Thursday, October 26

Gary dry-fits the Fitter: Review of the Kittyhawk's 48th scale Sukhoi Su-22 M3/M4

There sure has been a lot of scuttlebutt about this 48th scale Su-17/22 series of kits from Kittyhawk hasn't there? What better way to find out the truth about the kit, it's accuracy & it's true value, than to have our man Gary investigate of the kit, markings & after "dry building" to check the fit. See the real facts behind the hype & what he thought about it in his in-depth review...

Box Review & Dry Fit: Sukhoi Su-22 M3/M4 - 
From: Kitty Hawk 
1:48th scale
Product Link on the Kittyhawk Website
Price: ¥7,840/ $71.28 USD/ €60.86/ $93.42 AUD/ £54.28 GBP at Hobbylink Japan

The Sukhoi Su-17 (NATO reporting name: Fitter) is a Soviet variable-sweep wing fighter-bomber developed from the Sukhoi Su-7. It enjoyed a long career in Soviet, later Russian, service and was widely exported to Eastern Bloc, Arab air forces, Angola and Peru as the Su-20 and Su-22. The Su-20/22 designation was mainly used to identify upgraded Su-17 export aircraft with the M3/M4 sub-variants being two of the last batch produced.
Su-17M3 (S-52, "Fitter-H") - Based on the revised airframe of the Su-17UM, but with an avionics bay and an additional fuel tank in place of the rear cockpit, increasing the internal fuel capacity to 4850 l (1,280 U.S. gal). Doppler radar moved internally, removing the fairing. "Klen-P" laser rangefinder/target designator. A launch rail for K-13 (AA-2 "Atoll") or R-60 (AA-8 "Aphid") was added between the two existing pylons on each wing. An export version with Su-17M3 avionics was designated Su-22M3 (factory S-52MK). Su-17 manufactured 1976-1981, Su-22Ms were manufactured 1978-1984. Su-17M/Su-22M/Su-22M3 was the most numerous variant with almost 1,000 built.

Su-17M4 (S-54, "Fitter-K") - Final production version with considerably upgraded avionics, including RSDN navigation (similar to LORAN), beacon navigation, inertial navigation, a more powerful Klyon laser rangefinder, radio compass, and SPO-15LE ("Sirena") radar-warning system. Additional fuselage inlets (including a ram-air inlet at the base of the fin) to improve engine cooling airflow, fixed air intake shock cone. Many aircraft were equipped for the use of TV-guided missiles and BA-58 Vjuga pod for anti-radiation missiles. AL-21F-3 engine. Export version was designated Su-22M4 (factory S-54K).
INTRODUCTION - KittyHawk 1:48 Sukhoi Su-22 M3/M4 (KH80146)
This is the second boxing of Kittyhawks 1/48 Su-17M3/M4. The first release dealt with Fitters in Soviet service (designated Su-17) whilst this second release covers off many of the export operators of the late model Fitters (which were designated Su-22). The contents of both boxes appear to be identical with the obvious exception being the provided decals and colour schemes.

As with many KH releases before it, this kit appears to a mixed bag. It looks good in the box, with nicely engraved surface detail, a generous selection of marking options and enough weapon options to choke a cow. My first instinct was to do a simple sprue review, but that's been done to death with the first boxing and I've built enough KH kits to know that the real proof of the pudding is in the eating.

With this in mind, I decided to try something a bit different, something that would fall in between a sprue review and a full-blown build review. Something that would show how the kit behaved under real modelling conditions, what pitfalls were encountered and how they could be addressed, either by me or by using aftermarket sets. I really like dry fitting as a tool for getting the feel for a model before committing to glue, so it seemed to me that a review where I extended the basic "Dry Fit" into a full Dry Build may be the way to go.

