Friday, July 29

In-Boxed: Panda Hobby 35th scale T-15 Armata Object 149

Panda Hobbies have their new Armata T-15 infantry support vehicle to their catalogue. In the  box artwork it looks great, let’s hope it’s every bit as savage & cool looking in 35th scale plastic, and to examine it we have Andy’s thorough eye to scour the contents of the box…

T-15 Armata Object 149
Manufacturer - Panda
Kit Number - PH-35017
Scale - 1/35
Price -  ¥5,400 • $51.45 • £39.22 • €46.81 from Hobbylink Japan
Panda Hobby's latest release is bang up to date, with the T-15 Armata first showing it's face at the Moscow Victory Day Parade in 2015, as part of Russia's new family of advanced AFV's. I've read many opinions of Panda's previous releases in the years since they appeared on the modelling scene, some positive, some less so. Up front, I'll say this is my first Panda kit and, as such, I'll simply be judging it on its own merits as a model, and not on the past form of the company, since I have no experience of their previous releases. We'll look at the parts in a moment, but first a little background on this big (and I mean BIG) Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

Russia's had a bit of a problem for a while now, in that, most of their huge arsenal of Main Battle Tanks (MBT's), Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV's) and related armour is rapidly ageing (a problem shared by most armed forces in truth). Even seemingly modern tanks like the T-90 are in fact based on much older designs. Now Russia has decided to draw a line over the previous era of armour and start fresh with a line of AFV's based on a universal platform called Armata.

This new line of vehicles will encompass the T-14 MBT and the T-15 IFV, along with combat support vehicles, personnel carriers and self-propelled artillery. When it first appeared last year, the T-14 got the bulk of the attention (as tanks tend to do) due in part to its novel unmanned turret. But, for sheer impact, the T-15 would take some beating. This thing is absolutely huge. The true dimensions haven't been officially released but, going by the model, the length would be close to 10 meters, with a large, wedge shapes armour package on the front and sides.

Manufactured by Uralvagonzavod, the T-15 has a crew of three situated in the centre of the tank, with the engine mounted in the front, and a troop compartment in the rear. An unmanned turret is mounted on the rear deck, armed with a 30mm 2A42 cannon, a coaxial 7.62 machine gun and four Kornet ATGM's which have a range of up to 10km, and can target helicopters as well as ground vehicles. So far it's only been produced in small numbers, but if the trials are successful (and if the Russian army can afford it) full-scale production will begin in the next few years.

The Model
OK, that's the story of the T-15. Now let’s have a closer look at how Panda have tackled the subject.

The kit comes in a large box with a very dramatic illustration of the T-15 firing a tracer round against the backdrop of a ruined and smoking city. On opening the box the first thing that greats you are some rather flimsy and cheap looking plastic bags containing the sprues. This is something that Panda should really look to upgrading, as the very thin bags offer little protection to the parts, and some damage to the sprues had occurred in transit.

As you can see, the bags aren't up to much, and most were a little torn from the sprues banging around in the box.
There's a total of 16 sprues supplied. seven in a rather lurid shade of green, eight in brown and one in clear, together with individual upper and lower hull sections. In addition, there's a sheet of PE brass, a length of copper wire and a small decal sheet. The instruction manual and a separate colour marking sheet complete the box contents.

Sprue A x2
First up we've got the main road wheels and suspension components, along with some smaller detail parts. There's a little flash here and there, but overall the detail is very clean.

The wheels come in the standard two-part inner and outer halves with some restrained ribbing and code numbers on the tyres sidewalls. Panda has taken a novel approach to fitting the road wheels. Instead of the traditional poly cap, a styrene cap is fitted between the wheel halves and provides a friction fit onto the axle stubs.

You'll also find the headlight guards on this sprue, and they're very delicate mouldings. I think these benefit from being in styrene rather than PE as the rounded profile will look much better that a flat PE part. You will need to take great care removing and cleaning up the parts.

Another nice touch are the two cable eyes, Usually, these are moulded with open slots into which the cable is inserted, but here Panda has slide moulded them with a drilled end to accept the cable. A much more realistic way of doing it in my opinion.

Sprue B & C
Rather oddly these two come joined together and folded in half in the plastic bag. The two sprues are very similar, with the side skirts, and upper and lower sections for the nose mounted armour extension.

The large, single part side skirts feature some very nice detail on the various clasps and retention pins. The lower sections are rubber on the real vehicle, and Panda has sculpted a subtle ripple in them, which adds to their realism.

I would have put money on the bar armour for the rear door being a flash fest, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a very clean and sharp moulding that also looks nicely in scale.

Sprue D
More small parts including the various APS (active protection system) launchers that are distributed over the upper hull and the large stowage basket that sits on the right rear corner of the vehicle.

