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Kitty Hawk Su-17/22UM3K -- 1:48 Scale


The Su-17 was one of the Soviet Union’s front-line fighter-bombers in the 1970s and 1980s and was particularly distinctive for its early use of variable geometry wings.  More than 2,800 Su-17s were manufactured and 1,300 of those were exported to Soviet client states as Su-22s.  Until recently, scale modelers only could turn to limited-run, lower quality model kits in 1:72 and 1:48 scales if they wanted to build a Fitter.  If they were in search of a good two-seat Fitter, they were just out of luck.  Fortunately, Kitty Hawk’s growing family of Fitters now includes the two-seat Su-17/22UMK-3.  A copy of the kit recently arrived on Detail & Scale’s review bench.  Let’s take a look.      

The Sukhoi Design Bureau entered the jet age with the Su-7 (NATO reporting name Fitter-A) in 1955.  The aircraft featured a nose-mounted intake shock cone like the MiG-21 and swept-back wings akin to the MiG-17.  Though it had its virtues, the swept wings produced a really long takeoff roll, excessively high landing speeds, and poor low airspeed performance.  To overcome these deficiencies, a variable-sweep wing design was developed that would pivot the outboard section of the wings to one of three fixed wing sweep positions (28°, 45°, or 62°).  The new wing provided significant improvements.  Put into production in 1969, the new airplane was rechristened as the Su-17 (NATO designation "Fitter-C") and unofficially nicknamed as the Strizh, or Martlet.  It also featured a new canopy design and dorsal fuselage spine containing advanced avionics and more fuel to extend its range.

A total of 2,867 Su-17s were build spanning some 21 production variants (including Su-22s; see below).  The Su-17 entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1970 and played a major role in their conflict in Afghanistan.  Approximately 1,300 Fitters were exported to 15 nations as Su-22s.  The Su-22 M3 was the most numerous of the Fitter exports, produced over a five-year production run beginning in 1976.  The M4 variant (“Fitter-K”) was the most advanced Su-22 produced between 1993 and 1990.  It employed considerably upgraded avionics but the most obvious external difference involved addition of rear fuselage air inlets for avionics cooling and the use of the AL-21F-3 engine common to both Soviet and export versions.  Su-22s saw a great deal of action from Angola, the Iran-Iraq conflict, the Peru-Ecuador border war, and Syria’s involvement in the Yom Kippur and Lebanon conflicts as well as their ongoing civil war.

The need for a two-seat Fitter to fulfill training roles first emerged in the Su-17 M.  A later version was based on the M3 and was outfitted with the same avionics and R-29 engine as the Su-17 M3.  In Soviet service, it was designated as the Su-17 UM3. This trainer was exported to Soviet client states between 1978 and 1982 as the Su-22 UM3K with the AL-21 powerplant.

The kit contains nine light gray injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 710 parts by my count.  Don't be too alarmed, since 436 of those parts are from the extensive weapons sprues; also see below).  Panel lines, rivets, and fasteners are all delicately represented by engraved, recessed details.  Thirteen clear parts are present on a single sprue.  Twenty-eight photoetched metal parts are included on one fret, and the decals come on three sheets.  The mixed black-and-white/color instruction booklet organizes the build over 14 steps.  Decals and the markings guide cover six Fitter-Gs:

Strengths:  there are many highlights in Kitty Hawk’s Su-22 UM3K kit, and it shares approximately 95% of its plastic in common with the earlier Kitty Hawk Su-17 and -22 kits.  What’s new here is a new sprue A (featuring a retooled forward fuselage, the parts for a two seat cockpit tub, and reworked forward avionics spine), new clear parts for the two-seat Fitter, new photoetched parts including the harnesses for the second ejection seat, and new decals.  And while there’s some ambiguity in the markings guide, the parts we have here are for the Fitter-G: either the Su-17 UM3 (Soviet AF versions) or Su-22 UMK3 (export version).  Confusion with aircraft variants have been an issue before with Kitty Hawk Fitters (what’s on the box or markings guide is a little bit of a mismatch with the parts in the kit itself), but just to be clear, these are the parts for a Fitter-G – the training aircraft fitted with the AL-21F powerplant.  If you wanted to do the Su-22UM3 with R-29 engine and widened aft fuselage, you’re going to have to do some scratchbuilding.  Those parts aren’t here.  For more on this, also see the Weaknesses subheading below.     

All the strengths of the earlier Kitty Hawk Su-17 (see review HERE) and Su-22 (see review HERE) apply to the Su-17/22 UM3K.

Overall molding quality is excellent, and working out test fits between major assemblies (i.e., fuselage, wings, tail) demonstrates very tight fits and overall good engineering.  Building options include positionable canopies and auxiliary intake blow-in doors.  The leading edge slats, flaps, ailerons, rudder, and speed brakes are all separate parts and can be positioned in the neutral, dropped/extended, or deflected positions.  The wing attachment point is a simple pivot point allowing for a free range of motion.  If you have all the control surfaces dropped and extended, the wing of course cannot be swept, but if the builder puts together a clean wing configuration, one can position the wings at any of the three Su-22 wing sweep positions.

Each K-36 ejection seats builds up from 17 separate parts.  Sure, it’s a bit of work and maybe a bit over-engineered, but the multi-part approach to the seat really does produce a very detailed final product that can rival the relief and detail or a resin seat.  I sincerely praise the decision to represent the ejection seat shoulder harnesses and lap belts with photoetched metal parts rather than molding the detail onto the seat pads (as many manufacturers do).  For me at least, I think that separate PE belts are the way to go to achieve the most realistic scale ejection seat.      

