by: Jacques Duquette [ ]
The T-80 series tanks, what can I say...I am a incredible fan. Being former military, nothing said "boogey man" in the barracks late at night, when studying vehicle recognition, like the T-80. Fast, small, deadly And beautiful, Just like all those women my parents warned me about. I was in love. And while both the T-80 series and I are moving into the waning years of our lives, it is still my OpFor love.
The T-80 series essentially started out as a way to make a turbine engine powered T-64 at a cheaper cost with the T-72 type suspension (the idea that "turbine engine" and "cheaper" were even in the same conversation shows that the Soviets had moxie...and maybe too much to drink). The very first run of the T-80 (plain) had a new hull, ribbed roadwheels and, essentially, a T-64A turret. After a short run, it was reworked into the main production run, the T-80B. This was a modified T-64B turret on the T-80 hull, with new roadwheels (generally speaking...trying to brush with BROAD strokes here). This was awesome, but it needed some bling, so they added Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) to take the awesome up a notch and so created the T-80BV (the V is vzryvnoy, explosive). This was exciting and even spawned a joke on a US Congressional delegation by bolting the ERA 3 deep (boy did THAT make the papers! The Soviets were laughing!), but the lessons from the wars in Israel showed that Soviet MBT's needed more armor, and better ERA, to face current and future enemy tank rounds. So they put a new turret, designed integrally with the next generation ERA, on the T-80 hull and created the T-80U (U for uluchsheniye; improved)...(well, broad strokes again, this is a general history. They were still tinkering with the final layout, and Kharkov was still upset that it was not diesel powered). The first batch (~ 100 tanks) were produced with K1/K3 ERA, but as soon as the K5 2nd Generation ERA was ready, it went into production.
The T-80U was the T-80B all grown up (they grow up so fast). It had the armor to go toe-to-toe with any other tank in the world. It was still small, fast, and deadly. Maybe not as racehorse beautiful as the T-80B, but it could shrug off hits the T-80B would succumb to. The T-80U ascended as a true contender to the World Title when...the bottom fell out. The Cold War ended, the Soviet Union imploded (they had a fascinating yard sale for about 15 years...which is why South Korea and Cyprus are big users of THE final premier Soviet-era MBT). In the end, the design was plagued by fuel consumption issues (just like race-cars and those women I mentioned before) and politics (the Russian's and Ukrainians really did NOT get along over their T-80U and -UD issues) and so it lost out to the T-90 series in Russia, and the T-80UD (and T-84 designation) in Ukraine. But the design lives on...in 1/35 scale.
There has never been a 1/35 scale plastic kit of the T-80U (T-80UD's, yes, but not T-80U's), so Xact Scale
has done something unique. The box is filled with a few large sprues and MANY smaller ones. Plastic is dark grey styrene with accepts liquid cement well, cleans up well, and drills well (more on this later). Decals are good, clean and go on well. PE is very nice where it is used, and there is a metallic "string" for the tow cable. First impression is...wow. Nice kit, this is so much better than any plastic offering of ANY T-80 before. The parts breakdown is a little unusual (more on THIS later too) but the detail attained is mostly worth it, and it shows that Xact Scale
can use the molds for MANY versions of the T-80 (The T-84 has, in fact, been announced)
And so, let's move into the kit review. I am doing something a bit different in my reviews now: First comments are for the general modeller...you know, the guy (or gal) who wants to build a model of a great tank and does not get hung up over bolt sizes, hull plate angles or wheel diameter heartache, but wants a good build to make a good representation. Good enough over perfect. Second comments, which are prefixed with a (A) - are meant for the AMS (Advanced Modeler Syndrome) afflicted. Notes on small detail, questions about minutia, possibly even, dare I mention it...BOLT COUNTING (no rivets...sorry) are possible. The (A) - notes delve into things that the general modeler should not bother with...AMS is a disease, so be careful reading these notes, you may catch it. You have been warned.
There is a BLOG on this kit that I have started: http://www.armorama.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=SquawkBox&file=index&req=viewtopic&topic_id=210148&page=1#1765194
FIRST - The small clear lens. Find it once you open box and put it somewhere safe. Either I lost mine, or it was missed in the kit packing.
The kit measures out spot on in almost all major respects (see references at the end) and I have noted where there may be issues.
