by: Sean Langley [ ]
Originally published on:
The kit depicts an early single-seat Flanker – the Su-27S, with the IRST mounted dead-centre. You get, in one bag:
• a fuselage split horizontally that extends from nose to tail and outwards as far as the wing roots, with the engine tunnels built in, but not the intakes. The fuselage halves are already off the sprue, although the ends of the runners are still attached. (This is good – I prefer to clean up my own sprue gates, at leisure, rather than relying on a harassed production line worker.)
• a large sprue with the wings, tail surfaces and all the other details.
• two copies of an armament sprue with a total of:
• eight R-27 (AA-10 in old money)
• six R-73 (AA-11)
• four R-77 (AA-12)
• four wingtip Sorbtsiya ECM pods
This is clearly more than even a Flanker can carry at once so the scope for options is wide. (The instructions are a little confusing here – they depict only two types of missile but the labels make it clear that all three are covered.) You also get all the necessary pylons and launch rails, including wingtip ones as alternatives to the pods.
• a smaller sprue carrying three parts for the walls of each of the intakes.
You also get, loose in the box, a small clear sprue for the cockpit glazing. The IRST head is integral with the windscreen part. In all cases the part numbers are on the instructions but not on the sprues.
Quality is quite good on first impressions, but variable. All parts have finely engraved panel lines. Oddly, though, areas that you’d expect to be more pronounced – the intake spill doors and the gun vents – are shallower than the panel lines. A bit of scribing might be in order here. The wheel wells have just about no detail.
There are many delicately moulded parts. Some aren’t all that fine – for instance the pitots around the nose – but they’re not too bad considering the limitations of the scale. Sink marks are few and should be fairly easy to deal with. There is, though, quite a lot of flash in odd places, especially the fuselage halves. There are also a few seam lines but as a rule they’re easily dealt with.
The cockpit is a serious disappointment. The seat is pretty good – three parts, with cushion detail and belts moulded in – but that’s where it ends. There are no instrument details, not even decals, and a fairly unconvincing control column. I suppose you have to leave the canopy closed and hope the distortion hides the lack.
By contrast, the armament stands out as very good. The larger missiles have fins to the sides and you add the rest. All taper quite well in thickness and the actuator fairings at the roots are well represented. The major compromise is that the tail surfaces of the R-77s are plain plastic. On balance, I think this is as sensible an approach as any. To represent the characteristic box-frame in plastic would be impossible except as a suggestion in the surface, which would be no more convincing, and this kit is clearly intended not to rely on etch and the like. However, as the tail surfaces are moulded flat, it would have been nice to have an exhaust, even though that would have made them slightly better than the other two missile types. For all three you appear to get only one variant of each, so mixed-guidance weapon loads will require a bit more work.
The instructions are short and peculiar. The illustrations seem to be photocopies of computer-generated artwork, with assembly arrows added afterwards. Still, they’re well enough printed that everything is clear. Slightly more space is given over to the painting and markings for the four options.
Assembly is fairly conventional for a fighter of such a complex shape. You put the cockpit together and sit it over the nosewheel well before closing up the fuselage, then add the major surfaces, then the intakes and the external details. There are plenty of those, though not quite all – antennae, jacks, probes, doors etc – and they’re pretty good (except for the inside of the airbrake). I’d be tempted to install the intakes before the wings, not after, as that will make getting at them a lot easier. Each requires you to assemble four parts (the fourth is the inner ramp) and you’ll need the space to set up the parts and then correct for the fit problems – of which more later.
Each engine exhaust has four parts that should assemble to a good replica of the original. The undercarriage parts are good and the nosegear leg in particular gives all the complex details, although the mudguard hasn’t as many holes as it should (but it is at least separate) . It’s a shame that this isn’t carried through into the wells. Very oddly, the main wheels aren’t perforated – they butt-join to the ends of the legs. Improving this is an absolute must.
Fit is generally not very good. The fuselage halves are tricky to line up (especially if you want the panel lines to match) and my copy had several awkward gaps at the radome end. This wasn’t because it was warped (although it was, slightly); it was because the mating surfaces of both halves were uneven, leaving that will need filling. Also, the extreme radome tips have different profiles and one is slightly further back than the other. This may not matter, though, as you’ll have to shave off the end to fit the air data probe. I suspect the nose profile is actually more accurate for an Su-27M (Su-35) – it seems too shallow and too long to be the original, and in coming to a point it matches the later aircraft’s nose, which has no air data probe at the tip. The rest of the fuselage, though, is engineered for an original Su-27S, with no provision for canards, and there are no obvious joint lines that would indicate whether the moulds include interchangeable nose sections. So whether there are other variants in the pipeline is anyone’s guess.
The wings have no locating pins but this should be OK, as they sit on little shelves where the lower fuselage half extends further out than the upper. There are, however, quite large gaps along the roots. This seems to be down to a classic old problem: the ends of the parts are slightly bevelled, presumably to aid mould release, so they don’t meet all the way across the joint. Even odder is the tailplane attachment. You get no help at all – the tailplane butt-joins to the side of the tail boom, and as it includes the end of the boom itself, you have two problems. One, there’s no chance of posing it in anything but a neutral position; and two, the panel line representing the edge of the moving surface isn’t actually the joint, so you have to fill the joint completely without losing the definition. You’re also advised to cut off the tailplane actuator at the base of the rudder, and then reattach it in that same position. I really have no idea why.
The intakes consist of an outboard wall plus floor, an inboard wall, and a roof, along with the inner ramp. The roof fits OK between the other two but, while they mainly touch where they meet, there’s a gap near the bottom lip. Worse, while the inboard wall matches the profile of the engine tunnel, the outboard one doesn’t. Hence my warning about leaving yourself plenty of working room, and using it, before attaching the wings. Of course, as they have their own fit problems ... There’s no compressor detail but, as the inner ramp masks it, that’s not a problem. The ramp has a suggestion of texture to represent the FOD grille. Unlike the missile fins, this could have done with being a bit stronger defined, as the intakes aren’t dark enough to conceal it.
Decals are provided for four aircraft in varying colour schemes of blue, light blue and blue-grey:
• 54th Guards Flight Regiment, Savasleyka, Russia 1998 (large patches of camouflage colours with a large badge and Russian stripes on one tail fin)
• 941st PVO Flight Regiment, Kilp-Yavr, Russia 1999 (smaller patches and a smaller Russian chevron on one fin)
• 689th Guards Fighter Regiment, Chkalovsk, Russia 2003 (small feather-edged patches, with a cobra on one fin and what must therefore be a snake-mouth)
• 831st Fighter Regiment, Mirgorod, Ukraine 2005 (splinter camouflage)
The decals are well printed and very thin, with little carrier film. The yellow is slightly off-register but this only really shows up in the Ukrainian markings. A wide array of stencils is included but most aren’t described on the instructions.
ConclusionA disappointing kit, really. It’s nearly twenty years newer than the Airfix/Heller and Hasegawa versions but doesn’t seem it. Surface detail is on a par with Hasegawa’s and better than Airfix’s and most of the engineering is sensible. But the fit problems, and some questionable decisions like the tailplanes, let it down. Having said that, though, a reasonably accurate early Flanker can be produced from this kit with only moderate effort and the application of some basic fill-and-sand techniques. It also has to be said that this kit is keenly priced compared with the Hasegawa offering and, thanks to the armament, is better value than the Airfix one.
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