Now that you have seen two different variants for a Trumpeter 1:350 scale Sovremenny Class destroyer, the original Project 956 of 1980 (Click for Review of the 956) and the Modified Sovremenny from Project 956A (956E with the Trumpeter kits) of 1987 (Click for Review of the 956E), it is time to decide how you will make them battle worthy to join your fleet. Just as it takes time and effort to complete a ship after launching, before she is combat ready, so too will your Trumpeter Sovremenny need additional equipment and fittings to be ready for IPMS combat. This combat punch can only be provided through a first class set of photo-etch designed specifically for the model. Fortunately for the modeler, salvation is at hand in the form of a custom designed brass photo-etch set from Gold Medal Models.
With Gold Medal Models photo-etch set #350-27, you get exactly what you need to bring your Sovremenny to completion. Does it matter whether you have the Sovremenny Project 956 or Modified Sovremenny Project 956E? No it doesnít! Loren Perry has taken care of both models with this large one fret set. He provides you with the optional parts to finish either ship. The major differences between the two variants come in the design of the main mast and electronic fit, which is exactly what is covered in this set. Yes, Trumpeter does provide these parts in their own brass photo-etch fret that comes with the kit. However, just as the Trumpeter brass photo-etch is far superior to the plastic radars and lattice masts in other kits, so too is the GMM Sovremenny fret far superior to the photo-etch provided in the kit. It certainly is not the fault of Trumpeter. Their mission was to provide a kit of this beautiful design that would be desirable to the adult modeler. Trumpeter has excelled in the completion of this mission as their 1:350 scale Sovremenny kits are extremely detailed for mass-produced plastic kits. The Trumpeter mission was not to provide a state of the art, first class, top drawer, and comprehensive brass photo-etch set. That is the mission of Gold Medal Models. The After Action Report is in and it is a resounding Mission Accomplished!
Given the prominent radars and electronics of the Sovremenny design, the GMM photo-etch will provide crucial components in building a scale replica of the Russian destroyer design. The GMM parts are designed to replicate in miniature all of the intricate lattice structures found in the radars, masts, yardarms, platforms and countless other structures in the design.
This is a guide to what is provided by Gold Medal Models, starting with the major radars. GMM provides three of these large mast top arrays. You will use one of the three. Which one depends upon whether you are building the 956 or 956E design. If you are building the original Sovremenny Project 956, you will use the multi-shape Top Steer array found on the forward tower. I mention multi-shape because the Top Steer radar is comprised of two differently shaped radars, one rectangular and one elliptical. The Top Steer array was used in the first five ships in the class, Sovremenny, Otchayannyy, Otlichnyy, Osmotritelnyy and Bezuprechnyy. These are the five ships that are represented in the Trumpeter Project 956 kit. The Top Steer array is very large, especially the forward square array. The GMM Top Steer is assembled from eleven parts, including the lovely perforated base plate. Starting with the 6th ship, the Boyevoy, a new radar was substituted at the top of the forward tower. This was the Plate Steer. All of the ships built prior to the introduction of the Modified Sovremenny, Project 956A, were equipped with the Plate Steer. These ships are Boyevoy, Stoykiy, Okrylennyy, Burnyy, Gremyashchiy, Bystryy, Rastoropnyy, Bezboyaznennyy, and Bezuderzhannyy. Originally, these nine ships were Project 956 ships with the Plate Steer fitted in lieu of the Top Steer. Their nameplates are found on the decal sheet for the Trumpeter Modified Sovremenny Project 956E kit. The Plate Steer is similar to the Top Steer but the forward rectangular array is much smaller than the square array of the Top Steer. Additionally, there are differences in the base plate and connecting longitudinal member. The rear facing elliptical radar is the same in Top Steer and Plate Steer. The GMM Plate Steer has seven parts. The Top Plate (Fregat MA) radar was introduced with the Project 956A Modified Sovremenny design. Again it is a different design in that it dropped the elliptical rearward facing radar for a second rectangular array. There are eight parts in the GMM Top Plate, including perforated base platform. Ships that started with the Top Plate were the Bespokoynyy, Nastoychivyy, Besstrashny, Vazhnyy (later Yekaterinburg, then PLAN Hangzhou) and Vdumchivyy (later Aleksandr Nevsky,then PLAN Fuzhou). As units of the 956 series were refitted, they received the Project 956A alterations, including the Top Plate array. Three Palm Frond navigational radars were fitted to the tower platform and GMM provides four of these relief-etched beauties.
