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T-90A - 1:35 Meng Models


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T-90A Main Battle Tank
1:35 Meng Models


Modern Russian tank design was originally split between two tanks of different complexity and cost, which became unsustainable after the fall of the Berlin wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union. In order to save costs, a number of systems and features were lifted from the expensive T-80U and added to the cheaper T-72, which was then given the new designation T-90. The result was an excellent platform on which to develop a single Main Battle Tank that would both suit the Russian Army and be attractive in both price and performance for export sales.

The first line of defence against ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile) is the Shtora-1 that detects laser designation, slews the turret to face the threat, which also brings the twin infra-red dazzlers to bear, as well as the grenade launchers that fire a volley of disruptive aerosol smoke canisters to further scatter any laser reflections. The by-product of all this action also brings the thickest armour and the 125mm smooth bore main gun to bear on the aggressor, which the crew can use to return fire. If the missile or shell gets through, the explosive reactive armour plates are next in line, and are angled sharply to assist in deflecting any incoming round. The turret's shell is made from modern composite armour, and this is the final barrier between the crew and the incoming round.

As well as service with the Russian army, several satellite states have taken delivery of a total of around 400 vehicles, with India operating over 600, and Uganda having a small complement on charge. The T-90A is the variant for "home" service, and has an ESSA thermal viewer, and welded turret. Its export version is the S and is available with different armour packages to be chosen by the customer. The updated T-90M includes some additional crew comforts, plus some additional equipment from around the world now that the Iron Curtain is no longer a problem.

The Kit
The kit is of course the T-90A variant, of which there are over 500 in service with the Russian Army, and this kit comes close on the heels of another new tool T-90 from another company, which although welcome, was identified to have some almost impossible to fix shape issues a while after release, which makes this launch very welcome for those that strive to build more accurate models. It is also a Meng kit, which to me is a good thing, as I have seen almost all of their catalogue, and they consistently produce high quality products that go together very well. My armour guru (who is also responsible for introducing me to the genre, damn him!) is extremely excited by the new kit, and has one in his stash already. He classifies it as "a real nice kit", and I'll take his word as gospel on that.










The box is standard Meng fare, with a stylish satin finish and an excellent cover painting. It is a heavy package, and the reason for that becomes apparent when you lift the lid. Meng don't skimp on parts, as evidenced by the content listing below:

  • 13 sprues in mid-green styrene
  • Upper hull
  • Lower hull
  • Turret body
  • 16 x flexible styrene track parts
  • 8 sprues of track links in black styrene
  • Clear sprue
  • 3 x PE frets - including one wheel mask
  • 20 poly-caps
  • 2 x pale grey flexible styrene tanker helmets
  • 1 x pale grey flexible styrene mantlet cover
  • Length of braided string/rope
  • Decal sheet
  • 22 page A4 instruction booklet with glossy colour cover
  • 4 page A4 painting and decaling guide

Other than a turned metal barrel, which isn't included, it's hard to see what more many modellers could want in the box. You could almost level the term "multi-media" to the kit because of the intelligent use of different materials for the various aspects of it. Inside the inner cover of the instruction booklet is a section titled The new model, new approach, new quality from Alexey Khlopotov, known as Gur Khan on the internet. It details his cooperation with the Meng designers in order to create what he hopes will be the first truly accurate (in as far as a styrene model can be) rendition of the T-90A, and thanks the modellers and employees of the factory where the tank is manufactured (his home town) for their assistance. I understand that there is a publication from Gur Khan's publishing company that will complement the kit, and we'll be looking to source a copy to review here at some point in the near future. Given that this will contain a lot of the research used in creating the kit, it's bound to be an interesting tome to have in your research pile whilst building the model.

The text is reproduced in four languages. English, Russian and I think Japanese and Chinese, although I might be wrong about the last two as Japanese Kanji and Chinese glyphs are indistinguishable to anyone like me that doesn't write them. In between the pages though, there is a useful pair of diagrams of the tank that point out most of the main systems that cover its surface. I find this type of additional information quite interesting, as I like to know what each part of a model is. On page 6 is a paint chart using Vallejo colours as a reference, and this is replicated in colour on the inside back cover, which might be helpful to assist in matching non-Vallejo colours.

Construction of course starts with the road wheels, which are set in pairs with a poly-cap between them. The roadwheels are bristling with detail, both on the hubs and the rubber tyres, with tiny grooves radiating from the centre on the sidewalls. The idler wheels and drive sprockets are similarly split, with a central plate between the sprockets. As mentioned in the content listing, a thick brass tyre mask is included in the kit, so that you can mask off the painted tyres to spray the centres the same colour as the body of the tank. There are twelve pairs of roadwheels and two each of the idlers and drive sprockets, so they'll keep you busy for a little while.


