Building Academy's 1/48 Su-27UB 'Flanker C'
by Steve Filak, Sr.
The Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker is a departure from the typical spartan aircraft designs of the former Soviet Union. Certainly, it could now be considered the most state of the art aircraft in the inventory of the Russian Air Forces, not to mention the export versions. To its credit, a modified Su-27 took away all of the time-to -climb records formerly held by the F-15 Streak Eagle, and is famous for performing the 'Cobra' maneuver, wowing the crowds at airshows worldwide. Currently, the Flanker exists in numerous incarnations such as the Su-30 export version, Su-35, Sea Flanker, and the Su-34 ground attack variant, hosting a tandem cockpit similar to the arrangement found on the A-6 Intruder. Armament consists of a single barrel 30 mm cannon mounted in the right LERX/wing root, and an array of up to ten air to air missiles.
The Academy kit, number 2140, consists of 5 sprues of parts molded in flash-free blue/gray plastic, plus one clear sprue for the cockpit and missile seeker heads. One of the biggest advantages of this kit is that the wings are molded to the fuselage, thereby eliminating the need to worry about anhedral/dihedral, as well as eliminating the wing - body joint. The level of detail is virtually astounding, being reproduced down to the last rivet, and the fit of the parts is for the most part, excellent.
Naturally, I started with the cockpit, and this is the only area that really lacked on the model. The kit-supplied K-36 ejection seats leave quite a bit to be desired, and appear to be out of scale with the rest of the cockpit. Also, the tub itself is too shallow, and the panel/console detail is not what it should be in terms of the level of detail present. Be that as it may, I assembled and painted the cockpit according to the instructions, and used the Verlinden Lock-On book as a color guide when painting (there are some excellent detail shots of the cockpit in this particular book, and I highly recommend it).
Next, the completed cockpit was mated to the upper fuselage, the fuselage halves were joined, and the intakes were assembled. This is where things became difficult, as the intakes do not mate flush to the fuselage, and a lot of tweaking is involved here. I wound up sanding down the joint with a rubber polishing point in the Dremel on low speed, then puttying and sanding out the joint until it was as smooth as possible. This yielded acceptable results, but If I ever build another Flanker, I'd probably file down the intakes before assemble to improve their fit.
The rest of the kit was assembled per the kit's instructions, attaching the vertical tails, stabs, flaps and slats, and weapons pylons. Landing gear and weapons were left off until after painting. I rubbed down the plane with fine steel wool, then applied the three-color camouflage using the Model Master Flanker colors. The exception to this was in applying the darkest blue-gray color. On photos that I have seen of older Flankers, this darkest blue gray color was not used, but rather a lighter gray color was applied instead. I substituted Light Ghost Gray for this color, and it appears to match the Flankers in the Verlinden book very closely.
Next came the decals, which went on without a problem (contrary to previous experiences with Academy's decals shattering after wetting), but they were difficult to position once on the model. Weathering commenced after the decals dried, which consisted of a panel line wash using black artist's watercolor. I've found that watercolors are easiest to use, since they don't require a clear coat over semi-gloss or gloss enamels, and mistakes can be corrected with Polly-S thinner.
Landing gear, canopy, and missiles were attached, and then tragedy struck. While attempting to shoot a photo of the underside of the plane, it fell over, breaking the canopy, landing gear, and sent three of the missiles flying off to parts unknown in my workshop. Fortunately, I was able to pick up spare parts, and it was back to the workbench for repairs. The damage was repaired, and the finished kit shows no signs of my ham-fisted handling. Final weathering was completed at this point with a light dusting of gray and earth tone pastels.
And there you have it - one of Academy's finest offerings, despite the minor problems described above. Just be careful when attaching the intakes and nozzles, as these are the only major fit problems of the kit. And whatever you do, don't drop it like I did. You'll be a lot happier in the long run if you keep all three wheels on the ground!
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