Academy 1:48 Su-27S

 

Build Date:  June 11, 2018, Finished August 13, 2018.

On this post, I am building the old Academy 1:48 Su-27 Flanker B, Kit# 2131, issued around 1995.  This kit was used by Eduard as the bases for their Limited Edition multi-media high tech Kit Number 1167.   Since then Hobby Boss had issued a brand new Su-27 which gave modellers more options.

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I built this kit back in 2005 for a Client (Dave) and finished it in the Ukrainian Su-27 splinter colour scheme.  So I do have some experience with this kit and knows where the trouble areas are.

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I think everyone knows about this kit.  It has its flaws in that the nose is not slender enough.  There’s also the bad joint seam problem around the lower air intake trunks which requires some putty work.   Otherwise, I think it is a fine enough kit and I’d build it with a few aftermarket improvements.

I will be using the following aftermarket accessories to help improve this kit:

  1. Neomega resin cockpit set,
  2. Replace the kit’s unusable decals with the Squadron Product’s Eagle Strike Decals,
  3. Replace the kit’s misshapen nose cone with Quickboost resin nose,
  4. Replace the kit’s exhaust with a set of Aires resin exhaust cones.
  5. Replace the kit’s styrene nose probe with the DreamModel metal nose probe.
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The Quickboost resin nose on the left and the kit’s nose cone on the right. If you observe carefully, you can see the resin nose cone is more slender and tapered from midway to the tip, as it does look like on the real Su-27. The resin nose cone is very cheap at $6 so it is worth getting.

Neomega Cockpit Assembly:

After dry fitting the parts, I begin by painting the Neomega resin cockpit with a coat of Model Master Flanker Medium Blue.  Then I lightly mist on a light topping of Model Master Flanker Blue/Gray.   This combination yields a blue that best resembles the cockpit colour in the reference photos I have of a Su-27.

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The Neomega cockpit set also provides a nice resin HUD and instrument panel/coaming and HUD glass holder frame.  It is strange that the instruction sheet does not show the HUD frame and how one is to install it.  Naturally, I figured it out.   The HUD frame was cast in resin so it took a bit of effort to slowly cut out all the openings on the frames.  Additionally, I had to snip off a bit of the frame to shorten it so that the assembled item will fit inside the kit windshield.  The assembled and painted item do resemble the actual instrument panel assembly.

 

 

 

 

Intake Trunk Assembly:

The fit-up of the air intake trunks to the bottom fuselage is the most difficult part of this kit.  The first time I built this kit back in 2005, I had to fill the joints with a lot of putties then follow by a lot of elbow grease to sand the joints smooth, and finally rescribing all the lost panel lines.  That was very time-consuming.  This time, I’d try to be smarter.

To enhance the fit of both air intake trunks, I test fitted each piece to the fuselage and note the locations where gaps show up.  At those locations, I glue a thin strip of preshaped styrene card as fillers.  Finally, the strips are carefully sanded and blended in with the intakes.

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The following photo clearly shows how I improved the fit up.  This should reduce the severity of the gaps and should much reduce the amount of putty and sanding that I would have to do around those joints.

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Correcting the Wheel Well:

Academy made the mistake of making the lower fuselage joint straight across the wheel well.  This is easily fixed by simply by trimming the plastic to conform to the shape of the wheel well.

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Lower fuselage panel interferes with the notched wheel well.
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Corrected wheel well.

The kit’s wheel bays are large and visible, but they are devoid of details.   As I do not want to spend any more money on this kit, buying the nice Aires wheel bay set is out of the question as it costs more than $45 Cdn!  Hence, I took care of that by scratch building the details myself.   I scratch built only the most visible details with a variety of styrene card stock, stretched sprues and lead solder wires.

I painted the wheel well with Gunze H317

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The wheel well doors are full of ejector pin marks and flash.  This is so frustrating!  I fix them by scraping the flash off the ejector pin marks and then do my best to fill the “pot holes” with Mr. Surfacer 500.

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The QuickBoost resin nose is attached with thin cynoacrylate glue.  The resin nose attachment area is a bit oversized.  I fit the nose cone on flush with the top fuselage and let it overhang 1mm at the bottom.  I used a sanding stick and sanded the lower parts of the resin nose flush with the fuselage.   Thank goodness resin is soft and easy to sand.

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As I mentioned before, the fit at the aft-fuselage joint is typically pretty bad on this kit.  The positive is that this joint is at a flat area and so it is very easy to fill with putty and sand flush.   I scribed on several service panels in this area.

