by: Russ Amott [ ]
The type 96 main battle tank is currently China's most numerically important modernized tank, at least based on the limited amount of information I could gather on the internet. It was developed from the later Type 85 series that China was developing in the mid 1990s for export. At this time much attention was being drawn to events in Kuwait and Iraq, where large tank battles had been fought. China reportedly realized the need to equip its armed forces with a more modern battle tank. ZTZ is the Chinese abbreviation for MBT (main battle tank).
The ZTZ-96 tank was developed from the type 85-III, which was equipped with a 1000 hp diesel engine and protected with composite armor. The turret has additional protection provided by a slat armor frame that makes a turret basket. Newer versions of the tank also have either ERA or ceramic appliqué armor added to the hull and turret front. The tracks are protected by rubber side skirts. The tank is armed with a 125mm smoothbore cannon with auto loader and thermal sleeve, and carries 42 rounds. Additional armament includes a 7.62mm coaxial MG and a 12.7mm MG mounted on the turret roof for anti-aircraft protection. The tank weighs approx. 41 tons. The three man crew are situated with the driver in the lower hull and the gunner and commander in the turret. I have searched extensively online for any further information on the tank. After reading over 60 pages of discussion from several forums, most in Chinese and translated by Google, it appears this tank is a compromise between former Soviet/Russian and modern NATO tank designs. The most recent unofficial counts put total production of the type 96 and 96A at approx 2800 tanks, all delivered to standard military units.
Hobby Boss has recently released both the basic version of the Type 96 tank (to be covered in this review) and the newer type 96G, with additional armor package, as well as a large number of other modern PLA subjects, most of which appear to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. While apparently geared primarily to the domestic market (Hobby Boss is located in China), these kits have shown some appeal to modelers outside of China. I selected the ZTZ-96 just to try something different.
This is my first experience with a Hobby Boss kit, and I am quite pleased. The box is large and quite sturdy, with the contents carefully packaged. The hull sections and turret upper are separated in a small boxed off compartment inside the main box. There is no wasted space in the box, but things weren't squeezed together either. Perfect fit. The box top artwork is a copy of a photo I have seen several times online, and a color print poster about the size of a standard sheet of typing paper is included inside the box.
The sprues are molded in tan styrene and I did not see any broken parts. Overall the level of detail is quite good, and I only saw a limited amount of flash on a few parts, which appears to be easily cleaned up. The sprues are well organized, with parts for each area of assembly combined in one section. There are 348 parts on 13 sprues, plus the upper and lower hull and turret upper. There are an additional 7 sprues in brown styrene, each holding 31 individual track links. One small PE fret has screens for the intakes, small clamps and box for the gunner's sight. Additionally there is a length of braided copper wire for the tow cable and a length of vinyl tubing for the external fuel tanks. A small piece of copper wire is provided to insert into the vinyl tubing so that it can be shaped.
The sprue breakdown is simple:
Sprue A (x4), running gear. The road wheels have inner and outer surface detail and distinct tread pattern. There are two distinct road wheels, one per side, that have different inner hub detail.
Sprue B (x2), is the assembly for the rear external fuel tanks and some small details for the rear hull. Again, very fine details are present. The instructions point out that the upper two arms are not to be glued to the lower brace, so the fuel tanks appear to be removable.
Sprue C (x2), drive sprockets and idler wheels. Again, detail is present on both sides. There was a small amount of flash around the center holes on these parts. There are small casting numbers present on the hub part.
Sprue D, hull attachments, hatches and main gun tube. The hatches have inner surface detail and casting numbers on the outside. The main gun is molded lengthwise in two halves and will require careful assembly. The light assemblies are molded as a single piece so no separate lenses are included. Details and molding are very crisp.
Sprue E, track guards and stowage boxes. The boxes are molded as a single unit that attach to the track guards and are well done. The engine exhaust exit through the right hand side.
Sprue F is the two side skirts. They are molded in a single piece and show good detail. The real skirts are made of thick rubber and from photos each section is distinct with warping/bends. The sections will have to be separated or aftermarket side skirts obtained to replicate this effect.
Sprue H, turret bottom and details. The slats for the turret basket are nicely molded but if the modeler thinks they are too thick, an aftermarket set is currently available from Voyager, (I don't know of any others). The design of the styrene parts is very well thought out. Weld seams, where visible, are nicely represented. The dust sleeve for the main gun is included here, and the flexible material is well formed, but as the gun is made to be movable, I don't know if the base of the sleeve will show a gap against the turret.
Sprue K is the 12.7mm DShK heavy machine gun. It is molded with a hollow muzzle, with the flash suppressor included. Detail is excellent. The mount is very delicate and good detail is also visible on the ammo box.
The turret, upper hull and lower hull are included as separate individual parts, bagged individually. Again, what details are visible are very well formed. The hull bottom shows an escape hatch and access panels. The bolt head details and welds on the hull sides and welds on the hull top are evident, and engine access doors are molded in place. I test fit the upper and lower hull sections together and they fit fine before any clean up. I also fit the upper turret to the bottom (not pictured) and the fit was perfect.
Sprue M (x7), have 31 individual track links each. Each has four points to clean up. They fit snugly together but do not lock for assembly. There are very minor ejector marks in the face of each track. They can be easily hidden by weathering effects.
The small photoetch fret includes mesh covers for the air intakes, gunners sight box and brackets for spare track sections and such. As mentioned above, braided copper wire is included for the tow cable, and single strand copper wire is provided to insert into the vinyl tubing to allow it to be shaped for the spare fuel drums on the rear of the tank.
Instructions are in booklet form, spelled out in 12 steps. They are somewhat busy, but clear and carefully laid out. Details such as painting, no cement areas and optional parts are clearly called out. A full color painting guide is provided showing the three color camo scheme with paint colors called out in most every brand.
A decal sheet is provided, with the decals appearing to be thin and in register. Specific markings are provided for tank 602, the vehicle pictured in the box art, with generic numbers provided, allowing the modeler to represent any other vehicle they can find or imagine.
I have not found any close up reference photos of this vehicle and so I can't vouch for specific accuracy. The parts in the kit look like the tank. Details provided are very good and all the parts seem to fit well. Add the good, clear instructions and this is a top quality model kit. If you are looking for more detail, Voyager is the only company I know of currently that provides any aftermarket options for the ZTZ-96.
I recommend this kit to anyone with an interest in PLA subjects, or who is looking for something new and interesting.
I picked this up for about $42 with shipping from Lucky Model.