Sukhoi Su-50 (T-50) Russian Fifth-Generation Fighter
Сухой Су-50 (Т-50) Российский истребитель пятого поколения
Zvezda 1/72 scale 

Reviewed by: Nikola Dimitrijević

Available in Russian language here      На русском языке здесь

Sukhoi Su-50 (T-50)
Zvezda
7275
1/72 scale

Reviewed by: Nikola Dimitrijević

Introduction

The emergence of the Russian Sukhoi PAK-FA marks the end of the United States quarter century long monopoly on the design of Very Low Observable (VLO) or stealth aircraft. The capabilities of the PAK-FA make a clear statement defining the Russian view of Within-Visual-Range (WVR) and Beyond-Visual-Range (BVR) air combat, which diverges fundamentally from contemporary Western thinking.

The Russian paradigm is clearly centered on the idea that BVR and WVR combat are much alike, insofar as during  the engagement endgame the fighter under attack is within tracking range of the weapon fire control system and where possible  the weapon or fire control element should be defeated kinematically. The principal  observed difference between WVR and BVR combat in the Russian model, is that the latter relies more heavily on long range sensors and their ability to defeat low observability measures, or active countermeasures.
Designed to compete against the F-22 in traditional Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and Within Visual Range (WVR) air combat, the PAK-FA shares all of the key fifth generation attributes until now unique to the F-22 – stealth, supersonic cruise, thrust vectoring, highly integrated avionics and a powerful suite of active and passive sensors. While the PAK-FA firmly qualifies as a fifth generation design, it has two further attributes absent in the extant F-22 design. The first is extreme agility, resulting from advanced aerodynamic design, exceptional thrust/weight ratio performance and three dimensional thrust vectoring integrated with an advanced digital flight control system. The second attribute is exceptional combat persistence, the result of a 25,000 lb internal fuel load.  The internal and external weapon payload are likely to be somewhat larger, though comparable to those of the F-22A.

Russia intends to operate at least two hundred PAK-FAs, India two hundred and fifty of the  Indian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) variant, with global PAK-FA exports likely to add at least 500 more tails to the production tally. The stated intent is to supply the PAK-FA as a replacement for existing T-10 Flanker series fighter aircraft. Initial analysis of PAK-FA imagery and public disclosures by the Russian government and Sukhoi bureau indicate that a production PAK-FA will yield greater aerodynamic and kinematic performance to the current F-22A design, and similar low observables performance to the F-35A JSF2.
While the basic shaping observed on this first prototype of the PAK-FA will deny it the  critical all-aspect stealth performance of the F-22 in BVR air combat and deep penetration, its extreme maneuverability/controllability design features, which result in extreme agility, give it the potential to become the most lethal and survivable fighter ever built for air combat engagements.
It is important to consider that the publicly displayed PAK-FA prototype does not represent a production configuration of the aircraft, which is to employ a new engine design, and extensive VLO treatments which are not required on a prototype. A number of observers have attempted to draw conclusions about production PAK-FA VLO performance based on the absence of such treatments, the result of which have been a series of unrealistically optimistic commentaries.
PAK-FA Low Rate Initial Production is planned for 2013, and Full Rate Production for 2015, with initial deliveries of the Indian dual seat variant planned for 2017.

The model

Finally, the long awaited model of one of the most intriguing aircraft today is in my hand, thanks to the M-Hobby Shop which managed to provide me this Zvezda hit-kit very fast.

First impression on the kit…? Well, the very sturdy box with an artistic impression of the T-50 and the Sukhoi logo on the right side with the text:” Produced under the license of Sukhoi company”. But the print itself is low quality and it look like the 40 years old style prints. Upon opening the box, I have found six frames of plastic parts. Two frames with upper and under fuselage, one frame with clear stand, one frame with pilot figures (two), another clear frame with the canopy and one big frame with the rest of the parts. All in all, there is 70, which is not much, so I assume that beginners will find this kit suitable for their skills.

Small decal sheet is packed together with the canopy frame in a separate plastic bag. At the end we have the four page assembly manual with bi-lingual English/Russian instructions.

