With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a lot of large, important and expensive armament programs have become increasingly difficult to justify. This is true for all armed services, and we’ve seen a lot of projects either shelved, canned or cut short. In some cases, it’s easier to try and re-role a particular weapon that others. Planes and tanks can be used for all kinds of missions, but submarines… that’s a different story. Ballistic missile subs (“boomers”) really only have one purpose, and that’s nuclear annihilation. Attack subs are just as limited, being primarily tasked with taking out enemy boomers or naval vessels. Luckily, both can also fire cruise missiles and offer a high degree of stealth, which means that some of the submarine projects of recent times have survived the new realities of fiscal restraint.
One such survivor is the Royal Navy’s Astute class submarine. This is a typical new-generation nuclear sub that has all the bells and whistles, and is designed to serve as the pointy-end of the RN’s underwater spear (trident?) for the next generation or two of sailors. Given the importance of the sub to the RN, and the fact that it is, in fact, one of the newer classes of submarine in the world, it’s not a surprise to see this vessel appear in injected form. What is surprising, somewhat, is that Britain’s newest secret-ish submarine has been reproduced by Hobby Boss, from China!
I have a growing fascination with subs, and I knew nothing about the Astute when I picked up this kit on a whim. I bought it simply because it looked interesting; the Astute has a very distinct “hunchback” appearance that immediately stood out in my mind. Most modern subs are black tubes; this was a black tube with a bent section! Read on and let’s see what’s in the box of Hobby Boss’ Astute class sub.
Hobby Boss’s submarine kits are usually nicely illustrated on the cover. The boxes are long, so that gives a lot of room for a picture, and subs tend to not be too tall, so it works out well. From my limited exposure to them, it seems that Hobby Boss’ sub kit boxes usually use a painting of the subject, and the Astute is no different.
The box lid shows a nice painting of the Astute setting out to sea, with sailors on the “deck”. You get a feeling of an impending sense of adventure, or of a certain momentousness. The painting isn’t much use as a modelling guide, though; it’s only a waterline shot and it’s not super-detailed. Despite this, it adds a certain “old school” charm to a kit of a very modern sub, so that’s an accomplishment in its own right.
On the side of the box is a somewhat Wikipedia-like description of the Astute, and a side elevation. It’s not large, but there are full colour painting instructions in the box, so don’t sweat it.
I like submarines. However, as far as value for the dollar goes, they’re not at the top of the list (that would be Gundams, if you ask me). The Astute, like most modern subs, has very few pieces. The hull is in two halves, and there are a few parts for the prop shroud, dive planes, and the bits on top of the fin. There are a few other fiddly bits, but that’s all.
The sub is moulded in light gray, and there aren’t any clear pieces. There is a fret of photoetch, containing a brass prop, some small details and the nameplate for the stand. The Astute comes with a nice, but simple, stand that holds the sub using two small pins that fit into holes in the sub’s belly.
There is a surprisingly large sheet of decals in the box; I didn’t expect that on a sub, I can assure you! The instructions are large and very clear, and there’s a full-colour painting guide, separate from the instructions, that is nice and glossy. Now, the colours called out by said painting guide seem to be a bit off; looking at photos of the Astute on the net implies to me that the body is light in colour than the bulges (I’m assuming for spherical sonar) on the sides of the hull. The instructions call this out the other way around.
There is quite a bit of detail on the hull, and I’m generally impressed. The panel lines are all nicely engraved where required, and there’s a bit of raised detail. Ther are a few mould lines right on the nose and near the tail contours that will be difficult to sand because they’re intermixed with these details. There are noticeable mouldlines near the base of the fin too, and along the sub’s back. They’ll be easier to sand off, but I’m a bit disappointed in them; they seem unnecessarily sloppy.
There’s not a lot to building this thing, and thus there’s not a lot to the instructions. They’re large and clear, and there’s no issue as to what goes where. You can choose to build the fin closed down for undersea running or you can build it opened up with all the ”junk” extended. I don’t know what the various towers are for; I’m sure some are periscope, radio, direction finding, etc. I also don’t care, because they look fragile and like a lot more work than they’re worth. I also like new subs to look sleek, so I’m going to build this thing closed down.
Looking at the instructions, I see that you can use the photoetch prop or a plastic one. That’s good, since I hate photoetch and eschew its use whenever possible.
As I mentioned, the painting plan seems iffy, and anyone building this thing should search out pictures of the Astute on the launch ramp to verify your colours and markings.
The Astute kit is nice enough, but seems expensive for what you get. Of course, this is generally the case for subs, and it’s just part of the game. We’re lucky to have a company that’s willing to make kits of newer subs, and Hobby Boss is pretty much the only game in town for injection moulded subs these days.
This kit looks nice and a test fit shows that there will be some sanding on the main hull seam, but it looks like an easy-enough build. If you like subs, and want one that looks a bit different from the rest of the tubes out there, this is a good one for you!