The aftermarket community has been quite busy with detail and correction sets for this kit. Even though I won't be reviewing each of these, I think anyone reading this review may appreciate a summary of what's out there (at the time of writing):

Eduard Photo-Etch Su-17 M3/M4 Cockpit (Zoom) 1/48 (FE829)
Eduard Photo-etch Su-17 M3/M4 seat-belts STEEL 1/48 (49830)
Eduard Photo-etch Su-17 M3/M4 interior 1/48 (49829)
Eduard Photo-etch Su-17 M3/M4 air brakes 1/48 (48924)
Eduard Photo-etch Su-17 M3/M4 exterior 1/48 (48922)
Eduard Photo-etch Su-17 M3/M4 FOD 1/48 (48923)
Eduard Photo-etch Su-17 M3/M4 Big ED 1/48 (BIG49177)
KASL HOBBY SU-17/22 Intake Correction Set 1/48 (K48088)
HAD Models Su-17M3/M4 'Fitter' Mach-cone 1/48 (HUN148019)
MASTER Su-17/20/22 Pitot Tubes (Brass) 1/48 (MR48122)
AMIGO MODELS Sukhoi Su-17M nozzle resin set 1/48 (AMG48022-1)
RESKIT Sukhoi Su-17 wheels set Resin 1/48 (RS48-0061)
The idea I had in mind for a 'Dry Build' was to literally dry fit using tape (and minimal glue) as much of the model as I could to more clearly show how the model fits when taken out of the box, off the sprue and bought together. I have laid out the sequence here to follow the KH instruction sheet, but that's just to make it flow, I almost never follow the manufacturer's sequence in real life. Step 1 (not surprisingly) starts with the seat, so let us begin.
I've had a pretty steady diet of WWII builds lately and being faced with a seat that alone comprised of 20 parts was a bit of a wake-up call. I was back in the land of jets now :) KH has designed the parts such that any ejection pin marks are on surfaces that will be hidden when assembled, so far so good. Gluing the plastic parts was straightforward but when I came to fold and apply the PE belts, the KH instructions were less than helpful. In the end, I just made it up myself and bent the belts as best I could figure it.
The fully assembled seat looks quite convincing. In fact, I'd go as far as to say one of the better kit seats I have seen in 1/48. To my eye, the head box looks a bit large and the sit of the PE belts unconvincing but that's just my personal preference. To provide a comparison I grabbed a couple of resin K-36 seats (Verlinden & Pavla) from my spares box and applied a coat of primer to all three seats. I think the KH seat is quite passable and would only be surpassed by a Neomega Resin K-36.
With the seat complete, the cockpit tub follows and KH have designed this as a stand-alone module designed to fit into the fuselage halves. Bearing in mind that I do plan to build and complete this model at some point in the future I still needed to assemble (using some glue) enough of the cockpit module to allow it to be self-supporting but still open enough for me to get easy access with my airbrush/paintbrush down the track.
The raised detail on the cockpit side consoles and side walls is nicely done. Kittyhawk provides decals for the consoles but not for the side walls. As you can see the from the photo of a Polish Su-22 the banks of switches on the side wall are quite prominent. You can address this by using one of the Eduard PE sets for the cockpit but of course it would have been better had KH simply given a couple of extra decals.
I assembled the centre part of the cockpit tub (floor, front and back bulkheads) to allow ease of painting later on. The control column looks accurate (when compared to reference photos). I chose to attach the shroud to the front bulkhead at this time even though I plan to give it some canvas texturing prior to paint. One of the benefits of test fitting up parts like this in advance is that it helps you decide what can be glued before paint and what is best left till after paint.
Continuing on with the cockpit construction we need to build the gun-sight and HUD assembly and insert the main Instrument Panel. Note that based on my testing you can safely leave the IP out and install after the front shroud because you have a fair bit of wiggle room available.
The kit supplied IP seems to be accurate for a Su-22M3 variant. The main item that seems to be missing for an M4 is the small TV display in the top right corner as seen in the photo. This (I assume) was used when carrying a TV guided missiles which transmitted camera video back to the pilot to assist with aiming.
KH provides a single piece decal for the IP which I personally would not use because it is often much harder to match the decal colour to the rest of the cockpit. I'll either a) punch out each dial and apply or b) use some aftermarket dials (like AirScale) instead.
If you don't want to scratch-build the TV display and its shroud then Eduard have come to your rescue by giving you three options depending on what specific variant (M3/M4) and era (pre and post 90's) aircraft you are building. Even if I don't plan to purchase and use a specific Eduard set I will always download their instructions to see what details they have uncovered in their extensive research.

With each sub component of the cockpit complete they are easily assembled thanks to alignment slots and tabs. The parts all literally just click together and once painted will result in a very convincing replica of the Su-22 cockpit.

