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#35303 JSU-152 Russian Heavy Self-Propelled Gun

This kit represents the ISU-152 self-propelled artillery piece that was designed in parallel with the IS-1 and entered service shortly after the IS-1 in lat 1943.  Built from the box, this kit represents a vehicle built between mid-1944 and the end of the war, with a hull from Factory No.200.  However, it does lack certain features common on ISU-152s from this period.  With minor alterations, the kit can be made to represent an ISU-152 from any wartime period, and these alterations are noted below.  Note that the kit is a follow-on from kit #35289 and has many components in common with that kit.

Step 1 of the kit instructions deals with the running gear.  The kit provides Tamiya's 'poly caps' for all wheels, making it easy to attach and remove the wheels during final assembly.  The road wheels are slightly undersized, by 0.29mm, but the difference will not be apparent to all but the most fastidious modeler.  The sprockets feature separate hubs for better definition of the undercut around the circumference of the hub.  The return rollers represent the revised type introduced in June 1944 with three large lightening holes, and this pattern is appropriate for the production period depicted by the kit.  If you wish to back-date your model to represent at late 1943 or early 1944 vehicle, you must fill the lightening holes.  Click here for recommendations from John Stevens on how to do this.

Step 1 also directs you to assemble the lower front and lower rear hull plates.  The kit provides spare track links for the front hull but not for the rear hull.  Photographs indicate that not all vehicles carried the spare track links however, so check your references.  If you wish you model a vehicle with the spare track links on the rear hull, you can borrow the appropriate parts from Tamiya kit #35289 which includes those spare track links, or use Tank Model's set #35A200.  If you wish to model a vehicle from late 1943 or early 1944 without the spare track links, remove the mounting brackets from part F24 and sand it smooth.

Steps 2 and 3 deal with the assembly of the lower hull and suspension.  The kit's dimensions match up well against published plans and against measurements I have taken from the preserved vehicle at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford.  The underside of the hull includes all the appropriate maintenance hatches and drain ports for the fuel, oil and water tanks.  The suspension swing arms are molded separately allowing you to position your model on an uneven base if you wish, by cutting off the locating tabs on the base of each arm.  The kit also provides an alignment jig to help you avoid the infamous 'floating wheel' problem.

Step 4 directs you to assemble the external fuel tanks.  The tanks are molded in two halves with seams that will require sanding, though the fit of the parts is excellent and only minimal cleanup is required.  The upper half includes the weld seam where the rolled sheet was joined to form a cylinder.  The tanks feature separate ends with integrally molded lifting handles.  The handles are molded solid and will benefit from replacement with aftermarket items.  Similarly, the steel bands that secured the tanks on their brackets are molded integrally with the tanks, and the mounting hardware is incomplete.  ET Model set 35-028 is designed for this kit and provides numerous details including the tank mounting brackets and hardware.  Alternatively, you can use parts from Aber set 35220 which is intended for Tamiya kit #35289 but the parts will fit this kit too.

Step 5 directs you to add the running gear to the hull, though I recommend that you leave the running gear separate until after painting.  DO NOT add the mud scrapers (parts C10 and C11) until after you add the sprockets, otherwise you will not be able to fit the sprockets in place.

The kit provides two different sets of tracks; one-piece 'rubber band' tracks made from a soft compound which can be glued with styrene cement, and individual link tracks.  Both sets represent the split-link track pattern seen on early IS series vehicles, but which persisted on some vehicles until the end of the war.  The single link track with a guide tooth on every link became more common from the summer of 1944 onward however, so check your references for the vehicle you are modeling.  If you wish to depict a vehicle with single link tracks, there are several options as described in 1/35 Scale Tracks and Suspensions.

Step 6 deals with the top run of the individual link tracks.  Tamiya provides an assembly jig allowing you to easily simulate the characteristic sag of the tracks over the return rollers.

Step 7 covers the remaining assembly of the individual link tracks.  I recommend that you leave the tracks, and the running gear, off the model until after painting.

Step 8 deals with assembling the 'rubber band' tracks.  As noted above, these can be assembled with styrene cement.

Steps 9, 10 and 11 cover the assembly of the upper hull.  Like their JS-2 kit, the upper hull is molded in two sections, front and rear, with the joint at the rear of the superstructure as on the real vehicle.  Several modelers including myself have experienced some fit problems when joining the two sections together.  Typically one side and the top of the rear section will fit flush with the front section, but a small gap appears on the other side and is difficult to avoid.  This can be filled however, with a thin strip of styrene and sanded smooth.  The kit provides sponson fillers that extend the full length of the hull and assist in aligning the two sections.

Ensure that you drill out the holes for the position-keeping lights in the upper hull sections before joining the upper and lower hulls.

Both sections of the upper hull include integrally molded lifting eyes, without lifting rings.  These eyes are 'blind' and require drilling out for a proper appearance.  This is best done before the two sections of the upper hull are joined, since it is easier to reach the locations with a drill bit.

There are several fittings such as the mounting plate for the figures (parts G15 and G27) and the inner portion of the driver's vision block (parts G4 and G56) that must be added before you attach the upper and lower hulls.  You must also open up the holes for the handrails on the superstructure sides. and for the tarpaulin retaining strap on the forward right-hand side of the superstructure.

