Admiral Ushakov (Kirov) is the lead ship of a class of four nuclear powered cruisers built by the Soviet Union. She was commissioned as the Kirov in Dec 1980, suffered a nuclear accident in 1990, was renamed the Admiral Ushakov in Apr 1992, and stricken in Oct 1998 to provide material for a refit of the other active unit of the Kirov class, the Admiral Nakhimov. However, in Jan 1999 the Russian Navy was directed to repair the Admiral Ushakov for return to service, using funding allocated for other construction and repair projects. However, the ship had already been cannibalized for parts. I am unaware of the shipís current status. Admiral Ushakov is visibly quite distinct from her sisters. At the break of the forecastle in the bow, Admiral Ushakov mounts twin SSN-14 missle launchers as opposed to her sisters which have panels for vertically launched (VLS) SA-N-9 missiles. In addition, Admiral Ushakov has two single gun 100mm gun mounts on the aft end of the ship while her sisters have a single twin 130mm gun mount and extensively modified aft superstructure. The Steel Navy website has an excellent photographic article (www.steelnavy.com/KirovRBNF.htm) summarizing the Kirov class and the differences between the individual ships.
Hull - Published dimensions ("Guide to the Soviet Navy, 4th Ed., Polmar) are 248 m oa. and 28 m beam (width) for a length to beam ratio of 8.86. The model has a length of 717 mm and beam of 80 mm for a length to beam ratio of 8.96 - excellent agreement. The modelís length is a scale 3.15 m too long which is just over a 1% deviation. Of course, this assumes that the published dimensions are correct which is by no means a certainty given the difficulty in obtaining Soviet/Russian military data! The hull is a one piece, full hull with no option for a waterline display. The footprint (shape when viewed from directly above) of the hull appears fairly accurate although the stern is slightly too boxy, failing to taper quite enough from the main deck/fantail break to the extreme stern. From photographs, the stern tapers 11% from the break to an arbitrary point near the stern (the location of the point doesnít matter as long as itís a consistently referenced point). On the model, the taper is 6%; not bad agreement, but off enough to be noticeable if one knows what it should look like. On the completed model, the deviation will probably disappear in the overall effect and most modelers will probably be quite content with it.
One of the prominent features of the Kirov class is the sharply raked bow profile and the double "tumblehome" of the bow. The kit nicely captures the rake, however, the tumblehome, especially the upper break, appears slightly less pronounced than is visually evident on the real ship. The anchor "well" housing at the bow is grossly simplified. Advanced modelers might want to reshape this area. The variable depth sonar door at the stern is properly canted in rather than being vertical. Well done Trumpeter! The exact locations and numbers of portholes is pretty close to being exactly right. Photographic comparison shows only a few instances of missing or mislocated portholes. Only the most fanatical modeler would care to address this. The location and run of the prominent half-pipe (I donít know the purpose/function of this) on both sides of the hull is spot on. Again, well done. I can not assess the underwater shape of the hull or the fittings attached to it. I have never seen plans or photos in the public domain. Either Trumpter has access to rare documentation (which, as the rest of the review indicates, they only sporadically used) or they have taken a guess. Given the accuracy (or lack thereof) of the hull provided in their Moskva kit, I would lean towards a heavy dose skepticism involving anything below the waterline.
Deck - The deck on the real ship consists of three sections: the forecastle, main, and fantail, each at a different level which should make for easy, logical breaks in the kit decks, thereby avoiding any awkward visible seams. Unfortunately, the kitís main deck is broken into two pieces with the major portion being about a foot long and a two inch insert section at the aft end. Clearly, this was done to accommodate the changes required for a future Frunze version. Trumpeter, would it really cost that much more to tack the two inches on and make the deck one piece? Sure, the Frunze version would then require its own dedicated deck, but Iíll gladly pay the additional price. Am I the only one who feels this way? On the plus side, dry fitting of the main section of the deck to the hull shows exceptionally good fit. The bollards molded on the deck are the best Iíve seen on any ship kit and are the first to actually look like the real item.
The SS-N-19 hatch covers have a heavy raised cross-hatch pattern which I believe is very faintly visible on photos of the real thing but is way overdone on the model. Unfortunately, it will be difficult or impossible to remove/reduce them without destroying surrounding detail. The SA-N-6 covers have a slightly pyramidal appearance which the model nicely captures, although the surrounding hinges (?) are well over scale. The helicopter flight deck at the stern has raised lines indicating the landing area. Removing these will be near impossible without destroying some of the surrounding detail. Given that a decal is provided for this area along with a full color overhead guide sheet, raised lines are unnecessary and only make things more difficult.
Supersturcture - Superstructure parts are flash-free and sharply detailed. The hatches, in particular, are quite nicely done. Ejection marks are numerous on all parts but are confined to the inside and underside of parts. For the advanced modeler who wants to detail the underside of overhanging decks and structures, this will be a problem. For the vast majority of us, this is not an issue at all. The Admiral Ushakov has a Top Pair radar (among many others) mounted on the after superstructure. Unfortunately, the kit incorrectly provides a Top Plate radar in place of the Top Steer. This would be correct for the Kalinin or Yuri Andropov, but not the Ushakov (or Frunze, for that matter). On the plus side, the remaining radars appear to be of the correct type and in the correct location. The Bass Tilt radar domes appear to be a bit too long and are slightly out of proportion. However, weíre in the realm of nit-picking with this one. Besides, itís nothing that a little work with a file canít cure. Trumpeter persists in molding the superstructure parts which contain windows as clear plastic. Unfortunately, the clear plastic is very smooth, hard, and brittle compared to the styrene. As a result, the clear parts are difficult to file/sand and paint does not adhere well without roughing up the surface. As a personal opinion, the negligible benefit of a clear window which is only a couple square millimeters in this scale does not compensate for the drawbacks. I paint the windows black, anyway, which looks just fine at this scale. In addition, the windows in the clear parts tend to be not quite as cleanly molded as those on styrene; some rough, irregular edges are present.
Oddly, most (but not all) of the windows do not have molded on eyebrows. Again, this is a nit-pick, although previous Trumpeter offerings have been meticulous about providing these. The vertical bulkhead at the break of the main deck and fantail bears no resemblance to the Ushakovís. In addition to the bulkhead vertical surfaces being incorrect, the kit part has slots on the top to accommodate slight overhangs of the main deck. The Ushakov has no such overhangs. The main deck ends in a straight, even line flush with the bulkhead when viewed from above. The kit bulkhead and deck edge is actually correct for the Frunze and, in fact, appears to be quite accurate for it. Most of the small, add-on details are quite finely detailed, probably about as well as can be expected in this scale (although the recent Buchanan has raised the bar!). The RBU 6000 launcher, for instance, is very petite and captures the look of the real thing. Even the inclined ladders are as nicely done as possible in this medium and scale. The above issues aside, the remainder of the superstructure does capture the look of the Ushakov with reasonable accuracy and detail.
Markings - The decal sheet provides hull numbers, the shipís name, flags, helicopter landing markings, and helicopter markings. Unfortunately, the decal for the shipís name is the Russian characters, which spell Frunze! (see the Steel Navy article cited above for photographic proof) Markings have been provided for hull pennant numbers 190, 050, 750, 028, and 014. Unlike US ships which carry a single unique hull identification number for life, Soviet ships routinely changed their numbers, using them more as temporary tactical markings. Following is a list of hull number assignments which are supported by photographic evidence readily available in the public domain. Hull numbers for the Kirov also show approximate dates, if known)
Kirov (Admiral Ushakov) : 092 (most recent), 065 (1985), 181 (1980)
Frunze (Admiral Lazarev) : 050
Kalinin (Admiral Nakhimov) : 080, 180, 085
Yuri Andropov (Pyotr Velikiy) : 183, 099
Of the numbers provided on the decal sheet, only 050 has evidence to support its use and it was applied to the Frunze, not the Admiral Ushakov. The modeler will have to create their own markings to have an accurate hull number. To be fair to Trumpter, it is remotely possible that numbers 190, 028, or 014 may have been applied to Admiral Ushakov at some point, and that the manufacturer has access to photos not readily available in the public domain. As an aside, the decal number 750 is from a common photograph of the Frunze and is actually 050 which appears to be 750 due to worn paint on the leading 0. Although I am not an expert on this aspect, the flags appear to be appropriate for when the ship was part of the Soviet Navy and named Kirov rather than her later life as the Admiral Ushakov. As if the above arenít perplexing enough, note the decal sheet identification label in the lower left corner of the sheet; it indicates that the sheet is for the Frunze. Iíll give Trumpeter the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is further confirmation that another version of the kit is going to be released and that this was a mistaken release of the wrong set of decals rather than an attempt to pass off incorrect markings under the assumption that no one would notice. Regardless, for a kit that retails for well over $100, it is inexcusable to be given unusable decals. An hour of research on the Internet would have given the manufacturer all the information required for correct markings and the incremental cost for a correct sheet dedicated to the Ushakov/Kirov would be negligible. By the way, the Dragon 1/700 kit has the markings correct.
Photo-etch - A rudimentary photo-etch set is provided for some of the radars and the helicopter landing area safety nets. However, the safety nets are crude, at best. Even the radar latticework that is provided is grossly simplified. While it is better than nothing, the average to advanced modeler will find it unappealing. Railings and other details will have to await the arrival of an aftermarket set. Undoubtedly, Trumpeter opted to allow the aftermarket to deal with the whole photo-etch issue and that is a completely understandable and reasonable approach. In fact, Iím surprised that as of this writing no aftermarket photo-etch development has been announced, as far as I know.
Verdict - Trumpeterís Admiral Ushakov is big, detailed, and certainly conveys the impression of the famous battle cruiser. Unfortunately, the kit is a mixture of features from both the Ushakov and the Frunze and will require some scratch-building to correctly complete as the Ushakov/Kirov. For the price tag, and given that the correct features are documented in readily available public domain photographs, the kit is a bit of a disappointment. That said, there is nothing that will prevent a moderately skilled modeler from producing a convincing replica of this unique ship and I am eagerly anticipating beginning my build.