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Long Track

Panzershop 1/35 P-40 Long Track Self-Propelled Surveillance Radar 1RL128D Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review January 2007 Manufacturer Panzershop
Subject P-40 Long Track Self-Propelled Surveillance Radar 1RL128D Scale 1/35
Kit Number PS35C13-HT Primary Media Resin, Photo-etch, white metal
Pros ONLY kit of this vehicle likely to be made; gorgeous etched brass radar screen and accessory parts; clean, straight, warp-free resin casting; extended Fruil tracks solve problems of fitting track to the model Cons Radar antenna is complex and will have to be soldered together; very, very expensive kit
Skill Level Advanced MSRP (USD) $350.00

First Look

When the Soviet Union decided that antiaircraft guns would no longer be able to stop an aviation threat, they turned to surface-to-air missile systems to solve the problem. While the S-25 (SA-1) and S-75 (SA-2) solved their initial problems, they soon realized that they would need highly mobile system to protect their forces. During the 1960s they produced several systems in short order for regimental level (SA-9), division level (SA-6 and SA-8) and army and front level (SA-4) air defense.

Each system above regimental level required several types of radars to operate: a long-range target acquisition radar, a short range target tracking radar, and a fire control radar, all linked by either cable or digital data systems in order to provide a cohesive air defense picture for allocation and engagement of targets. The SA-4 and SA-6 units were among the first to get the 1RL128 high mobility long-range target acquisition and surveillance radar.

The 1RL128 was mounted on an Article 426U chassis. This was created from various engineer vehicles using a lightened version of the T-54/T-55 chassis (Article 401 and others) and powered by the same V-2 series twelve-cylinder tank diesel engines. But due to the bulk and weight of early radar sets, as well as the size of the antennas needed, the Article 426U chassis saw the base chassis extended by another two pairs of road wheels, making seven per side.

A large casemate type structure was placed on the rear of the vehicle, providing both a mount for the antenna as well as housing for the system crew of six and an on-board generator to provide system power. Modified a number of times, the system is still in service with some units as well as many client states who bought the SA-4 or SA-6 missile system.

Panzershop from the Czech Republic is rapidly establishing itself as a first-rate resin accessory and kit manufacturer, and this particular kit will probably be one of the best ever produced. Albeit a somewhat offbeat subject, it is quite impressive and provides the modeler with many options.

The kit is very, very complex, and this has to be stated up front. Panzershop places a warning to that effect on the boxtop and unlike many US ones which provide recommended ages, mostly I think to pump up the feelings of first timers who can build the kits without problems, they are not kidding!

The box is very sturdy and the parts inside are either bagged on their casting wafers, wrapped in bubble wrap, or packed with foam peanuts for safety. All of the etched brass is inserted in ziplock bags with a stiff section of cardboard to eliminate damage in shipment.

The lower hull is cast as a single part with internal bulkheads for stiffness, and the suspension is provided separately. Late T-55 "starfish" type wheels are provided - 28 of them – and they are all of the correct width, which is a rare thing to find with many T-55 based vehicle kits. Other than the casting bars or wafers, cleanup is minimal.

The other major assemblies are the cab, the casemate, and the cab. All are packaged separately and require only minimal cleanup.

The LONG TRACK comes with the main engine and all of its systems provided, and an etched brass hood covers it when assembled and installed. 31 resin parts are provided just for this installation, and the radiator takes another four resin and seven etched brass parts. Next is the cab, and while it is formed from the usual mixture of resin and etched brass Panzershop provides pre-color acetate parts for the five windows and two instrument panels. The rubber seals are painted onto the windows, which really does simplify the task of the modeler.

Once the cab and floor are mounted on the chassis, the next step involves the installation of the casemate. As it is closed and there is no interior, all that is required are adding the external details such as the generator intake and exhaust components (etched), various air tanks and fire extinguishers (I counted at least four, all made up of multiple components), and the vents and covers over the sides and top of the casemate.

The radar antenna is the most daunting component of the kit. It uses a resin base and feedhorn assembly but the feedhorn mount and reflector are etched brass and until complete all are very, very fragile. There is no other realistic way to assemble them but soldering, so that will the one restrictive skill set for most modelers in assembling this kit.

The directions are typical of most low-production rate resin kits, mostly photos of parts and ‘stick here' photos of subassemblies, but Panzershop provides four nice neat drawings of the antenna assembly with keyed numbers so that advanced modelers will be able to get the antenna properly shaped and formed.

The directions unfortunately do not show a finished but unpainted model, but most modelers who get this far will not have a problem finishing up the model. It offers few display options – open or closed windows, open or closed cab doors, open or closed vents, and open or closed hood panels.

But the greatest saving grace of all comes from the fact that the model also includes a very nicely done CD that covers most of these things in fine detail!

The disk contains about 400 Mb of photos of the model as complete, every step of construction, and a great selection of photos of a Czech Republic vehicle on public display. As such, the kit's paper directions are essentially only the "Cliff's Notes" version, but you will either need a handy computer or printouts of all of these files for reference. Color references are thus "by eyeball" so the results you get depend on your own personal color vision! Note that basic JPEGs and HTML files are both included on the disk. Decals are also provided for the specific vehicle that is on display, so the modeler will have one finishing option right out of the box.

Overall this is not a cheap kit, but the general quality, excellence of the castings and etched brass, use of prime components like the Fruil track sets, and the outstanding CD of instructions and references combined make this a reasonably priced package.

Thanks to Bill Miley of Chesapeake Model Designs (the US importer) for the review sample.