ARM: Review - Xact /135 scale T-80U Main Battle Tank (Revised)

Kit Review: Xact Scale Models 1/35 scale Kit No. XS35001; T-80U Soviet Main Battle Tank; 428 parts (391 parts in field grey styrene, 33 etched brass,
2 flexible tracks, 1 length of twisted wire, 1 clear styrene); estimated pr ice US$69.99
Advantages: most accurate T-80 class tank kit so far, nice use of molding t echniques for some parts
Disadvantages: tracks a bit more flexible than most
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: For all Soviet and modern Russian armor fans
    This is a revision of my original 6 June 2013 review (based on a 3rd gener ation test shot) as the final production kit has now arrived.
    In regard to Soviet Minister of Defense Dmitriy Ustinov, he loved new toys and under Brezhnev what Dmitriy wants, Dmitriy gets. He was starry-eyed ov er the T-64 tank and wanted it to be the main battle tank of all Soviet for ces. But the T-64 had a lousy engine and many features which had not been f ull thought through, so a ?back-up? version, the T-72, soon eclipsed it with the Red Army. But when word leaked out in the early 1970s that the US was considering a turbine engine for their next main battle tank, he had t o have one too.
    Kharkov (the T-64 producer) and Nizhniy Tagil (the T-72 builder) tried fit ting turbines to their tanks, and while they worked, neither factory would accede to making them as they got horrible mileage. Undaunted, the Leningra d Kirov Factory under Zhosef Kotin volunteered to put a turbine in the T-64 chassis. Under chief designer Nikolay Popov, they produced Article 219 whi ch was the prototype of the T-80. This tank was approved for service in 197 6, but with such poor mileage the Red Army did not want it. A T-80A model w ent nowhere, and it was only with the T-80B the tank went into production i n the early 1980s. This tank added a through-the-barrel ATGM capability (as Article 219R) and in 1983 was also fitted with reactive armor protection a nd became the T-80BV, which appeared in forward units such as the GSFG in 1 985.
    But even this ?improved? T-80 had lousy mileage ? with 600 liters of extra fuel and all internal fuel it could barely reach 380 kilometers on h ighways. The rest of the Soviet tank fleet could do 500 kilometers without and 700 kilometers with 400 liters of extra fuel, so it was a cropper from a planning standpoint. (The generals noted it would need 2 to 2.5 times the number of fuel tankers but the MoD would not purchase them.) Back to the d rawing board.
    The T-80U was actually approved for service in 1985, but it took until 199 0 for the introduction of the new GTD-1250T engine before it could achieve the 500 kilometer range (with 400 liters of extra fuel). This tank used the newer laser-beam-rider 9M119 ATGM system, new radios, a ?Buran-PA? nig ht sight, and later mounted the newer ?Kontakt-5" ERA in place of the old er ?Kontakt-1" used on the T-80BV. It also had a new design turret simila r to that used on the diesel-powered T-80UD tank that used modern internal armor arrays and not the matrix of ceramic balls and aluminum the T-80B bor rowed from the T-64 series. The Russian Army today retains about 4,000 T-80 series tanks, of which 3,000 are in storage and most of the 1,000 on activ e duty are a mixture of B and U types.
    In 1986 I was an analyst at the 3rd (US) Armor Division in Frankfurt, Germ any, and after a short discussion with my boss we were able to downgrade ph otos and plans I drew up of the T-80B and T-80BV tanks, and using them I la ter built a model of each one which were used by USAREUR for training and f amiliarization purposes of the new tanks. As a result I have always had an attachment for the T-80s, even though they are something of an albatross fo r the Russian Army.
    In the early 1990s DML produced kits of the T-80B, T-80BV, and T-80UD, but all of them were based on photographs and as such suffered from some sever e dimensional issues. In the late 1990s SKIF in the Ukraine came out with k its of the T-80BV, T-80UDK and other subvariants, but while more accurate s uffered from very poor details and some of the worst tracks ever put in a k it.
    Now Xact, a new company, has released a T-80U production model with ?Kon takt-5" ERA and the late production underwater crossing system as its first kit. This kit is a very well done rendition of the original with some uniq ue choices made in its design and layout which will be new to modelers.
    The test shots were in the very familiar grey styrene used by most compani es such as Trumpeter and DML, but the production kits are in a field grey c olored green styrene. Some people have complained about kits in this color recently on the Internet, but the only real drawback is that it may require d priming with a light color primer before using sand colored paint on the finished model. (I think their real gripe is that it reminds them of SKIF k its, about which the less said the better!)
    The model is similar in some respects to the recent Zvezda T-90 kit ? a deep hull pan to which the hull glacis, roof and rear plate are attached; i t also comes with separate fenders. The mold quality is generally excellent and for the most part it also will permit Xact to create a T-80B or T-80UD series of kits from this set of molds. There are some ejection pin marks o n some parts, but most are faint and easily removed.
    The model does an excellent job of replicating the U version and includes the odd third auxiliary fuel tank being found on the engine deck. While acc urate it is odd that they kept them, as with the third 200 liter drum used the turret only has about 10 degrees of traverse!
