“Opinions vary wildly on this kit. Many feel it to be utter rubbish, others really liking it and many (the silent majority) no doubt falling smack bang in the middle. Me, I like it. I felt that they were no more difficult to overcome than many other kits I’ve built over the years”
With the summer holidays now upon us (my wife is a teacher, so I tend to view everything through the prism of education and its term times), I’m looking forward to going away for a week or so to see friends, so thought that this may be a good time to bring this project to an end.
Many of you that follow me on here, as well as on YouTube, Facebook and in print, will know that I began work on this model kit after seeing what had been written about its many perceived issues. Having seen what seemed to be a perfectly fine kit essentially ripped to pieces with what seemed to be little evidence of actual problems, was too much to ignore so I managed to get hold of one and started to tackle what I saw, and what others had highlighted.
Many of the issues seemed to centre around its engineering and how KH had approached the breakdown of what is to all intents and purposes, a very complex aircraft. Not only that, but KH had decided to simplify areas within the fuselage to a point where they bore little similarity to the real aircraft, the intake and its shock cone being particular poor. Many of these comments and opinions would subsequently be proven to be true; the kit is complex and that intake is poor, but many that were highlighted, were not and that’s what I set out to discover for myself. Little did I know that that journey would take a little over three months to complete, but at the end of it I had a model that I liked, a project that had been engrossing and an final opinion that was seemingly at odds with some that were rather more negatively entrenched than mine.
From the off, I knew that the kit would be difficult to build and I prepared for whatever that threw up. The way that KH has broken the fuselage down for instance is taxing, almost a dozen parts combining to create two, large, fuselage halves. Most of the initial criticism swarmed around this feature of the kit, many modellers complaining that there was no need to do this and that made the construction of the kit overly difficult and frustrating. That’s true. It is is overly difficult and frustrating, but that doesn’t mean that it is actually hard to build. The union of the parts involves nothing more that care and attention and dare I say it for fear of the sky falling in, some initial planning and basic construction. I’m not in any way demeaning those that felt that way, but I had no difficultly bring it all together using nothing more involved than liquid glue, plastic strips, clothes pegs and tape – all of which I would normally use during the construction of many other kits. Yes, but why should we all have to do that? Well, you don’t. You don’t have to build the kit at all. But if you do and you want to add this aircraft to your collection, maybe you’d want to and see it as more of a challenge than an imposition? Or, build the HobbyBoss kit…
The next major issue was that intake. I have to agree with everything that has been said about it: it’s rubbish. I can’t for the life of my understand why they approached it in the way that they did, the interior of the fuselage, the simplified shock cone and the way that it assembles, border on the absurd. In a kit that contains the levels of detail seen elsewhere (the cockpit in particular being superb) the idea that they could have treated such an obvious section in such a half-hearted manner, is beyond belief. I chose to deal with this errant section by covering it over with a blanking plate, but you may chose to buy one of the aftermarket bullets that will replace the kit part. Either way, you shouldn’t have to. In this case, Kittyhawk really should have done better…
The next area to be highlighted is the shape of the lower fuselage which is overly curved from the side. This is a problem, a stripped-back, unarmed, Su-17 likely to highlight this misshape. Model an armed aircraft though and the curve become less apparent and now that it’s finished, I can’t really see it, despite knowing that it’s there. Should you wish to address this problem there are a number of Online pages and videos that will guide you though the process of cutting the fuselage and flattening its lower edge.
Away from the multi-part fuselage, the kit is complex to construct and there are areas that need extra care to deal with. The first parts to trap the unwary are the upper wing fences and the way that they blend-in with the lower wing pylons. Firstly, as moulded, the upper edges of the pylons have a distinct step that prevents them from blending neatly in with the wing’s profile. This step needs to be carefully filed away and then once done, the pylons fix in place very neatly, the fences joining accurately with both the pylons and upper wing – just as they should. That said, they are incredibly fragile once in place and that’s a problem that can manifest itself at any moment, which in my case was just after painting and weathering had been completed. The issue is really not one of engineering, but one of delicacy created by their almost scale thickness and resulting location points that are by design, too fine. As hard as I tried the fences just wouldn’t stay put and I had to repeatedly reattach them with the resulting damage that that caused to the joints between each one and their respective pylons, being hard to disguise. Even now the joints are far from perfect and that does little to convince me that there couldn’t have been a better way to deal with these important features.