Step 4 involves the construction of the engine. All Su-17/22M variants (M, M2, M3 and M4) were fitted with the Lyulka AL-21F-3 power-plant. The KH parts would form a good basis for super detailing if you intended to have the rear tail section removed and the engine visible. For my build, this will not be the case so I was not that concerned with the careful construction of all the engine parts. In fact, the only part I was interested in was the very rear section as this will be visible on the finished model. Note that Part C3 was incorrectly identified as D18.
The fit of the engine parts is top notch. The engine is designed in 3 sub-sections including the nozzle at the business end. I am glad they gave you the afterburner tube nozzle as separate parts because this makes it possible to airbrush inside from each end before glue.
The nozzle is assembled from four sets of petals which attach to part D52 to ensure the correct shape is maintained. Be sure to be very careful when cutting and cleaning up parts D99 as you need the edge to be square as these are a butt join.
Using extra thin liquid glue very sparingly I assembled each of the nozzle petals in turn. I was expecting a bit of a fight with the parts to get them into the right circular shape but was happy when no such struggle eventuated. Part D52 did a good job of keeping them all aligned correctly as the glue set up. If you prefer to use a resin replacement for the nozzle and rear section of the engine then AMIGO MODELS (AMG48022-1) produces what appears to be a very nice set. These appear to be readily available on eBay.

Step 5 in the instructions calls for the engine to be sandwiched into the centre fuselage section using two locating pins. Before doing this I decided to take a step back and look more closely at the rest of the fuselage to see if this really was the best way to proceed.
Kittyhawk has engineered the fuselage into three distinct modules. The instructions tell you to assemble each section first and then join them all together. Based on previous experience with similar kits I realised that this was not likely to result in the the best way forward especially as the design by KH was for butt joints between the front and middle sections and a small lip join between the middle and rear sections. Trying to butt join end-to-end three independent cylinders in this fashion almost always ends with mismatches and steps to be dealt with. A quick analysis of the instructions showed me that there was no hidden reason preventing me from joining each of the three side pieces together now which would result in a more traditional two-piece fuselage rather than the current six-piece design.
Starting with the rear join first I noted that the curve of each piece was different. Simply glueing them together would have resulted in mismatches and steps so to avoid this I used a plasticard strip to better control the alignment of the parts. Note that this was much easier to control when dealing with two half round sections than had I followed KH's lead and tried it with two cylinders.
The plastic strip did the trick nicely and as you can see the parts came together with virtually a perfect alignment. Some liquid glue was applied from the inside of the seam to minimise damage to the visible (exterior) side of the join. The other advantage of the internal strip was it added some strength to the join.
A quick view from the inside to show the plasticard strip. From memory, I used some Evergreen 15 x 100 thou strip. This size did not interfere with the air-brake housing. The Tamiya tape seen here was used during dry fit testing only.
The front to centre section join had no step problem but is was a pure butt joint which would have been more painful had it been dealt with as two cylinders. As with the rear join, I applied thin liquid glue to the interior of the seam and while it was drying applied some downward pressure to hold the parts squarely aligned properly. I applied the small section of plasticard after the main join was dry to add some extra strength.
Before closing up the fuselage you need to make a decision about the four-speed brakes on the rear section. I personally plan to close the brakes and will install and glue them in place before I close up the fuselage. Applying glue from the inside of a join is the best way to get a clean job without marring the outside surface detail or seam. If you do plan to display them open now is also the best time to install the interior bay detail. It's worth noting that Eduard do a dedicated PE set (48924) that replaces the kit brake wells, but not the brakes themselves if you feel so inclined.
Here I have glued the top brake closed (note the resulting small gap which I will fill from the inside with Milliput). I have dry fitted the bottom brake well in place to allow you to see the detail provided in the kit. To my eye, I think it looks pretty good and certainly not worth replacing with a PE set. I wondered if the alignment strip I installed earlier to sort out the fuselage seam would interfere with the brake wells but as you can see here the 100 thou wide strip co-exists with the brake bay perfectly.
Having already decided not to follow the KH plans to assemble the fuselage in three sections I pretty much-ignored step 6 as I had already joined the fuselage sides. What I did at this point instead was to do a test fit of the full engine into the fuselage to see how it lined up.

The engine is mounted into the fuselage via means of two locating pins which are forward of the air-brakes. The rear of the engine has no alignment pins, tabs or slots of any kind. I guess KH believe that the engine will just sit in the fuselage by itself in the correct position. I did not find this to be the case and to get it aligned properly needed to use some BluTack to have it properly centred. A more permanent solution will need to be designed by me later on.

