Kitty Hawk Models 1/48 Su-17M4 Fitter K Quick Build Review
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||May 2017||Manufacturer||Kitty Hawk|
|Subject||Su-17M4 Fitter K||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||80144||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Nice kit||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$79.99|
For a brief discussion of this subject and a look at this kit out of the box, look here.
When this kit was released a few months ago, the kit sold out rather quickly but not before I purchased one for my build queue. With that one standing by, I thought it would be worth a quick-build of the review sample kindly sent by Kitty Hawk to see how the kit goes together. I've heard through the grapevine that it does build up into a nice kit, but I've avoided reading any reviews so I can give a clean assessment of my own.
This will be a classic quick-build - I will only use liquid cement (Tamiya Extra Thin) along with basic tools (Xuron sprue cutter, X-Acto knife, files, and a pin vice). No paint, filler, cyano, or other materials will be used to build this model so you can see for yourself how the fit and finish of the basic model appears after each step. Since I am not using cyano, I will also not be using the kit photo-etched parts. I will (more or less) follow the assembly instructions as printed and note any issues as required.
Before we even start, just a reminder that the Kitty Hawk kits have the odd mold stubs that pop out of the strangest places. There are four in this image and all will impede proper assembly so clear these out along with any mold flash and sprue stub remnants. Take your time and dry-fit everything before committing to glue.
Step 1 - the basic ejection seat, and this consists of nine parts, so take your time and dry-fit everything. For example, the rear vertical frame halves (previous photo) go together and mount to the seat pan. The tab on the frame halves is slightly longer than needed resulting in a wobbly join. A few strokes of the file to shorten the tab and you have a firm mount to the seat pan that also sets the correct angle of the rear frame.
Step 2 - the rest of the seat goes together consisting of the seat pan sides and the tubes on either side of the headrest containing the telescoping poles/stabilizing chutes. One of mine was launched off the bench when cut from the sprue tree never to be seen again. Also note the control stick - while it looks good in shape and scale, I mounted it directly to the floor. The instructions show that this stick mounts to a base before going onto the floor, but that part was missing from my kit. If this had been a full-build, I would have fabricated a replacement from the sprue tree frame.
Step 2 continues with the assembly of the side walls/side consoles which includes a nice throttle lever. These subassemblies mount to the floor to end this step but don't take a break!
Step 3 - we mount the cockpit front and rear bulkheads to the sidewalls mounted in Step 2. The instrument panel is installed next along with the coming and gun sight. I opted to leave the coming and gun sight off until later.
Step 4 - this should be a simple step given that the engine isn't supposed to be seen after assembly. The basic engine core here is 12 parts. Note that the drive pack is identified in the instructions as part D18, but immediately below, another D18 is mounted to the engine and the drive pack. The correct part number for the drive pack is part C3. If you mount oil/hydraulic reservoir (part D43) as shown, it will hang up on other details on the engine case. Reverse the part and you'll be fine.
Step 4 continues where the afterburner chamber and nozzle are assembled. While the tail section is molded separately, the kit doesn't have a provision for displaying the model with the tail section removed, so most of this detail will never be seen again.
Here's the completed engine assembly from Step 4. 22 parts make up the complete engine assembly, so you can safely say this is over-engineered. Note that the afterburner nozzle assembly is supposed to slide onto the chamber (parts D37/38) but the nozzle doesn't seem to fit that way. I used liquid cement to 'lubricate' the nozzle onto the chamber and slide it all of the way into place.
Here's the compressor face of the engine which won't be seen after assembly.
This is the assembled afterburner chamber end and it is the only portion of the engine visible after assembly. There is nice detail in there just waiting for paint and weathering (in my next build).
Step 5 - the engine lugs near the compressor face mount into the holes on either side of the fuselage center section. I taped the center section together to see how this was going to work and then was concerned that the drive and accessory pack details on the engine would interfere with the alignment of the engine into the rear fuselage section. I taped the rear section together and the engine aligns perfectly with the engine details in place. What jumps out as a problem is that there is no mechanical alignment for the mid and rear fuselage sections. I'm torn between assembling them per the instructions (assemble mid and rear sections, then glue the two together) or gluing the left mid and rear sections together (ditto with the right), then assembling the fuselage halves together. More on this later.
Getting back to the point of this exercise, here's the afterburner nozzle though the rear fuselage section and as I said, alignment is fine with the engine details installed.
Continuing with Step 5, the mid-section fuselage halves are glued together with the engine mounting lugs trapped in their fuselage mounting holes. I decided to follow the instructions' approach to assembly to see what happens.
