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HobbyBoss Flanker

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/48 scale plastic model aircraft kit
RELATED TOPICS: AIRCRAFT
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The Sukhoi Su-27 “Flanker” may be considered the epitome of a fourth generation of Russian jet fighters. Comparable to the F-15 in design and role, it is impressive for its sheer size and speed but also displays incredible agility, being the first aircraft able to perform “Pugachev’s Cobra,” in which the airplane rears up like a cobra snake prior to striking. It is one of my favorite modern fighters, second only to the F-16.

To this point, there has really only been one option if you wanted to build a Flanker in 1/48 scale. It certainly was time for someone to step in and offer us something new — and now HobbyBoss has presented a newly tooled Flanker kit. On opening the box and seeing the magnificent moldings, it immediately becomes obvious just how large an aircraft the Flanker is. What fun! The 12 pages of instructions in 16 stages deal with the construction. However, color callouts are far from complete. Nor are they accurate.

The cockpit begins the build, and everything goes together smoothly. Detail is clean and accurate throughout. However, the seat is a letdown; its shape is good, with molded belts, but for some reason there is a large hole in the back of the head box.

There is a rough surface texture on much of the outer airframe. It is inconsistent and quite obvious in some areas, especially around the cockpit on my example. This texture is also evident around the rear of the aircraft, which makes surface preparation a substantial chore in achieving a good metallic finish around the engines.

Construction of the main airframe was otherwise trouble-free. The only area with a slightly less-than-perfect fit was where the intake tunnels attach to the rear engine/under-fuselage section. Spending a little more time test-fitting, trimming, and clamping the joints will pay off here.

One issue I found off-putting even before seeing it in plastic was that the main wheel wells are molded at a very strange angle relative to the centerline of the aircraft. They look toed-in compared with the real Flanker. Once the model is built, however, the incorrect angle of the well is not that obvious — not a deal-breaker by any means. Speaking of wheels, HobbyBoss provides nice plastic hubs with rubber tires.

There are some other areas, though, where details are more noticeably incorrect. The Infrared Search and Track (IRST) housing on the front of the windscreen is undersized and looks odd.

Also, the real Flanker has a noticeable “wash-out” on the wings. (Wash-out is used in wing design to allow the wing to attain a lower flying speed. It involves building a twist into the wing so the tips point downward by several degrees compared to the wing root. This produces a later aerodynamic stall point and lowers the aircraft’s overall stall speed, especially in slow speed maneuvering.) However, the model lacks this, evidenced by the fact that the wingtip missiles are parallel to the aircraft centerline, not slightly nose-down as they would be on the real Flanker.

Finally, the intakes on the leading edges of the vertical fins should not be the same size. The intake on the port fin should be larger than the one on the starboard fin. Minor points, perhaps, but obvious if such things are important to you.

There are some odd engineering choices in the way parts are presented, notably the attachment of clear parts to the sprue. Each of the lenses has a domed front with a flat rear face. The attachment points have the sprue gate attached underneath, extending onto the flat face. Removing a sprue gate on a clear disc barely 1/8 inch around and leaving it clear and clean is difficult to say the least!

The canopy’s mount is a vague attachment in the open position, with no positive location aids at all. However, the fit of the closed canopy is excellent! In fact, I simply held the masked canopy in place to cover the cockpit while I painted the model’s exterior.

Mounting the tail planes in any position other than neutral will take some scratchbuilding and a look at reference photos. The attachment of the tail planes themselves is not positive and requires care in attachment to achieve correct alignment.

This kit features a great weapons selection. There are more weapons than the aircraft can carry at one time, and some that are uncommon for early Flankers. In building this model, I looked at many photos of Su-27s to get an idea of how they look and what type of load is typical. As a result, I did not mount any weapons on the intake or centerline pylons, as most photos show missiles mounted only on the wings.

I could not find any pictures of the aircraft represented by the kit marking choices, and I believe they may be somewhat spurious. I chose to depict a fairly generic early Flanker with all-green antenna covers, simply because I liked the way they looked. Mr. Paint colors were used throughout, with the specified colors for the Su-27 providing very accurate matches. The kit decals performed flawlessly with Microscale setting solutions.

So, in conclusion, what do we have? The finished model is more than ¾ inch longer than the Academy Su-27 but has the same wingspan. As a result, it looks more like a Flanker — and that king cobra posture is obvious. The shapes are right, with good proportions and aesthetics.

However, the product does appear to be somewhat rushed, with its rough surface texture and a slightly clunky feel throughout. The instructions are neither clear nor concise, with less-than-complete color information provided.

That said, I already have another Su-27 in my stash, as well as the Su-30MKK and Su-34 also released by HobbyBoss. So, even with its negative aspects, I don’t dislike the kit. I look forward to building a Ukrainian jet in “digital splinter” camouflage soon!


Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2017 issue.
 

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