KIT:

 Revell 1/144 Ekranoplan A-90

KIT #

4609

PRICE:

$20.50

DECALS:

See review

REVIEW &
PHOTOS :

Scott Van Aken

NOTES:

Is this a weird kit or what!?

HISTORY

From out of the blue of the Eastern sky.... it's Sky King! Well, not really, but if ever there was a TV show 'what if' vehicle that came tolife, it would be the Ekranoplan! I had heard about these things back severalyears ago and would never have thought that someone would ever put one toplastic. Here's a quick synopsis of what it is taken from the instruction sheet:

TheSoviets were looking for a way to move a lot of men and materiel quickly overwater and other semi-smooth terrain. What they came up with was a very largeground effects vehicle the 'flew' a few feet above the surface. The benefit ofthis type of  transportation is that it is fast (around 500kph), 'flies'under most enemy radar, can carry a lot of cargo/troops, is much more fuelefficient than an aircraft, and can also travel some distance over land if thereare no real obstacles. I noticed on the completed kit that there seems to besome sort of beaching wheels under it which would allow it to move rather easilyon concrete surfaces.

The prototype Ekranoplan M-1 was firstdiscovered by US spy satellites enveloped in a cloud of spray while undergoingtrials on the Caspian Sea in the early 1970s. It was a much smaller (100 meterslong) technology demonstrator. It was envisioned that 120 of them would bebuilt, but in effect only four were built, one of which was a static testairframe. Of the other three, one was lost in an accident in Sept 1992 and theother two were used operationally until October 1993. What killed the projectwas the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the inability of any of the newstates to handle a large budget item like the Ekranoplan. I did manage to locatesome images of it thanks to a reader who sent in a few screen captures. I haveincluded them in this section so you can see the thing in action. As you notice,small it isn't!!!

THE KIT

First off, it is very gratifying to see that a major kit makerhas the foresight to produce a kit like this. Revell of Germany has been a verysurprising company and has given us as modelers a surprising array ofinteresting subjects over the last five years or so. I would never have dreamedthat this kit would ever have been made and it was with much anticipation that Iawaited its coming to the US after hearing of its release in Europe. Once theyhit the shelves, I immediately bought one (at retail price yet!).

It seems like Revell likes to spreadaround the molding of kits as this one is made in Denmark! Not exactly a placewell-known for producing model kits. What you do get is very typical ofRevell-Germany's more recent kits. It is molded in medium grey plastic (whichhas a sort of pebbly surface to it), and has the required engraved panel lines.There are no gimmicks to the kit and the only moving parts are the gun turretsand prop blades. One thing that is missing is a display stand. I would thinkthat a kit like this with no landing gear would warrant this now rare kitcomponent. Anyway, the parts are well molded and crisply done. There is someflash on a few bits as well as a few sink marks, these being mostly oppositealignment pins and are found on the fuselage, horizontal stabilizer and gunturrets. Care has been taken to engineer the kit so that mold release pinmarkings are either not at all present or are on sections of a part that willnot be seen once the kit is built.

I have been unable to show all the parts of the kit as they aretoo large for my scanner, but have shown the fuselage, a closeup of the nose andthe parts diagram from the instructions to give you an idea of what the 41 partslook like. There is one clear bit for the cockpit and no interior detailing atall as usually befits kits of this scale.

Instructions aretypical Revell AG in that they are on newsprint quality paper, have many pagesof warnings, and the usual drawings for the 23 construction and decaling steps.Colors given are generic names with Revell AG paint codes. Three of the colorscalled out must be mixed, which includes the overall color of the kit. 

The decal sheet is very nicely done andis in register. It is printed in Italy so will be of better quality than thosethat are usually found in Revell AG kits. They are semi-glossy and should workvery well indeed. There are two subjects on the sheet. Both from Kasplisk navalbase on the Caspian Sea in Dagestan, Russia. The one with the large eagle (whichI am sure is what most will build) is of the Soviet version while the other oneis the Russian version.

I have heard that this kit does not buildwell, however, one really never knows until one tries. It looks great on thesprues and with a minimal number of parts should be a relatively fast build. Itwill certainly bring comments wherever it is shown and is the kind ofinteresting and unusual subject that should sell very well.

CONSTRUCTION

"First starting with the cockpit". Well, not on thisone we won't because there isn't any. This is airliner scale you know, and wedon't have any cockpits! As some of you are aware of my penchant for initiallydisregarding instructions and getting right to doing subassemblies, that is whatI did. Those subassemblies were the wings, tailplanes, 'sponsons', gun turret,roof radar, and the large nose inlets.

