The central European country of Romania lies along the Black Sea and the Danube River, one of the continent’s major inland waterways, flows through
it. With essentially two fronts to defend, the Romanian Navy (
Forțele Navale Române) has two divisions, a Black Sea Fleet and a Danube River Flotilla.
The latter has been comprised of shallow-draft monitors, patrol boats and gun boats and played a vital role during the Balkan Wars and both World Wars.
The commercial and strategic importance of the Danube is still evident and is understandable that Romanian Navy continues to maintain a strong river
flotilla for its defense. The
Smardan class of riverine patrol boats is a formidable component of the modern Danube Flotilla.

The
Smardan class river monitor (NATO Code: “Brutar II") is comprised of five ships: Rahova (F-176), Opanez (F-177), Smardan (F-178), Posada (F-
179) and
Rovine (F-180). These low-lying craft have virtually no superstructure and are heavily armed. They measure 50.7m (166’ 4”) long and 8.0m
(26’ 3”) wide and have a draft of only 1.5m (4’ 11”). The main armament is a 100mm (3.9 in) gun housed in a T-54/55 tank turret fitted forward. Two
smaller turrets abreast the main turret house a 14.5mm and a 7.62mm machine gun. A pair of quad 14.5mm machine guns are located on either side of
the boat towards the aft end of the small superstructure and further aft on the deck is a twin 30mm gun. The armament is rounded off with a pair of 40-
round, 122-mm BM-21 rocket launchers that retract into the hull for reloading. In short, these monitors mean business. All five ships were
commissioned in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Kit - RB Productions, based in Ireland, is a company that has specialized in producing model aircraft photo-etch and conversion sets as well as a
variety of modeling tools. Now they are expanding into the ship modeling realm with their first 1/350 scale kit, which is of a
Smardan Class river
monitor. This is a multimedia kit comprising of resin, photo-etch and turned brass parts. A question that may be on your mind is why would an Irish
modeling company produce a model of a Romanian warship?  Well the answer is quite simple: the RB in RB Productions is Radu Brînzan, a Romanian
born ex-pat that immigrated to Ireland.
With this kit you can build any ship in this class, which are identical in appearance other than the location of equipment lockers and the hull markings.
The main part is the one-piece full hull, which has the stout superstructure and other deck housings cast into it. The bases for the various guns, the
locations for the photo-etch hatches and doors and the mine rails are also cast into the hull. The casting is generally very good with some clean up
needed along the starboard side of the deck and the stern. If you look closely, you can see a bit of uneven casting along the edge of the deck that will
need to be sanded smooth and may require a little bit of filler to even out. The stern has a pair of casting plugs that need to be removed and the area
sanded smooth. Though this is a full hull model, the draft is so shallow that a waterline display could be achieved with some ingenuity without having
to cut or sand down the hull.

The smaller resin parts include the main 100mm turret, the smaller 14.5mm turrets, the bases and housings for the rocket launchers, parts for the twin
30mm gun, equipment lockers, capstans, searchlights, mooring bits and the ship’s boat. The casting of these parts is also well done and clean. Most of
the parts will require removing them for a thin casting plug and the bitts from a casting wafer.

The kit comes with several turned brass parts produced by Master Models, so you can be assured that the quality will be excellent. The turned brass
parts included the 100mm gun barrel, the 30mm gun barrels, a pair of antennas, three propeller shafts and a vent pipe. After going through the effort
providing turned brass parts, it would have been nice to have had at least included the 14.5mm and 7.62mm barrels for the smaller turrets, which are
instead done in photo-etch and as a result flat rather than three-dimensional.
The photo-etch brass is very extensive with a good degree of relief-etching. A complete set of pre-measured railings with a bottom runner (thank you!)
is included as well as the hatches and watertight doors. Parts are provided to build the two quad 14.5mm machine guns which are completely
comprised of photo-etch parts, including seats and hand wheels. Parts to complete the twin 30mm gun and the rocket launchers are also provided, with
the former again having gunner seats and hand wheels. Parts to build the lattice mast are included along with such fittings as cable reels, the anchor and
anchor chain, propellers and shaft struts, searchlight supports, life rings and numerous smaller detail parts. In total, the photo-etch will add a lot of
detail to a relatively small model. Optional versions of the mine rails are provided in case you are not satisfied with the ones cast into the deck. All photo-
etch part numbers are etched into the fret next to the parts.

The decal sheet is also quite extensive with markings to build any of the five ships in the class. These markings include hull numbers in different styles
that were applied at some point in the ship’s career, the ships name, the Romanian Naval motto and crest, which appears on the face and sides of the
bridge respectively, and the Romanian flag and naval ensign.

The kit instructions are extremely well done and probably among the best that I have seen. The actual instructions are not included in the kit, but rather
a card is packed with the kit with the URL to download the instructions from a Drop Box site. If you purchase the kit directly from RB Productions
through their web store, a link to download the instructions will be provided. As you can see, the assembly instructions are comprised of a total of
seven pages. The first page has general notes about the kit and links to on-line references and photos to help build your model. There is also a
breakdown of the resin and turned brass parts with associated part numbers that are referenced in the assembly diagrams. Three pages of digital color
assembly diagrams are provided which show the location of parts and sub-assemblies from various perspectives to make matters as clear as possible.
The sub-assemblies are shown both as completed and broken down with different perspectives again for clarity. Other model kit producers should take
note. The last three pages address painting instructions and decal placement, with RAL color references that are matched to Revell paints, though the
actual Revell paint numbers are not provided. There are various resources on the Internet to help match the RAL number to your preferred paint brand.
The Smardan Class kit is an impressive first foray into ship models from RB Productions. There is a lot of detail crammed into a small model and the
overall quality is quite above par. What strikes me is how relatively similar river monitors have remained over the years even with modern technology.
Radu Brînzan has told me that there are plans to produce more 1:350 scale kits of Romanian Navy ships, which include some rather unusual designs,
which should make for some very interesting models. My thanks to RB Productions (www.radubstore.com) for the review sample.
Felix Bustelo
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