Kit Review: SKIF 1/35 scale Kit No. 226; T-80UDK Tank; 307 parts (292 parts in medium green styrene, 14 in black vinyl, 1 length of steel wire); estimated retail price US$36 (note: out of production and molds have changed hands)
Advantages: relatively accurate dimensional model of a very early T-80UD; can be built into a good model with additional details
Disadvantages: soft details, kit based on prototypes or pre-production validation lot vehicles
Rating: Recommended with Reservations
Recommendation: for all modern Soviet armor fans
The T-80 has been around for some time - if the Soviet sources now released by the Russians are correct, the first tanks went into service in 1978. The current service models, the T-80B, T-80BV and T-80U, are still one of the main elements of the reported 12,000 serviceable tanks in the Russian Army. The T-80UD tanks, which were designed and built by the A. A. Morozov" Kharkov Design Bureau for Machinery Construction and the "Malyshev" Factory, were a method by which the Ukranian factory combined its oppposed piston engines with the Leningrad-designed and Omsk-built T-80U chassis. Only about 200 of them were built, serving with the "parade" divisions in the Moscow area, and most famously were shown in October 1993 during the standoff between Boris Yeltsin and the Russian Parliament.
The tanks were seen to come wheeling up, take up positions, and after about two hours began to fire on the building. The first round fired went into the office of Ruslan Khasbulatov, getting his attention (he was out in the hall with his compatriot Aleksandr Rutskoy at the time) and firing on the building for about an hour until the MVD Internal Troops stormed the White House.
Since then it has been reported that all of the T-80UDs, under the usual situation of "not invented here" (e.g. built in either Omsk or Nizhniy Tagil in Russia) were shipped back to Ukraine in the mid1990s. The tank remains under production there with a new, welded turret and Ukrainian improvements as the T-84.
SKIF has a notorious reputation with modelers for hit or miss with its kits, with the "hits" being weak and the "misses" being awful. As such, when SKIF came out with this kit, rumored to be a reboxing of a smaller company's kit which was rated badly, I gave it a pass. This year at AMPS 2007 Baseline Hobbies was clearing out their stock at quite reasonable prices (this kit was $10) so I picked one up. If you build Russian armor as I do, "parts is parts."
Surprisingly, this kit is really not that bad. Overall it is reasonably accurate in its primary dimensions, and the road wheels - while a bit crude - are the proper size and shape. The tracks, while flimsy and made of some sort of soft vinyl, are the correct size and correct pattern (unlike SKIF's truly horrible T-64 vinyl tracks, which could not figure out if they wanted to be T-64 or T-80 track!) The turret on this kit is correct in shape and size (where it also beats out their T-64 series kits) and as a result it seems better than at first glance.
Those are the kit's high points. But first and foremost while it is a "K" or commander's model, and comes with the 11 meter radio antenna mast, nowhere in the directions does it say that antenna is only used when the tank is in a fixed position and that it needs two sets of guy wires or lines to hold it in place!
The engine deck is correct, but only for one of the prototypes or pre- production validation (ustavleniye) series tanks. Production T-80UDs had an engine deck nearly identical to that on the T-64B.
While the tank comes with a complete reactive armor suite, unfortunately SKIF molded the early model tanks with 4S20 "Kontakt-1" first generation reactive armor "bricks". Nearly all of the production model T-80UDs were fitted with 4S22 "Kontakt-5" second generation reactive armor modules, which are like those found in the DML T-80 Model 1989 - the T-80UD. The two are completely different in appearance.
Given all that, the model DOES provide for the basis to build a good model of a T-80UD - but it needs help. By combining this kit's basics with the engine deck, rear plate components, details and "Kontakt-5" reactive armor suite and new tracks from a company like Miniarm or Fruil a relatively decent model can be built. Built from the box, it will lack something and look a bit toylike around the edges.
Finishing directions are provided for a Soviet/Russian three color paint scheme (sand, olive drab and black) but the only markings are for two generic tanks and one Ukranian tank.
Overall this model is not as bad as I would have thought, but it needs help to become a good example of the T-80 family. At least it says something about the poor representation T-80 has had among modelers in that this is the best of four kits of T-80s of which I know.