Marketed as ‘Russia’s First Main Battle Tank’ by Boris Yeltsin in 1992, the T-90 came about as the result of a modernization program by Nizhny Tagil to improve its famous T-72. The T-90 ultimately started life as a T-72B fitted with second-generation Kontakt-V reactive armour, updated fire control system, Shtora active/passive defence and a new V-84M engine. The T-90 designation was chosen in the early 90’s to boost the prospects of export sales (effectively giving the appearance that the tank was entirely new), after the less than glowing performance of Saddam’s fleet of T-72’s in the 1991 Gulf War.
First production batch T-90’s featured a cast ‘Super Dolly Parton’ turret identical to the T-72B, but with Kontakt-V era (which has already been fielded on T-72B models), Shtora active/passive defence and DVE-BS wind sensor mast for the 1A45T fire control system. Very early production batches also retained the RMsh ‘dead’ tracks.
In 1999, following an Indian contract for around 300 T-90’s, research and development began on the fielding of a new welded turret, similar in design to that fitted on the prototype Object 187 of the late 80’s. This was accepted into Russian service as the T-90A, with full production commencing in 2003.
The T-90A’s welded turret is designed to improve survivability and protection and is made of welded armour panels in a roughly geometric shape. First production batch T-90A’s feature a full TShU-1 Shtora array, with two OTShU-1-7 IR ‘dazzlers’ either side of the main armament for ATGM jamming and four laser sensors: two above the main gun and 2 facing the sides.
Armament consists of a 125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun with autoloader and 9K119M Reflecks-M integrated guided weapon system, a coaxial 7.62mm PKTM and 12.7mm 9P49 KORD anti-aircraft gun mounted in a remotely operated weapons station on the commanders rotating cupola.
The fire control system features 1G46 daylight laser rangefinder and 1V216M ballistic computer and a commanders T01-K04 ‘Agate-M’ sight with PK-5 periscope and night-vision sight. To the rear of the turret is mounted a TWO-BS meteorological sensor mast.
The most up to date engine is the V-92S2 1000 HP diesel engine, with ducting to draw fresh air into the engine and reduce the tanks heat signature.
Tracks consist of Osmk KBTM RMsh double-pin live tracks that can be fitted with rubber inserts on the outside face to reduce road surface wear.
There are a number of different T-90A production batches, which feature various nuances depending on the year of manufacture such as an altered Shtora cabling layout. Latest production T-90A’s have the OTShU-1-7 ‘dazzlers’ deleted and replaced with additional Kontakt-V armour wedges as well as an air-conditioning system mounted in place of the left side turret bin (these tanks acquiring the T-90SA designation). Kontakt-V reactive armour is also being replaced with newer generation ‘Relikt’ ERA.
The kit comes packaged in a stout cardboard box, with the box-top artwork depicting a tank during the Moscow military parade. In the box we have the following:
- 16 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 poly caps
- 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 colour 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 J: Extensive turret detail accessories
- Sprue K: Lower turret half and main turret detailing
- Sprue L: Turret stowage bins
- Sprue Sx2: Shtora emitters and modulator boxes
- Sprue A2: Engine deck parts from T-90 kit
- Sprue TRx4: Tracks
- Sprue Tx4: Track guide horns
Additionally there are 330 photo-etched 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. We now have three T-90A kits on the market, with Trumpeter
joining the fray after Meng and Zvezda. I won’t provide any comparison within this review between those other kits, beyond simply saying that Trumpeter’s is likely to be viewed as the most complex of all three.
Effectively what we have here is Trumpeter
’s T-90M1992 kit with several new sprues added providing the T-90A specific parts, including the distinct welded turret. As mentioned in my introduction, there are several production variants of the T-90A, with the Trumpeter
kit depicting what might be classified as the mid-production batch from around 2007 onwards (Similar to Meng’s kit), with the side running electrical conduits for the Shtora emitters. Unfortunately Trumpeter has fouled up slightly in providing the earlier style emitters as found in their T-90M1992 kit.
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. 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 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. The shape of the anti-radiation cladding for the front glacis around the driver’s periscope is a little off as well. 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. 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.
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 9 pages in the instruction booklet. The main turret is made up of a single upper piece with separate lower ring.
The turret is the distinctive welded version characteristic of the T-90A and matches up fairly well with the reference plans I have. Compared to other manufacturers Trumpeter turret is quite a complex affair with all the anti-radiation cladding as separate panels, although well handled, especially by the inclusion of separate fastening discs. As with their other kits 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 remainder of the turret has some well pronounced weld seems and is on the whole very good
The turret detailing is very extensive, with a great deal of sub-assemblies such as the gunner’s sight, commanders RWS and turret bins. 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 RWS is quite poor as well, with a very chunky barrel and would benefit from an aftermarket replacement.
For any purists the main issues with Trumpeter
s kit surrounds the accuracy of the Shtora dazzlers’ included. T-90’s are fitted with three distinct types with differing heat-dissipating protrusions. With the cabling placement that Trumpeter
has depicted, i.e. with the electrical conduits running down the edge of the front turret and linking up through the back of the K-V ERA segments, the Shtora dazzlers, according to reference photos, are always the mid or later version, Trumpeter
has included the very early type from their first T-90. Of course I imagine most modelers will be happy to live with this, but I think it’s worth mentioning. The small triangular fillet from the outside edge of the front K-V segments is missing as well (which protects the junction box for the Shtora cabling), as is the top mounting bracket for the left side stowage box.
Markings are provided for 2 tanks sporting either parade 3-tone camouflage or single color green. Unfortunately no details are provided for the particular units operating those tanks, although the relevant information is easily found online.
Overall this appears to be a very good kit, and is both well molded and incredibly detailed, allowing one to build a very respectable T-90A 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 (Tetra Model offers such an item). Some of the accuracy concerns on the turret are a little troublesome for confessed ‘rivet counter’s’ like myself, but won’t bother most modellers. 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 people’s abilities.
Some may wonder why we need ANOTHER T-90A kit on the market, and indeed I’m guilty of such thoughts initially. However as with all of the T-72 based tanks to date, Trumpeter
present a very buildable model, with a huge amount of parts crammed in. Overall this is a very affordable kit which I’m sure will appeal to many people and is pleasing to see yet more modern Soviet subjects being tackled. Once again my stash of Tamiya T-72’s is getting more and more dusty!