Sunday, 30 September 2012

Build Review - Trumpeter 1/48 Sukhoi SU-24 "Fencer" D

This is a new commission from someone who loves these planes. This one is going to be "in flight", i.e.  landing gear up and pilot figures added. Also going for the secondary paint scheme in the kit, a beautiful two tone brown camouflage over a pale blue underside - gorgeous! I've also got some resin pylons to correct the lack of lower pylons in the box, but otherwise this is a fantastic kit. Unlike most Trumpeter kits, it also has an impressive decal sheet full of stencils and weapons markings. I have always had a soft spot for Trumpeter plastic, always beautifully moulded if sometimes however, some strange engineering choices and the odd accuracy problem. Traditionally, they have fallen well short on the decals as well, with limited markings, rarely any stencilling and often poor colour matches, but now they appear to have provided decent ones I can't wait to get going.

Like most of the larger Trumpeter kits, the first challenge is opening the box (why do they always make it such a tight fit?) and the next one is navigating your way through the seemingly endless sprues to find what you are after. There is little logic to the sprue layout as well, when starting with the cockpit section (as one generally does) the parts required actually come from about four different sprues which is a little annoying but not uncommon. The cockpit parts are very nicely done with very crisp detailing, although since I was not using any after market detail in this area I was left with the option of the kit supplied decals for the panels or painting myself. After spraying the cockpit tub with Tamiya XF-22 (which is a good representation of the Russian interior blue) I opted for the decals since on checking my references this cockpit it a cornucopia of colour and to replicate it with paintwork would take a very long time. The main instrument panel is moulded in clear plastic - not sure that was necessary to be honest. Like many kits, they somehow expect you to lay the panel decals over raised detail which is OK if the detail is relatively shallow, but in this case it is not. There is no way a flat decal is going to conform to those panels so I had the tedious task of trimming the decals into small pieces to conform to the major different sections of the panels. In the end this worked fairly well with a good blast of Micro Sol.

The side by side seats are actually rather nice and include well moulded belts. Normally I would file these off an use some etched alternatives but the customer had provided me with a couple of pilot figures since this is intended to be an "in flight" model. I am not a natural figure painter, but I gave them my best shot on the basis that not too much will be widely visible once the cockpit canopies are closed. They seemed to come out to a satisfactory standard!

The cockpit tub now fits easily inside the two forward fuselage hlaves, and I also attached the radome at this stage. More out of habit than anything, I filled the radome with a good slug of lead shot, because even though this plane was to be without its undercarriage, it still helps to keep things nicely balanced. The radome needed a little bracing to match the shape of the fuselage section perfectly.

I next put together the central undercarriage bay section which also supports the wing sweep mechanism. This is beautifully detailed and it is a shame that it was not going to be visible on this model, but at the same time it was very nice not to have to worry about getting it painted up at this stage. I left off some of the unnecessary details but the basic structure went together nicely, including the two large cogs on top that drive the wings. I left them free to spin at this stage, even though I knew I was going to fix the wings forward (as agreed with the customer) to allow me to ensure correct positioning before committing. It is also necessary to assemble and paint up the exhaust section at this stage, which I gave a coat of matt black followed by separate streaked coats of Alclad "burnt iron", "exhaust manifold" and "steel" to give it the appropriate scorched metal appearance.

And now the tricky bit - putting the two main fuselage halves together. This is a large model and it was plain to me that the fuselage halves would need support internally to give them rigidity, so I braced them with cut sections of sprue. This would hopefully make the process of "de-seaming" safer and easier. They fitted together around the wing mechanism and exhaust port very well, although I thought it best to leave it overnight for the glue to dry before touching. Unlike many planes, the main fuselage is fairly flat on the top and bottom, and most kit manufacturers would have gone for a "top and bottom" approach here, but not Trumpeter. This means that dealing with fuselage seams is quite tricky and potentially very destructive to the exquisitely fine surface detail. I spent an inordinate amount of time sanding and re-scribing to get a remotely acceptable join, which was a shame, but it has to be done.

