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Building Collect-Aire's 1/48 scale
Sukhoi Su-24M
“Fencer D”

by Phil "Bondo" Brandt

Sukhoi Su-24M “Fencer D”


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The Sukhoi Su-24 (NATO “Fencer D”), affectionately known by aircrews as "The Suitcase," was born in the mid-Sixties amid the alarm caused in Soviet planning circles by introduction in the West of the General Dynamics F-111 "Aardvark".

The Soviet Union had no equivalent airframe with the Vark's unique capabilities: low level speed, terrain following radar, long unrefuelled range and significant weapons carriage ability.

The Fencer's long development was a quantum jump for the Soviet aircraft industry and, as in the case of the F-111,  a difficult one.  But, the Fencer's difficult early years eventually led--again, as in the Vark's case--to a relatively stable maturation phase; the Fencer has soldiered on through the Afghanistan debacle of the Eighties into the New Millennium.  



Collect-Aire's 1/48 Scale Fencer D



Initial Assessment 

With many past Collect-Aire releases, the good and the not-so-good often battle to a Mexican standoff, and the Fencer is no exception.  This one was done by LF in the Czech Republic and, as such, exhibits clean, smooth molding, very little warpage and petite, sharp engraving that rivals the best injected.  Unfortunately, the very nice looking parts in-the-box suffer from variable resin shrinkage which significantly affects major component alignment, and resin pinholes (not bubbles).



The wings have caused the Difficult Kit Division of Bondo Industries the most grief and indecision.  The problem centers around the fact that the folks doing the master decided not to create movable wings (as opposed to the design philosophy of the much more inexpensive Monogram and Academy F-111s) but to leave it to the kit builder to permanently set the desired wingsweep angle and to cut the outer wings at an appropriate location to mate properly with the solid “gloves” (inner wing segment).



This scheme would have been OK but for the unfortunate cross sectional enlargement of the outer wing at the wing/glove interface. This enlarged section makes the outer wing exactly the same thickness as the glove, which ain't the way these 'switchblades' work! They really do slide between thin structural layers of the glove, and there simply isn't any extra thickness left in the Collect-Aire resin gloves. What to do…what to do?


Plan A  

Although this scheme was eventually shelved in favor of working with the original Collect-Aire wing parts, I’ll go into the procedure anyhow because it is workable.  Bondo ambled out to the plastic kit  “junkyard" and examined the Zhengdefu ripoff of the Academy F-111 kit.  Wonder of wonders; the Vark gloves and wings were essentially the same shape and size (just have to trim 1/4 inch of wingtip) as the Fencer's!  The only changes needed to adapt the injected gloves and wings to the C-A resin fuselage were to thin the cross sections of both wings and gloves by about 1/16 inch on the ol' sanding plate — the pivot pins/bosses also had to be trimmed--and to saw off a small aft portion of the Vark glove to match the Fencer planform.  I even planned to adapt the interlocking Academy "gears" so that the wingsweep would be synchronized. To pull off this synchronizing  trick and provide clearance for the gears required some delicate, yet industrial-strength Dremmeling of the inside top half of the fuselage--we Vark troops call it the "over-the-wing fairing." And, we haven't even mentioned the rescribing of all the F-111 parts to match  zee Russkiy panels or adding the irregularly shaped  pivot pin covers which stand proud of the upper and lower glove surface! Although all the milling of the fuselage  top has made it very thin for such a large section, there's a relatively thick,  wide resin spine that laminates right over the thinned area.  Mebbe it's a lotta practice bleeding, but since Bondo's an old Vark 'crew dog,' he really cared that the wingsweep appear realistic.  An added advantage of this route would have been lightness and increased rigidity of the injected wing/glove halves. But it wasn’t to be.  After actually creating both wings, I rethought the whole deal and opted, instead, to work with the labor-intensive Collect-Aire wings.




Plan B 

The solid resin Collect-Aire gloves were carefully sliced into upper and lower halves with a razor saw, and a filler sheet of plastic sandwiched in between. The outer mating surface of each glove was painstakingly Dremmeled so that the outer wings would nest inside, with only a thin layer of resin covering the joint….just like the real thing. Rather than have the wings full forward, the wingsweep was set at forty-five degrees, which lends an offsetting sleekness to the boxiness of the “Suitcase’s” fuselage. 




