ARM: Review - Trumpeter 1/35 scale 2S3 152mm SP Howitzer Early Version

Kit Review: Trumpeter 1/35 scale Kit No. 05543; Soviet 2S3 152mm Self-Prope lled Howitzer - Early Version; 561 parts (297 in grey styrene, 240 in brown
styrene, 24 etched brass); retail price US$62.99
Advantages: first kit of this vehicle in styrene; snap-together working tra ck; all hatches and access ports optional position (less engine deck)
Disadvantages: no interior
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Cold War and Soviet client state "Redlegs"
    In the early 1960s the Soviet Union adopted a new industrial coding system for its military products which was dubbed the "number-letter-number" syst em by most Western analysts. Administered by the Main Missile and Artillery Directorate (GRAU) it was used to cover new development systems. One of th e first projects they covered was the development of a new family of self-p ropelled artillery weapons, each having a designator and a project name:
    2S1     Gvozdika    122mm self-propelled howitzer for ground forces     2S2    Fialka         122mm self-propelled howitzer for airborne forces (not built)     2S3    Akatsiya    152mm self-propelled howitzer for ground forces     2S4    Tyul'pan    240mm self-propelled mortar for High-Powered Artillery     2S5    Giatsint    152mm self-propelled gun for Army/Front level artillery     2S7    Peon        203mm self-propelled gun for High-Powered Artillery
    The 2S3 Akatsiya (Acacia Tree) entered design in 1967 and went into produc tion in 1971. It was not observed by NATO until 1973 and was then dubbed ei ther the M-1973 Howitzer or SO-152. These guns were fielded in 18-gun batta lions and were allocated to the divisional artillery regiments, with a full compliment of guns being three battalions or 54 2S3 howitzers.          The 2S3 can fire all types of 152mm ammunition with a regular maximum rang e of 18,500 meters. 40 rounds (a maximum of 46) are generally carried as a basic load, with a variety of projectiles in the selection including HEAT r ounds for antitank engagement and "shrapnel" (actually "beehive" dart round s) for use against helicopters. The 7.62mm machine gun is for self-protecti on against infantry, unlike Western SP weapons that use a 12.7mm machine gu n for aerial protection.
    Approximately 4,000 were built between 1971 and 1993, but the weapon remai ns for sale (probably from storage stocks in Russia with rebuilding require d before sale). They were sold to at least 23 different countries and were encountered by the Coalition forces in Iraq in use by Iraqi forces (the 110 th SP Artillery Battalion of the 3rd "Saladin" Armored Division was equippe d with 18 of them).
    There are four versions of the 2S3 in service in various countries: -    2S3 - initial production gun (1971-1975) -    2S3M - upgraded with a "quick load" 12-round drum and fewer access hatche s, and also able to fire the "Krasnopol'" guided projectile (1975-1987) -    2S3M1 - fitted with automatic target data display system (part of the "Fa l'set" system) and newer radio and electronic systems (1987-1993) -     2S3M2 - fitted with automatic targeting fire control and GLONASS satelli te navigation system - upgraded as weapons cycle through capital rebuilding . Can also be upgraded with a 155m version of the howitzer for export. (200 0 and later)
    The 2S3 is a popular weapon and has been forecast as a kit for several yea rs now with first SKIF and then ICM offering it, but neither one saw the li ght of day. Trumpeter is now releasing at least two versions of the gun (pr obably the 2S3M1 variant will follow, but the M/M1/M2 are very difficult to tell apart) with the initial 2S3 being the first kit.
    The model follows most common parts breakdowns and uses "slide molding" to achieve a great deal of surface detail. Several of the parts trees are wra pped in expanded foam for safety in transit in order to protect those detai ls, including tabs on the rear of the stern plate (E1). Suspension detail i ncludes separate bump stops and shock absorbers and snap locks for the tow hooks.
    The suspension includes wheels with the "mold line" school of surface deta ils (why I don't know, as the ones I have seen up close did not have them). Tracks are single link but snap together to form runs; pins are tiny and I suggest using liquid cement to "freeze" them in place once done. Four ship ping chocks (A10-B3-B5-A2) are mounted on the right rear fender.
    All hatches and access ports less the engine deck are separate parts, and there are two PE grilles included for the main engine radiator intake and e xhaust. There are literally dozens of separate fittings and bits that go on the model, and all of them are TINY. Some are nicely done, such as one pie ce headlight guards (B33) for the headlights (foam protected on the sprues) .
    The main gun barrel, recoil buffer and recuperator are all two-part styren e parts so prepare for a session with a Flex-I-File to get a smooth surface . The massive muzzle brake is well done and Trumpeter has tried to minimize the amount of filling and sanding needed inside it. The commander's cupola has a nicely done PKT machine gun and consists of some 24 parts.
    But there is not a bit of an interior in the kit, and this is a bit of a s hame for anyone wishing to show the gun in action. The 2S3 was notoriously smoky inside and some crews noted after as little as three rounds they were starting to feel faint from the buildup of gases. As a result, most of the time when firing the side doors were opened for ventilation (the bore evac uator on the gun tube is a giveaway this weapon had problems getting propel lant gas out of the turret).          Finishing directions are included for two guns: one in "parade" finish of protective green and white trim with Guards badges, and one in the new thre e-color (black, green, sand) camouflage with Guards badges. All guns should have a three digit "bort" number on them with the last digits being 1-6 fo r the gun's position in the battery; some units used 1 for the first battal ion (and 1-2-3 for batteries), 2 for the second (4-5-6) and 3 for the third (7-8-9). So 264 would be 2nd battalion, 6th battery, 4th gun.
    Overall this is a lovely kit and one well worth the wait!
Cookie Sewell
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