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Kopro's 1/48 scale
Sukhoi  SU-22M4 (Fitter-K)

by Ingo Degenhardt


Sukhoi  SU-22M4 (Fitter-K)

Kopro's 1/48 scale Du-22M4 is available oneline from Squadron



The SU-22M4 in service with the NVA

The SU-22M4 is one of the last variants from a long line of fighter bombers that started with the SU-7, even the interceptors SU-9, 11 and 15 share the same roots.

This aircraft, originally the soviet SU-17 (first flown in 1966), was the first plane of this family to feature variable wing geometry. The mostly simplified export variants were designated SU-20 and SU-22 and further development lead to sub-variants such as the SU-22M4. NATO-Code for all versions is “Fitter” with an annex letter to distinguish the different types.

The SU-22 got famous in 1981, when two Libyan SU-22M3’s found out the hard way that the US Navy also operated swing-wing fighters that are better not to be messed with. 

In 1984 the former German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) formed JBG-77 to be based at Laage and to be equipped with the SU-22M4.

Because Laage airfield was still under construction the first ten SU-22 were delivered to Rothenburg. They arrived dismantled in crates via AN-22 airlift directly from the USSR. Suchoi technicians accompanied the transport, assembled and flight tested the new aircraft.

Eight were already completed when the deployment to Laage began in December 1984.

Further aircraft were delivered directly to Laage – all in all 36 aircraft until march 1985.

In a second phase from 1986 to spring 1987 the final delivery took place.(IL-76 this time)

The fighter bombers were divided between JBG-77 (Jagdbombengeschwader) and MFG-28 (Marinefliegergeschwader), each with a strength of 24 SU-22M4 and 4 SU-22UM3K two-seat trainers by mid-1987.



During the altogether six years of service with the NVA (National peoples army) each wing lost one aircraft in accidents with the pilots both saved by the K-36 ejection seat.

With the end of the German democratic republic in 1990 the #546 of JBG-77 and the #798 of MFG-28 each received a brightly coloured farewell scheme during September 1990.

With the official reunion of both Germanys the East German air force was disbanded on November 3, 1990 and the Luftwaffe took over.

Both SU-22 wings still existed (with Luftwaffe markings) for the rest of the year but it was already clear that the Luftwaffe would not form any wings equipped with Fitters. Instead

they were put into storage at Laage with minimal maintenance.

In 1991 some aircraft were chosen to be kept airworthy and later several of those were operated by WTD-61 (Wehrtechnische Dienststelle – Military trials unit.) and the USAF bought 4 SU-22M4 (and five MiG-23ML)

Some others survived in various museums or are now even privately owned. The remaining Fitters found a sorry end in October 1994 at Verwahrlager (storage facility) Laage when they were simply crushed by a recovery tank. (what an idea)

Laage is now base for JG 73 “Steinhoff”, currently being equipped with the Eurofighter Typhoon.





I have always liked the lurking, hunchback appearance of a parked Fitter-K and especially the M4 version of the former East German (DDR) LSK/LV (Air Force/Air Defence) with their rather loveless applied camouflage schemes that seem to be individual for every single aircraft.

So when this version was released by Kopro I got myself one of them immediately; but as so often it spent quite a while in the ‘queue’ before construction finally started.

In the meantime the kit was examined several times and I came to the conclusion that buying the Cutting Edge Cockpit (or Neomega, I think they make one, too) might be a good idea. And it is. At least the K-36 ejection seat should be replaced – the kit seat is simply worthless.

It takes only minor work  to make the CE cockpit fit into the fuselage half. The major modification is to remove nearly all of the vertical annex of the front wheel well. Although dry fitting looked alright, when it came to installing the shock cone sub-assembly I found there was not enough space in front of the cockpit tub to make it fit correctly.

My solution was to leave off the rear bulkhead from the shock cone and paint the fuselage insides from the cockpit on rearwards flat black to avoid any ‘see-through’ that might be caused by omitting the bulkhead.

I also thinned down the inner fuselage sides in the area of the four auxiliary air intakes (blow-in doors) which is a tedious process as the plastic is very thick; but necessary if you want to cut out the doors and display them open. They may be shown open at any random angle as seen on the real thing when parked on the ground.

The fuselage halves join quite well but it is helpful to work in stages as it is very long and some support for alignment using sheet styrene from the inside makes sense also.

Installing the speed brakes closed calls for some effort because their fit is only very poor. I eventually glued them in, filled the gaps with CA glue, sanded everything smooth and rescribed the contours completely. The model in general does not suffer too much from sanding because the panel lines are very deep, leaving almost every time at least a fine line that made rescribing rather easy.

No good fit either at the fuselage-wing joint. I assembled the wings completely including painting/masking of the natural metal areas of the variable wing geometry. The location tabs on the wing roots do not fit into the fuselages slots at all, so I cut them off and the wings were glued on as a butt-joint using a mixture of CA and plastic cement. Care must be taken to achieve a symmetrical, slightly drooped wing profile. Being satisfied with this, I was left with a pronounced gap on the undersides and a moderate one on the upper joint. This step of construction took a lot of filler. Not to mention sanding and rescribing the panel lines.

Attaching  the vertical fin and the dorsal fin intake part (afterburner cooling intake – the most distinctive feature of the M4 among the late Fitters) is straightforward.

On the forward fuselage I corrected the devices for the retractable landing lights which the kit has flush with engraved outlines only. On the real aircraft they are noticeable bulges on the left and right lower fuselage sides. A little bit of sheet styrene cut to size, filler and some sanding produced the bulges. Holes of the appropriate size were drilled into them and later covered with Krystal Klear to represent the lenses.



