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5 Star (Jadar) 1/35 2S6M Tunguska Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review June 2006 Manufacturer 5 Star (Jadar)
Subject 2S6M Tunguska Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35001 Primary Media 263 parts (203 parts in hard tan resin, 58 etched brass, 2 sections of heavy twisted steel wire)
Pros First kit of this vehicle anywhere; nicely captures the size and proportions of the Tunguska and its heavy cannon and missile armament Cons Hard resin always suspect for toxic effects; directions relatively unhelpful in assembly or identification of parts
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $143.66

First Look

When the first glimmer of an advanced Soviet self-propelled antiaircraft gun showed up in the series of glossy "Soviet Military Power" publications from the US Department of Defense in the 1980s, it was scary, as it showed a large turret with twin 30-35mm cannon on a T-72 chassis. This bugaboo played its part in war games up until the late 1980s when a new Soviet vehicle began showing up in East Germany and attracted the attention of Western intelligence analysts and organizations like BRIXMIS and the US Military Liaison Mission.

Photos soon showed a very large vehicle with a monstrous turret and apparently two separate radar sets and at least two guns plus other structures, which were always tarped when moved. Speculation varied in the NATO intelligence community to whether the new system had two guns – or two twin-barrel units, similar to the ones used on the Soviet aircraft in 23mm and 30mm variants. I had the singular privilege at the time of scratch-building a model of this beast for USAREUR training posters, as we eventually figured out it also carried at least four surface-to-air missiles and either one big 30mm gun with gas operation or two twin-barrel 30mm guns powered by electric motors (so I left the model as sort of ambiguous on that score).

We now know that it was the first fielding of the Tunguska (named for a river in Siberia) replacement for the venerable ZSU-23-4 Shilka SPAAG. And it was an impressive system, far more sophisticated than first thought. Now, according to sales brochures and Russian military writers, we have a pretty good picture of this beast.

The 2S6 Tunguska gun/missile troop-level air defense system consists of two 2A38 twin 30mm electrically driven cannon and carries eight 9M311 "Triugol'nik" (triangle) surface-to-air missiles. The guns are mounted on either side of a long, narrow armored turret with the missile outboard of the guns in a 2 over 2 arrangement on each side. A search/acquisition radar is at the rear of the turret and a fire control radar is at the front.

The Tunguska does lots of tricks, too. The suspension can be controlled hydraulically, and varies from a movement position of around 450mm ground clearance to about 100mm when in firing position. The vehicle has a powerful onboard computer system that automatically tracks targets and selects the best method of engagement: usually missiles at 4-8 km range and guns inside 4 km. It has a crew of four (commander, two gunner-operators, and driver-mechanic).

The guns are scary to watch, for each round is quite large and powerful. Since the gun is electrically operated, the breech tends to open before the round is completely out the barrel and firing a burst of 9-10 rounds per gun (4-5 rounds per barrel) is spectacular as flames leap about a meter out of each ejector chute on the side of the gun mount. The inboard barrel has a muzzle velocity mensuration device at the tip that evaluates muzzle velocity and then corrects the point of aim to adjust for more or less than standard.

The Tunguska got its baptism of fire in Chechnya, but unfortunately it is not well suited for ground target use and three of the first six were destroyed in a matter of minutes, five within 24 hours of commitment. Still, used correctly it is a powerful and dangerous weapons system. 

Jadar has now released a series of deluxe kits under the name "5 Star Models" of which this is their first kit. Having actually scratchbuilt a Tunguska, and having good references on the beastie, I can say that they have done a first rate job on the kit itself. It comes in three main parts – lower hull, upper hull, and turret – and 200 plus add-on bits in resin (most of which seem to be either wheels or track sections) plus a nice sheet of etched brass from Part and two tow cables from Karaya.

Parts that I checked matched up well with the scratchbuilt and further information. Suffice it to say that it is a good quality resin kit with fairly nominal plugs to remove from most of the parts. However, it is a harder resin that most of those used outside of Eastern Europe so I have to point out that it must be trimmed with caution and a dust mask is recommended.

Where the kit tends to fall down is its directions. Most are of the "stick here" picture type and as a result, unless you are really familiar with armored vehicles and Soviet/Russian air defense radars and missile systems, it can be highly confusing as to what parts are included and where they go. Resin parts are not identified, only etched brass ones, and you are given no idea of what the parts are, how many there are, or in some cases, how and where they go. There is only one black and white photo on the box top of a finished kit, which is unfortunate. There are more low resolution shots on Jadar's web site, but this is not a good way to present a "premiere" kit nor any way to win over customers.

Jadar needs to redo its directions, provide a parts list (one pace of the four provided as directions comes instead with a list of kits, not parts) and give the builder at least a set of 1/72 scale plans of the finished model to see what it supposed to look like. No decals or finishing suggestions came with this kit, which considering most of them are in an attractive three-color camouflage scheme (dark green, black and sand) it is a shame.

Thanks to Steve Zaloga for the review sample.