Along with the issues evidence from examination and use of the plastic parts, the other issue is one of complexity. I touched on this earlier, but you will need to plan ahead when assembling the kit, most notably, but not exclusively when it comes to the fuselage. The sheer number of parts and the way that the kit is engineered, means that following the instructions to the letter in the order laid out, is not a very good idea. It makes for an interesting and perhaps fair way of assessing the kit, but it in practice it results in a wayward and senseless way of actually building it. For instance, when it comes to the fuselage, the instructions would have you complete three tubes that contain the cockpit, mount the wings and the third contains the jet pipe/engine, all of which are then designed to join without location points to create a smooth fuselage. This doesn’t work. Forward planning suggests that it is better to create the two halves mentioned earlier, so that you can adjust fit and then locate all of the internal parts once done. Similarly, you can omit many of the engine parts as they are utterly invisible and also adjust the location points around the wing pivots to allow them to be fixed in place at the end of construction and painting. You perhaps shouldn’t have to do this, but in this case it makes sense and ultimately ensures that this kit is not as difficult as it perhaps could be.
Test-fitting is also a worthwhile aspect of construction – in fact I’d go further than that: it’s essential. Whereas you can happily clip parts away from a Tamiya runner and then apply glue and fix them in place with impunity, in this case you will need to test-fit the pieces, not in every case, but in most. I’ve alluded to the issues with the pylons, well that’s also true with other pieces as well, the upper spine, airbrakes and auxiliary intakes on the nose, all being rather loose. In fact, the airbrakes don’t fit at all, so I would suggest forgoing any wrangling and simply glue them in the open position…
Away from the plastic parts, the model scores highly for the sheer number of options that it allows, not only in terms of markings and camouflage schemes of which there are seven, but in the number of whizz-bangs that the kit supplies to hang under the completed model. Though much of this will be wasted on many chosen schemes, the choice of arming the kit in this way is more than welcome and should you chose to keep what’s left, you will have more than enough for a whole host of other builds as well. As with the rest of the kit, the detail on these little weapons is very good indeed and once painted and weathered to taste, they certainly look good in place.
At the start of this project I was intrigued by the idea of building the kit more to see what the fuss was about, than I was as a result of adding the aircraft to my collection. Now that it’s finished, I rather like the results and feel that the model more than captures the look of the original and though less than easy to complete, it was a worthwhile project.
Opinions vary wildly on this kit. Many feel it to be utter rubbish, others really liking it and many (the silent majority) no doubt falling smack bang in the middle. Me, I like it. In the main, I enjoyed putting it together and though there were hurdles along the way, I felt that they were no more difficult to overcome than many other kits I’ve built over the years, and in comparison to many, it was far easier. As I’ve discussed before, I don’t believe that all kits should naturally suit all skill levels and as such, this one is very much up towards the advanced level when it comes to skill sets needed to not only build it, but also paint the results. Absolute beginners may not want to apply for this particular job.
Kittyhawk’s fitter may not be perfect (in fact it’s absolutely not), but it’s still a pleasing kit that looks great once complete. Plan ahead, take your time and don’t be swayed by the instructions and you will be fine – just don’t expect it to match up to to the latest Tamiya offering because if you do, you will most definitely be disappointed.
So why not just have a go and see what you can come up with? You never know, it just might surprise you. Just take care with those wing fences…
If you would like to see more on this model and my opinions on it, please check out my YouTube videos where you will find plenty more information.
See you next time.