When the spare track links were added to the front hull in the late spring of 1944, the hydraulic fluid container and its mounting bracket were moved from the lower front hull to the left side of the superstructure.  The kit instructions direct you to mount it in in that location, but ou must open up the two locating holes.  If you wish to model a vehicle from late 1943 or early 1944 without the spare track links, do not open the holes and instead mount the bracket on the front hull between the towing hooks. 

The kit includes an optional 12.7mm DShK machine gun for the commander's cupola, along with stowage brackets for the weapon on the rear of the superstructure.  The gun was carried by many ISUs from the end of 1944 onward.   If you wish to use the machine gun, you must open up the locating holes for the brackets on the superstructure rear plate (part F15).  If you decide not to use the weapon, you can use it and its mount with Tamiya kit #35289 to depict an IS-2 from early 1945.

Step 12 deals with the upper hull detailing.  The radiator exhaust grille is molded in separate parts and makes use of 'slide mold' technology to correctly represent the angled louvres.

The kit provides etched nickel silver engine air intake screens.  These are well rendered but their frame lack the attachment bolts.  You can add the bolts from small sections of hexagonal styrene rod, or from aftermarket items.

The upper rear hull plate (part F5) features lifting eyes that are molded 'blind' and should be drilled out.  If you wish, you can add lifting rings here, on the engine deck and the superstructure using small circles of wire.

The upper rear hull plate lacks the rain gutter fitted above the large maintenance hatch from the spring of 1944 onward.  This should be added from thin styrene strip if you are modeling a vehicle from after that time.

The retaining brackets for the tow cables on the upper rear corners of part F5 are incomplete.  These should be cut away and replaced with brass wire of the correct 'Z' shape.

Step 13 deals with the gun barrel.  The barrel is molded in two halves, with a separate base section (not a full breech) also molded in two halves.  The parts configuration hints at possible additional variants such as an ISU-122, but it may be that Tamiya has configured the parts this way simply to make it easier to replace the external portion of the barrel with an aftermarket item.  The muzzle brake is a separate component, molded in one part using slide mold technology.

Step 14 covers the gun mount and mantlet.  The kit includes the lifting eyes but lacks the grab handle on the left-hand side of the mantlet.  This can be easily added from thin wire.

Step 15 joins the upper and lower hulls and adds much of the external stowage.  The shovel and pickaxe mounted on the superstructure sides (parts G25 and G44) include integral mounting brackets that are molded as large blocks.  These will benefit from replacement with etched brass items.

Step 16 covers the headlamp, siren and tow cables.  The cast ends of the towing cables are molded open on one side.  The slots should be filled with putty and sanded to match the contour of the styrene parts for a better appearance.  Alternatively, you can replace them with aftermarket items.

Step 17 attaches the gun to the hull, and adds remaining details including the handrails on the engine deck and superstructure.  These handrails varied considerably in their configuration so check your references for the vehicle you are modeling.  Early vehicles had one-piece handrails on the upper rear superstructure sides, as distinct from the individual rails provided in the kit, and post-war vehicles often had an additional pair of rails on the forward superstructure side plates.

The steel conduit that carried the power cables for the headlamp and siren from the glacis to the superstructure front plate is molded integrally with the front plate.  If you wish, you can add the cabling between the upper end of the conduit and the headlamp and siren from very thin wire.

The towing shackle stowage bracket on the front let-hand fender is rather poorly represented and is missing the top section.  I recommend replacing it with a suitable part from an after-market set.  The tie-downs for the ends of the shackles are missing and should be added from wire or aftermarket parts.

The retaining strap for the tarpaulin on the right-hand front fender is molded as a solid part and its appearance is enhanced greatly if you use the point of a sharp #11 blade to carve out the edges.  The lower tie-down for the strap on the edge of the fender, and the forward pair of tie-downs just aft of the fender bracket, are missing and should be added from wire or aftermarket parts.

Step 17 also instructs you to add the tow cables.  Ensure that you DO NOT add the spring-loaded retaining clips (parts A18) until after you attach the cables to the rear towing shackles.

Step 18, the final assembly, covers the hatches and the optional DShK machine gun.  All hatches can be mounted in the open position but the kit contains no interior details.  Figures are provided for the commander's and loader's hatch however.

The DShK machine gun is assemble from eight parts and the kit includes optional hatch rings for the commander's hatch, both with and without the base plate for the machine gun mount.  Note that the hatch ring will fit the commander's cupola from kit #35289, allowing you to build an IS-2 with the DShK machine gun.

The kit provides four marking options, all of which are listed as 'Unknown Unit' with time periods from January to May 1945.  All are finished in overall Protective Green 4BO, though one has a worn whitewash finish over the green.

In summary, the Tamiya kit is the best of the currently available offerings in 1/35 scale.  It builds into an excellent representation of the ISU-152 when built from the box, and provides suitable scope for superdetailing.  By combining the gun assemblies from other kits such as DML's kit #9112, you can convert it to represent an ISU-122 or ISU-122S.


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