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Su-17M-3 Fitter Kit

LEM 1/32 Su-17M3 Fitter Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2010 Manufacturer LEM
Subject Su-17M3 Fitter Scale 1/32
Kit Number - Primary Media Resin
Pros Limited run casting of the first Su-17 in resin or styrene in 1/32 scale Cons Some details will need to be scratchbuilt, no instructions, no decals, some portions of the fuselage are paper thin
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $120+ plus shipping

First Look

Su-17M-3 Fitter Kit
Su-17M-3 Fitter Kit
Su-17M-3 Fitter Kit
Su-17M-3 Fitter Kit

The Su-7 was the first production fighter to come out of the post-war Sukhoi OKB. Designed around the AL-7F afterburning turbojet, the Su-7 sported a nose intake similar to the early MiG jet fighters as well as the early US jet fighters. Its wings were swept back 60 degrees, giving the aircraft good low-altitude performance and transonic airspeeds at altitude. The major disadvantage to the design was the need for lengthy runways to launch and recover the aircraft. There had to be a better way...

The Su-17 was the result of several attempts to lower the aircraft's stall speed to provide shorter take-off and landing runs. The solution was relatively simple - add variable geometry outer wing panels to reduce the wing sweep for improved low-speed performance, then sweep them back for high-speed operations. While early Su-17 retained the AL-7F engine, all production Su-17s beginning with the Su-17M (NATO Codename: Fitter C) were fitted with the higher-power AL-21F engine.

The Su-17M3 (NATO Codename: Fitter H) was the result of several iterations of improvements over the original Su-17. This variant was based upon the two-seat Su-17UM trainer, but the rear cockpit was replaced with more avionics and internal fuel. The dorsal spine is deeper as well for additional fuel and avionics. The distinctive droop in the forward fuselage came about with forward fuselage stretch that started with the Su-17M2 (NATO Codename: Fitter D).

Last year, I found a listing for a 1/32 MiG-27M Flogger J kit produced in resin on eBay. I looked at the images, looked at the seller's feedback, and looked at the price - $90 USD (nobody was bidding on this). I decided to take a risk and bought the kit. The seller is from Kiev in the Ukraine, so there is a very good chance that the details were going to be as good as the images.

A week later, a box arrived from the Ukraine inside a huge envelope smothered in stamps. My MiG had arrived. The first thing I was curious about was the company that was producing this kit. There were no markings on the box indicating a company name, so at the time of the original review of this kit, I listed it as BFOM (Beats the Frack Out of Me). I've since learned that this Ukrainian company is doing business as LEM. LEM asked if we'd be interested in reviewing their new 1/32 Su-17M3 Fitter H kit. I think you can predict our answer.

Like the MiG-27M kit, the Su-17M kit arrived in a we'll-packaged box inside a large envelope also covered in stamps. And like the MiG kit, the finely cast resin parts all arrived without any damage. You can see in the images to the right how the kit is laid out, but just in case...

In the top image the forward fuselage is hollow-cast part with thin surfaces like a styrene kit. You'll prepare and insert the intake centerbody, nosewheel well, and cockpit from the rear of the hollow forward fuselage.

The rear fuselage is molded in halves and I test-fit the parts to see what if any shrinkage had taken place since these parts had been cast. The rear fuselage halves match up perfectly, and the cross-section of the forward end of the rear fuselage halves line up nicely with the hollow-cast forward fuselage.

The third image shows the inboard wing sections and these butt up against the fuselage halves with no obvious gaps. Once we get the airframe jigged up, we'll double check all of the alignments, but so far this fits together better than most limited-run plastic kits. The outer wing panels (first image) insert into the inboard sections and you can position the wings as desired and glue them into place.

The bottom image shows all of the details that go into this kit from the cockpit, intake centerbody, horizontal stabs with cast-in brass pivots/fuselage mounts, wheel wells, landing gear, external tanks, rocket pods, bombs, AA-2 and AA-8 missiles.

The canopy is vacuformed and you'll want to pose this open to show off the details inside that front office. The only details you'll need to add are some shoulder harnesses for the ejection sear.

Like the MiG-27M, this kit should be undertaken by an experienced resin modeler as there are a few challenges:

  • Some of the areas on the fuselage castings are paper thin, but reinforcing these areas with a few coats of thick cyano will do the trick
  • The cockpit is spartan but can be easily detailed out with the variety of images now available. In fact, the seller provides you with a CD with a nice Su-17 reference article (in Russian) and a number of detail photos taken from a static display aircraft
  • You'll need the reference CD as there are no instructions provided, but this kit isn't complex, so a little common sense and good photos will get you through the project
  • The canopies are vacuformed out of a heavy clear plastic, almost like Lexan. Unfortunately, there are no details provided on these vac parts, so you'll have to scratchbuild the windscreen and canopy framing out of strip styrene
  • No decals are provided, but there are plenty of 1/32 Soviet Air Force decals out there and these ground attack aircraft didn't wear many markings. Interesting camouflage, yes, markings, no

Trumpeter has shown test shots of the Su-17UM two-seat Fitter which also means we'll be seeing at least the Su-17/22M3 and probably the Su-17/22M4 kits in the future, but so far no release dates have been offered. The next Sukhoi coming in 1/32 scale is the Su-25 Frogfoot in November.

These kits from LEM are quite impressive for the scale and price and will build into a really nice looking Fitter straight out of the box. The AMS modeler can have a little fun with this kit using some of the ejection seat and other details that can be adapted for this aircraft as well as some scratchbuilding of details. So far, this is the first kit of the Su-17M3/Su-22M3 produced in this scale (not counting Trumpeter's test shots).

This kit is recommended for experienced multimedia modelers!

If you want one of your own, the only place I can find this kit is on eBay from seller ruporator.