Monday, January 14

Construction Guide Pt.I: Kitty Hawk 1/48th scale Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback

Andy Moore has started off his 2019 projects with a build guide of Kittyhawk's 48th scale Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback. This aircraft has seen recent service over Syria so it is in the eye of the public and the mind of modellers worldwide. See how he makes his in part I of his construction guide.

Construction Guide Pt.I: Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback
Manufacturer – Kitty Hawk
Kit Number – KH80141Scale - 1/48th
Price -  ¥10,350 • US $99 • £78 • €87 from Hobbylink Japan
It's been quite a while since we rummaged through the box of Kitty Hawk's new Su-34 Fullback, and it's high time we got the build underway. Before we started on the assembly though, we've got a quick update to the in-box review. After the initial review, Kitty Hawk updated the original base kit to include some additional resin accessories, and they've kindly sent them out for us to take a look at. The current release of the kit should come with these accessories as standard.
The new resin set includes three figures and a set of wingtip ECM pods, along with the two pairs of engine nozzles that came with the original release, all of which come in a sealed plastic tray. Starting with the nozzles, these are a straight re-package of the resin nozzles seen in the initial in-box review. You get a choice of open and closed versions, both of which are equally well detailed.
The second inclusion in the set is far more welcome, being the wingtip ECM pods that are carried by at least one of the aircraft included in the kit's marking options. Their absence from the original kit was a little disappointing, so it's great to see them included now. As with the nozzles, the detailing looks clear and sharp, and they should attach straight to the wingtips in place of the missile rails without the need for any modification.

(Note; as I've got the original release of the kit that didn't include these additional parts, I don't know if the instructions have been updated to cover the ECM pods and figures)
The final parts in the set are three figures consisting of two ground crew and a single pilot. The two ground crew figures are dressed in shorts and sun hats very reminiscent of the gear worn by Russian crews operating in Syria where, of course, the Fullback has seen action. 
The pilot is wearing a flight suit and helmet with the visor down. He's posed in the act of climbing the boarding ladder, which on the Fullback is attached to the nose gear leg. All three figures have very good sculpts, with animated and natural-looking poses.

