T-55A Model 1981 - Interior Kit
MiniArt, 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
While there were only four basic T-55 models produced – the T-55 Model1958, the T-55A Model 1961, and the T-55 and T-55A Model 1969 with AA machine guns added back – they were in constant evolution as new systems and components were introduced.
By 1981 these included the addition of the 12.7mm DShKM machine gun on the loader’s station for anti-helicopter defense, a more compact four-section snorkel for the OPVT system mounted on the turret, Type 902B “Tucha” smoke grenade launchers, modified sights with consideration of new ammunition (HEAT and APDSFS), a KTD-2 laser rangefinder, and R-123 radio sets and R-124 tank intercom systems. They also received the later RMSh rubber-bushed tracks with much longer life spans.
This level of upgrade was later built upon with the addition of the BDD passive armor array package based on experience in Afghanistan, explosive reaction armor arrays, and finally the M series upgrades with new sights, computer fire control, new engines and through-the-bore ATGM capability.
Miniart has now released this version of the T-55A with all of the interim upgrades as well as the RMSh tracks, which if assembled with care are moveable. There are three parts to each one – one link and two external fitted pins – so will take time and care to assemble. Compared to the preceding T-55A Model 1965 kit this one now has 820 new parts added or replacing previous ones.
As with all preceding Interior kits this one has a very complete interior from the bow to the rear of the engine, but once more there is no radiator, transmission, fan or oil cooler provided. A number of those parts have to be replaced as they now replicate the “podboy” fittings, but as many of the T-55 kit parts are retained there will be some for the spares box.
Once again Miniart provides a very detailed manual for this kit with five different finishing options found at either end of the manual, plus a very handy “number jungle” for those wishing other options. There are 110 sprues (!) and three etched brass frets (many are duplicates) to sort through on this kit.
As with all earlier kits assembly begins with the V-55 engine (Steps 1-8) which uses a similar parts breakdown to the early V-2 and V-54 engines.No wiring or cabling is provided or shown and while easily doable will take a manual for the engine to match!
Next is the belly pan and torsion bars with separate mounts for the torsion bars and many other small details. The tank has four lever-type shock absorbers that go on the 1st and 5th road wheel sets. Road wheel arms consist of either four or five parts each (based on whether or not they have a connector for the shock absorbers). This also offers up the upper and lower glacis mounts for engineer-equipment fittings (bulldozers or mine plows).
The interior starts with the fixed floor sections and the driver’s compartment starts with the skid control levers and shifter, which has an etched brass gate for all six speeds (5 forward and reverse). Cable runs are molded together for simplicity. Note that the center section is designed to rotate with the turret when attached; with some finagling it could be left out and attached to the turret base later.
The tank has both interior and exterior side panels. The left side begins at Step 18, and there are a lot of details which go on the inside on the new “podboy” fitted part. The right side follows with 100mm rounds racked up on its inside atop that section of “podboy”. Next is the firewall assembly which includes more rounds and internal assemblies to include the air compressor and controls.
The engine, firewall and air cleaner assembly are added next. Once the sides are attached to the hull in Step 35, the glacis is assembled and added.
Wheels start at Step 39 but note that the Station 1 road wheels are different from the Station 2-5 ones; they have the correct larger wheel center bearings and caps. Once the wheels are added to the hull, the hull roof is attached to the lower hull.
Next is the engine deck and rear louver assembly (Steps 45-51). This kit includes the internal armor deflectors for the louvers as well as etched brass screens. The two rear louver assemblies come with protective grill bars made from etched brass which will be a bit fiddly to install. Note that in assembly Step 51 it shows subassembly C - the protective cover over the fan for use in underwater driving - installed down. It can also be installed up leaning on the right 200 liter fuel tank so it will be your choice.
The tracks now come next, and Miniart notes they have the pins provided with small pips for making installation easier (sort of like a small handle) which must be removed from the sprue and then cut off after installation. They recommend no cement be used in assembly. 91 links are indicated as providing the correct length with sag – properly adjusted tracks touch the top of the center (No. 3) road wheel when at rest.
The right fender with fuel tanks and fuel lines is next. This one has the 20 liter oil tank and pump on the right fender as well. The kit provides late style pressed steel 95 liter fuel tanks. This is followed by the left fender with the ZIP bins and tools. Prior to installation of the fenders the tracks go on, with 90 links per side. The tow cables are added, but no wire or string seems to be provided and oddly enough only an asterisk indicates the cable. I could not find one in my kit so guess you are on your own, which seems odd considering how complete the rest of the kit is.
The auxiliary fuel tanks attach with etched brass straps and separate tie-down loops (Steps 71-72). Some may need to be annealed (heat treated) to make them more flexible however.
Assembly of the turret begins at Step 74. This tank uses the “Tsiklon” stabilizer system plus the relocated ventilator and five ready rounds plus an R-123 radio set. It even provides for one round in the breech. Much of the basic gun and mount appear carried over from the T-54B kit, which is correct. The SGMT machine gun and ammo box are nicely done and the complete mount and gun requires 15 parts. The gunner’s seat includes ammo for the SGMT and guards so is quite an impressive subassembly.
But there is a new level of detail inside the turret as it now has to be fitted with all of the sections of “podboy” liner as well as details; also for once the gun is fixed in elevation due to the concentration on accuracy over operating features.
Externally you have some options such as the clear sight window or just the frame for the direct fire sight. Both the main and commander’s IR searchlights are also nicely detailed. Two lens options are given for the auxiliary headlight - either smooth (IR) or lined (white light). The mantlet cover comes in four sections to cover the beading detail but the main gun barrel is in one piece. Rain seal fittings are made of etched brass. Note that this kit now offers three HEAT rounds and one APFSDS round for use in the turret ready rack vice the older AP and HE-FRAG rounds.
The DShKM installation begins at Step 112 and consists of some 27 parts for the gun and mount. The KTD-2 comes with the option of open or closed lenses at the front.
Overall, while possessing the largest number of parts for a 1/35 scale tank kit that I have ever encountered, assembly is logical and fit is not bad. As with all other “Interior” kits a less expensive exterior only kit should come coming later.