by: Karl N. Hoy [ ]
Prior to this new release by Trumpeter there was only one easily available kit in plastic of the T-64- that by Skif, and there were several versions. Personally I’ve never built it but by most accounts I’ve heard it is a rather terrible kit that needed a lot of patience, scratch-building and aftermarket parts for it to get anywhere close to accuracy.
So Trumpeter’s announcement that they were tooling a brand new T-64 was very welcome but the test shots were met on Armorama with some trepidation, mostly over the shape of the turret which appeared far too rounded and not the correct shape. We ended up waiting a fairly long time between the initial announcement and the release of the kit but it has finally hit the shelves.
The T-64 is a rather strange beast in terms of the history of Soviet tank development, for quite a few different reasons. For a start it was never exported and it never gained anywhere near the status as the T-55 which came before or the T-72 which came after.
It also never saw any combat (though there is a dispute about whether one did play a role in Chechnya) and has been disappearing quietly from Russian and Ukrainian military forces for quite a while although the Kharkhiv Morozov plant (KMDB) continue to work on upgrades so it is likely that it will remain in service for a little while longer.
Work on the T-64 began as far back as 1954 and was conceived primarily as a successor to the T-54/55 and T-62. Aleksandr A Morozov was the lead designer. The need for a new tank was quite necessary because the previous generation of tanks simply could not, despite their upgrades at the time, put up with the firepower of their NATO adversaries. A new engine, suspension, ammunition, main gun and firing systems were desperately needed.
The development of the stabilized 100mm rifled D54TS and a new multi-fuel engine prompted the building of a new prototype- Object 430. Further to Government diktats approved by the CPSU in 1955 three 430s were built by 1957- all equipped with the stabilized gun, new five cylinder engine, small road wheels, a new type of track and an optical range finder. It was a very advanced design for the time but the gun did not provide the increase in firepower and performance over the T-54/55 that Morozov wanted, especially in light of the development of the Centurion and the 105mm L7A1.
Object 432 was the next milestone in the T-64’s development- this sported a brand new 115mm smoothbore gun (D-68) along with new ammunition. Government diktats in 1961 also laid down requirements that included using this new gun with a mechanical loader, cutting the crew to three, the weight to 34 tons and increasing the manoeuvrability and NBC protection.
At a test site in Kubinka Khrushchev saw the prototype in action and was deeply impressed. He approved the production of the new tank, called the T-64 in 1967 by the Minister of Defence as it was approved for service. The first examples ended up in the hands of a Guards Division near the Kharkov factory, allowing the designers to be almost constantly on hand to help the crews adapt to this advanced new piece of equipment- the first tank in the world to use an autoloader.
The new 5TD engine was an interesting design, described by most sources as a ‘two-stroke, opposed piston turbo diesel’ (opposed piston engines have double ended cylinders with a piston at each end and no cylinder head- some Junkers aircraft used them and they were also used in marine industry.). Its capacity was just over 720 litres and developed around 700hp and had a standard range of around 500km, which could be increased if the auxiliary barrels were attached. The engine incorporated an ejection type cooling system- therefore the T-64 had no cooling fans and associated components- this meant there was no power lost going to these systems. Despite the engine being quite advanced it did have its problems- it was overly complex and required careful training and maintenance- this was coupled with an equally complex transmission and together they did cause problems in their early usage. The KMDB plant often sent engineers out to units equipped with the T-64 to try and overcome these teething problems.
The main gun of the T-64 was the D-68 115mm smoothbore- the autoloader carried 30 rounds of ammunition and a further 10 were stored in the tank (although they had to be manually placed into the autoloader). Around eight rounds could be fired in a minute. A 7.62mm gun with 2000 rounds catered for the co-axial armament. For the first time on a Soviet tank an optical rangefinder was included along with several other advanced sighting systems.
Like most Soviet tanks of this era the weight was kept surprisingly low, coming in at 38 tons. The armor protection was some of the best available at the time- the hull and turret are welded steel but incorporate conventional steel layers with a ceramic layer sandwiched between them. This was known sometimes known as ‘Combination K’.
It is thought that around 600 models of the initial T-64 were manufactured. By 1962 a new model was being worked on by designer F.F Petrov and a team at Perm were set on installing the T-64 with a D-81T 125mm gun. This and other new features like smoke dischargers on the front of the turret, side skirts and various armor upgrades eventually gave birth to the T-64A.
Past this the T-64 went through quite a lot of changes with many of the early models being rebuilt to bring them up to A standard. However, by 1976 the T-64 had gone through some fairly major re-designs, especially internally and in terms of the armor. These new models were called the T-64B and work on the design did not stop there as the BV model began to incorporate new gunnery and sighting technology alongside the newest ERA armor.