With the engine in place (yes those locating pins are difficult to get seated properly when joining the fuselage halves) we can see that the nozzle petals are a bit over-scale as is the outer skin of the fuselage. The nozzle would be hard to thin down without losing detail but the fuselage should not be a problem.
As I was comparing the finished kit engine nozzle against reference photos it jumped out at me that the kit nozzle was sitting pretty much flush with the back of the fuselage whereas all the photos of the Su-22 I could find clearly showed the nozzle was recessed back inside the fuselage by quite a bit. I double checked that I had not assembled the engine incorrectly, I also checked a number of other online builds of the kit and came to the conclusion that KH had designed it this way.
I had a couple of options to fix this nozzle position problem. Option 1 was to move the whole engine forward by about 4mm. This meant adjusting the locating pins or holes for the engine which seemed like a lot of fiddling around. Option 2 was to somehow shorten the engine by 4mm so it did not extend as far back. Looking at the various sections of the engine I found that the afterburner tube was the best place to do this and so I marked up the place where I would make the cuts to remove a 4mm section.
Using a thin razor saw (I have a PE saw from AeroClub which in 10 thou thick) make the two cuts to remove the 4mm section of the engine tube. The raised ribs on the exterior of the engine are very useful to make sure your cuts are square.

Once the cuts are complete use a flat block to sand the mating surfaces to ensure they are square. I used a black marker to place an X on the parts to be retained, just to remind me not to throw away the wrong bits (it has happened before). If your cuts are square you should need to do very minimal cleanup at this point.
With the hard work complete all we have to do now is glue the engine back together, discard the excess piece and finally test fit our handiwork in the fuselage. I took out a section about 4mm thick which corresponded to 3 raised ribs on the afterburner tube section.

The adjusted nozzle position seems to match the reference photos much more closely than before. I'll need to figure out later a suitable method to get access to the inside fuselage seams to allow filling and sanding without damaging the nozzle. If this all seems too much hassle then an alternative solution is to the use the previously mentioned AMIGO MODELS resin replacement exhaust set (as this appears to be properly recessed back into the fuselage already).
Step 7 involves the assembly of the vertical tail and rudder. The rudder is moulded as a single piece and you can glue the main tail halves (B1/B4) together first before inserting the rudder later if so desired. Note the optional parts B20/B21 if you are modelling a Polish aircraft.
The fit of the tail is excellent including its positive alignment with the rear fuselage spine.

Working our way towards closing up the fuselage, the next sub-module is the nose wheel well. Kittyhawk's instruction guy must have had a late night the day he put the part numbers in this section of the instructions. Ignore the kit call-outs for parts D19,20 and D25,26 and instead use my handwritten corrections below.
Even a cursory look at some reference pics of an actual Su-22 nose wheel will reveal some issues with the KH parts. KH has provided all the right parts to make an accurate nose wheel it's just the spacing and tolerances they have used appear wrong. It seems that nose wheels on Su-17/22's varied in width depending on time period and operator. These photos are of a later model Polish Su-22 and you can clearly see the nose wheel is thin and this results in quite a bit of the axle being visible.
I got so caught up in fixing the nose wheel strut that I unfortunately forgot to take photos of what it looked like prior to my adjustments :( Basically I drilled out the wheel hub to allow me to use my own brass rod for an axle. This will allow for the wheel to be painted separately and installed at the end of the build (rather than follow the KH instructions and assemble together with the two strut arms). To make the strut arms sit more realistically (ie closer to the wheel) it was an easy task to shave down the width of the pivot point on part B5. Likewise the pivot point on part D59 was also narrowed. These two simple adjustments allowed parts D30 and D31 to mount closer to the center and resulted in a much narrower track.
The wheel well itself fits together very positively due to interlocking alignment tabs and cutouts. If you are wondering, you do not need to attach the nose-wheel strut to the bay sidewalls before you glue them together. The strut has solid attachment points which can be used at the end of the build (meaning you don't need to have the undercarriage attached during the bulk of the build, something I hate being forced to do). When compared to reference pics the nose-wheel bay seems well researched by KH.

