ARM: Review - Panda Models 1/35 scale Soviet Heavy Tank Object 279

Kit Review: Panda Models 1/35 scale Classical Scale Series Kit No. PH 35005 ; Soviet Heavy Tank Object 279; 610 parts (336 in brown styrene, 244 in dar
k green styrene, 29 etched brass, 1 twisted copper wire); retail price US$6 0.00
Advantages: first of three kits of this vehicle to get to market; nicely do ne and hull construction copies the original vehicle
Disadvantages: some details skimped on
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for diehard Soviet and all Cold War armor fans
    In the late 1950s, the Soviets were working on actual tactical problems fo r carrying out mobile warfare under tactical nuclear warfare conditions. Th ey quickly realized that tanks were extremely vulnerable to rubbling - not being able to negotiate blown-down trees, buildings, etc. They also had pro blems with the ?Mach Wave? - the point where the nuclear blast and the air being forced out from under the detonation met and wiped out anything i n their path, to include flipping over tanks.
    To come up with a solution, in 1955 the Council of Ministers authorized pr ototype design work on a ?special purpose tank? to overcome these probl ems. The chief designer for the project was once again Zhosef Kotin, but he tasked it to L. S. Troyanov of VNII-100. After approval, one prototype was built in December 1959 and two more in May 1960. Testing showed that the t ank, dubbed Article 279 (Ob?yekt 279), did not meet the requirements of t he government resolution and it was cancelled in January 1961.          The tank was truly unique. For solving the mobility problem, Troyanov gave it not two but four sets of tracks, covering nearly the entire space under the hull. Due to this arrangement, the tank had a very complex transmissio n and drive system running down from the main hull to two pontoon-like runn ers with two sets of tracks on each one. The hull was as thin as it could b e made, and as a result a small gondola on the belly accommodated the drive r under armor as well as other components. The cast armored hull was relati vely small but wide, and it was the first heavy tank to store all of its am munition in the hull; the turret did not require a bustle and remained clea r for crew movement. Although some sources say it had the ?flying saucer ? shape to beat the ?Mach Wave? problem, it now seems it was mostly t o get as much protection as possible on the tank without having to go up to 80 or 90 metric tons weight (it weighed a claimed 60 metric tons, still 10 tons more than the ?acceptable? limit for ground commanders).
    The tank mounted the mighty 130mm M-65 gun with separate loading, and at t he time it was capable of defeating any tank in the world. Armor protection of the main components was up to 305mm thick, but in order to defeat NATO ATGMs the tank was fitted with a smooth set of armored stand-off plates wit h a ballistic shaping to add to their resistance. But the result was a tank that wound up being some 4070 mm wide ? way past the railway gauge for m ovement - so the outer sections were removable to narrow it down. Even so, the claimed 3400mm width was only for the basic armored hull and not the ad d-ons for the attached screening.
    The tank had a 1000 HP diesel engine and an automatic three-speed transmis sion (no transfer case) which could propel it up to 55 kph and a range of 3 00 kilometers. Video of the first prototype chassis being tested shows it to be highly mobile and able to go across nearly any sort of obstacle or te rrain.
    But in the end it was nearly impossible to service and had zero room under the hull to check on either suspension units or tracks. Both the engine an d transmission were temperamental and unreliable, and it was just too big f or its own good.
    After remaining a footnote in tank history for years, now not one but THRE E kits are due to market of this interesting if failed tank design. Panda i s first (the other two are Takom and Amusing Hobby) but it is a very nice e ffort.
    The kit replicates most of the screwy features of the prototype with lots and lots and lots of single link tracks! While the directions tell you to a ttach the suspension runners (parts C1, 29, 30 and 47) to the hull after ad ding the wheels and THEN the tracks, it will be far easier to add the track s and THEN cement the pontoons to the hull! However, the drivers have separ ate drive towers (two A-24/25) that mount separately so you will have to wa tch it. As I said, they faithfully copied the original!
    Once past the suspension (which amounts to about 5/6ths of the kit) the re st is pretty straightforward. The tank uses the curious ?ejection cooling ? system popular at the time in Leningrad so it comes with the air intake louvers (with PE grills) and then a three-piece exhaust vent (parts C-33/3 4-39/40 and two PE grilles) outboard of them. Tool and cable brackets are c ombination PE and styrene.
    Unlike the DML T28 heavy tank kit, the screen sides (sponsons) are both se parate AND come with a backing plate on them so can be left separate. There is a small gap between them and the hull on the vehicle at Kubinka so a pe rfect fit is not necessary if you attach them to the hull. It has two confo rmal auxiliary fuel tanks at the rear of the hull and Panda has done a nice job of them.
    The gun is two-part styrene but with a Flex-i-file should finish up fairly nice. As the tank never went into service, there are no ?niceties? lik e canvas mantelet covers to worry about. Part B6 is supposed to be a 14.5mm KPVT machine gun in an armored sleeve and comes with a hollow flash hider via slide molding. Note that this tank never carried an AAMG.
    Some of the fine turret details are either missing or skimped over, but wi thout good photos it will be hard to determine their precise location and f itting. Measurements show the kit to be very close to the original (the bas e hull on the kit is 101.5 mm vice 97.1 mm wide, but as noted since VNII-10 0 basically fudged the dimensions to fit within the rail gauge (and cross s ections of the hull show that) I think they got it right.
    Finishing directions simply show the tank in postwar ?protective green ? finish which is close to Soviet Khaki No. 2 (an old Floquil color Testo rs alas did not copy or reissue). No markings are provided and the tank onl y received any sort of paint or markings in the Kubinka museum (it currentl y has a tricolor camouflage pattern there).
    Overall, this is a perfectly acceptable kit and it would be hairsplitting to take three kits of this tank in a side by side by side test and judge th em differently; but if anyone comes with either single piece track runs or link-and-length think it will be more popular with modelers!
Cookie Sewell
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