From time to time we are presented with a decal set that marks a completely new emotional benchmark; smiles return to our faces, and we are relieved from the purist peevishness. This limited edition LiftHere! Decals’ sets, which has been released both in 1:72 and 1:48 scales, are simply one of those sets with a status of a collector’s item, at least among the modelers interested in the history of both the Yugoslav and the successor air force(s).
It is well acknowledged that the MiGs are among the largest produced aircrafts ever. Yugoslavia obtained her first machines back in 1962, which served with the Yugoslav Airforce (YAF) until the beginning of the ‘80s, when the last batch of MIGs was received. It should be noted, however, that the first MiG-21s (i.e. f-13s) were presented to the YAF while the F-86s were still fully operational. As it was the case with the Turkish Spitfires and Würgers during the WWII, it must have been an interesting display to have the Cold War adversaries flying next to each other.
However, more than 250 MiGs of nine different versions made the backbone of the YAFs fighter and reconnaissance wings for many years, although they served in a variety of other roles as well, including the fighter-bombers. However, an uninitiated modeler may have difficulties in identifying the exact version of MiG for a particular build. The YAF standard codenames consist of the domestic designation “L” (Lovac
, or Fighter) or “NL” (Nastavni lovac
, or Fighter Trainer), which was followed by a type designation number. Many older sources, however, retain only the YAF codenames, which is rather confusing for many, and especially for the uninitiated. For instance, codename L-12 in the YAF designation system stands for a MiG-21 f-13 (Fishbed C), L-17 or L-17K for MiG-21 bis and bis-K (Fishbed L/N), and NL-12 for MiG-21 U (Mongol A). This is all avoided in the booklet, since the authors concurrently and methodically employ the Russian, the YAF, and the NATO codename designation systems.
Although the set exists in the both popular scales, I will delve into the quarterscale set (C-48LH). The set comes enclosed within a zip-bag, and consists of an instruction booklet and two decal sheets. The booklet has a total of 32 pages, and is shared between the two sets. One is immediately caught by the abundance of info covered in the booklet. The research team of the LifHere! Decals relied on a number of well-know local aviation magazines, including the legendary YU-VAM Bilten, Aeroplan, and Aero Magazine, as well as invaluable contribution from Mr. Micevski and Mr. Radic, both well known authorities among the modelers from ex-Yugoslavia.
Apart from being thoroughly illustrated, with each painting and marking option thoroughly described, the booklet instruction contains short yet very useful historical information on the MiGs that served with the YAF. It also provides a modeler with some basic info and guidance on the YAF marking and coloring standards, which is a well-thought addition for people without previous knowledge or with limited interest in the YAF aircraft.
The mid-section of the booklet is dedicated to the ex-Iraqi MiG-21 SMT and MiG-23 ML that saw limited use with the YAF; the subjects are sufficiently exotic and strange to be considered for a slightly different build than the usual. The MiG-23, which is preserved at the Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum in Belgrade, is particularly interesting aircraft. If you intend to build it, however, take particular care of the stenciling, because the sources confirm that the smaller stencils were in English! Both the MiG-21 SMT and the MiG-23 ML had distinctive Iraqi AF three-color camouflage, but with the YAF markings applied.
The last part of the booklet is dedicated to several MiG-29s in the YAF. The 29s were ordered back in 1986 within the army modernization program intended for early ‘90s. Yugoslavia was the first European customer for 29s, and only the second in the world. The decals included in this set allow you to build either the YAF aircraft, or several Serbian MiG-29s, which served in the successor’s air force after the breakdown of Yugoslavia. You are also presented with the basic information on the aircraft operational data, as well as the general decal and color guide, with colors described in the FS standard numeration. This should be easily transposable if you are about to chose from a variety of available colors on the market, be it acrylic or enamel.
