ARM: Kit Review - Meng 1/35 scale 9A52-2 Smerch Russian Long-Range Rocket Launcher

Kit Review: Meng 1/35 scale Stegosaurus Series Kit No. SS-009; 9A52-2 Smerc h Russian Long-Range Rocket Launcher; 1,429 parts (1,267 in tan styrene, 72
etched brass, 44 tan vinyl, 25 clear styrene, 12 black vinyl, 8 black viny l tires, 1 length of nylon string); retail price US$174.99
Advantages: First kit (by a number of weeks) of this vehicle in this scale; amazing amount of detail provided; first rocket launch system kit to provi de warhead tips and base elements for the rockets!
Disadvantages: not a cheap kit; one of the most complex kits in production
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Soviet/Russian and rocket artillery fans
    When the Soviets first sprang the existence of their "Guards Mortar Units" - the first viable modern multiple rocket launchers - on the Germans in 19 41 it came as a major shock. For the first time in history an army had rock ets which were reasonably accurate, reasonably reliable, and suitably letha l to use on an opponent. While they only came in two sizes - the small 82mm and the larger 132mm versions - the numbers produced were a great asset to the Soviet "Bog Voyny" or God of War - artillery.
    When the war ended Soviet industry proceeded to improve them as well as ad d new calibers - 107mm, 140mm, 200mm, and 240mm. Each served a different fu nction at a different echelon. But their technology was old and soon newer, solid-fuel rockets were in development.
    The first one to be fielded in the late 1960s was the BM-21 "Grad". Firing 9M22 series rockets out to 20 kilometers, a single battalion could fire 72 0 rockets in the matter of 19 1/2 seconds and obliterate a huge area of ene my territory. In 1969 12 Grad launchers inflicted a massive number of casua lties, literally in the thousands, to Chinese troops at the battle of Daman Island - and that only took 480 rockets.
    In the 1970s it was followed by the 9M27 "Uragan" (hurricane) 16-shot mult iple rocket launcher system firing a 220mm rocket. These had a range of up to 40 kilometers and six different warhead options from unitary high-explos ive to antipersonnel and antitank sub-munitions. Called the "BM-22" and "BM -27" by NATO a brigade of these launchers was part of the 34th Artillery Di vision in GSFG and more were deployed in combat in Afghanistan.
    Rumors flew for a long time about a massive 280mm launcher dubbed the "BM- 30" which was in development. This materialized in 1983 as the 9K58 "Smerch " (tornado) which initially had 14 tubes, but production versions settled o n 12. This system fired a 300mm rocket out to 70 kilometers, and was soon f eared by many NATO planners for the flexibility it offered.
    Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the commercial offering of Sme rch to former Soviet customers, we now know a great deal about it. Built by NPO Splav on a MAZ-7911 8 x 8 chassis, the current model has a number of u nique features. The vehicle has a control cabin for launch preparations and fire control using their part of the 1K123 Vivariy automated fire control system each launcher can now operate independently and provide a wide area of coverage to a army-level or front-level commander. There are currently eight types of rockets known to be in service and others under development:     9M55K - ICM (Improved Conventional Munitios) warhead with 72 9N235 sub-mun itions     9M55K1 - ICM warhead with 5 Motiv-3M 9N349 self-guiding target-seeking sub -munitions specifically designed to locate and destroy armored vehicles     9M55K4 - ICM warhead with 25 9N539 PTM-3 antitank mines     9M55K5 - ICM warhead with 646 9N176 sub-munitions for anti-material/antip ersonnel use     9M55F - unitary high-explosive fragmentation warhead of 258 kilograms     9M55S - uses the 9M216 Volneniye thermobaric warhead for area destruction     9M528 - extended range (90 kilometers) rocket with unitary high-explosive fragmentation warhead of 258 kilograms     9M534 - bus vehicle carrying a small Tipchak UAV (BPLA in Russian) for tar get location and identification at ranges of 70 kilometers or more (limit i s communications range)     9M542 - reported development of a reduced weight unitary high-explosive fr agmentation warhead of 150 kilograms with a range of up to 120 kilometers          There are currently more than 350 Smerch systems in service with 12 differ ent countries. Several different variants are noted of which the latest is a lightweight (!) version on a KamAZ chassis with only six rocket tubes as the 9A52-4. They also have a matching vehicle for reloading on the MAZ-7911 chassis called the 9T234.
