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SDV VT-55A Recovery Tank

SDV 1/87 VT-55A Recovery Tank Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review December 2006 Manufacturer SDV
Subject VT-55A Recovery Tank Scale 1/87
Kit Number 87042 Primary Media 97 parts (95 in olive styrene, 1 in black styrene, 1 in clear orange styrene)
Pros Only kit of this vehicle in any scale that I know of; very nicely done and well detailed kit Cons A large number of small and very busy parts to this kit
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Approx $12.86

First Look

The Soviets did many things right militarily, but many other things were based on expediency demands from the "Great Patriotic War" (WWII) and one of those was a dedicated tank recovery and repair vehicle. Many of their "recovery" vehicles were simply war weary tank chassis minus their turrets and equipped with many sturdy tow cables to pull broken-down or knocked-out tanks back to a collection and repair point. This lasted until the early 1980s when they finally fielded the BREhM-1, a T-72 based vehicle with a crane, spade and heavy winch to recover and repair vehicles with a single vehicle system.

The Czechs were much brighter than that, and as such when they began producing the T-55 tank they created a dedicated recovery and repair vehicle based on that chassis. The vehicle, dubbed the VT-55A, was the first handy system for use by Pact members and as such was sold to and used by most of the Pact members, as well as other countries to include Iraq. 1,820 of these vehicles were produced by the Czechs between 1969 and 1983.

The vehicle saw the turret replaced by a casemate for the crew of three as well as the addition of a spade for using its 75,000 pound pull winch, a 17,500 pound auxiliary winch, a crane with a lifting capacity of 1,500 kilograms, a storage rack for spare parts and equipment (normally complete engines or power packs) of 3,000 kilograms over the engine deck, and a BTU-55 bulldozer blade for clearing a path to a damaged vehicle.

SDV Model now offers this handy vehicle in 1/87 (HO) Scale, and it is a dandy little kit with all of the bits – the only thing it doesn't come with is a spare V-55 engine!

The kit uses SDV's modular construction for the kit – lower hull, fenders and upper hull sides, and tracks with inner wheels being the four main parts to the kit. To this are added the casemate, engine deck with sides and braces, crane assembly, spade assembly, and the BTU bulldozer blade assembly. Some parts are for the normal T-55 series kits and are redundant, but most are useable on this vehicle in new locations. Note that both Soviet-style and Czech-style engine access hatches are provided, but this vehicle can only use the Czech one (part 15). A "whoopie light" (orange rotating beacon) is also included for highway use.

If assembled with care the crane, bulldozer and spade may all be made operational.

The directions are in Czech and German, and while photos of an actual vehicle are provided due to several generations of xeroxing are hard to make out.

No specific finishing directions are provided, but general color callouts are given for the Czech light olive drab paint or Warsaw Pact grey-green, and if other nations are used (e.g. Iraq) one has to consider various shades of sand or sand-and-green paint. A generic "Warsaw Pact" sheet with six number runs from 0-9 and specific markings for Soviet (not used), Czech, Polish, East German, West German, Finnish, Rumanian, Hungarian and one other country are included.

Overall, this is a good little kit and will serve wargamers and scale modelers well.

Thanks to Jan Podubecky for the review sample.