I am still concerned that the only method for attaching the rear fuselage section to this mid section is to simply mash the two tubes together. I decided to insert some styrene strips to help align and hold the rear fuselage in place.
Finishing out Step 5 and into Step 6, the speed brake wells are installed in the rear fuselage halves and the halves are glued together.
Step 7 and the vertical stabilizer is assembled. Five parts, no issues.
Here are the mid and rear fuselage sections glued together.
Step 8 - the nose wheel well and nose gear are assembled. Because I hadn't finished my first cup of coffee at this point, I forgot to shoot that assembly.
Step 9 - the cockpit subassembly, nose gear/well subassembly, and the intake cone assembly are all mounted into the forward fuselage halves. No problems here.
In Step 10, you assemble the three sections of the dorsal spine. The forward section consists of parts A4/A5. You'll note a gap in part A4 but no mention in the instructions as to what should be installed in that gap. The correct answer is part A1.
So here is the airframe with all three fuselage sections assembled (putty will be required) and the first two of the three dorsal spine sections. The missing section determines whether this will be the Su-17M3 (no intake at the base of the tail) or Su-17M4 (intake) and I'll be adding this last section shortly. Note: The parts for the Su-17M4 rear spine with intake are E16/E17, not D16/E17 as shown in the instructions.
Okay, so I skipped Step 11 because it adds all of the fragile details to the fuselage. I'll come back to that later. In Steps 12 and 13, we assemble the main landing gear struts and doors.
Step 14 and we build up the main wheel well walls to the upper wing half as well as add the starboard cannon bay. I decided to dry-fit the lower wing half onto the assembly and add the outboard wing section to see how it all fits:
- First, the outer wing panel is one solid piece and it has the surface details and flap/aileron hinges ready to go, the pivot hole mounts onto the pivot hinge inside the wing glove.
- Second, I can't recall the last kit where the fit was so snug and perfect that you almost didn't need glue. Once I pressed the wing halves together, it was like pure poetry. All of the less-than polite things I was thinking after the fuselage assembly are now forgotten.
Here is that dry-fit wing assembly now dry-fit into the wing/fuselage joint. Once again, this is absolutely outstanding. Looking from the bottom, you can see the perfection of this wing-fuselage joint and I haven't even glued the wing together yet. Note to Kitty Hawk: whoever designed the wings, please take over all kits. Whoever did the fuselage and engine design, please learn from the wing master!
Continuing Step 14 and into Step 15, we finish assembly of the starboard wing assembly. As I said above, the fit is excellent but there are a few points to keep in mind:
- Once again, be sure that the ejector pin marks/stubs are cleaned, especially inside the fairing for the variable geometry wing. One wrong bump will interfere with the fit and movement.
- The leading edge slats are molded extended and drop into the grooves of the front of the wing. The trailing edge flaps and aileron all fit nicely as well, but while the instructions show the flaps dropped, the molded-on pins work better with the flaps up. The choice is yours, but if you put the flaps down, glue the wing hinges so you won't have the flaps knocked off later.
- When you glue the inboard wing sections together, do not clamp the trailing edge. If you do, you may find a poor fit of the outboard wing fence. I did clamp mine, but I used an X-Acto knife to open the cavity to the trailing edge and the wing fence fit fine.
- The main landing gear struts plug nicely into the receiver holes in the main wheel wells but for my next build, I will use a drop of cyano to get a firm mount.
- UPDATE: I would recommend waiting to install the outboard wing fences until Step 18 so you can fit the pylons at stations 1 and 9 and the same time since they build into the same structure when you're finished.
I repeated the process for the left wing in Step 16 and Step 17 and glued the wings into place on the fuselage. Now the model is on its landing gear but it is almost time for some critical testing.
In Step 17, the horizontal stabilators are mounted. The only problem is that the receiver holes in the rear fuselage are not deep enough to hold the stabilators so there is too much play and I glued them into place.
Now for the question I've been waiting to ask: will the model be a tail-sitter? The instructions are silent about ballast, and as you can see here, with the wings forward, the model sits on its tail. I still have speed brake pedals and a few other details to install in the rear section as well as auxiliary intake doors and windscreen/canopy to install up front, so the balance is not going to improve without help.
I put a .25 ounce (7.1 gram) lead weight on the cockpit coming and the model sits comfortably on its gear. Even with the wings swept aft, the .25 ounce weight is just fine. If you put the weight inside the intake centerbody tube in Step 9, you'll be in good shape as any weapons and pylons will mount just ahead of the center of balance.
