by: Rob Harvey [ ]
Originally published on:
Marketed as ‘Russia’s First Main Battle Tank’ by Boris Yeltsin in 1992, the T-90 came about as the result of a modernization programme by Nizhny Tagil to improve its famous T-72. The T-90 ultimately started life as a T-72B fitted with second generation Kontakt-V reactive armour, updated fire control system, Shtora active/passive defence and a new V-84M engine. The T-90 designation was chosen in the early 90’s to boost the prospects of export sales (effectively giving the appearance that the tank was entirely new), after the less than glowing performance of Saddam’s fleet of T-72’s in the 1991 Gulf War.
First production batch T-90’s featured a cast ‘Super Dolly Parton’ turret identical to the T-72B, but with Kontakt-V era (which has already been fielded on T-72B models), Shtora active/passive defence and DVE-BS wind sensor mast for the 1A45T fire control system. Very early production batches also retained the RMsh ‘dead’ tracks.
In 1999, following an Indian contract for around 300 T-90’s, research and development began on the fielding of a new welded turret, similar in design to that fitted on the prototype Object 187 of the late 80’s. This was accepted into Russian service as the T-90A, with full production commencing in 2003.
The T-90A’s welded turret is designed to improve survivability and protection and is made of welded armour panels in a roughly geometric shape. First production batch T-90A’s feature a full TShU-1 Shtora array, with two OTShU-1-7 IR ‘dazzlers’ either side of the main armament for ATGM jamming and four laser sensors: two above the main gun and 2 facing the sides.
Armament consists of a 125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun with autoloader and 9K119M Reflecks-M integrated guided weapon system, a coaxial 7.62mm PKTM and 12.7mm 9P49 KORD anti-aircraft gun mounted in a remotely operated weapons station on the commanders rotating cupola.
The fire control system features 1G46 daylight laser rangefinder and 1V216M ballistic computer and a commanders T01-K04 ‘Agate-M’ sight with PK-5 periscope and night-vision sight. To the rear of the turret is mounted a TWO-BS meteorological sensor mast.
The most up to date engine is the V-92S2 1000 HP diesel engine, with ducting to draw fresh air into the engine and reduce the tanks heat signature.
Tracks consist of Osmk KBTM RMsh double-pin live tracks that can be fitted with rubber inserts on the outside face to reduce road surface wear.
There are a number of different T-90A production batches, which feature various nuances depending on the year of manufacture such as an altered Shtora cabling layout. Latest production T-90A’s have the OTShU-1-7 ‘dazzlers’ deleted and replaced with additional Kontakt-V armour wedges as well as an air-conditioning system mounted in place of the left side turret bin (these tanks acquiring the T-90SA designation). Kontakt-V reactive armour is also being replaced with newer generation ‘Relikt’ ERA.
With just thirteen 1/35th scale vehicle releases under their belt, Meng Models of Hong Kong are quickly making a name for themselves as a serious player in the plastic modelling world, with a diverse range of subjects tackled to a very high quality.
The T-90A, first hinted at several years ago and then officially announced in May of this year, is the sixth release in their ‘Tyrannosaurus’ range. Rather pleasingly Meng Models have acquired the assistance of Russian armour expert and former UVZ (UralVagonZavod) research and development employee, Aleksey Khlopotov. Aleksey has spent some years researching Nizhniy Tagil’s armour developments and publishes a lot of his material on his blog ‘Gur Khan Attacks’. His support on this release bodes well!
The kit is made up of 1303 parts across roughly 21 main sprues as well as some other separate parts like the upper and lower hull and track end connectors. Also included are two photo-etched frets, a photo-etch wheel mask and comprehensive decal sheet.
Meng Models kit depicts a number of features characteristic of what might be classified a mid production batch T-90A, from around 2007 onwards. Most of these features are present on the turret, with the most obvious being the cabling layout for the Shtora ‘dazzlers’. Early production batch turrets have two electrical conduits running exposed down the front of the turret (as depicted on the Zvezda kit), whilst later models having the wiring along the turret edge and covered by the Kontakt-V armour segments. A small triangular guard covers the ends on the armour segments where the cabling enters.
