Relative new-comers to the aftermarket scene are Tetra Model Works
of Korea, who have recently released several extensive photo-etch sets designed for many of the new Russian armor kits coming out. Their expanding range now appears to include sets for other kits such as the Meng Leopard as well as some small-scale naval subjects.
This set is designed for the recently released Meng model T-90A comes packaged in a clear plastic packet with flimsy card backing. Thankfully my sample was sent within a larger kit box, thus fairly safe, however they could do with packaging this photo-etch in a more sensible box or at the very least with a thicker and more rigid card backing to prevent damage.
This particular set consists of the following:
- 5x Brass photo-etch frets
- 1x Turned aluminum barrel with attachment ring
- 1x Two-sided color assembly guide
- 1x Black and white barrel assembly guide
A notable feature of Meng Model kits are their relative lack of photo-etch parts compared with other manufacturers, a trend very much in keeping with the Tamiya pursuit of simplicity and relative ease of assembly, especially for beginners. Whilst the Meng Model kit is incredibly well detailed, there are some areas that are just better represented in the medium of fine photo-etched parts and this set aims to address some of those issues.
There are three photo etched frets in total providing parts for the hull and turret, and two smaller frets for detailing the 125mm barrel (also available as a separate item). Frets A and B are thin brass etch, whilst fret C is a much thicker brass providing those relevant thicker parts such as the ERA panels.
The basic assembly follows an a,b,c,d…sequence, with the hull detailing tackled first. A whole new face is provided for the lower hull back plate, to overlay the kit part, presumably to hide the molded on detail attachment holes. Totally new track cleats, spare track holders and fuel drum mounts are provided in photo etch. These are a lot better in brass and will look superior to the chunky kit parts. The retaining straps and fastening for the fuel drums are especially good and allow for the possibility of depicting the tank sans drums. The fastenings themselves are very well detailed, complete with tiny nuts and bolts.
On the front hull there is a new splashboard provided, which will need the rib to be impressed, as well as the tiny clips behind the tow hooks. New mud flaps and side skirts are provided in thin photo-etch, which is a bit pointless in my opinion, photo-etch mimicking rubber never looks good. The Meng Model representation of these is pretty good; so one would be better off just utilizing the additional etch detail bits on the kit parts, notably the bolted retaining strips as well as hinges for the side skirts.
The upper hull receives some detail treatment in the form of locking straps for the ZIP boxes, complete with tiny latches, a multi-layered exhaust shroud and engine deck screens. The latches for the ZIP boxes are incredibly tiny and intricate and certainly not for the faint hearted, a steady hand and some fine tools will be essential, however the finished appearance should be worth it. The other difficulty will be completely removing the molded on detail, which would have to be done with a small fine chisel and some decent sanding sticks. Of course if you can’t face totally removing the straps then it is possible to just use the photo-etch latches.
I was initially slightly puzzled by the inclusion of replacement engine deck mesh screens. The Meng Model kit parts seemed quite impressive and suitable as they are. However the Tetra Model Works
items are noticeably better when one inspects them up close. The mesh pattern is handled a lot better on the replacement parts and is a far more faithful representation of the actual mesh screens.
Finally the hull receives a set of replacement K-V ERA side panels. These come with a thick photo-etch front plate and backing piece that needs to be folded into a rectangular box. Construction is much like the real item and is a much better scale representation than the kit parts, especially with the very fine nut and bolt detailing. The real challenge though will be constructing the rear part; one will certainly require a specialized photo-etch bending tool.
I would have liked to see the inclusion of the retaining straps for the fuel cells, molded as solid parts on the kit are crying out for etch replacement.
Moving onto the turret and the most noticeable replacement items are the photo-etch K-I ERA blocks as well the replacement barrel included in this particular set.
The ERA blocks, like the K-V side panels, are assembled much like the real objects; with a main box to be folded into shape with a thicker etch top plate and tiny retaining bolts. The challenge again will be the fine folding work, although the finished item does once again beat the single molded plastic parts.
More retaining straps and latches are provided for the turret boxes, along with some stunning 12.7mm ammo boxes. These are very complex assemblies but will look superb when fitted on the commanders remote weapon station. Finally there are two boxes containing the electronics for the Shtora suite that are fitted on the two inside K-V segments. These multi-part folded assembly’s feature very intricate locking clasps that are vastly superior to the chunky kit parts.
This slightly larger set from Tetra Model Works
also includes the 125mm 2A46M gun barrel, which is also available as a separate item. The multi-part kit barrel is perhaps one of the weakest features of the Meng kit, indeed any plastic kit, and is better replaced in turned aluminum.
The Tetra Model Works
barrel comes with two photo-etch frets providing the strapping and locking latches for the barrel covering, as well as the fine ribs running along the top.
The barrel itself is a very nice item, featuring the venting holes on the underside and the correct muzzle. The photo-etch detailing adds a great deal of finesse to this item and will certainly set off the finished model very nicely. Given the delicate nature of the part, experience working with photo etch will be essential, as will a fair degree of patience; I know from previous experience trying to bend the straps around a T-72 barrel can be very stressful! This is certainly something that looks incredible in principle, but actually achieving a nice clean finish will be challenging given the tiny nature of the parts.
Slight modification of the Meng Model gun mantlet will be required as the two locating pins on the inside of the opening interfere with the end of the Tetra Model Works
barrel. Once the locating pins have been removed the fit looks to be fairly snug.
I have tried to check the actual dimensions of the gun to confirm its accuracy, however without having access to verifiably accurate T-90 scale drawings this has been somewhat difficult. The barrel is slightly longer than the Meng Model kit offering, although the lower segments match up more of less perfectly; the bore evacuator is positioned further along. I consulted the scale plans included in WWP’s T-72 reference book (yes I know the barrel is different) and there isn’t too much discrepancy, although I am unsure of the accuracy of these plans. As it stands, the barrel looks to be accurate, and if nothing else is a much better representation that the plastic part.
This is a highly detailed photo-etch set from Tetra Model Works
and a welcome set for anyone wishing to improve the Meng Model kit. The areas of improvement offered here are fairly logical and sensible and on the whole address the most important areas of the concern. The side skirt and mud flaps are the only parts that I see no reason to replace in photo-etch.
This is an extensive set and ultimately it will fall on the modeller to choose whether they utilize all of the replacement parts included here. Areas like the ZIP box retaining straps for example are very delicate and fine, but do require some careful plastic removal on the Meng Model kit, which might not be to everyone’s fancy.
Despite being a new-comer to the market I am impressed by the quality of Tetra Model Works
photo-etch. The fret attachment points are nicely limited and fairly small and the photo etch work itself is easily up to the standard of the best producers out there. The inclusion of varying thickness’s of photo etch is a pleasing aspect and faithfully captures the accurate scale thickness of the parts represented.
Undoubtedly this is not a set for beginners. The delicate folded assemblies will require a considerable amount of skill and experience of working with photo-etch, as well as specialist tools.
Overall, for those wishing to improve the appearance and detailing of the Meng Model kit, then this is a welcome set offering some useful upgrades. The ‘mega’ set here, combined with some homemade detailing (such as the missing Shtora wiring), will produce a very impressive looking T-90.
Recommended, for experienced modellers!