Saturday, May 1

Sukhoi SU-30SM Flanker C From Kittyhawk 1/48th scale

Alister Curnow has finished his build, paint & weather of the 48th scale Su-30SM "Flanker C" from Kittyhawk. A complex & detailed model with a lot of delicate work to finish it off, Alister stops by to tell us just how he did it in the final part of his story...

Sukhoi SU-30SM Flanker C
From Kittyhawk
1/48th scale
Kit No: KH 80171
Previous parts of this story:

Build review Pt.3: 1/48th scale Sukhoi SU-30SM Flanker C From Kittyhawk - The finishing straight...

The aircraft I am representing in this build is this one - NATO codename ‘Flanker-C’ Operated by the 43rd Independent Naval Assault Aviation Regiment (OMShAP) Russian Navy, based at Saki. Named ‘Irkutsk’, after the largest city in Siberia. Seen landing after displaying at the ARMY 2017, an event held at Kubinka Airbase, Moscow Oblast, Russia.
Bringing Sukhoi Su-30SM ’45 blue’ “Иркутск” to life:
I began the painting stage with an all-over primer in black from the Ammo by Mig One Shot bottle, for the model everywhere except the nose cone. After the black, I applied a mottled coat of light grey all over. Unfortunately, I was not able to buy the colour out of the bottle that I wanted, (covid shortages in this part of the world perhaps) so my mottled effect ended up being lost as I tweaked the colour I was mixing up and applied more layers over top of it. After a couple of attempts, mixing various Vallejo Model Air dark greys (mostly Grey 71047 and AMT-11 Blue-grey 71304) I had things looking like I thought they should be compared to the photos.
The top side was then masked off, and I could approach the lower side. This too required a bit of trial and error. Particularly as the very light colours I was applying didn't show correctly over the primer until they had a suitably thick coverage. 

The underside of the real "Blue 45" showing the almost reverse camouflage scheme that this aircraft wears...
The two blues were all custom mixed from the Vallejo Flanker Light Blue 71334, and Flanker Blue 71337 colours, and some AMT-7 Greyish Blue 71318 mixed in for the darker blue. The Flanker Light Grey 71335 was straight from the bottle. I sprayed the pattern freehand with the airbrush and considering I would usually mask this, I'm really pleased with the result. Though not necessarily shown in all the photos, the flying surfaces I have not yet installed were also all painted at the same time.
The nose was done in white primer, then Tamiya Gloss White X2, the leading edges painted by hand with Vallejo Model Air Aluminium 71062. The cockpit area was masked and airbrushed with Tamiya acrylic Rubber Black XF-85. Following this, a coat of Vallejo Mecha Gloss varnish was applied.
Eager to keep things moving on this long and difficult project I jumped ahead and applied the decals on the model. I had some trouble with the decals, but thankfully there are very few decals on this scheme. The decals did not respond well to Microsol decal setting fluid. I have been left with tiny bubbles in the first couple of decals I used it on, and elected to stop using it unless completely necessary, sticking with just Microset instead. The edges of the decals are also quite rough, so for the larger decals, like the red stars, and the Blue 45 I have used a sharp knife to cut sharp edges to the decals. 