The Build
Okay, with that in-box update out of the way, let's get on to the build itself. Unusually for an aircraft kit, the construction begins with the engines. Each is built up from three longitudinal segments which combine to form the full engine casing. Cleaning up the seams would probably prove to be a little tricky, as they cut across a lot of moulded detail. However, since you'll never really see the engines on the finished build, I left mine as is.
Now, if you've had any previous experience of Kitty Hawk models, you'll know that the instruction manuals can often have errors, and this kit is no exception. The first of these (and certainly not the last) cropped up in the next step of the engine assembly. With the main engine parts together, you're next told to add the turbine blade insert to the back of the unit. The problem is the insert is actually designed to fit into a recessed groove moulded on the insides of the engine segments. It's impossible to mount the insert once the engine is built up.
Fortunately, the cement hadn't fully set on my engines, and I was able to prise apart the segments to enable the insert to be installed. Even then I had to file down the edges of the insert before the engine segments would fully close up again. No real harm done, but it's something that should have been picked up on a test build of the kit and the instructions corrected accordingly.
The remainder of the engine build consists of adding a few detail parts to the main assembly, non of which are really necessary unless you take the option to open up the access panels on the rear fuselage. By contrast to the turbine insert, the afterburner ring and front fan blades can both be added after the engine is built up.
With the engine finished for now, the build switches to the cockpit with the first few steps covering the construction of the two K-36DM ejection seats. These are very detailed assemblies with 19 parts going into each seat, plus a set of photo-etched belts. I'm in no way knowledgeable enough about the various versions of the K-36 to know whether these are completely accurate, but they certainly look very good when built up, especially as they won't be seen all that well under the non-opening canopy.
When it comes to fitting the PE belts though, the instructions aren't a lot of help, showing only a rather ill-defined squiggle that bares little resemblance to the supplied belts. I found it best to cut the belts into separate sections, as the brass is a little too thick to bend into a realistic drape.
The finished seats look fine, although no doubt the arrangement of the belts is far from accurate. On the second seat, I left off the lap belts altogether, as I felt they looked too awkwardly placed on the first one. Again, non of this is really seen in detail on the finished build, so taking a few shortcuts isn't all that detrimental.
The rest of the cockpit builds up fairly quickly, as it mainly consists of a single floor panel, which incorporates the side and centre consoles, and the rear wall, which features a separate crew entry door. You could, if you wish, fix the door in an open position, but there's nothing to see behind it apart from an empty fuselage, so it's probably best to keep it closed. For some reason, there's only a single rudder pedal for each seat position. I'm assuming there should be an outer pedal for each seat, but you can't see this area through the canopy, so it really doesn't matter.
For painting, the instructions recommend Gunze Air Superiority Blue for the cockpit. I've no idea how accurate that shade would be, but the correct Sukhoi cockpit blue-grey is available in a few paint ranges. I didn't have any of those, or the Gunze colour, so I created my own mix using photos of the real cockpit for reference. The instrument panels were brush painted black, and the various buttons and controls picked out in white. You do get some nice decals for the instruments, if you want to go that route, but I feel that painting the raised detail will always look better. Likewise, there are decals for the multifunction displays, but you'd only really use these if the aircraft was running. Mine were simply painted black.
The cockpit was given a little light weathering in the form of an oil wash to highlight the raised detail on the panels and rear wall. With the seats painted up and installed, it all looks nicely busy and seems for the most part to be a good likeness to the real thing.
The cockpit was now ready to be installed, but before doing so I wanted to attach the canopy to the upper fuselage. Since the inside of the cockpit framing will be quite visible on the finished model, I needed to paint both sides of the canopy. Masking framing is never my favourite job, and doing it on the inside of a canopy is even less fun. For that reason, I was really happy to receive a set of Galaxy Model paint masks (set D48007) which have been designed specifically for the Kitty Hawk kit. I've seen Gary Wickham use these masks on several builds and they looked excellent, so I was keen to try them out.
The set is very comprehensive, supplying masks for many parts of the build, not just the glazing. The masks are provided on sheets of yellow kabuki tape, and are all pre-cut and ready for application. A full-colour photographic placement guide is also included. I'll be covering the other areas the set covers further into the build, but for now, I'll just be using the masks intended for the inner side of the canopy. The approach Galaxy has taken with the canopy masks is to use corner pieces to mark out the perimeter of each glazing panel, followed by a single piece to fill in the remaining area. All these pieces feature a generous overlap, so there's no danger of paint creeping under the edges. They also fitted perfectly, with the rounded corners matching the moulded edges of the framing precisely.
As you can see from the above shot of the canopy, there's no internal detail or any 3D representation of the inner framework. That's no great surprise, as few manufacturers seem to include inner canopy details, especially when the canopy doesn't open. Photos of the real Fullback cockpit show that there are some instruments mounted to the canopy roof, so I decided to scratch build a basic representation of those controls.
This was made from scraps of brass cut from the frame of an old photo etch sheet and a few bits of styrene strip and rod. It's quite rough and I'm sure others could do a much better job, but hopefully, it'll add some visible detail when glimpsed through the canopy.
Painted up and glued in place, it doesn't look too bad. I chose not to add any of the inner framing, as I was concerned about messing this up and damaging the canopy. If you wanted to though, you could really go to town adding a lot more detail to this area. You can also see here the crisp lines left by the Galaxy masks. If you're building this kit I'd heavily recommend picking up the set, as it makes the canopy painting so much easier.
Although I wasn't adding any more framing, there was a very noticeable canopy detail that I did want to include. This was the blinds that can often be seen in photos of Fullbacks, folded up at the top of the side windows.
In reality, there's quite a complex system of blinds running on rails along the inner canopy frame, but I chose to keep it simple, and made the blinds from two squares of metal foil, folded up concertina-style.
Once painted up and fitted, they look okay, and at least give the impression that there's something there, even if it's not entirely accurate.
And at that point, we'll wrap up the first part of the build. In the next instalment, we'll get the cockpit and canopy fitted, and deal with some rather odd issues and omissions on the fuselage, before closing it all up. That should be coming soon, so stay tuned.

Andy Moore

Andy will be giving us more insights into his build int he next few weeks so stay tuned. Thanks to Kittyhawk for sending this kit to him to show you all in this series.