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Swimming Tank PT-76B

Eastern Express


S u m m a r y

Stock Number and Description Eastern Express Kit No. 35171; Swimming Tank PT-76B
Media and Contents: 347 parts in various shades of gray and white styrene
Price: USD$26-USD$32
Scale: 1/35
Review Type: First Look
Advantages: First 1/35 scale kit of this vehicle in styrene; nicely executed with smart breaks in parts; modularity means more kits using this chassis will follow
Disadvantages: Some sink hole problems; no interior detail on any hatches or hull components
Recommendation: Recommended to all Soviet and Warsaw Pact fans


Reviewed by Cookie Sewell

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F i r s t L o o k


One of the most unique vehicle families ever created during the postwar Soviet armor binge was a truly amphibious light tank for reconnaissance and seaborne heavy firepower for landing teams. The Soviets had been working on such tanks since the mid 1930s, but their efforts - the T-37, T-38, T-30 and T-40 - were only nominally amphibious, and in order to make them so the armor protection they had was close to nil.

The Leningrad Kirov factory turned its attention to this arena, which was a bit of a surprise as their expertise was primarily in the area of heavy tanks. The result, which appeared in the late 1940s, was accepted for service as the PT-76 amphibious light tank and produced in quantity. The main innovation in this tank was that instead of a cumbersome and vulnerable system of propellers and rudders at the rear of the hull the new vehicle used water jets with internal vanes and controls for steering. Intakes were located on the bottom of the hull and two jets - one on each side - could propel the tank through the water at up to 10.2 kph.

The unique qualities that endowed the PT-76 were based on a reversal of its functional design. Whereas the prewar amphibious tanks were tanks that could float and swim, the PT-76 was an amphibian which could also provide the firepower of a tank. Early models had a long and intricate muzzle brake to permit the D-56 76mm gun to be fired while the vehicle was afloat; later, in 1959 some other changes were made, including a new equally efficient muzzle brake that replaced the original model and also a two-axis stabilizer added to assist in firing while afloat.

The PT-76A (early model) and B (late model) were widely sold and used by all of the member nations of the Warsaw Pact, plus the middle eastern nations, Israel (captured ones), China, Korea and Vietnam. But the PT-76 was designed for Soviet thinking - it was not a real tank per se, and when used as one it was easily destroyed by conventional tanks or antitank means, such as at Ben Het and Lai Khe in South Vietnam. The tanks remained in service with the USSR to the end, and due to their somewhat ambiguous classification, were eventually considered "Armored vehicles with heavy armament" for accounting by the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty.

This has always been a popular model with many modellers, but unfortunately the only kit ever produced in large scale was the 1/32 Ideal model which came out in 1958. This kit was toy-like and suffered from a bulged hull to take its motorized accessories. Several resin kits were released over the years, but all too often they were based on the old ITC (or its Ringo re-pop) kit with no changes. The kit was re-released by Glencoe with some clean-up in the early 1990s, but was unimproved.

Eastern Express has now produced what appears to be the first of a series of kits - most likely the BTR-50 or OT-62 series APCs, "Mars" and "Luna" rockets (FROG series), and the ASU-85 which is now shown on the box side adverts. This is wisely the most widely known and used version, the PT-76B, as it has the widest appeal. The kit is typical of many of the other Eastern Express kits, but has some nice touches.

First of all, the hull comes in three parts and a separate engine deck. The bow plate is a single piece, and the belly pan with attached fenders has full detail to include the intake tunnels for the water jets. Separate grid type grilles are provided for those apertures. Road wheel arms are separate, and the wheels have separate back details for the correct bulbous shapes to the wheels. (The wheels do appear a bit thin on examination but should do well when installed.)

Tracks are provided as separate links - 220 in all. This will most likely be the kit's least popular feature, but as the original used "dead" tracks with no rollers on most versions of the hull design it is the best way to get an accurate representation of the track.

The hull details are cleanly molded and appear relatively accurate at first glance. The turret comes with an accurate individual cupola for the commander, but there is no detail on the inside of the hatch so it will make leaving it open a matter of building an interior. Also, there is no interior detail whatsoever (having been in a PT-76B, there isn't much in there to start with, as it only has a crew of three and is basically a boat with tracks and a turret). The rear vents are separate parts, as is the exhaust grille. The entire engine deck is a separate part, apparently permitting the earlier one from the A to be added at a later point. Two standard 95 liter external tanks are also included.

The tow cable is a "roll your own" affair - they provide the heads, you provide the cable. (Many modelers use scale cable or picture wire anyway, so this isn't such a major problem.) The only complete cop-out is the lack of any hint of headlight guards, which are quite intricate structures made of steel rod. Only the main spots to fasten the rods are provided, and no hint is given of how to make them.

Considering the number of users, the painting instructions only show one version! The decal sheet is a bit better, providing markings for five different Soviet vehicles (one Guards, two Naval Infantry, and two others, one which has what appears to be 1968 "Operation Dunay" markings for the Czech invasion. But no directions are given for their use or application.

Overall, this appears to be a nice kit and one which should be among the more popular Eastern Express efforts.

Review Copyright 2002 by Cookie Sewell
Page Created 22 November, 2002
Last updated 22 July, 2003

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