Russia’s new line of AFV’s based on the “Armata” are still a bit of an enigma outside Russia it seems – so a new kit of one of their latest vehicles, the T-15 Armata Objekt 149 by Panda Hobby in 35th scale, is surely of interest to many modellers out there. We have already seen an in-box review of the kit, now let’s see how Andy is going in part II of his build of the kit.
Build Review: Armata Objekt 149
Manufacturer – Panda Hobby
Kit Number # PH-35017
Price - ¥4,800 • $46 • £37 • €42 from Hobbylink Japan
PT I: In-boxed.
Part III: Painting and weathering...
After the in-box review of Panda's new T-15 Armata, I wasn't sure just what the build would have in store. There'd been some really refined detail on the parts and what appeared to be a fairly straight forward assembly, but at the same time there was some heavy mould lines and flash across many parts together with warped and broken pieces. Well, the only way to find out how well it all goes together is to put it together so... time to cut plastic.
The first step in the instructions is to assemble the wheels. These come in two halves and have a plastic cap inserted between them for the axle to slot into. I'd have preferred a more traditional poly-cap here as the plastic ones don't provide a tight grip on the axles, so loose fitting the wheels while building up the tracks required some masking tape strips around the axles to hold the wheels in place. The instructions actually recommend glueing the swing arm/axle part to the wheels rather than the hull, but I ignored this and attached them to the lower hull later in the build.
The wheel halves need a bit of attention before joining them together as they've been moulded with a pronounced concave profile to the tread area of the tyre meaning the edges of the side-walls were much higher than the centre. This required heavy sanding with a coarse sanding stick to level off the tread.
One of the major inconveniences with this kit was the heavy mould lines and flash on many of the parts. Nearly all of this will need removing and cleaning up as it will either be very visible on the finished model, or hamper the fit of subsequent parts. In some cases, the mould lines cross small details making the job harder still. I was rather surprised to see this much flash and moulding issues on a brand-new kit, but it's there so it has to be dealt with.
The instructions would have you completely finish the upper and lower hull separately before joining them together at the end. Given the amount of small and delicate details on the upper hull in particular, this seemed like a bad idea. I also had to contend with the fact that my upper hull was heavily warped which would require some serious clamping to get it in order so, after adding a couple of periscopes that needed inserting from the inside of the upper hull, I decided to get the two halves together.
As you can see in the photo above, the left side of the upper hull was heavily skewed and, due to the complex boxy shape of the rear of the hull, the moulding was very rigid, with little flex in it to force it back into shape. Indeed, stress marks were already showing in the corner of the rear opening. There was also very little in the way of mating surfaces to join the two halves, with just a couple of small tabs on either side, so I added some lengths of square section styrene along the inner edges of the upper hull to provide more glueing surfaces. These were levelled to the existing tabs to ensure a flush joint.
I think that's got it! A profusion of clamps and pegs along with a bit of tape here and there held everything together while the glue dried. The whole thing was left for 24 hours to ensure the glue had fully cured before the clamps were removed. Additionally, I added some styrene strips over the joints on the inside to provide additional reinforcement.
It was with some trepidation that I removed the clamps the next day. Given the amount of force needed to get the parts together, I'd half expected them to crack apart again. Amazingly, it all held together just fine. I did expect some residual distortion in the resulting hull assembly but actually, when it was sat on a flat surface it looked pretty much square, with no tell-tale rocking or wobble.
While I was on a roll with the hull, I decided to get the suspension arms on. These fit into keyed holes in the hull and, as such, have no adjustment. If there was any distortion in the hull, this would show it up. Astonishingly, though - they did sit absolutely level. I was quite surprised (and happy) about this and I was starting to feel that the worst of this kit was behind me. Maybe not, as it turned out.
The rest of the hull build is very much a case of adding lots of details, many of which are quite fragile, so it's worth leaving the smaller ones (grab handles etc.) 'till the end. The first parts I added were the various stowage boxes that festoon the rear hull. The large basket that attaches to the rear right corner was broken in several places on my example and needed a lot of clean-up along the bars to remove flash and mould lines.
With the broken bars repaired and the rest cleaned up the basket looked fine once in place. In addition, the basket is later partially covered by a PE shroud, which helps to hide some of the rougher areas.
Moving to the back of the hull, there are two APS launchers (basically flares) and both require a folded PE cover adding before being attached to the hull. This highlights one of the shortcomings with the kit, in that the instructions, particularly in regard to the PE parts, are very vague. In the case of the covers for the flare dispensers, the small illustration seems to show the edges of the PE part folded in where they connect to the hull.
Firstly, bending them in that way isn't easy as there are no etched folding lines on the parts. Despite this, I folded the ends as best I could, but the end result was a horrible mess as neither the PE part nor the flare launcher itself would sit cleanly on the hull.
