by: Mario Matijasic [ ]
The T-54 is a legend. It was used more extensively than any other Cold War or modern MBT to date. It was supplied to or produced by Warsaw Pact countries, forming the bulk of their forces during the 1960s-70s. It also served with the allies in the Middle East and numerous nations among the non-aligned and third world countries. A staggering 83,500 were produced, alongside the Polish and Czech versions (21,000 more).
Several factors contributed to this success, which has some obvious similarities to the infamous Kalashnikov assault rifle. First, mass-production made it not only largely available but also the cheapest proposition for a modern MBT. Production spanned fifteen years, but modernization and upgrades were constant, up to the 1990s. Spare parts were also made largely available, for the same reason. Second, it was a good-all-around MBT, achieving the same balance in this respect as the famous T-34. Third, it was simple to operate, with a straightforward internal ergonomy. Fourth, it was very sturdy, dependable and easily adaptable. Now there are perhaps more than two hundred different variants, some of which are still in use today, not only the local conversions, upgrades and spin-offs. The T-54 already reached fifty years of service, and will probably still be used in the 2020s.
The latest offering from Wings & Wheels Publications covers the T-54 MBT and is aimed at modelers and vehicle enthusiasts alike. Here are the basic facts on the book:
Title: T-54 MBT in detail (Models 1951, AR, AM, B and M)
Publisher: Wings & Wheels Publications (WWP)
Authors: František Kořán & al.
Format: softcover (22x24 cm)
Color: full color
Retail Price: $44 (34€)
Flipping the pages confirms the title follows the usual WWP book size, layout and style. Printed on gloss high-quality paper, this 132-page book features over 380 color photographs and 90 manual drawings covering the subject in great depth, interior and exterior alike. The photos are large and clear, delivering a top-notch reference for modelers; there are general shots of the vehicle, as well as images showing the details often in multiple views. The vehicles presented in this book are displayed in army museums or private collections. Some of the vehicles feature upgrades and are different compared to the Soviet Factory condition, but all the differences are noted in the captions and explained, providing all the necessary details of particularities shown on the photos.
The title is organized in 16 chapters, color-coded on page edges for easy navigation:
• Introduction (002-007)
• T-54 Model 1951 (008-015)
• T-54A (016-017)
• Czechoslovak T-54AR (018-029)
• Soviet Late T-54B (030-035)
• East Germany T-54AM (036-049)
• Early T-54 Interiors (050-075)
• Czechoslovak T-54M (076-091)
• Late T-54 Interiors (092-105)
• Czechoslovak T-54AM2 (106-107)
• DShKM AA Gun (108-111)
• Suspension (112-113)
• Engine Compartment (114-119)
• Gearbox Compartment (120-123)
• Mine Rollers (124-127)
• Lebanese Wars (128-130)
As with all WWP titles, this too starts with an Introduction, a chapter providing a brief recap on the history and development of the subject. The reference photo manual begins with T-54 Model 1951 chapter, showing peculiarities of the early T-54 model such as the 3-part radiator grille, early engine hatches, exhaust cover, etc. The T-54A follows, displaying several photos of a “Tiranized” T-54A used by the IDF during the Beirut fighting. Next up is Czechoslovak T-54AR, a Czech manufactured modification capable of deep wading. This chapter is 10 pages long and provides details specific to this particular version, fording equipment box, eliptical radiator grilles, etc. A short chapter with Soviet Late T-54B offers a glimpse on the night fighting equipment of the late model. Also, the vehicle shown sports T-54/55 transition hull with all the specifics explained in the captions. The East Germany T-54AM is a very interesting modernization with different toolboxes and tanks on the mudguards as well as new sproket wheels to accomodate RMSh tracks. Early T-54 Interiors spans over 26 pages and delivers a wealth of information, photos and diagrams on the driver's compartment, hull systems, troop compartment, comander's cupola and turret systems, commander's compartment, gunner's compartment, loader's compartment as well as D-10 gun details. If anyone is thinking about opening up their model, this chapter alone is worth getting the book. Czechoslovak T-54M chapter covers the Czech modernization which leveled up the T-54 to T-55A standard. The photos are accompanied by the captions explaining all the upgrades in detail. Late T-54 Interiors chapter follows providing the interior details of the Czech T-54M, offering upgrade details in driver's compartment, D10-T2S gun, commander's compartment, gunner's compartment, loader's compartment, all very similar to those in T-55A. The next two pages cover Czechoslovak T-54AM2, a final modification of T-54/55 MBTs. The following chapters are couple of pages long and provide details of the DShKM AA Gun, a 12,7mm gun and its mount, Suspension, with details of early road wheels and OMSh tracks as well as late drive sprocket and RMSh tracks, Engine Compartment, providing details and schematics of the V-54/55 engine, Gearbox Compartment, with ventilator fan and transfer box details. The Mine Rollers chapter features KMT-5 mine roller and KMT-4 mine plow details. Finally a short chapter deals with Lebanese T-54s and provides photos of Lebanese and Syrian vehicles used in Lebanon wars.
The best T-54 model kits on the 1/35 scale market today are definitely the latest offerings from Mini Art. These are great kits receiving superlative reviews all around the modeling community, which build into a highly authentic replica of the real T-54. All one needs to bring the model to a new level of realism are good reference photos. Enter WWP…
The T-54 MBT in Detail (G062) from Wings & Wheels Publications offers a detailed coverage of T-54 and several of the vehicle variants. The large and clear photos show vehicles from army museums and private collections, inside and out, in great detail. Highly recommended.