BAT-M Engineering Vehicle
by: Marian Gunzel
In the late 40’s the Soviet troops required a heavy artillery tractor to tow their super heavy guns and the upcoming nuclear missiles. One of them was the legendary AT-T based on the very early chassis and lower hull of the T-44 and later T-54 tank with 500mm wide tracks and a 13 teeth sprocket wheel. On the basis of this very strong artillery tractor several other heavy engineer vehicles were also derived. One of them, the BAT-M (also known as a “Way Builder”), featured a huge blade that was pivoted back when marching or being transported and a 2-ton crane installed at the rear part of the vehicle. My model represents an NVA version used by the former Eastern German Army until its end in 1990, at which time they still had 158 BAT / BAT-M in service. This vehicle had a V12 Diesel Engine with a cylinder capacity of 38.800 cm3, was water cooled, with a 415 hp rating.
The basic kit I used is from “Panzershop” from the Czech Republic. They are a small resin kit producer with some very nice Warsaw Pact vehicles. It comes with Fruil T-72 metal tracks which look ok (but are not the right ones as I will explain later), PE parts, and some clear foil for the windows. The resin quality is really good and very easy to work with due to the fact that it is resin, not plastic. The only bad thing was the “instruction manual”: there were only some copied b/w pictures which showed an idea of how to put things together. That was bit disappointing and cost a lot of time to sort out the right parts for the right locations of the parts on the model during construction.
First it was very important to get good pictures and info on this vehicle, so I started searching and after a while I met a person that offered me a ride on and a very close look at an original BAT, the precursor of the BAT-M (but mainly the same vehicle) with the chance to take as many pictures as I wanted to. On this way I want to thank him again for this great opportunity and also the rest of the very nice people in the German NVA-forum who helped me a lot with this project. After finding everything I needed, I started to reconstruct the lower hull to add the missing equipment to tighten the tracks. After this, I got a first impression of the putty and sanding work that awaited me here.
It was easy to fix the tread plates on the lower hull and to obtain the drive arms, but the wheels needed some extra work as you could see the form edges. Since the sprocket wheels are part of the Fruil metal track set, I needed new ones. The tracks of the T-72 are not only too wide (580mm) but also have 14 tooth sprocket wheels instead of the required 13. If you count on an original BAT you will see only 13 teeth like on a T-54 / T-55 / T-62 in the early versions. So I took the sprockets of a Tamiya T-55A kit and purchased another Fruil metal track set for the T-54 / T-55 / T-62. This set also needed to be modified as I needed to cut away the outer connectors to make it to scale and look like the T-72 tracks but with the right width and an accurate track link profile for the BAT-M. I also had to cut away the tooth of every 5th link for the ice grippers. But that is no problem because the tracks are out of tin, so quite easy to cut.
After this tricky work I started to add some Diesel-tubes to the engine and to construct the break mechanisms out of some plastic card and Evergreen profiles. Now it was once again an enormous advantage to have had the chance to take my own pictures of such details on the actual vehicle. Further I added some small details and painted the whole engine compartment in anti-rust protection color and light blue. For now, I put the lower hull away and started with the cabin.
The most important thing here is: dry fit, dry fit, dry fit! I put all the small resin parts together for the inside. The fit of the bench is way out of scale and I reworked it a bit, then it seemed to be at least ok and the fit was alright. I cut the windows, fixed them in with some “Humbrol Clear Fix” and covered them with masking tape. I didn’t glue the doors yet but attached them to the cabin temporarily. Now some more details: the hatch on top got a small lever, some small eyes at the rear, and another small hatch in front of the middle window. Now I added the cabin to the lower hull and another time: dry fit, dry fit, dry fit... and finally it worked and looked even right!
The back was another problem to work with because there was no real information for a BAT-M in my pictures (because the back of a BAT-M looks quite different to a BAT because of the crane installment) and I mentioned the missing real instruction manual in the kit. So I got some help another time in the NVA forum with a wonderful picture of the back of a BAT-M. The cable winch opening was easy to install and also the rolls were no problem.
Tank and platform
The tank and the storage box were really easy to put together and the fit was quite good. I just added a spade and a pickax to it and some holders and tubes for the outside Diesel filters. On the platform I added some little details, some holders for the boxes, and a small lock as a special gimmick. On the front track covers there was one of the first NVA specialties installed: the ice grippers in some kind of special metal boxes. The hydraulic arms meant again a lot of sanding but worked out well. The other major change on a NVA BAT-M was the big roll on the left front hydraulic arm, which I just mounted with some plastic card. The tubes for the hydraulic fluid were another time-consuming addition and I formed them out of 0.8mm copper wire. They look really good on the model and make it way more detailed then only the “naked” hydraulic arms.
Crane and Blade
The blade was one of the easiest parts to build and fitted together very well and with no problems and questions. I only added some tubes again and some tiny little chains to secure all the bolts. The crane didn’t support any holder for the hydraulic arm for some reason and so I just scratch built one (once again it is so important to have good pictures). The winch and the hook were also a bit tricky but finally everything went together ok and after mounting some copper wire again I was really happy with it.
Painting and finishing
Before painting, I put a base coat of Tamiya “XF19 light grey” over all the different parts. Next came a thin layer of “XF65 field grey” and some heavy pre-shading on the edges with “XF1 flat black”. It was the first time that I tried the pre-shading method and I’m really satisfied with the result so I’m going to use it again, I’d say. After this another thin layer of “XF65 field grey” to blend in the black a bit. For the stripes on the crane I let the green dry 24 hours and applied them with the help of some masking tape and an airbrush.
Afterward I decided not to dirty it too heavily since the NVA vehicles were always kept in a good shape, especially the so called “combat machines” which included all the tracked and heavy vehicles such as the BAT-M. I applied a very thin oil wash with “ivory black” and some dry brushing with Humbrol enamel “light grey”. Finally another coat of enamel flat clear and some little dirt on the chassis and blade with pastels. Micro painting was with Humbrols but I hate the glossy red... never again! I will definitely try some other red color next time.
I really liked to build this vehicle even though I’m still a “newbie” on resin and still need a lot of practicing with my new “Aztek A470” and some finishing techniques. Enjoy the pictures and no worries: I’m still in a learning process and will do better on my mistakes next time!