The strangest thing with this kit are the wing pylons – if the SU-22 had straight wings I guess they would fit quite good, but for the swept wings they have to be cut to shape. I did reasonably good here and some filler completed the job.

True to the motto “simulate, not duplicate” I added some detail to the rather plain wheel wells in form of various cables, hoses, etc. attached according to photographs.

The undercarriage itself is quite poorly detailed and needs careful assembly – I glued the suspension arms to the gear legs by eye-measurement which turned out to be a big mistake, because when I first placed the model on its wheels I found out that it was sitting far too low on the main gear. The wheels, flattened a little to simulate weight, added to the disaster.

Eventually there was no other cure but to cut off (Dremel circular saw) the suspension arms and reattach them at the right angle. All very unnecessary, as there is an exact scale drawing in the instructions how the assembly should look and that can even be used as a template.

To improve the undercarriage’s look a little I added some brake pipes to the gear legs. Wheel well covers could need some detailing too, but I chose not to because it can hardly be seen anyway among all the ordnance.

I replaced the wing tank fins with thin plastic sheet as the kit parts are brick-like things that look impossible.

There is a good choice of external loads included and I went for a kind of ‘armed reconnaissance’ external load, including the KKR-1 recon pod for the centreline,

a UB-32 rocket pod for the right inner pylon, two 158 gal. drop tanks and the funny looking pod on the left inner pylon is an SPS-141 MWGA ECM-pod. 

General detailing included 30mm gun barrels in the wing roots made from hypodermic needles, stretched sprue-made static dispensers, odd-rod antennas and AOA vanes (PE) from the Cutting Edge cockpit set.

The two pitot probes have wrong bases or fuselage attachment points. I cut them much shorter, sculptured them a little and added a kind of duct made from plastic rods at their rear. This looks more like the real thing. The forward part of the left probe again is a fine hypodermic needle.

Of course most of the smaller parts were attached after painting.



Painting and Markings


As said, the LSK/LV Fitter’s camouflage patterns are peculiar to each aircraft, so I had to find as much pictures as possible for the aircraft of my choice – #546 of JBG-77 before it received the farewell scheme.

Fortunately there are a lot of photographs showing the aircraft in this colourful paint scheme, so providing sufficient information about the camo scheme as well. The instructions can be used also, because the farewell scheme is one of the decal options.

I used Xtra-Color paints for the job and because there are no specific paints for the East German Air Force, they range from various ‘Eastern block’ colours, FS 34102 to completely self-mixed and even RLM 65.

To achieve something like scale-like demarcation lines between the paints, I used rolled ‘sausages’ of blu-tack for masking; reducing the feathering effect of spraying considerably.

Quite a lot of patches from paint repairs were sprayed on at random – these do not always match the original colour of the area and there can be very well a brown patch on Dark Green or vice versa or any possible combination. Seems that the NVA did not care too much about the look of their ‘Susis’ as they were nicknamed.

Before I started the camouflage painting, the model was given an overspray of Alcad’s Grey primer and microfiller, revealing some spots that needed further sanding, rescribing or whatever. The primer was sanded with very fine wet & dry and the all the natural metal surfaces were sprayed with Alclad Aluminium and Dark Aluminium and then masked. 



Masking with blu-tack is very effective in my opinion and needs only very little practice to learn. It simply depends on the angle you hold the airbrush how sharp the paint edge becomes.



Kopro provides three different marking options – East German #546 as mentioned, 98+14 of WTD-61 (Luftwaffe) and a camouflaged Russian aircraft.

I considered buying some extra decals for this kit because I was looking for a regular JBG-77 aircraft but was not able to find them. So I went for #546 and had the problem that the modex number was yellow with a red outline as it is part of the farewell colour scheme. All other standard markings are there as needed. First I planned to cut spray masks from the #546 decals but then had the idea of simply spraying the neatly cut out numerals in the required red. I taped them to a piece of cardboard with beads of blu-tack, sprayed them gloss red and let them dry. Of course they were a little thicker now, but an extra layer of  Humbrol Flat Cote sprayed from various angles concealed this. The Kopro decals in general are ok, although they do not react so very well with Micro Sol/Set and therefore wouldn’t snug into panel lines that much. On the positive side there is a full complement of stencil data.

What is not quite sure with aircraft #546 is if it had the wing emblem on the tail fin or not before it received the special paint scheme. Some JBG-77 had it for a certain period, but it was ordered to be painted out as can be seen on several photographs But I do not know if this order was followed completely or not.

I used the decal anyway to add a little colour to the model and because I had a picture showing #546 in the paint shop for the farewell scheme with the work just having started (masking). On this picture the wing badge is already there. So I guessed it to have been applied earlier and not to have been painted over. 

If you want to make any JBG-77 or MFG-28 aircraft the modex numbers are not very helpful – at least I could not make out any system in the numbering of JBG-77 and MFG-28 aircraft. To distinguish the Fitters of the two wings the chaff/flare dispensers on the rear fuselage can be used. JBG-77 aircraft had two of these ‘strakes’ while MFG-28 received later series aircraft with four dispensers. (there may be exceptions though). 

Surely not a kit for the beginner, with some effort and endurance I think the Kopro Fitter-K turns out into a nice-looking model. It’s the only choice in this scale anyway. Some aftermarket stuff is available to improve the model but I contrived to confine myself to the Cutting Edge cockpit set which I really consider necessary.





Thanks to Frank Banisch for all the helpful information and his website  www.su-22.de  (unfortunately currently offline but hopefully to be available again soon)  

- Squadron/Signal publ.  “Fitters in action”

Model and Text Copyright © 2006 by Ingo Degenhardt
Images Copyright © 2006 by Lutz Degenhardt
Page Created 22 May, 2006
Last Updated 22 May, 2006

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