X-Craft 1/72 Alexeyev SM-1 Ekranoplan

KIT #: 72001
PRICE: $40.00 direct from www.xcraftmodels.com
DECALS: None required
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Resin kit with vac windscreen

HISTORY

Rostislav Evgenievich Alexeev (December 18, 1916, Novozybkov, Bryansk Oblast, Imperial Russia February 9, 1980, Nizhny Novgorod, USSR) was a designer of highspeed shipbuilding. He invented and designed the world's firstEkranoplans. His work has been compared to that of A.N. Tupolev in aviation and S.P. Korolev in space flight.

 Hydrofoil ships

Alexeev was the first to create high speed ships on the so-called low submerged underwater wings, the most popular ones beings passenger ships "Raketa", "Volga", "Meteor", "Kometa", "Burevestnik" with passenger capacity up to 150 persons and cruising speed up to 100 km/h.

 Ekranoplans

Alexeev revolutionised the ship-building industry (though in secrecy) by inventing crafts that use ground effect, whereby (in very simple terms) a wing traveling close to the ground is provided with extra lift by the "cushion" of air compressed under it - thereby enabling a combination of greater aircraft weight for less power and/or enhanced fuel economy.

The KM or "korabl-maket", the largest ekranoplan ever built, was one of the first very successful vehicles designed by Alexeev and built by his Central Hydrofoil Design Bureau. The KM was intended as a test platform to examine the possibilities of the "Wing In Ground" (WIG) effect.

The KM, powered by eight Dobryin VD-7 turbojets on the front of the fuselage, and two on the tail for extra thrust during take-off, first took to the air in October 1966. During its extensive test career, it was continually modified. The wingspan was altered to between 32m and 40m, and the length varied from 92m to 106m.

The KM crashed in 1980, apparently due to the pilot ill-advisedly attempting to take off without giving it full throttle. An attempt to recover the leviathan from the depths was thwarted by its vast weight. While the KM programme was ongoing, Alexeev began work on a medium-sized ekranoplan suitable for military transportation duties. Dubbed A-90 "Orlyonok" ("Eaglet"), the 140 tonne, 58 metre long aircraft had its maiden flight in 1972. The A-90 boasted two turbojets and one turboprop engine which propelled it to a speed of 400 km/h for 1,500 km at a cruise altitude of 5-10 m.

His first ekranoplan, the SM-1 (Scale Model 1 and subject of this kit), first flew in July of 1961. The design became the standard for all similar ekranoplan or 'wing in ground-effect' (WIG) vehicles. Initial flight testing showed that the concept worked when in close proximity of the ground, but this particular vehicle was not as seaworthy as hoped and most testing took place over snow. Thought effective, the tandem wing configuration resulted in high landing and take-off speeds and the design was dropped for future designs. As often happens to prototypes, the SM-1 flew out of ground effect and on return, impacted the ice over which it was flying, effectively destroying the craft.  

THE KIT

This is X-craft's first kit, from what I can determine, and is very much like one would see from what are know as 'garage kits', where each kit is hand cast. The white resin is really quite nicely done, though all the parts will require clean-up of mold attachment points and the inevitable flash. The kit has few panel lines and those that are extant are well done for these sorts of kits. The general detail is a bit on the 'soft' side, but again, is well done and better than most.

The kit is pretty well free of any major molding defects. I found no evidence of the mass of pin holes and voids I've found on some other resin kits. There are some surface imperfections in the way of very shallow depressions and a few surface 'pips' that will need to be attended to once the parts are removed from the pour stubs. A single vacuformed windscreen is provided. I'd like to see a spare included when vac bits are in a kit as invariably, I'll botch the first attempt!

The instructions are well drawn and on a single sheet of paper. On one side is a brief history and an exploded view of all the parts. On the other side is a three view (front, top, and left side) in 1/72 scale of the craft so that we can be sure that the bits are in the right location. The craft is in an overall light grey with heavy staining on the tail section from the turbojet exhaust. The X-craft web site has one of the two known photos of this craft and a couple of build up images to help out.

CONCLUSIONS

I love stuff like this. It is an interesting and unusual subject, the kit is really well done and it will bring some commentary when you show it to friends and at events. As it is a garage kit, it would be best to have a bit of experience with resin before tackling this one, mainly because of the additional prep work needed. However, it is a pretty much simple kit so should provide no real problems.

REFERENCES

http://en.wikipedia.org

Instruction sheet

November 2008

My thanks to www.xcraftmodels.com for the review kit. You can order yours today from the link to the left. In fact, I recommend you all get one so that they can provide more interesting kits like this.

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

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