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While working on the missiles and pylons, I am sad to see the kit’s missiles have very thick fins.   More delays ahead as I have to cut all the fins off and make new thinner fins with styrene cards.  😦

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Painting

Got tired of working on the replacement fins for the missiles and so I diverted off to work on deepening the panel lines that are too shallow.  Concurrently, I worked on painting the Aires resin exhaust nozzles.   The metal panels of the rear decks and exhaust nozzles have many colour tonal differences (see below reference photos) which make them interesting to look at but also difficult to paint.  Although the colour differences on a Su-27 is much less than that on the Su-35, it nonetheless will be challenging and laborious work to paint them.

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Starting with the inside, the well used and aged colour of the ceramic tile surfaces in the burner can typically have a light grey-green colour with some dark streaking.  I simulated this by painting the can with Tamiya Gray Green XF-76 and then carefully airbrushed streaks inside the can with Alclad Burnt Iron.

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The inner exhaust cones were painted with Alclad Exhaust Manifold. Alternating individual petals inside the cans are tape off and then I painted the unmasked area with a light coating of flat white.  Then I lightly repainted the white area with the Exhaust Manifold colour.  When it is done, I have a nice tonal colour difference inside the cone.  It’s hard to see it in a photo due to lighting issues, but trust me the effect is there.

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The outside petals were masked off in alternating fashion and painted with a light dusting of Aluminum colour.

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The finished product.  This photo might demonstrate the tonal differences I achieved inside the cone.

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Before I could paint the engine nacelle panels, I had to rescribe and enhance many of the panel lines there because, to my surprise, some of the panel lines depth are soft and will not hold a wash.  In fact, some panel lines were either wrong or did not come through during the kit’s moulding process.

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I painted a good solid coat of Alclad Stainless Steel paint on the engine nacelles as the base for my multi-tone metal finish.  This stainless steel colour also enables me to perform one last check for errant scribed panel lines or scratches on the surfaces.  I let the Stainless Steel paint dry for 5 minutes and then proceed to apply a light, random, misting of Alclad Pale Burnt Metal.

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This is followed by streaking Alclad Exhaust Manifold paint across panel lines and rivet lines.  I used my Iwata HP-C+ fine line airbrush for all subsequent painting.  A more concentrated application is done on the aft panels to match my reference photos.  This sort of appearance seems to be typical on most Su-27.   Finally, I streaked on lines of Alcad Transparent Blue, Green, and Violet on random rivet lines as well as splotch them randomly.  It does not have to be neat and tidy since metal discolouration is random in real life.  However, streaks along rivet lines should be uniform and as thin as possible.

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This same process is used on the Aires afterburner cans and exhaust cones.  I made several mistakes along the way.   However, my mistakes are serendipitous since they made me perform retouch painting with effects that generally look more realistic and random!  Expanding on this point, the entire process is really just applying layer upon layer of special effect which, in the end, looks effective.

Almost done.  What remains will be my artistic touch to hand paint the heat stain lines on all the nacelles panels.

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After several more layers of metallic paint to further tuning the colours I sprayed on a layer Future floor wax to protect the paint.  Then I applied a wash of Tamiya dark brown wash to the panel lines and rivets for highlight.  The multi-layers of thin Alclad paint are very delicate and will easily peel off even with low tack masking tape.  I have to be very careful to mask over these painted surfaces when I prepare to paint the camouflage.

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Finally, I hand paint the heat stain colours atop of each row of rivets using artist ink.

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I noticed there are vast differences in the shades of the paint applied to Flankers.  I believe this is a result of lighting when the photographs were taken as well as aging of the paint while in service.   Russian airforce Flankers suffered badly from fading.  They were rarely stored in hangers and as a result, was exposed to harsh weather conditions which aged their paint.   I choose to paint this model in colour similar to what is seen in the below reference photo.

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I painted the base colour with Model Master Flanker Pale Blue (the overall light blue on the aircraft).   The top camouflage is painted with Model Master Fulcrum Gray and Flanker Medium Blue.

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My experience with painting camouflage paint scheme is that it is a total waste of time to pre-shade the panel lines/rivets before painting the camouflage.   The multiple layers of paint would eventually completely cover up the pre-shading and you won’t see a smidge of it when done.  Hence, I shade the panel lines after I put down the basic layers of camouflage.  Everybody has their own way of doing things:  This works for me even though it may look stupid to Others.

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After the shading, I load the airbrush with a thinned out mix of each colour and proceed to cover over the dark shading.  At the same time, I refine the camouflage outlines a patch at a time.  In this manner, I could control how “dirty” I want to make at each area and panel line.  Lots of time and patience is required here but I think the final result is worth it.   I think the colour shades match very well against reference photos.