As it was noted earlier, this is a comprehensive decal set that allows you to choose from a 20 different YAF MiGs. The only downside of the set, if this can be properly argued, is the number of national roundels in this set, which limits your choices up to three aircrafts (two YAFs, and one from the successor’s air force). The good thing is that all of the serial and the unit code numbers are included on a separate decal sheet, which makes it possible to if you source out the roundels from different sets.
The choices are:
- MiG-21 f-13, L-12 (Fishbed-C), No. 22501/501, 204th Fighter Regiment, Batajnica, 1963;
- MiG-21 R, L-14i (Fishbed-J), No. 26111/111, 352nd Reconnaissance Squadron, Bihac, ‘70s;
- MiG-21 PFM, L-14 (Fishbed-F), No. 117th Fighter Regiment, Bihac, mid ‘70s;
- MiG-21 M (Fishbed-J), No. 22819/819, 83rd Fighter Regiment, Pristina, ‘80s;
- MiG-21 MF (Fishbed-J), No. 22867/867, 352nd Fighter Regiment, Bihac, ‘80s;
- MiG-21 bis-K (Fishbed-N), No. 17222/222, 204th Fighter Regiment, Batajnica, late ‘80s;
- MiG-21 bis-K (Fishbed-N), No. 17225, 204th Fighter Regiment, Batajnica, 1998;
- MiG-21 U (Mongol A), No. 22901/901, 204th Fighter Regiment, Batajnica, 1965;
- MiG-21 U (Mongol A), No. 22908/908, 117th Fighter Regiment, Bihac, ‘70s;
- MiG-21 US (Mongol B), No. 22956/956, 204th Fighter Regiment, Batajnica, 1971;
- MiG-21 UM (Mongol C), No. 16177/177, 117th Fighter Regiment, Bihac, late ‘80s;
- MiG-21 UM (Mongol C), No. 16158, 83rd Fighter Regiment, Pristina, 1996;
- MiG-21 SMT, No. 21168 (Fishbed-K), ex-Iraqi, Moma Stanojlovic Depot, 1992;
- MiG-21 SMT, No. 21204 (Fishbed-K), ex-Iraqi, Moma Stanojlovic Depot, 1994;
- MiG-23 ML (Flogger-G), ex-Iraqi, Moma Stanojlovic Depot, 1992;
- MiG-23 ML (Flogger-G), No. 23269, ex-Iraqi, Moma Stanojlovic Depot
- MiG-29 (Fulcrum-A), No. 18114/114, 127th Fighter Squadron /204th Fighter Regiment, Batajnica (shot down on March 26, 1999);
- MiG-29 (Fulcrum-A), No. 18107, 127th Fighter Squadron/204th Fighter Regiment, Batajnica (destroyed on ground, 1999);
- MiG-29 UB (Fulcrum-B), No. 18302/302, 127th Fighter Squadron/204th Fighter Regiment, Batajnica and
- MiG-29 UB (Fulcrum-B), No. 18301, 127th Fighter Squadron/204th Fighter Regiment, Batajnica.
With so many choices to be considered, this is one of the most comprehensive sets on the market dedicated exclusively to the YAF MiGs. The decals are printed by Propagteam, with almost nothing left to be desired. They are in perfect register, very sharp and with consistent colors, remarkably thin, and with a minimum of carrier film. The national roundels and several smaller decals come as multiparts, so patience and precision in handling is a prerequisite. Since the decals are very thin, the use of solvent is to be tested prior to application. For this I advise you to use the excess from one of the fin flag decals, because there will be just enough after you cut the required lengths.
Having in mind the growing family of Eduard’s MiGs in the quarterscale, it is nice to be reminded of the set that enable you to build a slightly different MiG than the usual. Apart from the associated nostalgia, this set is an opportunity not to be missed, because it tells a story about an air force that was once respected for its tradition and history. If this was blurred by the subsequent course of events, it is still sufficiently exotic and intriguing from a modeler’s perspective. These limited edition sets in popular scales from LiftHere! Decals may serve you well not only as an entry point into the world of the YAF MiGs, but will most surely take precedence over many other available choices.
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