by: Sean Langley [ ]
The K9 is Korea’s new self-propelled howitzer. It’s only the second (after Germany’s Panzerhaubitze 2000) to be designed around a longer, 52-calibre gun, but unlike the PzH is quite a bit lighter and handier. Turkey has decided to licence-build its own version that restores most of the lost weight, and Korea is likely eventually to buy over a thousand.
Academy’s new kit adds to its range of locally-produced armour. The K9 is pretty conventional for a modern SPG: big, lightly armoured hull, engine to the front, turret to the rear. The kit is almost entirely conventional too – no photo-etch, no resin, no clear plastic; just 314 parts in old-fashioned tan polystyrene, plus two matt grey one-piece vinyl tracks. There’s some slide-moulding but otherwise it would look familiar to anyone who’s built a Tamiya kit designed in the last twenty years. This is not a bad thing.
Moulding is sharp and in some places – eg the wheels – really rather nice. The parts breakdown and assembly sequence are pretty much as you’d expect. In line with the current standard, the suspension builds up part-by-part, rather than being moulded with the lower hull. The rear hull plate is separate, which is also common, but it builds up out of five parts (in order to accommodate the idler mounts) and so will need some care to keep it aligned. The upper hull seems rather bare but more detail is added gradually to make it nicely busy. Even then, it’s not covered in rivets and grilles, but that’s what the real thing looks like. The turret is similar, providing all of its eight doors separately, with separate hinges for many. You could conceivably leave the doors open, but as there’s absolutely no interior, it may be worth waiting for the aftermarket to catch up. Legend Productions are Korean, so how long can it be? Because there are no clear parts, armoured covers are provided for periscopes and the gunner’s sight (which will ring bells for anyone who’s built an M109). You also get ends for the tow cables and a length of string.
The gun is enormously long and comes in six parts: inner end (split), bore evacuator, outer end (split), and muzzle brake. The one-piece parts are slide-moulded so that they’re hollow. The effect of this is only slightly spoiled by the rest of the barrel still having joints that need to be carefully aligned and cleaned up. The tracks are very nice for vinyl, with good detail, although they may be a little stiff. The kit also comes with three well-moulded figures, with faces that are probably good enough for you not to want to replace them. Although I've just noticed that one of them is missing the end of his nose.
There are a couple of odd points where the kit offers choices without explaining them. There are two mantlets – one with an armoured cover and one without – but no clue as to which you might want to use. The decals are similar: a lot of markings, and a guide as to where each one belongs on the vehicle, but no differentiation between units. Presumably the home market will know better, but there’s always the Interweb. Incidentally, two of the markings require placards to be attached to the stowage baskets, which aren’t in the kit. Another slight disappointment is that the headlight guards and, especially, the stowage baskets are too heavy. But this is relatively minor.
The K9 in 1/35 will look very imposing on your shelf. The colour scheme is unusual (unless you specialise in Korean armour, in which case it will look very familiar) and the large hull and long gun make for an overall length of nearly 14 inches. The PzH 2000 still pips it as the biggest gun in the West, but as you can see from the comparisons, there’s not much in it. The kit depicts this vehicle well and should come together well, and I’d recommend it. It’s a K9, but it’s not a dog.
I should also mention that it's NOT a licence-built M109, nor is it a "dumbed-down M109", whatever that was supposed to mean.