"Stalin Tank" - the JS III - by Nigel Robins
1962 must have been an odd year for Airfix as all of the AFV releases for this year are unusual in that they are not mainstream vehicles! If you were to ask a group of Modellers what their top ten favourite AFVs were, you would be very surprised if the StuG 3, Scammell Tank Transporter and JS 3 featured in the top five, but those were the releases that year!
However, in 1962 at the height of cold war perhaps the JS 3 was more popular than now, after all it had been the "Bogey" tank of the West for the past seventeen years, the tank the British Army had to defeat, with its Centurions and Conquerors, on the North German plain in order to win WW 3 !!!!!
Indeed, after its appearance in the Berlin Victory Parade a number of myths had grown about this tank, particularly regarding the thickness of its frontal armour and the effectiveness of its 122mm main gun
Airfix have also managed to perpetuate the myth of the JS 3 in their model as well. Clearly references for state of the art Soviet vehicles were not plentiful in 1962 so Airfix decided to do the next best thing, copy someone else's model, in this case the Aurora Kit in 1/48. Using this model to base their tooling on was risky but this seems to be what has happened as the same mistakes are repeated in both kits. The Airfix hull is good, if a little crude by today's standards, the road wheels are particularly nice and the tracks are okay. The gun is suitably huge. However the turret does have its problems. The actual JS 3 turret is not as perfectly circular as Airfix have modelled it and the kit turret is slightly too small in diameter. The roof hatches are not circular and small but "D" shaped and quite large. The DSHK machine gun is crude and slightly "flat".
Having seen the photos from the Berlin Victory parade all of this is quite understandable, Airfix/Aurora have misinterpreted the circular ventilators/ periscopes mounted on the turret hatches for the hatches themselves and have modelled them accordingly. It is easy now to mock basic mistakes such as these and the circular turret but at the time there were no reference books and the information available was probably covered by the Official Secrets Act. Incidentally the fanciful Airfix decals are useless.
This is still a worthwhile kit today. Despite its faults it does look like a JS 3 and is the only one in scale. Re-building the turret to the correct profile is a major job but the Matador JS 3 set solves all turret problems and provides extra track links, auxiliary fuel tanks and an unditching beam as well. With a decent turret a well made and painted converted Airfix JS 3 looks as good as the modern Roden kit in 1/72 and also the Airfix/Matador conversion represents an earlier vehicle.
Go on, treat yourself to a little cold war nostalgia!