Panzershop #3503 T-55AM2
The T-55 can be traced back, via the T-54 and T-44, to the T-34 of WWII fame. The design started in 1951 on a follow-up of the T-54A, resulting in production of the T-55 as of 1958. Total production of the T-54/55 is around 100,000. Although the T-55 looks like the T-54 in many respects, it is actually a complete redesign. Amongst the upgrades made to the basic T-55 during its lifespan were the addition of a 12.7 mm DHsK machinegun at the loaders hatch (1970), and a KTD-2 laser range finder on the gun mantlet (1974). In 1983 a complete upgrade started, resulting in the T-55(A)M. Added were passive appliqué armour (BDD, or horseshoe armour, and glacis armour), Volna fire control system (FCS) with laser range finder (LRF) on the gun mantlet, optional Bastion guided tank projectile (AT-10 Stabber) with 1K13 gunners sight, side skirts, new anti-radiation lining, an upgraded V-55U engine, new torsion bars, a gradual refit with RShM tracks (from the T-72, including sprockets), smoke dischargers, and a radio upgrade. A later upgrade replaced the engine with the V-46 from the T-72, resulting in the T-55(A)M-1. Polish and Czechoslovak factories had parallel programs to produce what they called the T-55AM2. Not all of these included the option to fire the Bastion; those that do are referred to as T-55AM2B (Czechoslovak) and T-55AM2P (Polish). The Czechoslovak FCS upgrade uses the Kladivo (hammer) LRF and a Czech model wind sensor on the turret rear. The Poles use the Merida with an LRF integrated in the gunners sight and a hammerhead wind sensor on the forward turret roof. The T-55 has also been fitted with reactive armour ("V" designation), and the Drozd active defence system ("D" designation). For more info on these programs, see Zaloga et al. There is also an excellent overview of the various versions in Janes.
Contents of the kit
The kit consists of 117 (!) parts, all in cream-coloured resin in a decent box. Most of them are cast in two-part moulds, and are delivered in the wafers from the casting process, in five Ziploc-type bags. Some of the contents include a very nice three-piece barrel (muzzle, hollow barrel halves without warpage), armored skirts cast in sections as on the real thing, with a few pinholes, but no warpage, and very thin, all handles and rails, with a few minor pinholes, BDD turret armour, with a mould seam, presumably from another two-part cast, but easily removed, and the tarp for the turret rear. Most parts are very cleanly cast, with only a few minor airbubbles, nothing problematic. The smaller parts need to be removed from the casting wafers. The set is for the Czechoslovak T-55AM2 (Figure 1), and as such includes the Kladivo LRF and sensor mast, rather than the Soviet/Russian equivalents. Decals for two vehicles are included. Despite being listed as for the ESCI kit on the instructions, no new fuel cells are included to replace the inaccurate ESCI ones. The instructions are comprised of nine pages: parts listing + drawings, two pages with drawings of parts of the vehicle, with numbers and lines indicating the location of the parts, one page for the decal locations, and two pages with scans of pics of the painted and unpainted model.
A very well done set for this T-55 upgrade. Not the cheapest, but you definitely get your $40s worth. You can buy this basic set, or the fancy version, with Eduard photo-etch, Lee kit, and if you want even Fruilmodel T-72 tracks, directly from Libor Matejka at PanzerShop, or through Bob Lessels at Eastern Front Hobbies. I will still add the 1K13 gunners sight from Washington Armor Productions to it, to make the T-55AM2B version, and Fruilmodel T-72 tracks and sprockets (which I already had). For this last modification you also need to extend the fenders a bit, by the way. Strongly recommended for any Soviet/modern armour fan.
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