I have seen some discussions that the intake centerbody is not shaped correctly and I've got an aftermarket one on order. Even so, one thing that impressed me is not only how thin and clear the transparent parts were molded, but the fit is excellent. You can just see the laser rangefinder window under the centerbody and it fit perfectly.
The underside looks a little barren without the pylons and external stores, but this view shows how little filling will be required on the wing and wing/fuselage joints.
You can see here that the leading edge slat is extended but the flaps are up. You can pose them partially down without any problem, but I am probably going to trim the leading edge tracks to pose the slat up so the model will be posable with the wings extended or swept.
Here are a few more views to show the areas in the fuselage and dorsal spine that will need a bit more filling and fitting.
After installing the windscreen and canopy, both of which fit nicely, I decided to stop the project here. All that remains are the pitot booms, antennas, speed brakes, aux intake doors, and pylons. Since I didn't attempt to reopen the intake centerbody to add ballast, I added a binder clip on the ventral fin to get the final photos:
Aside from some minor glitches in the instructions noted above, this is one of the best kits out of Kitty Hawk to date. I would like to thank Kitty Hawk for taking previous criticisms of their instructions to action and they now call out all of their parts by tree and part number. In addition, the parts are numerically arranged on the trees so you can find them very quickly.
The highlights of this kit are the wings in both fit and detail. In the 'still needs work' column is the over-engineering of the engine and fuselage. I can see that there was some initial consideration to display the model with the tail section removed hence some internal details in the rear fuselage you never saw here, but the task wasn't completed and the engine isn't mounted for such an option. The engine consisted of far too many parts for something that won't be seen again after the fuselage is closed up. Shove a resin afterburner chamber in there and call it a day.
A few other considerations from simply handling the model during the photo session: 1) don't pick up the model by the outer wing panels - the wings themselves are fine, but the area around the wing pivot is thin plastic and you may not like how the model distorts under its own weight. 2) there is no structural strength in the stabilators as mentioned previously so be mindful not to bump them against anything.
It appeared that there was some attempt for a mount/alignment joint between the mid and forward fuselage sections but it came out more like flashed plastic than structure. There was nothing between the mid and rear fuselage and my workaround wasn't effective. I'll try something different for my full build.
So do I like this model? It is one of the best out of Kitty Hawk and a big improvement over the OEZ/KP tooling. I will be doing a full-build of this aircraft in the near future and I wouldn't hesitate doing more. While the kit is not yet up to Tamiyagawa standards overall, they're getting closer. Those wings are even better than Tamiya or Hasegawa...
Update: Okay, just when I thought I was finished with this quick build, I received an email from a reader asking me to fit the pylons to the model. Evidently there are conflicting build reviews 'out there' that have problems with the pylons. That piqued my curiosity so back to the bench we go...
Step 18, the pylons. This isn't one of Kitty Hawk's better instruction diagrams to be blunt. There is a lot going on there but we'll start outboard and work in. Stations 1 and 9 are the outboard stations and they fit over a blister on the underside of the wing and connect to the wing fence fore and aft. The indent in the pylon isn't quite the same shape as the blister, but a little filing solved that problem. These are parts 84 and 85, and like the other wing pylons, they are handed so you'll see they're specifically shaped for port or starboard side when you test-fit. You can still see a bit of a gap in the photo below but that is simply because I rushed through to see if there were any serious problems and I wasn't looking for a perfect fit in this test.
The pylons for stations 2 and 8 as well as the pylons for stations 3 and 7 have interesting steps in the mating surfaces that sometimes happen when you mold a whole pylon instead of two halves. You can see from the mounting points under the wings that there is no corresponding surface for those steps so I simply filed them smooth and they fit fine. Note that the instructions show pylon part D73 goes on station 8 and part D72 goes on station 2. D72 goes on the station 8, D73 on station 2.
You can see these pylons on stations 1, 2 and 3 (photo above) all fit fine. I didn't bother with the stations 4, 5, or 6 as they're fuselage stations and they look straightforward. I would suggest that before you even start, spend time on the weapons pages, load chart, and some reference photos to see how you'll be arming/bombing up your model. This will determine which pylon adapters and weapons rails/racks will be needed so you're not surprised after spending such time with the building, painting and weathering of your model. Of course you'll also have to decide whether you're doing the Su-17M3, Su-17M4, or even an Su-22M3 out of this kit. Remember that you cannot do the Su-22M4 as the rear fuselage has a larger cross-section to house the R-29B engine.
My sincere thanks to Kitty Hawk Models for this review sample!