Eastern Express 1/35 BT-7 Command Tank Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||May 2008||Manufacturer||Eastern Express|
|Subject||BT-7 Command Tank||Scale||1/35|
|Kit Number||35110||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Near early war Soviet tank||Cons||No crew figures or interior parts; no instructions in the kit on how to use decal markings|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$30.00|
The BT tank was intended for large, independent long-range armored and mechanized units (called DD groups). These were to act in the rear of enemy positions and take out nerve centers such as headquarters, supply bases, airfields etc. Under such circumstances, high speed was a great advantage. One of the basic attributes of the Christie design was the ability of the tank to run on either tracks or the road wheels. Track drive was used when moving cross-country or along poor roads, whilst wheel drive was used for long strategic road drives. The time to change from one mode to the other was put between 10 and 15 minutes. This ability to run on wheels, however, was never actually exploited much by the Red Army in military operations. When the tank was operated in the wheeled mode, the tracks were attached along the track guards, and engine power was transmitted to the rear pair of wheels. The two front road wheels could be turned to provide steering. In contrast to most other tanks, where to steering levers were employed, the BT was controlled by a steering wheel.
As a result of large-scale exercises carried out by the Red Army during the early 1930’s, it was realized that the long-range DD groups required some form of accompanying artillery to provide artillery fire-support during the attacks. For this reason, special artillery support tanks, which received the suffix “A” were developed. The first of these, the BT-5A, was introduced in 1935. It mounted the short-barreled 76.2mm gun in a turret similar to that used as the main one on the T-28 medium tank. As a result of combat experience, the Red Army requested that the BT be redesigned with welded armor and that the armor be sloped to increase it’s immunity. Thus there emerged the BT-7 model, a vast improvement over the previous models. Ammunition stowage comprised 188 x 45mm rounds and 2,142 x 7.62mm rounds.
As in the case of the BT-5, a commander’s model was developed, designated BT-7U or BT-7TU. The first series of this vehicle still retained the original cylindrical turret of the T-26 tank. However, in 1938, following experience against the Japanese in Manchuria, the new turret, which had been designed for the T-26 tank, was also fitted to the BT-7. A commander’s version of this model was also produced. To provide artillery fire-support, the BT-7A version was developed. This had the same turret and the BT-5A. Other alterations to the BT-7 were the use of a more powerful diesel engine and an improved transmission system. During 1938, the new V-2 diesel engine had been developed specifically for tank use, and this was installed in all subsequent BT-7 tanks. To distinguish it from previous models, the vehicle was designated BT-7M. It has, however, also been referred to as the BT-8. This new engine developed 500hp at 1,800rpm, and being a diesel power-plant allowed the DD groups a much greater range of operation than had been possible previously. It also reduced the fire risk, since diesel fuel is not so volatile as petrol.
Several specialized and experimental vehicles were developed from the BT tank. During 1936, the experimental BT-1S (investigator tank) was developed. This had heavily sloped armor that shrouded the tracks. This vehicle contributed greatly to the eventual development of the T-34 tank. During 1937, several BT tanks were equipped with snorkels, enabling them to deep-ford water obstacles. Such vehicles were designated BT-5H. As the BT-5 and BT-7 models gained numerical significance in the Red Army the older BT models were used to develop special purpose vehicles such as the BT bridgelayer, smoke tank and chemical tank.
Eastern Express is a model company based in Moscow, Russia.
This kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The boxart shows a BT-7 parked in a grassy clearing in a woods. There is a commander looking out of the turret top with a pair of binoculars. The vehicle is camouflaged in a 1930’s pattern of green and brown wave stripes over a base of light tan. This type of camouflage was discontinued before WWII, when Soviet tanks were painted overall dark green. The boxart illustration also shows a heavy chain draped over the nose of the tank. Neither this chain or the commander figure are included in the kit. A side panel shows a color profile of a BT-7 in overall dark green with a white circle on the side of the turret rear bustle. Next to that illustration is a one-paragraph history of the BT-7 in Russian and Eastern Express’s address. The other side panel shows the color boxarts for 4 other AFV kits that Eastern Express markets: a BA-6 armored car, a BA-10 armored car, a BT-7 model 1937 and a BT-7A. The kit numbers for these other subjects is not given.
This kit is one, in a series of 8, of BT-7 variants that Eastern Express is marketing. These are no. 35108 – an early 1935 version, no. 35109 – a late 1935 version, no. 35111 a 1937 version, no. 35114 – a BT-7A with a 76mm short barreled KT-28 gun, no. 35113 – which is a diesel powered 1939 version, no. 35116 – which will be a Finnish SPG BT-42 version, no. 35118 – a CBT-7 command vehicle and finally the subject of this kit the BT-7-1(v) command version. 35116 and 35118 have not been released as yet, to my knowledge.
