Revell Ukrainian Su-27 in RIAT 1996 markings

Project start 2022-05-7

Almost twenty years after deciding I was going to build a bunch of Flankers, I finally got around to making a start on one. Presumably in retalliation, the project got completely out of hand before it was even started.

You see, Flankers have a very distinctive blueish-greyish paint job, and no two parties seem able to agree on that the actual colours are. Colour call-outs from kits and older special Flanker paint sets range from bad to laughably bad. Of course I only found out how bad it all was after I'd bought and tested a fortune's worth of paint and spent weeks of effort. To say I ended up grumpy and frustrated from all this would have to be considered an understatement.

I fact, I was so frustrated that it needed a better outlet than a nice session of banging my head against the nearest wall. I decided to engage in a spot of not so sutle denounciation, so I bought a whole pile of cheap 1/144 Flankers, and will be painting them in exactly the same markings, that is, according to paint and model manufacturers. I can pretty much guarantee not one will be even close to the others.

The bulk of these will be Revell boxings of the Ace kit. It resembles a Flanker about as closely as the various paint combinations resemble those on real Flankers, and that's assuming you manage to force the parts together. The only exception will be the much newer and better Trumpeter Su-30, which is actually a very nice little kit. In recognition of this far better quality, the Trumpeter will be painted with the also much newer Hataka paint set. This, as well as the offering from Vallejo, actually looks like Flanker colours, and thus this one will serve as the reference build. Oddly, the Mig set is almost perfect, except that the blue is way too bright and saturated, thus wrecking the effect.

The sort-of agreed terminology has it that Flankers sport three colours, Pale Blue, Blue, and Grey. There is also some consensus about the camouflage pattern used. Regardless of which colour seems most suited to my eyes to which part of the pattern, I'll stick to the manufacturer's callouts. That gives the following table:

Nose number Source/Paint brand Pale Blue Blue Grey
Su-30 Hataka A328 A095 A038
1 Xtra Colour (grey) X602(412) X601(305) X603(501)
2 Xtra Colour (greenish) X602(405) X601(509) X603(610)
3 Testors 2130 2131 2132
4 Mig 0249 0086 0075
5 Zvezda/Tamiya XF-80 X14 XF-18
6 Airfix/Humbrol 147 144 127
7 Trumpeter/Gunze 73 / H57 74 72 / H56

The two Vallejo suggestions are different from each other and the Hataka, but in my opinion well within the tolerances one would expect from different batches of the same paint, so for future reference I might well use Vallejo AV71334 or AV71344 for Pale Blue, AV71337 or AV71343 for Blue, and AV71335 or AV71345 for Grey.

The Trumpeter/Hataka reference machine is painted, and ready for decals. I'm not entirely happy with the way Hataka paint handles. I've been unable to properly thin it with anything generic/bulk but plain tap water. Cheap and abundant, certainly, but entirely too slow to evaporate, meaning the paint is very prone to running, especially under masking tape. Still, it does have the destinction of being the only water thinned paint I ever got anything like a decent result with.
The Gunze model has blue and grey on. As ever, the paint handles beautifully, the aqueous series with IPA, and the Mr.Color with leveling thinner (all my usual issues with propriatory, but technically perfect).
The Tamiya model has had it's coat of blue. The colour is positively frightening..

The Gunze and Tamiya models are complete, and the grey Xtra is ready for touch-up and decals. The Testors has just received it's grey coat, while the Mig has turned blue, and looks every bit as crazy as the Tamiya did at this point.
I feel the grey Xtra's might be just the ticket for the more colour-saturated Sea Flankers, and, oddly, Testors' blue might actually take the place of Pale Blue for a more saturated Flanker, paired with the grey Xtra blue and grey, or on the apparently overall pale blue scheme that appears to have been used on some of the development machines. I'll probably be hanging om to the models after this is done to enable some mix and match stuff in the future.
I've also decided that drawing cutting and applying the same 30 masks is really getting old. That's a total of 240 masks, just to display a spot of grumpyness. I might be doing something wrong somehow..

The grey Xtra is done, and the Testors is undergoing final assembly and decalling. It's beginning to show that I'm just a bit fed up with these mongrels; I'm getting sloppy and completely forgot to mask the blue band accross the cockpit area for the last three. Fortunately, that should be an easy fix, but it does mean more work. Aside from this fix, the Mig and Airfix have two out of three colours on, and the green Xtra just got the third.

I've finally managed to complete this nasty mob of Flankers.
I mucked up the green Xtra some more, by initially using blue-grey for the forward band, so I ended up patching this one twice.
The paper templates I used for making the masks were completely worn out by this time. I was quite happy to finally be able to throw them out though, so that's OK
I feel the Airfix/Humbrol model might not be getting are truly fair showing here; the blue (144) is rather different from the colour in the lid, greenish rather than blueish grey. I've also had several tins of 104 that were far too green around the same time, so I guess XtraColour aren't the only ones with QA issues.

Without further ado, the complete gang:

Keep in mind that all these are supposed have the same camo colours..
I apologise for the clumsy backdrop; I couldn't find a single piece of paper large enough, and the white balance on both my cameras got completely confused when I used a non-white background. All that blue-ish grey-ish stuff is apparently cruelty to cameras
Some shots of the individual models:

The reference model. Hataka paints. XtraColour, grey variant.
XtraColour, green variant. Testors paints, also with rather too green pale-blue.
Mig paints, one of the Blues Brothers.. Tamiya according to Zvezda, the other brother..
Humbrol according to Airfix. Gunze according to Trumpeter.

Of particular frustration in this whole project were the XtraColour paints. Both these models are painted with tins with the same numbers on them. They are so far from identical that in my not so humble opinion someone in QA there needs a really good talking to.
With a hammer..

Box art picture of the sprues picture of the decals

Now, for the rather hilarious part: none of this colour testing work has any bearing on the Ukrainian machine. The Ukrainian Flankers are painted in a completely different splinter pattern. Those colours, too, are tricky, but compared to the basic camo pattern, it was a breeze to find properly matching colours. That said, the result is a bit odd; I ended up with Humbrol 47 mixed 1:1 with white for the base colour, and Humbrol 47 and 48 splinters. Admittedly, the base colour is very close to the base colours from the more recent Flanker sets by Vallejo, Mig, and Hataka, but I only found that out after mixing up my own.

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