Tuesday, July 24

Dry Fit Review: Andy Moore exams & dry-fits his 48th scale Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback from Kittyhawk.

Andy has already shown us what he thinks of the parts and pieces that come in the box of Kittyhawk's 48th scale Su-34 Fullback kit in his "In-boxed" review. Today he goes deeper & dry fits the parts, showing how they go together while looking at the kit build a lot more closely to better plan the build ahead. See what he thought in his "dry fit" review.


Dry Fit Review: Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback 
Manufacturer – Kitty Hawk 
Kit Number – KH80141 
Scale - 1/48 
Price -  ¥10,350 • US $97 • £73 • €83 from Hobbylink Japan 
Last time out, we had an initial rummage through the box of Kitty Hawk's new Su-34 Fullback and checked out the sprues, decals and marking options. Now in part two, we'll have a closer look at the parts, and do a quick dry-fit assembly.
Parts in Detail
The cockpit is nicely done, given that many of the details will be hard to see under the fixed canopy. The side and centre consoles look to be pretty accurate to the real thing. Single piece decals are provided for the consoles, but they'll definitely look better if painted.

Likewise, the main instrument panel looks to be a good match to the original, with very nice raised details. Again a single decal is provided, but paint will look so much better. Even with that large canopy, much of the instrument panel is effectively hidden from view, so I don't see any reason to go down the after-market coloured PE route here.

The two K-36 ejection seats look excellent, and are made up from no less than 19 each, and finished off with a set of photo-etched belts.
They build up into very respectable replicas of the originals, and to my mind are easily good enough for a model with a sealed cockpit. The only slight downside it the fiddly nature of the PE harness, something that both Gary and Bruce encountered with their respective Kitty Hawk Sukhoi builds.
The mould step I mentioned in part 1 of the review can be seen here behind the cockpit opening. It's not quite as prominent in person as it appears under the camera lights, but it will still need to be carefully removed and any lost panel lines and rivets reinstated. However, this is the only significant moulding issue I've come across. You can also see that some of the rivet detail varies in size in places. That effect can be hard to avoid when moulding parts with complex curves, and I don't think it should substantially affect the look of the finished model.
Flat areas, such as the vertical tail seen here, are far less prone to variances in surface detail. The panel lines and rivets look sharp in detail and are deep enough to hold a wash with looking overly prominent.
The two Saturn engines each come as three-part assemblies with a reasonable level of surface detail. For the most part, you won't see these at all, although there are some panels that can be cut away on the upper fuselage which will give you a small glimpse of the engines underneath.
The front and rear faces of the engines and the afterburner ring are well detailed and should be visible through the intakes and nozzles. Since these parts are mounted to either end of the engine assemblies, you're obliged to install the full engines whether you intend to show them under the cut-away panels or not.
These are the four sections that can be removed from the rear upper fuselage to show the engines. It's good that Kitty Hawk has moulded them in place, rather than having openings with separate panels, a route that can lead to unsightly gaps if the panel parts don't fit perfectly. All you need to do here is carefully cut the panels out using the scored line. KH have even added rivet detail the undersides of the panels.
On my copy, one of the scored grooves on the panels had cracked through to the upper side, leaving a noticeable gap. It should be repairable (I'm not intending to have the panels removed on my build) but it's something to be aware of if you get the chance to check inside the box before purchasing your own kit.
Kitty Hawk also gives you the option of showing the bay for the 30mm GSh-301 cannon, although in this case the opening in the fuselage is already in place and you'll need to cover this with a separate panel if you don't want to show the gun bay. This might have been a problem had the panel not been a good fit, but fortunately, it is. Oddly, although the cover panel is supplied on sprue D, there's no mention of fitting it in the instructions, which only shows the gun bay open.
The gun itself is reasonably detailed, but nothing spectacular. The bay it sits in is simply an open box with no additional internal detail.
The wheels feature some very nice sidewall detail, and should look great after a light dry-brush. The only addition I'd like to have seen would be a pressure bulge and flat spot, but I guess you can't have everything. No doubt aftermarket options with that feature will be available before long.
While we're dealing with the wheels, the forward gear FOD guard is also a neat little one-part moulding. It's not a 100% perfect match to the original, and will probably benefit from a little extra detailing, but it's going to be much easier than dealing with a fiddly photo etch assembly. It should be a simple job to paint this, then drop it into place over the front wheels once they too are painted.
The front half of the intakes are essentially single-part mouldings, that only require a separate roof panel to be added. Like the forward fuselage, these have a mould separation line that will need removing, although in this case it's far less prominent and should be easily removed with a sanding stick.
There are a few ejector pin marks on the inside floor of the intake, but this area is very hard to see from any reasonable viewing angle so I don't see any necessity to fill them.
Kitty Hawk has included a separate in-flight refuelling probe but, strangely, it's only designed to be fitted in its deployed position; there's no optional part for a retracted probe. I'm assuming it will be possible to cut off the extended section of pipe and fit the nozzle flush in its fuselage recess. Still, a slightly odd omission by KH to not include a retracted option.
The radar looks to be a nice representation of the Leninets V004 unit fitted to the Fullback. Unfortunately, there's no real way of displaying it short of simply leaving the nose cone off, although I have no idea if the Fullback has a hinged radome, so the kit may well be correct in that regard.
I'm not going to show all the weapons included, as there's simply too many, but the photos below will give you some idea of how well they've been rendered.