After studying some photos of the real vehicle, it appeared that the covers just were simply welded to the rear of the hull. I flattened out the folds on the PE cover, glued the launcher to the hull, then added the cover over the launcher, glueing it straight to the back of the hull. This not only made it fit much better, but it also looked far more accurate too.
Both the covers on the flare launchers, and the shroud around the stowage basket I mentioned earlier, require some absolutely tiny photo-etch bolt heads adding (we're talking about 0.5mm here) These looked next to impossible to even remove from the PE fret, let alone stick in place cleanly, so I substituted some larger bolt heads made from sliced styrene rod. They're a little over scale, but were much easier to attach.
The underside of the rear hull needs a couple of clips added to hold the tow cable. The instructions show location points on the hull to attach the clips to, but the hull itself is completely smooth with nowhere to locate the parts. This turned out to be quite common through the build, with the instructions often bearing little resemblance to the parts themselves.
It's a simple enough issue to fix. The locating points were marked out using photos of the real vehicle for reference, making sure to measure that they were equally spaced, then the clips glued in place. None of this is by any means a problem do deal with, but it does show some sloppiness in the way the kit has been designed.
Another slightly perplexing area was the rear corners of the upper hull. There were two holes on the main upper hull moulding, one on either side of the rear hatch. Oddly, the instructions show these areas as being solid, so this seems to be another occasion where the instructions differ from the actual parts you get.
I'd assumed these holes would be covered up when parts were added later in the build, and indeed two stowage boxes attach over these areas. Unfortunately, even with the boxes added, the holes are still visible. Checking reference photos showed that the shape of the boxes is correct, and it seems like Panda simply forgot to fill this area in on the main hull moulding.
I fixed this by simply blanking off the two holes with squares of plastic card. It's surprising that Panda didn't notice that there were two gaping holes in the back of the completed kit, but I guess somewhere between the design and production of the kit, it just got overlooked.
The tracks were the usual slightly fiddly operation that you get with all indi links. Glue a run together then wrap around the wheels before the glue dries. In this case, I didn't bother with the upper run as they won't be seen when the side skirts are added. The instructions tell you to add a guide horn to each individual link before building up the runs, but this seemed like an overly complicated way of doing it. Instead, I built up the runs, then added the horns once the runs had dried.
Panda has moulded two really nice headlight guards in the kit. They require some careful clean-up as they have a lot of flash (again), but once they're in place they look excellent and far superior to a 2 dimensional PE guard.
In comparison to the hull, the turret was a breeze to put together. The two halves fitted well, just requiring a small smear of filler on one corner. The main gun doesn't elevate, which is no big loss for me, and it means that Panda has been able to mould a very convincing, wrinkly dust collar for it. Both the main gun and the co-axial MG have hollowed out barrels, although I drilled out the MG barrel a little deeper.
The two Kornet missile launchers on either side of the turret need a PE cover bending to shape, and again, like much of the PE in the kit, it doesn't have any etched bending guides. I measured the approximate position of the fold using the image in the instructions for reference, marked the line in pencil and folded the part using a bending tool.
The other folds on the cover needed to be curved, and they were done by forming the bend around a drill bit. The brass was annealed beforehand to soften it, but even so, it was hard to get the folds perfect.
The resulting cover needs some re-shaping once it's clipped over the missile tubes, but it's almost impossible to get the cover to be an exact fit. I think in this case, despite the PE part being thinner, a moulded plastic cover would have been a better option. One extra thing to note: Panda have got the numbers for the PE covers the wrong way ‘round in the instructions (mis-numbering of parts cropped up several times during the build). They have the left-hand cover shown for the right side, and vice-versa, so swap the parts around when you're building them.
The missile launchers look fine once in place. The connection point to the turret is quite small and you'll probably need to support them with something while the glue dries. You can also see here that I replaced the small grab handles with copper wire. One of the kit handles pinged off into space while I was removing it from the sprue, so replacements were made which in the long run were stronger than the kits parts anyway.
The side skirts were built up but left separate for now to allow the wheels and tracks to be painted separately. The remaining hull and turret details were added, and with that the T-15 was complete. It's only when you get it all together that you realise just how large and imposing this model is, coming in at 11” (28cm) long and nearly 5½” (15cm) wide. It'll dwarf just about any other AFV you put it next too.
Okay, conclusion time. Well, I did try to avoid this review becoming a list of faults with the kit, but it kind of became that all the same. None of the issues are that big in reality, and they don't require that much skill to fix. It's just that there are so many of them.
Here's the thing though: all that's finished now, and what I'm left with is a great looking model. Yes, it took a little harder work to get there, but we are modellers, right?
I'm not excusing Panda's shortcomings with this kit but, if you're prepared to put a little effort in, you'll be rewarded with a fantastic kit of a really interesting subject.
Of course, it should look even better with some paint, and that will be coming up in part 3.
Stay tuned for the next part of this build as Andy gets paint onto it. Thanks to Panda Hobby for sending this kit to us to build and review…