There also appear to be at least three different types of Shtora ‘dazzlers’, with different styles of heat dissipating ‘protrusions’. Early models feature simple rubber nipples, whilst mid and later production types have rounded segments on the front sides and squarer rigid protrusions on the side surfaces. Meng Models kit depicts mid-type ‘dazzlers’. The Shtora modulator above the main gun is also of a slightly updated design, with earlier versions present on the Zvezda and Miniarm kits.
Upon opening the box one is immediately struck by the shear number of parts and the incredible detail present. Moulded in a dark green plastic there are almost no moulding stubs or flash, with the only required clean up being removal from sprue and sanding very fine mould seems. The sprue contact points are thankfully not too thick, although some of the smaller parts maybe a little tricky to remove and will require a great deal of care and patience. The contact points are also pleasingly in sensible locations, which don’t compromise the detailing on the parts.
The plastic itself is quite tough so a sharp pair of modeller pliers will be essential, as will a very shape blade for the mould seem removal.
The lower and upper hulls are moulded as two separate parts and assemble like any other tank kit. The lower hull is incredibly well detailed with the reinforcing ribs accurately depicted. There are a couple of small ribs missing from the rear, however given that these won’t be visible on the completed model its hardly an issue.
The lower hull features separate torsion bar suspension that can be modelled to articulate, with working shock absorbers. The hull assembles in much the same way as one might expect and has a similar assembly layout to the Tamiya T-72.
The late type 6 spoke road wheels are moulded as two parts with exceptional detailing and even the ribs on the rubber wheels. The rubber wheels do unfortunately lack any of the markings on their front face.
The tracks will perhaps prove a little tedious and consist of the links with separate guide horns and rubber end connectors. Meng Models do provide a useful jig for assembling them, however with the capacity to assemble six links this will still take some time and effort.
Included is a complete V-92S2 engine and firewall consisting of 39 parts that fit into the lower hull. This additional feature makes for a pleasant detail with the access hatch open and could equally be depicted separate of the tank.
The upper hull is moulded as one piece with fenders attached onto which fuel cells and ZIP boxes are glued. The rear engine access hatch is moulded separate to display the V-92S2 engine, whilst the air intakes are moulded in place with the correct leftward alignment. Comparing the hull to scale plans included in Wings & Wheels Publications reference book on the T-72 the kit matches up perfectly.
Moulded separately are the glacis plate with integrated Kontakt-V armour, lacking some welds, and the driver’s roof plate. There has been some talk on Russian forums that the drivers access hatch is too square and not rounded enough at the sides, this should only really be an issue if the hatch is depicted open. The anti-radiation cladding around the hatch also lacks some of the prominent fabric texturing, which could be improved by some Mr Surfacer stippled on.
Two types of engine access hatch are provided depending on whether one wishes to display this open or closed, the open one appropriately having no mould holes on the inside face.
Upper hull detailing is very good with lots of small parts included separately for a greater degree of finesse and accuracy. There are photo-etch screens for the intakes, numerous separate parts for the rear engine deck such as the hatch hinges. A section of fuel line is provided for the front most fuel cells but one will have to make their own running to the rear cell. Be aware as well that the instructions call out for a small part B19 (the engine hatch opening lever), this is too short and in reality one should use part B26. Furthermore the instructions only call out for one part F9 (some sort of stake), actually another of these needs to be fitted to the second from rear fuel cell and is provided on the sprue. There is a crow bar provided as part B7 to fit on the front hull roof along side the ZIP boxes, which according to references is not fitted to all vehicles. The unditching log and thread tow cable are rather weak and better replaced.
