ARM: Review - Trumpeter 1/35 scale Soviet SU-152 Late

Kit Review: Trumpeter 1/35 scale Kit No. 05568; Soviet SU-152 Late; 553 par=
ts (281 in grey styrene, 240 in light brown styrene, 28 etched brass, 2 cle=
ar styrene, 1 turned aluminum, 1 twisted copper wire); retail price US$54.9=
5
Advantages: new mold, nicely done kit of this big SP gun; excellent use of =
slide molding on the muzzle brake
Disadvantages: tracks wrong width (see text)=20
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Soviet heavy armor fans
Many views of Soviet heavy armor in the West arise from myths or failure t=
o understand Soviet military concepts. The creation of the heavy self-prope=
lled howitzers armed with 152mm weapons is such a case.=20
The Soviets decided early on to have two basic classes of guns =96 light t=
o medium high velocity weapons for general purposes, and medium to heavy ho=
witzers for destruction of objects such as buildings, bridges, pillboxes or=
other =93engineer works=94. While these were initially 45mm and 76mm weapo=
ns, after the initial foray into Finland the numbers changed to 76mm and 15=
2mm. The initial solution was the KV s Bol=92shoy Bashni or what became the=
KV-2. It was armed with a 152mm howitzer and was successfully tested in fl=
attening pillboxes on the Mannerheim Line. But it was too tall and unbalanc=
ed, and while over 200 were eventually produced, between their unbalanced d=
esign and the poor design of the KV chassis they soon broke down and were m=
ostly lost due to mechanical problems.=20
The solution at the time was a low, casemate design which was tried with v=
arious weapons arrangements. With the appearance of the KV-1s, a much more =
mechanically refined version of the awkward KV chassis, the combination of =
the casemate on the KV-1s chassis was a natural evolution. With the prototy=
pes dubbed KV-14, the new design was tested in mid 1942 and at the end of t=
he year it entered production as the SU-152. Changing over in September 194=
3 to the improved ISU-152 design, a total of 670 had been built. These serv=
ed (albeit in dwindling numbers) through the end of the war.=20
While designed to destroy fixed objects, the SU-152 was found to be a dead=
ly antitank weapon due to the simple law of physics: mass times velocity eq=
uals energy. While the ML-20 howitzer was not a high velocity weapon - its =
maximum muzzle velocity with an armor-piercing (or concrete breaking) proje=
ctile was only 1,970 feet per second (600 mps) the fact it was firing a 95 =
pound projectile (43 kg) made up for many sins. In 1945 famed Soviet tank c=
ommander Dmitriy Loza noted that an SU-152 firing such a round at a Panther=
at 100 meters sheared the entire turret off the tank (along with the unfor=
tunate turret crew). It soon received the nickname =93Zverboy=94 =96 beast =
fighter =96 from the troops.=20
Some years ago (1999) Eastern Express released a kit of an early productio=
n SU-152 using their KV-1s parts. It was not too bad for the time but suffe=
red from some design problems and poor tracks. Now Trumpeter has released a=
nice new state-of-the-art kit of a late production version of the =93Zverb=
oy=94 and it is a really good effort.=20
Trumpeter came up with a great system of =93building blocks=94 for its KV =
series tank kits (which are still the best KVs on the market) and has adapt=
ed it to the KV-1s series of tanks. These have a different hull profile and=
running gear, and as such Trumpeter has changed to match. The kits are bas=
ed on a common lower hull pan, common running gear, and common engine deck =
details. But they change out the turret or casemate, hull sides, and detail=
fittings to match their specific kit. It also comes with a new set of sing=
le link tracks instead of the choice with the earlier kits of either black =
vinyl single runs or =93link and length=94 styrene tracks.=20
Based on Neil Stokes=92 outstanding KV history (=93KV Technical History an=
d Variants=94, Air Connection, 2010) the model is a near dead-on match for =
the September 1943 final production variant. (The main difference between =
=93early=94 and =93late=94 are the addition of ventilators and a loading po=
rt in the hull sides between the tracks.) Assembly follows previous KV kits=
with the hull pan and attached sides. A choice is offered between either a=
styrene air deflector at the rear of the hull (WC28) or a six-piece etched=
brass one, with an etched brass screen provided for the rear cowl. Note th=
at the hull needs modification from the KV-1s configuration and is called o=
ut in the directions.=20
Oddly enough, while Trumpeter provides the deflector louvers for the radia=
tor air intakes they still provide only solid styrene grilles for them (WC2=
2). Assembly is pretty straightforward until the tracks.
Trumpeter, like many other companies, does do research but often makes mis=
takes. Here is one of them. Initially the KV-1s was to use a purpose design=
ed track (based on cutting weight, as the KV-1s shaved more than five metri=
c tons from the weight of the KV-1) 608mm in width. This had triangular end=
sections when you examine photos. But these tracks were apparently inferio=
r, and so what Chelyabinsk did was replace them with a 650mm track using =
=93split links=94. These links were half-links, based on the premise that a=
complete flat link from other tracks could be used to extend the track by =
more than 300mm (e.g. 950+) for use in very soft ground or snow. Both the t=
oothed and toothless links had squared-off ends like the original KV tracks=
. These initially had a slight rise (=93bump=94) where the guide tooth had =
been, and later no bumps; Diagrams exist that show the split link/full link=
arrangement fitted but very few photos of the tracks being used in that ma=
nner.
Trumpeter provides a lovely set of split link tracks - but unfortunately u=
sed the 700m track width of the KV-1 instead of the 650mm width of the KV-1=
s. Both tracks look very similar (other than the split link/toothless ones =
when seen from the running side). The result is that the tracks are just un=
der 1.5mm too wide. While purists have complained about this error, somehow=
I think most modelers will simply live with it. Note that as they are A/B =
links you must install them in pairs (e.g. no odd numbers).=20
The fender braces on the model are all PE and require careful bending and =
fitting; no plastic option is given and unless you have an old Eastern Expr=
ess kit to rob you must use them. But they are slotted and tabbed to provid=
e a bit more =93foot=94 for cement.=20
There is no interior to the casemate, but all three crew hatches are posit=
ionable; while cursed with ejector pin marks they do have proper thickness =
and interior fittings. The modeler has a choice of either a two-piece styre=
ne barrel or a turned aluminum barrel with a slide-molded muzzle brake whic=
h is one piece and VERY impressive. (Note that this particular muzzle brake=
is preferred by birds all around the world, and every preserved SU-152/ISU=
-152 or ML-20 I have ever seen is home to at least one family!)=20
The model has a wealth of small details such as lifting eyes and =93desant=
=94 handrails, as well as nicely engineered 90 liter auxiliary fuel tanks w=
ith solid ends that solve the problem of poor joints with the end lid types=
used by other companies.=20
The painting and marking guide only shows a 4BO green vehicle with no mark=
ings. A small =93number jungle=94 sheet with some token red stars is provid=
ed but again I would look to Neil=92s book for more detailed finishing inst=
ructions.=20
Overall, Trumpeter has done an excellent job on the SU-152 and the rest of=
the KV-1 line. Perhaps they will move on to the IS family as well? Note th=
at I will be doing a full build article on this model for Cybermodeler.=20
Thanks to Mike Benolkin of Cybermodeler for the review sample. =20
Cookie Sewell
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