ARM: Review - Trumpeter 1/35 scale Soviet JS-7 Heavy Tank

Kit Review: Trumpeter 1/35 scale Kit No. 5586; Soviet JS-7 Heavy Tank; 401
parts (286 in grey styrene, 84 in brown styrene, 16 etched brass, 14 clear
styrene, 1 length of twisted copper wire; retail price US$93.00
Advantages: first kit of this penultimate Soviet heavy tank; clever use of
parts molding in the smoke canisters and the headlight guards; link-and-len
gth tracks
Disadvantages: for the price some corners cut here and there
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Soviet heavy tank fans and Cold War armor fans
Zhosif Yakovich Kotin was a politically connected man with a huge ego who
clearly felt that he was better qualified than the Red Army to determine wh
at kind of tanks they needed. Using those two qualities together he sold th
em on the KV heavy tank (named for his wife's godfather, Kliment Voroshilov
). This tank proved to be a millstone in action and had the Soviet military
chosen it instead of the much simpler, more effect and easier to produce T
-34 could easily have lost WWII in the first year.
After several severe fights over the tank, including one with the heroic M
ikhail Katukov who told him to his face it was junk, Kotin listened to some
of his advisors and better designers when they created the IS (Iosef Stali
n) series of tanks in 1943. These were as good as the KV was bad, and were
a huge asset for the Red Army in turning back the Wehrmacht after Kursk and
leading the way into Berlin.
Since they had named the tank for the Generalissimo, Kotin followed this f
ormula with his next five designs. The IS-1 and IS-2 were the wartime tanks
, the first with an 85mm gun and the far more numerous IS-2 with a 122mm gu
n. The IS-3 was a tougher and more heavily armored version of the IS-2 but
given to capriciousness and poor design thus was not even functional until
1960; the IS-4 was 10 metric tons too heavy for Soviet planners and while o
ver 200 were built spent its time in either depots or rear echelon units.

The IS-5 was an improved IS-3 and followed its own development line as fir
st the IS-5, then the IS-8, and finally acceptance for service as the T-10
in 1953. While over 1,400 of these tanks were built, by the time they enter
ed service ATGMs and HEAT projectiles had sealed the fate of tanks with mon
olithic steel armor.
The IS-6 was a tank that adapted some of the German ideas such as an engin
e driving a generator and electric motor drive, but while somewhat promisin
g was dropped due to the huge amount of copper required for its generator a
nd motors.
The last effort was the IS-7. This tank began life as the Article 260 desi
gn in 1946, but the first two prototypes were rejected by the military for
a number of reasons. The tank was redesigned and developed in 1947 with des
ign personally overseen by Kotin. In 1947-48 five more prototypes were buil
t and sent to Kubinka for testing. Kotin was sure this tank was "the one" a
s it mounted a massive 130mm gun, carried two 14.5mm heavy machine guns as
auxiliary armament plus twin 7.62mm coaxial machine guns to boot. The 130mm
gun fired an armor-piercing projectile at 900 mps and could easily penetra
te 230mm of armor protection at 1000 meters (they were still using WWII Ger
man tanks as their standards of the day). While it used separate loading am
munition and only carried 30 rounds, it could fire at a rate of 8 rounds pe
r minute thanks to a six-shot mechanical autoloader inside the turret, and
a five man crew completed the gunnery component. Hull armor was a steeply s
loped 150mm and the turret front was 210mm, thicker than anything else in 1
948. It had a 1050 HP diesel engine and carried two MDSh smoke canisters fo
r self-protection screening. Kotin figured, what's not to like?
From the Red Army's point of view, plenty. The tank weighed 68 metric tons
or more than 18 tons pass their nominal 50 ton limit in order to use most
of the bridges in Europe. 850 liters of fuel gave it only a 190 kilometer h
ighway range, and the engine was temperamental and finicky. The tank used t
oo many new components which had not been proven and were either poorly des
igned or poorly assembled. While heavy tank development continued, other th
an the unwanted T-10 series forced on the military by Leningrad politicians
no other heavy tank entered production. In 1962 Nikita Khrushchev told Kot
in point-blank that heavy tanks were through and if he did not stop trying
to sell them to the military he would be relieved from his post. (He was "k
icked upstairs" shortly afterwards.)
As an example of design excess the IS-7 has always been a fascinating tank
and now Trumpeter, following many other "odd duck" Soviet tanks and Cold W
ar items, has produced a nice new kit of this unique vehicle. While it is n
ot a cheap model, they have made it a relatively simple build thanks to min
imal etched brass and a very nice set of "link-and-length" tracks.
There are numerous arguments about tracks on line and in magazines, and it
boils down to the fact that there are up to five choices: single runs, usu
ally molded in vinyl; single links, usually styrene; resin, a combination o
f the two; metal, held together with wires or pins; and styrene link and le
ngth. My personal favorite choice is the latter; for unless you are going t
o articulate the wheels in a diorama most modelers show the tank sitting on
flat ground and with all but a few tanks this means relatively taut tracks
. Even "dead" tracks do not sag much when proper tension is placed on them
per the manual. To be sure, they need some bending or flexing into place bu
t make this part of the kit a fairly easy chore to accomplish. Trumpeter ha
s replicated them as one-piece links where needed, so unlike most recent Tr
umpeter kits there are no separate guide teeth to install.
Assembly is simple and straightfoward. All of the wheels are assembled fir
st, followed by the internal bits in the hull for what Leningrad called "ej
ection cooling" of the engine. The hull is assembled next and the mud guard
s added, followed by the suspension arms (separate arm and torsion bar seat
). Add the wheels, add the tracks, add the side pannier/stowage bins and do
ne. There are no fenders per se, but these tanks used "keystone" shaped hul
ls with a severe cutback under the upper sides to thicken the upper side ar
mor and few of them had more than cursory fenders. The bottom of the stowag
e panniers are the fenders here.
The MDSh smoke canister are slick - Trumpeter has molded the body in one s
ection using slide molding and all you add are one end and the rack.
The turret is very conventional with a set of trunions for the gun barrel
and an internal cross section to hold the barrel in place. The gun may be l
eft moveable but as there is a canvas seal (parts C5/D2/D3) this would have
to be ignored to use that feature. The gun barrel is stryene and in two ha
lves, but anyone with a Flex-I-File can clean up the seams in about three m
inutes. The distinctive "pepper pot" muzzle brake does not come with the ho
les drilled out, and while tedious (there are about 60-70 of them total) it
will drastically improve the appearance of the brake. (Trumpeter does tell
you to do that with a 1.3mm/.050" drill bit. Two faces for the muzzle brak
e are provided.
The KPV machine gun is the ground model, and as such has a different barre
l from the more familiar cooling jacketed KVPT. The gun comes in one piece
and looks to be a pretty good match, and with some accessories and bits goe
s on a massive tower that attaches to the turret.
All hatches are optional position, but there is no interior anywhere insid
e the model.
The light guards are cages that fit over the headlights and siren/horn and
are neatly molded such that they can be trimmed off and installed with lit
tle grief. The headlights have separate lenses so anyone wishing to use aft
er-market sets (e.g. MV Lenses) should have few problems here.
Most of the etched brass covers external details (four are grilles, and fi
ve more are periscope bases) so a simple fit.
As the tanks were only prototypes, the finishing directions show only 4BO
camouflage green with no markings. A small sheet of decals is included with
Guards badges, red starts, and 0-9 digits for a bort number.
Overall this is a nice kit and for once a SIMPLE build - a rare achievemen
t in this day and age!
Cookie Sewell
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