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Built Review
135
T-90 cast turret
Russian T-90 MBT cast turret
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by: Russ Amott [ RUSSAMOTTO ]

Trumpeter T-90 Cast Turret
Introduction

In the early 1990s the Russian Army had two battle tanks in service, the T-72 and the much more expensive and complex T-80. It was determined that a new tank was needed that could fit both the budget and the operational needs of the army, as well as serve as an export product that would bring in additional cash. Many of the upgrades on the T-80 were added to the T-72, including Kontak-5, a third generation explosive reactive armor, the sighting system, 125mm 2A46 smoothbore cannon, and other upgrades such as the Shtora-1, an electro-optical active protection system that works against laser guided and optical sighting anti-tank weapons. Nakidka camouflage that conceals the thermal signature of the tank is also used.

Due in part to extensive coverage of Operation Desert Storm, in which the T-72 took a beating in front of a world audience (even when it wasn't a T-72), and a desire to provide a "new" tank, it was designated the T-90. Production began in 1993 with a cast turret and 12 cylinder diesel engine producing 840 hp. Engine upgrades have continued since the tank entered production with the latest versions receiving a 1250hp V92 12 cylinder engine. In 1999 a new welded turret was introduced as well as some other minor upgrades. The cast turreted tanks remain in service in the Russian military, with over 300 operational, although online references vary considerably.

The T-90 has also been exported successfully with India being the largest customer, having nearly 2000 in service or on order. Algeria, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uganda also operate the T-90 in small numbers. Cyprus, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Peru and Libya are all potential customers.

Two recent releases from other manufacturers have focused on the T-90A with the welded turret, but Trumpeter has now offered the earlier welded turret version of the tank. I am not very knowledgeable of Russian armor, this being my first build of a T series tank, so my comments will be focused on the contents of the box and the build itself.

The Kit

The kit comes in a large top opening box with artwork of a T-90 in "flying" mode, as it travels at high speed over a rise in the terrain, firing the main gun at the same time.

Inside the box are carefully packaged grey styrene sprues, with a small end box protecting the hull tub and turret. All parts were well molded, with a small amount of flash visible on some parts which was easily removed. There were no molding flaws or sink marks. Ejector pin marks are minimal and kept to hidden surfaces. There are 17 grey sprues, 8 brown plastic sprues for the tracks, one clear parts sprue, one with glueable rubber/vinyl parts and three etch sheets, plus poly caps for the running gear, a brass wire, braided copper wire for the tow cables and vinyl tubing for the external fuel tanks. As this will be a build review I only took simple photos of the individual sprues as focus on smaller details will be shown during the build.

The instructions are provided in booklet for with clear line drawings. Assembly is fairly straight forward, although some of the etch parts may be challenging as bends and placement are not shown clearly. Assembly is completed in 21 steps.

A two sided full color sheet is provided as a paint guide, showing a tank with the early style Russian Federation flag and symbols, and large white numbers. The second tank is shown in camouflage paint only. A paint guide is provided with colors called out in light green/yellow/black for;
  • Mr. Hobby aqueous
  • Mr color paints
  • Vallejo
  • Humbrol
  • Model Master enamel
  • Tamiya paints
This should not limit modelers as the tank appears in a wide variety of paint schemes.

In looking over the parts, two issues have been pointed out by others far more knowledgeable than me. In discussion here Live links it appears the loaders hatch is incorrect, and the decal option is for the initial version of the T-90, as that in the box, with different exhaust is from a later version. I could find no good photos of the top of the tank, although Prime Portal does offer an excellent walk around of the cast turret T-90, which serves as an excellent reference.

The point of getting a kit is to build it, though some may argue the point, so I began assembly as soon as I could. I figured that with the holiday season coming up, and me having a couple of days off from work, I would have plenty of time to get this done. I don't know what I was thinking. It took much longer than I anticipated with family, friends, work and chores (real life) interfering. But I guess that means I do have a life, such as it is. At any rate, I was able to finally assemble the model.

The Build

I followed the instructions very closely, beginning with assembly of the running gear. I promptly lost one of the poly hubs that allows you to remove the various wheels after assembly for painting. There are no extras, but a Tamiya P-47 included two, so I took one for this kit, which fit well. Detail on the wheels is very good, with lettering on the treads and bolt head detail being very nice. The small rim on the road wheel hub looks a little small to me, but may be fine.

