The Nizhny Tagil plant in the Ural Mountains, home of the Kartsev design bureau, is responsible for some of Russia’s most iconic tanks. Previously the home of Morozov’s bureau (having re-located in 1940 from Kharkov) of T-34 fame, after the war Nizhny Tagil was responsible for the T-55 and T-62 main battle tanks. In the 1960’s Kartsev began work on Object-172 as a competitor to the T-64, which had then entered service with the Soviet Army. This new tank was to incorporate some of the cutting edge features of the T-64 such as autoloader and 125mm main gun, but to be simpler in design and intended to iron out those issues present in the in the T64, notably the poor engine and transmission.
Accepted for production in the early 1970’s, the T-72 as it was then known, became the Soviets primary battle tank. Initial production versions, sometimes-designated ‘Ural’ featured a smaller turret with a TPD-2 coincidence rangefinder and lacking smoke dischargers, these early tanks also made use of gill armour side skirts, commonly seen on the T-64. In 1978 the T-72A entered production with a series of design improvements, notably the addition of armour to the turret front (earning the identifier ‘Dolly Parton’ by NATO observers) and the TPD-K1 laser range finder.
In the 1980’s, with Kharkov working on the T-80, further improvements were implemented in the T-72 series, bringing it up to B standard. New laminate armour was added to the turret front, along with the addition of anti-radiation cladding on the turret roof (which had been applied to ‘A’ turrets). With the added weight of this additional armour a new V-84 diesel engine replaced the earlier V-46. Further improvements to the T-72B were the introduction of the 9K120 ‘Svir’ laser designator system, enabling the use of anti-tank guided projectiles, as well as armour improvements in the form of explosive reactive armour designed to defeat shaped-warheads
In the 1990’s following collapse of the Soviet Union, as the T-90 entered service, T-72B’s were brought up to similar standards, as the Russians were reluctant to accept the T-90 fully into service due to high costs. Therefore T-72B’s, which had already been updated with newer generation Kontakt-5 in the late 80’s and early 90’s, were further improved with a new fire control system and cross-wind sensor mast. The engine was upgraded to a V-84MS and ‘live’ UMsh universal tracks replaced the older RMsh version. More recently the T-72B has undergone further development in the form of the T-72B2 ‘Rogatka’ featuring latest generation ‘Relikt’ armor, as well as the very recent T-72B3, essentially the BA but minus the, now redundant, anti-radiation cladding and with the upgraded power pack.
The kit comes packaged in a stout cardboard box, with the box-top artwork depicting a tank during the Yekaterinburg military parade. In the box we have the following:
- 13 sprues of grey styrene
- 8 sprues of brown styrene track parts
- 1 separate lower hull ‘tub’
- 1 separate upper turret
- 1 clear sprue
- 2 hard vinyl sprues
- 1 set of polycaps
- 3 photo-etch frets
- 1 copper tow cable
- 1 flexible rubber hose
- 1 brass wire
- 1 decal sheet with marking for 3 tanks
- 1 instruction booklet and separate color painting and marking guide
There are 920 grey and brown styrene parts laid out on the sprues as follows:
- Sprue Ax4: Wheels and suspension
- Sprue Bx2: Sprockets, fuel drums and other hull details
- Sprue C: Hull ZIP boxes, fuel cells and lower hull details
- Sprue D: Fenders & hull details
- Sprue E: Main upper hull, turret base and additional details
- Sprue F: Side skirts, engine deck and glacis ERA
- Sprue G: 2-part barrel & some hull details
- Sprue N: Extensive turret parts
- Sprue A2: Engine deck parts from T-90 kit
- Sprue TRx4: Tracks
- Sprue Tx4: Track guide horns
Additionally there are 330 photo-etch parts over 3 frets:
- Ax2: Engine deck screens, ‘Nadboy’ retaining plates & other parts
- B: Fuel cell and ZIP box retaining straps, exhaust shrouds & other hull details
Upon opening the box one immediately realizes this is an incredibly detailed and complex kit with a huge number of parts. Initial inspection and a quick glance at the instructions confirm that we have a large number of detailed assemblies and a great number of very fine and delicate parts. This is certainly a kit best suited to modellers with some experience and beginners may find the high parts count a little daunting. Having said that, anyone like myself who for years has struggled with the Tamiya kit will probably have a huge grin on their face when they first crack the box. This is a seriously massive improvement.
Effectively what we have here is Trumpeter
’s T-90M1992 kit with a new sprue added (N) providing the T-72 turret parts. The kit is intended to portray a T-72BA, of which there are a number of production models, with Trumpeter
’s kit roughly a early 2000’s version retaining the V-84 engine and associated exhaust of the earlier T-72B but upgraded track UMsh live tracks. Should one wish, it is possible to build the later version with V-84MS engine, as the relevant parts from their T-90 are provided here (engine deck and later style exhaust).
The grey sprues are very nicely molded and now a considerable improvement on Trumpeter
kits of old. Flash is all but absent and there is barely anything in the way of molding imperfections. Rather pleasingly Trumpeter
now keep any mould plug marks to the inside/non-visible face of parts, some parts are free from these marks altogether, such as the commanders shield. As one might expect there are some mold lines to contend with, however these aren’t too pronounced and shouldn’t be too much hassle to clean with a sharp scalpel. Finally, the sprue attachment points are thankfully limited on the smaller items and not too thick on the parts in general.
The lower hull is formed of a single ‘tub’ with complete sidewalls, which is a beautifully molded piece, even complete with welds. I have compared the hull with scale plans included in WWP’s T-72 reference guide (unsure as to the accuracy of these plans) and there are some discrepancies, notably the location of the torsion bar points and also the angle of the rear hull, on the whole though it does look to be fairly accurate.