The stowage basket was one of the parts that suffered from the less than ideal packaging and was broken in several places. It's a fragile component anyway, and will need some care when removing it from the sprue.

Sprue E
This provides the main upper and lower turret halves, together with many of the detail parts for the turret including the ATGM launch tubes, and the 30mm cannon barrel.

The upper turret is well detailed with crisp bolt heads and hatches. Of course, all the hatches are moulded shut as this is an unmanned turret, and I don't think the Russian Army is going to be showing anyone what's inside there in a hurry.

The missile tubes come in two halves, but the resulting seam won't be an issue as the tubes are covered by a PE shroud.

The main 30mm cannon barrel has been slide moulded with a fully open muzzle, so you won't need to open it up yourself or replace it with an aftermarket item. Small details like this really do make a difference to the look of the finished model.

On this sprue, you'll also find the parts for the various sights that sit on the upper turret. Unfortunately, these are moulded solid, with no separate clear parts for the optics. Due to the reflective nature of the optics on the real vehicle, painting these chrome followed by a clear colour is probably the best way to represent them.

Sprue F
Just a small sprue with parts including the Commander's hatch and the corner pieces for the frontal armour.

Sprue GP
The clear sprue holds the periscopes and headlights. The T-15 has very distinctive LED cluster headlights but sadly the kit parts are plain mouldings. 

It would have been nice to see a representation of the LED's on the parts or at least a decal to place behind the clear lens to replicate the LED pattern.

Sprue T x8
The last set of sprues is for the tracks which are moulded in brown styrene. This seems to be the done thing for track links these days. These are non-working, and will need glueing together then draping around the wheels. Each sprue also supplies a basic jig to help with assembly.

The links show some good detail, but they'll take some time to assemble as each link requires two pads and a guide horn to be added. You'll need 95 links per run, but you can cut some corners by omitting the upper run, which can't be seen due to the side skirts.

Upper & Lower Hull
The last two styrene parts are the lower and upper hull. Both of these come with a short section of sprue attached to the sides.

Unfortunately, both hull halves suffered from some warping, particularly on the upper hull, and this has affected the fit. At the front, the fit isn't too bad, and should close up fine once glued. The fit at the back is much worse, with a considerable twist in the upper hull.

The halves will close up, but they require some pressure to do so, and I'd be a little concerned that, once glued, they could split apart again over time. Of course, not all kits will be affected like this, but if I had to guess, I'd say this warping was down to parts being removed from the moulds before they were fully cooled, which may point to Panda taking a few production shortcuts.

Aside from the warping, the upper and lower hull both feature some beautiful detailing. I was particularly impressed with the gunner's hatch (which is non-opening) and the fender mounted fuel tanks, both of which have very deep recesses around them and almost look like separate parts.

As mentioned before this is a big model, with the main hull coming in at 25cm, and that length will increase with the addition of the forward armour and various details on the rear of the vehicle. You'll need to clear a little space in your display case for this one. Whether or not the scale dimensions are accurate, I couldn't say. You'll need to ring the Russian Army and ask them.

Photo-Etch & Decals
Rounding off the package we've got the brass PE sheet, a length of braided wire for the tow cable, and the decal sheet. Quite a few of the photo etch parts need bending to a specific shape, so a PE bending tool will certainly come in handy. The decal sheet only has two markings for the St. George stripes from the parade scheme. The printing is reasonable but the register is out on the orange making the ends of the ribbon uneven and the colour is too yellow compared to the original.

Instruction Manual
The instruction manual comes in an A4 sized booklet, while the colour marking guide is supplied as a separate sheet, which has the box art reproduced on the reverse side, to make a mini poster. There's only one marking option, that being the parade scheme, which is the only colour the vehicle has been seen in so far. The boxart however, does show it without the St. George ribbons, albeit in the same Russian green, so that does provide something of an option.

Inside the manual, the assembly is spread out over 20 build steps using clear line drawings that should make the build relatively stress free. Some of the steps are quite busy, so make sure to check you've added everything that needs adding before moving to the next stage.

This is a very interesting release from Panda, of a subject that, as yet, nobody knows that much about, but one that will certainly be a dramatic addition to any modern armour collection. I said up front that, as I had no previous experience of Panda's models, I'd be reviewing this purely on what I found in the box (which is really how all models should be judged). I've tried to stick to that and, as such, it may seem that I've been a little harsh with some aspects of the kit, notably the poor sprue packaging, and the damage and warping to some parts. Despite that, I do think there's potentially a really good model here, but one that's been slightly compromised by a few production shortcuts. Of course, these may prove to be inconsequential for the finished build. We'll find out for sure once assembly gets under way.

Andy Moore

Thanks to Panda Hobby for sending this kit to Andy to review and build…