HobbyBoss 1/350 PLAN Type 033 Submarine & SH-5 (83515) In-Box Review and History

Since I got back into kit building a few years ago, I have built only aircraft and AFV kits. However, I have had it in mind for some time that I’d like to have a go at a warship kit. You see, before I became a full-time writer, for around ten years I worked in the marine industry (producing operating manuals, as you ask) and I spent a fair amount of time on various types of ship, in shipyards  and working directly with marine companies around the world. So, I do have a particular interest in ships…

However, a large warship model seemed like too much of a challenge, and I wondered if a submarine kit might be a good place to start. On a recent visit to the city of Granada, I passed a hobby store and outside was a bargain bin of cheap kits. One of those was this HobbyBoss offering, on sale for just €4. Well, how could I resist a bargain like that!

I rather like 1/350 scale for ship kits. Like 1/72 for aircraft and AFVs, it provides a model that’s large enough for good detail but not so large that it’s hard to store or display, unless you’re building a model of a giant battleship – this submarine model will be around 220mm long when it’s done. I have to admit that when I purchased this kit, I had never heard of a Type 033 submarine – I could see from the box art that it was some sort of post-war diesel/electric sub, but that was about it.

A quick bit of Google action revealed that this kit was released by Chinese manufacturer HobbyBoss in 2011 and that it’s just one of a range of HobbyBoss submarine kits in this scale covering a number of wartime and post-war models. Before we take a look inside the box, let’s see if we can figure out just what a Type 033 submarine is…


After World War Two, the Soviet Union produced a number of diesel/electric attack submarines that borrowed from the design of the German Type XXI U-boat. The Whiskey and Zulu class boats were introduced in 1950 – 1952 and the third iteration, the Project 633 boats (given the NATO reporting name Romeo) began to appear in 1957.

A Soviet Romeo Class submarine

However, in the same year that these submarines entered service, the Soviet Fleet took delivery of its first nuclear-powered submarine and suddenly, diesel/electric boats looked like very old technology. Initially, it was planned to build more than 50 Romeo class submarines, but in the event, only 20 were completed as these were superceded by nuclear submarines. However, in 1948, a new Communist nation entered the world Stage: the People’s Republic of China (PRC).   

Changcheng 237, a Type 033 submarine of the PLAN photographed in 2005.

Following the signing of the Sino-Soviet Friendship and Mutual Assistance Treaty in 1950, the Soviet Union and the PRC enjoyed a brief period of close relations. One outcome of this was an agreement that the Soviet Union would provide the PRC with parts and plans to enable the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to build their own version of the Romeo Class submarine. Initially, two submarines were provided as, essentially, 1/1 scale, self-assembly kits and given the designation Type 6633. These were completed, but soon after, relations between the Soviet Union and the PRC deteriorated and no further parts were provided.

A North Korean Type 033, manufactured with assistance from the PRC.

By 1963, the PRC had used the construction information provided by the Soviet Union to begin production of these submarines in their own shipyards. The new boats were designated as Type 033 and began to enter service in 1967. It is believed that the PLAN operated more than 80 of these submarines and their derivatives though only around 30 are still in service and these are now used mainly for training.

A Harbin SH-5

This kit also includes a model of the Chinese Harbin SH-5 amphibious maritime patrol aircraft. This aircraft was introduced into service with the PLAN in 1986, though it is believed that only six production aircraft were completed.

What’s in the Box?

Inside the top-opening box, you’ll find two sprues moulded in light grey plastic (for the submarine itself), a small display stand, two transparent plastic sprues (for the SH-5), one PE fret, instructions, a colour painting guide and a decal sheet.

Surface detail on both the Type 033 and the SH-5 look adequate to me, but given that it’s more than 40 years since I last attempted a ship kit, I’m certainly not up-to-date on this!

The PE fret contains some very, very tiny parts. That’s both good and bad – 1/350 plastic handrails are almost impossible to produce to scale, so these PE parts are probably better, but getting them in position may be tricky. The PE fret also provides alternate propellors for both the SH-5 and the Type 033, though plastic versions are also provided.

The instructions look straightforward, though I note that there are several optional parts, and I’m not entirely sure when these should be used.

Also included is a colour painting guide.

The decal sheet mainly covers decals for the SH-5, though there are a range of ship numbers to cover specific examples of the Type 033.

Would You Want One?

Overall, this looks pretty good in the box, though as noted, my knowledge of ship model kits is well short of current. Surface detail looks nicely done and I do appreciate having PE handrails. In this scale, these are sometimes missed out entirely or moulded overscale in plastic. Construction looks straightforward though some of the PE parts are rather tiny.

If you don’t fancy this one, there really isn’t much choice in terms of kits of either the Soviet Romeo Class or the Chinese Type 033. HobbyBoss do a 1/700 version of the Type 033, but that kit lacks much of the detail provided here. A company called Modelist seem to offer a 1/144 scale kit of the Soviet Romeo Class submarine, but I’m afraid I don’t know anything about the company or this kit.

I’m really looking forward to giving this a try. It will make a pleasant change to aircraft and AFV kits and (apart from the PE) construction looks very simple – like many ship kits, this is really all about the painting. If like me you fancy giving building a warship kit, then a submarine in 1.350 provides a low-cost, relatively small size opportunity to find out if you enjoy it.

Action stations! Stand-by to dive!

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HobbyBoss 1/350 PLAN Type 033 Submarine & SH-5 (83515) Build Review

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