By the time we reach step 9 all the sub assemblies that belong inside the fuselage have been completed. The only detail we need to build now is the nose inlet shock cone. Later Fitters had an optical panel (GP9) installed in the bottom of the inlet cone to house a laser rangefinder. Kittyhawk has used the same horizontal locating pin mounting technique for the shock cone as they used for the engine earlier.
Despite not providing any significant alignment points for the cockpit tub or nose wheel bay, it all surprisingly sits in place neatly. The shock cone mounting points are less than ideal as they are not very secure and the end result is the whole cone assembly swivels around widely. More of a concern is that whole inlet cone shape and mounting design is wrong, just really wrong. Remember that this end of the aircraft is an air intake for the engine. There are NO mounting points for the cone on the sides like the kit provides. The kit parts are also (perhaps more oddly) completely missing the intakes vertical splitter plates which are an integral part of the whole intake aerodynamics. It can be argued that most of this detail is buried inside the front fuselage and won't be seen on the finished model, but I don't think that's enough reason to let KH off the hook with this seemingly sloppy and lazy engineering.
To show exactly what the inlet cone assembly should look like here is a corrected resin part from KASL Hobby. The KASL part has the correct shape for the shock cone and the intake splitter plates and ducting. Only minor adjustments are needed to the kit parts to fit the resin. KASL are a Taiwan based manufacturer and the easiest way I have found to purchase their parts is via eBay. HAD Models do a similar drop in resin inlet cone and these can be purchased from Hannants.
The fit of the nose-wheel bay is excellent with no visible gaps at all. As mentioned previously the gear strut can be attached at any time into the bay thanks to fairly positive and solid mounting lugs.
Likewise, the fit of the cockpit tub to the fuselage is very good. With little or no pressure and only tape holding it together, the cockpit sidewalls fit snugly into the fuselage interior resulting in no visible gaps at all. It's at moments like this that Kittyhawk shines.

Now that the fuselage is complete our focus switches to the spine. Following another KH tradition, the spine is broken down into multiple sections (four to be exact). Each section of the spine is designed to be located on the fuselage by means of rectangular locating tabs. Be on the lookout for another instruction error with part E16 being incorrectly labelled D16.
The main spine is broken down into two forward sections, a swappable third section (the M3 and M4 variants are considerably different here) and of course the common tail section. This makes four sections in total that need to be assembled and attached to the fuselage. At first glance, the large rectangular locating tabs and corresponding holes on the fuselage would seem to make this a simple task to get everything lined up.
Once you start to fit the spine parts in place you realise those locating tabs are going to be a problem and it's mainly because the fuselage is curved at the point where the spine connects and this means that some part of the tab is going to be visible. If you have a closer look at the photos below you can clearly see the tabs and even the holes into which they slot. I have not used any glue yet but those parts are very firmly seated on the fuselage and no amount of pressure will hide those tabs/gaps. My plan when I get to building this kit is to cut off the tabs and fill the holes then align the spine sections myself. Any other solution (using filler etc) will result is an inferior join requiring more attention than just eliminating the tabs. It would have been better had KH placed the tabs (and holes) on the inside surface of the spine walls, this way they would not be visible from the outside once fitted. 
Not a big change to the way the part is designed/moulded but one that makes a huge difference to the experience the customer has.

The second section also uses the locating tab method and here I had to cut the tabs off to even get it to fit (due to the tab being located right next to a sprue attachment point). Another example of KH not thinking ahead.
If you are building an M4 variant then assemble and install parts E16/17 for the third spine section. Note again those awful tabs and slots which just get in the way !!
For the M3 variant use part E18/19 for the third spine section.
The last part of the spine is, of course, the tail itself. Notice the difference here where KH decided to not use those horrible tabs/slots to align the tail to the fuselage. What did they do instead? They moulded a slight recess into the fuselage which aligns the tail perfectly. Just look at how nice that join seam looks compared to the rest of the spine sections.
With the major construction work on the fuselage done its time to deal with the clear parts, the windshield and canopy. I'm the sort of modeller who will break something like an antenna or pitot tube off a model if attached too early in the project. We'll take a look at the options open to us for the complex looking pitot of the Su-22 but I would not recommend actually attaching to your model at this point (leave it to the very end).
There is very little to say about the fit of the clear parts the fuselage, they are just about perfect. Normally you expect some sort of gaps that need to be dealt with at the point where the windshield meets the fuselage but I am happy to report that in this case the clear part just slots in place with no gaps. I did have to lightly save some width of the edges of the instrument panel shroud to get the windshield to drop in. The canopy likewise aligns perfectly with the fuselage sides and the windshield (when closed) as can be seen from these photos.

