2S23 Nona-SVK 120-mm Self-Propelled Howitzer/Mortar System Conversion from SP Designs

By John Lester

The Vehicle

The 120-mm 2S23 self-propelled howitzer/mortar system is the latest in a long line of self-propelled light artillery systems to spring from Soviet/Russian design bureaus. It's essentially a modified version of the turret used with the 2S9 system (an earlier SPG based on a stretched BMD chassis) mounted on a modified BTR-80 (8 x 8) armored personnel carrier chassis.

The all-welded steel turret of the 2S23 sports three electrically-operated smoke dischargers either side of the turret firing forwards and a raised commander's cupola towards the rear of the turret on the left side. An infrared searchlight is mounted on the forward part of the commander's cupola, which is also provided with vision devices. Forward of the cupola is a 7.62-mm pintle-mounted machine gun (5.56mm on export versions).

The 2A60 120-mm main armament has a maximum range of 8000m with a maximum rate of fire of 6 to 8 rds/min. In addition to firing former Soviet 120-mm mortar bombs, the 120-mm weapon of the 2S23 can also fire mortar bombs fired by the French Thomson-Brandt MO-120-RT-61 mortar system in use with many countries around the world.

Although the chassis of the 2S23 is similar to that of the BTR-80 it does have a number of differences. All the ports and their associated vision devices have been removed, as have the side doors between the second and third road wheels, and the commander's roof-mounted infrared searchlight. The vehicle has a different arrangement of roof hatches and a door is fitted in the lower part of the hull between the second and third wheels as an emergency exit. The 2S23 retains the amphibious characteristics of the original BTR-80 and has a single water-jet at the rear of the hull with a trim vane mounted on the front of the vehicle. This folds back onto the glacis plate when not required.

Other standard equipment on the 2S23 includes an NBC system; night vision equipment and a central tire pressure regulation system that allows the driver (in theory) to adjust the tire pressure to suit the type of ground being crossed.

What You Get

Just as I am a sucker for unique aircraft conversions, I have a soft spot for armor that not everyone else will have sitting on their shelves. So, when a friend pointed out SP Designs work, I had to check it out. SP Designs is a garage kit in the Ukraine with an interest in modern Russian/CIS armor. His kits are available in the US through Sergeant at Arms Models.

The conversion for the 2S23 came in a Novo 1:72 Yak-6 box with a photocopy of the actual vehicle taped to it. Interesting. Inside were 13 resin and 7 white metal pieces plus a rudimentary instruction sheet. There are no decals. The set is intended for the DML or Italeri 1/35 BTR-80 kits.

The resin parts provide a new upper hull, turret, gun, escape hatches, smoke throwers and searchlight. All hatches are molded in the closed position, which is fine as neither the conversion nor the base kits provide any interior. The resin is fairly well cast, with a fair amount of pits and mold seams. Cleanup will take some careful work with a scraper and putty, but should be more tedious than difficult. Detail is decent, with only the main gun tube looking like it needs work to make presentable (my copy is slightly ovoid and has a large seam on top). Dry fitting the pieces to the DML chassis shows surprisingly good fit - very little in the way of shims or filler should be needed.

The white metal bits make up the commander's machine gun, plus an antenna. They're nicely cast, and require little clean up. They look fine, except the machinegun itself, which is very, very simplified. I've seen references to both a 7.62mm and 5.56mm (NATO) weapon being mounted (presumably, the 5.56mm is for export versions). If my failing memory serves, both types should be available in the DML Modern Soviet Weapons set, if not in the vehicle mounted form, then at least as something you can easily convert. You could even get away with using the old 12.7mm DShK from the DML "Chinese Volunteers" set, as news footage I've seen from Chechnya shows a number of vehicles that should be sporting smaller weapons fitted with DShK's and even improvised splinter shields. Funny how actual combat produces such mods...

The instructions, such as they are, come on one side of one sheet of paper. You get a diagram showing all the parts and another showing basically where they go. They recommend you make handholds from brass wire (6 total are needed), but the parts are available in plastic on the DML sprues. Painting notes amount to one sentence: use the kit instructions. The photos I've seen - all black and white - suggest that these vehicles are standard Russian armor green overall. How simple is that?


The set costs $32 + shipping from SAAM, which I consider a fair enough price given the nature of the set (i.e. low-volume garage-production from halfway around the globe). If your tastes run to newer Russian/CIS armor, and you have some experience with resin conversions, I can recommend it. Modelers with little conversion/scratchbuilding experience might be frustrated with the shapeless machine gun, mold seams and the like, however.

Review copy courtesy of me, myself and I. Thank you, me!

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