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Saab J-21 A-3 1:48


Mike
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Saab J-21 A-3
1:48 Pilot Replicas


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Saab have always been innovative in their aircraft designs, and the J-21 certainly was ahead of its time when it began gestation in the early years of WWII. Although Sweden were neutral, they believed in having a strong defence force to dissuade potential attackers, and this was part of their policy. It evolved over a number of design iterations into a pusher prop with twin booms based upon a license-built Daimler Benz engine, and because of the rear-mounted prop it was able to carry its armament in the nose, with the pilot having an unobstructed view of his quarry. The large prop at the rear dictated a tricycle landing gear configuration, and to save the pilot from injury when exiting the 'plane in flight, a simple ejector seat was developed by Bofors to blast him clear of the airframe and the flailing propellers.

After the initial production the A-2 variant was re-armed with a Swedish developed 20mm cannon replacing the French model, and these were later superseded by the A-3, which had a bomb sight for air-to-ground operations, and was able to carry bombs and missiles, as well as use RATO bottles to improve take-off capabilities under heavy load. As the J-21A was nearing the end of its service life in the early 50s, a re-design was undertaken to change to jet propulsion, mounting a De Havilland Goblin in a re-designed fuselage, with its tail adapted to clear the hot jet exhaust. The R has a much shorter service life due to the appearance of the J29 Tunnan, and only lasted until 1956.

The Kit
I have an interest in Swedish aviation, and have had a hankering for an injection moulded kit of the J-21 in 1:48 as well as the Tunnan, but I certainly didn't think we'd get an injection moulded J-21 any time soon. When Pilot Replicas came to our attention they did so by wafting the promise of this unusual aircraft under our noses as their first entry into the injection moulding arena. As more information became available it was clear that the project was going to reach fruition, and we were very happy to receive a sample for review in our inbox a few short days ago. What a first kit! It arrives in a diminutive box, and about the only gripe I have with the kit is that it's a top-opening box, but it is a flap rather than a lid, which won't stand up to stacking very well. To some that will be a new layer of Hell, but to others it's just encouragement to build it now! The quality and printing of the box is otherwise first-rate, and there is a little shield-shaped sticker sealing it that gives it a quality feel. Inside are four sprues in a light grey styrene, a clear sprue, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) parts, a decal sheet, all of which are individually wrapped in re-sealable bags. The instruction booklet and painting guide are both printed on thick glossy paper of folded A3 size, the smooth surface of which should allow them to stand up to handling and splashes of paint and so forth, giving them a feel of a café menu!

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The detail that has been put into the kit is top-flight, with raised and engraved lines, fine engraved rivets and raised panels where appropriate. The flying surfaces have unusual diamond-shaped raised sections that although they look like a poor attempt at fabric covered surfaces to the untrained eye, are actually prototypical of the construction method, although I think perhaps a light swipe with a sanding sponge would perhaps improve their look. Construction looks to be straight-forward, and the clear, helpful 3D CAD rendered steps in the booklet do their level best to smooth the way for you. Each part is accompanies by either a single white box that gives the part number, or a double box with the white half showing the part number, and the black denoting the colour, for which you can refer back to the conversion table, which gives a description of the colour, plus codes in Tamiya and Humbrol, with a few FS codes where they match.

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The build begins with the simple ejector seat, which has foot stirrups and the ejector frame added to a fairly standard seat that wouldn't look amiss in a contemporary fighter. The long cockpit floor has the nose gear bay detail moulded on the underside, and also provides a place to stick your 20g nose-weight. At the rear you add the bulkhead, the side walls, a curious looking single-part rudder panel, stick and a couple of small detail parts. The instrument panel is added to a busy coaming, which has the two-piece gun-sight on top, and detail here is excellent, with raised and recessed dials, switches and knobs that should respond well to careful painting. A set of PE seat belts completes the cockpit, which is very well detailed straight out of the box, and is then set aside while the thre-bladed prop with separate two-part spinner and nose gear leg are built up. The nose gear is a single strut with yoke and a choice of very fine styrene oleo-scissor links, or optional PE replacement. To be honest, either will do the job very well, as the styrene parts are laudably thin. With these complete, the nose gear leg is trapped between the fuselage pod halves along with the cockpit and spinner, not forgetting to push the exhaust stubs through from the inside before doing so. At this stage the gear bay doors are shown as being added, but you'll probably leave them off 'til later to save them getting damaged.

