Thursday, March 14

Preview update: MiniArt's 35th scale T-55 Iraqi T-55 AL FAW/Enigma. Soviet Made Base

We have new colour profiles, sprues & parts to add to our preview of MiniArt's 1/35th scale T-55 Iraqi T-55 AL FAW/Enigma on the Soviet-made base is their latest adaptation. See more about this "Enigma" in our preview...

Preview update: MiniArt's 35th scale T-55 Iraqi T-55 AL FAW/Enigma. Soviet Made Base

T-55 Iraqi T-55 AL FAW/Enigma. Soviet Made Base
From MiniArt
1/35th scale
Kit No#37095
Two marking choices in this box
The Subject: the Iraqi T-55 AL FAW/Enigma. 
Iraq purchased 300 T-55 tanks in 1973 following the Yom Kippur war losses (its contingent took quite a beating during the conflict) with roughly more 1500 tanks of the same type acquired from Poland and the Soviet Union as well as from other smaller sources in the 1980s along with 1500 more Chinese Type 59 and Type 69 tanks. A large number of these tanks were lost during the Iran-Iraq war that took place between 1980 and 1988.

A T-55 Enigma, serving as a gate guardian for the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The Iraqis were reduced to modernizing the remaining fleet of Type 59, Type 69 and T-55 tanks on a budget. by the 1980's, apart from its obsolete firepower, a T-55's protection levels were laughable and they developed a kit to fix this. This armor kit was clearly inspired by the Warsaw Pact M-series armor upgrades available for the T-55 and T-62 tanks that combined angled steel plates and polyurethane inlay to defeat incoming HEAT projectiles (more specifically, guided missiles and RPGs). The Iraqis were not blind to the danger these weapons posed, but were severely limited by the technology available to them. As a result, instead of the abovementioned polyurethane layers, the boxes of this set consisted of angled aluminum plates (15mm), steel plates (4mm) and rubber plates (5mm) on top of each other, separated by approximately 25mm gaps of air. Five or six such composite plates formed the inside of the turret armor boxes made of 5mm steel plates.

T-55 Iraqi T-55 AL FAW/Enigma at the Aberdeen proving ground in the USA
The armor kit for the T-55 and its Chinese clones, consisted of:
-Turret front: additional armor on both sides
-Turret rear: extended armor acting as a counterweight to the additional frontal armor, keeping the turret balanced
-Hull front: additional armor kit
-Hull sides: thick boxy “skirts” on the frontal part of the tank’s flanks
-Armored housing for the tank’s searchlight and IR light

The turret armour lifted to show thickness.
The entire kit weighed roughly 4 tons, adding approximately 10 percent of extra weight to the tank carrying it without any engine power increase, leading – allegedly – to somewhat reduced mobility and reliability. The first prototype for the kit (apparently based on a Type 69) was shown to public in 1988 or 1989. It lacked the turret counterweight but had two sets of smoke grenade launchers that were not present on the mass-produced variant. Following this development, an unknown number of T-55 tanks (or their Chinese versions) were modified – estimates vary between eight and a dozen vehicles. Each of these tanks was effectively an individual custom upgrade with various things done differently – sometimes the armored cowls for the searchlights were missing, some tank headlights were attached differently, the elements were of different sizes etc.

The Enigma at Bovington tank museum
Their official designation is unknown, although some sources state that they were called “Al Faw” by the Iraqis. The T-55 Enigma name is unofficial and likely appeared only after Operation Desert Storm when the news of these tanks started arriving in the west and nobody really knew what they were looking at (an enigma). Needless to say, the name stuck. The rest, as they say, is history. All the Enigmas built were likely lost during the Coalition invasion of Iraq. As combat vehicles, these tanks were quite useless. They were apparently only used in one battle, the Battle of Khafji in late January 1991 as a part of the 5th Iraqi Mechanized Division, where they made no real difference. After all, underneath the massive-looking armor upgrade, the Enigma was still an obsolete T-55.

The counterweight is installed on the turret
However, the armor upgrade itself might have not been as useless as the Iraqi military performance would suggest. Several reports mention the tank actually being quite resistant to MILAN ATGMs. How much of that is true is difficult to speculate. Other reports do mention them exploding just like any other obsolete Soviet tech on the battlefield.

Whether the Iraqis believed the upgrade was actually viable is an interesting topic though. The author of this article had the pleasure of speaking with a man stationed in the Middle East before the invasion, who shared an interesting story. According to his account, the Iraqis were cheated by a supplier and received some 125mm kinetic rounds with a core made of soft steel (this part is generally known). The Iraqis then test-fired these at a “T-55 with upgraded armor” that resisted the shells splendidly, leading them to perhaps overestimate the effectiveness of this armor upgrade. Such naivety was allegedly not uncommon in the Middle East.

A knocked out Enigma after the Battle of Khafji.
Regardless, at least five Enigmas are confirmed to have been knocked out by the Coalition forces and were subsequently recovered as military trophies. The most famous one is in Bovington, another one is in Aberdeen and the third one is in Fort Knox – the other two are allegedly in France and Kuwait. After the end of the Gulf War, the Enigmas were never used again and became one of the better known symbols of that particular conflict.

Iraqi tanks after the Battle of Khafji - T-55 and Al Faw.
The Kit from MiniArt: MiniArt's 35th scale T-55 Iraqi T-55 AL FAW/Enigma. Soviet Made Base
This kit features the soviet built T-55 and it features individual track links and clear parts. All of the hatches can be posed open or closed, there are two marking choices from the well-known variants seen in the Gulf War.

CAD images of the kit in a walk around...
...and in closer detail.
The sprue layout:
Detailed, with all of the parts that you might need without all that extra aftermarket that you had to include in the past. This kit's plastic parts look pretty suitable for a detailed build.
There is some photo-etch for this kit, pretty standard stuff without going overboard.
Transparent parts for vision blocks etc...
There are two marking choices for this kit - one, the standard desert sand, and the other an already controversial three tone camouflage...

This kit from MiniArt will soon be available - Until then, keep an eye on the MiniArt's website or just look in here for more info on MiniArt’s new stuff.