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Su-30SM Flanker H

Kitty Hawk Models 1/48 Su-30SM Flanker H Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2020 Manufacturer Kitty Hawk Models
Subject Su-30SM Flanker H Scale 1/48
Kit Number 80171 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Many possibilities Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $TBA

First Look

Su-30SM Flanker H
Su-30SM Flanker H
Su-30SM Flanker H
Su-30SM Flanker H
Su-30SM Flanker H
Su-30SM Flanker H

The Su-30 (NATO Codename: Flanker) is a multi-role combat capable version of the Su-27UB two-seat trainer. Like many two-seat combat aircraft around the world, the Su-30 provides another set of eyes in the cockpit providing a more robust combat capability. As the Su-30 continued to be modernized and tailored to the requirements of different client nations, some aircraft received capabilities found in the Su-35 including advanced radar and thrust-vectoring engine nozzles. One design feature that appeared with the advanced Su-30 series was the canards originally developed with the highly maneuverable Su-37 prototypes to offset the increased weight of advanced avionics in the nose. One feature that came and went from the airframe was the canard system ahead of the wings. The Su-30s that received the upgraded avionics suite also received the canards to offset the heavier electronics in the nose. These canards also appeared on the early Su-35 airframes equipped with the same avionics. Before the Su-35 went into full production, additional improvements were into a new radar system that also weighed considerably less and this radar was adopted for the Su-35S which also eliminated the need for the canards.

The first of the advanced Flankers to enter production was the Su-30MKI for the Indian Air Force and featured the first thrust-vectoring capabilities to be exported outside of Russia. When a group of F-15C Eagles deployed to India for a good will visit, the Indian Su-30MKIs proved to be superior in aerial combat during their aerial encounters. The headlines travelled far and wide that the F-15 was no longer relevant, but not so fast. A year or so later, the Indian Air Force accepted an invitation to participate in Red Flag during 2008 and the outcome was quite different. Where the top Indian pilots took on the F-15C line pilots that deployed to India, the outcomes were reversed when experienced F-15 aggressor pilots engaged the Indian line pilots over the Nevada desert. There is a great debrief of India's visit and the lessons learned with the Su-30MKI here. Meanwhile, the Su-30 multi-role aircraft became a huge commercial success for the United Aircraft Corporation (a merging of the Sukhoi, Mikoyan, Irkut, Tupolev and Yakovlev design bureaus). With variations of the type exported to over 12 nations around the world, the Russian Air Force finally decided to adopt the type as well. The Su-30SM was the baseline version for Russian service which featured the best (at the time) avionics and thrust-vectoring AL-31 engines. The Su-30SM saw its combat debut in Syria and further improvements are now underway. The Su-30M2 brings the avionics suite closer to that of the Su-35S while the upcoming Su-30M4 will bring the weapons and avionics alongside the Su-35S and upgrade the engines to the AL-41s used by the Su-35S.

Kitty Hawk released three Flanker kits a few months ago and while they were nice kits for the most part, they still suffered a few glitches including instructions, missing axles on the main landing gear struts, and a mold problem with the intake trunk around one of the main wheel wells. I built the Su-30MKK (look here) to see how the kits were engineered and aside from the landing gear and wheel well, the model was an easy build and fit quite nicely. With this release, Kitty Hawk provides two new fuselage halves as well as the canards, but otherwise the parts are the same as the Su-30MKK. The thrust vectoring nozzles are provided in resin and appear to be the same parts provided in their Su-35S kit. This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on nine parts trees plus the fuselage halves, two clear trees, one fret of photo-etched parts, and one pair of resin nozzles. Like the Su-30MKK kit, no weapons trees are included in this release.

Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Nicely detailed front and rear cockpits
  • Nicely detailed K-36D ejection seats which provide photo-etched crew restraints
  • Positionable canopy
  • Detailed AL-31F engines
  • Resin thrust-vectoring nozzles 'at rest'
  • Positionable canards
  • Positionable ventral intake shutters
  • Intake ducts to the engine faces
  • Starboard gun bay with positionable access panel
  • Detailed forward avionics bay
  • Positionable avionics bay/radar access
  • Choice of early (dish) or later (phased array) radar antennas (not mentioned in the instructions except the color guide)
  • Positionable dorsal speed brake
  • Detailed landing gear and wheel wells
  • Positionable leading and trailing edge flaps
  • Positionable stabilators
  • Positionable air refueling probe
  • Positionable radome
  • Positionable parachute door

Weapons included:

  • GSh-30 internal cannon in gun bay

Markings are provided for three subjects:

  • Su-30SM, bort 45, Russian Navy, 'Irkutsk', (see note below)
  • Su-30SM, bort 31, Russian Knights aerial demo team
  • Su-30SM, bort 24, Russian AF

Notes:

  • Cockpit layouts of the various Su-30 variants vary widely (sorry). The definitive Su-27/Su-30/Su-33/Su-34/Su-35 reference from Yefim Gordon shows a variety of MFD layouts in the Su-30 series, but had no information on the Su-30SM layouts or the follow-on M2/M4. The kit provides the configuration of two horizontal MFDs in the front cockpit with two stacked vertically in the rear, which is correct for the export Su-30MKx series. The Su-30SM has three MFDs in the front cockpit (two on the left, then standby instruments, and then the third MFD on the right), while the rear pit has the big MFD on top with three smaller MFDs horizontally arranged underneath, and standby instruments below them. All that said, it is easy to set up these arrangements using MFDs out of the Airscale PE set or modifying the Su-30MKK set from Quinta Studio.
  • The only cause for concern I have with this kit is the way the canards are attached to the wing chines. They appear to be a bit delicate for this type of mounting. I may replace the mounting stubs with a brass rod that will run from canard to canard for better structural integrity.
  • As mentioned above, the missing axles and the mold problem with one of the wheel well/intake trunk joints has been resolved with this release.

If this kit goes together as well (hopefully better) than the the Su-30MK kit, this will indeed be a fun build. Stay tuned!

My sincere thanks to Kitty Hawk Models for this review sample!