    It was a bit of a surprise last year when both Meng and Trumpeter announce d kits of the Smerch to be released, but while the latter beat Meng to the street with their SCUD B kit last year, this time Meng is the first one to release their kit. And it is extremely impressive!
    This year it was noted by Russian author Alexey Kholpotov that Meng is wor king with at least the UVZ company on models of Russian armor, and from the looks of this kit they also must have had an "in" with Splav. Nearly all o f the major components found on the actual vehicle are present and show ver y close approximation to their originals (unlike the HobbyBoss SS-23 kit wh ere they faked some of the elements), especially in the fire control compar tment. It is also the first rocket launcher kit of its type to provide warh eads, motor sections and base plates/weather covers for the rocket tubes, m ajor items easily seen on the original but missing on other kits such as th e ICM and Trumpeter BM-21 Grad kits.
    Note that this is an incredibly detailed but also incredibly complex kit, with nearly 1,500 parts. And nearly all of them are used on the model. (For the price that is a good idea!)
    There are 64 steps in the nicely produced direction manual. But of that nu mber most of the first 37 cover the chassis, the engine, and their supporti ng systems! The chassis backbone assembly takes the first seven all by itse lf.
    The downrated V-2 type engine takes 37 parts by itself with the running ge ar coming from eight separate axle/drive/suspension elements of nine parts to each one. The steering linkage is complete and can be made at least pose able and with work operable. Lights install from the back of the bumper bu t as it is not a load-bearing item it can be left off until finishing so ei ther the clear lenses may be painted or replacements added. (There is a nea tly bent etched brass guard over the front of the openings as well).
    The jacks do not operate and you have a choice of extended or retracted st ruts (H43/H52 extended, H44 retracted).
    The model uses what it claims is styrene-cement-compatible vinyl for flexi ble hoses and it may be, but some modelers will prefer attaching it with AC C to be certain.
    Note that the tires are "handed" in regard to tread pattern but the kit do es show how to properly install them.
    The battery compartment is also provided but no cabling for the batteries is included, so detail fans may want to use wire and connect them in series to each other.
    Cabs are incredibly complete and all doors consist of inner and outer shel ls, handles, grabs, windows, latches and even kickplates/stowage bins. Howe ver, none of them work and they are either open or closed options. A number of items on the decal sheet are for the interior of the two cabins and a k ey is provided at the appropriate step for their application.
    Seats are composed of six parts - pans, pads and frames.
    The fire control cabin comes with at least two radio sets plus the launch controls and automated command and control equipment. Some is mounted on th e floor, some on the wall and some hangs from the ceiling so it is a busy a rea and will need a lot of attention to detail. Even the "readiness to fire " light (J44) is included for the bumper.
    Detail on this model covers a lot which will probably not ever be seen unl ess the modeler has the vehicle stripped down; for example, Steps 49 and 50 cover the "multi-cyclone" air cleaner complete with element.
    Assembly of the rockets and launch tubes begins with Step 56. One of the g reatest things about this booklet is that in the manner of the old Revell d irections of the 1950s the directions TELL YOU WHAT EACH ASSEMBLY IS!!! Par ts Q6/17/19/20, for example, are the fuse setting and correcting rocket gui dance input assemblies.
    The rocket tubes may be assembled with the rocket motor sections, the cove red rocket motor sections, or weather covers over the bases at the modeler' s option. Each rocket launch tube consists of four sections, but they are r elatively rigid and lock together at the mounting frame joints.
    Note that while firing control is automatic, the launcher mount still come s with a manual sight and control panel like all other Soviet/Russian rocke t launchers, and this is covered in Step 61.
    Six different finishing options are offered: Victory Day Parade, Moscow 20 09 (three color camouflage); Land Forces Exposition, Moscow 2008 (three col or camouflage); 336th Rocket Artillery Brigade, Belarussian Army (white ove r dark green); 79th Guards Rocket Artillery Brigade, Tver' Oblast, Western Military District, Russia (white 542, red stars, overall dark green); Nth c ombat unit, North Caucasus Military District, Russia (dark green with white "parade" paint trim); Armed forces of Kuwait (overall sand). A relatively large sheet of decals to include a "number jungle" is included. Paints are all given by color name in multiple languages but are keyed to Vallejo acry lic colors.
    Overall this is one of the most impressive if daunting kits of recent vint age and can clearly be made into a showpiece if the modeler takes his time and plans out the build.
Cookie Sewell
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