It was pretty obvious thatthe nose inlets would need filler. It was equally as obvious that the plastic ofthis kit is rather soft and easily deformed. Reminds me of those many KP kits Ibuilt back in the 80s. So I installed the nose intakes minus the aft screens ineach fuselage half before tackling the seams in order to give them somestrength. I also installed the housings for the exhaust in each fuselage half aswell. These fit quite well and I was able to get that seam filled by havingplastic ooze out of it when glued in. This was then simply scraped of with ahobby knife.

The nose inlets were not so lucky. They reallyneeded a lot of filler and, due to their shape, were difficult to sand, thougheventually a reasonable job was managed. Then the aft screens were glued on andit was time to cement the fuselage halves together. There is what appears to bebeaching gear of some sort that fits in the lower center section. This was gluedin place. Then the rear prop assembly was glued together and installed in thetail. Finally the gun turret was set in place and the halves glued together.Immediately, the attachment post for the gun turret snapped off. Wonderful! Nowit will have to be glued in place.  The mounting posts are a bit too longand need to be trimmed down a bit or they will prevent a good join. Too late forme, but learn, grasshopper!

While the glue was drying on thefuselage, I cleaned up the wings, horizontal stabilizers and the wing tip 'sponsons'.Again, you need to be careful not to overdo it with this soft plastic. When thefuselage was dry, the cover section over the nose inlets was installed. The fitis not good as the part is too thick, but thanks to the soft plastic, it will beeasy to correct. The usual slather of filler was applied and the kit set asideto dry.

This nose section took a couple of putty applications.During all of this, the tailplanes were glued in place. Fit here was so-so aswell and it took quite a bit of filler to get a smooth join.  Once all thisputtying had been done, the radar set was glued in place. I then went to gluedown the gun turret, but when I tried to put the guns in the turret, the barrelssnapped off!! I glued the turret down anyway and will stretch some sprue toreplace the barrels. Final little bit was the 'stinger' radio antenna at therear of the A-90. Then it was off to the paint shop.

PAINT & DECALS

Other than some red trim around the  nose intakes and somemetallizer near the exhaust areas, this is basically a one color kit. Ratherthan mix up some paint, I went to see what I had that would be close. I settledon some Testors, Light Ghost Grey. It is pretty close to the color of theplastic itself, but is dark enough to match what is on the box art. A couple ofcoats and that was it!  After drying, the whole thing was given a coat ofFuture clear gloss acrylic. Not only is this a good base for the decals, but itwill also allow me to easily remove any overspray that will happen when I paintthe other colors with enamels.

Then it was time to do some detail painting. The prop waspainted white and when dry was masked off and the grey surround repainted. BurntIron Metallizer was painted on the engine exhausts. The background of the frontengine exhaust area as well as two smaller areas in the rear were painted withTitanium Metallizer. The radar dome was painted a dark grey, I think RLM 75, butdon't remember. The prop blades were painted USAAF Neutral Grey and the proptips with Japanese ID Yellow. Undoubtedly the most difficult part to paint werethe nose engine intakes. These had to have thin red edges and frankly, are notmy best work. No choice really but to use a brush and hope for the best!!Finally, the cockpit glass was snapped in place and brush painted.

Nextwere the decals. There really is no choice here. The Soviet markings with thebig eagle on the front are much more colorful than the later Russian ones. Firstthough, there are a myriad of other markings to put on. All but the cockpitwindows are represented with decals. The decals are rather flat and areimpervious to Microscale/Superscale setting solutions. However, Champ definitelymakes them sit up and take notice, causing them to crawl into every crevicethere is!! I had the most trouble with the prop blade de-icer boots (at least,that is what I think they are). They didn't like the Champ and a few of themdried rather oddly, being a bit shriveled. 

The final stepswere  gluing replacement barrels into the gun turret, as well as the intakevanes (which don't fit worth a hoot), and that was it!!

CONCLUSIONS

What can I say? It fits many of my criteria. It is fun to build,it is easy to paint, and it is a very unusual subject!! If I were to pick onething I didn't like about the kit, it would be the surface texture of the parts.It seems like the inside of the mold wasn't smooth at all. Parts have an oddcrosshatched design over the entire surface. The design is quite light, butwould call for some rather intense sanding to get rid of it.  Franklysanding down all the parts to get rid of it wasn't one of mychoices.  

It is a kit I can recommendto nearly everyone. It does require some filler, yet it is a kit that can alsobe slapped together in just a few hours if playing with it is a high priority!This will be an interesting kit to see in contests. Is it a plane or a boat??

June 2000

Review copy courtesy of me and my wallet! 

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