Monday, February 22

Build review Pt.1: 1/48th scale Sukhoi SU-30SM Flanker C From Kittyhawk

Alister Curnow is already halfway through the build of Kittyhawk's new 48th scale Su-30SM "Flanker C" two-seat fighter. This massive beast is a complex & detailed build, so Alister has stopped to give us some progress of the build and what he thinks so far in part I of his story...

Sukhoi SU-30SM Flanker C
From Kittyhawk
1/48th scale
Kit No: KH80171
Continuing on with their series of Flanker types, this welcome new addition from Kittyhawk in 1/48 contains a new boxing, with new parts, to create the two-seater Sukhoi Su-30 SM Flanker H model. 
Three livery options are included, one in Russian Air Force blue and grey tri colour camo pattern, one for the Russian Knights aerobatic display team, and the other in dark grey and blue underside, for the Russian Navy. This latter pattern is what I will be attempting to recreate with this kit. 
My first impression of opening the box is there is a lot of plastic here. Closer inspection finds a lot of parts not actually required for this kit have been included as well, so the builder will need to be careful to choose the correct pieces in places. The very impressive looking upper and lower halves of the fuselage sit at the top of the box, and these measure longer than 30cm without a nose or tail yet on, impressive for 1/48 scale.
All the many panel lines and rivets look fantastic, I find myself very impressed with the parts of the kit that will be outwardly on display. Resin exhaust nozzles are supplied, as is a small sheet of photo-etch parts, which includes the seatbelts for the two pilot seats.
A quick read of the instruction manual finds this to be what I would consider a kit for the advanced modeller. For example, colour callouts in the instructions are rare or vague, such as the cockpit being only light blue, with a black seat, and khaki green for the seat cushion. It will be up to each builder to research the colours required to paint all of the fine detail that the plastic in the kit provides. 

The overall paint scheme in the instructions for the plane I am doing is also incorrect. When comparing to the photos online, the SU-30 aircraft operating with the Russian Navy actually has a three colour camo on the underside of the aircraft, not the single colour blue as quoted by the instruction sheet painting instructions as shown below. 
There are other issues with the instructions, I’ll point them out as I go.
"Construction Starts with the Cockpit"...
But, as per the norm for aircraft models, the painting can wait, as the kit starts in the cockpit, and is where I shall start my build. The cockpit tub is beautifully moulded, with fine raised details for the side panels and floor details. The cockpit seats require building, and this really allows for a lot of detail to be shown with these, and for my needs, I wouldn't feel compelled to replace them for resin aftermarket options as a lot of aircraft builders do as par for the course. Once built, I could attack the PE seatbelts. PE is something I freely admit to struggling with, and this was no exception, not helped by the vague instructions from Kittyhawk on where the PE belts should be mounted. My first attempt at attaching them ended in disaster, so I had to remove them and start over. The belts seem very long for the seats to me, but this is probably my lack of expertise in folding these to look natural. But, I learned by the second seat that I found it easier to fold these first, and attach to the seat second. No pilots are included in the kit. The cockpit looks as pictured here before painting would begin, I'm sure you'll agree there is a lot of detail here to enjoy.
The interior then had a black primer coat airbrushed. As the majority of the seat was to be black, this was then sprayed in Tamiya Rubber Black. After painting by hand the smaller and finer details, the seats could be considered complete. The rest of the cockpit tub got black primer also, followed by the blue interior colour which seems applicable from photos online for the Su-30. 
I have used Vallejo Model Air 71318 for this, "AMT-11 Greyish Blue". After an initial coat I thought it a bit dark, so added a drop or two of 71332 Faded Underside Blue to the original colour, and airbrushed over it gently again to highlight. Decals are provided for the side console panels and main instrument panels. I'm a fan of using these when possible on the main instrument panels as they will always look better than I can paint tiny 1/48 instrument gauges. I was uncertain how well the full decal would set down over the raised detail, so I cut out the circular gauges decals in groups of three or four, applied these, and then set with Microsol. The LCD frames and other raised details were instead painted, rather than decals. The decals for the LCD centre displays looked nice so they were cut from the decal frames before applying. The artificial horizon gauge on the main instrument panel decal was just black, so I painted these blue and brown myself in the centre which looks more the part. After the decals were dry, a drop of gloss varnish was added to each to simulate the glass over the gauges. The raised details on the side consoles were all hand-painted. I found it really hard to find photos of the real cockpit, so a little artistic licence needed to be used here.
The cockpit was completed with only some light weathering, using a very thin panel line wash made of Ammo Oil Brusher "Starship Filth", thinned with white spirits, focused mainly into the panel lines. The real machines seem to be in very tidy condition, so didn't want to go overboard here. The final result is very pleasing with a little work put into all the details.
Those Engine Nozzles...
Following the cockpit, I decided to start on the various areas of metalwork on the jet, particularly around the engines. The Sukhoi SU-30SM Flanker C features two massive Saturn AL-31 turbojet engines, each capable of 27,500 pounds of thrust, and the nozzles of these are movable (thrust vectoring) to give better maneuverability. On the kit, I would then leave masked off for the rest of the build while I worked on the rest of the paintwork. 
I decided it would be easier to mask and paint the metalwork prior to assembly, and I didn't want to paint the metalwork over layers of primer and paint at the end. I started first on the resin engine nozzles. A spare set of nozzles for the different versions of the Flanker were in the box, so I used these as an opportunity for practice before starting the final ones. I've started with a coat of Tamiya X-1 Gloss Black firstly, followed by Vallejo Metal Colour (hereafter “V.M.C”) Aluminium. Once dry I've then gone over this with thinned V.M.C Jet Exhaust, and built up that colour slowly over the aluminium to match the colour I was seeing in my photos. 
V.M.C Burnt Iron is airbrushed to the very end of the nozzles, after first masking this off with tape and liquid latex masking fluid. Some more burnt iron and steel was then added by brush. Where the nozzle moves up and down, left and right, I've applied a liquid mask to this area to preserve the shine there before then applying a Vallejo Mecha matt varnish all over.
Once the outside colours are painted, the nozzles are masked again and the interior colour of Off White is airbrushed onto the inside of the nozzles. The exterior I've then applied some weathering to the outside with Tamiya Weathering pigments, burnt blue, burnt orange and oil leak. 
The "finished" result looked a bit too clean for my liking...
 I went back over with various oil paint washes to dirty them up a bit.
The Rear Fuselage:
The fuselage metal work started out with my usual Tamiya gloss black before being airbrushed with a mix of mostly V.M.C steel, with a couple of drops of V.M.C aluminium mixed in to lighten it up a bit.
Once dry, I've then painted the lines in the metal work that were visible in the photos on the Flanker engines. 

