Sandwiched between releases of the USS Nimitz CVN-68 and USS Lexington CV-2, is another 1:350 scale carrier kit released by Trumpeter. This of course is the full deck Russian aircraft carrier Kuznetsov, or if you want to use the full name, Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov. Of the three big carriers the Kuznetsov is probably the most colorful. This is primarily the result of the different colors of decks used on the big Russian carrier as well as the colorful deck markings. A third source of color comes from the paint schemes used on the various types of aircraft assigned to the ship. The Sukhoi Su-33 and Su-25UTG are in a two or three color mottled scheme, as well as the Ka-29 helicopter. Another source of color is the white and gray-blue Ka-27 helicopter used for search and rescue (SAR) missions. The Ka-27 variant used for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) is an overall gray-blue.
As of the last day of February 2005, no photo-etch sets are yet available for the Trumpeter Kuznetsov but the first third party product for the carrier has appeared in the form of a replacement decal set for the model. This set is from a new producer, Sprint Scale, from Russia. He set comes with two sheets of decals, one for the ship and one for the aircraft. There is a third sheet for instructions, which are totally unique from what the modeler is familiar. Although most of the items for the ship are direct replacements for the Trumpeter sheet, there are many additional decals not found on the Trumpeter sheet, plus some items are used from the Trumpeter sheet, even with the total use of the Sprint Scale sheets.
For the sheet of ship decals, we’ll start with common items. Both sets have the same basic design for red solid and dashed stripes, yellow and white dashed stripes, spotting circles and parking/lash-down position markings. However, each of these series of items varies between the two decal sets. With the Sprint Scale set the red solid and dashed lines are slightly thicker but the set has more short segment dash lines than the Trumpeter set. On the other hand the Sprint Scale yellow dashed lines are slightly narrower and reflect more variety in shapes. There is a significant difference in the white dashed lines. With the Trumpeter decals these dashed lines are all white. With the Sprint Scale set many of the white dashes have black circle markings within the white dash, which are not found on the Trumpeter decals.
Although both sets have the same nine white aircraft spotting circles and one large yellow spotting circle, the designs differ between the two sets. The Sprint Scale white circles have a number within a small circle, within a larger circle with dashed lines connecting the smaller and larger circles. The Trumpeter circles have the same design but have two solid white lines connecting the smaller and larger circles. The same difference applies to the larger yellow spotting marking, dashed lines with Sprint Scale and solid lines with Trumpeter. For the parking/lash-down points the Sprint Scale decals are used to supplement those designs found on the Trumpeter sheet. The Trumpeter sheet has blue and orange parking decals and these colors are also shown on the Sprint Scale instructions and yet the Sprint Scale markings are all black or black and white. The Sprint Scale decals are apparently meant to overlay the Trumpeter version. The hull side nameplates have smaller lettering with Sprint Scale but larger transom lettering.
There are quite of number of decals found on the Sprint Scale sheet, not found with Trumpeter. First are large side and transom decals for Varyag. Sprint Scale also provides a full set of jacks and national flags, for the Soviet Union, modern Russia as well as a vice admiral’s flag for the modern Russian navy. For the Soviet version there is also the large hammer and sickle national emblem found on the stern transom. Three very significant decals found on the Sprint Scale set, not found with the Trumpeter decals, are spotting markings for take-off positions. There are also very detailed red numeral decals for the island and a full set of decals for ship’s boats. One of the most significant differences between the two sets is that the Sprint Scale set is flat or matte, while the Trumpeter decals are glossy.
Sprint Scale provides an absolutely delicious small sheet of decals for the aircraft assigned to the ship. Markings are provided for three fixed wing aircraft types, the Su-33, Su-25UTG and YAK-41, as well as three rotary wing types, Ka-27, Ka-29 and Mil-8. The Sukhoi Su-33 is the most impressive and handsome aircraft flown off of the Kuznetsov. With the Sprint Scale decal set, you can have a whole deck load of individually numbered Su-33s. There are eight sets of decals for these large two engined fighters. Separate markings are included for fighters numbered, 60, 64, 67, 68, 84, 85, 86, and 88. Each Sukhoi set has two multi-marking tail decals, fuselage numbers and fuselage flags. There are a large number of red stars also present for the wings. For the ground attack Sukhoi Su-25UTG Frogfoot there are five sets of individual aircraft markings. Each set is again a multiple decal presentation for red numbers 07 and 11 and blue numbers 08, 39 and 79 aircraft. Four sets are provided for the Yak-41M aircraft, yellow numbered 48, white numbered aircraft 77, 78, 79 markings.
For helicopters Sprint Scale provides markings for six individual Ka-27s. There are variations among the decal mix for these and individual numbers are red 09, 41, 47, 54, 57 and yellow numbered 17. The instructions show that the yellow numbered 17 set is for the white and gray-blue SAR Ka-27. Only one set is provided for the Ka-29, red number 71. For the old Mil-8, there are two aircraft included, red numbered 49 and 50.
The instructions are very unique. Instead of plain black and white drawings or text, Sprint Scale provides a large full color sheet, which attempts to show the placement of all of the decals. It is an absolutely beautiful sheet showing the plan and starboard profile of the ship with additional inset for the port side of the island. Full plan and profiles are provided for the Su-33 and Su-25UTG aircraft with profiles only for the MiG-33, Yak-41M and all four helicopters, Ka-27 SAR, Ka-27 ASW, Ka-29 and Mil-8. One additional inset shows white decal markings for the gray ship’s boats and black markings for the white ship’s boats. For the most part the instructions work fairly well but you have to study them first to find the individual decal placement locations. However, the graphic presentation falls short in clarifying all issues. A note on the instructions states that for some decal elements, you are to use the original Trumpeter decals. For some items it is obvious which Trumpeter decals are used but there is still uncertainty. From the colors on the plan in the Sprint Scale instructions it seems clear that the Trumpeter blue and orange parking/lash-down markings are used but there is no indication of how the Sprint Scale decals interact with them. On the other hand aircraft decal placement is very clear. Overall, the instructions are probably about a 90 to 95 per cent solution with the major question as to the use of the Sprint Scale parking decals.