The suspension was then added to the hull with no fit issues. After that was the beginning of the etch adventure. There are small etch bits to attach to the applique armor on the hull and turret that look like large locking washers. To remove them, I left the protective film in place so that when I cut them off the fret they wouldn't go flying off into space. As a result I did not lose any pieces. However, the indent into which they are to be fitted is just a little bit small so that they don't fit easily. My eyes were not up to speed in getting them cleanly nipped-some still have tiny attachment points, others are flattened where I took off too much brass-and between these two problems, it took some pressure to get them set into place. I used CA glue to apply them, and rolling the handle of my hobby knife over them to set them in the recesses smeared the glue a bit in some places. The lower front hull receives a plow blade setup and the lower hull is complete.

The front upper hull appears to be a generic part made for the entire T-72 series. Different applique/ERA armor setups and other small details differentiate between the various models. I had some trouble with the headlights as the guards are a little thick and placement is sort of generally indicated. The left side would not sit straight and required some extra work-I don't know if it is me or a molding issue. More etch disks are added here as well. The instructions to point out specific placement of the small lights on both hull sides, one facing forwards and one facing to the rear at an angle.

The engine deck is next; with etch screens to add detail. There are two covers for the intake, provided in styrene. The instructions show these placed flat, the walk around, and other photos, show them raised with the hinge point at the rear. I was not aware of the option until after assembly. Location of all details seemed to match quite well the photos I saw. The only issue with this area was part A2-5, the forward engine deck piece, which did not fit well and pushed the rear ventilation plate back too far. It took some careful filing of both parts to get them in. The rear hull plate is then added. The brackets for the external fuel tanks are in once piece each. If you wish to leave off the tanks, cut off the upper section. The instructions call for installation of the straps that hold the log on the rear of the tank, used to provide traction in muddy conditions. I left these off as I could see myself knocking this part off repeatedly during assembly. Even in photos where the fuel drums are not being carried, the log is in place.

Assembly of the tracks is called for next in the instructions. Each track link has four connector points that must be cleaned up. Then each track receives a guide horn, very thinly molded with a bolt head in the center. Detail is very nice, which makes up for the time required to clean up and assemble the links. I moved on with the rest of the build while I worked on the tracks.

The side skirts are assembled next, with PE straps being added. There is no specific bend point on the straps. It is more of a "do your best" type of assembly, so I tried to bend them leaving just a small space for the bolt on the plastic hinge point, part A-19. The rubber side skirts are molded to represent a softer, more flexible material, which is a nice touch. Some modelers may choose to assemble only the fender portion, leaving off the side skirt, but I chose to assemble the whole deal, and then paint the lower hull and road wheels. I could then install the track skirts and mask the visible portion for final painting. Doing this meant that I could install the fuel drums but could not complete installation of the hoses, or add a few other small parts until closer to final assembly.

Up to this point assembly had gone fairly quickly. I now started on the turret. There are over 200 parts in the turret assembly. Some are inner details that are very nice to have if the hatches are left open. As I did not have any figures I opted to leave the hatches closed. The mantlet is represented as covered with fabric and is molded in glueable rubber. You will need to drill a 1mm hole through the part before installing. I had to do some minimal trimming to get it to fit cleanly. The Shtora-1 boxes are added next and when completed will be able to move side to side. I colored the lenses red (sharpie marker) but to get the real effect you would need to use an LED light inside. You then add 93 etch disks into the armor. I added them 10 at a time, again having to press each one into place. ERA blocks are added, followed by the various boxes, the commander's and loader's hatches, optical equipment, antenna base and remote gun station. The commander's sight is a clear window over a fairly large opening. In photos there are a series of lenses behind this, so I did improvise and added a couple of spare parts, painting the interior silver and the lenses yellow and blue.

The remote gun station includes a rubber spent shell bag that is thick in appearance. The gun is hollowed out and a total of 23 parts are used in assembly. I realize in looking over the photos and instructions that I missed three parts. There is a sensor/antenna at the rear of the turret, part E21 that has a lamp on it. The etch part, A7, is rectangular and does not cover the top or bottom of the lamp lens effectively. In looking at this assembly in the walk around photos, the cover is round to match the lamp.

The main gun is in two halves. I don't like this style of assembly, especially for a gun this long, as it is always hard to get a perfect alignment. There are a number of aftermarket manufacturers that make a turned aluminium 2A46 for those who wish to go that route.

