Saturday, January 07, 2012

Serbian Army T55 paint-thru

Having a rummage through the piles of lead and plastic, I retrieved a tank model to add to my Yugoslav forces.  One of my favourites as it happens; the ubiquitous T-55.

The kit in question, and the one I would recommend you buy if wanting to build the tank, was the PST model shown above; a much better engineered model than some other kits of this tank I have seen; with crisp parts and plenty of extras (in fact you get all the parts to build a late model T-54 instead should you wish).

The model was build almost direct from the box, taking about 3.5 hours.

However there are a few items that distinguish T-55 in Yugoslav service, typically they were equipped with anti aircraft machine guns as standard, which the Russian made models did not initially receive.  Secondly, as the war progressed they were increasingly up armoured, with side skirts and other measures to stand-off the effect of RPG rounds and HEAT warheads.  Neither of the features are on this model, which is to match one we'll see later, based on the early war vehicles either used by or inherited from the Yugoslav National Army (JNA).

One feature that was common at that time however, was the removal of the front track guards.  This I understand was to stop the tracks getting jammed up with soft wet soil; the reasons this might be important on a 32 tonne tank are unclear but it is too common in archive photo's to ignore, and the track guards are easily removed with a scalpel.

Next up the whole model was base coated:

You'll spot at this stage a machine gun has appeared on the model.  I decided it needed one, and again based on photo's I added an M2HB to a mount forward of both hatches.  This was a common fitting for tanks in combat as suppression fire against infantry was to prove far more important than anti-aircraft fire.  As for the .50cal, well American supply of military equipment to Yugoslavia in the 1950's saw a large variety of equipment come in to the JNA arsenal, and the M2 was copied by and manufactured in the state factories.  It's use on a variety of soviet equipment was commonplace on all sides in the war.

Anyway, the base coat is of Humbrol Acrylic 30, the reason being that it bonds to plastic far better than Vallejo Acrylics.  The green plastic of the model is extremely repellent to pure water based paints.  In other circumstances I may have spray-coated the model, but this was actually more likely to give a complete coat.  However, this is far too dark a colour for Serbian armour, so:

Next up was a complete coat of Vallejo Russian Green.  You can see the difference if you look at the HMG or the unditching beam which remain the Humbrol green.  You can also see the rear of another T-55 whose (enamel painted) colours I was trying to match.

In an effort to match that tank, and to get a nicer finish, it was now time to highlight the model.  Firstly an overbrush of the entire model was carried out by adding a little Vallejo dark yellow (actually a greenish buff) to the Russian green.  I evaluated this and repeated it adding more dark yellow to the mix.  I then added a couple of lighter dry brushes, with a small amount of pure yellow added to the mix.  Practice and intuition are needed to apply these well, but the biggest helps with drybrushing as a technique are to use good condition, dense, short haired brushes; to make sure they are not saturated with paint before touching the model; and to concentrate on a gradual build up on the edges and top surfaces.

This took only a few minutes to get to the state below:

Next, I moved to the tracks; firstly by painting them Vallejo hull red (the tracks are moulded in black in a more paint-friendly plastic).

Simple enough.  Next I painted the Machine gun and  headlights a gunmetal/black mix; ready for highlighting.  Then with a 50/50 gunmetal and steel mix, I overbrushed the tracks and HMG.  Then over this I dry brushed some silver, some of this also being used on the headlights (not the machine gun) and some used the put scratches and worn paint marks on the tank.

Tracks done it was time to add identification markings.  The only standard JNA markings appear to be a 5 digit serial number usually painted on to the sides of the turret on tanks; however unofficially the national flag was commonly used for identification, and slogans were not unusual.

With these added, it is time to move on to the weathering.  I began with a mix of reddish brown stippled onto the lower half of the tank with a tatty brush that is little more than damp with paint.  When applying the paint, have in mind where the tank would build up dirt, thick mud is unlikely to find it's way onto the turret or engine deck, but the wheels and lower hull will obviously be coated.

Rather, on the higher surfaces I apply first a stippling on mid brown and then several dry brush layers of sand brown, to gently build up a layer of dried dirt and dust.  One thing that is common through the ages of tank warfare, is the dulling down in the field of large insignia, smearing stars or flags with dirt or even over painting them in darker shades.  Nothing says shoot here like a foot tall white star seen in your rangefinder!

At this stage the model itself is finished, but it still needed basing:

Which is something you should decide on yourself.  Below is a shot of the tank from the rear, showing a typical patriotic slogan: 'Serbia Forever' painted on the rear of the turret.  You can also see the unditching beam has been painted like wood.

And here it is next to its' compatriot.  It is a noticeably darker shade of green, but as we will see, it matches other models well, and the fact is, there is rarely a consistent paint colour in the field for all manner of reasons.

I love the look of the T-55 by the way, sure it's a sixty year old design and as crude as an Ikea shelf unit built by a toddler group; but it's tough as nails and looks mean as hell!

and here is my JNA frontline armour squadron together:

Two T-55's are joined by a pair of M-84 MBT's.  As you can see the new tank is a very close match to the M84's.  For those wondering, the M84's are converted Revell T-80's, I knocked up some 15 years ago.

Next up for this lot, some optional turrets for the T-55's, or the previously promised M60p scratchbuild.


  1. Looks good

    What rules do you intend to use?

  2. Rules are under investigation, and will be the subject of upcoming posts. I want a set that are fairly quick to play, but not over simplified, and human psychology and command control are to be key factors. Suggestions are welcome...

  3. Tried my hand at 1/72 plastics last year but put the project to one side after some poor infantry sculpts. Your above makes me think all armoured forces may be the answer. Top stuff.


  4. What about Force on Force?