Recently I have been writing a fair bit on the new T-72B1, including a plan on how to slot it into my existing East German force. BF offered to send us a couple boxes of T-72B and SU-17 Fitters so its time to get the paint brushes out and get these bad boys painted. First up, the tanks.
Preparation and Research
One of the things I wanted to do with the T-72B was to paint it in the East German three-tone camo.
In reality, this scheme had only been adopted by a small portion of the East German forces (likely less than a single percent) before reunification. However, a speculative tank could have a rare scheme in my opinion.
The three-tone was largely left to the crews to execute, with some guidelines. The implementation orders stipulate the colours (black grey and dusky grey over the standard olive green), that the olive green was to remain uncovered on 45-60% of the tank, that the camo must be asymmetric, aligned at 30 or 60° to the vertical, no patch smaller than 0.5m2 and any hatches should be in the dark colour or in the intersection of two bands.
I built the kits pretty much as per the instructions. On the T-72B, I rebuilt the cupola to put the cupola MG to the rear and make the open hatch a bit more true to the real life example. I covered this process on my T-72M way back in 2017 and the methodology still holds up.
Painting the Tanks
On the first tanks I used Vallejo Surface Primer Bronze Green then went over this with various shade of green trying to capture the lighter German green that seems to exist. I then noticed I had basically replicated the VSP NATO Green primer so subsequently used that going forward! This was applied to both turret and hull, all over.
The NATO Green primer did a pretty good job approximating the lighter East German base colour so that provided my first colour. The other two colours I elected to use Vallejo Model Air Panzer Dark Grey for the “Black Grey” and VMA Aggressor Grey” for the “Dusky Grey”.
The few examples of the contemporary three-tone scheme show a hard edged look to the camo. I decided that messing around with masking putty was going to take too long so I opted for a soft edge camo using the airbrush unassisted. I started with the “Black Grey” areas, trying to keep the camo on the sides at 60 degree then progressing in broad swathes over the hull and turret. The lighter grey then followed. I was probably a little too broad and may don’t have enough green showing so that is something to consider. I couldn’t find out if tanks were meant to vary or match. the fact that there seems to be templates for some vehicles suggest the intention was to match so I tried to do roughly the same on each tank, though I didn’t sweat it too much; the crews would ‘sing from the same hymn sheet’ but some variation is is to be expected.
One thing I noticed in photos of the T-72B1 was that the blocks can have surprising degree of variation in shade of green. As such, I went back over some blocks, of all three colours, with alternative shades of green, namely Vallejo Model Colour Bright Green, Reflective Green and Brown Violet. I also picked out the MG ammo tin on the right side in VMC Olive Drab with Brown Violet highlights.
Wear and Tear
Before “distressing” the camo I applied three digit tank numbers to the side ammo tins. I assumed East Germans would stick with standard German numbering! I applied a bit of decal softener so the numbers would follow the stiffening ridges of the bins.
Once that was dry I dipped a bit of blister sponge into VMC German Camo Bright Green and then started dabbing it on areas of high wear and tear such as the hatches, stowage bins, fenders, drop down bulldozer blade and the underside of the tank. as ever, the aim is to make the tank look like its been in use, NOT that its ready to be sold for scrap!
I then went over the larger chips, adding a spot of VMC German Camo Black Brown to the centre of the scratch to reflect paint being work down. Possibly a little extreme for modern paints so I did this in moderation.
I also but some black wash around the side exhaust as I noticed that this tended to get grimy pretty quickly on current T-72.
NSVT AA Guns
I painted the AA gun on the sprue for convenience, leaving it attached by the back of the gun. Be careful cutting the sprue off as the AA gun has a nasty habit of snapping at the end of the barrel.
The guns were primed black, then VMC German Grey. the AA pintle and ammo tin were painted VMC German Camo Bright Green. The grey areas were picked out with VMC Sky Grey for a sharp highlight.
Taking a leaf from my DAK, I used Citadel Contrast paint for doing the tracks. I used Snakebite Leather directly over the green primed tracks to give a dark brown-green soiled look to the tracks. The Contrast paint makes for a quick job painting tracks. I then gave the tracks a wash of Citadel Agrax Earhshade Wash.
Washing and Dirtying Up
I applied a coat of Vallejo Mecha Gloss to the model to assist the next phase; pin-washing. For this I use Citadel Nuln Oil Gloss as the gloss variants of the Citadel washes are well suited to pin washing over a gloss varnish, spreading along joints and edges under capillary action, without spreading onto the flat parts, much like an enamel wash and without the faffing around with thinners. I found loading the brush and touching the junction of a cluster of ERA blocks was sufficient to add some definition to the blocks. I proceeded to wash every panel line and joint on the model, plus the engine grills and exhaust.
Next I got out the matt Nuln Oil wash and slapped it all over the lower hull and tracks.
Finally came the dirt wash. I watered Vallejo Model Colour Tan Earth down into a wash and then worked it into any crevice or corner where dirt would accumulate as it is deposited by fording rivers, going through puddles or muddy ground, etc. I carefully applied it on the turret and upper hull and then liberally on the lower hull and tracks.
East German Panzer Bataillon 2, Panzer Regiment 21, Kompanie 2
When I wrote my last article on fielding the T-72B I hadn’t really thought about 5-tank box contents so the list has a sub-optimal number of 11! I decided to re-gig the list to add in some of my T-72M to get something that could use the 10 I had/
As you can see, I have 4 SU-22 in the list and that will be the subject of the next episode. Stay tuned!
Lee has also done an-unboxing video of the T-72B and SU-22 on our YouTube channel. Check them out below and let us know what you think!