Page1 Full size      Page2 Full size      Page3 Full size      Page4 Full size

The fuselage is moulded in two parts – separate upper and lower fuselage together with wings.  The plastic is little bit coarse with a very crisp and fine panel lines, which are actually properly positioned, at least according to available photos. The rivets are not present, but those are almost invisible on aircraft in three-tone paint scheme.

It is very difficult to write a proper and real review when this kind of model came in your hand. There is very small amount of data and photos available, and what’s more, the most of those data are really unreliable and must be taken with a great reserve. In most of this review, I gonna rely on the available photos and in some instance on other information.

I want to express my apologies in advance, for any incorrect conclusion and/or inadvertent mistake or error I might do during this review, that can derive from my wrong perception or bad photos interpretation.

The first thing I have noticed about the upper fuselage, is the wrong engine cowling (nacelle) and dorsal spine blend, as well as a little bit bigger (wider?) dorsal spine. But according to my measurements, this can be corrected relatively easy by using putty and bit of surgery on the plastic. I’m not sure about the canopy, cause, frankly, it is difficult to properly determine the shape by using such limited amount of photos, but it looks OK for 1/72 scale model.

The beaver tail is also wrongly shaped. It’s overall wider a bit and somehow less trapezoidal in the cross section.  Upper and lower flat area should be narrowed, so a bit of cutting, putty filling and sanding is needed here as well if someone wants to get the the correct shape.

The lower half of the fuselage reveals the wrongly shaped inboard ventral wing root fairings. But again, this part particularly should not represent significant problem and can be corrected very easy. A more and more photos will be available on this subject in the future and couple of good quality photos from different angles should be enough to help you in bringing the shape of fairings as close as possible to original. But the inlet assembly could be a tricky and I assume it will require more time.

The cockpit of this plane is the part we do not have any photos of, so it would be imprudent and reckless from me to give any comment on this in an attempt to feign intelligence.  The only thing I want to say on this matter is, that I will not apply the decals in the cockpit, but rather use same modeling skills, tools, patience and do this in “3D” according instrument and panel layout on the decals, in attempt to get much more convincing cockpit. I don’t think so, that you can make any mistake whichever way you use to improve the layout of the cockpit and his visual perception. The K-36 ejection seat is not so bad and can be upgraded very nicely… or not if you are going to use the pilot figure.

There is a nicely and well detailed engine inner section, with nicely molded flame holders as a separate parts of afterburner section. Sadly the engine nozzles are given only as a single part and fully opened, while on the ground they are fully closed as well as oriented down and inward. But considering the provided pilot figure with intention to be installed in the cockpit, Zvezda might have planed to simulate the working engines.

Main landing gear is rather simplified, a touch of modeling improvisation is fairly required here, at least in certain extent to stay visually closer to real thing. As you can see on the left photo of real aircraft, there’s a lot of “small things” on the inner side of the main landing gear wheels.

Nose landing gear is a little bit better, but still need some additional detailing. Unfortunately, on this part of assembly Zvezda made an oversight and fail to provide splash board, so someone have to figure out how to compensate this obvious flaw.

Canopy can be positioned in open or close position and definitely have to receive some small polishing treatment, to achieve significantly better transparency and to reduce molding imperfections to minimum. A very nice ladder assembly is provided with the kit, as well as two pilot figures – one intended to be positioned in the cockpit and the second one in standing position.

As usual, I did a tentative dry assembly of the kit, to gain insight into the overall shape and details. Besides the shortcomings

which I have already noted, here we have an serious problem… the cross section of engine inlets is wrong. According to the photos, height of intake opening diameter should be larger and lover edge of the rhomboidal type opening should be more inward toward the longitudinal axis of the plane. Look like it will be very difficult to perform such a correction. This can be result of generally incorrect overall shape of intakes. For real assessment, this problem require a deeper and more serious analysis, but I have pointed out, on the photo, some of the mistakes Zvezda have made when designed intakes for this kit of T-50.