Side skirts are nicely detailed with separate rubber skirting with a wavy rubberized effect. There is a slight error in the instructions when attaching the Kontakt-V armour panel mounts, parts B24 and B25 need to be switched around, Meng Models have acknowledged this on their site.
The turret is made up of an upper part with sidewalls moulded in place, the base with rotating circle and rear wall. This should assemble with relative ease and require little filling. The main turret has a lot of fine detail moulded in situ, however again the anti-radiation cladding lacks the distinctive texturing and the Shtora cabling is rather incomplete with a total absence of any wiring for the modulators and side facing laser probes.
Detailing for the turret is absolutely superb with no less than fifteen steps in the construction manual. The Kontakt-V armour segments are moulded as upper and lower rows; one may wish to separate them into individual parts for a more realistic appearance. Be aware of part A44 as well which is a small armour block with a GSM transmitter moulded onto it, the transmitter will need to be sanded off for anything other than the overall green 27th Guards parade vehicles. There’s the full complement of turret bins provided, assembled from separate panels, smoke dischargers and the snorkelling equipment tube.
Clear parts are provided for commanders and gunners sights, as well as the sight equipment for the turret interior. The Shtora ‘dazzlers’ are well detailed with excellent depictions of the heat dissipating protrusions and fine mounting frames, all that’s missing is the relevant wiring running to the back of the ‘dazzlers’.
The commanders cupola and remote weapon station is an absolute work of art and a small model in itself. Made up of 41 parts, the level of detail is stunning and will very much add to the overall impressive appearance of the turret. The end of the KORD barrel is hollowed out as well.
Finally the 125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun is assembled as barrel halves with an accurate muzzle end and bore evacuator moulded as one part. The barrel is made of eight parts in total and will require some careful alignment and possible filling along the bottom joins. The top joins are pretty much covered by some very thin ribs running along the top length. The gun mantlet is made up of a plastic part and flexible rubber covering placed over which luckily doesn’t have any mould seems. Also included are two flexible rubber crew helmets.
The 23-page instruction booklet is very clear and concise, construction broken down into 43 parts. There are a few very minor errors as mentioned above, however on the whole one should find this very easy to use. The back page has the different tank numbers for the parade vehicles (allowing one to build any of the parade vehicles), however makes no mention of which year each set of numbering relates to. Cross referencing against the decal placement page gives us the correct years:
Option Parade Year
C (non parade version)
The reasonably extensive decal sheet provides the numbering options as well as emblem markings. A supplementary set of decals where also provided in issues 87 of Model Military International published by ADH. This small sheet provides additional markings for four tanks, including a vehicle operating in Abkhazia. One small error spotted by Yann Jouault is tank marking ‘124’ for the Volgograd parade was actually fitted with early style Shtora ‘dazzlers’, different from those provided by Meng Models.
There can be no doubt about it, this is a highly impressive release from Meng Models and pretty much knocks all other competition out of the water for both affordability and level of detail provided. The quality of the moulding is simply stunning and comparable to, if not better than, anything we have come to expect from the likes of Tamiya.
The extensive breakdown of parts may prove challenging for some, but any modeller with a limited degree of skill should be able to tackle this with a bit of patience and access to some decent tools. Furthermore the parts breakdown is logical and sensible and not over the top as one might find, in say a DML or Bronco kit. Concise and easy to follow instructions will make life easier as well.
There are a few small minor issues here and there as mentioned in the review, but ultimately nothing that stands out and detracts from this being a stunning and welcome release from a manufacturer fast making a name for themselves as the new byword for quality and diversity of subject matter.
My thanks to Yann Jouault for his very kind assistance when researching for this review.
References & Further Reading
T-90A Walkaround, by Richard Stickland. AFV Modeller: Issue 64 (May/June 2012)
‘Vladimir: Last of the Line’, T-90 build by Cookie Sewell. Military Modelling: Vol.38, No.6 (2008)
‘The T-72 and T-90’, By Steven Zaloga & David Markov. Concord Publications (2010)