Included wing fences are of the square-edge profile, seen only on the cammo’ed MK, or export, version (Iran, Iraq, etc.).  To make  proper -24M fences, the forward and aft fence top corners were rounded off and the whole fence tapered to a relative knife edge at the top. The fit of these fences with the wing was not good, so putty and some very careful sanding were required to blend in to the wing leading edge.


Cockpit and Canopies


Most of the Collect-Aire photoetch panels were used, with some added sidewall boxes. No throttles were included, so they were scratchbuilt, as was a right console radar tracking handle.  A thin piece of clear plastic sheet was sandwiched between the PE instrument panel and the included printed instruments. These instruments, although helpful, are way removed from Eduard’s latest and greatest. Each kit instrument was printed with a hokey white ring which I inked over with a fine Koh-i-Noor pen.





Although the Collect-Aire KM-36 seats are not bad, I substiututed KMC ones which are much “busier” and have very nice harnesses, etc. molded in. An avionics shelf under the canopy raising mechanism was scratchbuilt, as was the top of the longitudinal cockpit divider “wall”. The aft edge of the windscreen was thickened for realism with plastic strip, and another strip was glued down the inside of the center divider.





In the interest of even more cockpit busi-ness, I elected to pose the unique split canopies open in their flower petal configuration. This required significant thickening of those thin, vacuformed pieces.  I used the spare canopy set as a female mold for two laminations of plastic sheet.  Window cutouts and scratchbuilt interior surface detailing.




Now is where fit problems really surface.  The radome aft cross section was fully 1/32” too large as compared to the mating cross section of the forward fuselage. Instead of industrial strength grinding and sanding of the radome, or significant puttying of the forward fuselage, I chose to cut (razor saw) deep vertical and horizontal kerfs in the radome, then gluing and clamping down to squeeze the part in both dimensions; it works! The bottom area of the separate afterburner empennage casting is oversize, also, and this time I chose to grind it down to mate with the aft fuselage.  The long, flat  resin fuselage “spine” didn’t mate properly (too low) with the forward fuselage section, so I (again) sandwiched in plastic sheet for the whole length of the spine, all the way aft under the vertical fin.



 Afterburner assemblies from the Academy Flanker were substituted for the simple, much too shallow kit ones, and the divider area between the burner cans, absent in the kit,  was scratchbuilt.  For balance, model railroad lead sheet was rolled and then glued into the forward fuselage; sure glad the landing gear is cast metal!

 The kit didn’t seem to allow for the distinctive anhedral of the wings, and the wing/fuselage joint seemed under designed for those relatively heavy parts, so I custom-bent a 1/8” diameter brass rod and glued it (somewhat like the modeler’s version of a “carry-through box” ) to the inside of the fuselage top or, as we in the Vark community call it, the “over-wing fairing.” The laborious sanding required by ill-fitting parts naturally obliterated much delicate scribing, and lotsa rescribing was required to duplicate the complex lines. 3/32” brass rod was also run through the empennage to create a strong mounting point for the large, movable slabs.  

Gear wells were devoid of any detail, so both maingear ones were lined with ribbed plastic sheet.  The nosegear well is too small for any detail to be seen. And, while I’m at it, the PE maingear doors are much too thin to be realistic, so an outer panel was made from plastic sheet and laminated to the PE. Thicker, scratchbuilt plastic ventral strakes were also substituted for the kit PE ones.  

The PE seals, or fairings, into which the wing trailing edges slide when they’re swept aft were too small and difficult to integrate with the fuselage.  I scratchbuilt new ones using very thin (.005”) sheet which could actually be pressed in to duplicate the softness of the real thing.  BTW, in the Vark these flexible fairings are actually inflated to properly seal the wing/fuselage interface.


Ancillary Fuselage Parts 

There were many, many tiny resin and metal detail blisters, cooling air intakes, ECM antennas, pylon components, etc., all in small unmarked plastic baggies, with no numerical references in the exploded parts diagrams.  To really make things worse, my kit was missing a significant number of 'em.  Lou Maglio, the Collect-Aire honcho, quickly sent me the missing parts, with the exception of two. Because of time constraints the still-missing ones were duplicated in resin using the other, present, item of each pair as masters. The large sweptback antenna on top the fuselage, just aft of the cockpit, was scratchbuilt.





I chose to use the included AS-11 "Kilter" and  AS-14 "Kedge" missiles. The included PE fins and pylon sway braces add to the detail, but it's my opinion that the PE weapon fins are actually too thin.  I used thicker plastic sheet instead. The “TV” nose of the “Kedge” was created by using kitbashed fronts of 1/32 Mavericks from the Trumpeter A-10. The “Kilters’ are carried on the inboard pylons, but the fins wouldn’t clear the wing under surfaces, so I added a missile launch pylon from the Monogram F-18.