Due to the complex and busy nature of the underside of the hull, the front and rear panels are provided as inserts that sit flat against the bare styrene blanking plates, and a nicely detailed self-entrenching shovel runs the full width of the front, with actuator rams reaching back under the hull. The suspension is torsion bar, and this is replicated by the inclusion of a full set of bars that run through the lower hull and slot into square slots to keep the end fixed from rotating. The suspension arms are moulded into the torsion bars, so the sit of the wheels should be perfect by default unless you manage to insert any at crazy angles. The final drive bell-housing is at the rear, and is protected from damage by a thick set of bars that glue into the hull sides. The wheels all push onto the axles obtaining a friction fit from the poly-caps hidden within each wheel pairing, and three return rollers mount on the top track-run to keep tension on the tracks up.




The tracks are a work of art, but you have to follow instructions carefully and not be too free with the glue if you want them to remain workable after completion. The hollow guide horns are supplied as pairs, which clip onto the central area of the track pins, which are moulded into the main track parts. You must assemble short lengths before separating the two from their little sprue-runner to ease handling, then insert the runs into the two-piece jig that is supplied on its own sprue. Then you insert the flexible styrene track-ends into yet another part of the jig, cut them from their runners, and apply them to the ends of the track pins in runs of five on each side using no glue! The track pads are added once the tracks are complete, and this is painted with a rubber colour. Two sets of 81 links are needed, so again, you'll be working for some time with the jig, but the results should be well worth the effort. If you prefer the rubber-band type tracks, you'd better prepare yourself for a new experience, because it's just such a nice kit, you won't want to miss out on it. Sorry! The tracks are then wrapped around the wheels and closed with two of the flexible end parts.

Surprisingly, a detailed engine is included with the kit, with a bulkhead and some of the ancillary equipment also. The engine is made up from a considerable number of parts, with two banks of 6 pistons in a vee arrangement, plus a multi-part turbocharger and some PE panels that cover the engine in much the same way as modern cars. It is inserted in the lower hull at the rear along with a lump that looks like a picnic basket on steroids (pardon my ignorance) and the aforementioned bulkhead with a large thin reservoir and a smaller pot attached. In the upper hull a beam and another pot is added before you close it up. Colour call-outs are given in Vallejo paint codes throughout this process, as most of us would otherwise be scratching our heads.

After attaching the glacis plate detail insert with driving lights, the front section of the deck that includes the driver's hatch, a section of the turret ring detail, fuel tanks, stowage boxes on the fenders and the fender fronts, the upper hull is joined to the lower, and a pair of PE grilles are added to the engine deck at the rear. At this point the engine is still visible through a large hole in the engine deck, which can be added in the closed position or open position at your whim. If posing it closed, you could mount the engine on a trolley, and pose it next to the finished model if you like. The exhaust, vents, rear mud-flaps and other small parts are added to the back of the engine deck, as are the cradles for the auxiliary fuel tanks that are synonymous with Russian armour. However, for the majority of the decal options included in this kit, the main part of the bracket is removed, as the extra tankage is not required. The side skirts on the T-90 are thick flexible rubber attached to the fenders by the metal clamps that hold the rubber in place. These are moulded with the characteristic fluting that occurs over time, leaving a slightly wavy edge. It has been done in an asymmetrical manner, so that the sides don’t match, which would have looked "off". The brackets for the three staggered explosive reactive armour are added to the front section of each skirt, and the blocks themselves, which are marked with their part numbers on the back, are added to the brackets and joined with the fenders.


An unditching log is often carried by Soviet tanks in particular, and Meng haven't let us down. There's one on sprue B, split down the middle, with a nice Woody irregularity to the moulding, although some extra scuffing of the surface and careful painting should improve it further. The towing cables are kept on the rear bulkhead under the log, and these are made up from two-part eyes attached to 100mm lengths of the supplied string/rope. Because it is a man-made fibre, there is no "fluff" to show up after painting, so it should be suitable for the job as long as you cut the ends neatly and glue them before they have had chance to fray. If you're modelling the decal option with the auxiliary fuel tanks, you'll need to make them up from the two halves and end caps, plus filler cap (times two), install them and then add the hoses that are so often missed out on AFV kits. It's a fairly complex arrangement linking the tanks together and then disappearing into the hull, but all the parts are supplied, and a scrap diagram shows how it is then linked into the hull correctly.



