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Saab's First Fighter

1:72 Saab J21 is Another Old Gem From Heller

n by Mark Davies

The Saab J21 first flew in July 1943. It was powered initially by a German-sourced and later Swedish-built version of the Daimler-Benz DB605B, and used a laminar flow wing. It had an ejector seat, being one of the first aircraft to be so equipped (in fact probably the first with a seat proven to work).

After overcoming some cooling difficulties it proved to be an adequate but not overly manoeuvrable fighter. However, as a very stable gun platform it proved ideal for low-level attacks, especially when armed with eight 15 cm rockets. It was subsequently developed into the Saab 21R, Sweden’s first jet fighter. In all 302 J21’s were delivered, some remaining in service until 1954 when they were replaced in the attack role by the J 28B Vampire.

Another old gem from Heller!

I am a fan of old Heller kits and I also appreciate that they tend to cover European subjects other kit manufacturers ignore. My build came about as a result of a few beers with two of my modelling mates whilst looking through my collection of unbuilt kits. We were looking for something we all had in common that could be built easily within a month. After a few more beers we settled on the J21. I recommend this as an ideal way of selecting kits to build, and avoiding too much seriousness and Advanced Modeller Syndrome.

The Heller kit is a delight to build with very few problems. Fit is very good.  Clear parts are molded thin and clean, but the three part canopy proved to be the only tricky bit.

I don’t mind raised panel detail, and often think it looks a bit better in 1:72 than overly uniform engraved “cracks” that are so popular these days. In my model’s case I reduced the details with light sanding, and replaced lost lines over sanded seams with thin stretched sprue.

I referred to IPMS Stockholm’s J21 article walkaround, and as a result I made a number of changes and refinements. These included replacement exhausts from the spares box, a scratch-built boarding ladder, carburettor intake and bomb rack, landing lights in the booms, replacement guns, aerial and pitot.

I also added seat belts, throttle and gun sight to the cockpit, hollowed out the gap between the nose-wheel and leg, and added lightening holes to the undercarriage doors.

I recommend this kit to anyone who wants an attractive and different looking aircraft I their collection. My next challenge is to build the jet-powered Saab 21R. I have a rather crude resin conversion by an unknown manufacturer; although I think I will scratch build most of what I need.


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