Takom, 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
One nice thing when you have done the research and written a book about a specific subject is the ability to quote from yourself (!) on somewhat obscure vehicles like this one:
“T-55AD “Drozd” Medium Tank (1983) (Obiekt-155AD)
“ During World War Two, armour designers had experimented with weaponry to defeat incoming projectiles, and starting in the 1950s the Soviets experimented with all sorts of ideas such as multi-barrelled “Gatling” type machine guns to shoot down incoming ATGMs. But that only worked against the very slow early NATO missiles such as the French developed SS-10 and the American designed Dart, and with faster and smaller missiles or RPG rounds they were essentially helpless. The systems were also quite bulky and towered above the tanks, as well as using an immense amount of ammunition to accomplish their task.
“In 1964, the first elements of an active protection system were tested using T-55 tank hull sections as test pieces, which were fired upon by 85mm cumulative rounds for test purposes. Development of such active protection systems continued at a slow but steady pace for the next decade, before the pace was increased in the late 1970s. Between 1977 and 1982 Soviet scientists worked on developing what they termed a complex for active defense (Kompleks Aktivno Zashchita or KAZ) to defeat new generation ATGMs and even RPGs. This bore fruit and on September 12, 1983 the Soviet Army adopted the Type 1030M “Drozd” (Thrush) active protection system.
“The “Drozd” system consisted of three basic parts: a set of radar sensors on the front sides of the turret; a fire control computer dedicated to the system; and eight launcher tubes mounted in pairs and angled outward from the sides of the turret, each holding one 3UOF14 107mm anti-missile projectile loaded with what would be termed and well understood abroad as case shot.
“The system operated in the following manner: When the radar on one or the other side of the tank picked up an incoming projectile 130 metres out, the system was activated and a launcher covering that sector was selected to engage the projectile. When the projectile closed to 60 meters the radar would lock on and the computer prepared to fire. The munition was fired and detonated 6.7 meters in front of the tank with the resulting detonation shredding the projectile like a giant shotgun.
“The system was primarily mounted externally with the radar elements at the top edge of the turret, the launcher tubes in splayed pairs welded to the side of the turret of the T-55, and the controller and computer in an armoured box on the rear of the turret. It only covered four different frontal sectors but the blast of the munitions was sufficient to cover a wide area. Scientists gave it a 70% plus chance of properly engaging and destroying any incoming projectile traveling at 70 to 700 meters per second.
“The tanks were fitted with blockers to prevent firing over the open hatch of the driver-mechanic and a normally redundant back-up generator was provided to ensure sufficient power would be available in an emergency to operate the system.
“A portion of the T-55AD tanks were also upgraded with the M package as well as the T-55AMD, but the only change in designators was the T-55AD-1 (Obiekt-155AD-1) version which was fitted with the V-46-5M vice the V-55U.
“All of this was scientifically well and good, and calculations were that the system would reduce battlefield tank losses by a factor of 2 to 3. But in all of the planning nobody asked the motorized rifle troops (who would be on the battlefield and in many cases in front of the tanks) their opinion. Commanders who were briefed on the system were absolutely indignant about putting their men out in front of something that could fire what was effectively a 107mm (4.2) caliber shotgun at them without warning. It was admitted that the secondary use of the system was in manual mode to engage enemy troops at close range, which again did not endear it to the motorized rifle personnel.
“While a considerable number of T-55A tanks were converted to T-55AD standards (over 700 were on paper still in Soviet inventory as of November 1990) it is not known how or if the General Staff determined how to operationally use these vehicles without injuring their own troops.
“Note that Poland also offered a T-55D tank, but it was a considerably different model, and essentially was a T-55 with a turret bulge to carry additional radio communications equipment for command and control.”
Now Takom has added this variant to its fine offering of T-55 series tank kits. With roughly one third of the number of parts found in the excellent Miniart series covering the same tank, this kit will produce a very fine model of the ill-starred “Drozd” tank. 140 new parts are added to their base T-55 kit in order to replicate the “Drozd” launchers, radar and controller.
As with most kits construction starts with the hull pan and running gear. The road wheel arms include the four shock absorbers and lever arms needed to connect them. Road wheels come with separate tires with ridges (!) and the 1st road wheel has the correct larger spindle and grease cap.
Tracks are single link and come with 16 extra links in the kit. They are excellent with the pins visible in the ends of each hinge.
Directions call out for which holes have to be drilled in the fenders for this variant and only a few etched brass parts are needed for the braces between bins and fuel tanks. Fuel lines are provided for the right side tanks.
Step 15 is a bit confusing as it tries to explain not to use part TP25 if you are going to display the fording hatch (part J21) in the open position but it is far from clear!
Experience with past kits warns me that installing the fording cover hold-down strips (parts TP1 to TP4) is tricky as they tend to flex at the most inopportune time! Also note that you need to drill out holes in the glacis (part L2-8). The rest of the hull details are straightforward.
There are a large number of holes to be drilled out on the turret shell -31 to be exact and there are in two different sizes – 1mm and 0.8mm (0.040” and 0.030” to we English measurement types). Some are for the T-55A parts but most of them are for fitting the “Drozh” equipment to the tank. The model does include a T-55A Model 1961 domed hatch but the kit shows the later Model 1969 DShKM tourelle mount as the preferred choice; I have not seen a T-55A model 1961 with “Drozd” but that does not rule out the possibility that some were so fitted.
Step 31 is where the “Drozd” installation begins with assembly of the four launchers (two per side). Each side gets two two-round launchers and a radar control unit; the computer controller is fitted to the rear of the turret. The directions show how the cabling and hoses connect the computer to the controllers.
The last items to be fitted are the DShKM, searchlight, main gun and the laser range finder over the main gun.
Markings are slim as few if any of the tanks were ever issued to line units due to the problems listed in the historical section. One vehicle in protective green with “Guards” badges and another in the short-lived four color camouflage are provided. Note that most of the vehicles paraded with “Drozd” show red plastic caps on the front of the launcher mounts.
Overall this is an excellent model of a somewhat rare variant of the T-55 family.
- 1 Mantlet
- 1 Fine wire
- 1 Hull pan
- 1 Turret shell
- 1 Twisted steel cable
- 20x10 Track links
A 38x2 Road wheels, drivers, suspension arms
B 140 Complete “Drozd” installation and modified vehicle parts
B 5x4 Tires
C 40x2 Auxiliary fuel drums, small details
E 5 Fenders, stern plate, louvers, unditching log
H 72 T-55A Model 1961 turret details, gun barrel
J 73 Upper hull details, turret race
J2 30 T-55 turret base, T-55A model 1969 details
K 21 T-55 Model 1969 details, DShKM machine gun
L2 27 Glacis, details, IDF .50 caliber machine gun mount
S 14 Clear styrene
TP 29 Etched brass