Now, the instructions. A weak point among many established model companies, with a very steep learning curve for new companies. Xact Scale's
instructions do have some issues, BUT you can build the model from them with minimal confusion.
- Step 1. Upper hull, idler mounts, entrenching blade. make sure that parts A13/14 are oriented correctly and glued on flush/square/plumb. A mistake here would be hard to correct later. PE6 pieces go on the BOTTOM SIDE of A13/14, not the top. (This is confusing because in step 2 they are shown on TOP of these parts. DO NOT put them on top.) (A) - Part A8 strikes me as a bit off, but with the front skirts on this is not going to be seen, so is it a issue? Not really. Not sure why the idler mounts are separate pieces, possible issues with production or for future variants? Just not sure if it was necessary.
- Step 2. Engine deck, front upper glacis. In particular, I was pleased with the intricate detail of the engine air intakes and with the PE mesh over them, replicate the real thing very nicely. The front glacis needs to be put on as flush as possible with the upper hull keeping in mind that there should be a step UP from the upper hull to the front glacis. However, there should NOT be a deep valley. This may require a little putty to make it look correct. To see what I mean, look at a reference photo of the front glacis and follow the wiring conduit for the headlight wiring...it goes through a notch cut through this step. A9/10 go on only one way and have a knock out that needs to be filled as it is on the outside face of the pieces. (A) - The fuel drum mounts on the rear engine deck are correct in that the -U could have them. They are, however, very rare and for a "common" example, they
should be removed. Prime Portal's walk-around shows these in place...they just bolt on the deck of the real thing.
- Step 3. Idler, Sprocket, road-wheels. All measure out or eyeball very close to what they should. The detail is almost beyond the ability of the eyeball (I checked under my microscope)...all those bolts are actual 6-sided bolt heads, some with bolts in the center. (A) - The sprocket is the only piece I could not get a prototype measure of. It could be a bit too big but it is VERY hard to tell.
- Step 4. Front glacis ERA, idlers, return rollers, shocks. NICE detail on the front glacis ERA. It may be easier to paint the lower hull before you add the return rollers and idlers. BE CAREFUL - if you add the idlers now, just test fitting, they go in TIGHT and you may not be able to remove them (for painting) without damage. E28/29 need to be added just before you add road-wheel arms E30 in step 5. They need to all align with each other, with E28/29 resting on top of and above E30. (A) - The E28/29 and E 30 joint looks a bit odd, but looking over references, I can see why it is done this way. It is correct. E30 should probably have a contact/bolt structure to accept E30, but I could not find a good reference that showed it. Not noticeable unless you flip the model and go looking, so it is not something to worry about.
- Step 5. Road-wheel arms. DO NOT intermix, make sure E30 goes on soon after the E28/29 parts in Step 4. Easy enough to keep straight/level/plumb using the usual model techniques (metal ruler on a true flat surface).
- Step 6. Road-wheels, sprocket, and mud cleaner. PE4/5 have folding guides on the PE fret, nice touch. Road-wheels and sprocket attach FIRMLY when glued, lots of nice surface area to glue to. It is my preference to paint the road-wheels and sprocket BEFORE attachment, so I only glued part E5 (from step 3) onto the hull. (A) - Will have to rework sprocket mount and sprockets to make the sprocket rotate, if that is a desire. PE4/5 mud scrapers probably would have been better as plastic as the real things have some substance to them and look a bit anemic as PE parts.
- Step 7. Tracks. Kudos to Xact Scale to try to make a complicated track system as a one piece glue-able vinyl. They have the correct hollow guide horns and nicely detailed outside track faces. HOWEVER, and this is for everyone, the tracks are a weak point of the kit. The guide horns are too thick, probably to help in the casting process. The end connector faces lack detail, and there are "divots" where the molding gates were located. The tracks can be built with the divots facing the inside run on both sets (they are universal non-sided tracks on the prototype, so you cannot "face" them wrong). If you are ok with the look of the tracks, they will work fine. They glue well, have a bit of give to them, and are taught like the real thing (no slack). I will be replacing mine, follow the BLOG to see what after market ones come out and how well the ones out now will work.
