Hobby Boss has in recent years released kits of a multitude of Soviet inter-war tanks, including the T-26, T-28 and various lesser known specimens. Now they have continued with the BT Series, arguably one of the most important tank developments ever.
During the 1920s and 1930s the Red Army was building up its tank force. Nobody, both within and outside the Soviet Union, was quite sure which path tank development would take until the inevitable next big conflict. For this purpose delegtions were sent out to purchase tanks from a variety of nations, most importantly the Vickers 6-ton, which became the T-26, the most common Soviet tank at the dawn of WW2 with over 10.000 examples built between 1931 and 1941. A more lasting legacy however would arise from the invention of American engineer Walter Christie.
Christie’s tank, designed with a focus on speed and with the option to run on paved roads with the tracks removed, caught the attention of the Soviets, who managed to purchase two turretless tanks in late 1930 and had them shipped home disguised as agricultural tractors to circumvent the American ban on arms exports in force at the time. These two tanks were designated BT-1, Bystrokhodny tank, meaning fast-moving tank.
Production of a mostly unchanged Soviet version, designated BT-2, was started immediately at the Kharkov Locomotive Factory and by 1933 about 620 tanks had been made. Of these only 350 carried a 37mm main gun based on the German Rheinmetall Pak 36. Production of this gun had been halted in favour of the more powerful 45mm M32 gun, however it could not be fitted inside the BT-2’s small turret. Thus the remainder was armed with a pair of DT machine guns. Except for the first 60 tanks another ball-mounted DT was added on the turret’s right side.
Further improvements would lead to the BT-5 and BT-7 tanks armed with 45mm guns in larger turrets and, ultimately, the T-34, the most important tank of WW2 and ancestor of almost all modern Soviet and Russian tanks. The BT-2 would, with various upgrades, continue in Soviet service until 1941, when almost all were lost to the German invasion.
The only kit of a BT-2 on the market so far was an old 1990s tooling that had seen releases by various companies in Eastern Europe, so a new kit is more than welcome. As of mid-2019 Hobby Boss has announced three versions of the BT-2, of which this early version is the first to be released. It depicts one of the first 60 tanks that lacked the ball-mounted DT gun and thus carried only a 37mm gun. A coaxial machine gun had originally been planned, but when the main armament was switched from an earlier Soviet design to the Rheinmetall gun, it was found that the space inside the gun mounting was no longer sufficient for both weapons.
The kit comes in a somewhat small top-opening box, but to be honest here’s not much inside anyway. The BT was a fairly small and simple tank compared to other designs of its time and the parts breakdown reflects this. There are 10 sprues, the hull, turret, clear parts, photoetch and decals provided. Casting quality is as to be expected from a brand new tooling, with sharp details and no flash.
The Hull: The hull tub is modeled as a single part, which makes assembly a lot easier. As usual with Christie tanks, the hull sides are doubled with the suspension elements sandwiched inbetween. These are fully detailed, even though most of it will be hidden afterwards. The hull roof comes with the engine and lower driver’s hatch moulded shut, which is a bit unfortunate. But since there is no interior whatsoever, it’s not a big issue.
Turret: The turret shell is moulded as a single part, hoever there are very fine mould lines that should be removed. Due to the limitations of the moulding process the rivets aren’t all the same size. Thankfully there aren’t too many of these and those sufficiently obsessed with details could fix this easily with some extra rivets sourced from elsewhere.The edge of the turret wall is somewhat oversized and would benefit from some sanding down of you want to show the hatch open. Just with the hull, there is no interior of any kind so you better add a figure. The gun is provided as a single part with hollow muzzle which should be perfectly fine, not that I’d be aware of any aftermarket barrels as of now.
The kit comes with the spoked wheels that were typical of BT-2s. Some were later fitted with dished wheels as used on the BT-5 and BT-7. Note that the two bolts on the foremost wheels’s hubs did not rotate but always pointed upwards. This is not made clear in the instructions. Having them as separate parts would have made things easier. I should mention that the steering gear behind these wheels does not allow them to be posed at an angle without doing some surgery first.
The tracks are the quite simple type seen on all BT tanks with alternating links with and without guide teeth. They are not workable and have to be glued. Unfortunately there are some ejector pin marks on the inside that will be hard to remove. The outer surface however is perfectly fine. As mentioned before the BT Tanks could run on hard surfaced with the tracks removed. The instructions only mention the option to remove the tracks entirely. In practice however they were broken down three in equally long segments and strapped down onto the track guards. While the kit provides the tiedown loops in photoetch, suitable straps have to be found elsewhere.
Clear and etched parts:
There are two clear headlight lenses provided. Photoetch is minimal. The large triangular part is actually a template for drilling holes into the front suspension arms. The large mesh cover on the air intake seen on later BTs was missing from the BT-2, though some were later retrofitted with it.
Only a simple selection of white numbers is provided. These look a bit modern for my taste. Thankfully most Soviet tanks of the era had no markings whatsoever.
Two marking options are provided. As usual with Hobby Boss they are printed on a separate sheet of glossy paper but there are no informations where and when these tanks served. Steven Zaloga identifies No. 8 as belonging to 3rd Battalion of the 1st Separate Kalinovski Mechanized Brigade in 1933. The second is a generic winter scheme in white and brown.
With 12 steps spread over 8 pages the instructions shold leave few questions, except possibly for the track issue mentioned before.
As I wrote in the beginning, the historical importance of the BT tank is enormous and a new kit of the early BTs was long overdue. While I had hoped for Tamiya to expand their outstanding line of BT-7 kits, this new release by Hobby Boss is more than welcome. Despite its little flaws it leaves a good first impression and as soon as time permits a full build will find out how it all goes together. I’m hopeful they will soon continue with more welcome releases of the BT family.