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#35211 JS-3 Stalin Russian Heavy Tank

Built from the box, this kit represents one of the first IS-3s that entered service in the late spring of 1945.  It features smooth upper hull side sponsons without the integral stowage boxes, though it includes spare track links for the glacis which were not fitted to the very early production examples, and also certain features that only appeared in the 1950s when most IS-3s were updated to IS-3M standard.  These are minor issues though and are easily corrected as described below.  With a little work this kit can be made to accurately represent a spring/summer 1945 production example and with the addition of some aftermarket items, can also be update to represent a late 1945 or 1946 production example.

Assembly commences with the running gear.  The kit road wheels are the appropriate pattern with five bolts securing the domed hubs.  Many IS-3s were later updated to IS-3M standard with new road wheel hubs, which were distinguishable by having ten bolts securing the hubs.  The drive sprockets are correct in diameter and feature separate hubs for good definition of the undercut between the hub and the rim.  The return rollers feature three large lightening holes, and are the appropriate pattern for a vehicle from the late war/early post-war period.

Step 2 of the instructions deals with the external fuel tanks and the upper rear hull plate.  Note that the external fuel tanks on the IS-3 were not attached with the same mounting hardware as those on the IS-1 and IS-2.  The IS-3's tanks featured a quick-release system operated from within the hull, and were each secured by a single quick-release bracket and hold-down.  The tanks therefore lack the distinctive circumferential bands.

The upper rear hull plate features separate grab handles above the maintenance hatch and on the hatch itself.  Check your references for the vehicle you are modeling since photographs indicate that some vehicles from the summer of 1945 lacked the two handles above the hatch.  The lifting eyes on each of the two small circular inspection hatches are molded separately but feature integral lifting rings.  These are quite finely molded and require care when removing them from the sprue, but look good when assembled.  The attachment points for the gun travel lock (part C4) lack bolt detail, but this can easily be added from hexagonal rod or aftermarket bolts.

Steps 3 and 4 cover the assembly of the lower hull and running gear.  The kit's lower hull represents the original production version, without the modifications to the underside of the transmission compartment introduced in the 1950s.  The suspension swing arms are molded as separate parts allowing you to adjust the suspension to match a diorama base if you wish, by removing the locating pins on the mounts.  A jig is provided to assist in aligning the arms should you wish to represent your model on flat ground. 

The towing hooks on the lower rear hull plate lack the spring-loaded retaining clips.  Aftermarket sets including Aber set #35035 include the clips for the front towing hooks but not those for the rear, so you will need to add them from styrene or brass.

The instructions direct you to attach the wheels to the hull at this point.  I recommend leaving the wheels and tracks off your model until after painting.  Note also that you cannot fit the the mud scrapers (parts A9) until after you fit the drive sprockets.

Step 5 covers the assembly of the upper hull.  The upper hull itself (part B4) represents the original configuration without the integral stowage boxes in the sponsons.  This configuration was only present on the very first vehicles completed in the spring of 1945.  The stowage boxes were introduced during the summer of that year.  If you wish to update the kit to include the stowage boxes, Aber include the necessary parts in their set #35035, and Eduard produce set #36042 which replaces the kit fenders and includes the stowage boxes.

The upper hull includes numerous integrally molded lifting eyes on the engine deck.  These are molded 'blind' and will benefit from drilling out and adding lifting rings from thin wire.

The kit includes spare track links for the glacis.  However, some early vehicles did not carry these spare tracks, so check your references for the vehicle you are modeling.

The driver's hatch is molded as a separate part and can be posed open or closed.  If posed open however, the inner part of the Mk.IV vision device must be removed since the hatch could not be opened with the vision device in place.

The stowage bracket for the towing shackles on the front left-hand fender is rather poorly represented, and lacks the upper section that should enclose the shackle pins.  The bracket should be replaced with an aftermarket item.

The kit includes the headlamp and siren, but lacks the wiring for these fittings.  This can be added from thin wire.

The kit includes the external fuel tanks with their mountings and quick release hold-downs, but lacks the plumbing that linked the tanks into the internal fuel system.  Aftermarket sets such as Aber set #35035 and Eduard set #36036 can help rectify this issue.

The kit includes mounting brackets for smoke canisters on the upper rear hull. These were not present on many early vehicles, but there are several photographs dated 1945 that show a vehicle at Kubinka with the brackets, so check your references for the vehicle you are modeling.

Step 6 directs you to attach the upper and lower hulls, and mount the tracks.  As noted above, I recommend leaving the tracks off your model until final assembly.  The kit tracks are of the 'rubber band' variety, and are molded in one piece each.  They can be glued together using styrene cement.  They represent the single link track with a guide tooth on every link and a reinforcing bar across the outer face of each track.  These tracks were not introduced until well after the end of the war, and are therefore not appropriate for a 1945 production example.  Photographs show early production vehicles with both split link and single link tracks in 1945.  Both these types are available from aftermarket vendors.

Step 7 covers the assembly of the main turret shell.  The turret includes the vertically oriented antenna mount for the 10-RK-26 radio, correct for a 1945 vehicle.  The hinged rain cover above the mantlet is molded as a separate part and is movable.  The loader's and commander's hatches are each molded separately and can be positioned open or closed.  The turret lacks the rain guard mounted low on the rear of the turret, above the ventilation fan beneath the turret overhang.  This is correct for an initial production vehicle, but the rain guard was added in the summer of 1945.  You can add the guard from strip styrene, but the Aber and Eduard sets include this part.  There are also two lifting rings on the top of the turret behind the mantlet that should be drilled out.

Step 8 deals with the 122mm D-25T gun barrel and mantlet.  The barrel is molded in two halves including the halves of the muzzle brake.  The kit barrel provides a reasonable representation of the original weapon but you may wish to replace it with an aftermarket item.  The mantlet lacks the two lifting rings above the gun barrel.  These should be added from scrap styrene.

Step 9 covers the remainder of the turret assembly, including the hand rails and the ring mount for the 12.7mm DShK machine gun on the loader's hatch.  The instructions direct you to attach the ring mount in the rearward position, but with minor modification it can be fitted in the forward position above the open loader's hatch.

The kit includes the stowage bracket on the right hand side of the turret for the DShK machine gun when it is dismounted, but it is not possible to fit the kit's weapon into the bracket.

Step 10 attaches the turret to the hull.  Enough said.

Step 11 assembles the tow cables.  The kit includes nylon string for the cables, and styrene ends.  The ends feature open slots into which the cable is glued, and these slots should be filled with pity and sanded to match the contours of the rest of the part, or replaced with aftermarket cables.

Step 12 attaches the cables to the hull.  Remember that if you add the spring-loaded retaining clips to the towing hooks, do not do so until after you attach the cables.

Step 13 covers the 8 part assembly that makes up the DShK machine gun, its mount and ammunition box.  The kit parts are nicely detailed, but the barrel needs drilling out.

Step 14 completes the assembly by attaching the machine gun to its mount on the turret.

The kit provides a full commander figure, posed standing in the turret hatch with his left hand on the hatch coaming and his right hand on the hatch cover.

The kit provides three marking options.  Unfortunately none of these identify units and I have not been able to find any information on the marking schemes:

  • Option A provides a three digit tactical number '540' for each side of the turret, with no other markings
  • Option B provides a diamond shaped tactical symbol, divided horizontally into two triangles, with a number '2' in the upper triangle
  • Option C provides a red star for each side of the turret with no other markings

All three options are finished in overall Protective Green 4BO.

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