by: Andras [ ]
This little Russian tank was the first mass produced Russian tank (almost a thousand were made), and the humble forefather of the (mostly) successful Soviet tank designs. Due to its historical significance it is a welcome addition to the Armory offerings.
The original T-16 (prototype T-18) was heavily based on foreign designs, primarily the FT-17, the first archetypical tank. (The Soviets have made several copies of captured FT-17s.) It was a rear-engine, fully riveted design with a crew of two (commander and driver). The engine was a license-build 35 hp Fiat truck engine, the gun was a modified French 37mm SA 18 gun with a semi-automatic breech (this gun was used in many contemporary light tanks), and the suspension was a modified Renault design. A curious design feature was that the 7.62mm Hotchkiss machine gun and the main gun were placed at a 45 degree angle in the turret. The prototype was not successful, as it had mobility problems (transmission failures), and had issues crossing wider trenches. The improved version, named as T-18 or MS-1 was, however, accepted for production after several rounds of redesign. (MS stands for Maliy Soprovozhdeniya-Perviy: light support vehicle.)
The production T-18/MS-1 had an extra road wheel, a redesigned independent vertical spring suspension, and an improved 40 hp Russian-designed engine, which increased the maximum speed to a whopping 17kmph. (Nobody said early tanks were fast.) Its weight was increased to 5 tons. The riveted armor was overall 8mm thick on the turret, and 16 mm on the hull. Instead of an optical sight, the vehicle was equipped with an obsolete dioptre sight (similar to what youíd normally find on rifles).
The tank was only a minor improvement over the FT-17. It was slightly faster, more manoeuvrable, and a bit better armored. Overall, due to the high rate of fire it was quite effective against infantry, but not very useful against other armored vehicles.
The tank was already obsolete when it got into production in 1931, so it saw limited service (mostly on the Far East), and it was mainly used as a training vehicle. It also served as a useful testbed for Russian designers. In 1941 the still operational tanks were upgraded with a 45mm gun in a new turret with the designation T-18M after the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Fortunately there are several surviving examples of this vehicle; useful photos can be found at http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_MS1_T27.pdf
The arergard.com webpage has some really interesting photos of an MS-1 restoration process, which can be used as a great source of reference for the build.
Armory supplies the model in a thin paper box with the built modelís photo on the front. It is packaged safely, so none of the parts were damaged. The parts are very finely cast, and they have thin films of resin to be cleaned up Ė this is not surprising or unexpected in resin kits. The hull and the cupola are supplied as one piece, and most of the resin is used to make the running gear and tracks. The tail is a multi-part PE assembly which can be quite challenging. (Before bending large PE sheets itís worth gently heating it up over an open flame; it makes it easier to shape. Be careful as you can easily burn the metal, though.)
The main dimensions of the kit measure up accurately to the real vehicle as far as I was able to ascertain (I found a scale drawing for both the MS-1 (http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/soviet/photos/drawing_T18.jpg) and the T-18 SPG version; I've also found a lot of photos, and used the dimensions found in encyclopaedias).
Some of the parts (both resin and PE) are extremely tiny and thin; experience working with resin and PE will be needed for this kit. The suspension units are modelled as one part (fortunately), but they are very delicate: the thickness of the suspension arms is actually smaller than the attachment point itself. This means extreme care needs to be taken while removing them from the casting block as they can be broken very easily. A fine drill will be needed to prepare holes for the swing arms of the idler on the front of the tank. Strangely the inside face of the drive wheels have ribbing moulded on, but this cannot be seen after assembly. There are some missing parts: namely a headlight and the horn. (I've used a horn found in my spares box.)
The instruction sheet (which is a welcome thing in itself Ėvery few resin models come with one) is computer generated, and clear for the most part; it's always a good idea to check against photos, though.
The assembly is very straightforward as the model is well engineered. The only challenge was the handling of small parts; there were no fit issues. The leaf springs are to be assembled from individual PE parts; I would have preferred to have them made out of resin. (Assembly can be a bit tedious and itís quite difficult to line them up correctly.) Drilling a hole in part 8 was quite a tense activity. One thing I noticed, and I'm not sure how it happened - the road wheels don't line up perfectly, and the first suspension unit is slightly out of plane. I attached the suspension units before gluing the road wheels on, perhaps doing it the other way around (attaching the road wheels first) would help to remedy this issue. (The suspension units fit pretty neatly into their attachment points.)
The tracks are provided in resin sections; I would have preferred to get a PE set. The resin is thin, and easy to bend, but the attachment points are hard to mask (you'll need 3.5 of the 4 sections per side). They also stand away from the teeth of the drive-wheels, as there is no place for these teeth to snap into. Probably it would be best to remove the teeth on the section where the tracks touch the drive-wheel.
The front part of the suspension -where the idler is, is incredibly fragile; handle it with care. It's very tempting to pick up the model by the idlers, but resist the temptation.
The guns are very fine, and very well done; since they, too, are fragile, install them as late as possible.
In general the build was not very difficult; the alignment of the road wheels was the only real issue.
I've painted the tank in generic Russian green with a generic red star decal taken from the spares box. I've highlighted certain parts with a lighter green, and used washes and filters to blend everything in, and make the model's surface look more realistic, more varied. The rivets and the edges were carefully highlighted with a soft lead pencil, and pigments in different earth-shades were used to simulate dust and dirt.
Overall the build was enjoyable, and fast. I'm very happy with this tank, as ever since I've been playing World of Tanks, I wanted to have a model of it.