The clear parts look great.  There are no seams to sand and polish out, and the optical quality of the clear parts is superlative.  Typically, Kitty Hawk clear parts don’t really need any extra polishing or treatment with Future floor wax to achieve a crystal-clear look.  And the paint scheme options and the decals!  I think I want to build them all, but especially the Polish Tiger meet scheme is most appealing.  The decals are beautifully printed and really nail the complex blended colors of the Tiger markings to the sharp relief seen in the other examples.  All but the tiniest airframe and external stores stencils are legible.

This Su-22 UM3K comes with a COLOSSAL load of ordnance.  The choices for the scale modeler to bomb-up the two-seat Fitter is a little overwhelming.  As with the Su-17 kit, Kitty Hawk’s intention was to include a comprehensive set of early to mid-Cold war Soviet air-to-air and air-to ground stores.  These underwing stores span four sprues and a whopping 436 parts.  I am not a subject matter expert on Soviet munitions of this era, but the shapes, sizes, and overall configurations of the bombs and missiles in the kit all look quite good and nothing stands out as obviously incorrect.  Here’s a list of what you get in the Kitty Hawk Su-22 kit:

Air-to air missiles:

Air-to-ground ordnance:

Weaknesses:  In the box, this kit appears complex.  It’s not for beginners.  There’s a lot going on here, and it is not a shake-and-bake build.  While this review is an “in the box” style review, a number of observations of this kit emerged in the building process.  I recommend watching Spencer Pollard’s progressive build of the Kitty Hawk Fitter (  He identifies a number of places where a bit of planning and thoughtful deviation from the instructions goes a long way in addressing potential glitches or solutions to potentially tricky spots in the assembly.  I’d also use some styrene strip to fabricate locating tabs so as to make the fit and alignment between the mid- and aft fuselage easier, stronger, and more precise.     

Further, there are several places in the instructions that are either lacking detail or contain small errors.  The weapons painting guide could be more detailed to label colors for each munition to avoid any uncertainty regarding color choices.  A few parts in the instructions are not labeled (i.e., the port side left aft fuselage half), or color call-outs are unclear, but in such instances, one can instantaneously figure out what’s what.  There are also parts for a pair of R-27 (Alamo) air-to-air missiles, but they are not in the instructions or markings guide.  I’m not entirely sure the Fitter ever carried the R-27, so that might be an explanation of this “helpful” oversight.  Perhaps one can look at the Alamos as “bonus” missiles in the kit.   

A few other observations:  as with the Su-17/22 kits, there’s one small but glaring error.  The intake is missing the prominent splitter plates above and below the intake shock cone.  There appear to be two different depths of recessed panel/screw/fastener details on the airframe parts, where recessed details are deeper and more clearly defined on the wings.  I can’t say that this is inaccurate, since I don’t have a Fitter nearby to compare with, but the difference in the plastic is conspicuous.  Once painted and given one’s favorite wash or pencil treatment, I doubt the recessed panels on the fuselage and wings will look any different, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

I would rate the detail in the gear wells and cockpit as “very good” and the decals for the instrument panel dial faces should do the trick.  However, one will probably compare this kit to the Soviet/Russian subjects released by Great Wall Hobby and AMK over the last few years where molded cockpit and wheel well detail would be considered as “excellent.”  Furthermore, the instrument panel features only raised circles where instrument faces are.  There’s nothing else for the detail painter to work with.  Instrument panel decals are provided, but the dial faces are part of a single instrument panel decal.  I would suggest that Kitty Hawk print their dial faces separately (akin to the GWH MiG-29s) so that they will be easier to work with and apply.  Also, there are two different styles of seat back and cushion for the ejection seats.  There is no indication of which version/paint scheme/time period either style matches up with, so a little research by the builder will be needed to resolve this issue.  I looked into it for a few minutes worth of research and came up mostly empty handed.

Lastly, there is some confusion regarding markings options, variant designation, and the parts in the kit.  As noted above, this kit has the parts to build ONLY the Su-17 UM3 or Su-22 UMK3 powered by the AL-21F engine and which featured the original production narrow aft fuselage.  The markings guide indicates the Polish Fitter is the Su-22 UM3 (that’s R-29 powered Fitter with the different back end of the airframe).  Other errors in the markings guide designate a few of the airplanes simply as a Su-22 M3 or M4, even though these are two-seat trainers (UMs).  These seem to be typographical errors in the instructions only.  For example, my research on the subject indicated the Polish Air Force had six (and only six) Su-22 UM3Ks in its inventory, and that’s a match for the kit parts. Whew.  We’re okay!

While the Kitty Hawk Su-17/22 UM3K kit is perhaps not on quite par with Tamiya, Great Wall, or AMK, but with a little extra time with the kit, the reward will be a really impressive replica of the Fitter.  This family of kits represents the reigning kings of the injection-molded Su-17/22s, and this trainer version is an awesome edition.  The 400+ parts included for munitions is another highlight.  The overall complexity of this kit and its reported glitches in construction means that most builders will need to bring to the table a little extra effort, planning, and skill.  I certainly look forward to starting mine, and will be a nice change from the limited run resin kits that I seem to frequently gravitate towards.  The kit has a lot of promise.  Further, KASL has released a resin intake correction set with the correct splitter plate configuration, and Eduard now has released the photoetched details sets that make this an even better and richly detailed scale model of the two-seat Su-17/22.

Sincere thanks to Glen Coleman and Kitty Hawk Models for the review sample.  You can find out more about them and future releases at

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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