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Mike

Russian Main Battle Tank T-72B3 1:35

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Russian Main Battle Tank T-72B3
1:35 Meng Model


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The T-72 was the ultimate replacement of the poorly engineered T-64, which was over-ambitious for its era, so struggled with the requirements placed on it by the Russian hierarchy. After much improvement on the flawed original it became such a different beast that they renamed it, after even the hull was re-engineered to take the punishment of the improved power plant. The new T-72 (Objekt 172M) suffered from teething problems however, and initial deliveries were slow, plagued with issues until the factories were properly tooled up and the production started to run smoothly. Along with the earlier T-55 it became one of the most commonly used tanks of the Soviet Union, and has been in service for years with many upgrades and variants.

The T-72B was introduced in the mid-80s with improved armour, a new engine with more power, and a complete overhaul of the main gun system from sights to stabilizer. The B3 variant was a substantial upgrade to the previous versions, beginning in 2010 and took reserve tanks, overhauled the systems that would be retained, and replaced many of the electronics, especially the sensor suite that would improve survivability on the modern battlefield. The hull and running gear were also upgraded with new tracks that have two pins instead of the earlier one, and the crew/hardware are protected by an improved fire suppression system. The gun hasn't escaped improvement, and the auto-loader that reduced the crew to three has been improved to feed the new 2A46M5 gun, which fires kinetic penetrator rounds in a discarding sabot outer, similar to the western tanks. Entering service in 2013 there are now over 500 in use, which is increasing as time goes by.


The Kit
A new tool from Meng, who seem to be moving fast with the new releases at the moment, with Russian/Soviet armour their current vogue. The recent BMPT Terminator that we reviewed in 2014 here used the T-72 chassis as a base, so some of the parts will be common to this kit, and there's hope that more variants will be forthcoming in due course to maximise their returns on the basic moulds. The box is typical Meng, with a satin finish, but the lower carton has been strengthened to a substantial degree to protect the contents, which is good to see, as many modellers stack their models in the stash and a weak box is a pain if the piles are large. Inside the box are fifteen sprues in green styrene; a sprue of flexible styrene in the same colour; two hull parts and the turret top; a clear sprue; a black sprue containing jigs for construction; seven sprues of black styrene track links and seven sprues of the interlinking end-caps in flexible black styrene; a length of braided synthetic string (not pictured); a run of black poly-caps; two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass; a clear suspension positioning tool; decals, and the usual glossy instruction booklet with painting and marking guide to the rear.

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It's a Meng kit, so of course the first impression is one of a professionally presented and highly detailed model. There's a lot of detail included in the box, and the construction proceeds logically, which as you'd expect begins with the road wheels, idlers and drive sprockets, all of which have poly-caps trapped between the inner and outer portions. Return rollers and suspension parts are added to the lower hull at the same time as the self-entrenching tool is installed in the lower glacis. The suspension is torsion-bar driven on the real thing, and this is replicated in styrene here, with long bars going through the lower hull and short swing-arms holding the stub axles at their ends. A clear styrene tool is provided to get everything in alignment here, so that if you are electing to have your suspension un-deflected, everything will touch the ground. With the rear bulkhead detail panel added along with some spare track links, the road wheels are pushed into place on the by-now cured suspension, and that leads us to the tracks.

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The tracks are the same design as those for the Terminator, and have three jigs to facilitate construction. Firstly, the guide horns are cut from their sprue and here the instructions tell you to leave them in pairs with a little piece of sprue between them. I had to test this theory, as it looked rather unwieldy to me, and I did indeed find it so when I attempted the first run of six links. For the second run of six, I removed the horns and cleaned up their sprue gate marks first, then clipped them onto the links via the moulded-in pins that run the full width of the links, whilst holding them on the jig J3. It was less fiddly, and a knack was soon stumbled on to get them clipped together. With six links on the jig, a top part J2 is clipped over the lower, holding the links in place. You then insert a section of sprue containing five flexible styrene end-caps into the third part of the jog J1, and cut them loose with a sharp blade. These are then offered en-masse to the pins on one side of the tracks, pushing in only one way due to the shape of the keys on the sides of the jigs. Here you have to be careful to insert the end-caps in the correct orientation according to the scrap diagrams in this section. Optionally, you can finally install a set of track-pads to finish off the length, or leave them rough and ready for cross-country work. They fit into recesses in the outer surface of the links, and glue in quite easily, but be sparing with it, as you'll ruin all your work if the glue gets into the pins.

