Italeri (Dragon) 1/72 Sukhoi Su 24MR Fencer-E

Ever since I saw Fencers in East Germany (Fencer-E and F) and Poland (Fencer-B, C and D) this is one of my favorite Soviet aircraft. Dragon produced a Fencer kit in two versions, the short-nosed Fencer-B/C and the long-nosed Fencer-D. Italeri markets the short-nose version. I bought the Italeri kit to build a Fencer-B or C as I saw in Poland, and planned to later buy the Dragon long-nosed Fencer-D to convert it into a Fencer-E, which is the version I like best. Later, after looking at my finishing rate, I decided to skip the B/C and directly build the Fencer-E. The Dragon kit is difficult to find in the shops here, so I decided to convert the Italeri kit. This was also because a modeller reported that the profile of the long nose was suspect. To make it even more complicated, Dragon recently came out with a Fencer-E kit. I haven't seen it though. If it contains the recce-pods it would be a good buy, I guess. But the box shows no sign of any of these stores, so my guess is that no specific Fencer-E stores are included.

Model accuracy

An initial look at the kit's shape (assembled with tape) revealed that the fuselage didn't look right at all. It looked too short in a way, and too deep. When I finally found a good drawing (I hope), it was clear that the kit indeed had some large errors. The rear fuselage is too short, the front fuselage too long, and the fuselage was too deep. But it also turned out that correcting these errors would not be too difficult. So construction got a go-ahead.


This first construction picture shows the complete fuselage with all major modifications. The lower fuselage half is lowered two millimeters; the rear fuselage has a 2 millimeter plastic card plug. The front fuselage was shortened 4 millimeters just behind the cockpit. The nose is a Milliput conversion job. With all these modifications in place the model looks like a Fencer at last.  
This picture shows the rear fuselage inverted. It shows the 2 millimeter cut in the lower fuselage half. It was not possible to simply remove 2 millimeter from the upper side of the lower fuselage, since the stub wing does not allow this. I cut a 2 millimeter strip from the middle of the fuselage sides, and glued it back together with super glue. This cut is visible in the picture. The job took about an hour. The extreme rear fuselage part (on the left in the picture) also needed to be lowered, but the nozzles needed to be retained. This was achieved by cutting a V-shaped notch in the sides of this part and gluing it back together.
The next picture shows most of the modifications to the front fuselage. Vaguely visible is the 4 mm cut just behind the cockpit. It also shows the Milliput nose job, which I admit needs better mixing. I used the short Fencer-B/C nose as a basis, and added and removed Milliput until I thought it looked like a Fencer-D/E/F nose. This was a first for me, and I have to say it's not easy to do this from photographs. Vaguely visible are some of the Eduard photo-etched parts on the cockpit walls. The forward fuselage was also lowered (like the rear fuselage) but the lowering tapered from 2 mm at in the intakes to 1 mm at the radome.
The last parts that needed to be lowered were the intakes. The were also cut and glued back together with super glue.
In this picture the fuselage is fitted with the wings fitted. The wings have problems too: as molded, they have a decisive dihedral angle, and not the required slight anhedral. They are not straight either; they have a bend near the root. Once the bend is eliminated with hot water, the dihedral has doubled!! To achieve the desired anhedral, you must scrape the upper side of the wing root (the part inside the stub wing) aggressively. The stub wing itself is too thick, but I decided to skip that one.
For reasons of painting and transportation I build swing-wing aircraft in such a way that I can insert the wings after painting. To make this possible I removed most of the gear teeth. I cut a slot parallel with the wing's trailing edge, so it could be installed later. The cut slides along the kit's wing pivot. This pivot is wrongly located by the way, so a moveable wing shows unsightly openings in most sweep angles. For my fixed sweep wing this didn't matter though. Once I established the correct sweep angle, I glued a block of plastic card to the upper fuselage half, to fix the sweep angle. Some fine tuning is possible and needed by using thin pieces of plastic card. The wings can now be installed and removed as desired.
The center section of the fuselage shows more modifications. Continuing with the wing, it showed quite a gap at the lower side once installed. I glued plastic card on the lower stub wing to close the slot. The lower trailing edge of the stub wing is quite thick now, so it needs quite some sanding on the lower side. The picture further shows the main landing gear wells I constructed from card. The kit has very unrealistic wells, but you can leave it like that, since a door (that I had overlooked) covers it up. I will definitely skip this modification next time. The strangely shaped things in the intakes are discussed in the next paragraph.
Like so many kits, the intakes end after a couple of millimeters as a vertical wall. Very unrealistic if you look closely, and I can't stand it. Building 'Seamless Sucker' like intake ducts was out of the question. For this kit I tried something new. I removed the vertical wall, and replaced it with thermoformed 'cups' that make the intake look infinitely deep.
This picture shows the simple mould I made for this purpose. It was cut and sanded from a piece of wood, and sprayed with car filler. I also made a very simple thin plywood frame to hold the plastic card while heating it over a candle. On the left is a thermoformed piece. The plastic is stretched very thin in places, so I reinforced it with more plastic card.
The Dragon cockpit is a bit of a joke. The 'instruments' are 1:32 scale, and the seats are extremely simple. I wanted to use my Eduard PE pieces for this cockpit, because I had never built a cockpit completely from p/e parts. It was probably a much better idea to install a Pavla/NeOmega resin cockpit, but I had started with the p/e and wanted to finish it. Working from photos I slowly modified the Dragon tub to something resembling the real thing. I heightened the side and center consoles 1 millimeter, brought the instrument panel 1 mm towards the pilots and made the stick pedestals longer and wider. The p/e parts for the right cockpit wall needed quite some rearrangement before it looked like a Fencer cockpit. The Eduard instrument panel is for a Fencer-D, but I wanted to create a Fencer-E. This requires some modifications on the right side, for which I haven't found a solution yet. I also modified the piece that divides two cockpit in two. Slowly but surely it starting to look quite good.

Construction stopped

The construction of this model was stopped in 2003. In 2001 I first heard rumors of a new Fencer model coming from Russia, and in October 2003 it reached Europe. It is produced by 'Strim' or 'Stream', and according to first reports, the quality is quite good, at least a lot better than the Dragon kit. Because the Dragon model will require a great deal of work to bring it up to standards, starting over with the new kit is most likely much wiser. Therefore, this project is terminated. I had a lot of fun so far, but I also learned that Dragon models are not the best in the world. I don't understand all the raving about them! This partial build report will remain on the site in its original form for some time though.

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