The pitot tubes on many soviet aircraft are complex (in an interesting way) devices. The Su-17/22 is right up there with the best of them for complexity. The kit plastic parts are actually nicely moulded and do not look over-scale. I would be more than happy to use them in my build. Having said that, if you want to step it up a notch then you cannot go past the brass offering from MASTER MODEL (48122). The benefits of brass is that it will not sag over time, is very strong while retaining a perfect scale thickness and the way MASTER makes then they just look real. The best thing about these additions is that they are relatively inexpensive.
The main undercarriage and doors are next up. The main wheels are moulded traditionally with two halves. More manufacturers these days are trending towards separate tire and hubs to make it easier to paint and then assemble, not so KH. The main strut for the Su-17/22 is L shaped and KH gives it to us as a sturdy single piece. Likewise, the very large main door is a single piece on the real aircraft and the kit.
These reference photos highlight the shape and sit of the gear and doors. From my visual comparison of the kits parts with the photos, I can't find any obvious faults.
The dry assembled kit parts (minus the smaller auxiliary arms etc) look quite convincing when compared to the real photos above. Other than a lack of tread pattern on the wheels even these look good. If you are after some resin replacement wheels RES.KIT in the Ukraine does a nice set.
It's now step 14 and time to start work on the wings. The distinctive pattern on the wheel well upper surface is moulded into the kit wing and the sides of the main well are built up around it on three sides. The NR-30 30mm cannons are provided and you can leave the access panels to the cannon bay open should you so desire.
The fit of the wheel well is excellent with the locating pins and slots doing the job to keep everything aligned while you apply minimal liquid glue. The moulded in raised detail for the roof of the wheel looks accurate. Both the cannon and its bay are pretty good and in my testing, I noticed that I will be able to leave the lower access door off and feed the cannon into the wing after I have glued and sanded the wing leading edge seam (without the barrel being in the way).
A better angle to show off both the cannon bay and rear wall of the main wheel bay. The inward edge of the wheel well needs no side wall because that is part of the fuselage side and will become apparent when we offer up the wing to the fuselage later.
Step 15 and the sweepable wing sections are constructed and hinged to the inner fixed wing roots. A single solid pivot point is provided on the upper wing half into which the swing wing section mounts. The shape of the inner wing end is such that it controls the range of swing (in and out) of the wing.
The kit provides only the option to display the leading edge slats in the extended position as seen on the top wing. If you want to model the wing with the slats retracted then simply remove the extension arms from the slat (as I have done on the bottom wing in the photo). Even though the flaps are provided as separate items it won't be an easy task to display them down due to the way KH has moulded the hinge. I want my wings to be able to swing when the model is complete so I have glued the flaps in the up position. Note the fine surface rivet and panel line detail evident on the wing surfaces.
A couple of photos of the wing in the extended and swept positions. The simple circular pivot point in the wing seems to work very well allowing the wing a full (and accurate) range of motion whilst retaining a correct alignment. Sometimes the simple solution work best I guess.
Mating the wing to the fuselage results in a very solid join. The fuselage has a recessed slot to accommodate the wing perfectly and it works so well I wonder why more models are not designed this way (I suppose that some aircraft don't lend themselves to this method). Worth noting are the open cannon bay (allowing insertion of the cannon itself after you have sorted out the wing leading edge seam). Also, note how the fuselage forms the missing inner wall of the main wheel well.
With the wings complete we can now mount the main undercarriage and on the upper wings the characteristic 'air flow fences'.
The kit wing fences are very thin and seem to be pretty much to scale. Traditionally in 1/48, you would be looking to replace these with something much thinner (like sheet brass) but I guess with newer injection moulding techniques companies can routinely give us fine parts like this in an accurate scale thickness in plastic. My only gripe here is that KH has used the same tab and slot locating method as we saw on the fuselage spine earlier but in fairness, I'm not sure how they could have done it differently for these very thin fences.
A test fit of the main wheel strut to the locating point reveals a fairly sloppy fit. Not something you like to feel at all when you slot the undercarriage into place. The strut and wheel moved around a lot and I'm going to have to see how I can tighten this up a bit.
Getting close to the end now we are ready to fit the wings to the fuselage and likewise the all moving horizontal tails.
A couple of overall shots with the wings dry fitted to the fuselage. As mentioned earlier the positive fit of the wings to the recesses in the fuselage is fantastic. If every join on this kit was like the wings/fuselage it would rival a Tamiya kit (if only).
The horizontal tail is one of the all moving design with a single pivot point with the fuselage. I could tell as soon as I saw the size of the mounting pin on the end of the tail that I was in for a challenge. KH provides no proper mounting point on the fuselage for the tail pin to securely attach to. All they provide is a hole in the fuselage which is only as deep as the plastic itself (2mm at most). As I suspected when I mounted the tail the fuselage hole it sagged and fell out due to the lack of proper support.
Having dealt with similar problems before I knew that I needed to firstly provide a more solid anchor point on the fuselage for the tail and that was easily achieved with some 100 thou thick card glued and then drilled on the inside of the hole. I had then intended to remove the plastic pin on each tail and replace with a longer (stronger) brass rod.
Luckily before cutting off the plastic pins I did a test fit into the new reinforced mounting supports and just this simple addition alone was enough to give the tail strength to hold its weight and position. Due to my cautious nature (I tend to over engineer things) I will probably still install a brass rod but for now, I know that is optional.
The final steps in the kit instructions involve the under wing pylons and stores/weapons. You will need to do some research on appropriate weapon load-outs depending on which variant and operator you select to depict.
The Su-17/22 was quite a bomb truck being able to carry a wide range of munitions depending on the mission requirements. Kittyhawk has dedicated no less than 4 full sprues to just the weapon options as shown in the diagram below. I would take this KH pylon load-out assignment table with a grain of salt as they do not have the best reputation when it comes to accurate research. For example, I'm not sure why they are showing nothing as being fitted to the two outermost pylons (1 and 9)?
Here are a selection sprue shots of the weapons and pods provided by Kittyhawk in the kit. Two fuel tanks and recce pod (KKR-1T) are also provided on Sprue E. To my eye the detail on the weapons looks to be very good however I can't speak to their accuracy (shape etc) as I did not have time to compare them to reference pics.
To round out this Dry Build I have taken some final photos of the 'finished' model. Hopefully, this style of review is more revealing than a traditional sprue assessment, I know it certainly prepared me well for a proper build of this kit down the track.

