So we left the last episode with a curve ball in the form of three boxes of the new World War III starter sets in a carrier bag. Could I resist the lure of the Soviets and stay focused on the British?
Could I heck.
I’m a little late in doing the September progress article, October is rapidly running out! So I’m going to try and do two articles this month (November) covering different aspects of the September and October progress. This one will look at the armour spearhead whilst the next will look at the Infantry component as my Army Bits kickstarter came to fruition.
The Build Up
I set about building the BMP3 first and it was a very simple, very quick building kit, that went together very well bar one issue that I encountered where the top plate started off on top if the sides and ended up between them at the front due to the positioning of the clamps I was using. I had to crack the front apart and re-glue so that was a lesson learned.
The T-80U was generally similar to its predecessors in build, the only noticeable difference being that the unditching beam was integral to the engine plate which is no-doubt a plus for some.
Another was the presence of a rubber skirt on the lower glacis plate that was not especially will documented as to how it should be fitted, and fitted in different ways in different photos of the model! A look at real examples eventually gave a glue as to how it should be fitted shed some light, but it was one of the few detriments to the kit’s otherwise excellent build. The other detriment was the magnet well which seem shallower than normal and caused some issues in magnet fit to stop the turret “hovering”.
With the models built, I noticed that the T-80U had a stowage basket on the left hand side, near the commander’s hatch. Soviet vehicles don’t tend to have a lot of stowage opportunities as it seldom appears on their tanks, beyond a few tarp rolls and the like, so a whole open basket to play with was an interesting prospect.
I opted to keep the contents relatively conservative – boxes for rations, jerry cans for water, bed rolls, tank tarps and day sacks (the stilfor knapsack). The first two, plus some of the bed rolls, were sourced from my stowage bits box. The rest were sculpted from green stuff. I also just covered the basket with a green stuff tarp, the crew trying to keep the majority of rain off the contents. I used some left-over green stuff to add tarp rolls and a few day sacks to the back of the BMP3 turrets. Compared to my British tanks, the stowage add was relatively minor but it does add some character to the vehicles.
In October, I built up some Carnations and Storms to join the new kit and they followed the same technique.
A Splash of Paint
That done, it was time to focus on painting the vehicles. With the Gulf War Brits I had made an attempt at doing pre-shading but it was not terribly successful, mainly because I tried painting the black shade over a white base coat which was too low contrast [link]. I decided to give it another go, but this time using a Vallejo Surface Primer (VSP) black base coat and building up Vallejo Model Air (VMA) White in the centre panels, using a .2 needle to allow better control.
The next task was to switch back to a .4 needle try and apply thin coats of green, preserving the contrast below the colour. I chose Camo Green (91.). On the BMP I was somewhat heavy here and the effect was very muted after the second coat. I though the effect was too patchy looking with just one coat, and needed better tonal coverage. You can see the jump between one coat to a second coat which almost overwhelms the pre-shade.
On the T-80 it got better…
And I feel I completely nailed it with the Carnation and Storms, painted in October.
There were some complications along the way, mostly relating to the airbrush and the need to clear out the nozzles and get a replacement nozzle for the .2 needle, but these were all overcomed.
A piece of feedback I got during the painting was to do one coat and then use a filter, instead of a second coat, to smooth out the effect without hiding the preshading. Its something to try in the future.
Because I was eager to put the T-80 through its paces, unpainted, I built the T-80 with tracks fitted, rather than leaving them off till they were painted. This forced me to be a bit less of a perfectionist when it came to painting them! I focused on painting the bits that were not obscured by the side skirts, so didn’t bother painting the return runners or returning track. I painted the visible track in VMC German Camo Medium Brown, then drybrushed them in VMC Black Grey, using the same paint to pick out the road wheel rubber edges. I was then going to apply a wash, but left this until after the skirts were painted, as mentioned below.
The Storms and Carnations were similar but, without a skirt, I needed to spend more time to paint more exposed track! The BMP3 has the track integral to the side piece so has visible return rollers but no visible return track so it was a halfway house.
There isn’t a huge amount of markings to add to Soviet tanks but a three or four digit number is a fairly standard feature on Soviet tanks. Much like their WW2 counterparts, Soviet numbering is deliberately opaque and would vary from exercise to exercise, sometimes with tanks in the same unit with numbers from different exercises to further confuse things. I had a pile of left-over West German three digit numbers so used these as I had a variety of different first digits. I based number positioning on real world examples; the Storms and BMP3 had their numbers on the hull sides, the Carnations on the turret sides in the front arc and the T-80s had theirs on the turret stowage boxes.