Attention then turns to the turret, starting with the 125mm smooth-bore main gun. This is a jacketed unit with a recuperator in the middle, and as such it is built up in sections. The fore and aft sections are built up from halves that split along the jacket detail and then insert into either end of the recuperator, which has been moulded as a single part with separate collars on either end. To finish off the barrel and give it a hollow appearance, the muzzle is added last, and is a single part. The whole approach minimises the likelihood you'll have to do any serious seam cleanup, whilst appealing to the widest audience (some folks don't like metal barrels) and helping keep the cost of the kit down. The turret body is supplied as a large single moulding that utilises slide-moulding to maximise the moulded detail. The rear is a separate part, as is the underside with the turret ring moulded in. The shell ejector hatch and reactive armour blocks are added to the top, and some internal periscope detail is added to the roof inside the gunner's hatch. The advances optics and sensor suite that is dotted around the roof area is build up and installed onto the roof along with the hatches and stowage boxes. The mantlet on the T-90A is quite small and usually covered with a blast-bag, which is replicated in a single part using flexible styrene that fits over the two-part mantlet former and is held in place by a detailed plug that receives the non-lethal end of the barrel. Smoke grenade launchers and the twin infrared dazzler mounting brackets are built next, and the lamp boxes themselves are made up, with their bodies covered in very nicely rendered cooling fins that use slide-moulding again. The characteristic sloped armour blocks that extend the front of the turret to a point are made up and attached to slots in the turret front, and at the rear the many stowage boxes and snorkel gear are built and added to the bustle area. The commander's cupola is a complex affair, and has a large number of parts making up the many controls and vision blocks that enable him to get a picture of the battlefield. At the front of the cupola is a a 12.7mm NSV heavy machine gun for anti-aircraft defence, with a commensurately large recoil absorbing mount, cartridge bag and ammo drum. There is even a small length of ammo included to string between the breech and box for a little extra detail. The finished cupola drops into the turret roof within a slim ring, and the barrel is slotted into the keyed aperture in the mantlet, to ensure that the detail is correctly oriented. A small plate attaches to the top of the gunner's hatch, and a sensor pole sits behind, and apart from dropping the turret into the hull, securing it with the usual locking lugs, the build is done.

There are six colour schemes to choose from, and within five of those schemes, you can depict any of the 16 vehicles within the unit to which the scheme relates. One scheme seems to relate to only a single vehicle however, but I don't profess to understand why. From the box you can build one of the following:

  • 27th Separate Guards Motorised Rifle Brigade, Moscow Military District, Russia Victory Parade 2011 - overall Russian green
  • 27th Separate Guards Motorised Rifle Brigade, Moscow Military District, Russia Victory Parade 2012 - overall Russian green
  • 19th Motorised Rifle Brigade of North Caucases Military District - Russian green/black/duck egg green camouflage
  • 27th Separate Guards Motorised Rifle Brigade, Moscow Military District, Russia Victory Parade 2008 - Russian green/black/sand camouflage
  • 27th Separate Guards Motorised Rifle Brigade, Moscow Military District, Russia Victory Parade 2009 - Russian green/black/sand camouflage
  • 27th Separate Guards Motorised Rifle Brigade, Moscow Military District, Russia Victory Parade 2010 - Russian green/black/sand camouflage

It's perhaps a little disappointing that there are only parade schemes included in the box, but I would imagine that these schemes were kept for a time after the parades, so there should be plenty of scope for weathering after a little checking of your references. The camouflaged schemes are all laid out in five-view full colour of a good size, so there won't be any guesswork as to how the pattern should continue onto any section of the hull.


Decals are minimal with most AFVs, and this is no exception. The sheet is printed by Cartograf and contains a full set of vehicle codes, with six of each digit, plus four extra 1s. The smaller codes on the rear of the turret are also included, plus unit markings and four Russian wreaths in red, yellow and white. Register, colour density and sharpness is first rate, as you would expect from Cartograf, and the carrier film is thin and commendably close to the edges of the decals.

This highly detailed and comprehensive model of the modern Russian MBT is seriously good, and is likely to be built entirely out of the box by many modellers with no additions of aftermarket. It fairly bristles with detail, and the knowledge accumulated over the years by Gur Khan shows in every part. The complex and detailed tracks may dissuade a few, but most rubber-band track aficionados will be so sorely tempted by the kit that they will probably buy it and deal with their phobia later. Patience will be key in completing the tracks successfully, and as relatively little glue is required, it shouldn't end up too difficult.

Aside from the decals representing only parade machines, there's so little to gripe about that you'd really have to put your pedantic side to the test to be more critical.

Well done Meng and all those that helped with the project. It has paid off in spades!

Very highly recommended.

Available soon from Creative Models in the UK

Review sample courtesy of

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Mike super review, a few blips to point out: on the decal sheet no 1and 3 are printed the wrong way round :doh:

the driver's hatch opening is not quite oval shaped, if you close the hatch door it's ok.

The Meng Kit is a Super Kit well ahead of the pack so far :thumbsup:

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