Type 98 Main Battle Tank
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
While most modelers are now familiar with "Shanghai Dragon", the mainland branch of Dragon Models Limited (DML) from Hong Kong, few other Chinese manufacturers have yet surfaced until now. Trumpeter began releasing models last spring (1999) and no less a person than George Balin brought one of their Type 85 kits down to the AMPS 99 show. The moldings were in a neat tan plastic, and the kit had promise.
Trumpeter has an announced line of 14 armor kits, along with 1/72. 1/48, and 1/32 aircraft kits. This is the "flagship" kit, as it covers the very latest Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army main battle tank which was first shown last fall at the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution Parade in Beijing. These tanks were paraded in the third group which (the Chinese military being efficient and not wanting any screwups in front of Western guests) were coded with English letters as "C" group. (The kit comes with those markings, as well as generic numbers for line units).
There is not word one in the directions or on the box about this tank, as it is so new that the manufacturer seems to have assumed it was still classified by the PLA. The tank is a hybrid Chinese tank which evolved from the earlier Type 85-II and Type 85-IIM tanks, which were the first of a new series of designs which finally broke the lineal descent from the Soviet T-54 tank via the Type 59 and Type 69 series. It has a composite armor hull and turret which appear to be jointly influenced by the T-72 and the M-1 Abrams. The tank mounts a 120mm separate-loading ammunition gun with an autoloader, and has a crew of three. A lightened version of the Soviet "Dushka" provides air defense protection, as well as a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun. The tank has a modern fire control system with a combination wind sensor and laser detector on a mast at the rear of the turret (kit parts C41 and C44). One surprise when the tank was paraded was that it also came with a second-generation slewing laser blinder device to use against ATGM and tank sights and tracking devices (parts C6, C7, C9, C45, and C46).
The Type 98 (so designated as it was the year of introduction, 1998) comes with "boom shields" on the rear of the turret and ten smoke grenade launchers. It has a high horsepower diesel engine and weighs in the 42-46 metric ton class.
Trumpeter, obviously having some help from the PLA but not a great deal to go with on this model, has done a nice job of capturing the unique items on the tank which make it different from Western and Russian designs. The kit is unfortunately designed for motorization and is a throwback to the "bad old days" with huge slots and screwholes in the belly. There is a screwhole in the bow to hold the motorized version together, and a very unrealistic molded on scraper under the leading edge of the bow.
The kit has some nice touches, such as the operating wires for the Type 98's smoke projectors molded in place. But for every "attaboy" there is an "oh nuts". The tracks are equivalent to early "second generation" Tamiya ones in that they have interior details, but very weak definition on items like the end connectors (this tank uses a Diehl-type twin-pin "live" track similar to the Leopard 1 and 2.) The AA machine gun could better be replaced by some of the better DML or Italeri plastic DShK guns, as it has ejection pin marks where they are inconvenient to remove.
The kit comes with a T-72 style suspension (which is correct) but one it appears to share with the Type 85-II kits also produced by Trumpeter. Note that this means a bevy of extra smoke grenade launchers for those tanks.
Details are plainly molded, but most appear serviceable. Some small details appear crude, but most are similar enough to some of the DML parts from their later models that replacing them should not be too difficult. Two sets of drivers are included; one is apparently the Type 85-II set and the other appears to be the Type 98 set. (The larger of the two is the Type 98 model from the "D" sprue.)
A painting chart is included, and it appears to be keyed to Tamiya acrylics. For those not using the colors, my best guess is that German Panzer Yellow, German Panzer Green, and FS34079 should match pretty well.
Overall, for a first rush of kits, the Trumpeter models are not too bad, and a nice model can be built from the kit with a bit of work. Thanks to Leo and Andre at APC Hobbies for the rush order!
Cookie Sewell AMPS
Review Copyright © 2000 by Cookie