Once the turret is complete it is set on the tank hull and the kit is complete. At this point, I had finished assembly of the tracks and so completed the suspension. A note on the tracks; there is an assembly jig on each track sprue to help the modeler. It will line them up nicely. It is styrene, and so will also glue the tracks to the jig if you use extra thin cement to assemble the individual links. I did use the jigs, but to line them up side to side, and used a metal block to press on the tracks from above to keep them flat. The instructions call out for 83 links per side. I assembled them, leaving a small gap at the top of the run, and once cured painted them in semi-gloss black. The hull had previously been painted in khaki drab, which appears a little too dark for what I want, with deck tan and German panzer gray for the other two colors, based on my computer monitor's interpretation of the colors on the walk around at Prime Portal. I did a simple wash of Vallejo desert dust and then added the side skirts. Once in place everything above the road wheels was hidden. I was then able to add the tubing for the fuel tanks, etch straps on the sides and some etch fender attachments on the front hull. The anti-ditching log is also made of the rubber material, which seems odd as it would have been easier to work with in regular styrene. a dowel would work here. It was installed with minimal fuss (the etch strap was a little difficult to get into the bracket with everything else in place). The instructions call for this to be painted in wood color, but all photos I have seen show them painted along with the rest of the tank.

The last thing I did was install the tow cables. These are particular. First, the hooks cannot be installed first but must be placed with the tow cable end. Second, don't repeat my mistake of thinking the instructions were a template and not just a reference. I measured the tow cable against the instructions and when installed it was about 5mm too short. The braided copper wire is easy to cut and work with, but compared to photos, it does look a little thin. I will need to replace this with some thicker wire or string, cut to the proper length. One other issue with the copper wire may be getting it painted properly. I am currently on the hunt for some braided aluminium wire, which I may have to make.

The completed model is very nice. With the long gun it is a bit difficult to get into a photo, but all the detail should make most modelers happy. Some have expressed unhappiness with the small etch parts, especially the disks, but they really went quickly. There are two types on the frets, and if the instructions are followed closely, you will run out of A-24 before you can complete the two hatches. Aside from not having the time to sit down and build this that I thought I would have, assembly wasn't really bad. You have to dry fit, especially on small assemblies such as the turret boxes, as some of the parts seemed a bit oversize to fit cleanly, but this is a common issue with many kits I have built.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, the two biggest issues with this kit may be the loader's hatch and the decals. I don't know if the loader's hatch was modified for later production or if it is just wrong. There are etch sets available for the cast turret T-90 to add to what is already included. Cleaning up the tracks can be time consuming but every model seems to have it's own challenge. Just like building an elefant, you do it one piece at a time. I am happy with the end result. I see things I need to improve in my own building skills, but again that is not the fault of the model. I am not a fan of the fixed main gun, and the turret will need to be secured so it isn't knocked off easily, although with all the plastic on it has the weight to stay in place. I think this kit should satisfy those fans of the T-90 who have been waiting for the cast turret version to be released. In looking online, prices have varied between $45.00 and $60.00 US from Asian vendors. Shop around for the best deal.

  • References
  • Wikipedia
  • Prime Portal
  • FAS Military analysis network
  • Defence times

SUMMARY
Highs: Good detail, straightforward assembly with few hangups.
Lows: Incorrect decal option, loaders hatch may be wrong, tracks will require some time and effort.
Verdict: I think this is a very nice model and should make Russian armor fans very happy.
Percentage Rating
88%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: No. 05560
  Suggested Retail: $74.00 US
  PUBLISHED: Jan 05, 2014
  NATIONALITY: Russia
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 84.47%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 84.63%

Our Thanks to Stevens International!
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About Russ Amott (russamotto)
FROM: UTAH, UNITED STATES

I got back into the hobby a few years back, and wanted to find ways to improve, which is how I found this site. Since joining Armorama I have improved tremendously by learning from others here, and have actually finished a couple of kits. I model to relax and have fun, but always look to improve. ...

Copyright 2017 text by Russ Amott [ RUSSAMOTTO ]. All rights reserved.


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Comments

Great review, Russ, thank you I'd like to build one, but I keep shying away because of those little PE disks.. I'd probably end up messing it up with superglue running everywhere Hisham
JAN 05, 2014 - 11:49 PM
This is a good looking tank, but practically identical to the T-72B Model 1990 that they released very late last year and that I have just finished building. For people who have just purchased or completed the T-72 there is very little new I will be waiting for the welded turret T-90
JAN 06, 2014 - 03:27 AM
Darren, thanks for getting this up and running. Hisham and Steven, thanks for the comments. The disks actually went fairly quickly and weren't as bad as I thought, aside from trying to see and cut the attachment points cleanly. Just make sure the right side is up. For those who want even more etch, I saw this the other day: LINK I have not heard of them before, but they offer etch for most every modern Russian tank. Trumpeter's T-90A should be out very soon. I read an in box this morning at Cybermodeler. It wouldn't surprise me to see the T-90S Bishma following in the near future, as India operates more T-90s then everyone else combined. Maybe someone will even offer the Nakidka camouflage in resin. Then you wouldn't have to worry to much about the etch parts. There is really a lot of variety to be found with the T-90. Should be fun.
JAN 06, 2014 - 09:06 AM
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