Su-35 Battle Royale, Part 1: Antebellum


It’s been a little over a  year since my last build review – of Kitty Hawk’s maddening Su-17 Fitter. Why haven’t I returned to the well sooner? A few reasons.

  • One. These reviews take a lot of time and effort – especially shooting and editing and publishing the videos.
  • Two. I wanted to use my bench time for actually building kits. Or, let’s be honest about 2017, starting and then abandoning builds.
  • Three. There honestly just haven’t been many kits that I’ve been interested in reviewing.
  • Four. While these reviews have stirred up some excellent discussions, they also stir up petty bullshit from a small minority. And as Neal Stephenson so wonderfully wrote in Cryptonomicon, “arguing with anonymous strangers on the internet is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out to be – or to be indistinguisahble from – self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts free time.” It’s…a bit tiresome.

A Contender

Last year, Kitty Hawk released a 1/48 Su-35, and I was absolutely not interested in it, or in any other Kitty Hawk kit after the extremely sour taste the Fitter left in my mouth.

But then Great Wall Hobby announced that they, too, were going to be releasing an Su-35.

A plan began to form. A versus build, stacking two kits of the same subject against each other.

All I had to do was wait for the Great Wall kit to release. This week, the kit finally hit US shores. Orders were placed, and now here we are. 

The Plan

This build review will be a bit different from my past reviews of the Fly Hurricane, Kinetic F/A-18C Hornet, and Kitty Hawk Su-17 Fitter. Let’s run through what you can expect.

There will be paint. In the past, I’ve done these reviews as just bare plastic. No filler. No paint. Nothing to hide behind. But it has occurred to me that the warts are very evident in video, even if they’re obscured later on.

Builds will be OOB. Neither of these kits will be utilizing aftermarket of any kind. I will only be using what is provided in the box.

There will be a longer time horizon. In the past I’ve slammed these build reviews out in about a month. That will not be the case this time. Because there are two kits. Because I’m actually going to be painting them. And because I have other shit I’m working on as well…

Engineering, fit, detail and overall quality are my main considerations. I will address accuracy in places where I know about it, but I don’t know the Su-35 all that well, and will mostly be going with an “ignorance is bliss” stance rather than angrily pointing out small dimensional errors with red arrows.

There will be bias. While I will absolutely give the Kitty Hawk -35 a fair hearing, I won’t even pretend that I’m coming at this without any kind of baggage. Kitty Hawk has dug themselves into a hole with me over a good many kits, and it will take a strong showing on their part to redeem themselves. At the same time…my interactions with GWH kits have also left me less impressed that I’d anticipated.

There will be videos. Duh.

Efforts will be made to align steps for direct comparison. The engineering of these two kits is rather different in places. But to the greatest extent possible, I will try to build like elements side-by-side. So you can directly compare the cockpits, for example, or the gear bays or engines or pylons and armaments.

Conflation will be met with condescension and censoring. I’m done back-and-forthing with Dunning-Kruger types who can’t understand the basic idea that a model kit is a physical thing that comes in a box, and what is in that box can and should be evaluated independent of a builder’s skillset. Kits, on their own, can certainly be good and bad. Can a modeler turn a shitty kit into something impressive? Yes. But it’s still a shitty kit. If you just can’t deal with this, don’t be surprised to find your comment removed.

Initial Impressions

Last night I cracked the boxes and took a first initial tour through both kits. What did I make of them?

Kitty Hawk

  • The decision to mold the wings separately from the fuselage is annoying. I’m guessing this is related to size limitations of their injection molding machines or something, because it’s not exactly a new thing. Revell’s F-15E has the wings molded with the fuselage.
  • Detail looks nice, but nothing you haven’t seen before. Flash is also an issue in places (like the cockpit aperture or intake lip).
  • The cockpit has a floor!
  • Cockpit detail is…serviceable. Call it maybe on par with Tamiya’s F-14. Far, far better than Academy’s bullshit with their F-4s, but well back of what’s possible, too.
  • Yo dawg, Kitty Hawk heard you like ordnance. Jesus. There are four massive sprues chock full of weird Russian armaments. They look good enough.
  • The resin details are nice. The drooped exhausts look solid, but have a slightly rough feel to them. The tires…the hubs are gorgeous, but there is some shoddiness on the treads. The best part IMO is the seated pilot, who may find his way into the cockpit. I’m sure Becker will be over the moon.
  • The decals are flat. Like, dead flat. WTF. That’s a new one.
  • The cockpit IP and sidewall decals can fuck right off. It’s nice to have decal overlays for these modern cockpits, to provide color for the various switches and stencils. But Kitty Hawk has seen fit to put them on a blue background that’s supposed to represent the cockpit color. FUCK YOU. Put the cockpit decals on a clear background, and then there’s no need to match paint, or have mismatched shit going on.

