Thursday, July 19

In-Boxed: Andy checks out Kittyhawk's 48th scale Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback

The arrival of this model in the post has been a bit of a reunion for Andy Moore - who today examines Kittyhawk's new 48th scale Su-35 Fullback kit. See why he has been looking forward to seeing the kit, and what he thinks before he starts to make the kit in his inbox review...

In-Boxed: Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback 
Manufacturer – Kitty Hawk 
Kit Number – KH80141 
Scale - 1/48 
Price -  ¥10,350 • US $97 • £73 • €83 from Hobbylink Japan 

When Kitty Hawk fist announced that they were developing a kit of the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback strike bomber, it caused quite a lot of interest, being as a subject that many modellers have been eager to see released. We've had to wait quite a while for it to arrive, and in the meantime, we've seen a rival offering released by Hobbyboss. But now Kitty Hawk's version is at long last hitting hobby store shelves, so we can finally see if the extra time they took tweaking the details has paid off. 
The Sukhoi Su-34, or Fullback to give it it's NATO reporting name, is a two-seat all-weather strike fighter and front-line bomber developed from the mighty Su-27 Flanker. 
First developed in the early '90's as a replacement for the Su-24 Fencer, the prototypes underwent flight tests and made appearances at various airshows through the '90's, but the severe budget restrictions in post-Soviet Russia meant it would be the mid-2000's before the Fullback finally when into serial production. 
Much of the Fullback's design is close to that of it's older cousin, the Su-27 Flanker, but it's the forward fuselage that differs most radically. In place of the single seat or tandem cockpits of the Flanker, the Su-34 features a spacious cockpit with side-by-side seating for the two pilots, under a large fixed canopy. Ahead of the cockpit, the nose has a flattened profile, giving the aircraft a unique look and leading to its Platypus nickname. 
Due to the huge size of the aircraft (longer than an Avro Lancaster), and the power from it's two Saturn AL-31 engines, the Fullback can carry a formidable weapons load at speeds up to Mach 1.8. Up to 12,000 kilos of missiles and bombs can be carries across the Su-34's 10 hardpoints, including the latest precision-guided weapons in Russia's arsenal. The aircraft's capabilities have already been put to the test, with several Su-34's taking part in Russia's operations in Syria. 
A little personal backstory 
Before we jump into the box, I'll tell you a little story about my relationship with this aircraft, at least in model form. When I was a kid, back in the '80's, I was building kits all the time, but as I got older other things, as is often the case, started to take over my free time (read alcohol and girls). Time passed and, although I'd bought the occasional modelling magazine from time to time, I hadn't built a kit in over 20 years. Then, in 2012, I was watching a documentary on Russian aircraft and on came the Fullback. It's a design I've always loved since the first time I saw it in the mid-'90's, mainly due to its distinct looks together with my general liking for anything with a red star on it. The thought suddenly entered my head that it would be really cool to make a model of one, although I had no idea if one was even available. After a quick search online I found the old 1/72 Italeri kit and, without giving much thought as to what I was getting into, ordered it together with a handful of paints and a cheap airbrush. At the time, I had no real plans to get back into modelling in a serious way, but as it turned out I've never stopped since. So, without that old Italeri Fullback, I wouldn't be writing this review today, or indeed any of the others I've done in the past. That kit's certainly got a lot to answer for. 
The Kit 
Okay, back to business. The kit comes in a large, but not over-large, box. You certainly shouldn't have any problems finding space for it in your stash. Under the attractive artwork on the top, you'll find a sturdy box full to the brim with parts. Eleven sprues moulded in a light grey styrene plus a further one in clear. The main upper and lower hull come individually packaged and free from any runners, only requiring a few remnants of the moulding gates to be removed. Beyond the plastic parts, there are two pairs of resin jet exhausts, giving you a choice of either open or closed nozzles. Finally, you'll find a medium-sized photo etch sheet, three separate decal sheets and the instruction manual. 
You certainly get plenty for your money, with over 400 parts going into the aircraft, and that's not including the six sprues dedicated to the weapons. Add those parts in and you can probably double that number, although you obviously won't be using anywhere close to all the weapons that are included. The quality of the moulding is excellent throughout, with only tiny amounts of flash to be found on some of the more complex parts. Panel lines and rivets are clean and even. Maybe slightly underdone in some areas, although that's probably preferable to being overdone. We'll go through some of the parts in more detail later, but first a quick run through of the sprues. 

