Unimodel 1/72 T-90 Anti-Aircraft Tank Build Review
By Llarry Amrose
|Date of Review||April 2010||Manufacturer||Unimodel|
|Subject||T-90 Anti-Aircraft Tank||Scale||1/72|
|Kit Number||394||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Nice detailing||Cons||Thick photoetch|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$13.00|
In 1942, the T-70 light tank entered Soviet service. With a two-man crew and a 45mm main gun, it was well received and over 8000 were built. An improved version, the T-80 was developed, but the days of the light tank were ending. As with any successful vehicle design, it was natural that special-purpose designs would follow. The most produced and best-known was the SU-76 (and SU-76M) self-propelled gun (76mm), which was built on a widened and lengthened version of this hull.
Given the Luftwaffe’s power in the air, which was still considerable at this point in the war, the development of an anti-aircraft vehicle was unsurprising. The T-90 mounted a pair of 12.7 mm DShKT machine guns in an open-topped octagonal turret. The guns could be elevated to 85 degrees. The T-90 did well in tests, but when T-70/T-80 production was cancelled, the T-90 was dropped as well, in favor of the ZSU-37 which mounted a 37mm gun on an SU-76 hull.
Wikipedia has a photo of a T-90, but I have seen nothing to indicate that more than one, or at most a small handful of these vehicles, were built for testing. Given the state of the war in 1942/43, it seems reasonable that the prototype would have ended up at the front after the project was canceled, and it may not have survived for long.
Inside the usual blue UM end-opening box are the usual green UM sprues. Sprue A (2 copies) contains the wheels, track links, and a few other usually symmetric doodads. B has the lower hull and sides and C contains the upper hull and exhausts. Together, these will look pretty familiar if you've seen the UM T-70 or T-80 kits. Sprue K contains the turret and guns, as well as unused parts for a larger-caliber gun – I don’t have any idea which kit it is intended to be used in. Finally there is a photo-etched fret with the hull brackets, turret corner reinforcements, overhead gun shield and lift hooks.
The standard 4-page instruction sheet includes a brief history in multiple languages and a parts layout with unused pieces shaded out. A small decal sheet completes the component list. As usual, there are a few extra decals not appearing in the provided marking scheme.
Assembly begins with the lower hull, as well it should. With link-and-length tracks, it is generally easier to assemble them before adding the upper hull and fenders. In fact, it is quite possible to work on the upper and lower hulls and turret simultaneously, which has the advantage of allowing work on one part to continue while the others wait for glue or paint to dry.
The lower hull goes together simply, though you do need to be careful with parts 41 and 61, which go in the back upper corners of the lower hull. I like to have the upper hull handy at this stage, using a little quick dry-fitting to make sure everything is properly squared up. Next come the road wheel and rear idler axles. I won’t glue on the front sprockets until I'm working on the tracks so I can make sure I get them lined up right. Paint comes next, while I can still get in, between, and behind everything.
I've come to prefer link-and-length tracks, even in 1/72, and even though the newer "rubber-band" tracks from the likes of Dragon and Trumpeter have alleviated many of the old problems with attachment and paint adhesion. Still, link-and-length can be imposing until you've got a few sets under your belt. If you've never used them before, the UM T-34-hulled kits just might be the best place to start. Take your time, do one side at a time, and pay close attention to the kit instructions, and you'll be surprised at how smoothly things go. With any experience, these T-70-series tracks go together quite nicely.
After painting the tracks, in a multilayer treatment of metal, rust, and blackwash, I start by positioning the long bottom run, but without glue. I then start to glue the next sections on each end, which bridge from the bottom up to the front sprocket and rear idler. Only once I have these lined up and attached do I go back and run a little glue to fix the bottom run in place. Starting with the bottom means that I will finish up on top, where any unevenness in the final connections can end up in track sag and eventually hidden by the fenders and upper hull. After the first couple of links are connected to the sprocket, I run a little liquid glue into the axle connection around back to fix the sprocket in place. Continuing around both ends with the individual links needed for the tighter curve, I finish up with the connection between the long top length and one of the shorter lengths next to it. A few minutes for the glue to set, and the other side quickly follows.
Meanwhile, the upper hull has gathered just about all of its structural and detail parts and a coat of paint. This way, the remaining paintwork once the upper and lower are united will be minimal, consisting mainly of touchup along the seams.
The turret goes together fairly simply, with a little care during construction and painting to not damage the gun barrels. UM's brass is among the thickest I've ever seen, so, even if you normally don't bother, I have to recommend annealing the part. Heating the part in a candle flame -- get it to red-hot but without letting it burn up -- and then letting it cool will soften the part and make it possible to get a good bend with a minimum of frustration. The hull brackets and lift hooks don’t need bending, but the turret edges and overhead gun shield do.
Finally, the top meets the bottom, and all that remains is some seam and paint touch-up. I’ve built a couple of these T-70-type hulls, and there’s been some variation in fit. It’s easiest to make sure that the hull front is properly aligned, and leave any gaps to the rear. A gap there is not inevitable, but if one appears, the design of the parts makes it easy to fill with a bit of plastic strip.
Painting and Detailing
You can have your Soviet vehicle in any color you want, as long as it's green. Well, that's not exactly true, but it's the way to bet. There were some two-tone camouflages, and winter white schemes, but green predominates. There were specifications, but no matter how closely they were followed, variations will exist. Whether due to a bad batch, bad application, or just differences in wear and tear, two tanks sitting next to each may be different shades. Normally I use Vallejo's Russian Armor Green, but I like to introduce some variation, often simply by using different undercoats and keeping the green coat thinner.
The instructions include one paint scheme, with absolutely no identification of date, unit or location. There are a surprising number of small red stars to be located around the hull and turret, not generally seen on most Soviet vehicles. It makes sense to me as for a unique vehicle in the anti-aircraft role, proper identification by friendly aircraft would be essential. The decals are matte, fairly thin, but with fairly wide carrier film. Generally this isn't much of a problem if you have room to leave the entire carrier in place, as it tapers down well in thickness towards the edges and snuggles down to the surface pretty well. Lastly, Tamiya Weathering Master pastels were used to finish off the look.
All in all, an enjoyable and recommended build. The kit goes together quite well and appears quite accurate. Dimensionally the hull matches the specifications I have for the T-70 perfectly, and the shape matches the drawings and photos I have rather well, though I will admit that I am not an expert in Soviet armor.
At this rate, I am likely to end up completing UM’s entire catalog. While the moldings and engineering may not be quite up to state of the art, they are far better than what we usually call "short-run". They're pretty affordable, and cover subjects and variants that have rarely if ever been kitted in 1/72, and to a reasonable standard of accuracy. I particularly like the link-and-length tracks. As I said above, if you've never built l-n-l tracks in this scale, and are a little hesitant, a UM T-34-hulled kit is probably the best place to start.
The T-90 is an attractive and unusual vehicle which will look good on just about any model shelf.
My sincere thanks to Squadron Mail Order for this review sample!