Overall, it looks like a mostly solid kit, with some red flags here and there.

Great Wall Hobby

  • The sewerface detail on the GWH -35 is staggering. From the instrument panel coaming to the wheel hubs to the flap hinges, this kit is just dripping with gorgeous surface details. The only places that seem to fall a bit flat are the stabilators, where the detail seems a bit shallow or washed out, and a small strip of canopy framing that seems similar.
  • The cockpit is among the most detailed I’ve seen in 1/48, and GWH includes decal overlays on a clear background, as nature intended.
  • Ordnance is limited to air-to-air missiles only. Boo.
  • The amount of little details included are just amazing. Wiring harnesses for the gear bays. Mirrors for the canopy.
  • The engineering of this kit is super thoughtful. The wings are molded with the fuselage. The intake/engine covers are molded as single, long pieces. The main gear struts are designed in such a way that you install just the base of the strut early on, and then slot in the rest of the strut later on. Very convenient.
  • Decals look gorgeous, but the schemes are uninspiring. They’re all the current “how many shades of blue-gray can we use?” scheme. I’d love to have some other options.

Overall, this kit is extremely impressive on the sprues – probably the single best looking kit out of the box that I’ve seen since Tamiya’s big Corsairs. Certainly the most impressive jet – and yes I’ve seen AMK’s MiG-31. It’s too soon to tell if the fit is as good as the detail and engineering, but I’m hopeful.

Round 1 – Fight!

Okay, so now it’s off to actually start work on these two kits. Stay tuned for more!



10 Comments Add yours

  1. Bob Bush says:

    “[S]tarting then abandoning builds.” Ain’t that the truth. With everything else in life my attention span has been shit! What the fuck happened to retirement where you could kick back and relax?

  2. José Pedro Relógio says:

    “The sewerface detail on the GWH -35” and I thought taserface was funny! Hahaha

  3. I passed on the KH after working on their Mig25 (I’m currently building with a ICM mig 25 and AMT mig31 as a doomed trio build). Got the GW coming – did you get one with the tinted canopy? I’ve a genetic Su-33, so it’ll be interesting to see how they compare.

  4. I passed on the KittyH after working on their Mig25 (I’m currently building with a ICM mig 25 and AMT mig31 as a doomed trio build). Got the GW coming – did you get one with the tinted canopy? I’ve a Kinetic Su-33, so it’ll be interesting to see how they compare.

  5. Gary Laing says:

    Great idea. I am really looking forward to the comparison build as both kits appeal to me. Thanks for your time and effort, much appreciated. Let the games begin!

  6. Wayne Beattie says:

    I am interested to see how the two kits are different. Looking forward to the discussion.

  7. Marcel says:

    Looking forward to following your build! I have the GWH in the mail right now, even more eagerly anticipating it after seeing your review. I’ve wanted to do a blue camo scheme for a while, so that’s not really an issue for me, but I do agree they could’ve made more of an effort there. Happy modelling!

  8. Steve says:

    I’m really happy to see that you have come back to modelling. I hope motivation and fun is here again.

    Thanks for your reviews. They are of very good quality


  9. geoffrye35 Ebert says:

    Hi Doog. I am a 63 year old who came back into the hobby about 10 years ago and have been having a great time. I wanted to tell you that I have been following your blog and builds since your Corsair build and I really enjoy them. I learn a lot from your builds and I appreciate your unfiltered honesty. I use black basing and color modulation now, and look forward to your techniques, reviews, and rants. Having spent the last forty years teaching history, I too can understand your frustration with petty bullshit and the courage than anonymity can give to the simple-minded. Thanks for your help, your views, and your creations, both video and plastic. James R. Ebert


  10. Simon says:

    I’m really looking forward to following your build. I really respect your work and opinions, great stuff. I also took time away from building but not the hobby. Work, life and moving just took to much and I lost the motivation but I’m now getting ramped up to build again and have some great stuff on the top of the pile for inspiration. I hope you are getting that need to build feeling back!

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