COLOURS & MARKINGS - KittyHawk 1:48 Sukhoi Su-22 M3/M4 (KH80146)
Kittyhawk continues their tradition of being generous when it comes to marking options included with the kit. For this boxing, we are provided with markings for seven export operators of the Su-22 covering Poland, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, Iraq, Syria and Germany.
Each paint scheme is provided in full-colour glossy spread across two A4 pages (so nice and big). Color callouts are all using Gunze Mr Color paints. I would advise caution when using the colours indicated and do a healthy amount of testing to match sure the match is optimal based on reference photos.
The kit decals seem to be well printed with no obvious registration issues. Though not as thin as you would expect from a set printed by Cartograph, I can confirm from previous KH builds, that they work well and respond as expected to setting & softening solutions. Some of the more colourful schemes have a lot of large and complex multi layer decals to be applied so bear that in mind when deciding on which option to go with.
The extensive weapon options have their own dedicated paint and marking guide and decal sheet. From the quick glance that I had on the internet at standard Soviet weapon options the KH instructions look to be on track. The smaller stencil decal sheet has marking clearly laid out for each weapon type. A nice addition which is oh so often overlooked by other kit manufacturers.
FINAL THOUGHTS - KittyHawk 1:48 Sukhoi Su-22 M3/M4 (KH80146)
Overall I would say my impression of this latest kit is that Kittyhawk continues to improve in many areas (general fit, detailing etc) while still dropping the ball in others (instructions sheets still riddled with errors, lazy design and engineering decisions etc).

To me this kit is pretty typical of mainstream kits today, that is to say, it's a mixed bag:

The Good - the fit of the clear parts, the wing design and excellent fit to the fuselage
The Bad - multi-part fuselage and spine
and The Ugly - the inlet shock cone design
In the end, I believe the kit has more good points than bad and is extremely buildable. As always, the decision about how many of the kits 'issues' you decide to fix or live with as-is comes down to each modeller.

I certainly found the 'Dry Build' to be a useful research tool for preparing for my proper build and I think it works pretty well as a way to review a kit. Hopefully, you agree.

Gary wickham

Thanks to Kittyhawk for providing this kit for us to review for you - you can see more of their kits on their website...