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KIT REVIEW


Revell Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker-D -- 1:72 Scale



Since the Second World War, the United States has maintained dominance in the realm of naval aviation.  Particularly during the Cold War, the philosophy of Soviet naval warfare emphasized the role of surface ships and submarines.  Consequently, they never developed a large carrier fleet.  Still, their naval aviation component is small.  Only in the mid-1990s did the Su-33 Flanker-D (first known as the Su-27D) emerge as a navalized version of the Russian Air Force’s Flanker.  Here, Revell has re-boxed and reissued Zvezda’s 1:72 sale Su-33 kit. It recently arrived on our review bench, so let’s see what’s inside the box.

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During the Second World War, modern carrier-based naval aviation was defined and refined by Japan and the United States.  The experience gained by the U.S. Navy provided the foundations for the carrier-based projection of American power spanning from Korea, to the global war on terrorism.  During this time, Soviet naval philosophy put its resources into surface and submarine warfare.  Consequently, Soviet/Russian naval forces never intended to develop capability equivalent to the U.S. Navy.    
 
Still, there was Soviet interest in the sea-based projection of air power.  This led to the development of the Yak-38 in the 1970s as the Soviet Navy's sole carrier-based fixed-wing combat aircraft.  The Yak-38 had promise but was hampered by its limited range and weapons load.  The Kremlin began to explore more capable naval aircraft and carrier concepts.  The Project 1160 carrier program aimed to field MiG-23s and Su-24s but was cancelled due to the cost.  Project 1153 looked at supporting carrier air wings composed of Su-25s, MiG-23Ks, and Su-27Ks.  Finally, Project 1143 aimed to accommodate Yak-141, MiG-29K, and Su-27K aircraft.  This effort produced the carrier-cruiser ADMIRAL KUZNETSOV that today remains the only flat top in the Russian Navy.

This new boat, whose keel was laid down in 1982 and launched in 1985, featured innovations such as a ski-jump deck, arresting gear, and optical and radio landing systems.  One of the three airplanes to inhabit its decks was the Su-27K (later re-designated as the Su-33).  It was a navalized version of the Su-27.  First known by the Sukhoi in-house designation T-10K, this Flanker variant featured beefed-up landing gear, a stronger airframe, folding wings and horizontal stabilizers, larger wings, canards, uprated powerplants, and in-flight refueling capability.  It was a Flanker on steroids, so to speak.  This Sea Flanker emphasized the air superiority role and could carry four R-73 and six R-27E air-to-air missiles while its internal 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon carried 150 rounds.  Yet, a multi-role capability was built into the Su-33 from the start as it was wired to carry unguided rockets, iron bombs, and precision-guided munitions.

The first Su-27K flew in 1987, undertook its first carrier flight tests in 1989, and by 1998, the Su-27K had been officially accepted for operational use.  That year it was also re-designated as the Su-33.  The jet has deployed operationally on the KUZNETSOV since 1996.  Only 35 or so Flanker Ds have been built.  Today, it is estimated that 19 Su-33 airframes are airworthy.  Plans appear to be afoot to upgrade the current fleet to Su-33K standards that, among other features, would feature an AESA radar that would overcome the poor tracking capabilities of the original Slot Back radar set.  The Su-33’s entry into combat came on 15 November 2016 in support of Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the Syrian Civil War.  Following a series of mishaps aboard the KUZNETSOV, the carrier’s air wing went ashore to operate from a Syrian airbase.  The full story of the Su-33 continues to be written, and it will likely provide contributions to future conflicts and the story of Russian naval aviation.

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The Revell 1:72 scale Su-33 Flanker-D is a re-boxing of the 2017 Zvezda new-tool Su-33.  It contains 264 medium gray parts distributed across eight sprues along with one clear sprue containing seven parts.  The full-color instruction booklet guides the build over 78 steps and includes a full-color painting and markings guide.  Markings are provided for two of Russian Navy Su-33s:

Strengths: Revell made a good decision in re-boxing the Zvezda Flanker-D.  This is not their 1997 kit, but the new-tool Su-33 that came out in 2017.  It’s a lot better than the older (almost archaic in comparison) Zvezda Flanker-D.  Overall, this is a model that will hold its own in the world of 1:72 scale kits. 

The construction of this model will be pretty uncomplicated.  The parts breakdown is straightforward and other pieces, normally separated into left and right halves (e.g., the vertical stabilizers) are single parts.  Thus, assembly and parts cleanup is a bit more straightforward.  I also snipped off the fuselage halves and upper and lower wing halves from the sprues and found virtually perfect fits.  Panel lines are all nicely recessed and look good in terms of width and depth for 1:72 scale.  Detail in other sections of the kit, such as the wheel wells and intakes also is respectable, though no wiring or piping is present.  To me, I see those parts of the kit as providing a good basis to add more detail.

Construction options are a real highlight.  They include and open or closed canopy, extended or retracted dorsal speed brake, and positionable and separate ailerons, flaps, and horizontal stabilizers.  You can also choose to build the wings and horizontal stabilizers as either folded or extended.  Nice!  There’s a set of intake covers on Sprue C, and you get a really nice boarding ladder, seated pilot figure, and a set of main wheel chocks. 

In terms of munitions, the scale modeler will find a choice of single-piece AA-10 Alamo (x8) and AA-11 Archer (x4) air-to-air missiles.  There are other missiles on the sprues but those aren’t used on the Flanker-D. 

The optical quality of the clear parts is very good and there’s no seam going down the centerline of the canopy.  The decals look very well printed.  Colors seem fine and everything is in register.  In addition to the markings for the two Su-33s mentioned above, you’ve got complete airframe stencils for one airplane, pylons, and missiles.  

Weaknesses:  I can identify a few shortcoming or potential things to look out for with your Revell issue of the Zvezda Su-33.  First of all, the cockpit is very basic.  The K-36 ejection seat is fairly basic bordering on inaccurate in its shape and very poor attempt at representing the shoulder harnesses and backpad.  The cockpit itself has no detail of any kind on the instrument panel and side consoles.  Decals are provided for the instrument panel and consoles, though.  There are no rudder pedals.  The HUD is also simplified.  The standing pilot figure is also a bit basic – he’s just wearing a jacket and holding a helmet

The surface of many parts, including the fuselage parts (see photos below), is a bit grainy in its texture.  Some builders may want to smooth out those surfaces with some 3000-grit Micro Mesh.  External details are also simplified.  There are no rivets or fastener details anywhere on the surface of the kit, and that’s inaccurate.  If you don’t install the intake covers, you’re going to have some work cleaning up the seams where the left intake half meets the right half and the intake roof.  If you want to drop the arresting hook, you’ll have to cut it from its mounting pylon – pretty easy to accomplish.   

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Overall, the Revell Su-33 Flanker-D is a very promising kit of the naval Flanker, and A few parts of the kit beg for more detail (cockpit, gear wells), and there’s certainly room for your own added detail or aftermarket sets out there for those interested in improving this kit even further.  I definitely recommend an aftermarket ejection seat at the very least.  The multiple construction options are also highlight, and at the end of the day, this is the best Su-33 in 1:72 scale you can get.     

Sincere thanks are owed to everyone at Revell for the review sample.  You can find them on the web at https://www.revell.de/en/home/

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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