Accuracy
I don't want to get bogged down in interminable discussions on accuracy or rivet counting, but there are a couple of areas I'll point so you can get a better idea of what to expect from the kit. I should point out first though that I have no more than a general knowledge of the aircraft, and I'm far from an expert. As such, some of these observations will be incorrect.

Firstly, the tail stinger; Kitty Hawk have included cutouts for the APU vents, three in total. The large vent on the left side of the tail, a smaller one on the right, and the third on the underside. These vents appear on some airframes, but not all, and no blanking panels are provided as an option.

Two of the aircraft offered in the marking options (Red 02 and Red 03) would appear not to have the vents, at least in the photos I've seen. I guess it's possible that they could have been upgraded at some point though.
The photo below shows Red 24 which has the large left-side vent, but not the right-hand vent. I believe that this arrangement matches the other marking option in the kit, Red 22. The photo also shows the metal exhaust flap on the tip of the stinger. This isn't represented on the kit part at all.
As such it may not be possible to build the three operational schemes included in the kit with absolute accuracy.

A further point is the wing tips. KH has supplied a choice of two fillet pieces, either straight or curved, to form the outer leading edge of the wings.
The two wingtip styles can be seen in the photo below. As I understand it, the curved tip is added to aircraft fitted with the wingtip ECM pod, while the straight tip is on aircraft with missile rails. Unfortunately, KH hasn't included the ECM pods, only the regular straight rails so, as such, the inclusion of the curved tips seems a little redundant. Having said that, I'm sure it won't be long before we see the pods released by an aftermarket company.

Dry Fit
Setting those issues aside, the rest of the kit looks to be a good match for the real aircraft. It's always hard to tell by just looking at parts though, so I've done a quick dry-fit of the main components so you can get a better idea of how the built-up model will look.

The two fuselage halves fit very well and seam clean-up should be minimal, especially as the only exposed joints are the front of the cockpit section, the wing roots and the very back of the engine housings. The other joints are subsequently covered by the wings and vertical tails.
The nose cone lines up well with the forward fuselage and shouldn't leave any steps. The connection between the cone and fuselage is simply a butt joint with no aligning pins or tabs, and the mating surfaces are quite thin. Once the radar is fitted though, it should make for a more positive connection.
The join between the tail stinger and rear fuselage looks a little gappy here. There's a fillet extending from the rear of the lower fuselage onto which the stinger attaches, and that fillet is slightly bent downwards on my example which is causing the gap on the upper side. Once everything is glued though, the gap should close up without problems.
The join on that lower fillet piece is fine for the most part, setting aside its slight downward warp, but it does seem to leave a small gap on either side where the front of the stinger meets the back of the fuselage. Not a huge problem and the gaps should plug okay with a couple of pieces of styrene.
The wing joint is a conventional type with a couple of tabs sliding into slots on the fuselage. Although the resulting seam looks fine, I would have preferred a more substantial connection, maybe with a single large tab on the fuselage side, sliding into a slot in the wing.
By contrast, the vertical tails have very large connection areas, with the lower edge of the tail forming the side of the fuselage. This not only makes the tails easy to fit and keep vertical; it also hides the join between the fuselage halves.
The single-piece canopy is an excellent fit, with no steps or misalignment at any point.
Put all that together and this is what you'll get. I'm not going to comment on overall shape as that is so open to interpretation, especially on aircraft with complex and subtle curves such as the Su-34. Suffice to say, it looks like the Fullback to me. I'll leave you to draw you're own conclusions from the photos below. Note; the forward canards aren't fitted here.
Unsurprisingly, the finished thing is pretty sizeable, with the main fuselage coming in at just over 48cm (19 inches) in length. Once the pitot tube is added that will go up to around 51cm (20 ½ inches). You'll certainly need to clear a bit of shelf space for this one.
From a construction point of view, everything looks like it should go together without any real issues. Thankfully, the multi-part fuselage assemblies seen on previous Kitty Hawk releases are absent here, and the general design of the kit looks to be well thought out. The potential accuracy issues with the tail stinger and the lack of the ECM pods are a little disappointing, but I don't think that will be enough to spoil what in general looks like an excellent kit. We'll find out for sure when the build proper gets underway.

Andy Moore

Thank you to Kittyhawk for sending this kit to Andy - Stay tuned as he starts to build it, and hopefully make an even better kit from this new model than his last Fullback kit - we will see how he goes...

Appendix - Instructions: