Gran Ltd.
Sa-3 Goa
S-125 Neva/Perchora
Kit Number: 7209
Reviewed by  Jim Pearsall, IPMS# 2209

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MSRP: $18.25

Gran Limited is a model company from Russia, which is apparently specializing in those model subjects we didn't see from the 60s through the 90s. No one could get any information on the Sa-2 and Sa-3 missiles, or the BRDM armored car, which are shown on the box side. Best of luck to them, and I hope they continue with these interesting subjects. The side of the box also shows the S-200, which we know as the Sa-5 Gammon, and I think that'll be interesting.

The Missile:   The Soviet Union deployed two surface to air missile systems (Sa-1 Guild and Sa-2 Guideline) in the late 1950s. These were the result of follow-on research and development from the German Wasserfall, Taifun and Schmetterling systems. What the Russians discovered about the German systems was that despite the vaunted Teutonic efficiency and German engineering, the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe really didn?t have a clue about how to guide a flying missile to an airborne target. The Sa-2 mostly solved this, and demonstrated this ability by shooting down a U-2 over Sverdlovsk. The Sa-2 had some limitations, however. One of these was that once it locked on to the target, if the target maneuvered, tracking was lost. Additionally, the missile had the maneuverability of a charging rhinoceros, and could be avoided by a last-second jink, leaving the missile to fly on by. The big limitation, one taken full advantage of by USAF pilots, was that it couldn't see a target flying lower than itself. Pursuing an F-105, capable of 1000 mph at 200 feet put the Guideline out of its' envelope.

Enter the Sa-3. In 1961 the PVO (Air Defense Forces) fielded a shorter range system, but with far superior low-altitude capability. With the Flat Face acquisition radar, the Low Blow tracking radar and the Squat Eye height finder, the Sa-3 filled that gap below the Sa-2 envelope. The Low Blow and Squat Eye antennas could be mast-mounted to give them the ability to "see" over trees and low hills. The Sa-3 was not as widely used in Vietnam as the Sa-2 because the system was not as "robust", tending to be finicky and unreliable in less than ideal conditions.

The Kit:   You get 3 sprues, one for the launcher assembly, two for the missiles. Actually, the missile sprue is the same one, with 2 missiles per sprue, for the total of 4.

[review image] The parts are white plastic which is neither brittle nor overly flexible. The sprue to part connection is not up to what you expect from current Japanese kits, but considering the subject matter and price, these are easily overlooked. Are we craftsmen or assemblers?
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This is one half of the elevating hydraulic cylinder. The collars go clear around the part, and some care is needed to remove the connector from the part without damaging the collars.

Assembly:   This is pretty straightforward. The pictorial step-by-step instructions lead you through what needs to be done in a logical sequence, building the launcher base first, followed by the missile rails and elevation hardware, and joining them. The missiles are then assembled, and the finish, joining the missiles to the launch rails.

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The kit parts did not always fit exactly, and test fitting and slight modification was usually necessary. Here the middle fin on the missile was a little too wide to fit the slot. Fortunately, it was the work of only a minute to file the fin's tab to fit the missile's slot. I had to do this on 2 fins per missile, 4 missiles, except where the slot was either flashed over at one end, or was slightly too short, which required a little file work on the slot.

Painting:   I used Model Master enamels. The color callout was for a "khaki" launcher with white/dark grey missiles. This was contradicted by the box art, which showed an olive green launcher with red/white missiles. I compromised by doing the launcher in green and the missiles in the white/dark grey scheme. The launcher was easy to paint; all one color, except for the silver hydraulic arm on the elevating mechanism. The missiles were a little more difficult, with the masking of the fins being a little more of a chore.

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Decals:   I did the decals before I mounted the missiles on the launcher. There are no markings for the launcher. After spraying the missiles with a coat of Future, I was ready to begin. I have had some bad experiences with the quality of decals from Eastern Europe, but these were quite OK. The decals had no color, only black and clear. They were cleanly printed. They come off the backing sheet nicely, and responded well to the mixture of water, Elmer's Glue and Micro Sol I use under decals. The decals allowed me to move them, but once I touched them with a tissue, they pretty much stayed put. The decal instructions show 1 missile seen from 4 different points. This worked out nicely, as I could put on 1 or 2 decals, then move on to do the same on to the other missiles, until I had all 4 done, with my experience increasing on each one. By the time I had finished 4, the first was ready to be handled, albeit gently to apply the next decals. My biggest hassle here was determining what point of view the first picture was at, as this determined the position of all following decals, and while the missiles look round, they have cable runs on the sides which can interfere with the decal.

Overall Assessment:   [review image]
Well, there it is. That's a M-1008 pickup truck, which is a standard Chevy 1/2 ton sitting next to it, to give scale.

And a final mystery. The photographs I found of Sa-3s on the web show an extra pair of fins on the missile. But the kit doesn't have them. And neither do the scale drawings I found. Hmmmm. I include these for your edification. Also, the people at Gran Limited are a lot closer to an Sa-3 battery than I am, and I doubt if their research would miss a detail as obvious as this one.

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Thanks to John Noack and Gran Limited for the opportunity to build something that's not "just a target".

About the Reviewer: Jim Pearsall has been building models since the 1950s, and joined IPMS back in the late 60s. It's about time his modeling skills got good enough to place at a local contest. And since he's retired, they have.

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