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T-90 Model 1992 Turret

Miniarm 1/35 T-90 Model 1992 Turret First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review May 2007 Manufacturer Miniarm
Subject T-90 Model 1992 Turret, also for T-90S Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35031 Primary Media 109 parts (107 in grey-green resin, 2 turned aluminum)
Pros Helps turn the T-72M1 into an early model T-90 or T-90S Cons Need some work on the part of the modeler, heavy pour blocks on some items
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $58.00

First Look

The T-72 has not had a happy time of it since the fall of the Soviet Union. While one of the "best sellers" for the Soviets and the "Uralvagonzavod" in the 1980s, with the fall of the Union in 1991 combined with the debacle of Operation Desert Storm in that same year put the factory in a tough spot. The T-72, long vaunted as one of the most powerful tanks in the world, lost both its prestige and its backers within a year.

While former Soviet flacks tried to spin the Gulf War to their advantage, the fact of the matter was that most prospective customers believed the American version of events and not the Soviet one. (Soviet Claim: only 14 T-72s were lost by the Iraqis and most of them were destroyed by their own crews to prevent capture. American Claim: B Company 4th Tanks of the USMC destroyed 34 T-72M and T-72M1 tanks in less than 14 minutes.)

Meanwhile, back in Russia they had been working on improving their domestic version of the tank. First they produced the T-72BM which made a number of changes to the vehicle, including replacing the 4S20 add-on reactive armor ("Kontakt-1") with the new second-generation 4S22 ("Kontakt-5") reactive armor in new arrays. The vehicles received a new 1A40-1 fire control system backed up by a 1K13-2 sight for a through-the-bore antitank guided missile system. Other changes were made, but there was no real quantum leap forward in this tank and only a few were procured by the Soviet Army.

This was followed by a far more modified dubbed the T-72BU. This tank added a modified version of the 1A45 "Irtysh" fire control system from the T-80U which both improved the fire control of the T-72B as well as standardized most parts with the two tanks. It got a new V-84 diesel engine of 840 HP (780 HP in early models), new radio sets, and a meteorological sensor mast. Lastly, it was equipped with the brand-new "Shtora-1" passive/active protection system that detected laser rangefinders and target designators. This system would then either slew the turret to face the threat or fire smoke grenades to blind the enemy; it also used "dazzlers" on either side of the turret to disrupt the tracking control of enemy ATGM gunners.

But with the T-72 designator being a drug on the market, in 1992 new Russian President Boris Yeltsin wisely (at least from a marketing standpoint) changed the designator to T-90 and proclaimed it the "First Russian Tank." Unfortunately even with all these changes the Russians were broke, and over the course of 15 years they have only been able to purchase less than 350 tanks for their own use. Happily the Indians stepped in and purchased 310 of the tanks fitted out for hot climate operations as the T–90S, so the production lines have kept going.

Over the years the T-90 has undergone a number of changes. The very first one was to replace the old single-pin RMSh tracks with new twin-pin RMSh types that were improved versions of the tracks used on the T-80 family of vehicles. These are now called the "Universal Tracks" and are being fitted to all Russian vehicles using T-72 or T-80 chassis and components.

In 1999 a new welded turret was introduced and while not formally identified resulted in a tank called either the T-90 Model 1999 (T-90S Model 1999) or T-90A (T-90SA) on Russian blog sites. This has better armor resistance than the cast turret.

Also the tank received first a modifed version of the V-84 engine, the V-84MS, and later the new 1000 HP V-92S2 engine. Both of these engines are externally identified by a long, curving "anteater" type exhaust tube that has baffles over and under it as well as a grille in the duct itself. These draw cold air from the air cleaner and reduce the tank's overall signature.

Miniarm's new series of kits now permit regular modelers to produce the members of the T-90 family; the "T-90A" welded turret will follow along later this year and the only component not yet offered by Miniarm is the new exhaust mounting and tube for the V-84MS/V-92S2 engine installation. Picking up kits B35005, B35031 and B35032 will permit the modeler to make one of the very earliest of the T-90 series with the standard RMSh kit tracks; adding B35034 to the mix provides for the standard production Model 1992 or the early version of the T-90S, dubbed "Bishma" by the Indian Army. (The Russians named the tank the "Vladimir" in honor of designer Vladimir Potkin, who died of a heart attack shortly after the vehicle was accepted for service.)

The kits are typical of the fine product line from Miniarm, and all of them seem to match the profiles of their prototype very well. However, these are older technology products, which in resin says sizeable pour plugs that must be removed. Most are at least logically sited so they can be removed without damage to the part, but great care will have to be taken with the bins on the turret.

That being said, the kits all state that they are for either the Tamiya or the Trumpeter T-72M1 kits. In good conscience, I must heartily recommend that only the Tamiya kit be considered. The Trumpeter T-72M1 kit is literally a cheesy knock-off of the Tamiya kit (the directions are xeroxed from the original with the logos cut off) and, like all second-rate copies, the kit possesses lousy fit and finish. Ergo, plan on the Tamiya one even at twice the price.

Once you have the right kit, the rest is relatively simple as the directions, while "point and stick" photos, show what has to be cut off the original and where the new bits go.

The turret is complete and requires very little from the kit. This is a good idea, as very few items from the T-72M1 turret transfers over directly to the new T-90 turret. Having just done one the hard way with a Tamiya T-72M1 turret and an old DML "T-72M2" (T-72B1) turret I am impressed with the quality of the base molding. Basically the actual vehicle also shows the fact that the T-90 took the entire remote control machine gun cupola from the T-64BV series tanks and fitted it to a T-72B turret, so all of that has to be new. The gunner's hatch is better detailed than the original, so replacing it is a good idea as well.

The turret has a ton of new parts, so they must be carefully fitted after studying the plans. Some are very tiny and require care. For example the "Shtora-1" system is complete and need a lot of care as the coarse laser detection heads (parts 25) have optional position covers (parts 26) as do the fine laser detection heads (part 24) and its covers (parts 27). Each smoke grenade launcher barrel assembly (parts 35 I think!) mount individually to the two brackets. There are also 22 separate "Kontakt-5" bricks for the turret (not listed but very obvious as they are on a "wafer" of resin) and no less than 17 of them are called for (there are some fits seen with as many as 19 used, so three must be spares) but location here is pretty much shown in the photos.

The "dazzler" searchlights are an amazing bit of molding, as most modelers who scratchbuild would not attempt them due to the "hedgehog" heat sink pins located all over their surfaces. Miniarm has done a beautiful job of them and adds a separate top to give six-surface finishing to them.

The barrel is the only really tricky part, as only one end of the bore evacuator (resin) is tapped with a hole for the assembly pin. Drilling out the other will be somewhat tedious. Also for no reason I can find the flange where the barrel thermal jacket is sealed is missing; MiniArt has engraved a fine line in the top of the barrel where it goes, but no material is provided for it. You will need strips of very thin brass or styrene to add this feature.

No finishing directions are provided by any of the sections, but all of the Russian ones seen so far are in some variation of their new standard camouflage of sand grey, dark green and black. Since the colors vary nearly from vehicle to vehicle, there aren't any really good color matches to give for them other than suggesting FS37038 black and FS34088 dark green.

Overall, these kits do provide a chance for the modeler to create one of the more current tanks in Russia or to create the Indian Army Bishma tank. For those wanting a later version, the welded T-90 turret, combined with the other three elements of this grouping, should provide a model of that tank later this summer, and if Miniarm releases the new exhaust assembly a current production version can be built.

Thanks to Bill Miley of CMD for the review sample.