ICM #35381 Soviet BM-21 "Grad"
Cookie SewellKit Review: ICM 1/35 Scale Model Kit No. 35381; Soviet Multiple Launch Rocket System BM-21 "Grad"; (252 parts; 233 in light olive styrene, 12 in clear styrene and seven hard black vinyl); US price between $20 and $36, depending upon source and supplier
Advantages: First kit of this weapons system in this scale in styrene; captures the bulk and look of the prototype
Disadvantages: Sinkmark and ejection pin marks present, but not in unacceptable locations; seams in the tires; many "working" features may compromise scale effects; no decals or markings
Recommendation: To all modern Soviet and Warsaw Pact fans, as well as Third World fans
When the Omega-K kit of the Ural-4320 came out in mid-1998, they also forecast the BM-21 "Grad" (Hail) rocket launcher as a coming kit. Like many fans of Soviet artillery, I was glad to see it and eager to see it. I admit having lost a bit of that eagerness after I found out that the Ural kit was a bit of a beast to assemble, but it looked the part and so figured the rocket launcher couldn't be any harder to deal with when it showed up.
The "Grad" is a product of what is now called NPO Splav and first came out on the predecessor Ural-375 gasoline powered truck chassis in the early 1960s. It fired any of a family of rockets designated 9M22 and which had a maximum range capability of 20,000 meters. A full volley of 40 rockets could be fired in half-second intervals in less than 20 seconds, and a full battalion volley 720 rockets would literally obliterate a 1000 x 1000 meter grid square. Later models were on the Ural-375D diesel, and later the Ural-4320 chassis. New rockets, offered by both the Russians and foreign countries such as France and Egypt, now provide the "Grad" with a range of up to 36,000 meters and some correctional capability. An improved 50-shot model, the 9M51 "Prima", has been offered for sale but has not been sold to anyone, the Russian Army included, as of this date. The model is now here, and while I plead innocent to eastern European shenanigans and management, has come to us not from Omega-K, but from ICM. Ihave no idea if this means that ICM has purchased Omega-K. However, since all the molds are stamped with the "Omega-K" logo, it would seem that either this is so, or that they have the overseas marketing rights similar to the Maquette/RPM arrangements.
As with its predecessor, the kit is quite detailed, and includes a complete chassis with diesel engine and cab interior. The cargo bed and troop seats are gone, and replaced with three sprues containing 85 parts that provide for the 40 rocket tubes, laying mechanism, and fender assembly. A host of working features are included, such as opening hood, rolling wheels, steerable front wheels, opening doors, and working rear suspension. Most of them appear to be close to scale thickness, but require old-fashioned building techniques such as the "hot screwdriver" method to complete. The model includes seven very well detailed tires, but these are marred by a large seam right down the middle. One source has indicated they are about .050" underscale, but due to the size of the tires this is not readily apparent or even a distraction. While the tires are at least not victims of mold shift, the seams are hard to remove. Thanks to one kind car modeling soul on rec.models.scale, there IS a solution. There is a gizmo available in most drug stores or beauty aids sections of other stores like K-Mart which is used for removing excess fingernail cuticle. It is perfect for getting the flash off rubber or vinyl tires! The clear parts are very well done and fairly distortion free, which is a sign of improvements in eastern European injection molding. Note, however, that the windshield parts suffer from poor fit, so plan on a wrestling match with your fingertips to get them into place. Some parts are very simplified, such as the cab seats, and modelers may want to add some texture to those parts to get a more realistic appearance. The interior is also missing the clutch and most of the lever controls, although decals are provided for the instrument panel, which is a nice touch. The spare tire mount is quite impressive and consists of some ten parts with the oil tank included. Also, note that step 5, if you want the suspension to work, you have to avoid getting cement on parts A15 when you install parts B16 and caps B8. The Ural-4320 provided a great decal sheet which covered 12 different options. This vehicle is in use or service with at least 20 different countries world wide, but NO decals are provided which is a lick against ICM or Omega-K, whomsoever is the culprit. Finding markings for these vehicles will thus be left up to the modeler.The launcher pack does not suffer as badly from "measles" as the Omega-K truck did. The base kit needs a lot of TLC to eliminate the ejection pin marks, and when done and prior to painting, expect a model which looks like it caught a disease. I use Dr. Microtools, and hence the comparison. The directions are not much help, and if you mis-install parts, you will have a very difficult time putting the model together. I got some of the chassis members in upside down (they aren't idiot-proofed) and thus had to cut and move one brace to get the engine and transmission to fit in. Plan on dry fitting each sub-assembly to ensure parts are going the right way.
Fit overall is not bad, with only one major exception: the steering gear boxes. For some odd reason, the model has not one but two, one on each side at the very front of the frame members. Each has a drag ling and pittman arm so it attaches to the wheel on its side of the truck, with a common tie rod under the axle. The boxes on my kit required a lot of filing and cutting to get into place, so that they did not interfere with the radiator. Later on, more cutting and filing was needed to get the front of the cab to bed down right between the frame members as it needs to be. On the side of the box, the nose of the cab sticks up in the air a bit, and this seems to be the culprit.
Note that the tires are "handed" and must be installed in pairs. The trick in assembly is that there is tire data on the OUTSIDE of the tire, which makes assembling three of each for the road wheels a matter of counting. The extra one (it doesn't appear to matter which way it faces) goes on the spare. Tires are installed correctly with the "V" shape of the tread pointed up when viewed from the cab end of the body.
Overall, this is a good, and very useful, kit, and I suspect we will see it in a number of dioramas as a "star player." It is a shame that it comes with only minimalist markings and painting information and no decals.
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