Flagman 1/350 K-3 “November” Class Submarine
The Soviet Union entered the era of nuclear submarines in 1955, when the first submarine of the Project 627 Kit (Whale) Class was laid down at Shipyard 402, Sever Machine Building Factory at Molotovsk. Powered by two pressurized water reactors, the first ship of the class, K-3 Leninskiy Komsomol, was launched on August 9, 1957. The following boats of the class were upgraded to 627A status, which are distinguishable by a chin sonar dome. The sole 627 boat and eight 627A boats served in the Northern Fleet, while the Pacific Fleet had four 627A boats.
A single 627A boat was lost at sea, the K-8. Commissioned on August 31, 1960, the K-8 had a reactor incident two months later, but survived that and soldiered on for nearly a decade. On April 12, 1970, the K-8 sank in the Bay of Biscay as a result of fire. The K-3 and K-11 also had reactor incidents during their service careers. Other achievements of the 627 Class submarine include being the first Soviet submarine to reach the North Pole (four years after the United States achieved that goal). In 1968, a November Class submarine managed to keep pace with a US task force centered around the USS Enterprise that was traveling at 31 knots.
Although capable of high speeds and packing a powerful punch, these early Soviet nuclear submarines were also noisy, much more so than the diesel submarines they were replacing. Additionally, their sonar systems were geared towards surface detection rather than submarine detection, which allowed US and NATO submarines to follow the November Class submarine fairly easily, and without much risk of counter-detection. Still, the November proved to be a valuable asset to the Soviet fleet, and remained in service until the late 1980s.
In recent years, several kit manufacturers have tackled Soviet submarines in 1/350, with the result that there are far more Soviet submarines in injection plastic than American types. This is great news for submarine modelers, as most of these kits are quite good. The Flagman 1/350 November Class submarine is no exception, and the level of research put into the kit is admirable. The kit is molded in black plastic, with a pair of clear blue stands provided for display. A small decal sheet provides basic markings such as depth markers, as well as individual markings for three different boats. While I have not seen the Zvezda kit personally, it would appear that both the Flagman and Zvezda kits are the same plastic.
The kit is molded in black plastic, which on the surface seems like a logical choice for a submarine that is overall black. However, a gray plastic would do better, as it is easier to determine coverage of the black paint, when you get to that point. As most will likely want to primer this model, that is a moot point, especially if you primer it with Mr. Surfacer (which I would recommend due to the irregular texture found on the main hull pieces). The hull is molded in two main pieces, with two separate upper decking sections. This assembly method does an excellent job of capturing the flat-topped hull design of the November class submarines.
For the sail, there are two options provided, one for the Project 627 K-3 submarine, and one for the Project 627A submarines. All of the various antennae and periscopes are included, while the modeler will have to scratch the railing around the base of the sail. The instructions are quite clear on the positioning of this railing, and capture the differences between the 627 and 627A boats. Also for the 627A submarines is the extra sonar dome for the lower hull. However, this appears to be undersized, based on this photo of K-42. That said, I do not know if this fairing differed from sub to sub, and it could be that the K-42 had a larger dome than the earlier boats. It could also be retouching by censors, distortion from the lens, or any number of things. Whether it is worth the effort to build a new dome or not I'll leave up to the individual modeler.
The main submarine is made up of fourteen major parts, so with careful assembly this model could be ready for painting in a day. For the K-3, the finish is overall black, while for the K-118 it is black on the upper surface and red brown below the waterline. The additional markings for K-42 are given only for the sail, so it is not known if the hull coloration matches that of the other 627A boat, the K-118, or the overall black of the K-3. The decals include silver decals for the various sonar domes. These decals have an underlying grid that does an excellent job of capturing the effect found on the real submarines. Each option has different sail details, from numbers to window patterns, and the instructions do an excellent job of detailing these differences.
This is an excellent model of the 627/627A submarine, and on first glance appears to be pretty accurate. Its low price and interesting subject matter will make it popular with submarine modelers. Now all we need are some good kits of the Echo-I and Echo-II in 1/350.