Alanger 1/400 Nuclear Icebreaker "Arktika"
KIT #: ?
REVIEWER: Frank Spahr


 The former Soviet Union with her extensive arctic territory and strategic and economic interests was one of the world´s leading builders and operators of icebreakers. Already in 1959, the huge „Lenin“  was built, the world´s first icebreaker with nuclear propulsion. Since then, another nine nuclear-powered icebreakers have been built. Six of them belong to the „Arktika“ - class, the others are the container freighter „Sevmorput“ and the riverine icebreakers „Taimyr“ and „Vaigach“. The obvious advantage of nuclear propulsion is the much extended endurance; the Arktikas are used to keep the northern passage around Russia navigable throughout the winter. Apart from that, they are used for scientific expeditions. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some of the vessels have also taken passengers on arctic cruises, sometimes right to the North Pole. For many years they were operated by the Murmansk Shipping Company, until state company Rosatom took over control in 2008. That year, two of the vessels were decommissioned.

 Specifications (Wikipedia) 

Length:                                                         148 m

Width:                                                            30 m

Draught:                                                       11 m

Height from keel to masttop:                             55 m

Displacement:                                                         23.000 t

Powerplant:                                                             2 OKA-900A Reactors @ 171 MW,  75.000 hp on three shafts

Crew:                                                             appr. 150, appr. 100 passengers

The vessels have a double hull, made from steel of up to 48 mm (about 1.75 in) thickness. Water ballast may be trimmed between the hull shells to ease icebreaking. A water jet system further enhances icebreaking capabilities. The vessels can break ice moving ahead as well as astern. As they have no reactor cooling system, they may only be used in cold waters – hence they can´t be relocated from the Arctic through the Tropics. Typically, only one reactor is used at any given time, leaving the other as reserve power plant. The vessels are designed and equipped to stay at sea for seven and a half months, the duration of a typical winter season. Nuclear refueling will be necessary every four  years. The vessels have one or two helicopters plus various boats, amongst them up to four inflatable boats. To improve crew comfort during the long deployments, they are equipped with swimming pool, sauna, cinema and a gym. The ship´s restaurant also has a bar. Some vessels have a library and at least one has a volley ball court. The latest vessel, „50 Let Pobedy“ („50 years victory“) is markedly different from earlier units; her hull is longer and the hull form has been improved.

 NS Arktika

Arktika was commissioned in 1975 as lead ship of the class. On 17 August, 1977, she reached the North Pole as the first surface vessel. In the late 1990ies she was modernized, reaching an impressive 1,000,000 nautical miles after 30 years of service in 2005. A fire on board in 2007 led to her eventual decommissioning in 2008. She is slated to be scrapped.


Alanger reissued Maquette´s ancient kit of the Arktika in 2007. Since then, the company failed, but kits are available here and there (I know of one gathering dust in my LHS). The roomy and strong box contains three sprues of medium grey styrene, with hardly any flash – at least in my case. Everything looks very sturdy, and the hull looks capable of breaking the layer of ice to by found in your average whisky on the rocks. Upon measuring hull length, it is to scale. I did not take any further measurements.

Portholes are cleanly molded, but there are no hawseholes. The icebreaker bow is nicely rendered, but there are no more hull details. The vessel´s name and nuclear insignia are rendered in raised detail. Sprue attachment points are rather strong and crude. The decks have rather crude raised details and molded on anchor chains, the helipad is rendered in raised detail, too. Some parts are molded really nicely detailed (such as the launch), others are really crude, like the almost unrecognizable helicopter, the inclined  ladders and the lattice masts. Given the age of the molds, this is virtually inevitable. Most of the numerous windows are nicely shaped, only the bridge windows (of all things!) are anything but rectangular. Ejector pin marks can be found in numerous and sometimes pretty nasty places.

The watertight doors are provided as individual parts. This is helpful as it saves the modeler the effort of sanding the crude parts off. Luckily some faint marks on the bulkheads give an idea of where to place the PE parts, as the very poor instruction sheet isn´t particularly helpful. The weakest point of the kit, this instruction sheet is light years behind other Russian manufacturers´ offerings. The painting guide is especially poor and doesn´t offer any manufacturer info, just basic colours. Whereas the Arktikas formerly had buff or ochre superstructures, more recent images show brighter orange shades. One of the later vessels, „Jamal“, moreover sports what must be the world´s largest sharkmouth around her bow. As in anything regarding this kit, the modeler needs to research and devise their own solutions for the paint issue. I know of no specific PE sets, and with the kit OOP the chances are really slim that any manufacturer will embark on such a project. Alanger has not added the decals of the old Maquette kit, but then all the markings are provided in raised detail already ...