Unlike the other Soviet tanks of the era the T-64 was not offered for export and was kept for use mostly by dedicated armor units although as the tank got older this was less so. The T-64 was superseded by improved versions of the T-72.
Production of the T-64 ended in 1987- some sources put the completed production units as high as 13,000 while some claim 8,000. However, the figure is likely somewhere in between these two figures as in 1988/89 the USSR was believed to field around 9,900 T-64s.
By the middle of the 90s the T-64 had seriously declined in Russian service with just over 600 types in Army service and somewhere below 500 being used by the Naval Infantry. Ukraine was then and still is the biggest user of the type with over 2000 being used in the mid-90s and with over 1500 still in service in 2011. The Ukrainians also have an upgrade programme for the T-64 and the current advanced model is known as the ‘Bulat’. In Russia there are thought to be 2000 A/B’s ‘in storage’ and a small number are still being used by the Naval Infantry. Uzbekistan is the only other country to use the T-64 with around 100 in service as of 2011.
The Trumpeter kit is classed as the ‘Model 1972’ which means it is a version to which several modifications were made- the most notable were some changes to the upper hull and the addition of the 12.7mm MG on the commander’s cupola although this is an option in the kit- you can build the turret without it.
I must say that Trumpeter really look to have done their best with this kit in terms of mould quality- the parts breakdown looks just right in order to achieve a very high level of detail and the sharpness of said detail is, to date, the best I’ve seen from Trumpeter. I build a lot of their kits and can say without doubt they are improving their quality with each one. I think the moulding on the T-64 kit is also just a bit sharper than that on Trumpeter’s recent BRDM-2 release.
(There are a good number of parts in this kit that are not used for this version of the T-64 but I’ll mention more of this in the ‘Instructions’ section.)
For some reason the box art on my example appears a little pixelated but that’s no big deal. Popping the lid we find a good amount of sprues and separate parts. There’s the turret, engine deck, lower hull plus 17 sprues moulded in light grey as well as a sprue moulded in flexible styrene, no less than three sheets of PE, a clear sprue, metal barrel and some decals.
Lower Hull- Includes some excellent detail on the underside and at the suspension arm attachment points.
Turret- As I’ve said already this was a talking point when the test shots of this kit were released. To my eye the angles on the turret and the edges look pretty much spot on. They definitely do not appear as severe or rounded as they did on the test shot. There is a slight cast texture on this part. Obviously a good lot of details will added to the turret in the build but the detail already present on the part is of an excellent standard.
Sprue A- There’s five of these and they are dominated by six wheel halves for the front and rear of the T-64’s unique looking wheels. There are also some return rollers and minute grab handles with admirably thin sprue attachment points. The wheel hubs (small hexagon shapes) are moulded as separate items, which is a nice touch.
Sprue B- Two of these are included and they contain a number of different parts including the sprocket, turret boxes, tow hooks, some parts for the running gear and some spare track links. The sprockets are really nice pieces with a kind of ‘fluted’ shape and the sprue attachment points are, thankfully, well placed and thin.
Sprue C- The right hull side panel dominates this sprue and it has nice detail on the tie downs. The big light at the front left of the turret is also on this sprue and it features nice, subtle details on the back. There are also more parts to detail the suspension included here.
Sprue D- Obviously the biggest part on this sprue is the hull top- it is an elegant mould with some fine detail like conduits and caps already moulded on. On the rear of this part there are clusters of small hollow holes, most of which do not go through to the top side. The instructions only have you open three of these (there are 26…yes I counted them) so I assume some of these holes may be intended for use on future T-64 releases. The headlight moulds are nicely done in plastic, as is the main engine deck grille. Also check out the two small antennas on this sprue- although they are quite small I feel they deserve a mention as they look great!
Sprue E- Interestingly a lot of items on this sprue are not for use on this version of the T-64. The presence of a two part barrel with a thermal sleeve and anti-radiation cladding on the hatch point towards another T-64 version. Having said that the thermal sleeve on the barrel is well done and the anti-radiation cladding features some nice recessed (but subtle) detail. The bottom of the turret and the V shape mould for the front of the upper hull are also included here. I think the best parts are the hatches here with very crisp moulds- the only thing missing is interior detail.
Sprue F- Two hull side panels frame this sprue. One isn’t used on this version. The sprocket attachment points are included too and they make for some nice mouldings. Detail looks to be spot on here.
Sprue G- There’s a few more unused parts here. Those that are used include the parts of the fenders that attach to the front of the upper hull and these are very thin and sharply moulded. Some grilles for the rear of the tank and the rear deck are also present.
