T-15 Armata Object 149
The T-15 is a new vehicle designed for the Russian inventory as an infantry support vehicle, possibly as a replacement for the venerable BMP 2. The T-15 is concept based on the T-14 MBT tank hull. Due to the nature of the T-14 being designed to have multiple versions, the T-15 is the same hull that has a different automated turret installed. This turret is designed with infantry support in mind with a 2A42 30 mm auto-cannon, a 7.62 mm coaxial PKT and two sets of Kornet-EM anti-tank missiles. Panda Hobby’s new kit is the first attempt at this interesting new vehicle.
The instructions are pretty standard for Panda kits, printed on glossy paper with clear part breakdowns. In a few steps the parts locations can be a little vague but for the most part the instructions are great. They did tend to fall apart with use, the staples tended to pull through the paper easily. The kit parts are very well molded in a heavy dark green plastic and the individual link tracks are molded in a light brown. I didn’t really find and molding issues and I had almost no issues with flash or broken parts.
The first phase of construction is as usual the running gear. The running gear is very well molded with no major issues. The only thing that I didn’t like about this part of the build is the parts A7 and A31, which are the washers for the running gear. In this kit they are molded out of hard plastic. This made assembly of the running gear a little interesting, the way I handled it was to glue A31 to A25 which is the inside road wheel. As long as you are careful to line up A31 with the hole in A25 for the torsion bar you should not have any problems building the road wheels or attaching them to the torsion bars. The same rule applies to the idler wheels, just attach A7 to A23.
Next up is the assembly of the hull. For the hull assembly I skipped straight to the upper hull assembly in step 6. All of the initial steps for the lower hull from 2-5 are related to the tracks and running gear which I usually leave until after the initial painting. In Step 6 I encountered my first major construction problem. On the upper hull in the rear above the hole left for the infantry hatch, there are two small square holes behind where part F3 goes. These holes go all the way through the hull and are not mentioned in the instructions at all, it is almost like Panda hobby forgot they were there. They are very easy to patch with small pieces of styrene but the fact that the holes are there is weird. Also in step 6, leave the parts D21, D30 and D29 until you install the side skirts these parts are the upper supports for the side skirts and are much easier to line up as you are installing the side skirts. The last thing for step 6 is the vision blocks; I left these parts out to make painting easier but I had a lot of trouble fitting the large vision blocks in once the two hull pieces were installed and the blocks were painted. It might be easier to install them as directed and mask the vision ports with tape.
In Step 7 we have our first set of photo etch parts to use. The photo etch in this kit is pretty nice, it is not too think and in most cases it is easy to work with as it has very nice score marks for folding. For part PE 4, the folding diagram does not do a great job of showing you that you need to fold the left/right edges where they touch the hull. There are no score marks for these folds and the folds are tiny, you will need to use a folding tool and be very careful. Also in this step is part PE15 for the outside of the basket (D91), this part requires you attach a large amount of small photo etch parts to it. There are two sizes of handles and bolt heads that need to be added to this part. The parts are tiny and can be difficult to work with but the kit thankfully provides a few extras.
The rest of the upper hull assembly should go fairly smoothly. In step 9, remember to leave the parts D39, D31 and D32 off until after you install the side skirts as these are the other set of upper supports. Step 10 has you combine the upper and lower hull; I didn’t have any fit issues with this step. In the next two steps have you assemble the side skirts; I found the moldings for these to be pretty impressive. They are cleanly molded with no warping. Step 13 has another baffling fit problem; Parts D2 and B3 are fitted to specific areas on the rear of the hull behind the turret. I found that the parts do not fit to the hull very well; there is a gap around all of the edges unless you shim the bottoms of the parts with a thin piece of styrene. I cut a piece of styrene to the shape of the base of each part and glued everything together. When you are attaching part B5 to the rear hull door be careful and take your time, attaching this part to the supports is very awkward and fiddly. Also I recommend leaving the part D46 off of this door until after final painting it is extremely fragile and easy to break off while handling.
