Sunday, December 11, 2011

Project: 1/35 Aer ASU-57

Accepted into service in 1951, the ASU-57 was an attempt by the Soviets to develop an airborne, air-droppable light AFV to support Soviet Airborne forces. While the 57mm Ch-51 cannon was more effective in the anti-tank role than the 76.2 D-56T cannon then arming the PT-76 tanks, it would stilll have had trouble dealing with heavier tanks and the like. In addition the armor protection was barely worthy of the term. Still, in an air-landing operation any tank is usually better than no tank, and the ASU-57 was successful for a number of years until replaced by the ASU-85 and ultimately the BMD-series of vehicles.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Warsaw Pact dissolved, there was a lot of hope from modelers of seeing what the model hobby was like in the East. What had been a trickle of kits in the Glastnost era became more common. Aer of Moldova was one of the first companies marketing kits in the west. Unfortunately I have no idea what the status of this manufacturer is anymore, lacking a web page, and not much in years in terms of new releases. Still, the kits can be found from time to time, and this is certainly an unusual subject...

When one gets a new kit, the range of emotions one can go through ranges from "Cool!" to "Hmmm...." and finally "Can I live with this thing?" Usually this range of emotions happen during the actual build process, but in the case of Aer's ASU-57 kit, you'll get there just from opening the box.

In a word, the kit is terrible! Fit is overall sloppy, with the hull sides "spiderwebbed" with what looks like the result of insufficiently hot styrene during the injection process. Also the gun barrel was riddled with sinkmarks, and actually shattered while I was trying to construct it. You absolutely must invest in aftermarket parts just to complete the model. This is a real shame, but I can't complain as I got the model for a mere $3 several years ago from Ebay.

Into the mix I added Eduard's 35734 ASU-57 1/35 photo-etch kit, from Modelpoint MP3550 ASU-57 return roller set, and MP3529 Ch-51 57mm barrel. The entire Modelpoint line may be OOP as their website no longer registers and most stocklists seem to be out of product. I'm also thinking about picking up Miniart's 35064 Soviet 57mm & 76mm Shells w/Ammo Boxes. The Ch-51 cannon could fire the range of ZiS-2 ammo as well as more modern rounds, so this set will work if not specifically accurate.

Construction starts naturally with the lower hull. This is where problems began. Lacking the technology (at the time, or perhaps capital investment for better molds), the lower hull does not benefit from multi-part molds like found with Asian manufacturers, and instead is built up from several flat parts. Fit was sloppy, and required a lot of filler (the white spots in the photograph are the results of this. I have attached a handful of photo-etch details as well. I have also begun modifying the upper hull to accept the photo-etch parts.

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