The Russian Project 971 "Shchuka-B" Akula class submarine was the replacement for the Project 671 Victor class submarine, with the first boat commissioned in 1984. Seven Akula submarines were built in the original design, followed by six improved variants between 1991 and 2009. A single Akula II, K-157 "Vepr", was built in 2005, and a single Akula III, K-335 "Gepard" in 2001. The new Borei SSBN was built from existing Akula II and Akula III hulls.
The Akula II was the first Russian submarine that was quieter than its US counterpart, at the time the Improved Los Angeles class. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, production of the Akula submarines slowed, but the type received a bit of a boost in 2008, when the K-152 "Nerpa" was leased to India as the INS Chakra. The Akula class submarine will be replaced by the new Project 885 Yasen class submarine, which currently has one boat in trials.
Hobby Boss continues to expand their 1/350 submarine line, and this latest release covers the Akula in nice detail. Previously, the Akula had been done by Alanger and Bronco, with the latter being a mish-mash of a standard Akula II and the sole Akula III. With this new kit from Hobby Boss, it looks like we might have a reasonably accurate Akula II. Molded in gray plastic, the kit features crisp surface detailing and finely recessed lines. A small fret of photoetch provides additional details, while the small decal sheet has all the minimal markings found on the Akula.
Construction is very straightforward, and the main assembly is constrained to a single page in the instructions. The hull is split into upper and lower halves, with the upper half incorporating the sail and horizontal tail fins. The retractable bow fins are separate single pieces, as is the lower rear fin. The upper rear fin is split into right and left halves, and features a separate rudder, while the large cooling scoops on the lower rear hull are also split into right and left halves.
For the finer details, this involves the propeller and the sail. The propeller comes in two forms: injection plastic and photoetch. The photoetch version requires you to trim the plastic blades off the hub and add the photoetch ones. While this results in thinner blades, the injection-molded version has the proper twist molded in place, and they're pretty thin as well. The other photoetch parts are definitely worth it, as they are the hatches for the sail. Plastic parts are always too thick for these, so having them in thin photoetch is just that much better.
For painting and markings, that's one of the big benefits of submarine models. Paint the bottom red, the top black. As simple as that sounds, though, to get something that looks more realistic you'll have to experiment with different shades of black. The decals provide the white waterline markings and other useful bits. The decals, being nothing but white, are simple but look to be well printed.
This is a nice addition to the growing Hobby Boss submarine line, and when built up will look every bit like the Akula. It's not perfect (for instance, the torpedo doors on the bow are not quite right in their scribing, and the limber holes are not quite the right shape), but it is better than the other two options in this scale. My thanks to Squadron for the review sample.