Project Ideas: The MT-LB

The MT-LB (Multi-Purpose Towing Vehicle Light Armoured) is a Soviet era Artillery Tractor which has been in service now for nearly 70 years. Originally designed in Ukraine as a successor for the AT-P, based on the ASU-57 (which oddly enough still turns up in service today) it has spawned dozens of variants throughout its history (like every other Soviet support vehicle).

This brick of a vehicle’s grown on me, it really has. I originally bought one to turn into one of those improvised ZU-23-2 mounts we’re seeing in Ukraine these, though since then have made a regular old basic version too. Now I’m in the mood to make some more.

With my modern forces the original plan was for the Nationalist Mechanised Infantry Platoon to ride MT-LBs (with a vehicle mounting a ZU-23-2 as support). Representing just how prevalent the vehicle is serving outside of its original intended role (as the situation necessitates). With modifications ranging from up-armouring it a bit to make it a more reasonable APC, all the way to modern variants with IFV style weapons systems.

In doing my usual sift through images of modern conflicts, I’ve come across so many MT-LBs as to speak to the reputation of this vehicle. The sheer number of variants outside of field modifications is a tad surprising, as just when you think you’ve seen them all another shows up. Not to put down improvised mods either, as some of those can get pretty wacky.

In this post then I’m going to outline a few of these variants which I’ve come across and consider their potential for my own current modelling projects. Before I even started considering making anything more than just a pair of regular old MT-LBs, I’d already bought a set from Empress, but there’s just too much material out there to give up on the opportunity for a bit odd.

MT-LBM 6MB

This Russian modernisation shares some commonality between other mods recently on the market. Its primary feature being the addition of a 30mm “BPPU” turret from the BTR-80A (removing the smaller front mounted turret on the standard model). I’ve seen it most commonly lacking much in the way of external additional features, though ones do exist with additional mudguards and applique armour (though none of them look really as extravagant as some of the armour packages out there, such as Ukraine’s similar vehicle which it has exported to the Asian market).

In a fictional conflict, vehicles like this have the potential to show up with the Russian Ground Forces or Separatists. Like many Russian vehicles, its difficult to tell just how many are actually in service and where, and in my brief research I didn’t come across much on this vehicle being used anywhere.

Regardless, when it comes to making a model, one of these wouldn’t take too much effort to throw together. I already have a BPPU turret going spare (and damn how universal those things are for Russian modernisation), and it would just be a case of building up the existing bare roof at the rear of the vehicle. Outside of that I’d like to do a bit more to differentiate the vehicle from the base kit to show it being modernised; probably replacing the headlights, or even adding an armour package (whilst addon armour seems to be common on the Ukrainian export models, it seemed a bit spare on the Russian ones, perhaps due to different budget concerns).

So as an overall rating, I’d say its a possibility. I’m short on vehicles for my Russian Ground Forces, and they could always do with a “lighter” vehicle to equalise them with my other forces (right now they’re riding about in BMP-3s backed up by a BMPT-72 Terminator).

(Bonus points, the magazine Military Modelcraft International had an article a while back on building one of these. Woo, cutting corners)

 

MT-LB Rocket Launcher

A conversion following a historical precedent set since the Soviet War in Afghanistan. This type of medication has appeared on everything from armoured cars, tanks and APCs, to just regular old trucks. In the current conflict in Ukraine the idea was born from Russia supplying the Separatists with a load of anti-air firepower, leading to the Nationalist’s helicopters being mostly grounded causing a surplus of rocket launchers.

This modification, besides seeing decent usage in its improvised format, is now being produced out of state run factories. As is the case with vehicles out of Ukraine, even when it comes to factory built vehicles its hard to tell if there’s much standardisation between the different plants and production runs, as I’ve seen these using different rocket pods, mounts and armour kits, and that’s not even bringing in field mods, so the modelling opportunities really run wild here.

Ok, at face value sticking an unguided helicopter rocket pod on a ground vehicle may seem like a strange idea, but its been proven to be a concept which works as an area denial/ anti-material weapon for decades now. Why wouldn’t I want a model with one of those?

Currently Spectre Miniatures does a Soviet Rocket pod for £4.99. However, you can also pick up a Revell Hind for £15 these days which comes with four, or you can do what I did and buy Eduard’s B-8M1 set (4 for around £12) if you don’t want the hassle of working out what to do with another Hind (modeller problems…).

