn't have any plans or real measurements to work from.
I still enjoyed building those kits as they at least represented the MiG-29 and filled a gap in my MiG line-up. Looking back on the issues with those kits, I do have to snicker a little bit when I see some of the complaints that are levied about today's kits.
Academy graced us with a 1:48 MiG-29 in 1993, a kit that while a challenge to build at least got a good step closer to capturing the look of the MiG-29. With a lot of resin upgrades and some attention to the build process, that kit could be built into something pretty nice.
Fortunately for us Great Wall Hobby saw fit to up the MiG-29 game significantly when they embarked on the release of the first kit in the series in 2012.
What's in the Box
If you've looked inside the box of one of the first two Great Wall MiG-29s, very little of this should come as a surprise. Parts are very crisply molded, with smooth, polished surface. Panel lines and rivet details are engraved - even at multiple weights, which only adds to the details of the model. Here's a quick breakdown on what's in the box:
Plastic Part Trees:
A: Upper fuselage & upper wings, one piece molded, and again enclosed in it's own box to prevent warping.
B: Lower fuselage and lower wings, centerline drop tank, gear doors, slats
C: Detail Part - gear wells, cockpit, wheels, gear struts, etc.
D: Airframe add-ons - vertical fins, control surfaces, intakes, horizontal stabilizers
E: Clear Parts
F (NEW TREE): Early parts - ventral fins, early FOD guards, early antennae
G: Engine stand
H: Chaff & flare dispenser fairings
I (UPDATED, 2 Included): Engines, afterburners, wing mounted drop tanks
J (UPDATED, 2 Included): Pylons
L (2 Included): R-27R Missile
N (2 Included): R-60 Missile
P (2 Included): R-73 Missile
Also included are a small sheet of photo-etched details for the FOD doors on the intakes and additional airframe screens, as well as two sheets of decals and a small printed acetate sheet used for the HUD reflector.
If you haven't looked in one of these kits yet, you'll instantly note the quality and thoughtfulness of the tooling beyond what I described to open the section. The upper fuselage mold with the wings attached sets the model up for improved alignment and removes one of the primary seam filling duties for the modeler.
Yes, it's an expensive kit, but the quality in the box really backs up the price, especially when you find it for a more reasonable "street price."
Upgrades: Round Three
One of the things that modelers have always liked is Great Wall's willingness to refine their kits through multiple releases. As was the case with the P-61, the MiG-29 has been upgraded with each successive release. We posted a news article showing the changes to the plastic for this kit, as well as dimensioned measurements for the updated parts - You can read the news article by following This Link.
With the MiG-29 9-13, the lower fuselage center contour (between the intakes) was corrected. There were also several smaller refinements for scoops and positions of the scoops on the model.
Even with the corrections from the first to the second release, there were two big complaints about the kit from the first release. The PTB1150 wing tanks were a good bit under scale. The wing pylons were also under scale - in all dimensions. While some tried to simply lengthen the pylons to compensate, they were still in correct as they also needed to be adjusted in height and width.
Fortunately Great Wall saw fit to completely update these parts in this latest release! So now with the third release, we have all of the notable corrections available in kit form!
Building the GWH MiG-29
Instructions are presented in GWH's typical, and lovely, 18 page format. Glossy cover, heavy pages, nicely done diagrams, with four view color profiles at the end to cover the colors and markings included in the kit.
Construction follows a 16 step process. The process discussed follows a largely conventional format, but there are a few adjustments that we'd recommend.
First and foremost - decide UP FRONT - if you're going to expose engine details or for some reason leave the engine trunks removed from the model. If you are going to leave them removed, then proceed with the instructions as shown in step EIGHT.
If you're going to just build the airframe as it might appear on an active ramp (as most will likely do), then you'll want to add the entire intake trunks to the lower fuselage before joining the upper and lower fuselage halves. This will allow you to work the fit and glue from the inside giving you maximum flexibility to improve the fit along these seams. This is easily the most complex part of the model, so paying attention to adding these parts EARLY in the process will pay dividends in sanding and filling later on.
Step FOUR - where you work on the parts inside the lower fuselage (and make SURE to drill out the proper holes for the pylons and centerline drop tank) is probably a good place to do this.
The second major adjustment that we would recommend would be adding the verticals - which mount to the SIDE of the rear fuselage - AFTER joining the upper and lower fuselage halves. This will allow the fit to be adjusted to ALL the impacted areas and NOT just the upper fuselage.
When you add the verticals make sure to check whether or not your photo references show the chaff and flare dispenser fairings on your particular subject or if the fins are left capped. This model includes the fin caps for the first time (on tree F - with the other "early" 9-12 parts).
Build and paint the rest of the airframe, and add the landing gear and weapons after you've finished the majority of construction - to avoid breaking this parts off while handling the model.
Four More Missiles PLEASE
The one-piece molded weapons are a truly remarkable feat of model molding engineering. The molds utilize a FIVE part mold allowing detail on all sides of the missile, airfoil shape to the fins as well as rivet detail in the fins as well as exhaust detail on the rear of each missile. These parts alone have set the "oh wow" standard for plastic molding so far not seen elsewhere in the industry!
While the missiles are awesome in detail and molding technology, the mix of what's included in the kit is not as awesome.
In the initial kits, 2 R-27s and 4 R-73s were included. This is a very appropriate and standard "full" air-to-air load for most any standard MiG-29. This kit includes, for the first time, R-60 missiles. These would have been commonly flown in the early years of the MiG-29s active service. R-73s entered service about the same time as the MiG-29, but R-60s were still flown while inventories of the R-73 were built up.