The visible lines on the real thing with all of the various colours and shades made through different heated metals...
This was done with a small strip of tape. I've used this strip of tape multiple times - paint, remove, refit, repeat. The paint was done by hand brushing Tamiya clear orange to the edge of the tape with a thin, fine brush. These lines are not perfectly straight on the real engine photos, and I think the effect worked well, and will work well with the heat treatment to come.
To do this I've then heavily applied the burnt orange and burnt blue Tamiya pigments to give the metalwork that burnt/ rusty copper look that is visible in the photos. I think the effect worked well. I sprayed the top fuselage section with matt varnish and immediately regretted my decision to do so. The effect was too strong and I lost the metal look I wanted. To try and recover it, I sprayed over it with some Tamiya Smoke (which is a gloss) and applied some more of the pigments. Finally, I sprayed a generic art store brand of matt varnish from a spray can. This seals the work in, dulls down the gloss from the metal and the smoke layer a bit, but it looks more like metal than it did with the heavy matt varnish from earlier. 
The lower side of the engines were approached the same way as the top surfaces, with some V.M.C dull aluminium for the large silver parts of the engine. Once the metalwork was done, I also coated the lower section with Tamiya smoke, and again with the spray can matt varnish. The engine work is mostly done here as pictured, just in need of some access panels to be painted, and more weathering, this will be done at the end.
The metal fuselage around the cannon barrel was masked and completed with V.M.C aluminium, with a tint of Tamiya Smoke sprayed after it, then the artist spray can matt varnish again. The metal parts of the tail stabilisers/ elevators, and the metal parts of the wingtip leading edges, were a 50/50 mix of Steel and Aluminium, finalised in the same fashion.

The Engines...
Next up, the engines themselves. The aircraft's powerplant incorporates two Saturn AL-31F afterburning low-bypass turbofan engines, fed through intake ramps. Two AL-31Fs, each rated at 123 kN (28,000 lbf) of full afterburning thrust ensures Mach 2 in level flight, 1,350 km/h speed at low altitude, and a 230 m/s climb rate. They of course have the thrust vectoring nozzles at the rear end and the large bladed fan intake at the front which is visible inside the intakes.
You have to hand it to Kittyhawk here, they have put a lot of effort into this kit to have parts of the aircraft open so you can display the insides. This includes detailed engines, an opening landing parachute cover, opening speed brake, and opening nose cone to display the radar system. This is not really my interest to display all these things opened, so I could simply build the engines, and paint what will be visible on my build when viewed down the intakes, or exhaust nozzles. The internals of the engines are basic but will do the job.
In terms of mounting the completed engines, steps 8 & 9 are a very important part of the build that will affect your exhausts and intakes, so do take care to build it correctly. Unfortunately, the method to build, and alignment of parts for this is a little vague in the manual, so I built these two assemblies dry-mounted into the fuselage, as they fit for step 11.
Once glued and set, I removed them again for painting, before refitting. (make sure you fit parts number C59 and C65 before gluing the sub-assemblies from step 8 and 9 into the lower fuselage half). Once done, the engines could now be fitted. As you can see here, I had decided not to display the engine covers open, so I didn't finish building, or paint the exterior sides of the engines, but the details could certainly be interesting for modellers wishing to display these open.
Stay tuned for the next part of the build very soon here on TMN
Alister Curnow

Thanks to Kittyhawk for sending this model to Alister to build and review. You can find out more about Kittyhawk's models on their Facebook page.