Looking at all the variations out there, I’d considering making the vehicle fairly bare bones. The rockets are what should draw people’s attention, with any armour probably detracting from that a little (as would this be used outside of the immediate combat area anyway). I’m considering this one a strong contender, even if it would be reserved for larger boards if it is to actually be used in games without being completely overkill (“Yeah, that platoon of yours? They and the building behind them are dead”).

 

MT-LB SPG

You know how the MT-LB’s supposed to be an artillery tractor? Well what if you lost the trailer from your artillery and bolted it onto the tractor’s roof? Saving weight and being able to shoot and scoot? Great!

Similar to the ZU-23-2 mods, its like someone seen that big flat flat roof at the back of the MT-LB and thought it’d be a great opportunity to stick “something” there. The only images I’ve found of this mod are the set above, and I’ve not seen anything similar in all the conflicts which I’ve seen the MT-LB used (and why not? Its a “great” idea!?). I assume that the ammunition is either out of shot at the front of the vehicle, or in the interior compartment. Or hell, in another MT-LB…

The main hurdle with making one of these in 1/48th scale is the lack of modern, or even Cold War, Soviet artillery pieces. Seriously, there’s barely any WWII guns out there. So far I’d settled for SASM’s older Soviet heavy artillery in a previous search for a piece (which will be used with a ground crew), but even the ones that company sells would be unsuitable for this (being just too large). If I want one of these I’d either have to resign myself to using a WWII Zis-2/3 (and then I may as well stick a Maxim Gun on a pintle mount if I resort to that…), or scratch build something.

Unless something turns up then, this one, whilst cool, may be a pipe dream. Its unfortunate that post-WWII games are more orientated to the Skirmish level in 28mm, with larger battles being the realm of smaller scales. Otherwise we’d maybe have more options for artillery. If something does crop up, it’d be a super simple conversion to do, and I’d be glad to have something as odd as this just for fun.

(Edit: Since posting this, I immediately discovered that this was based on an existing modification using the Vasilek auto-mortar. There’s nothing new under the sun eh?)

 

A regular old MT-LB, but with more crap!

Um, yeah, ok, this is also an option. Just doing up one as a support vehicle laden with boxes and junk on its, roof then inexplicable rugs, posters, and slogans on the side would still be eye catching? No? 🙂

OK, let’s just stick a generic armour package on it and call it a day…

Ah, no.

Ok, maybe…

Closing

And so ends another filler post. Um, wait, no I’m not supposed to admit that. Its been a while since I posted here, both through life getting in the way of modelling time, and an insesent habit of starting too many new projects without finishing anything (I have a stack of six buildings sitting on a shelf 80-90% complete right now…), Ideally I’ll have physical models to post over the next …week and or month or so in a WIP state at least once I can push them over that last hurdle of tweaking the final details.

Till then, there’s a taste of a future potential project. So far I’m settling for at least one with Rocket Pods, then either the Russian 30mm modernisation, or just a regular MT-LB laden with stowage (before I then buy some more from Empress for the others…).

The vehicle’s growing on me. More than the BMP-1 or 2, so I may well go ahead with that potential Ukrainian Nationalist force entirely mounted in them like I’d originally planned with this modern project. They’re a vehicle you don’t often see in wide spread use in modern games (at any scale), which fails to show off just what sort of usage it has in the real world (a friend Paul would call them “useless vehicles” in his own rules. “Useless vehicles” being how wargamers see the things of course, and they give a re-roll to nearby units instead).

Pity I ran out of space for more vehicles months ago…

4 thoughts on “Project Ideas: The MT-LB

  1. Great post- loads of info. I too wonder about all the endless varients that Russian/ Ukrainian firms put out. Do they enter service in small numbers are are they just for show. Still I’m a fan of fictional vehicles in fictional wars like you.

    I do like the rocket launcher pods from the Hind, I may try to knock one up in 20mm.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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    1. I looked into the BTR-90 a while ago. A failed attempt at replacing the BTR-series of vehicles in the early 2000s. A vehicle which looks cosmetically like the BTR-80, however mounting a BMP-2 turret (and later another inspired by the BMP-3), and so with a fair deal larger chassis.

      Finding information on just what happened to that vehicle is sparse and often conflicting, as with a lot of these projects. The project was canned due to costs, with any future bids to resurrect it not seeming likely with vehicles like the VPK-7829 Bumerang being developed (though there was talk of the chassis being used for a drone APC, which seems unlikely now). That said, from the documentation I could find on it, a hundred or so vehicles were produced during a trial phase, which wound up being given to the Russian Internal Security Forces.

