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9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher)

Trumpeter 1/35 9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher) Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2017 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject 9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher) Scale 1/35
Kit Number 5554 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Detailed kit Cons Over-engineered (see text)
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $87.95

First Look

9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher)
9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher)
9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher)
9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher)
9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher)

The 9K35 Strella-10 (SA-13 Gopher) is short-range, infrared (IR) guided air defense (SHORAD) system that, coupled with the ZSU-23-4 Shilka, provides low-altitude air defense to ground forces. Designed to mount on a modified MT-LB chassis, the system is a follow-on to the SA-9 Gaskin system mounted on the BRDM vehicle. The system was first introduced into the Soviet military in 1976. (Strella is Russian for 'arrow'). The Strella-10 is a higher-power/heavier missile than the shoulder-launched Strella-2 (SA-7) and Strella-3 (SA-14).

The SA-13 system is comprised of four infra-red missiles stored in canisters mounted on a stowable launcher platform. The platform can be raised to the firing position as depicted in the box art, or folded to the rear for road or rail transportation. Between the canisters is a range-only radar and above the right pair of canisters is a video camera. The system does not have a coaxial gun (this was resolved with the 2S6 Tunguska) which is why these were paired up with the ZSU-23-4.

The operator sits inside the MT-LB and looks out through a window at the base of the launcher (similar to the Chaparral missile launcher). The missile is launched directly from the canister and is guided to its target using the missile's IR seeker. Four additional missile canisters are stored inside the vehicle before needing resupply.

The field of Soviet air defense has long been ignored in 1/35 scale until DML broke the ice with the releases of the SHORAD duo of the SA-9 Gaskin and the ZSU-23-4 Shilka over 20 years ago, but progress ended there until a decade later. From there, Trumpeter produced the SA-2 Guideline, SA-4 Ganef, SA-6 Gainful, SA-8 Gecko, SA-10 Grumble and this SA-13 Gopher. In addition, Skif had produced the SA-13 Gopher over a decade ago along with another MT-LB with a ZU-23-2 air defense gun mounted to its roof, while Panda Hobby produced the 2S6 Tunguska (SA-19 Grison). If you're an Oozlefinch modeler, we're finally seeing some of these subjects finally available in injection-molded plastic.

So here is Trumpeter's recent SA-13 Gopher release, following a few months after the original MT-LB kit. Molded in gray styrene, this kit is presented on 11 parts trees (duplicate trees not shown) plus the upper and lower hull halves, four trees of rust-colored styrene, two trees of clear parts, and two frets of photo-etched parts.

Among the features and options:

  • Detailed lower hull and suspension
  • Separately molded rear entry doors (see notes)
  • Individual track links (see notes)
  • Detailed photo-etched rear deflector vanes
  • Separately molded overhead access door
  • Separately molded bow access door
  • Detailed sensors and antennas on upper hull
  • Positionable driver and commander hatches
  • Positionable driver and commander windshield covers
  • Detailed SA-13 pedestal and missile canister rack
  • Detailed missile canisters (see notes)
  • Odd machinegun configuration on commander's plinth

When I consider a kit to be over-engineered, it is because:

  1. It has details provided in areas that won't be seen after assembly
  2. It provides overly complex assemblies in photo-etch and/or styrene
  3. It provides very small parts that will be difficult to remove from the sprue trees or clean-up after removal without damaging/destroying the parts

In this kit, it has all three aspects of over-engineering provided. For example:

  • Each track link is three pieces - track and two guide teeth. All are tiny parts, and you need to assemble 222 of them. If you're looking for a quick way to lose your will to live, start here.
  • The MTLB and SA-13 variant have two intricate vane/block assemblies that mount on the rear of the hull behind each set of tracks. Each assembly is small in 1/35 scale and Trumpeter replicates each assembly with 16 photo-etched parts. If the tracks don't get you, these will.
  • The hatches and rear doors are positionable, but there is no kit interior to speak of, which isn't unusual. However, Trumpeter does provide fuel cells, folding seats, and a floor rack though there is no other interior parts like the engine compartment walls. Why render those interior details if you don't finish the rest of the interior?
  • The kit provides windshields for the driver and commander stations but position the protective covers closed in the instructions. That is because there are no seats or other details for the forward compartment provides (or the engine bulkhead behind them). Once again, details provided that can't be used.
  • The missile canisters are nicely detailed though the box frame members are molded separately. Each of the four missile containers require 28 tiny frame bits to be carefully removed from the sprue trees, cleaned-up, and installed on the containers. More over-engineered nonsense.
  • While you rarely see a machinegun installed on the commander's plinth/mount, this kit provides one but also has you mount the extended bipod on the front of the gun. There's a feature I want in the way while trying to aim the gun...

So while Trumpeter has provided a new-tooled kit of the SA-13, it is as complex a model as the Skif kit was simple. The super-detailed modeler might appreciate the challenge of this kit, but the average modeler might find this model to be more work than it is worth. Given the state of the art in injection-molding, there is no reason why those track links should be three parts per link, and I can't begin to understand why the missile canisters are so over-engineered. If you haven't acquired one of these yet and want an SA-13 in your collection, I'd leave this one on the store shelf and save your sanity. Wait for a proper kit or do some scratchbuilding on the Skif kit.