Academy 1/48 Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker B

Kit #2131                    MSRP $49.00                  $44.10 from Squadron Mail Order
Images and text Copyright © 2010 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
       The Sukhoi Su-27 was designed specifically to combat the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle which first entered service in 1976. The F-15 design program actually began in 1967 and the Russians were aware of it by 1969 and issued a requirement for an Advanced Frontline Fighter. The Russian specification were highly ambiguous requiring at least Mach 2+ performance and the ability to operate from austere runways, to have heavy armament and high agility. As the F-15 program developed and the Russians learned more specifics of the aircraft their program saw continued modification to combat the American fighter’s capabilities. The Su-27 did not begin to enter service until 1984 and not in any serious strength until 1986. The aircraft has some physical similarities to the MiG-29 but is much larger. Combat systems and flight characteristics are impressive and volumes could be written on these aspects by themselves. The most notable difference though is in operational philosophy, the Su-27 does not provide the pilot with a high degree of autonomy that is given to the F-15 pilot. In an eyes-on combat situation the two aircraft are probably very well matched however the F-15 gains a serious advantage in the beyond visual range arena. While a beautiful aircraft that simply looks deadly the 'tractor' philosophy of the design is still in there where the F-15 is more of a muscle sports car.
        Power to weight ratio gives the Flanker boatloads of performance allowing short take-off rolls and rapid climb to altitude performance. It also gives the aircraft the ability to virtually hover in mid-air. The intakes feature drop down screens to prevent FOD ingestion and these lift out of the way around 110 knots and then the power really starts to pile on. The cockpit does not have the ergonomics found in the F-15 and gives the impression of knobs and switches being somewhat haphazardly scattered about. The large headrest impedes the pilots’ ability to check his six and the rear view mirrors are not much help plus tend to impede forward visibility. In a neutral head on pass the Flanker had the advantage due to the pilot’s HMS and the AA-11 IR missiles however the F-15’s Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System and the AIM-9X has pulled the advantage back to the American’s side. A formidable looking aircraft with amazing flight capabilities the Flanker is one of Russians premier multirole aircraft.

The Kit
       My initial impression when handling the box this beast comes in is “boy, this mother is big!” The box itself is very sturdy with brilliant artwork. Once inside the upper and lower fuselage halves are wire tied to a cardboard insert placed overtop the other parts trees ensuring no shipping damage to the main viewable surfaces. Lifting this insert allows access to the rest of the goodies. Here we have four large trees of parts individually bagged along with a single small sprue of clear parts. Tossed in with the plastic parts are three poly tires and a very small fret of photo etched FOD screens. All of the plastic parts are done in a medium to dark gray plastic that has almost a bluish tint to it. The parts all look nice with no noticeable flash, sink holes or injector pin markings.
       The upper and lower fuselage halves fit together very nicely, in fact all the pieces seem to fit together well with no misalignment issues. We get a full compliment of under-wing stores along with separately molded flight control surfaces for the wings and rudders. The cockpit area features very light raised detail and appears to suffer from some scale issues. The cockpit is most definitely shallow; the kit provided seat lacks the finer details I would have expected such as seatbelts or the prominent center harness pieces. The ejection handles are large and heavily molded. The instrument panel is too narrow which is probably a result of scaling the material to conform to the thickness of the plastic fuselage walls. If you are not overly familiar with how the cockpit should look then these deficiencies may not be terribly noticeable. In addition to the cockpit issues the nose is too fat taking away some of the sharp profile this bird should have. The burner cans while not terrible are not especially great either, like the cockpit they lack the finer details I would have expected to see.
       The kit provided clear parts initially look pretty good displaying good clarity and thin casting. Upon close inspection a mold separation seam is found running right down the middle of the main canopy – come on guys, you could not find a way around that??? Needless to say, this was a very disappointing find. Overall the kit contains twelve clear parts, three vinyl tires and thirteen photo etched pieces. In the blue/gray injection molded plastic we have one hundred forty nine pieces on four trees along with two individually packaged fuselage sections for a total of one hundred seventy nine pieces in the box.

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Decals and Instructions
        The kit instructions consist of eight A-4 panels in fold-out format. Panel one contains a basic background on the aircraft which is followed by five panels of exploded view assembly steps. The exploded views include some rudimentary color call-outs but nothing real specific so references are going to be crucial here. One panel covers exterior painting patterns and decal placement and the last panel has a complete parts map and a paint chart however the colors are only listed by name, no FS numbers or manufacture code numbers.
        The decal sheet offers markings for a single aircraft, the one shown on the box cover with a big blue shark down one side of it. The decals have good color density and print registry looks to be on the mark. The sheet includes basic service stencils and warning markings. I have not had a chance yet to use any current Academy decals so cannot comment on their reactions to setting solutions or solvents. From examining the sheet they do not appear to be excessively thick so may conform well to the model surface.

