Tamiya 1/48th JS-2 model 1944 ChKZ

KIT #: 32571
PRICE: $41.00
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Jonathan Prestidge


The JS-2 was an evolution of the original Russian monster tank, the KV-1. When it first entered combat on the Eastern Front, the KV-1 gave the Germans fits since it was all but unstoppable. Though poor usage by the Russian Army minimized the effect of the KV-1, it and the T-34 inspired the German High Command to push for larger, better-armed and armored tanks like the Tiger and Panther. The Russians responded to the newer German machines with the JS-2. Its massive, 122mm cannon dwarfed the Tiger’s 88mm weapon. However, even though the JS-2 had the biggest gun on the block, the 122mm ammunition was a 2 part type, resulting in a slow rate of fire and limited internal ammunition storage, both of which were liabilities in tank vs. tank warfare. More than just Main Battle Tanks, the JS-2s were also used as assault weapons against German fortifications and functioned in the infantry support role.

 From the kit instructions: “In the Spring of 1944, Tiger I tanks on the Eastern Front battled Russian tanks capable of an impressive 3km firing range, and whose armor caused 88mm shells to bounce off like harmless stones. This new JS-2 was the result of the Russians’ first encounter with the Tiger I in 1942, which convinced them that a new tank would be required to regain armored supremacy. The result was the JS-85, which, despite having a hull optimized to deflect enemy hits with 120mm thick armor and an 85mm gun, still did not have enough firepower. To solve this problem, the JS-85 hull was fitted with a modified long-barrel 47.9 caliber A-19 122mm gun, which could fire a 25kg armor-piercing shell, to create the JS-122. With its powerful gun, the JS-122 could penetrate the Tiger’s front armor at 1km and destroy the Panzer IV at 1.5km. The tank’s name was changed to JS-2 as an anti-spy measure and production began in December 1943. The JS-2 first saw action in April 1944 against Tigers of s. Pz.Abt.503 in northern Ukraine, and in June, four JS-2-equipped heavy tank regiments were involved in operation Bagration. Learning from combat experience, the stepped hull and front hatch were replaced by a sloped front glacis and the left part of the gun mantlet was lengthened. These improved versions with distinctive cast hull were produced by the Chelyabinsk Kirov Factory (ChKZ) and went on to lead the drive to Berlin in April 1945, becoming a symbol of the Russian victory.”


Tamiya’s 1/48th JS-2 is kit No. 71 in their Military Miniatures series. The instructions are well printed and easy to follow. The engineering of the Tamiya JS-2 is superb, resulting in beautiful detail without difficult construction or an excessive parts count. The kit is crisply molded in green plastic and there is almost no flash on the kit parts. One commander figure is included. The molding of the figure is good. The kit decals are thin, in register, and provide markings for four Soviet Armor Green tanks - two tanks with white ID stripes on their turrets from Berlin, April 1945, one Czechoslovak tank, and one Polish tank. There are metal chassis weights and nice link and length tracks with the longer portions pre-formed, minimizing assembly time.


This was only my second tank build. As such, I started by carefully reviewing the kit instructions. I decided to follow the kit instructions to the letter up thru step 9, assembling the chassis and tracks followed by the upper hull. I skipped only a portion of step 10 (attaching the upper hull to the chassis and attaching the tow cables) to more easily facilitate painting and weathering. The turret was then assembled per steps 11 thru 13 in the instructions. The excellent fit of the parts, minimal cleanup and excellent engineering really made for a rewarding and painless build. After about six hours of building, I had the three main components (chassis, upper hull and turret) ready for paint.


It is difficult to find a color scheme for the JS-2 that is anything other than Soviet Armor Green. I went with the most colorful of the kit markings - option “A”, a JS-2 with the 7th Independent Guards Heavy Tank Brigade, April 1945, Berlin. First, everything was airbrushed PolyScale acrylic Dark Green FS34079 (a good match for Soviet Armor Green) thinned with Future. Thinning with Future helped the paints spray better and the satin finish was better suited to washes/filters. Once the entire model had been sprayed, I added some PolyScale Israel Khaki to the Dark Green and sprayed various panels on the upper surfaces of the upper hull and turret. I did this to give some tonal variation to the Dark Green. 

I used the excellent, kit-supplied marking guide as my primary reference for hand brushing the ID stripes. These stripes were hand applied in the field and brush painting them is much more realistic than masking and airbrushing them. The tracks were brush-painted dark gray next. I used a tooth pick to pull the tracks away from the idlers while I painted them. They were dry-brushed with Testors oil-based silver prior to weathering.

Next came the fun part – weathering! I have always enjoyed seeing dirty, muddy, stained and faded armor models. I started the weathering process by applying a thin, black, soapy water filter/wash. I went section by section, using a Q-tip to remove some of the wash and to streak it unevenly. I then dry-brushed some thinned Dark Green to accent detail and further vary tone. The tracks and chassis were strategically dry brushed with several layers of differing shades of brown and tan paint to approximate dusty, muddy European conditions in which these tanks operated. Good pictures of actual JS-2s proved invaluable during the weathering process.


The upper hull was glued to the chassis and the turret was then added prior to decaling. I brush-painted several coats of Future in the areas where decals were to be applied. After letting the Future dry overnight, I started to apply the kit decals. They were very thin and very sticky, not wanting to move once they were placed on the model. Having had a similar experience on a Tamiya Matilda, I was prepared this time. I wet the area where the decal was to be placed and made sure that my first placement of the decal on the model was as close to the final resting place as possible, therefore requiring minimal adjustment. Once the decals were in place they settled down with no silvering and responded well to an application of MicroSol.

I added the tow cables and commander figure at this time. I then air-brushed Poly Scale Flat Clear mixed with a few drops of Hazel Tan over the entire tank. I used pastels to further dirty the JS-2. Finally, I added thickened brown paint scraped from the lids of my paint containers with a toothpick to depict mud on the tracks & fenders. Final detailing was then completed.


 Tamiya has hit another home run with this kit. From start to finish it took me less than 25 hours over the course of a week! Construction of the JS-2 was enjoyable and relaxing with no trouble spots to speak of. Tamiya’s smart engineering, terrific fit, beautiful moldings and nice decals, resulted in a great looking finished product. Weathering a monotone paint scheme was also a fun challenge. Although I’ve traditionally been an aircraft guy, I must admit that I really enjoyed Tamiya’s small scale JS-2. This would make a GREAT first armor kit! Highly recommended!   

Jonathan Prestidge

March 2014

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page