Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
Eastern Express continues to roll on with its update and completion of the KV family of tanks. When the Soviets came up against more powerful German tanks, such as the long-barreled 5 cm and 7.5 cm guns in uprated Panzer III and IV, plus the new Tiger and early Panther, the Soviets soon found that their workhorse 76mm guns were of little use as they had to get close to the target to destroy it. The Kotin design bureau at Chelyabinsk (having moved from Leningrad early in the war) took the task in hand, and soon adapted their KV-1s chassis to take a new hexagonal casemate armed with the mightly 152mm ML-20 howitzer. Frontal armor was now around 120mm, and the use of the heavy 152mm projectiles (each weighing around 100 pounds) meant that the vehicle could crack German armor up to 100mm thick at ranges of up to 2000 meters. Orginally accepted for service in early 1943 as the KV-14, the vehicle was simply redesignated as the self-propelled mount, 152mm armed or SU-152.
As the KV-1s was at the end of its run and effectiveness, Chelyabinsk soon switched over to production of the new SP gun and by the end of 1943 had built 704 of the weapons. (Production then switched to the IS-85 and IS-122 tanks, better known as the IS-2 Iosef Stalin series.) The first regiment of 12 of these guns went operational in May 1943, and at Kursk claimed 12 Tiger Is and 7 "Ferdinand" SP guns. Later regiments were organized like heavy tanks with 21, and later they were upgraded to ISU-122 and ISU-152 SP guns. Due to its ability to kill the "beast" tanks., the SU-152 earned the nickname "Zverboy" – "Beast Fighter".
Eastern Express has taken five sprues from the KV-1s and KV-85 kits and added a new sprue with a new upper hull, mantelet and gun. The gun has a very fine filigreed muzzle brake, which had some flash in my review sample, but nothing most modelers cannot easily clean up in a few minutes. The kit retains all of the details and most of the minor annoyances found in the KV-1s kit, such as the very tight vinyl tracks and sinkholes in the suspension components. Still, these are easily remedied and the model captures the "squatty" look of the prototype very nicely. A good set of etched brass from On the Mark or other manufacturers as well as single-link tracks would turn this model into a real gem.
Markings are included for five guns, which alas are all in Soviet dark green. The Armada book "Camouflage of the Tanks of the Red Army 1930-1945" has some in two, three and even four-color schemes.
All in all, a nice kit with a lot of possibilities.
Cookie Sewell AMPS
Review Copyright © 2000 by Cookie