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Sukhoi T-4 "Sotka"

by "Bondo" Phil Brandt

 

Sukhoi T-4 Sotka

 


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Background

 

Although Premier Nikita Kruschev was firmly dedicated to furthering missile force development at the expense of the Soviet aviation industry, even he had to bow in deference to Sixties American aviation technology. Particularly required was an intercontinental strike/reconnaissance weapons platform operating in the Mach 3 regime.

If the technology race with America was stressful to Soviet planners, no less so was the fierce infighting between the Tupolev and Sukhoi design bureaus to create such a cutting edge machine. In the end, Pavel Sukhoi, Tupolev's brilliant former student, got the nod to start development of what would become the T-4 "Sotka", or Project 100 (one hundred tons gross weight).

Although the resultant 1964 Sukhoi design resembles the North American XB-70 in main respects such as delta wing planform, a swanlike tubular forward fuselage with canards and a row of aft-mounted engines, the two designs seem to have been reached independently, and the T-4 is approximately 2/3 the size of the Valkyrie. A significant difference between the American and Soviet efforts was the variable forward fuselage geometry to allow triple Mach operations but yet allow normal vision during landing approaches. The XB-70 used a large, tilting windscreen, but the Soviets incorporated a gigantic articulating forward fuselage, about twenty feet worth! The highspeed forward fuselage configuration was sleek and rocketlike in appearance, but aesthetics didn't seem to apply in the case of the T-4 low speed configuration; the three-panel vertical windscreen, revealed when the forward fuselage tilts down about ten degrees, resembles a tugboat bridge more than an airplane. UUUUGLY!!

 



Although six T-4 prototypes and, later, up to 250 operational airframes were planned, only the first and second prototypes were finished. "Black 101", the first prototype, and the only one to fly, lifted off in 1972, on the first of what would become a relatively uneventful ten-flight, ten-hour program.

Although the largely titanium Sotka boasted many firsts in Soviet aviation: fly-by-wire (the world's first); nitrogen purging of fuel cells; and auto throttle control for landing approaches, "sticker shock" had set in with Soviet planners, and it was all but over for the T-4. Although Andrei Tupelov had lost the initial battle of which bureau would design and build the new strike/reconnaissance platform, he won the 'war' by cleverly planting financial doubt in the minds of Soviet planners, convincing them that modifying the existing Tu-22 Blinder force would be much quicker and more cost effective than starting from scratch. But what Tupelov didn't initially reveal was that the "modified" Blinder would in reality be a whole new airframe, the Tu-22M "Backfire." Fortunately Black 101, the only remaining Sotka, has been preserved at the VVS Monino Museum.

 

 

A Model's 1/72 Scale T-4 "Sotka"

 

This is the 1/72 A Model Sukhoi T-4 "Sotka".

This limited production kit (only 200 copies worldwide) is, construction-wise, truly one of the most unusual Bondo has built. Because this is such a gigantic airframe - it is easily equal to two large 1/48 fighters - Russia-based Amodel opted to create the central fuselage and wing 'hull' in one monolithic, hand-laid epoxy resin fiberglass assembly, complete with engraving; the main portion of the vertical fin is epoxy fiberglass too! The forward fuselage, canards, wing and vertical fin leading edges and control surfaces, and tailcone are injected plastic, as are all other accessories such as landing gear and variable geometry inlets. Engraving of the central fuselage/wing assembly is a bit heavy, uneven around some panels, but generally acceptable, especially if a multi-shade natural metal finish is done, and this airplane has lots of varied titanium panels. Some parts of the epoxy fiberglass hull must be cut off with a razor saw before construction begins.

 

 

Construction


CA Glue is Our Friend...

The joining of long lengths of epoxy and plastic requires lots of CA glue and some rapid assembly techniques to ensure that alignment is maintained, a tough assignment. I coated one joining surface with accelerator and the other with CA. Later, I experienced numerous 'debonding' instances, especially with the wing leading edges and flying surfaces, and can only attribute it to the dissimilar materials.




Fits Over Fit

I wasn't expecting Tamiyagawa 'fall together' excellence from this big Amodel release, and I'm sorry to report that Bondo's lowered expectations were met! As with some other limited production kits, parts fit is not a plus--downright poor in some instances: injected fuselage halves-to-epoxy-resin-central component; three-window windscreen; elevons to wing; maingear strut assembly to fuselage. Bondo is glad there's lots of 3M Blue Acryl putty on his garage shelves!

Especially aggravating were the twelve cast-in hinge fairings integral with the lower surface of the elevons which did not permit the elevons to be CA-glued flush with the wing upper and lower surfaces. All twelve hinges had to be cut off and painstakingly superglued onto the main wing section after the elevons were attached.




Cockpit

The cockpit components are fairly crude and undersized, so I plowed into the plastic parts repository, and found that the Monogram 1/72 SR-71 forward instrument panel and consoles from both cockpits are larger and much more realistic; altering them to fit--I used the kit's aft instrument panel as is--was no problem. To add "busy-ness" to the fairly large open cockpits (and since there's only one of these suckers in the world, with no interior pix of which I'm aware) I adapted 1/72 resin F-4 sidewalls from the old Verlinden detail set. Add to that a coupla aftermarket resin K-36 seats (remove the stabilizer canisters on either side of the headrests), and we're cookin'.

