ARM: Review - Takom 1/35 scale T-14 Armata Russian Main Battle Tank

Kit Review: Takom 1/35 scale Kit No. 2029; T-14 Armata Russian Main Battle Tank; 694 parts (673 in grey styrene, 8 clear styrene, 7 etched brass, 6 bl ack vinyl); price varies from $69.99 down to $40 depending on vendor

Advantages: first kit of this 21st Century main battle tank to market; clea n, neat, and matches available information

Disadvantages: single link tracks with separate teeth may be tedious to ass emble

Rating: Highly Recommended

Recommendation: for all Soviet and Russian armor fans

Back in the 1960s the then-doyen of Soviet tank design, Aleksandr Morozov, proposed a truly radical tank design for the future: Article 450, which he bravely said would be adopted as the "T-74", and which would be able to de feat any other tank on the face of the earth. The tank was based on the T-6

4 but had a new design of hull with two crew members in the control compart ment, an unmanned turret with an autoloader, and a 125mm gun mounted in a v ery small armored mount.

While this design was too much for the more traditional Soviet military, i t did spark a race by all three leading design bureaus - Kharkov, Nizhniy T agil, and Kirov-Leningrad - to come up with their own variants. Kharkov now proposed the Article 477, better known by its project name of "Molot" (ham mer), which was similar to Article 450 but now had three crew members and a proposed 152mm gun.

After many attempts the UVZ bureau at Nizhniy Tagil proposed a new design of their own, based on Molot but also using more common T-72 type component s. This tank, Article 195, was selected in the late 1980s for development a s a future main battle tank. But things stalled out when the Soviet Union c ollapsed in 1991.

After some time in stasis the project began to move ahead under new chief designer Vladimir Domnin, who took over after the death of Vladimir Potkin in India in 1997. But as the development of the new tank slowly moved forwa rd, things did not go well. One problem was it to answer all of the needs o f the military in one package.

When the military finally got to see this tank - now called the T-95 - at a special show for them in early 2010, they were aghast. The tank DID have all of the promised items on it, but was a nightmare. It reportedly weighed 60 metric tons and while fully computerized was so complex that it would h ave needed three engineers with BS in Computer Science degrees to operate i t. It was armed with a 152mm gun with an autoloader and coaxial 30mm autoca nnon and 7.62mm machine guns. While the 152mm gun was touted as a world bea ter, there was some suspicion in certain corners that it would be preempted as an artillery piece if needed and not used as a tank. It required a new through-the-bore ATGM which had not materialized and also several different types of sights including the long-sought after radar sight (which some So viet planners had wanted since 1953).

But as one critic said, "it's the perfect tank for warfare 20 years ago." That was its death knell, and also the reason according to some that Domnin got the axe. The UVZ did promise they could produce a new tank and could h ave it ready in short order. The government gave them the go ahead but with some skepticism after the T-95 debacle. New Chief Designer Andrey Terlikov managed to get the project done in less than five years and the new tank w as paraded this year at the Victory Parade in May 2015. 15 tanks drove past the reviewing stand, which given Soviet and Russian procedures probably am ounts to the entire "establishment lot" for proof of concept of new vehicle s and weaponry.

The new tank, called "T-95 Jr." in some circles, is a scaled down version of the T-95 design with a lot of later additions to it. It uses smaller wea pons - a 125mm 2A82-1 gun, a 12.7mm "Kord" machine gun as a remote control weapon, and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun. While there are only two hatches in the hull, there are three crew members - driver-mechanic, gunner, and co mmander. The tank does have a target plotting radar that assists in priorit izing targets and multi-spectral sights - optical, electronic, and thermal.

The reason the turret looks so odd on this tank is that it is unmanned - t he actual turret is about half the size of the structure on the top of the tank with thick armor protection for the gun and its mechanisms. What is vi sible is mostly protective covering for the electronics and for the new "Af ghanit" 10-barreled active protection system against ATGMs and RPGs among o ther threats, as well as the "Malachit" built-in reactive armor protection system as well as "Reshetka" grill armor screens for the rear of the tank. The gun barrel looks "naked" as an unmanned turret does not need to be purg ed of propellant gases after firing for crew safety.

