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Soviet Heavy Tank Object 279 Kit

Panda-Hobby 1/35 Soviet Heavy Tank Object 279 Kit Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review November 2013 Manufacturer Panda-Hobby
Subject Soviet Heavy Tank Object 279 Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35005 Primary Media 610 parts (336 in brown styrene, 244 in dark green styrene, 29 etched brass, 1 twisted copper wire)
Pros First of three kits of this vehicle to get to market; nicely done and hull construction copies the original vehicle Cons Some details skimped on
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $59.95

Review

In the late 1950s, the Soviets were working on actual tactical problems for carrying out mobile warfare under tactical nuclear warfare conditions. They quickly realized that tanks were extremely vulnerable to rubbling - not being able to negotiate blown-down trees, buildings, etc. They also had problems with the "Mach Wave" - the point where the nuclear blast and the air being forced out from under the detonation met and wiped out anything in their path, to include flipping over tanks.

To come up with a solution, in 1955 the Council of Ministers authorized prototype design work on a "special purpose tank" to overcome these problems. The chief designer for the project was once again Zhosef Kotin, but he tasked it to L. S. Troyanov of VNII-100. After approval, one prototype was built in December 1959 and two more in May 1960. Testing showed that the tank, dubbed Article 279 (Ob"yekt 279), did not meet the requirements of the government resolution and it was cancelled in January 1961.

The tank was truly unique. For solving the mobility problem, Troyanov gave it not two but four sets of tracks, covering nearly the entire space under the hull. Due to this arrangement, the tank had a very complex transmission and drive system running down from the main hull to two pontoon-like runners with two sets of tracks on each one. The hull was as thin as it could be made, and as a result a small gondola on the belly accommodated the driver under armor as well as other components. The cast armored hull was relatively small but wide, and it was the first heavy tank to store all of its ammunition in the hull; the turret did not require a bustle and remained clear for crew movement. Although some sources say it had the "flying saucer" shape to beat the "Mach Wave" problem, it now seems it was mostly to get as much protection as possible on the tank without having to go up to 80 or 90 metric tons weight (it weighed a claimed 60 metric tons, still 10 tons more than the "acceptable" limit for ground commanders).

The tank mounted the mighty 130mm M-65 gun with separate loading, and at the time it was capable of defeating any tank in the world. Armor protection of the main components was up to 305mm thick, but in order to defeat NATO ATGMs the tank was fitted with a smooth set of armored stand-off plates with a ballistic shaping to add to their resistance. But the result was a tank that wound up being some 4070 mm wide – way past the railway gauge for movement - so the outer sections were removable to narrow it down. Even so, the claimed 3400mm width was only for the basic armored hull and not the add-ons for the attached screening.

The tank had a 1000 HP diesel engine and an automatic three-speed transmission (no transfer case) which could propel it up to 55 kph and a range of 300 kilometers. Video of the first prototype chassis being tested shows it to be highly mobile and able to go across nearly any sort of obstacle or terrain.

But in the end it was nearly impossible to service and had zero room under the hull to check on either suspension units or tracks. Both the engine and transmission were temperamental and unreliable, and it was just too big for its own good.

After remaining a footnote in tank history for years, now not one but THREE kits are due to market of this interesting if failed tank design. Panda is first (the other two are Takom and Amusing Hobby) but it is a very nice effort.

The kit replicates most of the screwy features of the prototype with lots and lots and lots of single link tracks! While the directions tell you to attach the suspension runners (parts C1, 29, 30 and 47) to the hull after adding the wheels and THEN the tracks, it will be far easier to add the tracks and THEN cement the pontoons to the hull! However, the drivers have separate drive towers (two A-24/25) that mount separately so you will have to watch it. As I said, they faithfully copied the original!

Once past the suspension (which amounts to about 5/6ths of the kit) the rest is pretty straightforward. The tank uses the curious "ejection cooling" system popular at the time in Leningrad so it comes with the air intake louvers (with PE grills) and then a three-piece exhaust vent (parts C-33/34-39/40 and two PE grilles) outboard of them. Tool and cable brackets are combination PE and styrene.

Unlike the DML T28 heavy tank kit, the screen sides (sponsons) are both separate AND come with a backing plate on them so can be left separate. There is a small gap between them and the hull on the vehicle at Kubinka so a perfect fit is not necessary if you attach them to the hull. It has two conformal auxiliary fuel tanks at the rear of the hull and Panda has done a nice job of them.

The gun is two-part styrene but with a Flex-i-file should finish up fairly nice. As the tank never went into service, there are no "niceties" like canvas mantelet covers to worry about. Part B6 is supposed to be a 14.5mm KPVT machine gun in an armored sleeve and comes with a hollow flash hider via slide molding. Note that this tank never carried an AAMG.

Some of the fine turret details are either missing or skimped over, but without good photos it will be hard to determine their precise location and fitting. Measurements show the kit to be very close to the original (the base hull on the kit is 101.5 mm vice 97.1 mm wide, but as noted since VNII-100 basically fudged the dimensions to fit within the rail gauge (and cross sections of the hull show that) I think they got it right.

Finishing directions simply show the tank in postwar "protective green" finish which is close to Soviet Khaki No. 2 (an old Floquil color Testors alas did not copy or reissue). No markings are provided and the tank only received any sort of paint or markings in the Kubinka museum (it currently has a tricolor camouflage pattern there).

Overall, this is a perfectly acceptable kit and it would be hairsplitting to take three kits of this tank in a side by side by side test and judge them differently; but if anyone comes with either single piece track runs or link-and-length think it will be more popular with modelers!

Sprue Layout:

  • A 80x2 Road wheels, idlers, drivers, suspension units, details
  • B 36 Turret, gun, details
  • C 18 Suspension mounts, hull edges, exhaust system
  • C 28 Suspension mounts, ZIP bins, details
  • T 112x3 Single link track links
  • ‒ 1 Upper hull
  • ‒ 1 Lower hull
  • ‒ 1 Twisted copper wire
  • PE 29 Etched brass
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