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T-72BM Turret Set

Miniarm 1/35 T-72BM Conversion Set First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review June 2006 Manufacturer Miniarm
Subject T-72BM Conversion Set Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35027 Primary Media 25 parts (24 parts in tan resin, 1 length of brass wire)
Pros Provides for the modeling of either a T-72BM or very early production T-90, fixes a number of problems with the Tamiya parts Cons
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $32.00

First Look

The Ural Railway Carriage Factory – better known as Uralvagonzavod, UVZ, the "Vagonka" or Factory No. 183 – has a long and proud record of tank construction, of which their pride and joy in recent years has been the T-72 family. They started this tank family in the 1960s and continuously evolved it through the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1985, they felt their latest tank, the T-72BV with reactive armor and the 9M117 missile system for through-the-bore ATGM armament. But they went to upgrade this tank, creating what they dubbed "Object 188" (The T-72B was "Object 184").

Chief designer Vladimir Potkin had this tank, which had some changes over the T-72B, just about ready for introduction in 1990 and in fact was beginning to provide them to the Soviet Army. But after Desert Storm – and the disaster that took place among the Soviet and Czech built T-72s in service with Iraq, the T-72 suddenly became a drug on the market and no orders were forthcoming.

Upset at what they felt was unfair publicity (the Russians still claim today that the Iraqis only lost 14 T-72s in combat and the rest were blown up in place by their crews) the T-72BM, which was accepted for service on 27 March 1991, was no longer wanted. Seeing foreign sales dry up, Potkin went to work to upgrade the new tank and resell it to the Army. The T-72BM had a new engine, the V-84, which boosted power to 840 HP as well as "second generation" reactive armor dubbed "Kontakt-5" which was reported to be effective against both chemical (HEAT) and kinetic (APFSDS) rounds.

The new "Object 188 Improved" offered now added several things to it, such as the 1A45 "Irtysh" fire control system from the T-80U and the "Shtora-1" electro-optical countermeasures system. With some other tweaks, the new "T-72B Improved" was tendered for service. But in this case, when Russian President Boris Yeltsin accepted the tank for service, he changed the service designation to T-90. This did two things: one, it gave it a different slant for advertising when selling it to third world customers, and two, he proclaimed it the first "Russian" tank (as opposed to Soviet.) So far the Russian Army has acquired about 300 of all models of T-72BM or T-90, and India has purchased 310 of the T-90S version of the tank. Later models of the T-90 also have a welded plate turret vice the cast T-72B type of the early models.

Miniarm has continued their great series of upgrade products for Soviet tanks with two complementary kits that transform the Tamiya T-72M1 into a T-72BM or early model (e.g. non-Shtora-1 equipped) T-90. They provide nearly all of the bits needed to change the kit over to the new version.

The conversion set is based on the fact that the glacis armor on the T-72BM and T-90 is what the Russians call "vstroyeniy" or "built-in." (Normal reactive armor boxes are "nastroyenviy" or "stuck on".) To that effect, this kit comes with a complete new glacis and fender section with the fancy rubber tip skirts cast in place. It provides the new "Kontakt-5" skirt armor panels and mounts, and also new fittings for the fold-down scraper blade under the hull.

The conversion set requires that the entire Tamiya hull top be cut back to the turret race on the hull itself and to the joint line right behind the first stowage bin/fuel tank on the front of the fenders. Lips are cast in place to get a good, sturdy joint.

Where Tamiya parts are used, they are called out in the directions along with photos and arrows showing how and where the new parts are located.

The only things I noted as odd are their call for a good deal of copper wire; the kit provides only one small section of brass wire which does not seem to provide sufficient material to match the requirements (it serves as the cabling for lights, controls for the KMT series mine plow/rollers, and the hinges for the three "Kontakt-5" panels on the front of the skirts.)

Overall, the kits are a great place to start on a T-90 or simply the T-72BM for anyone wanting a complete family of ‘72s.

Thanks to Bill Miley of CMD for the review sample.

NOTE: While Miniarm recommends either the Tamiya or Trumpeter T-72 kits, I will not recommend the Trumpeter one as it is both a cheap knockoff of the Tamiya kit (to include using its directions with the "Tamiya" headers removed) and a poor copy at that.