The hull design was "borrowed" from the stillborn Article 187 "Revolutiona ry" tank from the same competition that produced the Article 188 - the T-90 . This solves the problem of the "decolletage" - the thin spot in the armor of the T-64, T-72/90 and T-80 right in front of the driver by extending th e bow and sharpening the angles. A seven-axle road wheel system was chosen for better high speed movement across broken terrain, and a 1500 HP diesel engine from Chelyabinsk runs a 12-speed automatic transmission to propel th e tank up to 80-90 kph on highways.

While the Russians claim that even with more honest accounting procedures today it only costs about $3.7 million per tank, time will tell if they can afford the new tank or if it can be made reliable enough for combat. Their estimates were based on $105 a barrel oil, not $40 a barrel, and contrary to their initial statements they may have to reluctantly sell it abroad.

Needless to say when the T-14 made its appearance last May in Moscow it go t the attention of most intelligence services in the world's militaries as well as modelers and model companies! Takom is the first company to market with a 1/35 scale styrene kit of this beast, and a look at the parts in the kit shows that if not perfect they most certainly have a 90%+ result. (Rep ortly Meng has a source - Aleksey Khlopotov - who is assisting them with fa ctory access and support; but whereas their kit may have more accuracy and finer detailing, remember that these are still what amounts to pre-producti on vehicles.)

Takom has taken a rational approach to most of the parts of this kit, and in this day and age a highly detailed kit with single link tracks under 700 parts - while not a "weekend" built - is reasonably simple. Some things ar e missing - for example, there are no activating rods running from the blad e-type shock absorbers (parts A2) to the road wheel arms (A1). But overall most of the points are covered.

The kit starts like most do with the lower hull and suspension. The T-14 i s much larger than other Soviet/Russian tanks of this class and has a much sturdier set of fittings for the retractable scraper blade. At the rear of the hull, things are quite similar to other tanks less the fact that it doe s not have an unditching beam (log) at the rear.

The tracks are single link representations of the standard UMSh tracks now in use on all Russian tanks and several other vehicles. But they all have separate teeth (hard to get around as they are hollow) and you need to make up 190 of them. The skirt/reactive armor assemblies are one piece and can be left off easily until after painting in order to get at the wheels and t racks.

The hatches come with clear styrene vision blocks, one in front of the rig ht hatch and one behind the left one. There are also lateral viewers as wel l as a camera head that goes in the middle where the "decolletage" used to be. Note that this tank uses LED lighting and not the older combination of white/IR/blackout lights on the glacis.

The "Reshetka" armor grills mount on stand-off brackets and are fitted in steps 11-15. Unlike past Soviet tank designs, the new T-14 uses dual exhaus ts, one on each side, and the armor has the correct gaps to allow for this.

The turret is much more complex than past vehicles due to the amount of el ectronics and protective items found there. As a result, a lot of separate panels are inserted from the inside of the turret shell to achieve this, su ch as the masks for the laser warning sensors and various brackets. The "Af ghanit" launchers mount to the turret base.

The gun barrel is a conventional two-piece plus muzzle and breech cap type which can easily have its seams removed with a Flexi-I-File. Vinyl keepers are used to permit the barrel to elevate and depress, and at the moment th ere is no need for a weatherproof mantlet cover due to the lack of crew in the turret. This tank has a UUI system (MRS to Americans) with a sender uni t (C14) and mirror unit (C15) in alignment. Various sensors and the GLONASS /GPS antenna attach to the top of the turret.

Step 24 and 25 cover the assembly and installation of the smoke grenade la uncher system (this tank has 48 vice 8-12 on the earlier tanks) and the aut omated "Kord" mount for the rear of the turret. It does use a conventional Soviet/Russian station keeping/marker light assembly (C13/72 and F4).

Note that when Takom wants you to focus on a step they have an enlargement drawing with a "plus" sign next to it in order to provide clarity.

Four different finishing options are given, but only the one with the tank in overall green and the flashy parade stripes with stars is valid - that was the May 2015 debut marking. The other three are based on typical scheme s shown at arms shows, and paint is keyed to MIG acrylic colors only.

Overall this is a nice if simplified kit, but as it is reasonably priced a nd the T-14 is still "in R and D" as they say should meet the needs of most modelers.

Cookie Sewell

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