Several things were clear from the outset – I would present Arktika in a diorama setting, plowing through the ice, and I wanted to spruce the dated, yet still attractive kit up a bit. So I looked for convenient PE set and came up with

-                     my PE spares box, which is a folder with numerous sheet protectors

-                     Lion Roar´s 1:700 set of Soviet Radars

-                     Saemann´s 1:350-400 four bar railing (I needed two full sets, equaling a full six feet of railings!)

-                     GMM´s 1:700 set for Japanese Cruisers and Destroyers 

I started with assembling the hull, filling and sanding where needed. The hawseholes were opened and the portholes redrilled. As far as possible, the superstructure was prefabricated in subassemblies. This necessitated grinding the massive bulwarks away, redrilling the portholes, and a lot of filling and sanding. To get the portholes in alignment, Tamiya tape was used as a guide. The bridge windows were carefully cleaned up using needle files. On the deck, the massive molded on anchor chains were removed.

 Building the diorama

 Working with standard picture frames to fit into my transport box, I needed to trim down the hull. So I took a diamond disc in a power tool (watch out for your fingers working with that one) and made a cut through the hull. The picture frame was filled first with Styrofoam (to save weight) and the actual ice surface was made from plaster. These days, I would rely solely on foam board, last year I wasn´t that far. The vessel was kept removable for the time being. The ice surface was painted with „polar white“ wall paint, obviously nothing else would do. The disturbed water behind the vessel was crafted from acrylic gel, pieces of plaster and some effective painting. The clear acrylic gel adds some depth to the sea. After completing the vessel, she was glued into place using acrylic gel.


Before I could do that, I needed to actually build the vessel. All in all, there were no major fit issues save the bridge where it is glued to the hull. Not knowing how to correct that, I decided to leave things as they were – also leaving a skeleton in my closet when watching the vessel from certain angles. After the serious sawing and grinding and filling I had done, now was the time to add detail to the pretty crude-looking hulking beast of a ship. If you see crew figures, you´ll realize that the Arktikas are really massive vessels.

Working after what images I had found and those that were provided by my modeling friend Lars Scharff (thanks, Lars!) I replaced the watertight doors with some of the numerous leftovers from WEM´s HMS Hood set. The kit instruction from hell was oftentimes pored over with deeply furrowed brows, especially where it came to construction and placement of subassemblies. The two masts with all their platforms and antennas were especially demanding in that respect – they are small kits in their own rights. I ended up using parts for Japanese aircraft catapults, searchlight towers, scrap PE, wire and stock styrene. The very fiddly radar arrays were cobbled together from the abovementioned Lion Roar set. The cranes were detailed using scrap PE, such as pieces of 1:350 railing and also the very useful Scheuer&Strüver 1:250 set with hooks, pulleys and other detail parts. Numerous inclined ladders by Saemann were used, along with the large amounts of railings. The ship´s boats were detailed a bit, too, in that way. The bridge roof received a more to scale bulwark from CA-infused paper with some scrap PE.


 I had collected and printed all the reference images I could find on the net; moreover I had recorded a TV feature on the Sevmorput container freighter and saved several stills. So I got some idea of the colours of these hard-worked ships. With other projects there´s the imminent danger of overdoing wear and tear, but not here. The vessel was therefore primed with a reddish-brown enamel, then sprayed hull red, and after masking the hull above the waterline was sprayed various shades of dark grey – not black. The hull was then weathered liberally using artist´s oil paints and pastel chalks, until the hull looked credibly rust-streaked and worn. A white „mustache“ was added to the bow as per reference images, it´s probably frozen spray. The decks were painted Revell Aqua Color #48 green. The superstructure was sprayed dark grey to tone down the Vallejo Amaranth Red used later. With these three intensive colours of dark grey, orange and green, the vessel contrasts strongly with the pure white ice and looks even more massive. The superstructure was also heavily weathered, mostly with artist´s oil paints as washes and drybrushing, plus some pastel chalks. The ship´s name at the hull was made using dry transfers, the nameplate on the superstructure was designed using graphics software, printed out and glued to sheet styrene. The vessel was rigged using black stretched sprue. An uneven clear satin coat blended things in and hid most glue spots and other embarrassing things. The open windows were filled with white glue, the simplest glazing money can buy in my book. A few Preiser figures were placed around the bridge.

 After gluing the vessel to the base, I added two polar bears I had made from scratch. I had thought a while if and what to add to the majestic vessel plowing through the ice, and the bears seemed just right, also to add some sense of scale to the diorama. After looking at numerous images of polar bears, I began with a skeleton of thin square styrene stock, cut and glued to the approximate shape. Dental casting wax was added, sculpting the bears´ bodies until I was satisfied with the shape. Finally the bears were painted white with black spots for the eyes and nostrils.


This turned out to be much more fun than originally expected upon receiving the kit. I particularly enjoyed finding solutions without having prefabricated parts, and I really like the stark shape of the vessel breaking the ice. Anyone may decide how far they modify the original kit, it´s going to be fun anyway!


Frank Spahr

September 2009

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