        Okay, so let’s see what we can make of this bird. To begin with we need some upgrade packages to take care of some of the errors existing on this kit. Here’s the list of aftermarket parts we’ll be working with on this build, you may click on the links for images of the parts:

        Aires AHM4264 Su-27 Flanker B exhaust nozzles
        Eduard EDU48171 Su-27UB Detail
        Quick Boost QUB48116 Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker B Correct Nose
        Quick Boost QUB48125 Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker B Pitot Tubes
        Verlinden VPI0636 Soviet K-36 Ejection Seats

        The Eduard set is not specifically designed for this kit so some modification is required like the instrument panel needs to be trimmed down a bit to fit inside the canopy and the cockpit side panels need to be trimmed to fit the available space. In addition to basic cockpit upgrades this set also includes details to improve the kit seat – something the kit desperately needs. Now I also have these really nice looking Verlinden ejection seats that, while not 100% perfect do offer an opportunity to improve the interior. What to do? I think I just need to build both seats and see what happens.

        The Verlinden seat while very nice looking is too tall for the cockpit – it will not allow the canopy to close so the headrest needed to be cut off, the extension brackets were cut off and the top reattached. Even so the base needed careful trimming before the canopy would close and this is of the utmost importance as this will be built all buttoned up. The Verlinden seat is also just a little narrow compared to the kit seat. Now the kit seat appear short and squat and based on comparison measurements of the cockpit is indeed just that. The Eduard PE parts really help to dress it up but are very difficult to place properly. They have various harness belts that need to be bend and woven together and the instructions leave a lot to be desired. Ultimately two seats are completed for consideration.

        After some thought it was decided to use the Verlinden seat. Moving right along, the cockpit gets dressed up with the Eduard detail pieces which takes a bit of work as this set is really intended for the two seater version and none of the side panels or instrument panels fit properly. After a week of fiddling around and trimming pieces a good fit was achieved and the seat was installed. I used the kit gunsight as it looked closest to the real thing based on actual pictures of the aircraft I am modeling. The Eduard set looks cool but is totally incorrect for this version.
        From here things move along very quickly, this bird is being built clean and slick – no underwing pylons will be installed and no external armament will be loaded – she is a demonstration aircraft only. This makes life a little easier as I don’t have to jerk around with all the underwing stuff. The new nose is a close fit with some thin layers of putty needed along the lower seam. The aft end of the fuselage is basically a crappy fit and required lots of plastic shaved off followed by a goodly layer of auto body glazing compound. Pitot tube and the final burner can pieces will be installed at the conclusion of the build.

        The next challenge for me is the heat stressed engines. I have never created this effect before but have studied many pictures of other models along with plenty of actual aircraft reference material. I think I am ready to try this. I begin the process by giving the engine area a quick wipe with a paper towel dampened with airbrush cleaner then laying down a good coat of Alclad Steel. This is given several days to cure before the next color application. There is a large square-like set of panels on top of the engine area that gets masked off and treated with Alclad pale burnt metal. This is applied to the inner areas of the panels only to create a panel-fade effect. The masks are removed and the model cures for a week. Now the pale burnt metal area is masked off. Along the trailing most edge of the engines I lay down a light coat of Life Tone Blue Pearlescent lacquer paint. This may be something new for many of you and can be found at fine Taxidermists shops – they use it for plaque mounting fish. For me it creates a faint blue tint is some areas. Now I apply Alclad aluminum in a panel fade method to the rest of the engine and to a few service ports around the aft area of the craft. This is going to cure for a week before getting masked off.

        Lots of masking happens next, the engine intakes, wheel wells, painted areas of the engines and outer canopy (which has been painted flat black) all are masked off. The lower surfaces of the model are done with Soviet Light Gray and allowed to cure. The nose cone gets masked and the upper areas are done with Soviet Medium Gray. Once again the model is given a week to cure before the real masking work begins as this bird will be wearing a splinter camouflage scheme.

       The splinter scheme is done in several small steps beginning with the white. I mask off a couple fuselage sections with thin strips of tape then cover the remaining exposed areas with larger pieces of tape to prevent over-spray contamination. Once these areas are shot the tape is removed and the model is allowed to cure for a couple days before the next sections are masked. The white is done over about a two week period covering the top and bottom of the model. The next color presents a bit of a challenge as the aircraft images look black but when compared against the canopy they are clearly a very dark gray. I cannot find an official Soviet color that matches this however the White Ensign Models Schnellbootgrau appears to do the job just fine. So now the entire masking adventure is repeated for the dark gray. What follows are a series of images of the model progressing through these steps.

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        Over the next several weeks, section by section, the model was masked off and each panel painted. Each layer of paint needed a week of cure time before the next series of masking could be applied and then another layer of paint. Finally though the entire upper and lower surfaces were done and the main masks could be removed. The landing gear is attached along with the gear doors and a few minor areas are touched up. The last piece placed was the resin Quick Boost Pitot Tube. At long last this bird is ready for some Future to seal things for decals and wash.

       From this point the finishing process is pretty standard other than the scale of the project – this thing is big! Obviously the first thing is to seal the model with Future floor polish cut with isopropyl alcohol. Once dry the decals are applied but rather than use standard setting solutions each decal is dipped in Future once it slides freely on the paper then are placed on the model. Doing this completely eliminates the concerns for silvering and ensures they snuggle down perfectly to the surface. Once decals are complete and dry a standard sludge wash is applied working the model over by sections until complete. This took nearly a week of modeling sessions to finish. Lastly the model is sealed with a coat of Micro-Flat dull coat which leaves a bit of a satin finish. The last of the masks are removed and this baby is ready to head to its new home out on the West Coast.

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