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SDV T-55AD

SDV 1/87 T-55AD Medium Tank with 'Drozd' Defensive System Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review December 2006 Manufacturer SDV
Subject T-55AD Medium Tank with 'Drozd' Defensive System Scale 1/87
Kit Number 87045 Primary Media 76 parts in olive green styrene
Pros First kit of this specific vehicle in styrene; accurate for this particular vehicle Cons Many tiny parts to create an accurate replica
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Approx $11.42

First Look

The Soviets were one of the first nations to field antitank guided missiles on the battlefield, and fielded them in far greater numbers than most of the NATO countries. But after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war they suddenly realized they had created a two-edged sword (as had NATO, which then began to work much harder on fielding viable ATGMs) and as a result found themselves at a crossroads. Upgrading the armored protection on the tanks was difficult, as the upper level the Soviets wanted for most tanks was only 40 metric tons, and most other types of temporary standoff protection such as mesh or plates was too fragile for long-term combat.

The Soviets then went two different directions – "dynamic" protection or reactive armor, and "active" protection, which involved shooting down ATGMs or RPGs in flight. The result of the latter was the creation of the "Drozd" (Thrush) Active Protection System or APS, also known by its factory designator of 1030 M-01. The first prototype was fielded in 1977, and eventually 250 sets were made for T-55 and T-62 series tanks. (The directions, in Czech and German, note that due to the complexity and the high cost – approximately US $680,000 per tank – it was dropped as not cost effective.) The Russians do offer newer versions for the T-72 and T-80, however, but no sales appear to have been forthcoming.

The system consists of a power booster box on the back of the turret, millimeter wave radar on the front of the turret, and eight 107mm munitions mounted in four boxes on the sides of the turret, two pointing dead ahead and two angle off axis at about 5 degrees. Each contains two munitions.

The way the system works is generally via a tipoff from a laser warning receiver that the tank is being targeted. When the radar set identifies an incoming missile or projectile, it slews the turret towards the projectile and when it is within the acquisition range it fires one or two munitions. They fly out and detonate in the path of the missile about 7-20 meters in front of the tank, usually shredding the incoming missile in midair. The main drawback – you DON'T want to be an infantryman moving in front of the tank when that happens!

SDV has now produced a kit of a Czech-built T-55A with the "Drozd" system in place or as it was known by all of the Pact countries but Poland, the T-55AD (the Polish tank has a bustle cast into its turret and additional radio equipment, so is not related to "Drozd".

The model is formed from the basic components of their T-54/T-55/T-62 series, namely a hull pan, fenders and upper hull sides, tracks and outer wheels, with a Czech-built engine and radiator deck and a standard T-55A early model turret. To this are added the components of "Drozd" but the builder must note that the overhead sketch of the system in the directions does not correctly orient the muntions boxes. Two are on the sides and parallel to the direction of aim as noted, but the upper two are behind them and angled outboard at about 5 degrees, as shown in the photos and directions proper. Also note that on the actual vehicle the components are connected by cables in lightly armored runs along the top sides of the turret.

The tank also comes with the Soviet designed laser rangefinder over the main gun. While the directions show the DShK machine gun in place, this is an early T-55A turret and has the flush hatch and no ring, so it should be left off.

The kit comes with no basic finishing instructions other than basic painting instructions for the Czech light olive drab scheme or the Warsaw Pact grey-green colors. SDV includes their standard decal sheet from MPD with six number runs from 0-9, and markings for Soviet, Czech, Polish, East German, Finnish, Rumanian, West German (not used), Hungarian and one other country. (I suspect Bulgaria but am not sure.)

Overall this is one of the more interesting tanks produced in the 1970s and 1980s by the Soviets, and one which should be a fun build for small-scale modelers. Not sure how wargamers will react, as not sure how many miniatures rules take APS into consideration!

Thanks to Jan Podubecky for the review sample.

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