Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S (kit 5045)

Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S, kit 5045, box top
Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S, kit 5045, box top

The king of battle (artillery) is not well represented in this blog, and I plan to rectify this starting with the (relatively) recent Msta-S kit from Zvezda in 1/72. The 2S19 self-propelled howitzer was developed during the 1980s to replace the aging 2S3 “Akatsiya” SPG of the same caliber (and much shorter range + lower rate of fire). It uses a modified T-72 hull as well as torsion bars, wheels and track from T-80 to carry a large turret with a 7 meter long barrel. The resulting product finally brought the level of Soviet SPG up, nearer to the then-current M109 variants in NATO armies. An interesting feature at the back of the turret is an elevator for transporting shells and propellant charges from the ground up into the turret. This means the howitzer can be continuously fed from the ground instead of using up the ammo stored onboard.
Zvezda has already produced an 1/35 kit which proved popular. Despite knowing the 1/72 kit is expected a year in advance and the official announcement came on June 1, 2019 – picking the actual article up was exciting.

The now-standard glossy box, closed with pieces of Zvezda-branded sticky tape covers a hard cardboard “drawer”. Inside it all parts (2 big sprues for hull and turret, as well as 2 smaller frames for wheels and suspension, a single part tree with 2 track runs) are packed in a transparent plastic heat-sealed bag (replacing the earlier softer semi-transparent bag). Also in the box – a folded instruction sheet, an A5-sized glossy painting and decalling guide, and a small decal sheet.

Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S box contents
Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S box contents

Pictured is one side of the paint and decalling guide, showing Zvezda and Tamiya paint numbers (there used to be Humbrol ones but geopolitics has apparently changed this in more recent releases) and an all-green Msta – same vehicle as in this video:

The other side of the sheet features 2 more “generic” (overall green) vehicles, one of them with Victory day parade markings. Interestingly none of the versions provided is in bi- or tricolor camo, despite the abundance of such machines.

Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S painting guide
Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S painting guide

Decal options feature a bunch of generic numbers, May 9th parade St. George’s ribbon with the new symbol of Russian army (looks a lot like the US one), guards crests, and the tactical symbol of a single unnamed unit.

Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S decal sheet
Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S decal sheet

Instructions use the current style of isometric drawings, and features 19 construction steps starting with the hull tub and through suspension and tracks reaching the top of the turret. There are 2 options for the ammo lift hinged at the back of the turret – folded and “in action”. Note that unlike the M109 the Msta-S does not have any ground supports, which leads to the whole vehicle oscillating after each shot.

Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S instructions
Zvezda 1/72 Msta-S instructions

Most of the larger parts are set on the same tree, with the hull upper being the most prominent (the driver’s upper hatch is separate piece). All of the parts are well-detailed, there are no flash or visible mold-parting lines. The grills, hatches, ribs, hinges and caps are well-defined. The only items I’d happily replace are the numerous handles. You will also need to scratch-build the antenna – there is no part for it in the kit and unfortunately – no suggested length either.

The hull tub is also well detailed – both its sides and bottom feature bolt and cap detail, there are the various maintenance covers and the “hero’s hatch” under the driver’s position. The staggered arrangement of the torsion stations is also represented.

Note that the parts in this kit are NOT suitable for building neither a T-72 nor a T-80. You can potentially use the wheels and tracks for a T-80 model.

There are 2 lengths of pre-formed tow cable destined for the rear of the vehicle, wrapping around the famous wooden trunk, so characteristic of Soviet armor. Many of you would probably change these to metal, but I like the look and level of detail of the parts provided, and plan to use them on my build (unless I break them, which happens often to such thin parts).

Each side skirt is represented as a single part with the attachment strip, hinges connecting the separate sections and the open steps hanging from each side. The exhaust shield is also present with proper raised detail.

As you could imagine the turret is suitably large, and the kit provides a good rendition of the real thing for the scale (except the handholds as mentioned earlier). Aside from the ammo lift – the external cable channels are also present (each is made up of two parts), and appear to match the layout of the actual vehicle.

4 out of the 5-men crew are actually sitting in the turret. 3 of the guys have individual hatches on the roof represented in the kit as separate parts.

Aside from the gun crew, ammo storage and all the optics, electronics and mechanics that manage the firing process the turret also hosts a gas turbine APU. Its exhaust port is on the right side, close to the rear (Photo credit).

Msta-S APU exhaust port
Msta-S APU exhaust port

It is used to supply electricity when the main engine is off, and you will need to cut the hatch out to display it this way. Note absence of tools/deep water intake storage tube on the rear of this particular vehicle.

One more change you will have to make to have your Msta operating with ammo from the ground is open the propellant charge loading chute as seen in the video above:

This is the lower left hatch on the rear turret wall – apparently hinges upwards and locks to prevent hitting the crew if the turret rotates. I’ve rarely seen this used in videos, more often the charges are passed to the loaded thru the left-side crew hatch. Either way there is another hatch to open 😀

Another side note: the spent casings are ejected forward below the gun, so you might need to modify the closed chute on the part.

The gun barrel is represented by a single detail, an impressive effort with various recessed and raised lines, attachment points and details on the bore evacuator. The muzzle break is split horizontally, with one half on each of the wheel sprues (another hint Zvezda will not reuse those on a T-80 kit).

As it is about 7 meters long the gun tube needs a proper travel lock. The multipart assembly is unfortunately not represented well in the instructions, and you will need to find reference for correct positioning, especially in combat mode.

What you might see as a defect (kind of uneven surface) on the turret top is a (not very good) attempt at the anti-skid walkways on later machines (it is hard to tell regular 2S19s from M1 and M2) as seen here (photo source):

Current Msta-S from above
Current Msta-S from above

Strangely enough the texture is properly represented in the instructions – they might have been developed before the final form of the kit was approved. You might need some PE or drill the openings. Annoyingly the instructions have you mount the gun sight (the cylinder protruding from the roof opposite the commander) in travel mode – rotated 90 degrees right like in this parade shot. You will have to modify the part to display your Msta in combat mode. The NSVT heavy machine gun and its mount look good, and its ammo cans on the right side are positioned correctly in their panniers on the turret side.

The wheels are all well-made, with hub and bolt detail, rim edge and rubber band acceptable for the scale. The sprocket parts have 3 feed attachments each (all of them to teeth, but are thin enough). The suspension arms are well-defined, and feature semi-circular mounting pins, which should help position them correctly without too much fuss. I’d say the spring detail in this kit is better than on ModelCollect’s T-80 I’ve built.

The track is a standard T-80 item, and the details are represented as good as possible in the scale for a mainstream company. The external pattern is there, the rubber pads on the inside are sufficiently thin (actually some Russian resin replacements have thicker pads). Both the end connectors and the track thickness look OK.

Tooth shape looks reasonable, although the teeth are not hollow as on the real deal.

T-80/Msta-S track link and guide tooth profile
T-80/Msta-S track link and guide tooth profile

Although I am a bit tense regarding the 1-piece “bend-me” track runs (after failing to install the T-90 ones) I’ll say the Zvezda rendition warrants at least an attempt at attaching the original tracks to the model.

Overall: big “thumbs up” from me on this one. It is a good sign that Zvezda has heard its fan base and added a proper kit out to compare to recent M109 editions by Revell and Riich. Mine will be probably built as a generic machine in “monochrome” scheme… one day.