Russian Akula II Class Attack Submarine "K335 Giepard"
Thank you to Alain of Dragon Models USA and John of IPMS for allowing me to review this kit. It really is an honor to critique a new model and share the fun with the greater modeling community.
Bronco Models chose to represent the K335 Giepard, one of the three Akula II submarines constructed by the Amur Shipbuilding Plant Joint Stock Company at Komsomolsk-on-Amur and by Sevmash at the Severodvinsk shipbuilding yard. Research sources are somewhat ambiguous, but generally agree that the Akula II class is a lengthened and improved Akula class, incorporating quieting technology. The K335 name appears as “Gepard” in some references and “Giepard” in others. One member of the class, the Nerpa, is reportedly leased to the Indian Navy. The first member of the class, the Viper, is scheduled to be withdrawn from service in 2015, with the Giepard/Gepard scheduled for retirement in 2025.
First impressions of the kit were quite good. The box art is well done, with a chilly representation of the K335 on the surface at high latitude. The box is stout, providing good protection to bagged and sealed sprues, a decal sheet, a PE fret and very nicely done glossy color instructions. The instructions are multilingual in English, German and Chinese. The hull comes in 3 pieces, such that a waterline representation could be done with minimal modification. There is a nice touch to the PE fret packaging, a thin layer of protective plastic. However, don’t do like I almost did and forget to take it off before priming! The instructions are well laid out; nonetheless I recommend that you review them in detail with regard to what options are to be used. There are plenty of little add-on details that I found to be best left to the very end. The drawings are clear enough, but the inset or detail diagrams showing various options need to be looked at carefully. I did not check the model dimensions in detail, but overall the model appears to match well with published actual dimensions of the K335 and sister ships.
Construction was a wonderful experience. There is little to no flash on any of the parts, and the detailing is excellent. While a submarine is not particularly complex compared to many models, the surface details of hatches, rails, non-skid, etc., are well done. The hull fit is not at all problematic, with few of the fit issues sometimes associated with long seams. Hull planes and parts have good attachment points. The only areas I found to be tricky were the mast, scope, and bridge covers/hatches. Those pieces do not have really good attachment points, but I have no suggestions for a better method or technique, other than using some small shims or wires. The parts are just darn small! Another really nice kit design feature that worked well is the alignment of the periscopes, navigation, and other masts. This is an area that really can be hard to get right. I can’t really explain why the masts aligned easily, but the pins on the bases are long enough and fit well. Only minor tweaking was needed to get them looking right. The extra details of sensors and other external are great. For Hunt for Red October fans there is a pair of hatches covering what might be something like the “caterpillar” drive in the movie but that is mere speculation.
I painted the model as per the instructions, using Floquil Tuscan Red for the lower hull and Model Master Navy gloss gray for the upper hull. When I painted the prop I noticed something a little odd. The geometry of the prop suggests left hand (counter-clockwise) rotation, but the pitch seems to be such that left hand rotation would be backing the ship. I really don’t think this detracts from the model at all, but it might be a contest consideration.
The smaller decals went on well using Microscale solutions. The waterline decals were another story entirely. The first one I tried shattered very easily. I applied Microscale decal film on the other waterlines, but that did not prevent the shattering although it did reduce the size of the pieces. That was the only really negative part of this entire kit. I wasn’t able to get the alignment right and couldn’t get all of the pieces to match or fit. Perhaps more coats of decal film may have helped. I also found it odd that a decal for the reactor hatch was not provided. On the instructions the red and white triangles are called out for painting, but a decal would be perfect. I didn’t paint the hatch in the red-white pattern since many pictures of Akulas showed only a white or gray ring. I used an extra decal for the ring.
The base holds the model well and is quite stable. The PE name plate is a very elegant touch that adds greatly to the display. I applied black shoe polish to fill in the low spots and highlight the letterings, followed by a bit of buffing to bring up the brass shine.
The whole experience of building this model was great! Everything went very well with few exceptions. The completed model fills a gap between a Typhoon and an Alfa in my display case.
Thank you again to Alain of Dragon Models USA and IPMS/.USA for allowing me to review this kit.