The main gear legs are moulded with their yoke integral, between which you slip the two-part main wheel, which has a massively aggressive tread pattern to cope with airfield conditions and winter snow landings. Again there are either PE or styrene oleo scissor-links, and all you need to do is add the brake lines from lead fly-tying wire or similar. These are clipped into the twin tail booms, which have some ribbing detail moulded in, but also have a couple of tricky ejector-pin marks that you'll have to decide whether to hide or not, depending on whether you think they'll be seen. Bay doors are also added on stub hinges here too, which you might want to leave off again.

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The lower wings are a single part, and have large slots in the rear to accept the tail booms, while the upper wings are separate and locate on top of the lowers with a narrow lip moulded-in that gives a nice neat leading edge, and commendably thin trailing edges. Check your references to see whether those lines will need filling later, and if you're using liquid glue you can press the seam to part-fill it after initial application. The wings are attached to the sprues by wide gates that are as thin as the trailing edge, so should be very simple to remove cleanly by scoring with a sharp blade. In fact, one of mine had come loose in the box, and had snapped so cleanly that you'd wonder where the join was if the other had gone too. With the wings glued and cleaned up, the booms are placed in their slots, butting up against the aerodynamic front fairing, and the single elevator is trapped between the two tail units. All the flying surfaces are moulded into the relevant surfaces, so if you feel like mobilising them you'll need to break out the razor saw, but as this is an injection moulded J-12, I won't be complaining. Placing the fuselage pod onto the wings should be a simple task if you have test-fitted it all together as you went on, and remember not to stand her on her legs before the glue is set, or you might end up with a curious angle of incidence!

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The canopy is thin and clear, and made up of quite a number of parts, due to its design. The two rear blown windows are added to the fuselage sides over the scalloped areas either side of the pilot's head after the depression is painted fuselage colour. G-S Hypo or white glue is probably best used here to avoid damaging the paint finish. The canopy has opening top and starboard sections, with a fixed port side, which is best added first and supported by the single-piece windscreen part. The roof part has a PE frame that includes a pair of grab-handles, and another part at the front with a rear-view mirror included. This attaches to the port canopy part, and the starboard opening section also has a PE frame and fixes to the cockpit. All that addition of PE to clear parts may sound a bit intimidating, but if you curve the parts to fit and paint them beforehand, you can then put them in place and attach them using a few drops of clear gloss acrylic varnish that will wick under the parts by capillary action, drying to hold them in place. Add an intake on the port side of the fuselage pod, gun at the front, landing lights in the sponson tips, crew ladder on the starboard, aerial under the wing and pitot in the leading edge, and that’s the construction phase completed.


Markings
There are three markings options in the box, and all share the same basic green over sky blue scheme and general scheme. The first page of the booklet contains locations for all the stencils and gives placement measurements for the national insignia, which is the first time I have seen placement detailed so clearly on kit instructions. From the box you can build one of the following:

  • 21377 Blå Cesar 2nd Division FI5 Wing in Söderhamn Aug 1950 to Dec 1952 – blue nose cone and spinner, and blue C on the tail fin. Small lion graphic on the nose.
  • 21394 Röd Martin 1st Division FI2 Wing in Kalmar Nov 1950 to Feb 1952 – red spinner and M on each tail fin. Castle emblem on the nose.
  • 21397 Gul Petter 3rd Division F9 Wing at Säve Dec 1948 to Mar 1951 – brown spinner, Bumble-bee emblem on the nose and yellow P on the tail fin.

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The decals are printed by Cartograf, so you'll be unsurprised to find that register, sharpness and colour density are excellent. The carrier film is cropped closely around the majority of decals, and is of the glossy type, but on the C and M decals there is (by necessity) a substantial amount of film within the letter, which you may consider removing to avoid silvering. The stencils are well-printed, with all the text legible if you can read Swedish of course.


Conclusion
I'm extremely pleased with this kit, and not just because it is an interesting (to me) and quirky type that hasn't been kitted in mainstream injection moulded styrene at this scale before. It is a superb first kit from any company, and Pilot Replicas have done a great job of hitting the ground running with a very refined and professional package. Detail is excellent almost everywhere, from the airframe's skin to the nose gear bay, with only the main bays being a little bland, but that's more than made up for elsewhere. They hold themselves to the highest standards, and it shows.

Packaging, content and instructions are excellent, and I'm really looking forward to their next kits. I understand that they'll be treating us to the Flying Barrel – the J29 Tunnan, and have reached the stage where they have received the initial test shots.

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Review sample courtesy of
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