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PT-76 Kit

Trumpeter 1/35 Russian PT-76B Amphibious Tank Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review August 2012 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject Russian PT-76B Amphibious Tank Scale 1/35
Kit Number 0381 Primary Media 188 parts (181 in grey styrene, 4 etched brass, 2 black vinyl tracks, 1 nylon string)
Pros Makes changes to the earlier kits to represent a PT-76B for 1962 and later series tanks; nicely done details Cons Wrong lower hull bow angle for this model of the PT-76; some dimensional differences with recent plans; vinyl tracks so-so
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $47.95

First Look

Trumpeter is now becoming another company like DML and Tasca to make a "full court press" on its chosen subjects when they pick one. This is the third of four kits released covering the basic Soviet PT-76 amphibious tank series of vehicles (they have also released a BTR-50PK among other kits).

As I wrote in the review of the PT-76 Model 1951, the PT-76 was developed out of a postwar requirement for a light amphibious reconnaissance tank (in the mold of the prewar T-37 and T-38 light tanks) with no more than 15mm armor protection and mounting a 76mm gun to protect itself. The PT-76 was created by the Chelyabinsk Kirov Factory under the auspices of Zhosif Kotin, who was the chief of all tank designs from both Chelyabinsk and Leningrad after the war. A task force of designers was created from Chelyabinsk, Leningrad and the VNII-100 research institute under designated project head designer Nikolay Shashmurin.

Based on work done at the Factory No. 112 ("Krasnoye Sormovo") just after the end of the war, Shashmurin's team created two vehicles on one chassis: Article 740, which was the amphibious light tank; and Article 750, an open-topped amphibious armored personnel carrier (which became the BTR-50). They worked on the project from 1949 to 1951, after which Article 740 was accepted for service as the PT-76 (P for "Plavayushchiy" or amphibious, T for tank, and 76 for the 76.2mm D-56T gun). A number of enterprises thus shared in the award of the "Stalin Prize" for the creation of the PT-76 and BTR-50 in 1953. Most of the vehicles were built by the Stalingrad (now Volgograd) Tractor Factory even though it was designed "up north."

The vehicle underwent several upgrade programs in service: these included work on a "Zarya" gun stabilizer, an upgrade to an 85mm gun, and various minor improvements. In 1955 the original D-56T gun with its multi-baffle muzzle brake was replaced by the D-56TM with a two-chamber type as well as finally provided with a HEAT round which gave it better ability to deal with tank type threats. In 1957 a TDA smoke generator system was installed, as well as a new R-113 VHF radio to replace its 10RT type HF set from WWII.

In 1958, a new and heavily modified version entered production, the PT-76B. This tank used the D-56TS gun with the "Zarya" stabilizer, a radiation and chemical protective filter system (FVU and PAZ systems), the hull was increased in height by 60mm at the turret centerline area to increase buoyancy reserves and sea keeping qualities, the turret handrails were moved up 150mm on the sides, twin 90 liter auxiliary fuel tanks were fitted, a third (IR) headlight added, and a number of minor changes were also made.

In 1962 the vehicle hull was redesigned, with the sides increased another 70mm and the lower front plate angles changed from 45 degrees to only 35 degrees.

Between 1951 and 1969 a total of 4,172 PT-76 tanks of all types were produced, of which 941 were exported to a variety of countries to include China, Vietnam, Egypt, and India. Widely popular with Russian forces, especially the Naval Infantry, the PT-76 was still in service in 1990 and declared in CFE – but as a "light armored vehicle carrying heavy armament" so it would not count against tank strengths.

The PT-76B kit changes out the early D-56T gun for the stabilized D-56TM gun with the two chamber muzzle brake. This kit also adds the correct upper hull profile with the final raised sides, but it uses the height of the Model 1958 which is 2 mm too low. It also uses the lower hull from the first two kits which is not correct for the B model. That changed the lower bow angle from 45 degrees to 35 degrees but the kit alas will have to be corrected. Still, it is easier than correcting the upper hull height on the Model 1951.

Note that in 1/35 scale the upper hull of the Model 1951 should be 12.3 mm; for the Model 1958, 14 mm; and for the PT-76B,16 mm, point of measurement is the break in the hull side beneath the forward part of the turret. This is based on 1/35 scale plans by Aleksandr Koshchavtsev, who is a very accurate draftsman.

As a result this causes the error in the suspension units making them slightly strung out, with the lead one being about 70mm in scale (2mm) too far forward and the rest graduated down the line until the rear units match. Again, I doubt many modelers will correct this error. (Note that the EE kit is of the 1958 version of the PT-76 with the 60mm raised hull and dual baffle muzzle brake.)

That being said, whereas the EE kit had nice details the Trumpeter one has excellent ones. It comes with useful etched brass for the engine deck grilles (air intake and exhaust/ejection cooling) and also the headlight guards; formers are thoughtfully provided for their complex shapes. For some reason Trumpeter includes the entire water jet trunking even though I doubt many will put the model on a mirror to see it! There are some major pin joints inside the trunking as well as the barrel, but a few minutes with a Dremel Minimite should solve that problem.

The gun barrel is as nice as anyone could wish in plastic, even though like the Model 1951 it had to be done using conventional molding methods and thus there are assembly pins in the bore to rout out. A gun breech is provided for the kit as well but as no basket comes with it for the turret you may wish to just "button it up" for simplicity's sake.

With the exception of the tracks, all bits on the Trumpter kit are just that much better. Trumpeter now does offer a working single link track for this vehicle, but as the track links are each three parts (two guide teeth and a pad) I am not sure how many modelers will use them. The kit tracks indicate they are cementable vinyl (e.g. like the DS plastic used by DML or the type used by Tamiya) but are thin and somewhat flimsy. Given that an EE kit probably goes for $10-12 at flea markets, you may wish to pick one up for the single link tracks that will fit on this kit.

Engine deck hatches are separate parts so detailers may install an engine and driveline, and the crew hatches also are optional position items..

Two sets of markings are included for a Naval Infantry tank with exercise stripes in 4BO green and a tri-colored one, also Naval Infantry, but without the flag insignia. Note that Bison has a new set of Naval Infantry markings out which will be suitable for this kit as well as Trumpeter's BTR-60P kit.

Overall it is still disappointing that Trumpeter missed the fact that all three PT-76 tanks use different height hulls and the lower hull changes on the "B" itself.

Sprue breakout:

  • A 57x2 Suspension, water jets, hull details
  • B 57 PT-76/PT-76B turret and hull details
  • D 7 PT-76B rear hull and turret rail details
  • F 1 PT-76B turret shell
  • S 1 PT-76B Upper hull
  • S 1 Lower hull
  • S 2 black vinyl tracks
  • PE-A 3 etched brass
  • PE-C 1 etched brass
  • S 1 Nylon string