1/72 Su-27 Flanker
Kit Number: 72221
Reviewed by  Jim Pearsall, IPMS# 2209

[kit boxart image]

MSRP: $42.00
Distributor website: www.dragonmodelsusa.com
ICM website: www.icm.com.ua

[review image] The Su-27 is about the same vintage and performance as the U.S. F-15. The Su-27 is somewhat larger, but it also has the mission of penetrating air defenses to shoot down "high value assets" like AWACS and aerial tankers, which are huge force multipliers for NATO air forces.

This model is more about a "back story," the gee-whiz stuff which makes a particular aircraft more interesting, than the run-of-the-mill airplane. While doing some of the research for the interior and markings for the Su-27, I found a great story from the 1998-2000 Eritrea-Ethiopia war. When the war began, neither country had much of an air force, as Eritrea was newly formed, being a break-away from Ethiopia, and Ethiopia had not upgraded its fighter force from the MiG-23s they had bought quite a while ago. So they both went out and spent some big bucks for modern high performance fighters. Eritrea bought eight MiG-29s, and Ethiopia bought five Su-27s.

From this I learned that the Flankers (Su-27s) shot down four Fulcrums (MiG-29s) and damaged one so badly that it crashed on landing. One interesting facet of these combats is that the radar-guided R27 Air-to-air missile (AA-10 Alamo) was ineffective -- no matter which side fired it. All four kills and the damage were from the heat-seeking R-73 (AA-11 Archer). This is the same lesson the U.S. learned in Vietnam, when the radar guided AIM-7 Sparrow was less useful than the heat-seeking AIM-9 Sidewinder.

[review image] [review image]

The ultimate result of this combat was that Eritrea bought Su-27s.

[review image] [review image] But wait, thereís more! Several sources say that one of the MiG-29s was shot down by a woman named either Asther Tolossa or Haymanot Hallamariam. She would be the first woman ever to score an air-to-air kill in a jet aircraft. This was the killer story, the one to tell while showing off the model. And it would be so much cooler if the story was true! Seems the first woman jet pilot in the Ethiopian Air Force probably graduated from pilot training in 2004, well after the war was over. Sigh. So, on with the model.

Note: real-world photos from Wikipedia, cited there as public domain.

The Model

[review image] You get two big fuselage halves, top and bottom, a huge sprue with the wings, etc, two sprues with the weapons and pylons (extras to feed the spares box!) the clear parts and the intakes, which are very important to the Su-27. There is some minor flash on most of the smaller parts. This is not a real problem; it just takes a few extra moments with a sharp knife to clean the part before assembly. The parts fit together pretty well. Saying this, the fuselage halves are very large castings, and itís very difficult to keep them from warping slightly after theyíre removed from the mold. So you wind up with a nose section that looks like some prehistoric monster intent on eating something. With only Tenax ģ, clamps and some putty for the very nose tip, the parts came together very well.

[review image] [review image]

[review image] The cockpit is basic, but the ejection seat is a fine piece of work. After I took this photo, I dressed up the cockpit with panel and console decals that were left over from an earlier Flanker project. After I got the cockpit installed and the fuselage completed, it was time to address the intakes. These are very prominent assemblies under the fuselage, and they require some care to get them to fit and line up. These parts are pretty well thought out, and there are alignment bars to help you get all the parts in the right place. Because there are screens just inside the intake, there is nothing to prevent large and useful help in there, as itís covered up.

[review image] I thought the exhausts were very nicely done. Thereís a tricky bit about removing the exhaust pipes from the sprues, as the gate comes into the detail. But since the Flanker has a huge boat tail that comes out past the exhausts, these can be hidden, saving huge amounts of time and effort. This time, of course can now be spent cleaning flash off of small parts. The flame holder for the afterburner is a quality bit of engineering. When itís installed, it would be hard to tell it from a photo-etched part.

[review image] The wings and vertical stabilizers have locating tabs and slots, but the horizontal stabs and the vertical fins under the tail are located by guess. This is where I really wished the instructions were a little clearer. The instructions are adequate as far as which parts to use, but with the low contrast, itís sometimes difficult to see where the destination point is.

There was need for some putty at the wing roots, the intakes and the nose, but generally everything fit. I had no problems getting alignment for the wings, stabilizers, and intakes, but there were some small gaps that needed filling.

[review image] [review image]

Painting and Decals

[review image] Painting instructions are a high point for this kit. The colors are all referenced to Testors Model Master ģ colors, including the Testors stock number. This may not make the European customers who use Humbrol or the Asians who use Gunze happy, but for once Iím not the one who has to go to IPMS Stockholmís website to figure out the Model Master paint which most closely resembles "Greenish Gray-Brown" Gunze 498.5, Humbrol Z28.

There are four color schemes two Russian AF, one Ukrainian AF, and one Russian Navy. These are great because they include four views plus the inside of the vertical fins. Also, they all use the same three basic colors from Testors, Flanker Light Blue, Flanker Medium Blue and Flanker Blue-Gray. The color layouts suffer from the same lack of contrast that the assembly instructions do, but I beat this. I scanned the scheme I decided to use and blew it up to 1/72. I then printed it and used the print out to produce paint masks. Additionally, blowing the graphics up brought out the color demarcations so that even I could see them.

[review image] [review image]

Once I had the Flanker painted, I put on the Future and added the decals. I stayed with my original intention of doing an Ethiopian Flanker, even if I was working with a war story that ended up not being true. The kit decals had great color and were in register; but they were extremely thin, and I had difficulty getting them off the paper intact.

Overall Assessment

Recommended. In spite of having some problems with decals, I like how this kit came out. There is flash on many parts, but itís pretty minor, and itís easily taken care of. I like the way it looks. Their crews call the jets "Zhuravlik" (Crane) because of the way the forward fuselage seems to bend its neck.

There is another recent release of a Su-27. What you get for twice the money is decals and PE for the cockpit and PE for the exterior, a single part wing and fuselage top/bottom and slightly crisper molding. If youíre on a modeling budget, the ICM Flanker may be your choice. Itís an eminently buildable model. If it had been released 10 years ago, it would have been hailed as a masterpiece.

My thanks to Dragon Models USA for the chance to review this kit.

[review image] [review image]
[review image]