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AER 1/35 T-38 Small Amphibious Tank Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review January 2007 Manufacturer AER
Subject T-38 Small Amphibious Tank Scale 1/35
Kit Number 0019 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Interesting subject Cons Poorly done instructions in Russian only
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $14.60

First Look

T-38 Kit
T-38 Kit
T-38 Kit
T-38 Kit

The T-38 amphibious scout tank was a Soviet light amphibious tank that saw service in WWII.

Designed in 1936 at the AMO vehicle works, the T-38 was a development of the earlier T-37, based in turn on the French AMR-33 light reconnaissance tank. The tank was powered by a standard GAZ (Ford) engine and was cheap to produce. Buoyancy was achieved by the large-volume hull and large fenders. In water, the vehicle was propelled by small three-bladed propeller mounted at the rear.

The tanks were intended for use for reconnaissance and infantry support. As a scout tank the T-38 had the advantages of very low silhouette and good mobility, due to its ability to swim. The T-38 was also intended to be air-portable; during the Kiev maneuvers in 1936, the tanks were transported by Tupolev TB-3 bombers, mounted under the fuselage. Infantry battalions were each issued 38 T-38s, with 50 being designated for each airborne armored battalions. However, the thin armor and single machinegun armament made the tank of only limited use in combat while the lack of radios in most T-38s was a serious limitation in a recon vehicle. The T-38's limitations were recognized, and it would have been replaced by the T-40 but the outbreak of the WWII meant that only a few T-40s were produced.

Around 1,500 T-38s were built, illustrating the importance of amphibious scout tanks to the Red Army. Some were up-gunned with a 20mm ShVAK cannon.

The tank served with the Red Army in the Winter War with Finland in 1940, but was unsuccessful due to its light armament and thin amour. In the confined terrain of Finland the tank was a deathtrap. It did not do well in the early stages of World War II, and large numbers were captured by the Germans during Operation Barbarossa. The T-38 was rarely seen in direct combat after 1941 and mostly relegated to other roles such as, artillery tractor although it was reported to have been used in the Dnieper River crossing of 1944. During WW2, the main amphibious scout vehicle of the Red Army was the Ford GPA amphibious jeep, an open unarmored vehicle provided through Lend-Lease.

The German Army did not generally use captured T-38s as gun tanks (unlike captured T-26’s, T-34’s or other more valuable vehicles). It is reported that some were re-used by converting them into self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery, mounting a 37 mm anti-aircraft gun on the T-38 chassis, although this would seem to be a very large piece for the chassis.


  • T-38RT (1937), version equipped with radio
  • OT-38 (1937), flamethrower-equipped version
  • T-38M1 (1937), prototype with superior planetary transmission, considered too complex for production
  • T-38M2 (1938), modification improving the gearbox and replacing the engine with GAZ M1
  • T-38TU, command version with extra radio antenna
  • SU-45 (1936), experimental 45 mm self-propelled gun
  • T-38TT (1939), experimental remotely controlled tank (teletank)

The kit comes in a small sturdy tray and lid type box. The box art is a painting of a T-38 emerging from a river. Side panels show 3 photos of the model made up. The bottom of the box has color paintings of 2 paint schemes and a history of the vehicle only in Russian. Oddly, no kit number appears anywhere on the box or the instructions.

Inside the box are 3 dark olive green parts trees, a decal sheet and the instructions. The parts and decal are cello-bagged.

The first large parts tree holds: the turret, drive sprockets, boggies with the road wheels molded on them, rudder, propeller, fenders, tow cable, main gun, shovel etc. (36 parts)

The second large parts tree holds the hull top, bottom and side parts (4 parts)

The third, and last, smaller tree holds the link and length type tracks (44 parts). These links are quite small and look more like 1/72nd scale than 1/35th, so care will really be needed to assemble them.

The decal sheet and instructions complete the kit’s contents.

The instructions consist of a single letter sized sheet, printed on both sides. The paper it is printed on is very poor quality.

The face side of the instructions gives the history of the vehicle in Russian only. This is followed by parts tree drawings, with a list of what each part is. Unfortunately, this is also in Russian. Finally, there are two drawings of the T-38 with no markings on them, except for a red star on a scrap drawing of the turret. Colors are called out in Russian.

The decal sheet has both Russian and Finish national markings on it. It seems rather thick to me and I don’t know how it will snuggle down or perform later.

There are two full color 2-views printed underneath the bottom tray of the box. One appears to be Russian and one Finish. However, we are not told what outfits these represent. Surrounding these views is the history of the vehicle, unfortunately in Russian only.

There are no crew figures or interior detail provided.

The detail and molding of the kit is quite good. The rivet patterns on parts is nicely done. My only gripes are the all Russian language on the instructions.

Recommended to modelers of Russian armor.