When you hear about laser tanks you’d probably think of tanks that fight Warlord Titans, and the impure xenos – in other words, you’d think of Warhammer 40K. Well, apparently, laser tanks do exist in our world as well; the Soviets have made sure of that.
This tank will not melt metal and evaporate hordes of heretics and Titans; however it does have a gigantic set of solid-state lasers mounted on a tank chassis. These were intended to blind the optics of missiles, airplanes, and other enemy weapon systems. I have not been able to find analyses of this laser-weapon’s efficiency, as the production of these vehicles was hindered by some serious practical issues. One of them is right in front of you: the optical elements of these lasers were made out of 30kg artificial rubies – each. This obviously increased the production costs somewhat, which essentially made sure that these vehicles were not built in sufficient numbers. The project was based on the MSTA self-propelled artillery. They kept the hull, and changed the turret so it could accommodate the solid-state lasers. The hull itself is based on the T-80, but the engine installed is a 840hp diesel engine from the T-72.
As it was mentioned, the costs themselves were enough to doom this project; the two vehicles built were mothballed, but Russia’s military planners can sleep in peace. They know that they have the best defence prepared for every possible scenario… even a pair of gigantic laser pointers, in case some enemy tried to invade with an army of enormous mutant cats.
The plastic is good quality, and easy to work with. The detail is crisp, and very fine. Some of the parts will need to be handled with care, as they are really thin. The wire guards for the headlights look especially fine. The PE fret included has the mesh covering the engine cooling hatches, and some extra small parts that could not be produced using plastic, like the clamps for the storage boxes. The transparent sprue contains the vision blocks, and a part for the remote controlled AA machine gun. The way some of the periscopes are attached to the clear sprue is also a bit problematic: one side has almost no space for the cutter between the part and the sprue’s frame.
Somewhat irking is that the sub-assemblies sometimes require parts from several sprues; normally you’d expect to find all parts in one sprue.
The decal sheet includes a LOT of numbers so you can customize your tank (not that you have many options if you want to be historically accurate), and a set of Soviet-era crest.
Since this kit is built on the Trumpeter
MSTA kit, you get a lot of extra parts –the gigantic gun included.
The build was really straightforward and relatively quick; I have not run into any difficulties.
The assembly starts with the hull, as usual. Right in the beginning, there are some issues with the instructions. In the first page it is indicated that you should not glue the towing hooks; I believe the symbol should be next to one end of the unditching log’s holding straps. (This realization was a bit late for my build.)
I think the suspension is not correct for the 1K17, but this will not be seen if you install the side-skirts. (You can find some reference photos here.
) The side-skirts have their issues of their own; more on that later.
One serious technical gripe I have with the kit is the tracks. The guide teeth will need to be glued onto each and every track link. To compound this issue, the teeth are attached to the sprue right where the track link and the guide teeth are joined; this means you will have to clean up each and every one of the 174 or so guide teeth with a scalpel before you can assemble the tracks. This is when you wonder why they could not mould these parts together, or even better yet, use a link-and-length solution.
The headlights are somewhat difficult to glue, and mostly because of the engineering of the kit. On the real tank they are attached directly to the metal guards (which are essentially metal frames) using one little peg. Unfortunately the model headlights are constructed the same way. You’ll have to attach the headlights with this peg, and position them perfectly while doing so. This is a tricky proposition, and some other solution that would have helped with the positioning while drying would have been nice. (I used silly putty to position the lights, and superglue to fix them onto the frame –see photos. This method worked surprisingly well.)
The fenders, the storage boxes and the side-skirts are assembled as separate units. All the clips for the storage boxes are provided as PE parts; it takes a while to attach each and every one. (I can imagine how practical this setup is in real life… every time you need to open a box, you have to undo around ten clips.) While I was taking the photos, I realized one clip was left out on a box– which was attached after the photo session. (This demonstrates why it’s worth taking photos of your models while building them.)
