The RT-2PM Topol or NATO designation SS-25 “Sickle” is a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile designed in the Soviet Union. Production of this mobile missile started in 1985 and it is mounted on a seven axle MAZ 7917 truck. This cross country capable truck patrols a fixed route and is capable of launching the missile from any point along it. The missile can be readied for launch in two minutes and has a range of approximately 6500 miles (10,000 km) carrying a single 550 to 800 kiloton warhead.
The subject of this review is the Zvezda
“TOPOL” SS-25 “Sickle”, Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Launcher, kit #5003.
The kit arrives in a colourful external side opening slip box that in turn contains a sturdy brown, corrugated cardboard, flip-top opening box. Opening this second box exposes the kit’s contents. Inside will be found four large clear plastic bags. Three contain one large sprue with the fourth containing two identical large sprues. Two smaller bags are present with one containing clear parts and water-slide decals and the other, 14 flexible rubber-like tires. The parts breakdown is as follows:
- Sprue ‘A’ - 45 (missile and erector components)
- Sprue ‘B’ - 26 (mostly truck chassis parts)
- Sprue ‘C’ - 73 (suspension components, X2)
- Sprue ‘D’ - 14 (tires)
- Sprue ‘E’ - 7 (clear parts)
- Sprue ‘F’ - 77 (various truck parts)
Despite what is printed on the box, the total parts count was actually 315 in the sample kit.
A single fan fold sheet of instructions is also included. The instructions comprise eight sides/pages. There is an introduction page with a brief history of the system that is followed by a parts sprue and numbering diagram. The six remaining pages show 18 construction steps. These are in the form of an exploded view line drawings with arrows for parts placement. Each step can also possess numerous subassemblies to it. On the last half page a model painting and decal placement diagram is provided for one vehicle in overall dark green. However, it should be noted that painting suggestions are present throughout the various instruction steps. Colour references are provided for the Zvezda
and Humbrol ranges of paints.
On examining the sprues the first thing that will impress you is the level of fine detail on even the smallest parts. Be it panel lines, bolts or tread plates; they are beautifully rendered. Some parts are particularly large and will out of necessity have a larger number of sprue attachment points (gates). What impressed this reviewer was that even with the larger parts, the size of the gates were, for the majority of parts, reasonably small. Ejector pin marks are present on a number of parts but where they do appear, they are mostly on internal surfaces that will not show after construction or be otherwise hidden after the addition of extra parts.
Flash is almost nonexistent but the very little there was, was extremely light and should prove no problem with easily removing it. Mould seam lines were quite light and can most likely be removed with a light scraping with a sharp hobby knife. Sink holes are present and the worst of which appear on B11, the erector gantry. There were a number present on each of the sides and one on each side was quite large (deep).
The first and most important issue for the builder will be to decide which of the two versions to build. There is a choice of either the transport version or the “launch” version. Based on their choice, certain parts will be used or others modified to include otherwise unused parts. One will definitely have to have their wits about them as each version’s subassemblies are different. As an example, the wheel hub subassemblies are each side, position and version specific. While the instructions are fairly clear, they are extremely busy and it may cause some confusion. Time and care will be required to get things right.
The first six construction steps will for many modellers appear near mind boggling. During these steps the truck frame and most of the suspension components are to be assembled. To anyone who has had experience building a 1/72 scale Revell Luchs or Fuchs type suspension, you will be in for a shock at the complexity of the one in this kit.
A further point to consider is how to approach the painting of this monster. Throughout these steps are “flags” suggesting painting of the parts. The complexity of this suspension/frame is such that many parts will need to be painted prior to attachment. Many parts, though partially visible after construction, will prove difficult to access with a brush.
Steps 7 through 9 are primarily concerned with building the missile elevation erector frame and certain of its support elements found on the truck frame. Again, some of the subassemblies will differ depending on the version one decides to build. Similar to the suspension, painting of parts prior to assembly will be required in a number of cases.
With step 10 the missile erector is attached to the truck frame and numerous body parts are added including the driver’s side cab. Steps 11 through 13 see the addition of even more parts to the body of the vehicle.
Steps 14 and 15 will involve the completion of the truck suspension including a few truck detail pieces (fuel tank etc.) and the tires. It is important to note that the wheel hubs on the centre most (fourth axle from the front) are different from the other twelve.
During steps 16 and 17 the missile launch tube is constructed. This is one of the simplest steps and only has 13 parts involved. The last step, 18, sees the missile attached to its erector frame. Depending on the version the modellers has chosen to build, stabilizing jacks are fitted appropriate for that version.
A final painting diagram shows the placement of three decals on the painted model. There is a warning triangle that is placed on the fuel tank and then a star on each front cab door. The builder is given two options for the star, either Soviet era or Russian Federation. The former is the classic red star while the latter is the red star with a blue star added to its centre.
Due to the complexity of building this kit, this reviewer has chosen to provide the reader with a quick first impression of part of the build. For this purpose I chose the subassembly of the entire missile container. A BLOG of building this kit will be linked to this review.
The missile container construction takes place in steps 16, 17 and 17a. While there were only 13 parts involved, several of them are quite large and will require care with their alignment.
In Step 16 joining the two main missile halves (A1, A9) is the most logical place to begin. The fit was very good but the centre section of the tube will require some care in aligning the edges as it is rather flexible. The builder will need to use clamps (or something similar) but too much pressure can distort the joint along the edges. At the missile tube joints, the builder will need time and patience to deal with the long seam that will be visible on the top part of the tube. Parts F17 and F58 are next added the exterior of the missile tube. These are long conduits and the fit was perfect. Similarly, Part A8 (manoeuvring nozzles?) was fitted to the base of the container.
In Step 17 three parts (B44, B45, B15) are added to the base of the missile container to form the exhaust portion of the missile. The only concern for the modeller will be the making sure that the edges of parts B44 and B45 align properly along their vertical seam. This is another case where the seam will require some careful attention to eliminate it being visible after painting. This will be followed by adding a box with attached cables (F66) near the base of the tube. The final addition to this step is adding two parts (C21) to near the centre of the tube. It has been suggested that these curved pipes are part of the environmental control system that keeps the tubes interior at an optimum operating temperature. The fit of these parts was a bit loose and required the use of clamps. This reviewer also took the time to bore out the base of these pipes.
Subassembly 17-a will complete the missile tube assembly with the addition of the nose cone (B14) and a box (F12) to the upper part of the tube.
One extra observation to be noted was that the erector frame is primarily a “snap fit” but the tube does not fit totally flush against the frame. This will require some attention from the builder at a later stage of assembly.
No matter how one looks at it, this kit is quite impressive and sure to be considered one of the premier 1/72 kits of the decade. Physical size, parts count and complexity must also be taken into account when considering this kit. Assembly will be anything but a leisurely afternoon activity.
The predominance of kits have problems and this Zvezda
offering is no exception to the rule. One of the most tedious jobs will be cleaning up all the sink holes on the erector/gantry frame. However, should one opt to build the road version (Version 1), the frame should be mostly, if not totally, hidden by all the equipment boxes on the sides of the truck.
The build up of the truck frame will also prove most challenging as no less that 14 separate parts must align and meet between the two frame side pieces (B1, B19) when they are joined. It will also be extremely important to follow the complex instructions and pay particular attention to the orientation of parts to each other. With proper care and attention, the resulting model should leave the modeller most fulfilled and proud of their accomplishment.