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Zvezda Su-33 "Flanker-D"

The Su-33 is an upgraded Su-27 Flanker built for carrier deployment. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, only 24 were built.

Don’t mistake this as a mere reissue of Zvezda’s earlier kit; it is a new tool. There are almost 250 parts with fine engraved panel lines and surface detail. You have several building options: open canopy and speed brake; wings and tail planes folded; or gear-up in-flight (stand not included). You also get a boarding ladder, wheel chocks, and two pilots (one seated and one standing). A set of R-27R and R-27T long-range missiles and R-73 short-range missiles are provided. Decals are supplied for two aircraft, along with all the stencils.

The cockpit side consoles and instrument panel rely on decals for details. The ejection seat looks good and has an optional seat back if you’re not using a pilot.

The main gear bays need to be assembled before joining the upper and lower fuselage halves. It’s a little tricky holding the four walls in place during gluing, but the fit is perfect. The same applies to the full-length intakes. The parts fit together well; it’s just a little difficult holding them in perfect alignment while gluing. The upper and lower fuselage join at panel seams.

Some vertical surfaces, especially behind the cockpit and on the engine sides, have rough, pebbly texture. I sanded it smooth but needed to rescribe some of the panel lines. I checked the rest of the airframe and deepened some of the lines that were a little shallow or soft.

Zvezda paid particular attention to the landing gear — 11 parts go into the nose gear alone! Detail here is sharply molded and fit is excellent. I appreciated the detail in the gear wells also. Mounting tabs on the main gear doors are delicate; they were broken on one of the doors in my sample.

The weapons trees are a carry-over from Zvezda’s Su-27 kit and include parts that aren’t used here. You get six R-27R radar-homing and two R-27T infrared-tracking long-range air-to-air missiles, plus four R-73 short-range missiles. I found out too late there weren’t enough stencil decals to go around.

My biggest area of uncertainty was with the colors for the camouflage. I ended up using Testors Model Master Flanker colors — pale blue, medium blue, and blue/gray — but they look slightly washed-out compared to references. The decals performed flawlessly, but be prepared to spend some time; there are a lot of them.

Even with the number of parts, some very tiny, assembly was painless and aided by excellent fit and engineering. If I had to do it over again, about the only thing I would change is to take more time to hone my camouflage skills. I definitely recommend Zvezda’s naval Flanker!

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

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