The T-80 required some cutting up of the transfers on the left side as the number gets split over the three-square boxes. This was super fiddly and I’m glad I had spares of the numbers! An interesting alternative location for the T-80 number is on the turret front arc rubber skirts, either side of the gun. This would again require cutting the transfers so make sure you are confident with fiddly transers.
With the tracks established, I wanted to add some light chipping. The BMP3 and T-80U are the latest and greatest kit in the arsenal, so would receive a certain amount of love and attention and I didn’t want the tanks to look work out. On that basis, I applied some light chipping using a sponge and VMC Black Brown, mainly to high wear areas like hatches, stowage bins and lower hull edges. I applied the same logic to the Carnations and Storms for completeness.
The T-80 has more rubber on it that the previous tanks! Not only does it have rubber side skirts, but also a skirt on the front of the tank, oversized front fairing skirts and also skirts on the turret. Damn thing is made of skirt! These are often painted, especially if the tank has been repainted, but early photos tend to show unpainted skirts. I decided to take the opportunity to break up the green by painting the skirts in black grey, painting on some additional crease lines using London grey, then, along with the tracks and lower hull, covering the lot in Citadel Nuln Oil. Simple.
As it uses the same palate of colours, I also painted the driving, formation and searchlights. I really should have left the main searchlight green to represent the cover, but, like the skirts, it helps break up the green.
The Jerry Cans I left in Camo Green and the wooden crates I painted German Camo Medium Brown, layered with Flat Earth and then a 50:50 Flat Earth/Tan Earth mix, all VMC.
The tarp covers, tarp rolls and Sidor packs got painted VMC Brown Violet, then had Khaki then German Camo Medium Beige layered on. All fairly straight forward.
The Storms threw a unique painting challenge into the mix, the AT-9 Spiral-2’s launch tube. The Soviet tube launched missiles seem to use a yellow-green colour, rather than the Olive Drab colour of NATO systems. It was almost like a greener dunkelgelb and presumably for a similar reason, good blending in on a broader range of terrain types.
I elected to layer on VMC Russian Uniform, leaving the VMA Camo Green base in the recesses and then layered VMC Yellow Green over that. The final colour seemed about right.
As with all my tank models, I applied a Vallejo Mecha Gloss Varnish coat via the airbrush. Once that was cured, I used Citadel Nuln Oil Gloss to pin wash panel lines and other joints to add extra definition, especially on the ERA blocks and engine deck.
Next was a wash of very thinned VMC Tank Earth, concentrating on the lower hull, tracks and any crevice where dirt would build up. These tanks may be new, but they are not fresh off the parade ground and most Cold War Gone Hot scenarios have the initial drive off the back of summer exercises, so these tanks haven’t been given a wash!
Once the wash was dry, I applied a couple coats of Vallejo Mecha Matt Varnish to kill the shine. I then applied a final drybrush of Iraqi sand, again focusing on the lower half of the tank and any flat surface where dust would settle. This helped tie the model together and give a final stage of weathering.
2S1 Gvozdika “Carnation”
9P149 Shturm-S “Storm”
Shortly after picking up the starters, Eddie set up a games evening at his place with a 6×4 urban board for some 60pt Team Yankee. Eddie fielded his Polish T-72M, Duncan had his Dutch and I bought my Brits and some hastily built T-80 and freshly painted BMP3.
After Duncan had finished taking on Eddie, it was my turn to take on the winner, so the new Soviet kit would get its moment to shine. Duncan went defensive so we ended up playing a “No Retreat” mission. You can find a blow by blow on our facebook page here.
What we found was that the BMP3’s “brutal” 100mm was very handy as a fire support vehicle, sitting back from the Dutch and pounding the units with HE fire, killing a few stands of infantry including the Dragon teams. However, the front armour 5 made me somewhat gung-ho taking on the Gepards and IFV, leading to losses.
The T-80 was immense, shrugging off 120mm and TOW fire. The only loss was incurred when I lost flank awareness and Duncan used his Leopard 2’s speed to get flank shots. The only disappointment was when I assaulted with the T-80, shrugged off the Charlie-G fire, then did the sum total of nothing as I was still 5s to hit in an assault.
The game provided some interesting insights to both sides with both Duncan and Eddie impressed by the T-80s resistance to the best in NATO firepower.
So, that’s part one of this month’s Escalating Tensions. In the next part I’ll be looking at the Army Bits part of the month’s activities!