Next the wings go together. The top and bottom halves fit extremely well, but my customer wanted all the control surfaces flat. Now Trumpeter have gone to a lot of trouble to provide separate and extended slats, flaps and spoilers but it is readily apparent that they are designed to be deployed, not flat. Whilst technically they may be built flat, it took quite some shaping, sanding and scouring to get them truly flush with the wing surfaces.

The wings fit well onto the fuselage via strong pinions into the swing cogs, and the wing gloves the cover the mechanism go on in two halves, top and bottom. Engineering wise, this works very well but getting a flush fit does take a bit of doing. Once done, I took the opportunity to lock the wings in forward position by placing them correctly then squirting cement into the mechanism via a precision glue pot. Once left to dry, the wings were rock solid, as required. The tail fin goes on very nicely with no problems, just a smidgen of filler down the seams which was probably not necessary, but I played safe. The tail planes are a little trickier. They are attached by a single, relatively flimsy, rod and they do not line up with the fuselage side particularly well. References showed that this is the case in real life as well, so I carefully glued them fore and aft where they touched the fuselage.

Next I managed to skip the steps to install the undercarriage, and instead had to carefully locate the covers shut. As with the wings, whilst they theoretically fitted, some careful trimming was needed to get them seamlessly shut. A bit of filler was also needed here. With a few stabiliser fins in place and the canopy masked and attached, we were ready for the paint shop.

This model has a really nice, delicate, panel and rivet pattern on the body which is very accurate both in terms of the actual panels but also in their depth. However this can be a problem for modellers who, like me, like to use a wash to bring them out after painting in the sense that the various layers of primer, paint and varnish required can rapidly block these out. However, after all my seam work the surface was multi textured and definitely needed priming to give a consistent surface. So I carefully sprayed the whole plane with Tamiya Fine Grey Primer, but only lightly, just enough to hide the sanding and filling efforts.

First the overall underside blue went on. The instructions suggest Tamiya XF-22 but this is too turquoise to my eye so I mixed up some flat blue and white to what appeared to be the right level and sprayed the underside and walls of the plane with this. After using a considerable amount of masking tape to cover it, the top surface got the camouflage treatment using two custom mixes of brown. Once unmasked, I softened the demarcation on the sides freehand. Finally I carefully masked and sprayed the white areas on the fin and wing gloves. Next my usual couple of coats of Klear and left to dry.

Whilst this was curing, I constructed and painted the ordnance. The customer had provided me with the Eduard Brassin set for the rocket pods, predominantly because Trumpeter have failed to provide more than two of the sub pylons that are pretty much always used on this plane. So I made up the pods and also four KAB bombs, painting the former with Alclad aluminium and steel.

The decals went on next, and this is a really nice decal sheet from Trumpeter, unusually. Some of the stencils are done using tiny blocks and lines instead of Cyrillic letters, which is a bit of cheat but other than on extremely close inspection they work well enough! A word of warning, though. On my kit, the second decal sheet containing weapons stencilling seems to use extremely thin decal film that does not break, but wraps itself up into terminal knots if you are not careful - ask me how I know.

Once decaling was finished, and after a further coat of Klear to seal them in, I smothered the whole plane in dirty black thinned oil paint, and proceeded to clean it off. End result, as with any wash, is that all the panel detail and other nooks and crannies get black paint left in them which brings out the detail and generally makes the plane look like it has actually been used! This was a far more painful process than usual due to the size of the plane and also the amount of surface detail involved. However it was worth it, she came up looking a stunner!

A final couple of coats of matt varnish and she was finished. Finally, I attached the weapons, although the KABs on the belly were only attached temporarily using Blu Tack for the purposes of taking the photos, since otherwise there is no way of setting this model down on a flat surface! I'll let the customer attach them more permanently if they wish once she is hung from the bedroom ceiling!

So in summary, this is a fantastic kit from Trumpeter (if a little pricey), it has a few awkward areas but it is generally accurate (with one or two exceptions but nothing to fret over) and is seriously impressive once built. I would love to do a full "everything hanging out" version at some time in the future but it is a lot of work, so that may have to wait for another day....

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