ARM: Review - Takom 1/35 scale T-55AM Russian Medium Tank

Kit Review: Takom 1/35 scale Kit No. 2041; T-55AM Russian Medium Tank; 693 parts (432 in grey styrene, 184 individual track links, 61 etched brass, 12
clear styrene, 2 black vinyl, 1 olive drab vinyl, 1 twisted steel wire); r etail price US$50.00
Advantages: first styrene kit of this tank in this scale; choice of options with the kit
Disadvantages: odd details on styrene tires; ejection pin marks on each tra ck link
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Soviet and Third World armor fans of the 1980s to t he present
    As noted in my review of the T-55AMV kit (No. 2042) the last Soviet factor y to produce the T-55, the Omsk Factory for Transport Machinery Constructio n, and its associated KBTM design bureau, decided to see if they could upgr ade the existing T-55 and T-55A tanks to meet more modern conditions in the early 1980s. There was a need for improved protection with tanks in Afghan istan and also the Naval Infantry was not able to uses the newer and heavie r T-72 and T-80 tanks with their "Aist"LCAC vehicles so they needed a bette r tank based on the existing ones.
    KBTM created the M versions - T-55M and T-55AM - which added a long list o f new items. These included: a V-55U engine of 620 HP (later upgraded to th e V-46-5M with 690 HP); the "Volna" fire control system with the 1K13 sight for use with the 9K116 "Bastion" through-the-bore ATGM and the KDT-2 laser rangefinder; a thermal shroud for the D-10T2S gun and a new TshSM-32PV sig ht; an upgraded "Tsiklon-M1" two-axis stabilizer; an R-173 VHF FM transisto rized radio set and R-173P receiver set; a belly plate for increased mine p rotection and a driver's seat suspended from the hull roof to protect him f rom mine explosions; eight "Tucha" smoke grenade launchers; side skirts; an d for those tanks not yet upgraded and needing it, RMSh tracks like those u sed on the T-72.
    Differing opinions and needs saw two subvariants: the standard M and AM va riants with passive armor arrays on the glacis and turret (nicknamed "Il'ich's Eyebrows " after Leonid Brezhnev) which came out in 1983 and a fitting of the then n ew "Kontakt-1" explosive reactive armor on the MV and AMV versions which fo llowed at the end of 1984. The former were also produced or converted by th e Czechs and Poles as the T-55AM2 "Kladivo" and T-55AM2P respectively with some minor differences in equipment and fittings.
    While well over 33,000 T-55s of all models were produced, thus far there a re no good numbers on the number of tanks converted by Omsk and the others. For the most part Conventional Forces in Europe declarations since 1990 ha ve not separated out the various models (photos and data are provided but u sually not separate counts).
    These tanks have also been sold or given to various Soviet/Russian client states such as Syria, Afghanistan, Uganda, and other African countries.
    Takom has now produced kits of both versions - the T-55AM and the T-55AMV - and this review looks at the AM version. Takom has produced a good base T -55 chassis and this kit has some 35 different parts to replicate the 1983 production tank. As it now obvious, these are "modular" kits that add or re move sprues to provide a specific variant of the T-54/55 family.
    It comes with the correct late model RMSh pre-clipped single link track li nks which are very nice on the face but like their OMSh brethren have two e jection pin marks on each one. However they are the "proud" type and not re cessed so a few strokes with a sanding stick solves the problem. Still it i s a bit tedious but for my money is still better than having to fit individ ual guide teeth to each link!
    Takom comes with one of the best instruction booklets going in my opinion. It is concise and has good, clear exploded drawings of the parts as well a s clear indications of what goes where.
    Assembly starts with the lower suspension parts, and to their credit the r ocking shock absorbers come with action arms to fit to the road wheel arms, a nice touch. It has three-piece track tensioners and nicely done idler wh eels at the front of the hull. Note that something was amiss in this kit an d the shock absorber assemblies are found on a supplemental sheet.
    Step 2/3 covers the wheels; they also use the over-exaggerated rubber mold ing lines on the tires which are a bit excessive. Modelers may wish to sand them down before use, especially on the running surface of the tire. A few modelers who have started work on the kits indicate that some of the tires do not fit properly so you will need to play around with them before cemen ting them up to see what works best.
    Step 5 is the hull roof; this combines the glacis necessary, the turret ra ce, and the correct engine deck together as well as the louver details for the engine deck. Etched brass grilles are installed at this point. Note tha t a number of holes need to be drilled out in the glacis plate (M16) at thi s time.
    Most of the hull assembly is pretty much perfunctory assembly but in Step 8 there is a call for more holes to be drilled in the fenders as well as th e stern plate.
    Unlike other T-54/55/62 kits up to this point Takom actually provides the fuel lines for the external fuel tanks! They form a continuous loop through all three tanks and back into the engine bay. This vehicle uses the later double bevel fuel tanks (J27) even though both they and the earlier single bevel style are included in the kit. Also note that the semi-fixed parts of the lines are molded onto the right fender so Takom did not forget them.
    One of the slickest features of the kit is the solution to the eternal pro blem of clean assembly of the 200 liter auxiliary fuel drums. The Takom tak e on this has them with two center sections that end at the attachment stra p fittings and caps for the ends molded in one piece. Note that no MDK-5 ca nisters are included as an option; it is just the 200 liter drums.
    As with most Soviet/Russian tanks, the unditching log (E5) needs some roug hing up with a razor saw as it is too smooth to pass as wood.
    The turret has some nice touches such as a neat way to mount the PKM machi ne gun (H25) and a flexible vinyl mantlet cover for the main gun. It comes with a choice of either rubber fording covers for the machine gun and sight or simply their brackets.
    Note that there is no way to build the kit without the passive arrays on t he turret without filing in a LOT of holes, so if you want a straight T-55 or T-55A I suggest you wait as Takom will most likely make on in the near f uture.
    Each of the arrays consists of five parts: three parts to assemble the arm or and two brackets to mount it to the turret. Also note you have some opti ons for the Model 1961 (no AAMG) or Model 1972 (AAMG fitted) turret fitting s here.
    There is no pretense of a gun inside the turret and only a small device to permit its elevation is provided with the two vinyl keepers as friction sn ubbers to hold the gun in position. From what the directions show once asse mbled the gun should remain flexible. With care the searchlight assembly wi ll snap into place and also elevate and depress with the gun if so desired.
    The gun barrel is a three-piece affair and the non-finned parts of the shr oud are easily cleaned up with a Flex-i-File.
    There are four finishing options provided for this kit: Russian Marines (( Naval Infantry))(green/light green/dark green ribbon camouflage with nation al flag and bort number 322); Angolan Armed Forces (protective green with b ort number 728 and white star markings); Cuban Army (green/light green/dark green with no markings); Russian Army (protective green with bort number 8 39). A small sheet of decals is provided for these markings.
    Overall this continues this line of really useful kits with only a few gli tches here and there to annoy the purist. The tires are probably the most a nnoying but a few minutes with a sanding stick will eliminate most of the o verwrought rubber seams molded into the tires.
    Thanks to Takom via Charlie Prichett for the review sample.     
Cookie Sewell
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