The included PE weapon sway braces—adding homebuilt jackscrews would’ve been very laborious--were replaced by more realistic, three-dimensional ones from the Monogram E-6B kit.  More Monogram sway braces were added to the three empty under-fuselage pylons. The outer pylons/missiles are anchored to the wing with brass rod and are removable; same, same with the inboard missiles, although the fence/pylon assemblies are permanently affixed to each wing.



Painting, Markings and Weathering



After much filling (Blue Acryl) and many primering/wet sanding iterations, all leading edges and airframe bottom surfaces were shot with multiple coats of PollyScale  Reefer White.  Then appropriate areas were masked (luv that Tamiya tape!) and slightly bluish PollyScale Haze Grey , lightened with Reefer White, was applied with  Bondo Industries’ new Tamiya gravity-feed airbrush. Masking for the grey was almost as laborious as the above-mentioned resin fit problems. The outer wing slats are hard masked, but the inner wing leading edges, vertical fin leading edge, slab leading edges and fuselage color divider line are “soft-edged.”  This was achieved by lifting up the outer edge of the tape with a knife edge and spraying over the upturned tape edge. Next, PollyScale gloss clear was applied (at least two coats) to provide a proper base for the extensive decaling that was to follow. After the decalling, PollyScale clear flat was lightly applied. This stuff dries almost instantly, so you don’t have to wait around to see if there was enough flattening agent to do the job.


Decalling, Markings and Weathering 

Collect-Aire provides a very extensive sheet of markings and stencils.  Strangely, the included sheet appears to be almost an exact duplicate of the older Cutting Edge offering that was ostensibly produced (years ago) to accompany their advertised-but-never-released Fencer kit! Bondo went with the Cutting Edge decals because of the known quality and opacity — he’s had past troubles in this respect with thin Collect-Aire decals that don’t underprint vivid colors with a layer of white. I’m confident in saying that close to one hundred individual decals were laid on, and I spent at least eight hours just on this task. 



Tired of seeing red Soviet stars, I was impressed with the unusual blue and yellow national markings on Ukrainian Fencer Ds of the Nineties as seen in a great World Airpower Journal feature (see references) and with the weathering opportunities to duplicate the overall VERY dirty Ukraine airframe exteriors. Apparently there was little financial room in the post-Soviet breakup  budget for wash racks.  The multipiece Ukrainian national roundels and vertical fin badge were taken from the nice Cutting Edge Flanker sheet. 

Weathering was done with watercolors, and the dead flat PollyScale clear coat provided the perfect base for the medium, just like watercolor paper! The “adjusting” of watercolor intensity is, in my opinion, MUCH easier than with oil washes. There’s no worry about solvent action with the underlying finish, and, since much of the real airframe staining  is done by flowing liquids, the “staining” can be brushed out, or done over, any number of times, and seems to these elderly eyes to be more realistic.


Auxiliary Ground Equipment 

The thin canopy braces were scratchbuilt, as were the intake and exhaust FOD covers. The crew ladders are from old OEZ Su-7 kits and are the same generic design used on the Fencer and other Evil Empire birds.






This was a laborious but uplifting project for personnel of the Bondo Industries Difficult Kits Division. The struggle defines what modeling is to me and was well worth it.

Now that the Fencer’s been rolled out, I look forward to the imminent release of same by Trumpeter! J I continue to appreciate (and buy!)  the wonderfully eclectic Collect-Aire releases.





1. World Airpower Journal, Vol. 5, Spring 1991, and Vol. 39, Winter 1999.  The Fencer is the featured cover article in the latter volume and IMO the primo pictorial reference. 

2. Przegiad Konstrukcji Lotniczych,  “Su- 24”, by Jefim Gordon, 2/93, ISSN 1230-2953. This monograph includes a superior centerfold of removable Fencer line drawings. Many closeup detail pics, some in color.  

3. Russian Falcons, Steven J. Zaloga, Concord Publications, Page 27-31. Nice color pix. 

4. Red Stars Over Europe, Marcus Fulber, Concord Publications. Color pix (front cover and pages 10-14). Excellent cockpit


Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2004 by Phil Brandt
Page Created 01 April, 2004
Last Updated 31 March, 2004

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