I skipped installing the side skirts until after the final painting to make installing the tracks easier, the last part of hull assembly that I did before moving on to the turret assembly is Step 14. This builds the large pointed nose of the hull, when completing the assembly in this step I found a pretty large seam along the very front of the assembly between parts C2 and B2. This needed a fair amount of sanding and filling to correct. Also a side note here, the tow cables in this step and step 4 call for 90 mm in step 4 and no specified length in step 14. So I assumed 90 mm here as well, both lengths are way too long. I would recommend cutting at least 10-15 mm off of both tow cables to help with the fit.
Let’s move on to the turret assembly. For the most part turret assembly goes extremely smoothly I only had two things that I wanted to address. First, the photo-etch shrouds (PE1 and PE3) for the missile assemblies are extremely difficult to bend correctly. There are no score marks for folding and the parts need to be bent to a curve. This can be difficult with a part of this size and with how thin the part is. I had some success with annealing these parts with a candle and bending them around a metal rod. Just be very careful and take your time. Also, parts E32, E23, and E24 and their counterparts make the hinges for the missile assemblies and attach to the turret. I recommend gluing these hinges to the missile assemblies as the full missile tubes are too heavy to balance straight without gluing.
The last parts of assembly are attaching the side skirts, attaching the running gear and building the tracks. I didn’t have any issues with assembling the running gear or attaching them to the hull. They are easy to line up and I had no issues with floating road wheels. For the track assembly, it calls for 95 links per side but I only used about 60 links per side. Opting instead, to leave out the upper run of tracks to make installing the tracks after painting easier and because the large side skirts would hide the omission. The tracks are well molded and don’t require much clean up but they are individual link tracks with separate guide horns, so they do require a fair amount of work to build compared to other track types. After the tracks were painted and installed I installed the side skirts. The right side skirt was fairly easy to install and I only had a small issue when attaching the rear most section to the rear hull, there was a small gap here that was easy to correct with some Mr Surfacer. I had a lot more trouble getting the rear of the left side skirt to fit. For some reason I had issues getting the front and rear location pins to line up at the same time, so I removed the rear location pins. After this, I ended up with a pretty serious gap on this rear panel. I was able to fill this in using a combination of super glue and Mr Surfacer.
Lastly there are the decals and painting, there is only one option provided for markings, as this is a very early vehicle that has only been seen at arms shows and parades this in not surprising. The painting guide only has call outs for the hull color and the tracks. The call outs are done in Mr Hobby call outs with a FS number of FS34079 for the overall green. I used a custom mix of Tamiya NATO Green, olive drab and NATO black to get the dark green/olive color that I was aiming for. The kit only has two decals for the victory day parade markings on the side skirts. The decals performed well over a gloss coat and with Micro Sol but the register is a little weak for the yellow colors and I found that I could just barely see the base coat through the yellow. Also the guide does not provide any callouts for the canvas cover on the mantlet but I felt that it would probably not be the exact same shade as the hull, so with a little artistic license I pained it a Vallejo canvas color. The last thing about the painting of this kit that I want to mention is the optics on top of the turret. There are two very distinctive sets of optics on top of the turret that have orange reflective lens, these lens are molded solid so you will have to paint them. The painting guide makes no mention of them but the front view of the vehicle on the bottom left of the guide does have them colored correctly. I used a base of chrome silver followed by Tamiya Clear Orange to simulate the lens here.
Overall this is an interesting and impressive kit. I really enjoyed working on it even though it was a challenge at times. It seems to be fairly accurate and it fills a neat niche in the market. The high parts count, minor fit issues and the need to correct some small parts of the rear upper hull are certainly a challenge but with a little work you will have a very nice build of an interesting modern Russian vehicle. Due the challenges of this kit I would not recommend it beginners but experienced modelers should have no problem with this kit. My thanks to Kitty Hawk and IPMS-USA for giving me the opportunity to review this kit.