The greatest issue with how the kit is designed are the side-skirts. The side-skirts of Russian tanks are usually thick rubber painted over with the camouflage colors. If you look at photos of T-70s, T-80s, etc, you’ll see that the side-skirts are readily deforming, they separate from each other, and they are obviously not rigid. Unfortunately Trumpeter
did not give any impression of the flexible nature of the rubber: they are rod-straight. They could be made out of thick metal for all we know. (I say “unfortunately”, because it’s not an impossible task: Revell has managed to capture these rubber side-skirts amazingly well in 1/72 scale.) There’s also no obvious method of leaving them off. If you choose to display the tank without the side-skirts (as the 1K17 is displayed in the reference photos available online), you’ll have to saw them off. (And thus display the incorrect suspension…) It’s such a simple thing to do, which, nevertheless, would dramatically improve the look of the tank. The rest of the vehicle has been so meticulously reproduced; I have no idea why Trumpeter
got lazy on this issue.
Before the fenders are attached you will have to assemble, paint and weather the running gear, tracks and most of the hull. Once the side-skirts are in place, you will not be able to get to those areas.
The turret is well done; some of the panels do not fit perfectly, so filler will need to be used. (The welding lines are very nice touch on the edges of the armor plates.) There is some crucial missing detail here, however. Looking at photos you can see that the lenses are protected by lens protector flaps (which are provided), but there is also a rubber band around each lens assembly that enables these flaps to close weathertight. These rubber bands are missing, which is a shame. The instructions also fail to give you options for leaving the middle lens covers in an open or closed position. Again; photos are available, and can be used as reference, but the instructions should highlight the options available nevertheless.
The lasers are housed in a separate box, which is attached to the turret. Before closing it in, I’ve painted the back of the transparent lenses red (Ruby red from the Citadel paint range), and the inside of the box was painted black. There’s an awful lot of free space inside the turret, so someone with a little patience and a small LED light can actually make a pretty cool modification lighting up the “lasers”. (I might just do that, actually.) I’ve applied masking fluid to the lenses at this stage.
The fit of the assembly containing the laser with the turret is not perfect; it forces the sides of the turret apart visibly at the attachment points. (This can be remedied if you cut the holding pegs, and glue the part into place.) You’ll find the opposite is the problem with the long, protecting strip on top of the laser-weapon: it is supposed to be movable, but it just does not click into place easily. The attachment between the parts is flimsy, and it falls off quite easily; you would be better off gluing them fixed.
The AA heavy machine gun turret is a subassembly on its own right; it is a very nice representation of the real thing.
After this we’ll just have to glue the millions of grab handles in place, and the model is essentially done.
The turret, interestingly, “sits” on the hull; the usual pins, that are making sure the turret stays in place, are missing. I’m not sure why this is the case. Most of the time it should not be a problem, as the fit is quite snug, but this could be an issue during the transport of the model. (Alternatively you can just glue it in place.)
I’ve elected not to paint the vehicle into the three-tone camo scheme that the surviving 1K17 has; I simply don’t like it much. However, I did like the Soviet crest that came with the decals. Since I found a very hazy black-and-white photo of the prototype which displayed it sporting only one color, I jumped to the (not unreasonable) conclusion that it was painted in good ole’ Russian green. My model, therefore, depicts one of the 1K17s in its original green camo, during the last years of the Soviet Union. (I just had to use the crest to be honest.) The hatches, grab handles, and other protruding parts were highlighted with a lighter version of the same green color. (The contrast has been decreased by the subsequent filters.)
The weathering is not complete yet; the lower hull was “mudded up”, the base color received several coats of brown and tan colored filters, I’ve applied pin washes, and made faint streaks using black/burnt umber oil mix. I’ve used anthracite to paint scratches onto the side-skirts, as the paint usually rubs off quite fast from these parts. (Thinking about it, I probably should have used the hairspray technique to create chipping/rubbing.) I’m planning to add some more streaking, some very light paint chips, and an overall light dust cover to the tank, and some more mud on the lower part of the side-skirts; after all, being a prototype it could not be expected to be heavily battered and caked in mud, like a front-line tank was.
Looking at the photos I realized I forgot to add the dark brown/black glaze to the IR headlight; this will be added as well. (The silver paint behind it is to give it some depth.)
Overall, the building was straightforward. Apart from the unusual subject, this is a well-designed, but quite “ordinary” model; anyone with a little bit of experience using PE parts should have no trouble assembling it.