1/48 Academy Su-30MKI Mk.2 

(Academy Su-27UB)

by B Harry

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This model is the result of a long period of contemplation and planning. Having not built a scale model in nearly a decade, I had been eyeing a single Academy 1:48 Su-27UB kit in the window display at a toy store in Bangalore. Kits are extremely hard to come across in India and the additional material and tools need to be completely imported at great expense. When I finally decided to go ahead and buy the kit, it had disappeared from the window display and was not to be found. Frantic searching finally located the same kit in the corner of the shop's first floor. It was interesting to note that the price had also gone up considerably since when it was first spotted by me, years ago.

The Kit

 Academy's 1:48 Su-27UB kit is inaccurate in several ways. The forward fuselage and nose are inaccurate as is the canopy and there are amazing fit problems near the engine undersides. Academy was obviously doing an amount of speculation as the kit also comes with 2 'oversize' R-27 'Super-Alamos' in additional to the normal 2 R-27TEs, 2 R-27REs and 2 R-27R1s. The oversize R-27s were thus cut up and reverse engineered into R-77 Adders for use elsewhere. The kit also includes optional but useless AA-8 Aphids. The IRST's central placement is also inaccurate and needs to be to the starboard side of the aircraft. However, this was left untouched as it came fixed to the windshield. As expected, the cockpit was just plain rubbish but once again, I decided to focus elsewhere. 

 Since the Su-30MKI is multirole, it also needed the intended equipment of an Elta Litening LDP, a compatible KAB-500L LGB. Also to be included was an Elta EL/L-8222 external jammer, although the final version of the Su-30MKI will carry this internally. The version depicted here is an intermediate Mk.2 variant, with no internal jammer. The KAB-500 LGB is from Tally Ho.

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Construction

At first, the model was to be a conventional Su-30MK without the canards and other modifications, armed only with AAMs and painted low-viz gray overall in light of certain news that the existing fleet of IAF Su-30MKs may get a limited upgrade and not the full-structural one of MKI standards. However, half-way through, it was decided to go all out and make this a fully fledged Su-30MKI after much thought. The Su-30MKI greatly differs from the Su-27UB and Su-30MK. The first part was to commence suitable surgery in the nose in order to accommodate the IFR probe.

 The most complex part was extending the LERX and adding canards. For the LERX extension, the SOL conversion kit for the single seat Su-27 was considered but eliminated on the grounds of it's extreme cost and unconfirmed compatibility. Thus a plastic-balsa sandwich for each LERX was sculpted as necessary, attached, filled and sanded for a very long time. This process was quite a nightmare and took its toll on several panel lines. The canards are genuine Academy plastic, - sculpted out of the wings of a decade old 1:72 Academy MiG-27 which was in pieces and rotting away.

 I decided to retain the existing AKU-470 under-intake pylon for the KAB-500L but build a new one for the Litening pod. The pod itself may be available in the market but is also very expensive as a stand-alone item. I thus turned to another one of my decade old models - A Monogram 1:48 F/A-18C which came with an LDP that looks exactly like the Litening. The LDP was sliced off, filled, repainted and was soon rechristened as the Litening for the Su-30MKI.  

 Since liters and liters of thinner were required, I used local brands of thinner which seemed to work fine. For paints, I used a mix of Testors, Academy and Decorlack. During painting, my Paasche airbrush failed more than once and on one occasion, started leaking on the model. Thinning and scrubbing off the markings and repainting was another nightmare. Several 'accidents' with the canopy left it FUBAR and little could be done to fix it at this point. It awaits treatment with some Future Floor finish when I can get some.

Decals

Decals are from Linden Hill and are originally for the Su-30MKs SB-002 and SB-011. The most visible error was in the use of red instead of saffron for the roundels. This was apparently because IRKUT did not have the appropriate color with them at the time prior to delivery. The model is depicted as SB-020 of the No.20 "Lightnings" squadron, as a Mk.2 variant, not up to full standards. Slight grime and smut on the airframe was added at a later stage, using MN Star Dust Weathering pigments.

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Conclusion

Not one of the best but certainly one of the worlds first as there are not many other Su-30MKI models around, although Polly Singh does have one here on ARC.  Not totally satisfactory but it was an attempt and the experience, spanning more than a year, will be used to improve upon other models in the future.

B Harry

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Photos and text by B Harry