Reviewed by Patrick Boone
To understand the accuracy problems of this kit, I will start with a little background information on the real aircraft.
China's J-7 is a native copy of the MiG-21F-13, the first major version of the MiG-21 characterized by the very narrow nose intake and internal armament of up to two 30mm cannon. Their copy of the MiG-21MF is known as the J-7III, and the J-7II is China's own development from experience gained with both types. The J-7II, or F-7II for foreign customers, is based on the airframe of the MiG-21F-13, with an uprated engine and local avionics. The nose was redesigned for increased airflow and the canopy was changed to a clamshell design. Foreign customers can have Western radar and avionics fitted to the base aircraft at the factory. Later models of the J-7II have a true HUD and the Pakistani versions have Martin Baker MB Mk 10 ejection seats fitted.
In an attempt to counter Taiwan's advantage in modern fighters and boost sales to other countries, China decided to improve the J-7II with a new wing. The new wing design has cranked arrow delta layout, with low speed maneuvering enhanced by leading edge flaps. This theoretically improves the dogfight performance of the new F-7E, the type's new designation. The PLAAF's acrobatic team chose the new design for this reason. The export version is the F-7MG, the G standing for G.E.C. Marconi avionics. In it's latest showing, a new one piece windscreen was added to the design, correcting one ot the MiG-21's beggest flaws, poor forward visibility. The only customer so far is Pakistan, who placed an order for 50 aircraft in January 2000.
The kit I am reviewing is the F-7E/MG version with the cranked arrow wings. The same sprues are used for the other F-7 kits from AA, except for the J-7II kit which has the normal MiG-21 delta wings. The kit is copied from the Academy MiG-21 series, except the fuselage comes in two halves rather than four parts. The same problems from the original Academy design apply to all the kits.
First off, the finish of these kits is much better than the pebbly FH-7/SBC-1 & F-8II/IIM kits. While not as smooth as most major manufacturers, it is close to the best limited run kits. The panel lines are recessed, but are soft & have flaws in several places. These flaws are mostly confined to being within access hatches. The panel lines across the fuselage halves do line up well once the locating pins are removed, but there may be some mistakes in that they are based on late MiGs and don't always match the drawing on the box ends. The gun blast panel lines are completely omitted & need to be scribed in. Hinges molded into the canopy & main speedbrake attachments need to be filed down.
The canopy is a two piece affair, and has a correct profile. Unfortunately, this is the only good thing about the parts. They suffer from being too thick,a little wavy, and on mine a hair line. The cross section is not bulged enough, but most people won't notice. However, they will notice that the framing is completely wrong on both parts. The framing on the canopy should be the same width at the hinge line as it is in the front. Strangely, the overall shape of the windscreen is good, but the framing is way off. The windscreen side panels need to be larger and lower, while the flat center section needs to be larger. The good news is that you probably can get a good result out of the kit parts with some serious elbow work. Since the parts are too thick, sanding off the framing will help a lot with the thickness and a combination of polishing & Future dipping will get rid of the waviness. The windscreen framing should be reinstated to match photos gathered from the Internet, with the framing around the center moved outward to the edges of the curvature. Some work will be needed to improve the fit of the windscreen to the fuselage. I plan to tape sandpaper to the fuslage halves (taped together) and gently sand the windscreen until it fits a bit better. If you plan to build a F-7MG, you will have to make a master for the blown windscreen and vacuform or heat & bash clear sheet styrene for new one.
There are errors in the fuselage outline in several places. The ventral fin is too small and has an incorrect outline. It should be replaced by one made of sheet styrene to match the box end drawing. The tail is a big problem, as it is carried over from the Academy kit. The Chinese used the narrow chord tail with the various antennas on the top like the large chord. It also has a parachute fairing at the base which, unfortunately, is larger than the one on the wide chord tail. To fix the problem, the various electronics bumps and the parachute fairing have to be added from scratch to the plain narrow chord tail. Various cooling intakes are missing from the tail fin and rear fuselage. There is long, thin bulge missing from the left rear fuselage under the horizontal stabalizor that appears to be a conduit of some kind. Odd Rods antenna need to be added under the fuselage behind the nose gear doors for the F-7E . The F-7MG doesn't carry them at all. Various antenna have to be added under the forward fuselage as well.