Once the decals were done, I gave the model a quick matt varnish from my artist brand spray can. At this point, the model is about as clean and tidy as the Russian Navy obviously likes to keep their aircraft, but this is a model, so it will need a bit more effort to look like a model should. Another round of masking was applied, and I masked the decals with a liquid latex mask. I mixed up a slightly lighter mix of my main top colour, and applied some fading around the top surfaces, focusing more on the surfaces that see the most sun, but also those walked on most often by the ground crew, around the engines and spine of the aircraft. After a subtle pass over with the lighter grey, I used RLM66 Black Grey 71055 focused more so on the panel lines to downgrade the lightening up effect if required. The underside I felt happy with already, and given how clean the real aircraft are, I felt it was a believable look.
After the painting work, the masks were removed from the decals, and I applied a satin Vallejo Mecha varnish onto the model with the airbrush. Next, I could work on the paintwork with the Tamiya Panel Line wash. Since the top surface is already very dark, I used the black wash here mostly. This is worked with a paintbrush and paper towel and thinned with white spirits to aim for a subtle result. The lower side being so light, was a mix of black and light grey Tamiya panel line wash to create more of a dark grey panel line wash. Rather than focus on panel lines on the underside, it was used as an all-over wash. I ended up taking the majority of this off. I really didn't want this to be an overly dirty machine. With my weathering mostly done, the masks on the metalwork and canopy could be removed and I could start on all the little bits and pieces.
Landing gear firstly. The manual left me very confused on how to build these, so I had to wait until the landing gear bay paint masks were removed to figure out how things were supposed to go together. The landing gear has a couple of moulding process ejector pinholes in each leg, which at this scale I found hard to fill and sand. I attached some offcut copper wires to the landing gear legs, to give a "representative" impression of how this looks on the aircraft. 

The same gear on an Su-35
The wiring on the real thing is much too complicated for me to model accurately with copper wire and super glue. I have used Light Gull Grey with a little "RAF Sky" mixed into it for the landing gear, as in some photos the real gear looks almost grey-green. The silver compression shafts are thanks to a Molotow Liquid Chrome pen. The nose landing gear had a deformed front axle, as pictured, so the axle was sanded off, a hole drilled and a metal shaft inserted (from a drawing pin actually).
With the landing gear completed, I headed back to the cockpit and canopy that still needed a lot of work. The canopy instructions section of the manual does not show an option to install the canopy in the open position. Most of the parts needed are there to do so, but the hydraulic ram that pushes the canopy up isn't capable of holding the canopy up, so I used a piece of spare sprue from the kit for this, and the canopy sits up in place happily now, no glue required. 

The real aircraft has a blue coloured curtain for the front cockpit, usually pinned across to the right shoulder of the front pilot in photos. I have endeavoured to recreate this myself, but I gave up after a couple of hours trying to craft something from masking tape or thin metal foil. 
If anyone has any tips I'd be glad to hear them. I also hope you’ll forgive the builder, I had run out of patience by the last few hours and was not able to fit the rearview mirrors into the canopy glass. This part of the build process has defeated me!

The flying surfaces were now fitted to the aircraft. Given the trouble I had with the faulty wing, that side has some gaps where there should not be on the leading edge flaps as well as the trailing flap. But it doesn't detract too much from the model, and this wing I've conceded was the best I can expect from it given the state I inherited it from in the box. Following this, I spent a few days fitting all the final small bits from landing gear covers, to pitot tubes, to finally call the model complete.
The wrap-up - 1/48th scale Sukhoi SU-30SM Flanker C From Kittyhawk
But before we do that, I would still like to sum up my experience with this kit for you. The kit has a number of issues, but despite these, it has been my most enjoyable build to date. In three months of work, I never got bored of it, I was always pleased to sit down and work on it. I can look at the finished model and be proud of the fact I was able to persevere, and overcome the issues that the kit has, which will no doubt be reported on in reviews online such as this. Some days I may have taken two steps forward to find I needed to take one backwards, but every step was a lesson in which I will use to improve my work on kits that might not be as difficult to build. 

The completed kit in a walk around...
The underside with the completely different camouflage used to put off enemy aircraft
This kit is definitely not for beginners, and it would be good if Kittyhawk could ideally rectify the faults with the plastic on the wing, the landing gear front axle, the canopy glass, and the inaccuracies in the manual, but with a bit of work, most of the faults with the kit I found can be repaired and worked around. Careful dry fitting is a must, and some access to photos of the real thing can get the builder past the faults with the instruction manual for now. Once completed, this becomes a fantastic model that now stands apart in my collection, not only in sheer size but also with that unique Russian magnificence the Flanker series possess.

The completed kit in closer detail...
Thanks to Kittyhawk for the opportunity to build this kit.

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.
See more of Alister's work on his Facebook page "Alister's Model Hangar"