So, if a modeler has the money to spare, he can do a whole stable of BT-7 variants. Talk about getting MILEAGE out of a basic kit mold!!
Inside the box are five trees of gray parts, packaged in three cloudy cello bags. Moldings are pretty detailed, for a kit coming from the USSR. However, there is quite a bit of flash apparent on some parts. This is especially true on the trees that hold the road wheels, around those wheels.
The letter A tree holds: the bottom, top, double walls of the sides of the vehicle. These must be built into a box. The inside of the inner wall parts have prominent sink marks opposite the girders molded on the outer surfaces of them. The driver’s hatches can be posed in the open position, but whether the side walls…with their sinks…will be viewable after assembly with the hatches open, will remain to be seen. The modeler may want to putty up these sinks, if he is going to detail out the interior. The inner side of the floor piece has the letter “A” and “Eastern Express” molded into it in raised letters. The modeler may want to sand this off before assembly also. (6 parts).
There are 2 identical letter B parts trees. These hold: the road wheels, idler wheels, drive sprockets, link and length type tracks, shock absorbers, a shovel, stowage boxes, headlights, exhaust parts etc. Light flash is evident around several of the road wheels, as already mentioned. (65 parts per tree)
Tree lettering now jumps to letter D parts tree. It holds: the vehicle’s nose piece, air intake screen, fenders, rear chassis plates, driver’s hatches, suspension parts, a horn etc. (28 parts).
Tree lettering, again, takes a leap to letter L tree. It holds: the turret sides, turret top, two different mantles, turret hatches, turret front, ventilator lid, turret lift rings, and the banister type antenna. I must say that this tree looked very familiar, as it is the same turret as what was in the BA-2 Soviet armored car kit that I have by Eastern Express. However, the banister antenna is new.
The final parts are on a tiny tree and packed in a zip-locked cello bag. These are the parts for the twin spot-light arrangement that mounts on top of the main weapon (3 parts).
The decal sheet holds some wavy red lines, a white line and a red dotted line with a white number 12 interrupting it at a couple points. There are various circles, both solid and outline type, some red stars, the number X-16 in white and what looks to be a turret roof white cross for aerial identification by friendly forces.
Little or no help is provided on the instruction sheet as to how to use these. Thankfully, a fellow modeler named George Mellinger came to my aid, years ago, with the following info about these marks.
“The decal stripes go around the turret, at the top. During the 1930’s, this was the Red Army’s system of armor tactical markings.
Two bands around the top of the turret = the upper band solid and the lower a broken line. The colors indicated the precise unit. The upper solid band indicated the battalion, and the lower broken band the company within the battalion. The color code for the units (the same for both battalion and company), for the 1st was red (of course), for the 2nd was white, for the 3rd was black, for the 4th blue (the Russian word is sinij (cyanic or medium to dark blue), not goluboi (light blue), for the 5th yellow.
This same system applies to the T-26, T-28, T-35 etc. tanks.
As to that band of 3 wavy red solid lines. I can only guess. They look about the right length for the turret, but appear to wavy to go on straight. I have never seen anything like this in photos. Maybe they were meant to go around a turret background that had been painted white as wargame markings??
BT’s and also T-26’S could be painted in a variety of colored camouflage patterns, involving the standard 4BO dark green, dark yellowish earth, dark brown, and black –depending on location of the military district. The peculiar blue net pattern over winter white, to replicate tank tracks (maybe??) could go on a number of early Soviet tanks.”
The instructions consist of a single sheet, folded into the middle into 4 pages of 8 ¼” x 11 ¾” format.
Page 1 begins with a repeat of the boxart in black and white, followed by the history of the BT-7 in Russian and English. The bottom of the page has international assembly symbol explanations and Eastern Express’s address in Moscow.
The top of page 2 has “Useful advice” in Russian and English, followed by the first 5 assembly steps.
Pages 3 and the top of page 4 give a balance of a total of 13 assembly steps. The bottom of page 4 has a repeat of the all green side profile from the box side panel, this time in black and white with a paragraph in Russian only above it.
The box art will be of no help as far as markings go. It shows a vehicle with a solid red stripe, at the top of the turret, with a dotted white stripe blow that. This marking is nowhere to be found on the decal sheet provided.
I recommend this kit to modelers of Soviet WWII AFVs.