    Unlike other kits (T-64, T-72 and T-90) the scraper blade under the bow is one piece and the stiffening rods are molded in place on the hull pan. Som e may argue this reduces definition, but note that the T-80U also has a lon g mud/dust flap (parts E-34/37) that goes across the entire bow and blocks most of the view anyway.
    The suspension consists of road wheel arms, separate shock absorbers, sepa rate jounce stops, and three-piece road wheels (two wheels and a grease cap ). The directions show the drivers being cemented to the final drives befor e assembly, but I think most modelers will attach the final drives to the h ull first. As Terry Ashley recently noted, you may want to drill them out a nd use a styrene rod pin so you can attach them later when mounting the tra cks.
    As for the tracks, runs are one piece black vinyl and a bit more flexible than most modelers would want. They are molded with open guided teeth and l ook nice but there is no information provided as to whether or not they are ?glueable? ones with styrene cements. Note that if you do not wish the m the Russian Army has adopted what it calls the UMSh tracks or ?universa l? type based on T-80 style tracks, so any single link T-72/T-90 UMSh tra cks should fit. I used a set of Miniarm T-90 tracks on mine and they were a drop fit.
    The mud scrapers are etched brass, and there is a groove in the PE fret fo r bending them to shape (PE14 is the groove for shaping parts PE4/PE5).
    The fenders come with the stowage (ZIP) bins in place and the fuel tanks a ttached separately. As this is a late U it also represents the GTA-18 APU a t the rear of the hull along with the redesigned exhaust defuser. The latte r is neatly done in four parts. The front mud guards use PE to represent th e thinner rubber cowls and are fitted to a styrene base that attaches to th e front of the fenders. Headlight guards are multi-part styrene and look go od in regard to their prototypes.
    The turret is quite involved and takes a goodly number of the parts in the box. The ?Buran? viewer comes with a clear styrene lens, a decal for i ts inner (protective) lining, and an etched brass backing before installati on in the sight head (V5). Both commander?s and gunner?s hatches are de signed to open. Like the T-90 kit, the model provides the basic faces of bo th the commander?s and gunners sighting equipment inside the shell.
    The barrel is one piece of styrene, but the one in the kit had no sink mar ks and was cleanly molded. The barrel end is correct for a 2A46M-1 and has the flat calibration mount on the top of the muzzle (N26). But it is quite shallow and most modelers will probably drill it out for better rendition ( I did that as well).
    The turret needs approximately 40 holes drilled in it for mounting the var ious fittings and attachments, and these include holes on both the top and side surfaces. When starting mine I missed about 15 of them and had to go b ack, open up the turret, and fix the ones I missed!
    Xact solves the problem with the ?Kontakt-5" arrays by making each one i n four basic parts: top, bottom and ends, plus the rubber flaps covering th e lower arrays. The Type 902A ?Tucha? smoke grenade launchers are done in two parts, base and tube, for better rendition as well. Xact even has th e control wiring arrays molded in suitable thickness to fit to the grenade launchers.
    This tank no longer uses the 1EhTs29 remote control mount for the NVST 12. 7mm machine gun, so three pintle mounts are fitted to the turret. The NVST is a model unto itself, but oddly Xact placed the gun on the inside of its sprue so you will have to drill out the flash hider.
    The T-80U has an even more impressive snorkel array than the T-80B, dubbed ?Brod-M? (brod - ford in Russian). The twin tubes are provided in thei r nested stowed position with the exhaust (D1/R12) at one end and the intak e (R4/5/11) at the other. The trunk/combing for the intake is molded in one major piece (V6) and fitted with all of the necessary components before at taching it to the rear of the turret. Note that the proper position for the ?Brod-M? is offset about 10 degrees to the right; this is so when prop erly sited over the air intakes the driver?s hatch is not obstructed by t he main gun (if it stalls underwater and he has to bail out of the tank!)
     A preformed domed cap for the air intake is provided and is attached to t he top of the snorkel base after which a fitting ring from PE is attached t o the top of the dome.
    The last major components to fit to the tank are the side skirts; the fron t pieces (H1/H2) have a blank strip in them which coincidentally sits oppos ite the edge of the tracks (I looked at one on a Ukranian T-80UD/T-84 tank) . Note that while the kit provides for two tow cables the directions are no t very clear on when and where to install them. One only shows up in Step 4 6 of the directions (the other is shown being installed to its tow hook in Step 12 but its correct position along the right side of the fender bins is not shown until Step 15).
    Finishing directions are provided in color for four different tanks: overa ll ?protective green?, sand/green/black, sand and black, and grey/green /black. Colors are keyed to the Tamiya acrylic XF series colors. A ?numbe r jungle? of numbers is provided on the decal sheet, and while no units a re given, the sand/green one uses 2xx numbers and is for the 4th ?Kantemi rets? Tank Brigade (division, then brigade, soon to be a division once mo re...)
    Overall, this is an excellent if demanding kit and does a great job of rep licating its prototype. It is a excellent model and will now be the kit of choice for anyone wishing to do a late model T-80.
    Thanks to Tony Chin of Merit for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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