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9K330 Tor Air Defense System Kit

Panda-Hobby 1/35 9K330 Tor Air Defense System Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2016 Manufacturer Panda-Hobby
Subject 9K330 Tor Air Defense System Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35008 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice details Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $79.95

First Look

9K330 Tor Air Defense System
9K330 Tor Air Defense System
9K330 Tor Air Defense System
9K330 Tor Air Defense System

The Soviet Union evolved the concept of Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS) where specialized surface-to-air missile (SAM) and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) systems were embedded in different echelons of the ground forces and networked into the array of early warning radars to maintain situational awareness of the skies over their battlefield. Where troops on the front-lines employ vehicle-mounted machine guns and man-portable air defense (MANPAD) missiles, front-line armored units were covered by the ZSU-23-4 Shilka and the SA-9 Gaskin, with the SA-9 later replaced by the SA-13 Gopher, and then the ZSU-23-4 and SA-13 were replaced by the 2S6. These air defense vehicles moved with the armored units to provide the next layer of protective umbrella above the troops and armored formations.

The next tier of the IADS provided support to the various army divisions with some equipped with the SA-6 Gainful which was later replaced by the infamous BUK, the SA-11 Gadfly which brought down MH17, a Boeing 777 over eastern Ukraine. Other divisions were protected by the 9K33 Osa (SA-8 Gecko) which was the first air defense system equipped with a search radar, tracking radar, guidance radars, and missile launchers on a self-propelled mobile (and amphibious) platform. As versatile as the SA-8 was in service, it too was replaced with the 9K330 Tor (SA-15 Gauntlet) which shares the same self-countained attributes of its older brother.

Like the SA-8, the SA-15 has a rotating search radar, a tracking radar attached to the front of the plinth (turret), guidance antennas attached to the tracking radar, and six missiles in cannisters behind the tracking radar. Unlike the SA-8, the SA-15 does not elevate its missiles to an optimum launch angle, its missiles are stored and fired vertically out of their cannisters like Standard missile launchers on US naval combatants. At launch, the missile fires a short burst to jump vertically and well clear of the vehicle before a small attitude thuster near the nose pushes the missile into the launch angle as its main motor fires and carries the missile to its target. Also unlike the SA-8 which is mounted to an amphibious wheeled chassis, the SA-15 is mounted to a heavier tracked chassis.

Panda Hobby continues to release modern Russian combat vehicles, many of which have not yet been addressed by other model companies. Such is the case with their 2S6 and now this gem, the 9K330 Tor (SA-15). This kit is molded in tan styrene and presented on 27 parts trees plus upper and lower hull, plinth (turret), and tracking antenna cover. In addition, there is one tree of clear parts and one fret of photo-etched parts

  • Detailed suspension/drive train
  • Two-piece track links (see text below)
  • Detailed hull and external stowage
  • Photo-etched grilles
  • Detailed plinth (turret)
  • Exquisite search radar antenna (photo-etched grid with petite plastic framework)
  • Search radar will rotate and fold down to stowed position
  • Tracking radar will move in elevation
  • Plinth/turret is movable on chassis

While assembly of this kit appears straightforward, I recommend this kit for experienced modelers given the multitude of tiny parts used to build up this model. The tracks are two-piece but easier assemblies to build up as one part is the track and the other is the guide tooth. According to the instructions (noted only in Chinese), there are 114 track links used per side.

The tracking antenna is very nicely done given it is one of the distinctive features of this vehicle atop the plinth. The nice photo-etched antenna dish/grid is mounted to a petite plastic frame which should be robust enough once it is fully assembled. The movable options allow the search antenna to be moved between operation and stowed position which will also be handy for transport to a contest and home.

This is a great time to be an air defense modeler with the variety of kits that have entered the market. Given that there were only a few SAM and self-propelled AAA kits on the market years ago, we now have a wide variety of subjects available in styrene and resin including:

  • SA-2: Trumpeter 1/35 missle/launcher and missile/transloader as well as the HQ-2 derivative; Airfix 1/72 missile/launcher (now a collectible)
  • SA-3: one kit of the missiles and twin-rail launcher had been announced but never released
  • SA-6: Trumpeter 1/35 TEL and just announced 1/72 TEL
  • SA-7: DML weapons sets
  • SA-8: Trumpeter 1/35
  • SA-9: DML 1/35 and Verlinden 1/35 conversion
  • SA-10: Gran 1/72
  • SA-13: Skif 1/35
  • SA-15: Panda 1/35
  • ZU-23-2: Several in 1/35
  • ZSU-23-4 Shilka: Several in 1/35
  • 2S6: Panda 1/35
  • HAWK: Renwal 1/32
  • Bloodhound: Airfix 1/72
  • Patriot: Several in 1/35
  • M42 Duster: Several in 1/35
  • M247 Sergeant York: Tamiya 1/35
  • Flakpanzer Gepard: Several in 1/35

This list is far from complete but it gives you an idea of how far we've come from the days of the Renwal HAWK and Airfix SA-2 and Bloodhound. With the addition of this SA-15 (9K330 Tor) kit to the list, we have models of modern air defense systems now available as well as systems from our recent past. This kit looks like a gem and we'll put that observation to the test in a few days. Stay tuned!

My sincere thanks to Panda-Hobby for the review sample.