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Decals:

This is what the model looks like today, July 22.  The Squadron Product’s Eagle Strike Decals for the Su-27B is printed by Cartograf and it goes on perfect as I would expect from this fine decal maker.  The markings are for a Su-27B “Blue 10” of the Combat Employment and Flight Personnel Retraining Center at Savasleika airbase.  The decal sheet only provides the main unit markings and the stars.

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A long retired Su-27 from the Savasleika airbase sitting in a museum in Russia. Note how the unit badge and airframe colour has faded. This photo provides a reference for me to confirm some details regarding colour. The photo is from Airliners.Net

I mentioned before that the Academy kit decals are always useless and so I had purchased a sheet of Linden Hill Su-27 stencil decals.  I was careless and had purchased a 1:32 scale sheet!  Hence, I will have to stop working on the decals until my new stencil decals arrive sometime in August.

Meanwhile, I keep working on the missiles and have finished all the replacement fins.   The kit missiles are not that good.  I selected a decent pair of radar-homing R-27R missiles from the Academy kit to use while I sourced another set of leftover infrared-homing R-27T missiles and KH-58 from the Kitty Hawk Su-35 kit.  The KH-58 is an older style anti-radiation missile for an attack on enemy defence radar.  I think it is the perfect accompaniment for the fuselage hardpoints.

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While waiting for my stencil decal to arrive, I painted the missiles.  The missile bodies were painted in Tamiya White and the fins and nose cones were painted with Vallejo 71056 Black Grey.   Masking all fins on the R-27 missiles was a lot of work but the result is well worth it.

To enhance the canopy shroud provided by the Neomega resin set, I opted to scratch build the rest of the canopy frame.  I simply build up the frame from layers of styrene cards to conform to the inside surfaces of the kit canopy.  I added a tapered block at the back of the shroud so that it would make attaching the canopy to the plane easier and stronger.

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I received the Begemot stencil decals and have started applying them to the model. This is an incredible decal set:  It comes in 3 sheets of decals providing stencils for Su-27 and Su-33, all the hardpoint launch rails, and all the weapons.  The decals are very thin and they go on very well without any silvering as long as the decal goes on a smooth-glossy surface and the decals are pressed gently to remove any air pocket underneath before it dries.   The image quality is very clear.   It is incredible how many stencils are on a Su-27.   Some of the texts are yellow colour text and they do not show up well against the blue surfaces of the plane.  As such, I avoid putting most of the yellow text stencils on and that helped save me a bit of time.

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The stencils do indeed helped liven up the model and even make the missiles look more realistic.

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To seal the decals, I sprayed a light coating of Future floor wax onto the model.   Finally, to even out the sheen, I lightly sprayed a coating of  Vallejo Matt Varnish.  This medium is by far the best clear flat I have ever used.  I can just spray it out of the bottle and it never goes “white dust” on me.

The most satisfying moment was when I glue on the Dream Model’s metal nose cone pitot tube.   Anybody who has built models with a long nose probe knows that the plastic probe ALWAYS breaks off or bent, and it never looks realistic.  The Dream Model’s metal probe is beautifully machined and shiny.  It looks so good on this model.

I thought of sourcing a set of resin wheels to replace the kit’s rubber tyres.   But, I resisted the urge as I didn’t want to spend any more money on this model.   I used a sharp blade and scraped off the flashing around the rubber tyres and then sanded the tyres with a medium coarse sandpaper.   I painted the tyres with Vallejo Panzer Grey and then highlighted the raised text with white paint dry brushed on.  I think it worked out very well.

I scratch built some of the small fine details such as the odd-rod type IFF antennas on the tail boom of the plane, static discharges on the wing trailing edge, and the angle-of-attack sensor vanes on the side of the nose.  Now let’s see how long those static discharge rods will stay on…  they usually break off over time.

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Conclusion:

Although there are new Su-27 kits from the Chinese model companies, I still think this kit is a good choice for modellers to build a good looking Su-27 model.  I’m not an expert on this aircraft and so I do not know if this Academy model is true to scale.  I simply enjoyed building this model and after spending a bit of effort to upgrade this kit, I am very satisfied with the finished result.

References:

Cybermodeler Reference Page for Su-27 reference photos

Flanker’s Nest has some interesting blurry videos of Su-27 in service

Flanker’s Nest walkaround photos of an SU-27B in service.

Verlinden Publications, Lock On No. 17 Su-27 ‘Sukhoi’

 

 

 

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