There is obvious differences when you compare the model

and superimposed photo of the real thing.
At first glance, it look like to me that engine nacelles on lower fuselage is wrong, but when a made a careful assessment of this, I have concluded that this is just optical illusion. Problem actually lies in a beaver tail. Beaver tail shape extends between engine nacelles, and because it is wider than it should be it mislead me to get initial impression that kit have a problem with engine nacelles. Upper and lower half cross-section of beaver tail should be a more trapezoidal than it is on the Zvezda model, which lead to different perception of rear fuselage at a first look. It is very good, ’cause beaver tail much less complicated to correct than nacelles. Overall shape of the aircraft look OK, as well as global proportions and dimensions.

The decal sheet is rather small (82mmx56mm), but well printed on a very thin film and in register. Decals were given for the three-tone wraparound painted “blue 51” aircraft. Most of the ease visible stencils are present on the sheet as well, together with the decals of the main instrument panel (dominated by two big MFDs) and side consoles. If somebody want to apply more stencils, they can use some third party stencils from the Su-27 family or some spare stencils, and to apply them according to the photos available on the net, where you can notice the size, shape and the color of the stencils and then apply the appropriate ones that you have under your hand at the moment of building and finishing the model. Last information is that Begemot decals preparing new big decal sheet for T-50, so additional stencils ain’t gonna be a problem. Colors have given with references to Model master paints.

Some additional photos:

My opinion

What can I say about this model… I am glad that somebody issued T-50 kit so fast on the market. Not so long ago we didn’t have the models of Russian/Soviet planes, even if they are in use for more than 20 years. This is definitely the change. Zvezda stated that this kit was made under official Sukhoi license, but actually appears that (I think) Sukhoi wasn’t ready to make available precise drawings to Zvezda (or anybody else) or they did mistakes in the plans deliberately, so after the real T-50 appear in front of camera lenses Zvezda didn’t have enough time to properly correct the tools. But this kit is the only 1/72 scale plastic kit on the market and it have a very good price. Most of the errors are not catastrophic and can be corrected with a little bit more effort and skills. But even if you are intending to build this kit OOB, you will have a nice addition to your collection. Once again, it’s not a perfect kit and I will have to put my modeling skills on test. I must say that I am somehow excited, ’cause I will have to use my brain to bring this model closer to original… And during that journey I will improve my skills and modeling techniques, as well as sense for improvisation and in my opinion, those are the things that make the difference between the one who just put together a model and the one who is a modeler! Considering how fast kit enter the market after the T-50 performed the first flight, that the overall kit shape and dimensions are actually well and that most of the errors are correctable, this is highly appreciated kit at this time. The only really problematic spot, on the kit were intakes and frankly this is not what someone can correct easily and will take a significant time, skill and nerves to bring this to correct shape. So I will recommend this action only to really experienced modelers. For the rest I recommend to perform some intake corrections just enough to visually soften a bad shape. Anyway those intakes are pulled away from the edge deep beneath the fuselage and quite hidden from inquisitive eyes, so even if you do not touch those, hardly anyone will notice them, when you place the model on the shelf. Even if I didn’t get this model from M-Hobby shop for review, I would buy one definitely. I wouldn’t dare to miss this kit, even if it’s not perfect. In the end, I can’t expect from any company to issue really precise kit of still very classified aircraft, with a very complex VLO design and shape.
Probably, there will be be newer and better kits once when Su-50 (or so) enter the serial production, but this kit will have a special place in my collection, ’cause I think it will be the only 1/72 scale plastic kit of Russian PAK FA. I do not expect that there will be much interest for manufacturers of aftermarket parts and sets to issue some items on the market to support this kit, simply because they will wait for serial production aircraft and new kits that will follow. For now on, only Begemot decalshave announced new decal sheet, complete with stencils.
I am glad that I have this kit and I will buy another one to build the first unpainted prototype and I’m sure that I do not have to suggest to anyone to buy this kit… this simply gonna be one unique piece in any collection… assembled or not.


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Again special thanks for review sample to M-Hobby shop