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

Kit Review: Takom 1/35 scale Kit No. 2042; T-55AMV Russian Medium Tank; 784 parts (523 in grey styrene, 184 individual track links, 61 etched brass, 1
2 clear styrene, 2 black vinyl, 1 olive drab vinyl, 1 twisted steel wire); retail price US$50.00
Advantages: first styrene kit of this tank in this scale; choice of options with the kit
Disadvantages: turret ERA fit quite detailed and complex; odd details on st yrene tires; ejection pin marks on each track link
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Soviet and Third World armor fans of the 1980s to t he present
    The last Soviet factory to produce the T-55, the Omsk Factory for Transpor t Machinery Construction, and its associated KBTM design bureau, decided to see if they could upgrade the existing T-55 and T-55A tanks to meet more m odern conditions in the early 1980s. There was a need for improved protecti on with tanks in Afghanistan and also the Naval Infantry was not able to us es the newer and heavier T-72 and T-80 tanks with their "Aist"LCAC vehicles so they needed a better 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 AMV version. Takom has produced a good base T-55 chassis and this kit has some 200 different parts to replicate the 198 4 production tank.
    This kit is a nicely engineered kit and offers a number of options. It may be built as either a T-55AMV (Model 1961) without the AAMG ring or as the T-55AMV (Model 1972) with it.
    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.
    Most of the hull assembly is pretty much perfunctory assembly but in Step 8 there is a call for some 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.
    The hull and skirt ERA arrays are simple parts and easy to attach as they are provided in modules; note that those exposed do need a plate of etched brass attached to their rear sides for detailing. Also Takom uses the color call-outs in the finishing directions to show which tanks need the skirt E RA and which do not; as the holes for mounting are already in place, plan o n filling them if you choose such a vehicle (hint: look at the color profil es FIRST before starting the kit!)
    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 (Q6) 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 SGMT mach ine 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 sigh t or simply their brackets.
    Note that there is no way to build the kit without the ERA arrays on the t urret 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 futur e.
    Each of the arrays consists of four parts: two brackets and two "bricks" t hat attach upper (two per mount) and lower (one per mount) to the mountings . This will require taking your time and going slow as each bracket set is slightly different than the next due to the curvature and slope of the turr et front. Also note you have some options for the Model 1961 or Model 1972 turret fittings here.
    While the kit comes with a full set of T-55A hatches and cupolas the model must use the proper T-54/55 set on sprue X. It does have the proper full r ound hatch found on most of these tanks. There is no pretense of a gun insi de the turret and only a small device to permit its elevation is provided w ith the two vinyl keepers as friction snubbers to hold the gun in position. From what the directions show once assembled the gun should remain flexibl e. With care the searchlight assembly will 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 no less than TWELVE finishing options for this kit! They are: Ru ssian Army (sand/black/red-brown/green mottle with red bort number 09 - no skirt ERA); Russian Army (protective green with bort number 542 - no skirt ERA); Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Civil War 2014 (sand/brown/green mottle with crosshatching on skirt ERA); Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Civil War 2014 (worn g reyish-sand with skirt ERA); Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Civil War 2014 (sand/g reen mottle with Arabic writing on left front fender and no skirt ERA); Syr ian Arab Army (SAA), Civil War 2014 (sand/green mottle with SAA divisional markings on glacis and registration number 393908 and skirt ERA); Syrian Ar ab Army (SAA), Civil War 2014 (green/brown mottle with sand squiggle lines and crosshatching on skirt ERA, divisional markings and registration number 393199); Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Civil War 2014 (green/brown mottle with s and squiggle lines and crosshatching on skirt ERA and divisional markings o nly); Algerian People's National Army (sand/green mottle with registration number 1975 12 00 and skirt ERA); Algerian People's National Army (sand ove rall with registration number 1975 14 10 and no skirt ERA); AMISOM forces i n Somalia 2014 (white overall with black inverted V and U on skirt and glac is ERA); Ugandan People's Defense Forces (sand/brown/green mottle with chec kerboard pattern on skirt ERA). A small sheet of decals actually holds all of these markings!
    Overall this is another great kit with only a few glitches here and there to annoy the purist. The tires are probably the most annoying but a few min utes with a sanding stick will eliminate most of the overwrought rubber sea ms molded into the tires.
    Thanks to Takom via Charlie Prichett for the review sample.     
Cookie Sewell
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