by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundThe R-5sss grew from a demand from the Soviet Army in the early 1930s for an assault aircraft tasked with direct support over the battlefield, subduing enemy artillery and cavalry. An early attempt to fill the role was made with the R-5Sh, mounting 4 x PV-1 machine guns in wing containers. Drawing from experience with the 'Sh, the R-5sss was fitted with 4 of the new fast-firing ShKaS machine guns within the lower wings - a neater installation offering twice the fire-power of the earlier weapons. Additionally, the 'sss could carry 20 x 8-10 Kg bombs in a small bomb-bay beneath the cockpit floor and 2 x 250 Kg bombs under the wings. For defence, another ShKaS machine gun was fitted on a flexible mount.
The R-5 was really already obsolescent by the early 1930s, but the 'sss variant soldiered on throughout the decade and into WW2. Along the way, it served with distinction with Republican forces in the Spanish civil War, took part in the border clashes between the USSR and Japan in the late 30s and participated in the Winter War against Finland. Large numbers the remaining aircraft were wiped out in the opening onslaught of Operation Barbarossa, but the survivors regrouped (along with the ubiquitous U-2) for night harassment missions against the Nazi invaders.
The kiRest Models' R-5sss arrives in a long, narrow top-opening box adorned with an attractive picture of a Spanish Civil War aircraft and colour photos of an impressive built-up model. The box is a little bit flimsy, but it was safely packed inside a stouter package from Neomega (Rest Models' sole UK distributor). Before going any further, I really must compliment Neomega for their superb mail-order service - I ordered the kit on-line on a Sunday and it arrived the following Tuesday!
Having bought two previous Rest Models kits, I was almost looking forward to an "Oh! Wow!" reaction when I opened the box, but I was still caught by surprise by the contents! The first thing you see is an absolutely gorgeous top wing that is so long that it only fits the box diagonally! With a wingspan of almost 13", this is going to be a surprisingly big model...
The kit consists of:
55 x pale grey-green resin parts
59 x etched brass parts
A sheet of clear film with windscreens, instrument panels and a template
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
The casting is quite superb. With just a couple of exceptions, all the parts are supplied without casting-plinths, so clean-up will be quick and easy. The surface detail consists of finely scribed panel lines, some raised panels and fasteners, and some of the best-depicted fabric surfaces you'll find. Even the smallest and most delicate parts were perfectly formed and I found just one tiny air-bubble in the whole kit.
Construction BreakdownI always try to include at least a basic test fit in a review, but the R-5sss has defeated me in this respect. The parts breakdown is quite unusual with the fuselage being built-up from separate sides, top and base to form a box. It might be a departure from normal procedure but, as usual, Rest Models have designed everything very logically to depict the slab-sided fuselage of the original aircraft and incorporate some excellent sidewall detail.
The nose is a separate hollow casting into which fit two banks of exhausts. The cockpit features a number of etched parts - instrument panels, rudder pedals and perforated back for the pilot's seat. There's no seat harness, as such, but a nice set of etched buckles to allow you to make your own from foil or tape.
The gunner's position is rather simpler, with a few instruments and a bench seat, but a very neat pair of alternative gun mounts are provided for a beautifully cast ShKaS machine gun, complete with etched supports and sight.
Moving to the exterior, the lower wings are simple butt-joints to the fuselage, and a scrap diagram shows the correct 2° dihedral required. This is a kit which will benefit from being assembled in a jig to keep every true and square. The lower wing-root fairings will allow plenty of space for a supporting spar if you think it's needed.
The lovely top wing features separate ailerons and is surprisingly heavy, so it's a relief to see that that Rest Models have cast the interplane struts around a metal core. In a very neat idea, the kit includes a clear template to line up the cabane struts (this is something other manufacturers could do well to "borrow"), as it allows the delicate struts set in position without the weight of the wing.
The undercarriage is also cast around a metal core, with a sturdy axle to take the weight of the model. Amazingly, the miniature unit is slightly "sprung" as is a definite improvement over the white-metal part provided in the earlier Polikarpov I-3 kit (Rest Models have informed me that a similar resin-metal u/c is now included with the I-3). Rounding off the undercarriage, the kit includes a choice of spatted or plain wheels.
Rest Models have saved arguably the best 'till last in the shape of two exquisite 250 Kg bombs and their racks. With resin bodies and etched fins, plus delicate racks... they provide the eye-popping detail exactly where everyone will look...
Instructions and decalsOne thing that sets Rest Models above other short-run manufacturers is the quality of their instructions - they are a professionally drawn to a standard that many "majors" would envy. The assembly is broken down into manageable stages which do a good job of explaining a reasonably complex assembly. That bane of many bi-plane kits - the rigging - is illustrated and interior colours are keyed to the diagrams.
Decals are provided for 6 aircraft, thin, with a matt finish and minimal carrier film:
1. R-5sss - No. 3 Sqn., 15th Attack Group, Spanish Republican Air force, 1936
2. R-5sss - 1st Night Sqn., Spanish Republican Air force, 1937
3. R-5sss - No. 1 Sqn., 15th Attack Group, Spanish Republican Air force, 1936
4. R-5sss - 15th Attack Group, Spanish Republican Air force, 1937
5. R-5sss - Winter War, 1939-40
6. R-5sss - Kiev Military District, 81st Air Brigade, 1930s
ConclusionClever design and perfect casting casting confirm Rest Models' position in the Premier League of resin producers. To be fair, this isn't a kit for beginners - but bi-plane lovers with a few Eduard and Roden kits under their belts should have no problem and will risk catching the Resin Bug! Once again, Rest Models have produced a superb kit that will stop people in their tracks at any model show at a price that undercuts their rivals by a considerable margin - thoroughly recommended.
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