Kit Review: Miniart 1/35 scale Kit No. 37002: T-44 Soviet Medium Tank; 952 parts (869 in grey styrene, 61 etched brass, 12 clear styrene); retail pric e US$69.99
Advantages: first kit of this vehicle in styrene in this scale; nearly comp lete full interior provided; correct changes made to original kit from T-44 to T-44M
Disadvantages: interior will be difficult to see (!); missing radiator and transmission assemblies
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for serious Soviet tank development fans and Cold War fans
When the Factory No. 183 design bureau under Aleksandr Morozov began to lo ok at follow-on tanks to the T-34, they eventually came up with the design of the T-44 medium tank. More compact and better armored than the T-34-85 i t was supposed to replace, it offered a hard hitting tank for the Red Army. When Kharkov was retaken in 1944 and the old Factory No. 183 grounds resto red to minimum operational condition, the T-44 was the first tank to enter production there in November 1944. Over the next two years about 1,800 of t hese tanks were built before work switched over to the next tank, the T-54 mounting a 100mm gun.
The T-44 tanks had some problems with overheating and other glitches from the new transverse engine design, and as a result were mostly regulated to training. Their only "combat" use was when a small number of them took part in suppressing the Hungarian uprising in 1956.
Soviet thinking was that every tank should have a life span of 30-40 years before going to the scrappers, but that also took into consideration a mid
-life rebuilding and upgrade. Thus, at the age of 15 most of the T-44 tanks were sent back to MoD rebuild plants to reemerge as the new T-44M tank. The T-44M started its life cycle in 1961 as the vehicles were refitted wit h new components from the more successful (and widely used) T-54 series tan ks. These include a new engine (V-54) and transmission, new electrical comp onents, new radios and intercoms, and new tracks and drive wheels (tanks wi th worn out road wheels had them replaced with the same "starfish" style wh eels fitted to the T-34-85 Model 1960 rebuilds). The driver-mechanic receiv ed a TVN-2 night driving viewer, the commander got a TPKUB viewer, and othe r parts were upgraded. But the tank retained its ZIS-S-53 Model 1944 85mm g un and two DTM machine guns, one coaxial and a fixed one for use by the dri ver-mechanic.
The line T-44M now used an R-113 VHF FM radio and R-120 intercom, and the K models (T-44MK) also received an R-112 HF AM radio and erectable mast for use at fixed positions. The chassis was also used for the BTS-4 tank retri ever.
These tanks wound up being the "school" tanks of choice up until 1997 when President Yeltsin ordered them taken out of service and scrapped. However , there is no information how many remained in service by that time.
In short order Miniart has come out with first a T-44 kit and now this T-44M version. Both come in large boxes packed to the gills with parts and spr ues (this kit has 85 to be exact!) and a fret of etched brass. All are clea nly molded and with many very petite parts.
The directions come, like many Miniart kits, as a nice booklet with clear drawings. The engine uses both parts from the T-44 kit and a new sprue with a different crankcase and mounts, so pay close attention to the instructio ns. The parts colors are flagged all over the instructions and can be a bit distracting if you are not careful.
In Step 9 the hull begins construction with the torsion bar mounts and roa d wheel arms. Unlike any other kit I have ever built, these assemblies are put together and then cemented into the belly pan of the vehicle. These are followed by the forward ammo stowage, the floor and the engine assembly an d air cleaner. Note that there is no "guitara", transmission or radiator pr ovided in the kit; Miniart figures that modelers will not need to open the entire engine deck to view the engine and therefore those assemblies will n ot be seen.
Step 13 begins assembly of the hull proper and the sides consist of both i nner and other walls. Most intricate and time consuming sections here are t he two DTM drum towers which consist of plastic bases and drums and 11 etch ed brass racks each and a plastic tie-down strap. 40 85mm rounds are provid ed and most of them find homes inside the hull and turret.
In Step 20 you will have to decide if you want to show the engine and air cleaner or not; if so the hatches will need to be left loose. In Step 21 th e headlight array is assembled and it consists of at least 11 parts.
Step 22 covers the engine deck grilles and note that you should be able to open the louvers (B4) for cooling but I am not sure if Miniart left suffic ient space for them to be cracked open. As the louvers are provided, you wo uld not be able to see the radiator through the PE mesh grilles anyway. The same is true of the engine radiator air exhaust grilles (Ga2-PE3) but the fan and oil cooler would be located under them (fan to the right, oil coole r to the left).
When the tracks are installed, the directions indicate you can use 90 link s with teeth or 72 with teeth and 18 plain links per run. I have no clue if this is correct or not but I would stick with the 90 toothed ones.
The tank uses the early T-54 single bevel tanks and all of the fuel lines for them are provided. (The T-44 carried cylindrical "gasoil" tanks which w ere not part of the fuel system, but as the tanks were upgraded to T-54 sta ndards they got the same fuel system and arrangement.)
If you want to show off that interior, I suggest you do not cement the roo f and turret race section (B20) in place in Step 34.
The turret of this model is quite detailed but quite complex, and the next steps cover the assembly of the gun and its coaxial DTM machine gun. The t urret halves are asymmetric to ensure a smooth surface across the back; thi s is a smart idea as it is easier to fill and sand down a corner than a sea m in the middle of the back of the turret. While some will grouse about a m ulti-part turret in a day and age of slide molding, it makes sense with all of the interior components that have to go into this turret.
The gun barrel is slide molded with a hollow bore, so a few minutes with a Flex-i-File will have it ready for installation. The commander's cupola co nsists of 20 parts with clear vision blocks and commander's periscope.
Like most Soviet/Russian armor kits, the unditching log is very smooth and will need to be roughed up with a razor saw and sandpaper to look right. O nce done it slips into PE straps installed earlier in the build (Step 19) b ut you may wish to install it there to ensure it fits.
Four finishing options are provided: unidentified school tank, Red Army 1960s-70s (protective green with yellow bort number 418); 193rd Tank Training Regiment, 24th "Iron" Tank Division, Dabele, Latvia 1974-76 (protective gr een, small white stars flanking bort number 655); unidentified school tank, Red Army 1960s-70s (protective green with ort number 541); Tank Training R egiment, "Kirov" Tank Command School, Leningrad Military District, 1970s (p rotective green with whitewash, bort number 554). A small sheet of decals i s provided for these options.
Overall this is a wonderful kit and they did change a number of parts from the T-44 kit such as the road wheels, tracks and fenders. But as most of t he sprues are repeats it is not as intimidating as 85 sprues would make it sound!