One of the nice things about building 1/144 scale aircraft models is that you can set aside the usual concerns about detail and accuracy and just enjoy a good build. Such is the case with these two new releases from Academy, the Su-22 and Su-25.
Actually, these models are not new but instead re-issues of 10 year-old Hobbycraft kits. However, that does not mean they are inferior models; both kits are finely molded in light gray styrene and have engraved panel lines.
The Su-17/Su-20/Su-22 family of swing-wing fighter-bombers ('Fitter' is the NATO reporting name) entered Soviet service in the 1970s and were exported to a number of Warsaw Pact and Third World air forces. In the post-Soviet era, improved Fitters with upgraded avionics and weapons arrays continue to serve with a number of air forces around the world, including Hungary, the subject of this kit.
Version differences in the Fitter family are a complicated subject and which, if any, Fitter type is represented by this kit is open to debate. However, the model is generally accurate in outline and has the 'look' of an Su-22.
Before assembly, I reviewed the kits instruction sheet and found it clear, accurate and well-diagrammed. This is a big improvement over the original 1990 Hobbycraft instruction sheet.
Assembly in a model of this type is straightforward. The kits cockpit contains only a basic ejection seat and instrument panel but these are adequate for 1/144th scale. The two-piece fuselage and solid wing and tail parts assemble without difficulty but putty is required on most seams. The model is a tail-sitter so be sure to add weight to the nose.
Some of the smaller parts in this kit, like the nose instrumentation probes, missile rails and landing gear doors, are too thick and have to be trimmed or sanded down for scale appearance.
The model's external stores consist of two 'Atoll' air-to-air missiles (or perhaps Sidewinders, since Hungary is now a NATO member) mounted on under-fuselage rails and two under-wing fuel tanks. No stores are provided for the inboard weapons pylons.
The clear canopy comes in two pieces. I positioned the canopy hood open because it did not seem to fit right when closed.
The camouflage scheme described in the instructions is complicated, consisting of two greens, a brown and a tan over light blue-gray. Both Federal Standard numbers and plain English descriptions are provided for the colors.
The decals consist of aircraft numbers and Hungarian chevrons. Unfortunately, the chevrons are printed in red, white and blue instead of Hungarian red, white and green, but this can be corrected by repainting. The decals adhered well after I gloss-coated the model and there was no silvering.
All in all, Academy's Fitter is a neat little kit and a good buy for under five dollars.
The Su-25 (NATO codename 'Frogfoot') has been in service for almost 20 years and established a reputation as a tough and reliable close-support aircraft. Making its combat debut during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Frogfoot earned the Russian nickname Grach (crow) because of its effectiveness in protecting ground troops. The Su-25 was subsequently exported to a number of Warsaw Pact and Third World air forces. Among them was Iraq, where many Frogfoots, like the rest of Saddam's air force, ended up as targets for Coalition fighters during the Gulf War. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Frogfoot was used in several conflicts in former Soviet republics and saw heavy use during the recent Russian war in Chechnya. Besides Russia, the Su-25 still serves as frontline equipment with a number of East European and Third World air forces.
Academy's kit appears to be the plain-vanilla Su-25K (Frogfoot A) variant. The Su-25K underwent a number of upgrades and modifications since it was first introduced back in the 1980s. However, the basic airframe remained the same since most of the changes consisted of avionics and weapons upgrades.
Like the Fitter kit, the Academy Su-25 comes with excellent instructions and is easy to assemble. The cockpit is basic, consisting of an ejection seat and control stick, but suitable for this scale. The fuselage has an upper and lower half and assembles without difficulty. However, sanding and putty was required to cover the seam line.
Fitting the wings and tail to the fuselage was tricky because the wing locator slots do not allow proper alignment. This was easily corrected with an X-Acto knife by modifying the locating holes. Putty and sanding was required along the fuselage/wing join line.
Once the wings, tail and fuselage are together, the model was ready for painting. The marking scheme described in the instructions was for a Russian Su-25 with light blue undersides and sand uppers with green and brown blotches. I painted the model before adding landing gear and armament.
Unlike Academy's Fitter, the Su-25 kit comes loaded for bear, with six air-to-ground rocket pods and two bombs. Fill the locating holes on the bombs before attaching them to the wing pylons since the holes do not align properly with the pylons.
The landing gear attaches without difficulty although the main gear doors need some trimming for a proper fit. I was unsure what color to paint the gear wells. I chose silver, but the instructions call for light gray.
The model's biggest surprise was its center of gravity. Although the model has a high angle of attack and a lot of tail area, it was not tail heavy. This is a tribute to Sukhoi's design (or maybe Hobbycraft/Academy's!).
I was satisfied with the finished model. Academy's Su-25, like their Fitter, provides a lot of modeling enjoyment for very little money. My thanks to MRC for these review samples!