- Steps 8 & 9. Fenders. Make sure to trim the sprue gates off A2/D11 and A3/D10 to make sure they fit well. make sure you drill out all the holes (A) - Not sure why they had to make A2/D11/A3/D10 separate pieces? D12 will need a piece of styrene to block off the bottom, it sticks out over the back end of the fender and shows off its hollow nature. While we are talking fenders, why are they split for the front mountings? Part C4 has the lower half of the front fender...??? Makes for a annoying seam when the whole fender could have been one piece?
- Step 10. Attach the fenders. They go in the slots on the hull sides a little tight, so it may take a bit of careful work. They fit nice, snug, and without issue once on. (A) - make sure you fill in any seams on the hull sides before you add the fenders. Side seem for front glacis/hull top, small triangle (short-shot?) by drivers hatch (both sides), and dealing with the engine deck rear. You may want to skip to step 11 and add the rear hull plate before adding the fenders, so if there are any issues you want to address, you can do them easier.
- Step 11. Rear hull. K1 is a very nice detail that fits snug and represents something missed in previous kits but obvious if you know to look for it. Part B9 goes on PARALLEL to the hull plate, even though the holes drilled for it seem to indicate otherwise.
- Step 12. Rear hull details. Parts G1 and G2 go on the FENDERS NEXT to the fuel cells, not on them as it may seem for part G1. Probably easier to drill the hill in G1 and G2 BEFORE you glue them on. many small, NICE details added. Beware tweezer launch...you will be VERY lucky to find any pieces this small that fly off as if to go into orbit (and the small ones always do that too...) Do not mix up D2 and D3. Remember, the tow cable "string" needs to have super glue added when twisted tight to replicate a real one. This may get tricky as it also has a few bends to navigate. If you find this too difficult, or intimidating, picture hanging wire works well. i cannot confirm 90mm being the correct length, but it looks good. (A) - Part A6 un-ditching beam is weak. Replacement will require making new retaining straps and details.
- Step 13. APU. Very nice little assembly with plenty of small parts. (A) - vanes in part L2 seem canted incorrectly. Not sure if they come canted and un-canted, but my sources only show them being perpendicular to the casing sides. Nicely molded, so it is only a problem if you want it to be.
- Step 14. More rear hull detail. Add the APU almost fully over the mud flap. Little square peg goes in the hull side hole. The rear exhaust looks accurate and very nice. (A) - Where B18 goes on, the hull side may need a little work/filler. The fuel cell/fender covers a lot, as does B18, but don't miss your chance to "adjust" this area if it bothers you. I do wish part K2, the rear exhaust vent, had been molded more deeply or even hollow, as on the real thing.
- Step 15. Fuel cells and details. not sure why PE2 is listed as optional, it is on all operation T-80U tanks. Put them on. The rear fuel cell supports B14/15/16/17 are all facing AWAY in the area that shows construction and need to be rotated 180 degrees to fit the tank. If you leave the fuel cells off, note this. Look at references to see what I mean. PE12/13 are good representations of the tow cable holders and look nice in PE vs plastic. (A) - seems on the fuel drums, as usual. Parts B14/15/16/17 may need to be hollowed out more for accuracy and looks...they are basically hollow tubing.
- Step 16. PE Front Mud Flaps. Nice idea, they attach to a separate plastic part. They do fold over ok, with persuasion, but annealing them (heating them up, and for all that is Holy, be CAREFUL if you anneal. Do not burn yourself, the model, or your house down) may help bend them. Be careful annealing them as it may allow them to bend TOO easily and remove the "organic curvature" they are trying to replicate with this method. Time/patience will help here. I recommend super glue here. And more patience. Maybe take a break. Come back after a nap or a jog. Have a snack. Maybe I am overly concerned about this.
- Step 17. DO NOT ATTACH THE FRONT FENDERS. Paint them separate and attach them later. They are just begging to be broken off every time you even look cross-eyed at the model at this point. E7 and E8 are NOT interchangeable, so pay attention. (A) - Just because you think you are a awesome model builder, you still should NOT attach those front fenders. You worked hard getting them on nicely. Don't blow it now, add them later, after a nice primer and base coat of paint. Don't say I did not warn you.
- Step 18. If you did not listen to me in step 17, re-glue your front fenders back on. Go ahead, I will wait. Small parts warning. I would also BUILD the front mud guard/flap but NOT attach it either. You are just asking for more tears here. And the periscopes, while not in clear plastic (?), would be easy to paint and mask right now. (A) - stop twitching about the front fenders and leave those front mud guard off too.