The different masts and platforms provided by Gold Medal Models in this set are other stars in this constellation of excellence. There are two different main masts included in the set. They are very much different in design. The original 956 design had a tall main mast, while the 956A had a shorter, redesigned mast. Actually the masts were about the same height but in the late version, the uppermost portion was a pole mast with platforms. The only question that I have is when the shorter mast was introduced. The first five 956 ships would have had the taller early mast and the 956A ships with the Top Plate array definitely had the shorter late mast. But what of the middle 956 ships with Plate Steer radar in place of the original Top Steer arrays? Were they fitted with the tall mainmast or the short mainmast? Photographs show the later short mainmast after they were refitted as 956Aís with Top Plate array but it is unclear to me whether the shorter mainmast was introduced with the Boyevoy, the first to receive the Plate Steer, or with the Bespokoynyy, the first of the 956A Modified Sovremenny design with the Top Plate Array. The safe course would be to build the 956A variant, where the short mast was used. That is how Trumpeter designed their Modified Sovremenny kit, which they call the 956E, instead 956A. Either way GMM has you covered with very fine relief-etched masts. Normally you donít think of masts as being relief-etched but with the GMM parts the support plates to the lattice joints are recessed behind the horizontal, vertical and diagonal beams. This is just one point of detail that signifies the top quality of this product. Both the early masts and the late masts are put together in two stages or stories with the division coming at the mid-mast platform. The early mast had an up-turned yard assembly with the late version having a flat top yardarm assembly. With either version, the masts and yards were liberally strewn with smaller electronic fittings, all of which are found on this fret.
The forward tower has a very large platform. With the Trumpeter kit, this part is solid but in reality the platform had a perforated fine grid deck. When you look at the photograph comparing the solid plastic platform with the highly detailed GMM brass replacement, you will undoubtedly feel a compulsion to outfit your Sovremenny with the extraordinary detail conferred by the Gold Medal Models set. It really isnít a comparison. It is much more a stark contrast. Although this tower platform is by far the largest such structure, the same theme is carried through with numerous smaller platforms. As with the prime example, you have the choice of building the Sovremenny from the box, with solid plastic platforms or building it with GMM brass parts with airy open grid brass platforms.
One of the largest single pieces on the Gold Medal Models fret is the helicopter restraining net that fits just over the flight deck on the ship. GMM provides a solid flight deck jig to allow the modeler to lightly drill the properly spaced holes for fitting the deck edge net rail, which holds the restraining net in place. Coupled with the deck top restraint netting is the excellent deck edge safety nets. Trumpeter provides brass safety nets in their small fret that comes with the kit and those relief-etched parts are probably the best-detailed parts on the Trumpeter fret but even here GMM is significantly better in fineness and detail. Loren Perry discovered a mistake in the Trumpeter kit. You probably wonít care if you are building the kit in its water-line form but if you are building a full hull kit, the mistake is significant. Trumpeter provides five-bladed propellers in the kit. However, according to Combat Fleets of the World, various editions, the class was fitted with four-bladed propellers. Perhaps, the two PLAN ships were later refitted with five-bladed props but both Trumpeter kits are for the Russian versions of the Sovremenny Project 956 and Modified Sovremenny Project 956A (956E). In Lorenís fret design he provides the correct four-bladed propellers. GMM provides helicopter rotors and linkages with blades extended for flight operations as well as optional folded blade rotors for the helicopter stowed or standing down from flight.
Normally, the subject of railing comes fairly close to the end of a photo-etch review. It is normally lumped together with vertical and inclined ladders as part of a generic parts section. However, the railing provided by GMM on this fret is far from generic. When I originally looked at the railing with the Mk I eyeball, I quickly noticed the curving sheer of the forecastle railing. I certainly expected to see this feature because of the extreme upward sheer at the bow of the Sovremenny. I also expected and noticed the six long runs of different styles of railing and customized end sections. Since it is a product from Gold Medal Models, I again expected to see that degree of detail. However, when I was editing photographs of the railing, greatly magnified under macro-photography, I noticed something different, far from the ordinary, far from generic. It seemed that there were a series of bumps in certain areas of the railing. Was this a mistake in the etching? If so, it was extensive, since this feature was found throughout the railing in the fret. I put on 2-power reading glasses and examined the already greatly magnified photographs more closely when the truth dawned. Those things that I thought were bumps in the railing were actually turnbuckles, used to tighten the segments of railing. I use the term turnbuckles but there may be a more proper "Navy" term for this small fitting, however as ex-Army, I donít know what that term would be. But whatever you call it, the detail is there, in place on the GMM railing. Maybe GMM has had this feature before in their 1:350 scale railing and maybe it has appeared with WEM or Toms photo-etch, but if it has appeared before, I have never noticed it. It is so minute and so fine, that it takes macro-photographic images to bring it out. Loren! Are you possessed? Who can see this detail with the unaided eye?
OK, what about generic parts? Since I have already removed the GMM railing from that category, that leaves vertical and inclined ladders. The inclined ladders are very nice and are fully up to GMM standards but there is nothing toe-curling about them. There is plenty of vertical ladder and it looks about the same as anyone elseís vertical ladder but then vertical ladder has a very low suitability for jazzing-up. Of course GMM provides two accommodation ladders with perforated landings but again this is standard for one of Lorenís designs. GMM throws in plenty of life buoys but then they almost always have these fittings. There are plenty of relief-etched watertight doors in two styles, each right and left opening doors. The flagstaffs, jack staff on the bow, ensign staff on the stern, are normally generic but not in this GMM fret. Both have their own unique design with the multitude of small fittings on the stern flagstaff clearly placing it in the exceptional category. Throw in shipís boat details such as rail pulpits, keels with rudder and propeller, supports, a running light assembly, and DF loops and you finish with a total package that answers the need of anyone wishing to build the 1:350 scale Trumpeter Sovremenny or Modified Sovremenny.