In conclusion on the tracks, they are fiddly, delicate and really require your full attention, so don't expect to have them finished in an hour. I was already speeding up production by the time I'd made the 2nd run of six, and the results are worth the effort, being detailed and workable, but be prepared to put in the effort – you need 2 runs of 81 links.

With the tracks out of the way, attention turns to the upper hull, which is based on the large part as seen in the sprue pictures. The raised portions for the driver's compartment, the turret ring armoured sections, PE engine grilles, optional armoured covers, and the exhaust are added to the upper, with a detail insert forming the glacis, plus fuel and equipment stowage covering the majority of the length of the fenders. The shaped front mudguard is delicately moulded with thinner edges to give a more scale look, and has the rebound hinges as separate parts added before they are glued to the front of the fenders. At the rear a smaller pair of simple fenders are installed, and the engine deck is completed with more parts, including another pair of PE grilles. The light clusters are built up and added, as are the four holders for the additional fuel drums, with a larger light cluster at the front, and the rear unditching beam added later, moulded from a single part with plenty of bark detail. The side skirts are multi-parts, with lots of detail moulded on, and they have further ERA blocks to the front, which hang off a trio of brackets that are glued to the sides of the skirts first. Back to the rear, and a pair of towing cables are fabricated from 100mm lengths of the synthetic cord, added to styrene towing eyes and wrapped around the drum supports. Speaking of drums, there are two of these included in the box, with five parts each, which can be added to the curved supports if you so wish, or left in the spares box for later. If you use them, open up a few small holes as instructed, and fit the hosing loom to the front for added realism.

The turret is always a fun part of the build for me, and this one starts with the big barrel, which is built up in sections, some of which are moulded complete, while the longer sections are split vertically and will require careful alignment and seam sanding to get a nice tubular barrel. There is no interior other than the commander's instrument panel at the front of his hatch, so the turret lower is used to close up the assembly early, after which a host of ERA blocks are glued all over the place, which is why the bare turret looks like it has already been shot up, as well as bearing little resemblance to the shape of the finished article. Equipment, grab-handles, smoke grenade dispenser and sensors are dotted around between the armour, and the mantlet is installed with a flexible styrene cover giving it a realistic crumpled look for good measure. Around the rear are stowage boxes, one of which has a portable missile launcher lashed to it on the centre station. The commander's cupola has vision blocks around it, a protective shield at his rear and the big anti-aircraft machine gun on a mount to the front. When advancing, the shield is pointed forward to provide protection, and has a reinforced viewing slot to keep the commander safe and give him better situational awareness for longer during a skirmish. The gunner's hatch is a much more straight-forward flap with handles and latch on the underside, and this, like the rotation and activity of the commander's hatch can be left mobile by leaving off the glue. Finally, the barrel is mated to the mantlet via a keyed lug, and the turret is attached to the hull via the usual bayonet twist-to-fit mechanism.


Markings
If you're expecting a sea of Russian green, you'd be partly right, but two of the four schemes are far from drab, while one of the green jobs is done up in Great Patriotic War Parade decals, with twin white "go faster" stripes on the sides and glacis. From the box you can build one of the following:

  • 20th Army, Western Military District, Russia 2014 – all over green.
  • Victory Day Parade 70th Anniversary of the World Anti-Fascist War, ST Petersburg, May 9th, 2015 – green with stylised red star and black/orange striped markings on the side, white stripes on the sides and glacis.
  • Russian Team, International Tank Biathlon Championship, 2015 – offwhite, brown, red-brown camo.
  • Russian Army Expo, Nizhny Tagil, 2015 – Sand, brown and dark brown splinter scheme.

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Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. As an aside, you also get a little circular PE template to mask off your road wheels, which is a common extra in Meng tank kits that doesn't get as much appreciation as it perhaps should.


Conclusion
A solid and detailed model of this modern Russian tank that will go together easily, although the tracks will keep you pretty busy for a while. The colour options are nice and varied, but the opportunities for weathering of the colourful options is likely limited due to their parade ground finish. Bring on the next one!

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Review sample courtesy of
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i have just finished the Meng terminator... and i am sure this will be the same nice build.  Men kits are a joy to build!!

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Cool review Mike.....I hadn't realised the T-72 grew out of the T-64, always thought of them as seperate entities, with the former then developing into the T-90 and the latter the T-80.  :coolio:

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