Sprue B 
No sprue A, which is probably assigned to the fuselage parts, so we begin with B. Here you'll find the main wing sections, together with parts for the landing gear. Kitty Hawk has gone down the road of having separate wings, rather than integrating them with the fuselage, as other manufacturers often do with this styles of blended wing aircraft. Hopefully, this won't be an issue during assembly. They have at least set the lower wing section inboard from the leading and trailing edges, so there's no awkward seam to clean. Having said that, there's very little leading and trailing edge anyway, as you're provided with separate full-width slats and flaperons, which are also on this sprue. 
Sprue C 
Here we've got the vertical tails and horizontal stabilisers, the two halves of the stinger tail, cockpit parts, radar and nose cone. The tails are single-part mouldings apart from the lower inside panel. Having that panel separate means the small intakes on the front edge of the tails and the shroud at the back covering the stabiliser hinges can be moulded open. The nose cone has that annoying trait, shared by so many kit manufacturers, of being moulded vertically, then twisted over on the sprue which can often cause damage to the part, Fortunately here, the gates are on the end of the cone, and twisting the part over hasn't caused any issues. 
Sprue D 
Quite a few parts on here including several small and delicate ones, so be careful when handling it. The main parts here are the two intake tunnels. These each have a separate roof panel to add, but are otherwise single pieces, which should minimise seam clean-up. You'll also find the landing gear doors on here, together with the main instrument panel. 
Sprue E (x2) & F (x2) 
E and F come joined together, so we'll look at them as one. Here you'll find the remainder of the detail parts for the aircraft, including the engines, wheels, ejection seats and the forward canards. 
Weapon Sprues 1, 2 & 3 (x2 of each) 
You are supplied with three different weapons sprues, with two copies of each of those, so six sprues in total. As far as I can tell, these are the same sprues that Kitty Hawk have included with previous releases of Russian aircraft in this scale, and as such, not all the weapons may be applicable for the Su-34. There's plenty of choices though, with around 45 different munitions. 
Sprue GP 
The clear sprue is mainly taken up with the large canopy piece, but you'll also find the HUD screens and landing lights. 
The level of clarity on the canopy is excellent, with no distortions to hamper visibility into the cockpit. 
Upper and Lower Fuselage 
The fuselage halves are almost full length, with only the nose cone and stinger to add at the front and rear respectively. The moulding quality is very good, with fine panel lines and rivet detail. There are however a couple of areas where a slight step has been left by the sections of the slide mould used to form the parts. Not a huge deal, but it will need scraping/sanding back, which will probably also entail a little re-scribing of panel lines. 
Resin Exhausts 
It's a very nice touch by Kitty Hawk to include the nozzles in resin form, and also to provide the option of either open or closed versions. These come in their own little container for added protection; another nice touch from KH. 
The detail on the nozzles is very good. Maybe not up to the levels you'd see from some aftermarket suppliers, but they're a good match for the originals all the same. Note that the tabs on the back of the nozzles aren't casting blocks. They're intentional, and are designed to align the nozzles with the back of the engine, so don't trim them off. 
Photo Etch 
The PE sheet isn't huge by any means, but it supplies a nice assortment of details. You'll find the seat harnesses, the vents and chaff/flare dispenser for the stinger tail and panel details for the intake tunnels. 
Decals 
No less than three sheets of decals are included, the largest of which is purely for the weapons. The mid-size sheet holds the markings for the aircraft itself, while the smallest sheet supplies the instrument panels and emblems for two of the schemes. The printing looks to be fine, with opaque colours and good registry. The instrument panel decals suffer from that trait so common with modern jet kits; having the display screen lit up. Fine for an aircraft in flight, but not really appropriate for one on the ground. The instruments will look better painted anyway, so not a big deal. 
Instructions 
The assembly manual comes in a stapled A4 booklet, which also incorporates the painting guides for the aircraft and weapons. These come in fold-out sections in the centre and back of the booklet, and it's probably best to remove them for easier reference when you get to the painting stages. 
The build of the aircraft itself is covered in 26 steps, using clear line drawings, but that only takes you halfway through the manual. The second half of the booklet is dedicated to assembling the weapons, although it's unlikely you'll be building them all. 
At the back of the manual, you'll find a guide showing which hardpoints each bomb and missile should be mounted to. Unfortunately, what they don't tell you is what combination of weapons the aircraft would carry. You'll need to check online photos or other references to see what an appropriate load would be. 
Markings 
Fullbacks don't feature a great variety of marking schemes. You've got the choice of the older 3-tone blue/green camo or the more recent dark grey over blue finish. Despite that, Kitty Hawk have still managed to give you a choice of four schemes; two in the blue camo (Red 02 and Red 03), both of which carry nose (or at least cabin) art, one in dark grey (Red 22) and a final option in a factory yellow primer. 4-view illustrations are included for each scheme with paint references from the Gunze Mr Color range, although for certain shades you only get an FS number. 
We'll leave part 1 of the review there. In the next part, we'll have a closer look at the parts, cover some accuracy issues and finish off with a dry fit build of the main components. 

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...