The mix of missiles included in this kit are two of each missile - R-27, R-73 and R-60. While there are plenty of models built like this, this was not a common - if ever used - weapons load in active service. Bases that had R-60 inventory would have flown 4x R-60 and 2x R-27 (or something less), and bases that had R-73 inventory would have flown 4x R-73 in place of the R-60s.
Given that the R-60s are new, I would have rather seen 4x R-60s included with this kit, or better yet 4x R-73 and 4x R-60 - allowing some missiles to go to the spares box.
In reality, missile loads were commonly much lighter - flying a pair of missiles on patrol. But if you want to do a full load on your model (which many commonly do), it would be nice to be able to depict a more realistic full load of missiles out of the box.
Further more, the smaller the Air Force, the more likely that they would be flying R-60 missiles instead of R-73s, so, again it would be nice to have these to swap out with other models and configurations of the MiG-29.
Yes, there are ultra-detailed aftermarket missiles available for all three types covered by the kit, but they offer little improvement over what's in the Great Wall box (the same cannot be said for other models) and are much more complex to build vs. the one-part wonders included in the kit.
Just a curious decision on the part of the kit planners.
Colors & Markings
The MiG-29 9-12 "early" was solely operated by Soviet forces. It was not until the type had been further refined in early Soviet service (resulting in the 9-12 late) that the type was further modified for export. As such the early model as depicted in this kit is really only appropriate for Soviet/Russian markings and any of the post Soviet breakup parts of the former Soviet Union such as Ukraine.
As such there are three sets of markings included in the kit:
1. Red 32 - Russian Air Force at Primorsk-Ahtarsk airfield, 1997
2. Red 07 - 968th IAP stationed with Soviet Forces in Germany, 1990
3. Red 01 - 152nd IAP, part of the Russian Aggressor program, 1991
All the aircraft are in one variation or another of the typical Soviet/Russian camouflage of overall light gray with a disruptive pattern of gray-green on the upper surfaces. Dielectric panels are in the typical darker gray.
Upgrading the Great Wall MiG
The Great Wall kit is a stunner right out of the box. Details for areas like the cockpit and wheel wells will invalidate the need for aftermarket upgrades for all but the most dedicated detail nut. As a result there really haven't been that many upgrade sets dedicated to the Great Wall kit. Thus far, outside of Eduard's sets for the various versions of the kit there have been no other dedicated sets. That said, due to the nature of the Academy kit, there are literally dozens of upgrade sets for that kit that may be used to upgrade the Great Wall kit.
In looking through the kit, there are a handful of areas that could use improvement:
Cockpit - while the console and sidewall details are nicely done, there are prominent cables that run from the fusebox on the rear canopy deck down the cockpit well behind the seat. These could be added to the cockpit details in the kit, but all of the available cockpits - the best of which are Eduard's Brassin cockpit and the Aires cockpit - feature these details. What we haven't looked at yet is how well they fit the kit parts and how easy the modifications are.
Wheel Wells - This is one of those areas that some want to upgrade but others leave alone. The wheel wells in the kit are quite amazing on their own. That said, Aires makes a set of replacements that are a definite upgrade. Again these are for the Academy kit. While the should directly replace the kit parts, we have not test fit them.
Exhausts - Here is an area where the kit might need a bit of help. The kit exhausts are nicely done, and feature a reasonable level of detail. However, for molding purposes, they are done in multiple parts for both the inner and outer exhaust surfaces. This may cause a headache or two in the construction process. Both Aires and Eduard do replacement resin exhausts that are much simpler from a construction standpoint. If the mating diameter matches, then we'd definitely recommend using one of these sets. The additional benefit of one of the resin sets is that using the resin allows you to dump the engine parts from the kit, and assemble the fuselage without the need for exposing the engine detail.
All of the various smaller upgrades are available - wheels, antennae, pitot, and so on - each of these will be a straight replacement of the kit parts and will not present a challenge to anyone building this kit. Each will be a judgement call over whether or not they are enough of an upgrade.
We have reviewed one of the Eduard photo-etched sets for the MiG-29, so have a look at This Link to see how much of the set you might find useful for your MiG-29 project. While our review was for the 9-13 set, the parts are going to be very similar across the various etched sets with only details changing from version to version.
Conclusion & Future
There you have it. This is one of those kits that is a real stunner in the box. Those that have built it so far report it to be a good build. We hope to bring a full build up review soon of this kit and address some of the upgrade specifics as to how easy they are to handle. Watch for that here on RedStars soon!
In the interim, with the release of this kit, I cannot help but wish the original release - the 9-12 "Late Model" - had all of the upgrades and corrections that the 9-13 and this kit received. The 9-12 "Late" is truly the standard MiG-29, not only flying with Soviet/Russian forces, but nearly all the export customers of the MiG-29 as well. If I were Great Wall, I would take the 9-12 late kit, release it with the improvements from the 9-13 and this kit and then include perhaps one more small set of parts. These parts would be those that are needed to complete specific variants of the MiG-29 in service with other countries. These are smaller lumps and bumps, antennae. Eduard included some of these parts as resin in their special edition of the Academy MiG-29 for building a present-day Polish operated aircraft. These, along with a few others could be included on one more small sprue.
Now we wait to see what's next from Great Wall in their MiG-29 series. While they are busy moving forward with their F-15, they have also committed that they will be releasing the MiG-29SMT (9-19/9-20) and are still investigating doing a MiG-29UB eventually.
But for now, you can rest assured that these are solid releases, buy them with confidence and enjoy the ride!
And as always stay tuned to RedStars for the latest in Soviet/Russian modeling!