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Kitty Hawk Su-35 "Flanker-E"

FineScale Modeler reviews the new aircraft kit, the first 1/48 scale model of its kind
RELATED TOPICS: AIRCRAFT
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Kitty Hawk is the first company to market a 1/48 scale Sukhoi Su-35 “Flanker-E.” Before, the only way to build an Su-35 was to modify the Academy Su-27 — no small feat if you wanted an accurate replica!

The news that Kitty Hawk was producing a Su-35 engendered lively debates within the modeling community, even before the kit’s release. The box art has caused some controversy, too, as it shows an Su-35 shooting down a U.S. F-15E.

The box contains 628 parts in light gray plastic and 14 in clear. Adding detail are 31 photo-etched (PE) brass pieces for the seat/cockpit, intakes, wheels, and pylons. Three decal sheets round out the contents.

Note that 416 parts are on the weapons sprues. Obviously, one jet cannot carry it all, so your Russian spares box gets a welcome boost! Looking at photographs of Su-35s, it is rare to see them heavily loaded. I decided on a fairly common load, with pairs of R-73 and R-77 air-to-air missiles. The box art shows 10 R-77s, but the kit includes only two; if you want more, you’ll have to find some spares.

The kit represents a late-prototype/early-production aircraft, with chaff/flare dispensers mounted atop the tail stinger. Later production moved these to the underside.

The Su-35’s high maneuverability owes to its thrust-vectoring nozzles. The kit only includes parts for nozzles in the “neutral” position. A subsequent boxing of this kit provides additional resin parts for both the later tail stinger and under-mounted chaff dispensers along with drooped thrust-vectoring nozzles (appropriate for a parked, powered-down aircraft). There are also several aftermarket resin options for updating the prototype kit.

Detail is good throughout. The cockpit is quite complete and accurate, with well-defined panels and heads-up display. The seat is well done, too; my only gripe is that PE belts are provided, which I have not yet mastered. I would prefer a resin seat with molded-on belts.

The wheel wells and undercarriage are well represented, if a bit simplified. This model will be a “tail sitter” without nose weight — but the nose gear is sturdy enough to hold up. Some parts would require modification to vary their pose, such as the cockpit canopy and braking-parachute door. The tail planes are posable, but, since the exhausts are pointing straight back, I parked the tail planes in neutral. Removing the locating lugs on the tail planes allows you to leave them off until the end of painting/construction. 

Some have complained that the kit’s wings are separate panels that have to be attached, as opposed to having the entire upper and lower fuselage/wings as one piece. But this is a nonissue, as you may attach the wing tops and bottoms to their respective fuselage halves to create one-piece top and bottom assemblies. Attach the intake trunks to the lower fuselage half before combining the top and bottom halves. Since the fuselage piece is somewhat flexible, the intake trunks can be glued and fitted very precisely. Doing this after the fuselage halves have been joined may make getting a good fit tricky.

One disappointment is the lack of interior intake trunks, leaving an odd view if you look down the intakes.

Decals provide six markings options, a choice made more difficult by the appealing nature of all of them! I chose the “eggplant” scheme, as I thought it would reduce painting time. But this is a big airplane — no matter which scheme you choose, painting is going to take up some time!

For the colors, I chose the Mr. Paint version of the eggplant color. I’m not convinced that Su-35s are painted in such a purple-gray, so I lightened the base to match the color I saw in photographs. Same for the underside, which ended up being a 1:1 mix of GSI Creos Mr. Color RLM 76 and white.

The decals presented no problems, apart from some of the yellow “Lift Here” symbols disappearing into the underlying gray (I didn’t use those).

Overall, this is a pretty good effort by Kitty Hawk. I would rank it equal to or slightly better than kits such as the Hasegawa F-15 or F-14 in regards to buildability, accuracy, and detail. Yes, Kitty Hawk still needs to work on its instructions, which are plagued by misnumbered or unmentioned parts, and there are some quirks to look out for — but nothing too difficult to overcome. I enjoyed the build and would happily do another. There is a striking yellow, green, and brown splinter scheme appropriate for this aircraft, and since I do have another copy of it …


Note: A version of this review appeared in the October 2018 issue.

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