In 1985, the U.S. Navy and Marines leased 25 examples of the F-21As as unarmed adversaries. These F-21A were actually modified Mirage IIIs that the Israeli Aircraft Industry built into a better version of the latter, and renamed it Kfir (Lion Cub).
I don’t remember when I first saw a picture of an F-21. There was an old publication by Osprey called Superbase Yuma that had some outstanding set of photographs of the F-21A in action at their home base.
I pretty much fell in love with the Kfir’s muscular look, its rugged shape, and fancy three-tone desert scheme. Since I saw those photos, I kept fantasizing that one day I would build a model of the Kfir.Hasegawa’s F-21 is a little long in the tooth. I bought the Kfir as a ‘combo’ kit that included two air frames (Kit. No. 00986). Despite being issued in 2009, its beginning goes back to the early 80’s when it was originally released. The kit offers little exterior or interior details other than the raised panel lines and some cockpit decals. The whole model came only on two plastic sprue trees. The molds were superior in its heydays, they were hard, and parts were on the thicker side. That said, I will have to improvise if I want to do justice to this veteran of a kit. The first thing I did was to assess the kit’s shortcomings and how to address them. I decided to make as close as possible to the upgraded C.1 version with the small canards, despite the kit being a newer variant with “dog-toothed” leading edges. I predicted that there will be lots of filling and sanding, and I will lose many of the raised panel lines. So I decided to re-scribe the whole aircraft. A proper MB ejection seat was also necessary. The panel re-scribing started out even before any of the parts were glued together. I find this way easier as it gives me more control, stability, and better access to hard-to-reach areas. My tool of choice is Tuner Model mini re-scriber. Hasegawa Tri-tool, Voyager Model curved rulers, and dyno tape also helped get the lines and shapes I needed. To be honest, the re-scribing exercise took quite a toll: I spent more than 50% of my time into this slow process. Regardless, it was worth every minute of it. To break down the boredom, I focused on the other parts: I cleaned up the wheels and landing gears; painted the exhaust nozzles XF-84 Dark Iron; dipped the canopy into a “Future” bath; sawed off the air data probe for later reattachment; and painted the simple cockpit tub XF-66 Light Grey. I recommend that you pay extra attention around the intakes, gun ports, and under the wings as these areas needed the most filling and sanding. To minimize putty and give better results, use slow-curing cement like Tamiya Extra Thin when aligning parts for gluing.After studying photos of the actual aircraft, I decided to spice up the wheel bays and cockpit bulkhead using stretched spue and sheet styrene. To make the canards, I cut a small piece of 0.2mm sheet styrene and followed the template on the instruction sheet. These look way better than having to slice off the original parts.The Kfirs feature the Martin-Baker Mk.6 ejection seats. Coincidentally, I had an Aires MB Mk.7 that looked very similar; however, the cockpit tub was way too small to fit the original resin seat. So I decided to make a resin copy which I could later slice and dice to get it to fit into the tub. I prepared a mold using Blue Stuff thermoplastic silicon and made several copies using Easy Flo 60 resin. Then I picked the best and trimmed the lower sides to make it fit. I painted the seat flat black, khaki and olive drab and I added ejection handles from stretched sprues. They were all subsequently washed and dry brushed.From the available options, I decided to make a U.S. Marines aggressor “Black 02” of VMFT-401 with a three-tone blue grey “ghost” scheme. The Marines had a few of these flying around and I believed that although they looked very similar, there were slight differences among them. For examples, some aircraft had white intake cones, while others had the camouflage colors. Painting started by placing back the clear canopy onto the cockpit after they were masked with Tamiya masking tape and Parafilm M.After I sprayed the aircraft and accessories with a black primer, I painted the three-tone camouflage by laying down the first paint XF-25 Light Sea Grey, then consequentially Mr. Color 308 and 337, while the lower fuselage Mr. Color 324. To get the soft-edged pattern, I kneaded some blu-tack into thin rolls which I placed according to the pattern suggested in the painting guide.I gave the wheel struts, bays and doors, and AIM-9 rails flat white. The chute cones, oleo, and the air data probe Mr. Color 8 Silver. The upper part of the vertical fin were masked and painted flat black and Mr. Color 324. Tires were slightly trimmed to get a “weighted” look and painted XF-85 Rubber black. The gun ports were drilled out, painted black and brushed with A.MIG.3009 Gun Metal. Painting the smaller details took more time and effort than painting the three-tone camouflage!I glossed everything up for decaling and washing. The decals were in register and thin enough to work with. However, some were very brittle, particularly the red border lines and broke into pieces. I also noticed that some didn’t actually match the panels and I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t do much to rectify this. Washing was done by interchangeably using AMMO’s U.S. Navy Grey Jets PLW set.The F-21As served as adversary fighter aircraft in dissimilar aerial combat training. They were often seen carrying drop tanks and ACMI pods that recorded the aircraft’s in-flight data. I decided to have all three drop tanks installed and I painted them the same color as the underside. While the ACMI pod came from the Hasegawa Weapon set V (X72-5) and was painted flat red with a black conical nose and silver probe.The Marines kept their F-21As in tip-top shape so I would go rather light on my weathering approach. I sprayed a diluted version of X-19 Smoke to replicate dark patches on selected panel lines. To replicate oil streaks, I place tiny drops of AMMO A.MIG.1408 Fresh Engine oil on selected panel lines. I tried to keep everything tight as this is all in 1/72 scale! Once dried, I stroke the engine oil effect in the direction of the airflow using a pointed brush dampened with some enamel thinner. For a dull finish, I spayed the model thin layers of Mr. Color 30 Flat clear mixed with a drop of Mr. Color 188 Flat base. Lastly, I added drops of AMMO crystal blue (.099) and red (.093) to replicate the navigation lights.I always like a little bit of challenge in my builds and this kit is no exception. Hasegawa’s Kfir is no match against today’s kits but rests assure with patients and determination, you can turn an oldie like this one into a gem, something that you can be proud of.Keep Modeling!