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The T-55 was, and to some degree, is still a good tank 45 years after its
introduction and in actuality 58 years after its forebearer, the T-54, first saw
the light of day. But it was suffering from age and by 1975 was viewed by most
of NATO as little more than a "target". As a result, the Czech military, in
concert with the Soviet Union and Poland, moved to create a modern upgrade suite
for the tank.
The result, which appeared in the early 1980s, combined many different product
improvements in one chassis. The tank received a new mine-resistant belly plate
under the forward part of the hull to protect fuel and ammunition stowage, as
well as the driver-mechanic (who also got a seat suspended from the hull roof to
prevent his being squashed if the floor was compromised). New "eyebrow" armor
sections were added to the front lobes of the turret, as well as a new layered
glacis panel made of alternating sections of steel and ceramic in a resin
matrix. The tank got an upgraded V-55AM2 engine, a new fire suppression system,
and most importantly, a totally new fire control system called "Klavido"
Kladivo consisted of a Czech-designed laser range finder, new ballistic
computer, and wind drift sensor combined with the new Soviet 1K13 fire control
sight. The 1K13 also permitted the tank to use the new 9K116 Bastion (AT-10)
through-the-barrel guided missile system. Lastly, the tank received new radio
sets, skirts and a laser warning receiver and Type 906B "Tucha" smoke grenade
protection system with eight 76mm tubes.
The Czechs adopted it as the T-55AM2B – B for Bastion – whereas the Poles
created their own version, nearly identical except for some small details such
as the laser range finder, as the T-55AM2P without the Bastion system. A Czech
or Soviet tank without it was simply dubbed the T-55AM2. The Soviets adopted
most of the package, except that they substituted explosive reactive armor for
the passive arrays of the Czech version and assigned it to the Naval Infantry as
the T-55AMV. Both the T-55AM2B and T-55AM2P were also used by the
Nationalesvolksarmee of East Germany.
improved 100mm ammunition, extended the life of the T-55 and increasing its
lethality to M60 or Leopard 1 series tanks out to about 4,000 meters with
missile and 2,000 meters with gun. But by the time the M-1A1 and other modern
tanks were fully in service by the early 1990s, its days were coming to a close.
It is still a dangerous opponent in some parts of the world, but many of the
former eastern European ones are now museum pieces.
The T-55AM2B is arguably one of the most intriguing of the T-55 variants, as it
is loaded with "bits" that modelers find fascinating. It is therefore a nice
touch that the Czech company Panzershop has now provided a new, integrated kit
to fit to the excellent Tamiya T-55 to produce this interesting tank. As they
are Czech, it only replicates the Czech version (and two sets of decals for
Czech service models are included) but diehards should be able to make the AM2P
or AMV from this with little trouble.
The kit provides literally nearly everything needed to upgrade the Tamiya kit to
the AM2B. Resin parts cover the belly, glacis and "eyebrow" armor panels, new
engine deck details, skirts, the "Tucha" system, a new gun barrel with heat
shroud and mantelet with the laser range finder, a new sight head, and other
details. However, the new sight head appears to be too small to represent the
1K13 sight head used for the full fit – as it notches back into the radiological
protection collar around the cupola, so this is more accurately a T-55AM2.
The problem many modelers have asked about – the use of the Soviet hull on the
Tamiya kit vice the Polish designed one used for most Pact variants – is fixed
by having all of the engine covers sealed and using a rectangular plug with the
correct shaped cover (part R24) to conceal that detail.
Very little surgery is required to adapt the Tamiya hull and turret to take the
new parts. Most of it consists of new fenders and removing the mantelet cover
fittings from the turret. The rest are basically "drop-in" replacements. Some
fitting and bending (via a hair dryer) will be needed to fit parts, to be sure,
but most of the parts are well done and any "surgery" should be minor.
Panzershop avoids some of the egotistical fakery used by other manufacturers in
providing parts by simply providing the best with their kit – Fruil white metal
tracks and a Modelpoint turned brass antenna base. This beats purloined parts
cast in resin as "their" parts as is too often the case with some kits, and the
result is an integrated and useful multimedia conversion kit in one package.
This also provides the correct 14-tooth drivers needed to make this conversion
Modelers should note that in a recent "Military Modeling " article Steve Zaloga
noted that he had a problem when trying to fit the parts from a Panzershop
T-55AM2B conversion kit to the Tamiya model. The original parts were designed to
fit on the old ESCI T-55 kits. I don't know if they have upgraded their kit or
not, but all of the illustrations in this kit clearly show a Tamiya kit as the
base model for the conversion parts. The "HT" in its product code may indicate
the corrected kit.
Overall this is an excellent kit and should make most modelers quite happy.
Review Copyright © 2003 by Cookie
Page Created 11 May, 2003
Last updated 24 August, 2003
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