When Hobby Boss let it slip that they would be releasing the Flanker family in 1/48 scale, the news was met with guarded excitement.
On the one hand, the Flanker – in its many guises – is a fascinating subject for modern aircraft modelers. It’s big. It’s got perhaps the best lines of any modern fighter. It’s seen wide service. It’s worn a variety of schemes and markings, and the more worn down examples present some interesting challenges to the weathering-inclined.
There also hasn’t been a truly good Flanker in 1/48 scale until this year. Academy’s wildly inaccurate effort was the only game in town until the arrival of Kinetic’s Su-33 Sea Flanker. But the Sea Flanker is just one variant in a, uh, sea of Flankers.
On the other hand, Hobby Boss – with its sister brand Trumpeter – is a favorite punching bag of the forum pitchfork brigades. Some of the hostility is well and truly earned thanks to sloppy execution and “how could they not see that?” accuracy slips.
But Hobby Boss seems to have an A Team and a B Team. And when the A Team is on a project, even if there are accuracy slips the result tends to be a nicely detailed and well-engineered kit. For example their F-14s. When all of the stars align, we’re blessed with some truly good kits in every regard – such as the recent A-6 Intruder and A-37 Dragonfly.
The Su-27 Kit
So when the first of the Flankers, the Su-27, finally made its way out toward the end of the summer, there was a huge sigh of relief. There were a few very minor accuracy slips that 99% of modelers will never notice (and there’s no satisfying the other 1% ever), but aside from those, the Su-27 is an absolutely gorgeous kit that finally gives us an alternative to the Academy plastic.
The only downside? The relatively steep $80+ MSRP.
But…the Flanker is a BIG jet, and that’s not an unheard of price for a well done 4th-generation fighter. Besides, street price is something more around $66 generally. Still pricey, but reasonable in the larger context of the market.
With the first hurdle cleared, a lot of eyes turned to the Su-34.
The Su-34 “Fullback”, if you’ve never heard of it, is a dedicated strike variant of the Flanker platform. Instead of the usual tandem arrangement for two-seat aircraft, it puts the crew side-by-side, a la the A-6 Intruder or F-111 Aardvark. This gives the forward fuselage a weird, ungainly look utterly at odds with the sleek fighter body behind it. And modelers tend to love weird and ungainly.
Unlike the Su-27, the Su-34 hasn’t been done before in 1/48. At all. Not even poorly. So while it’s honestly more of a novelty than the Su-27, it’s nevertheless generated a lot of interest among online modelers.
The problem is…problems.
Problem 1 – Dat Nose
The Su-34’s most distinguishing feature is its nose – as you could guess by its nicknames – the Duckbill and the “Flying Platypus”. So if you’re going to really fuss over any part of a kit, it’d be that, right?
Hobby Boss has been on damage control, but let’s face it: the nose is fucked. Fortunately, being the nose, it should be relatively easy for the Quickboosts and Wolfpacks of the world to churn out a correct version in resin that we could swap in.
But, compared to the excellence of the Su-27, still a disappointment.
Problem 2 – The Price
Quick. Given the Su-27’s $80ish MSRP, what do you think the Su-34’s pricetag is being set at?
Assuming a slight premium for the redesigned upper fuselage, more cockpit to fuss with, and the addition of a shitload of bombs, I don’t think $100 would be out of the question.
But apparently Hobby Boss does. Per Paul Cotcher of Red Star Scale Models, the price has been set at $166. Yep. You read that right.
WHAT THE FUCK HOBBY BOSS?
That’s more than TWICE the price of the Su-27.
Apparently they feel they can charge this because of the demand for the subject.
Well, fuck them.
Anybody who’s followed this blog for any length of time, or followed my builds or many comments elsewhere knows that I’m generally not one to complain about the price of modern kits. In fact I’ll happily pay more for excellent detail, engineering and fit. I have zero problem rewarding good execution and evident passion.
But $166? Twice the price of what’s a very largely similar kit? For a kit that’s totally missed the ball on its subject’s defining feature?
Hobby Boss has done the impossible. They’ve got me doing something I swore I would not do again. Actively consider a Kitty Hawk kit.
Thanks a lot, assholes.