Kinetic 1/48 Su-33 Flanker D Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|Su-33 Flanker D
Soviet Naval Aviation was primarily a ground-based service for its fixed-wing aircraft throughout most of its history because the Soviet Navy didn't have aircraft carriers. Technically, the Russian Navy still doesn't own any aircraft carriers because of the Turkish ban on aircraft carriers transiting the Turkish straits that connect the Black Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. The Russians classify their VSTOL carriers as cruisers and their sole aircraft carrier Kuznetsov as a heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser. Some of the delay in getting this ship to sea may have been because of the numerous name changes (Riga => Brezhnev => Tblisi => Kuznetsov).
One of the distinctive differences between Kuzetsov and other aircraft carriers is on the flight deck. While the Kuznetsov employs arresting gear similar to other carriers, the ship doesn't have catapults. Instead the naval designers took a page from the British play book and employed a ski-jump to get the aircraft airborne. This has the advantage of eliminating the complexities of catapults on the ship's design and the corresponding weight and complexity for catapult use on the aircraft.
In parallel with the development of the aircraft carrier, the major design bureaus evaluated their aircraft to determine suitability for carrier operations. Most Soviet tactical aircraft already have rugged landing gear and the associated airframe structures for operations from unimproved airfields. Key attributes include low-speed handling, stall speeds at different combat loads, over-the-nose visibility, and effective combat radius. A number of existing aircraft were evaluated and many showed promise, but the three that made it to the flight deck were variations of the Su-27, Su-25, and MiG-29.
The Su-33 (NATO Codename: Flanker D) is the result of a number of modifications applied to the Su-27 for carrier suitability. These modifications include: folding wings; upgraded landing gear; and arresting gear (tail hook). The Su-33 also received several airframe updates applied to the second generation Flankers including those canards. The Su-33 would go on to serve aboard Kuznetsov while the navalized MiG-29 (MiG-29K) would be selected for India's aircraft carrier. Flight operations aboard Kuznetsov aren't uneventful as seen here on YouTube:
You might recall the rumors several years ago that a new company called 'Aviation Art' was developin the Su-33 'Sea Flanker' (Flanker D) as a 1/48 scale kit. That rumor tuned into anticipation as we showed a test shot of the Su-33 kit in our the IPMS/USA 2014 National Convention report. I'm happy to report that your wait is over - the Aviation Art project design was completed and Kinetic Models picked up the design and put it into production.
Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on 28 parts trees plus a single tree of clear parts and one fret of photo-etched parts. In many ways, the kit has the feel of a Great Wall Hobbies kit, especially with the one-piece AA-11 Archer missiles with the fins molded in place. Nice injection-molding!
Among the features and options in this kit:
- Nicely detailed cockpit and K-36D ejection seat (needs aftermarket pilot restraints)
- Positionable canopy
- Nicely detailed wheel wells
- Twin-wheel nose gear with PE slatted splash shield
- Weighted main wheels
- Full-length engine intake ducts with compressor faces and PE stator blades
- Choice of open or closed auxiliary intake vents
- Folding wing option with fold details
- Folding horizontal stabilizer option with fold details
- Extended forward chine with canards
- Positionable tail hook
- Positionable speed brake
- Positionable leading edge and trailing edge flaps
- Positionable ailerons
- Positionable stabilators
- Positionable canards
- Positionable rudders
- Positionable parabrake fairing
- Positionable pitot tube (flight or stowed)
- Correct radome
- Molded-in air refueling probe
- Choice of wingtip missile rails or Sorbitsya ECM pods
Weapons options include:
- 2 x R-27ET Alamo
- 2 x R-27ER Alamo
- 2 x R-73 Archer
The kit provides a nice decal sheet with airframe stenciling, current national and operational markings, squadron emblems for 1st Squadron (Eagles) and 2nd Squadron (Tigers) of the 279th Naval Fighter Regiment assigned to the aircraft (cruiser) Kuznetsov. The sheet also has generic red bort numbers so you can replicate virtually any aircraft in either squadron. For more marking options, check out the Begemot Su-33 decal sheet here. Kinetic provides paint options in Vallejo, Mig, Italeri, Gunze, Humbrol, Tamiya, and Akan colors. Note that Akan color 'Dark Blue-Gray' used on the upper fuselage camouflage is identified as 73163 and should be 73165 (my error, not Kinetic's).
This is a really nice looking kit that isn't complex, so this should be an easy build for most modelers. The Flankers have always had some interesting color schemes but the Sea Flankers are especially eye-catching with their tri-blue camouflage patterns. This will be a fun build for the average modeler and provide some interesting opportunities for the AMS modeler that will want to add additional details, weathering, and armament options to their kits.
My sincere thanks to Lucky Model for this review sample!