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KIT REVIEW


Kitty Hawk # KH80146 Su-22 M3/M4 Fitter F
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 could only turn to limited-run, lower quality model kits in 1:72 and 1:48 scales if they wanted to build a Fitter.  In early 2017, Kitty Hawk released a 1:48 scale Su-17 kit, and now, they’ve followed that up with the Su-22.  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.  The Su-7 was a rather successful design, but at the same time, the swept wings were responsible for 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 also featured leading-edge slats and trailing-edge flaps, and provided a significant improvement.  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 was also distinguished from the Su-7 by a new canopy design and dorsal fuselage spine containing more advanced avionics and more internal fuel cells 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.  It featured an expanded internal fuel capacity and the capacity to shoot AA-2 "Atoll" and AA-8 "Aphid" air-to-air missiles.  Export M3s (the “Fitter-H”) flew with a less powerful R-29 powerplant and a less-capable avionics suite drawn from the Su-17 M2.  The M4 variant (the “Fitter-K”) was the most advanced Su-22 ever 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.  Some of the better-known events in Fitter history involved the shoot-down of two Libyan Su-22s by a pair of US Navy F-14 Tomcats in the 1981 Gulf of Sidra incident, Fitters downed by USAF F-15s in the first Gulf War, and the 2017 shoot-down of a Syrian Fitter by an F/A-18E Super Hornet.  In 1992, a pair of Peruvian Fitters mistakenly identified a USAF C-130H as a drug plane, and the attack that followed killed one crewmember and severely wounded several others.   

Kitty Hawk’s kit is advertised as either the Su-22 M3 (Fitter-H) or Su-22 M4 (Fitter-K; but see below).  The kit contains nine light gray injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 703 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.  Eleven clear parts are present on a single sprue.  Twenty-four photoetched metal parts are included on one fret, and the decals come on one large primary sheet and two secondary inserts.  The mixed black-and-white/color instruction booklet organizes the build over 19 steps.  Decals and the markings guide cover seven Su-22M4s:

Strengths:  there are many highlights in Kitty Hawk’s Su-22 kit, and it shares more than 99% of its plastic in common with the Su-17 kit.  But first, before we go any further, an important clarification is required: the box states this is a “Fitter-F.”  That was the original Su-22 M2 destined for export before the M3 came into existence.  Kitty Hawk seems to have confused its Su-22 production variants and the NATO reporting names.  There’s no Fitter-F in the box, period.  Further, you can’t build an M3 (Fitter-H), either.  The M3 was fitted with the R-29 engine.  The problem is that this larger diameter powerplant required a larger diameter aft fuselage, and the 1:1 scale Su-22 M3 had a redesigned and wider aft fuselage to accommodate the export engine.  Kitty Hawk does not provide alternative larger diameter aft fuselage parts in this kit.  From the parts breakdown, one would think that would be an option, but retooled M3 aft fuselage parts just aren’t included.  That said, everything still works out on most levels, since the markings options are exclusively for M4s (Fitter-Ks).  It turns out to not be much of a practical problem, but a production quality issue.   

Back to the plastic: 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 a positionable canopy and auxiliary intake blow-in doors.  The leading edge slats, flaps, ailerons, rudder, and speedbrakes 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.

All M4 details appear well represented with the air scoop located on the aft spine.  The kit also contains a rather well-detailed representation of the entire AL-21F powerplant but the engine is buried inside of the completed model, though the M4 aft fuselage halves (parts C1 and C21) appear to be at the maintenance break where the rear fuselage separates and pulls away for engine maintenance.  If displayed open, one would have to scratchbuild a maintenance stand for the tail and all the interior detail.

The K-36 ejection seat builds up out of 17 separate parts.  Sure, it’s a bit of work, 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.  And oh, my - the decals!  The selection of these markings choices are inspired.  I think I want to build them all, but especially the East German scheme (it’s probably my favorite Su-22 scheme of all time).  The Lutwaffe Tiger “Last Flight” scheme and the blue and gray Vietnamese airplane are also really intriguing. The decals are beautifully printed and really nail the complex blended colors of the East German markings to the sharp relief seen in the other examples.  All but the tiniest airframe and external stores stencils are legible.

This Su-22 comes with a COLOSSAL load of ordnance.  The choices for the scale modeler to bomb-up their Fitter are 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 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMSp88OxDqU).  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 easily 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 R-27 was ever carried by the Su-22, so that might be an explanation of this “helpful” oversight.  Perhaps the Alamos are “extra-bonus” missiles in the kit.   

A few other observations:  as with the Su-17 kit, there’s one 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 Su-17 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.”  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 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 seat.  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.  

While the Kitty Hawk Su-17 M3/M4 kit is perhaps not quite on par with Tamiya, Great Wall, or AMK, it is the reigning king of the injection-molded Su-22s.  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 it 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 Su-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 www.kittyhawkmodel.com

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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