IT-28 WWII Soviet Bridgelayer Tank
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
|Stock Number and Description||ICM 1/35 scale Kit No. 35081; IT-28 WWII Soviet Bridgelayer Tank|
|Media and Contents:||619 parts (331 in olive drab styrene, 288 in grey styrene)|
|Review Type:||First Look|
|Advantages:||ONLY kit of this vehicle produced (or likely to be produced) in styrene; unique vehicle|
|Disadvantages:||Launching method unclear and incomplete; older kits suffer from serious problems with mold release agent|
|Recommendation:|| Recommended for all Soviet and pre-war armor fans, as well as “pick and shovel” engineers
During the 1930s the Soviets – being farther along than most other countries in developing armored theory – realized that with all of the water obstacles in Europe and particularly in Russia they would have to bridge those obstacles. As a result, they developed a complete line of engineer tanks designed to launch bridges capable of carrying those tanks.
There were two primary models: the IT-26 series, based on the T-26 escort tank and capable of supporting most of the Soviet light and amphibious tanks; and the IT-28, based on the T-28 medium tank chassis and able to carry any of the medium tanks then in use. The tank was proposed for development in 1936, but development was protracted. Even as late as January 1940 plans were for a bridge which fit over the turret and left the tank’s armament complete. It was not until later in the year that T-28Eh (s Ehkranami - with applique) serial number 1628 was sent to NATI where it was rebuilt with the launcher gear and no turrets.
The tank was completely rebuilt with an eight-sided casemate and two fixed machine gun positions at the front of the hull. A geared chain drive mechanism and two hydraulically operated lift arms were fitted and a 13.3 meter skeleton bridge with gaps in the treadways (to save weight) was designed for the launcher mechanism. The bridge could carry 60 metric tons of weight, so in theory it could even have supported the massive T-35 or the new KV series tanks in the field. Testing of the bridge launcher at the NIIBT (Kubinka) test range showed great promise, with the IT-28 able to launch its bridge in 3 minutes and recover it in 5. But it had some reliability problems and shortcomings which required development and modification before it was accepted for service. Alas, these problems were not solved before June 1941 and as a result only the one prototype was ever built.
The main reason that it did not advance was that the T-28 was now long out of production and even while conversions would have been possible all new build tanks were diesel powered, whereas the T-28 still had an M-17 gasoline engine. So it sat at Kubinka until at least 8 October 1941, when it was shipped off to Kazan’. After that there are no reliable sources of information as to its final fate.
Eleven years ago ICM released this kit as the same time that they released their T-28 medium tank kit, but as I was in London and could only carry one back with me on the plane I took the tank variant. Over the years I saw the kits at shows, but after translating one T-28 history and finding it was only a one-off prototype I did not pick up the kit. I finally broke down and picked it up today off a sale table at one of my favorite “local” (as within 75 miles!) hobby shops.
The kit is not too bad, other than the one overriding proviso that ICM – like all of the major historians and researchers – had no clue what the launching drive gear looked like, so simply left it off the kit! The few photos in existence from Kubinka show twin heavy chain drives on the insides of the launcher arms, but that is virtually all that can be discerned.
Suffice it to say that ICM did yeoman work of what they could see. This kit replaces 144 parts from the original tank kit (including eliminating the complete interior) with 155 new ones, 111 of which compromise the bridge. The bridge does appear to be a good match for the photos, but other than the launcher arms the fittings for the tank appear to be guesswork (the “winches” provided are not visible in the one head-on shot of the tank, as an example).
The best reference sources for this tank are “Frontovaya Illyustratsiya” issue No. 4-2000, “Mnogobashennye Tanki RKKA - T-28, T-29" (RKK T-28 and T-28 Multi-turreted Tanks) by Maksim Kolomiyets, and his recent hardback book “Sukhoputnye Linkory Stalina” (Stalin’s Land Battleships) from Ehksmo Publishing, 2009. He has very good drawings in these books of including one of the prototype IT-28 with turrets. Another good source is “Steel Fortress: The Russian T-28 Medium Tank” by Mikhail Baryatinskiy and Jim Kinnear from Barbarossa Books in the UK.
It is not an easy kit to assemble, as it is typical of most eastern European moldings in that the biggest molded parts are the two turret halves and the top of the hull. The lower hull for this kit constitutes six basic parts (belly, sides, firewall, and final drive housings) and also requires another seven for completion (skirts and skirt ends and the lower engine access hatch). Getting a good fit is not a simple task, but can be done with care.
As it was based on a later model chassis it should be fitted with four pairs of steel wheels per side, but these are not present in the kit. The steel wheels are the hardest thing to replace, but I have found US 1950-1960 return rollers from M48s and M60s are the right size and with some care can be altered to fit on the model. The suspension is somewhat spare in detail, but once the skirts are in place only the bogies and wheels are visible.
The tracks are not bad, but plan on sanding and carefully filing the slots to get a good (and easy) fit. I use a good viscous liquid cement such as Vollmer Superzement S30 or Tamiya “Orange” as it provides for some flexibility while drying but “bites” and holds quickly.
Oddly the kit comes with three finishing schemes (!) even though as Kolomiyets noted nobody knows what happened to it after it left Kubinka. It recommends all schemes use 4BO green with the prototype unmarked, white 123 ascribed to the 8th Mechanized Corps in the Western Ukraine, summer 1941, and a captured scheme from fall 1941. Only the former is backed up by current Russian historians.
Overall, while it would be nice to see a new-mold kit of the T-28 it is unlikely this one-off – as interesting and mysterious as it is – is likely to ever be kitted by anyone else. (Note: Alanger has been re-releasing older ICM kits such as the T-28 in grey styrene, which are cleaned up molds with no problems with mold release. So far every ICM kit I have ever purchased has needed at least two baths in dishwashing detergent before it can be assembed.)
A 17 Actuator arms, mounts
B 26 Casemate, hatches, OVM
C 54 Bridge treadway plates
D 47 Spreader bars, spacers
E 25 Right skirt, driver’s compartment floor, muffler
G 20 Upper rear sides, left skirt, details, hatches
H 22 Left side, final drives, air intakes, rear hull details
K 16 Right side, rear fan cover
L 46x2 Road wheels, bogies, drivers, idlers, return rollers
P 72x4 Track links
S 10 Bridge longitudinal girders
– 1 Hull belly
– 1 Hull top