 



The real crew hatches open fore and aft, so it's surprising that Amodel instead arranged them to open sideways! I'll never understand how when, as I said, there's only one of these T-4s in the world, and the Russian-produced kit of same is done with what I would presume is some degree of nationalistic pride, and when there's an excellent Russian mag (Aviatsiya) article with giant fold-out 1/72 detailed drawings of every panel on this big hunk of Titanium, details such as this could be gotten wrong. But, Bondo digresses. I scratchbuilt aft-located hatch hinges, plus new strakes on top of the forward hatch and milled narrow receiver slots in the rear of each compartment. I also rebated around the hatch edges for a more 3D look--real world crew entrance hatches and canopy edges are rarely thin.




Fuselage

Fit of the vertical, three-window windscreen panel is especially poor, as is the articulating nosecone, especially if you opt for the highspeed, "up" position. Although the landing configuration reveals the gross 'tugboat' windscreen, it adds variety, plus it's the way the bird's displayed in Moscow, so Bondo opted for 'ugly'. And, the cast-in detent 'holes' need to re-drilled to allow the nosecone to depress to the proper angle.

Because of poor fit and shape, I scratchbuilt a new long antenna strake on the fuselage top aft of the cockpit. The crude plastic rod that is supposed to be the radome pitot tube was deep-sixed in favor of stainless tube and brass rod.

 



The XB-70 lookalike intakes on the T-4 are a plastic multipiece assembly, with no tunnels leading back through the cavernous interior to the four line abreast engines. Sooo, the way to go is to do FOD covers, the dimensions for which are conveniently included in the instructions. Additionally, large orange-red decal rectangles are provided for said covers. Same, same for the rather crudely cast, four-piece exhaust assemblies. Dimensions for the exhaust circular FOD covers, and decals, are provided. The real pain here is in the excessive flash in the afterburner actuator 'fingers.' It took at least an hour to clean 'em up, and they're unfortunately not covered by the FOD plates.




Landing Gear

Wheel wells are very shallow, really just a hint of depth, but the open part is not that large, so the injected gear doors will cover most of this shortcoming. Large, plastic maingear doors glue into recesses in the fuselage slab sides.

 

 

Landing gear struts and braces are decently detailed, but will need flash cleanup, too. The maingear strut support rods were way too short, and I had to glue 1/2" pieces of larger tube to the wheel well roof to act as strut rod locators. The wheels are fairly plain, but are overpowered by the sheer size of the airframe they support, so not too noticeable.

 

 

Natural Metal Finish

 

Bondo's Natural Metal Finish of choice has been Alclad ever since being introduced to it at the Albuquerque Nats, over five years ago. I used six shades, some custom-mixed, with the burner cans done in Testors Metallizer. The overall shade is Steel, because it mimics best the dark, all-titanium construction of the Sotka.

 

 

Unfortunately, I did experience some lifting during the intensive masking (3M Drafting Tape) iterations. I feel that this rare, for Alclad, glitch was due to the many sharp edges created by the deeper-than-normal engraving on the multitude of wing panels, especially where they meet the turn of the fuselage. My repair method for small areas of lifted metallic finish is to overlay the marred area with small panels cut out of decal paper pre-sprayed with various shades of Alclad.

One factor mitigating in favor of the slight flaws found in the epoxy glass engraved lines and in the less-than-sterling fit, is that Russian airframe fit and finish of that era was more practical than superlative.

After some appropriate burnt sienna wash, and we're off and running!

 

 

Decals

 

Decals are very thin--too thin, actually, and too brittle and translucent. There's no white backing as on excellent Aeromaster sheets, and missing are some nitnoy pieces such as the horizontal white stripe on the rudder and the "1972" in small white letters on the vertical fin. Plus, the large intake warning placards are in gray, whereas the pix in Wings of Fame plainly show the background color to be black.

Because of the translucent yellow arrow on each placard, I had to cut an additional yellow arrow out of a Superscale sheet and laminate it on top of the first, an old trick I use on Collect-Aire decals, also not known for opacity.

 

 

To top off the decal shortcomings, they've been done in the maddeningly flat finish as seen in older ESCI kits. The coloring of the orange-red FOD facings seemed to be somewhat weak, so I painted the intake and burner can covers in Guards Red, adding a brass wire handhold to each intake cover per Wings of Fame pix. Overall color and registration of the other decals are OK and complete, but I chose Aeromaster Soviet national insignia from the IL-2 sheet. I also skipped the anti-glare panel decal on the nosecone in favor of paint. So, the only kit-supplied decals I used were the Sukhoi "Archer" logo, the large "1 0 1" red-trimmed-in-black fuselage numbers (well trimmed because of the flat finish), and the incorrectly colored intake placards, because the placards were lettered in Cyrillic, and I wished to retain that 'flavor.'

The non-text instruction booklet is sharply printed, with numerous assembly blowups and some small detail photos of the real thing. Included are four complete airframe views for decal placement, and Humbrol colors are called out.

 

 

Conclusion



This is not an easy kit, as the epoxy glass center section might lead the modeler to believe. But, the Sotka's a genuinely rare release of a Soviet aviation landmark, and it'll make a great companion to the AMT/Ertl XB-70 that Bondo did way back. Amodel is to be congratulated on such an energetic undertaking and production initiative.


Review and Images Copyright 2002 by Phil Brandt
Page Created 18 May, 2002
Last updated 04 June, 2007

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