- Step 19. Light setups. Small part assembly, try not to go blind. Very detailed but NO clear pieces, if you can assemble them they are very nicely set up so there are no seems to clean. Oh, and try not to drop them...and no cursing if you do. You can install the lights on now but painting may be easier with them off. This is a time when it really falls to your own preferences. Oh, and glue your fenders back on...again.
- Step 20. Small tubing. Add the drivers periscope guard...I would prime and paint this quick before adding it, as well as the periscopes and the surrounding hull now. LOTS easier to get to for painting right now. The guard can also be added later. Build the caging for the front lights. Go blind. These are well engineered and have solid attachment points BUT they are still fragile so...be careful. IF you left the lights off DO NOT attach these now...light first, THEN the guards. Do not say I did not warn you.
- Pre-Step 21. You broke a front mud guard off again didn't you? Go ahead, glue it back on. Now, get out your micro-drill and go mining. You have 40 (!) 1mm holes to drill and 4 1.5 mm holes. I just drilled all of them as 1mm and opened the 1.5mm holes a bit more with a shard hobby knife (CAREFUL!) once I located them again. PAY ATTENTION to the orientation of the arrows so you drill those holes the correct way. Your turret will now look like Swiss cheese and be actively looking to jump in a sandwich. DO not be tempted to eat it, you need this part for the tank. It is important. (A) - The turret. Sigh. It has two issues that really bother me. One, the upper front "cheek" fill covers. These are represented as "proud" to the turret surface, with weld beads. They should be level or recessed. With smoother weld beads (remember, I have AMS). They need to be reduced to represent a average production turret. Two, the turret shape...the front, by the mantlet, is angled too far out...the turret front should be more vertical...by 1mm or 2mm tucked "in" towards the turret and the turret sides should "peak" out about 2 mm more, in more of a rounded point, at a point about 1/3 from the front. The side issue will be covered by the ERA, so it is not a issue here. The front...yeah, it is noticeable. The Coaxial MG opening is a bit plain, and the two bolted plates in the lower front are a bit...well, plain. There is a small round cover in front of the loader's hatch, and the weld by it looks like steps on the model turret. It needs to be improved. I am also not too thrilled with the turret texturing compared to the real thing. The basic turret shell, like the tracks, is a weak point of this kit.
- Step 21. You are now blind, have poked your hand with the drill, and have broken that blasted fender off again. You are now a "advanced" modeler...welcome. Periscopes N17 are NOT clear (?)..again, easier to paint and mask now. The detail of the ERA and the excellent idea to make N37 a separate piece show off well here.
- Step 22. Turret hatches. If you managed to keep track of the clear lens for part V5, give yourself a pat on the back. The idea of a decal for the optics (and x3 in case you make a mistake) behind the glass is brilliant (!) Hatches remain movable if you do not glue N39 to N19 (as noted) and do NOT glue V26 to N38. A imperfect but elegant solution to making them semi-accurate and workable. The hatches have nice interior/exterior detail. (A) - All periscopes are NOT clear (!). Get my point yet? The periscopes should have been in clear and should have decals for them after making them CLEAR. THAT would have been a VERY nice touch.
- Step 23. Turret interior assembly and "floor". Nice to have interior electronics parts. PAINT THE INTERIOR NOW if you will have open hatches as the floor piece block off the turret. PE11, the optics wiper, is a nice touch. (A) - Why did they make the turret floor 2 (!) pieces, and neither of them are "hollow" meaning you get a nice sealed turret that is not prototypical. I will be trying to cut open the bottom pieces to help open up the tank interior when viewed from the turret hatches. Interior electronics pieces seem a bit "flat" even when viewed from just the hatch openings. Beef them up a bit, even with just a bit of putty to "square" them up helps.
- Step 24. P5 and P6 go on the turret EXTERIOR, near the back quarters. (P6 looks like it goes in the cupola...) EP10, the barrel mounting ring, is nice. The barrel, however, needs a going over. If you do not really care about barrel section lengths, stop reading right now...really. (A) - The barrel section lengths got messed up. Overall (without tip), it measures 126.0mm and other sources roughly equate to 126.3mm. So it is just the sections. The tip N26 is 4.5mm as it should be. The sections are 16mm/16/25/21/25/and 23mm to the mantlet. They should be 18mm/19/28/22.5/24.5, and 19.8mm to the mantlet according to my references. Get a new barrel or have fun with a chop saw. You need a 2A46m-1.
