Soviet T-18 Light Tank Mod. 1930
HobbyBoss, 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
The very first Soviet tank of indigenous design to get into production was the MS-1 small infantry escort tank. This tank was based on the earlier T-16 prototype, which used the Renault FT-17 as its inspiration. The main differences were a new engine, transmission, running gear, and both a machine gun and a 37mm gun in one turret. 121 tanks, later designated the T-18 Model 1927, were built for the Red Army.
But the tank was slow and suffered a lot of defects. It was underpowered and its flat tracks caused slippage on grades and in soft soil conditions. The turret was cramped and made it difficult for the commander/gunner to use either weapon effectively. These tanks took part in the East China Railway War in the late fall of 1929 and while effect for what service they provided had a great number of flaws.
Prior to that conflict, a meeting of the OAT Trust in July 1929 decided the tank needed correct and as a result a redesign took place. The improved T-18 now received a slightly more powerful engine, new driveline with tracks fitted with cast-in grousers for traction, a new design of drive wheel, a four-speed transmission, and a new turret with more room for the commander/gunner to operate the weapons fitted with a bustle for extra ammunition stowage. The new model was designated the T-18 Model 1938 and some 838 of this model were built in 1930-31.
While quite satisfactory within its limits (top speed of 17.5 kph with the four-speed and a range of 120 kilometers), by 1938 the tanks were obsolete and had been replaced by later models such as the T-37, T-38 and T-40. But in order to get further use out of the tanks, the Peoples’ Commissar for Armaments ordered 700 of them refitted with 45mm 20-K tank guns and sent out to fortified areas for use as mobile firing points. Some were left mobile but others were stripped for use as pillboxes. They were used during the German invasion in June 1941 but were soon knocked out or overrun. Some in the Soviet far east remained in place until the end of the war, and Russian tank historians note it was this group which has provided the basis for several restorations (not all accurate) of T-18s today.
Hobby Boss produced a kit of a T-18 Model 1927 (No. 83873) several years ago and now have released the late model version to join it. This model is of an early production Model 1930 but one refitted with the new drivers and cast track links; a small cover with domed fitting in front of the driver is the indicator of a full production Model 1930 with four-speed replacing the older three-speed. The full production tanks were fitted with a “snail” type horn on the right side of the glacis and a single headlight on the left; the one in the kit is a “hooter” type from the Model 1927. It uses a different design “split” light taillight on the left side of the engine radiator air exhaust grille but this kit retains the early “tube” type. Both of the early features are present on Model 1930s in service so this is pretty much a wash.
Construction is the same as the earlier version. The bogies are the starting place with two two-wheel and one three-wheel sets per side, and a sprung three-wheel return roller and single roller as well. Due to their bracketing the horn and headlight are fitted next before the idlers are in place, as their cabling goes under the wheels. This kit uses all of the Model 1927 parts except for the new drivers (E7/8).
The fenders attach to the casemate and then the casemate to the hull, but I suggest fitting the tracks first rather than trying to wriggle them in under the fenders later. An etched brass screen is provided for the radiator air exhaust at the rear and requires careful bending to fit. The rest of the construction is straightforward and parts are provided to adapt the Model 1930 parts to accept the Model 1927 parts from the earlier kit.
Finishing directions cover painting, but no markings. Photos show small three-digit numbers in white and in the 2xx-3xx range on the slanted plates next to the driver’s visor and small triangles on the sides of the casemate at the front end as most common. Three tanks were named – METALLIST (metal worker), RABKRINOVETS (ceramic worker) and TEKSTIL’SHCHIK (textile worker) with names in Cyrillic on the side armor plates; funds for these three came from their respective worker groups.
Overall this is a nicely done “complete the record” kit and if you wanted a 1941 one model it would not be hard to modify it with a 45mm gun and mantlet.