The hull has a great number of additional parts to affix, all improving the overall detailing. There is a slight error in the instructions, calling out for one to fit part N79, the lower hull front plate. This part lacks the correct number of KMT attachment points for a T-72B, part C-35 should be used instead.
The later type six-spoke road wheels are beautifully rendered with the rubber tires even featuring manufacturer lettering as well as the raised rib detailing.
A nice feature of the hull is the presence of the complete side walls, enabling one to model a derelict tank minus the fenders or ZIP boxes (Russian tank grave-yard anyone!?). A pleasing feature as well is the inclusion of the fire-retardant cladding around the turret base area of the hull.
The upper hull assembly occupies no less than ten pages of the instruction manual, attesting to the extensive detailing present here. The main upper hull deck is formed of a single front section with turret cut-out and a two-part engine deck.
There are a plethora of parts which make up the hull, including the fully detailed front glacis with separate ERA plate, a beautifully detailed engine deck, fenders complete with separate fuel cells and ZIP boxes (these even have photo-etch retaining straps) and a pair of nicely handled side skirts and K-V ERA plates.
The driver’s hatch is slightly incorrect in that it lacks the prominent ridge on the left side, although fairly easy to correct. Some of the smaller parts are a little chunky and may be some-what challenging to clean up, especially the headlight guards and some of the hinge bars on the engine deck. On the front glacis ERA plate the instructions call out for a part G-15 to be added, this should be omitted, as most T-72BA’s appear not to have this piece in place. The hatch that protects the fording covers for the engine intakes is included as part F-5, however a slightly better version is included as part A2-1, which features the correct side cut-outs. An error on the instructions as well is the lack of parts labelling for the exhaust, however these items may be found on sprue N.
One of the best aspects of the hull for a detail freak like myself is the inclusion of separate photo-etch retaining straps for the ZIP boxes and fuel cells. These have always been molded as solid parts on previous kits (Tamiya’s T-72 & Meng’s T-90). Whilst PE might not appeal to everyone, these are vastly superior in finesse and accuracy and save a great deal of hassle having to source aftermarket items or scratch building for the appropriate appearance.
The un-ditching beam is strangely provided as a vinyl rubber part and is probably best ‘ditched’ and replaced with wooden dowel rod suitably weathered.
The tracks included are single link items with separate hollow guide horns, molded in brown styrene. Unfortunately these come molded on sprues rather than being individual items, therefore requiring some clean up. I imagine most modellers, myself included, will find these quite irritating, especially as there are no click pins on the tracks, meaning one will have to position each one and glue in place as you go.
As with the hull, the turret is a very detailed affair, taking up about 18 steps in the instruction booklet. The main turret is made up of a single upper piece with separate lower ring.
The shape of T-72 turret has always been something of a problem for kit manufacturers, the errors on Tamiya’s T-72M well noted. Trumpeter
appears to have done a commendable job on the complex T-72B turret, the basic shape being more or less correct. The main problem I have is that the front ‘cheeks’ appear slightly too rounded, in reality the side profile of the armour cheeks should be slightly flatter and angled more from the front. This is not a major problem by any means, especially as the front is covered with the K-V ERA, however I felt it worth mentioning. The cast texture on the turret is rather poor as well and will need improving with a scalpel and some Mr Surfacer. The ‘Nadboy’ anti-radiation cladding is fairly well handled, especially by the inclusion of separate fastening discs. Again, the texture isn’t right and will need improving. Trumpeter
has the cladding more or less smooth, in reality it has a sort of fabric texture and is quite rough. A coat of Mr Surfacer imprinted with some very fine fabric should be suitable. The cladding on the rear of the turret will also need to be divided up as Trumpeter
has this as one single piece, which isn’t correct.
The turret detailing is very extensive, with a great deal of sub-assemblies such as the gunners sight, commanders cupola and turret bins. The K-V ERA segments and K-I ERA bricks on the hull are well done, although the location of some of the bricks in front of the commander’s hatch is slightly incorrect in the instructions. The DVE-BS cross wind sensor for the fire control system is a little chunky for my tastes and could have been handled a bit better, whilst the two part barrel isn’t perfect, although the joint being along the sides does mean the top detailing isn’t compromised. The 12.7mm Kord for the commander’s cupola is quite poor as well, with a very chunky barrel and would benefit from an aftermarket replacement.
Markings are provided for 4 tanks in a variety of camouflage schemes, including parade tanks. There is no actual indication of which units are presented here, so one will have to do some research to find this out. I have been informed that the blue, brown and green scheme is actually a Belorussian Army vehicle.
Overall this appears to be an absolutely superb kit, it is both well molded and incredibly detailed, allowing one to finally build a very respectable T-72B out of the box. There are a number of small issues as mentioned above, however, overall this looks to be an accurate representation and faithfully captures the rugged look of this tank in miniature form.
The weakest aspects are the unpinned individual tracks, which will require time consuming clean up and may prove quite difficult to assemble. The two-part gun barrel is an issue as with most injection-molded kits but should be acceptable, purists may wish to replace it with an aftermarket item (RB Model offer an inexpensive 125mm barrel). There are a few difficult mold lines present on some of the smaller items such as headlight guards and the Tucha smoke dischargers, which require careful clean up, but nothing beyond most modellers abilities.
Because of the parts included, especially those left behind from the T-90 kit, it is possible to model quite a variety of T-72B versions from this kit. One can build either the earlier T-72BA as intended or a later version with upgraded engine. Additionally, replacing the tracks with earlier style single-pin RMsh tracks, removing the cross-wind sensor and K-I era bricks above the gun-mantlet, enables one to build an earlier K-V armoured T-72B (often mislabelled T-72BM).
T-72 fans rejoice, finally the Tamiya kit can be consigned to the bottom of the stash and we have a 21st century model of this iconic Russian tank.