- Step 25. Turret basket. Nice but a bit clunky. It could have been molded with a thinner diameter, as shown with the light guards and other conduit. Ammo boxes with PE straps are nice. (A) - Part V27 is a sheet metal cover or guard with a hollow back, the part is too thick. Replacement needs a embossed X on the rear facing portion. PE would have been good for this. Hard to see detail, not the end of the world.
- Step 26. Ammo boxes, turret details. Nicely done detailing on these parts. E25/26, pintle clamp, is correctly done as on the prototype. Take care attaching the side storage rack to keep it on the turret side. Careful attaching E27 that you do not put it in too far or at a incorrect angle. (A) - Ammo boxes V13/22 and V12/23 are oddly put together...rather bad spot for a seam. I do not understand this.
- Steps 27-29 ERA. Parts dry fit well, look good. I like the hollow build and the framework inside...excellent. You may want to build and attach these all in one go to make sure everything ends up lining up properly. Also, paint the back of the ERA and the front and sides of the turret before attaching...trust me on this. (A) - Smoke Grenade launchers are put together differently than normal and may benefit from being replaced. Maybe.
- Steps 30-36. Turret details. I really like the way they handled the conduit for the SGL's. Best radio antenna I have seen in plastic yet. Light mast and light setup, another small piece marathon. The Air Speed Sensor N8/9 is very nicely done...careful gluing will also make the seam nearly invisible. All of the clamps for the AA system are nicely done, as per the prototype. The way they are set up, you can put the AAMG in any one of them you want as well...nice. Be careful putting V33 and V36 together and you will not have to mess with the seam. Searchlight setup is well done, be careful to match its angle with the main gun so the connecting rod-arms fit properly. (A) - First, parts M8/9, the sight guards, should have been PE. The top, M9, is well done, but the side pieces are too thick. No clear periscopes. Searchlight may be too big, I could not confirm. The cover measures in at 11mm but some sources come out at 10.3mm. I am not worried.
- Steps 37 - 44. Snorkel system and AAMG. The AAMG is the correct NVS(T) and is a small model in its own right. The parts layout and assembly involves some small parts, but it makes the AAMG stand out and look really good. Worth the eye strain. The snorkel system is the outward setup for the BROD-M wading system in the interior. While technically incorrect to call the tubing the BROD-M, it is associated with it. It builds up beautifully. I cannot stress enough how nicely this will look when done. It is a focal point on the model, like the AAMG, and Xact Scale did a good job making sure it was not poorly done. When adding parts D4 and D9 to the main trunk, dry-fit, dry-fit, dry-fit the parts so they are set up for the turret. Remember that the entire wading system is set up OFF CENTER, so make sure the turret is turned properly to see if it is being attached correctly. It does NOT NOT NOT go on straight behind the turret. Look at the paint guides to see what I am referring to. The AAMG, as I noted before, can go in ANY of the 4 posts. (A) - More side split ammo boxes. Careful gluing MAY hide this enough to let it slide. The pre-formed screen, while nicely done, lacks the reinforcing ribs that are prominent on the real thing. Installing SOMETHING under the mesh will work, consult references to see what is needed.
- Step 45. Adding the side skirts. Make sure to drill the 1mm hole in H2, it is for part E19 in the next step. I would paint and assemble all the kit parts at this point before adding the side skirts, so you have good access to the suspension and lower hull sides. Oh, and glue the front fenders back on. Or better yet, just leave them off until you are done painting. I warned you. The same goes for that Front mud flap. Thought I was kidding, right? Nope. The skirting attaches solid, with a nice 2 piece detailing affair for the front armored skirts. (A) - All those wire footholds on the side skirts can be shaved off and replaced, but honestly, I do not think I will. They are very nicely molded and in photos they look stuck to the skirting...probably stuck on by the cammo paint!
Ok. You made it here. You have attached the PE and the tow cable. You have glued the front mud flaps back on about 3 thousand times because you just. won't. listen. to reasonable advice. But, hey, we are all here now. Put that turret on and look at what you have, a full grown T-80U. Now, paint to taste, weather as needed, and serve up plain or in diorama's depicting it jumping off ramps and flying through the air
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