Some of the projects that got started in the summer are coming to fruition. I enjoy building groups of aircraft, especially if they embody some sort of central theme. An example might be multiple manufacturers’ treatment of the same specification (back in the days when they used to actually build multiple prototypes). Sometimes, especially in the modern world, you have different power blocs developing similar aircraft that appeared in a roughly equivalent timeframe. In this case, we’re talking about fifth generation, high-performance, stealthy air superiority fighters. The US example is the F-22, while the Russians built the Sukhoi T-50, and the Chinese the J-20.
I started with the F-22. I would have preferred to use the Academy kit, but I had a copy of the Italeri version and didn’t want to spend the extra money (a direct result of my employment state, which I’ve mentioned before). Next came the relatively recent Zvezda T-50, which while providing some modelling challenges around the intakes, was a pretty nicely building kit. I had originally planned for the J-10, a new Chinese small fighter (more like an F-16 than F-22), but as I was finishing it up Trumpeter announced their kit of the J-20. As soon as the kit appeared at Sprue Bros I had one on its way to the Northwest.
It is somewhat of an odd bird, but not overly difficult to build. You’ve got to praise them for getting the kit to market so quickly, taking advantage of all the real type’s publicity. I have heard some complaint about the lack of a detailed missile bay, but this is no problem for me. I’m more interested in getting the kit finished, and dealing with the (usually) miserable fit of missile bay doors – as happened with the F-22 – is more trouble than it is worth. This may be a security concern, and Trumpeter obviously did this one with some government input, so they had to follow the rules.
There are some odd things about the kit. It appears as though the designers were trying to make it so the kit could be completed with a minimum of painting. The cockpit sprue is duplicated in two colors, grey and black. The exterior surfaces are pretty much all in black plastic. Gear bays and landing gear are white. Parts that need two colors, such as landing gear doors, come with decals for the exterior (ie, white plastic with a black decal). There are silver decals for the exhaust cones. Some of this just isn’t going to work, and anyone reading this blog is going to be painting the bits anyway, but it is an odd approach.
Exterior parts are large, so there isn’t a lot of seam work on the fuselage. In fact, the only parts that will give you a chance to put your modelling skills to work are all in the landing gear area. The main legs attach in a very unusual way, and the doors are mostly supported by arms rather than attached to the fuselage itself. Still, nothing that will prove unmanageable.
I used kit decals, of course, since the paint has barely dried on the actual plane. The Chinese markings are pretty minimal, but look nice on the black surfaces. It’s not a bad looking plane at all, somewhat similar in configuration to the MiG-144. In fact, when I do some rearranging in my display cases, I’ll get some photos of the T-50, F-22, and J-20 in company with the S-57 Berkut and MiG-144. It should make a nice family portrait, though they are brothers of some radically different mothers.
This is completed model #374, finished in November of 2011.