Wheel bulges are the next big problem. The real J-7 is based on the earlier MiG-21F, which had smaller wheels & tires, so the bulges aren't needed. Like the Academy kits, the wheel bulges on the upper fuselage are misaligned. Unlike the Academy kits, this is easier to fix. File them off and make much smaller ones from putty or styrene. The bulges on the lower fuselage around the wheel well have to be filled in from the inside and filed off. The main gear doors have to have the same treatment, as well as the bulge in front of the nose gear. Two small bulges need to be added to each nose gear door. Looking at photos of the main gear, I've concluded that the wheels/tires have to be replaced, as they are far too large. I've been informed that the Aerofax book on the MiG-21 gives the wheel diameters for the MiG-21F as 660mm and the J-7 as even smaller 600mm! Scaled down, this comes to 13.75mm and 12.5mm, where the kit wheels are 18mm. So you will need to come up with wheels around 13mm no matter which figure you choose. This is about the size of the kit wheels hubs! Since I don't have any good photos of the smaller wheel hubs, I picked out four different sets from my spares box that are around 13mm to eventually substitute for the kit ones.
The next problem is the nose. I have been looking at various photos and it appears that the inlet is too large in diameter. It should be somewhere between the MiG-21F & PF/MF intakes in size. Instead, it is the same size as the Academy kit. This leads to a new problem. In examining the photos of the J-7E & J-7MG, I keep getting the impression that the kit nose is too short. I'm not terribly certain about this and would like some other opinions on this. If it is too short, a simple extension to the intake made of styrene would fix both the diameter & length problems. It would also fix the radome/variable inlet cone sticking to far out. If the kit nose is the right length, these problems will be a lot harder to fix. There is a diamond shaped fairing for the angle of attack sensor missing from the port side of the nose as well.
AA supplies clear stands for all of their kits, the pylon in this one inserting into the main speedbrake well. The well is plain with a very large slot for the stand. Your best bet is to glue the speedbrake up since the forward brakes are not molded seperately and are only partially scribed, half of each on the cannon fairings and fuselage. The forward brakes need to be scribed on the fuselage to match the halves on the fairings
The under wing weapons pylons need to be reshaped to reflect the cutouts for the cranked wing versions. The leading edge flaps on the real thing required the pylons to be redesigned to allow full deflection during low speed maneuvers. They also droop when the plane is parked on the ground. The F-7E carries only one cannon on the starboard side, as in the kit instructions if you build the Chinese version. The F-7MG carries cannons on both sides (this also applies to Pakastani J-7II's). The same set of weapons from the Academy kit is included.
The cockpit is very plain and copies the MiG-21PF. This is completely incorrect. I'm planning to drop in the Aries resin MiG-21MF for the cockpit tub & sidewalls, with a modified or scratchbuilt control panel & HUD. The ejection seat is wrong, use an Aeroclub Martin Baker MB 10 for both the F-7E and F-7MG.
The kit provides instructions in Chinese only, so it is hard to tell if the painting instructions are correct. Chinese F-7II & F-7E fighters are usually painted in a light gray which has no blue in it. My best guess is that it is close to 36622. The F-7MG scheme is not shown in the instructions, but is the same as Pakastani F-7M, constiting of two blue-grays, one much darker than the other.
The decals provided are for the Chinese F-7E only, so you need to get markings from elsewhere to build the F-7MG. But given the very poor quality of the decals included, you need to get aftermarket decals anyway. Since I want to build the F-7E, I'm going to use the Chinese markings leftover from the Academy MiG-21PF issue anyway. There is a new decal company from China, Tiger Wings Decals, that are putting out sheets for all the AA kits.
Overall, this kit is a good basis for an F-7E/MG, but is not for the faint of heart. If you don't care about making a perfect replica (i.e., don't have AMS), go ahead & build it as is -- hardly anybody knows anything about the plane anyway!
Here are some links with photos of the F-7E and other Chinese aircraft:
Review Copyright © 2000 by Patrick