Sprue H- There are two of these small sprues and a majority of the parts are taken up with the auxiliary fuel drums which include moulded on retaining straps. The rest of the attachment points are there too – small parts with a good degree of detail. There’s also two cable ends on these sprues.
Sprue J- There’s no ‘I’ sprue so we move straight to J and this is a flexible styrene sprue (like the stuff rubber tracks are made of) and includes two mantlets- one will have the barrel sitting level the other has it elevated slightly. The ammunition bag for the commander’s gun is nicely done on this sprue as well. Strangely the wooden log for the rear of the tank is present on this sprue- its okay but the wood grain doesn’t look deep enough to convey it properly.
Sprue K- This isn’t really a sprue- it’s the engine deck and for me it’s one of the nicest parts in the box. The grilles are moulded separately and I reckon this would be ideal for anyone wanting to give the T-64 an engine bay as the hatches could be posed open to show some of it off. The dry fit of this part with the lower hull is perfect.
Sprue L- This is a cracking sprue that includes the multi-part 12.7mm MG above the commander’s hatch. This is an option on the kit, you don’t have to build it with this in place but I certainly will be as it is one of the best examples I’ve yet seen.
Sprue M- We’re getting through the alphabet rightly in this kit box, that’s for sure! This sprue contains the large parts for the underside of the hull sides (the sides consist of upper and lower portions) as well as two hatch halves and the side mounted missile shields. These are perhaps the finest parts in the whole kit- the plastic representing the rubber upper and lower portions of these parts is so thin that if you hold it up to the light you’ll see some of the light getting through. Usually a part like this would be rendered useless by a much thinner and more detail etched piece from the aftermarket but you really don’t even need to think about that here!
Sprue N- Lower portions of the side panels are included here as well as both halves of the optional plastic barrel.
Sprue U- This is the small clear sprue and includes parts for the headlights, driver’s main periscope and some other light lenses. It’s a bit strange that some of the periscopes on some hatches are moulded solid- these should really have been hollow and the clear parts included on this sprue.
Sprue V- Two of these track link and length sprues are included. The detail on the tracks is really nice with the interesting hole on either side of each link and the solid squared off guide horns.
Metal Barrel- It’s always fantastic to see a metal barrel included as standard in an MBT kit- they are always superior to the two-half plastic affairs. There’s not much detail on the barrel on this T-64 version as it does not feature a thermal sleeve. A small round etch part is all that is added to it before attaching it to the turret.
PE- Three sheets are included- two fairly large and one small. Engine grilles, sight housings, mounts for lights, parts for the AA MG and a myriad of other detail parts are included here. It’s always great to see this amount of etch in a kit…well if you like PE that is!
There are sixteen pages in the instructions booklet covering 14 stages. There are some fairly busy areas but nothing too extreme. Options, where available are clearly called out. On page 11 the build kind of diversifies- there’s two turret finishing options that they call ‘Estate One’ and ‘Estate Two’. One has a different lighting arrangement on the turret rear and the 12.7mm MG above the Commander’s hatch- the other simply has a searchlight above that hatch. Make sure to pay close attention to the lay-out of each ‘Estate’ as the next few stages don’t actually mention the differences- they basically have you build ‘Estate One’ so if you want to build ‘Estate Two’ make sure you study the diagrams of the finished turret to see what parts to add and what parts not to.
On the first page of the instructions, at the bottom, there is a long list of parts not used.
The markings are kept simple- Russian green with Guards markings and a number (‘603’ on the sheet) for each side of the turret. This particular version of the T-64 would probably have been most commonly found in Guards service and simple Russian green was the standard scheme for the T-64.
The decals are just two Guards insignia, a set of numbers ‘205’, ‘603’, ‘572’, ‘576’ and ‘571’ and a double set of numbers 0-9 (plus two extra zeros for some reason).
The T-64 is an important tank in the history of Soviet armor and its one that has been overlooked by most of the plastic companies (except Skif) and it is likely this new kit will become the ‘go to kit’ for this tank. The detail is undeniably sharp and the assembly seems well thought out. There may still be a few disagreements over the shape of the turret but it really is a nicely put together package from Trumpeter.
The fact that a healthy amount of PE and a metal barrel is included brings this kit up to Dragon standards of included extras! The amount of left-over parts also bodes well for those (including me) who want to see later versions of the T-64 like the B and BV.
I think the strange decision to mould the un-ditching log in the flexible styrene is one of the only goofs in this kit. The only other problem is the tracks- the early test shots showed a workable set of tracks and it was hoped they would be included in the standard kit but they have not been (they are available separately from Trumpeter) - link and length are okay but it would have been nice to see some workable links in a kit like this.
All things considered this is a nice package by Trumpeter and it is a very welcome addition to the line-up of Cold War Russian MBT kits.