After Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, a decision was made to develop a strong naval force on the Amur River which forms the border between the
Russian Far East and China. Among this force were the eight heavily armed
Shkval class river monitors. They were built between 1907 and 1910 at the Baltic Works in
St. Petersburg and broken down into sections. The sections were transported east by rail in 1911 and assembled at the new base at Khabarovsk-Ossipovski. The
monitors displaced 950 tons, measuring 233 feet long, 42 feet in the beam and a shallow draft of 4.5 feet. They were armed with two 152mm guns in single turrets and
four 120mm guns in a pair of twin turrets. Smaller armament consisted of a pair of 47mm guns and six 7.62mm Maxim guns.

When World War I broke out, five of the monitors had their guns and diesel engines removed to be used on ships being built in the Baltic.
Smerch was one of the three
monitors remaining in commission with all her guns and three of her four diesel engines.
During the Russian Civil War, Smerch fell temporarily into the hands of the “White” Russians, however they could not use them. Smerch and another six monitors
were subsequently captured by Japanese forces who occupied Khabarovsk-Ossipovski (one monitor,
Gorza, was crushed by ice while under tow). When the Japanese
evacuated Khabarovsk-Ossipovski,
Smerch and five of the monitors were returned to the Amur flotilla. After the Soviet victory in the Civil War, they slowly began
rebuilding the monitors and renaming them, with
Smerch becoming Kirov.

In late 1929, Soviet forces invaded Manchuria to enforce and maintain certain “imperialist” privileges along the East-China railway line.
Kirov was among the monitors
that participated in the military operations against Chinese forces. Afterwards,
Kirov was laid up until 1931 when work began on reconstructing her and the five other
remaining monitors. After reconstruction, all six monitors were no longer identical. She was recommissioned on July 24, 1932 and rearmed with four 130mm guns
housed in single turrets, a pair of 37mm anti-aircraft guns and a mix of smaller machine guns. Her profile also changed dramatically as she was fitted with a tripod
mast assembly with a fighting top and a couple of platforms below that.
Kirov saw little action against Japanese forces in 1945 and was decommissioned for repairs
and eventually stricken in 1958.
Combrig has released a series of 1:350 scale kits covering the monitors in service in 1945 with the option of building them in either their original fit or in whatever
configuration they were in as of 1945. The
Smerch/Kirov is one of those kits. Like all Combrig 1:350 scales, you also have the option of building either a full-hull or
waterline model.

As you would expect, the upper hull is very shallow and without to much in terms of a superstructure. There a small housing forward and a raised section a little aft
of the middle which I guess was over her engines. The deck has many hatches and forward there is the breakwater and some bitts and fairleads. There are numerous
openings, holes and slots to accommodate the various other resin parts. The hull bottom is also very shallow and plain with the exception of some openings aft to
accommodate the propeller shafts. Overall the casting of the hull parts is very clean.
A lot of the remaining resin parts are not used with this model as the parts appear to be common across all of the variations covered by the different kits. Also, the parts
are numbered in the assembly instructions to help avoid confusion. The next major parts are comprised of various housings and platforms the come on a thin casting
wafer. These parts are labeled with an “m” prefix followed by a number. Only two parts (m12 and m14) are used for
Smerch and five different parts (m1, m11, m13,
m15 and m18) are used for
Kirov. These parts are cleanly cast with the housings having a good level of detail. Some cleanup will probably be needed along the edges
that were attached to the film.

You also get more turrets than you will need for either build. Parts a25, which are three larger single turrets, are not to be used. Parts a23 are smaller single turrets and
parts a24 are twin turrets. For
Smerch, you will need a pair of the a23 turrets and a pair of the a24 turrets. For Kirov, you will use all four a23 turrets. The turrets are
also cleanly cast, with deep opening for the barrels, gunner’s ports and access doors on the back.

The rest of the resin parts all come on casting runners and again some are not used for either
Smerch or Kirov. Three different conning towers are provided but only
the middle one is used for both versions. The other parts included two different funnels, gun directors, three different boats, gun barrels, various deck guns, storage
lockers, anchors, propellers, searchlights, gun pedestals, bitts, fairleads and a variety of fittings.
Kirov was fitted with a very different breakwater and that comes as a
separate part. Fitting this breakwater will require removing the one cast into the deck. The parts are all well cast and clean.
The photo-etch brass supplied with the kit is crammed with parts and you guessed it, not all are used with either build. It looks like most of those to be used are
numbered in the image in the assembly guide. The photo-etch provides several lengths of railing but with individual stanchion ends. There are also lots of canopy
frames to fit around all of the deck hatch coamings. Other parts used for with this particular kit include the rudders, boat details, boat cradles, inclined and vertical
ladders, parts for the cable reels, parts for several type of machine guns, gun tubs used with
Kirov and other small detail parts. The brass has a good of relief etching
and is very fine. I would exercise extra care removing the canopy frames from the fret.

The assembly guide is printed across five pages on double-side sheets of paper. The first page has fairly good plan and profile views of
Smerch and Kirov. All of the
specs and history is written in Cyrillic. The second page has images of the resin parts and photo-etch fret with the parts numbered as already mentioned above. Page
3 covers the placement of resin and photo-etch parts that is common to both versions. Pages 4 and 5 cover
Smerch and Kirov respectively. Across pages 3 through
5, there are several insets that focus on subassemblies, with each one given a Roman numeral identifier. There is no separate inset with the diameters and
measurements for the brass rod to be used for the masts and other parts. Instead they are provided in the assembly illustrations. Careful study of the instructions is
certainly needed. There are no painting instructions provided, so the modeler will have to do some research.
The Smerch/Kirov kit is certainly an interesting subject. Combrig has done a lot of research to determine the specific differences among the monitors after their
reconstruction. The kit is of the quality I have come to expect form
Combrig, crammed with lots of details. The hardest part is choosing which version to build. My
thanks to
Combrig for providing the sample kit.
Felix Bustelo
New York