      More on the BTR-90 later, if I can source the model. 😉

      Which as you say, seems to be the way with these sorts of thing. I’ll bet on Russian military forums there’s much more info going about, but outside of there its down to hearsay. The Gaz Vodnik (based on the Tigr chassis) seemed to be a good idea at the time, though never seen serious production (it did appear in the ARMA series though). Then Russia dumps a load on the Ukrainian Separatists and suddenly its seeing usage.

      On which note, what if scenarios involving these prototypes and short production runs are just the fodder for Russia’s proxy forces. Even if in the real world there isn’t documented reports of some of the obscure stuff being actually used, in a future setting anything could happen. The Wikipedia page on the T-62 tank reads that Russia liquidated its stocks of those years ago, till of all of a sudden they start appearing from Russian sources in Syrian and Ukrainian hands…

      Ah, and of course, besides a few of the folks who read my guff, most gamers wouldn’t know what most of this equipment is, or ponder about the authenticity. So there’s a margin for fantasy when it comes to just what I put in my collection. Its not like there’s likely too many ISU based ARVs about now, or BMPT-72 Terminators operating within Ukraine.

      But yes, till a proper war starts, it does come across that all these wonder weapons that we see on the Russian news are all just smoke in mirrors. They’ve developed a load of drones, exoskeletons, and weird weapons, and love to show it being used in the field, but till they (like I suppose NATO these days too) face off in a peer to peer conflict, we can’t know if any of it will actually work. …Or when all the fancy gear runs out it’ll be down to using Grandfather’s equipment for the bulk of the actual fighting.

      …That’s not for the realms of us modellers though. Or rather, just an excuse to use Chechen War era figures alongside Contemporary soldiers, besides exploiting all the Cold War minis out there. I have two of the same base model sitting as wips right now, both BTR-80s. One done up as the modernised BTR-82A, the other has an improvised armour package and a DShK welded to the roof. Both of those could be seeing use with the same force these days.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I think that the ultramodern/ what if? gamer is in a minority within post world war two gaming (whiuch is itself a minority). Like you say it is interesting what comes out there. Could be worth trying some cryllic searches for stuff to see what is out there. Have you any links to pics of the Vodnik in Ukraine?

        Funny you should mention the BTR90- I’m work on a 1/72nd scale one at the moment- it is huge.

        Personally my love is for the improvised/ rag tag stuff. Sadly my scratchbuilding skills can’t keep up….

        Cheers,

        Pete.

        Like

      2. A quick Google infers that the Russians are still using the vehicle, but I remember reading they donated them (among other vehicles) to the Separatists too). Just searching for a random Russian vehicle and “Ukraine” throws stuff up.

        If I could justify having a Gaz Tigr, I’d order one in 1/50th scale and use its measurements and wheels to make a Vodnik. I’ll have to ask if Empress or SASM have a miscast eventually, but I’ve too many other projects…

        I’d also considered the possibility of near future games taking over from my current stuff (which would likely be the same mix of Cold War tech and ultra modern). Including more drones, and exoskeletons for the soldiers. That’s never going to be something which takes off though at the pace technology develops. For instance, a set of figures wearing exoskeletons and full body armour with smart headgear could be cool, but also could look like 1950s tomorrow’s war style setups and become dated fast. Still, it is a cool idea, and I’d like to run games at least in future using some of those Russian drones (and have one on order from SASM due).

        I’d also like to have the opportunity at some point to make real vehicles which aren’t in service. Either because they didn’t get contracts, or they’re still being developed. That’s where the BMPT-72 Terminator came from. Though other vehicles, like the Ukrainian Duplet (either a T-64 or BMP-2 with a Terminator style turret) which are due to enter service (in Ukrainian terms that means “maybe”), or weirder stuff like the BMP-64 (also out of Ukraine) – a T-64 turned into an APC, could be eye catching. A pity that I choose a country which makes such widespread use of a chassis nobody makes in 1/50th scale though (Tiny Terrain Models are doing a T-62 at least, with plans to make more vehicles if that goes well. As could I see Empress miniatures doing a T-55 at some point, but the travesty that there isn’t a resin model for one of those in 1/48-50th scale is something I’ve whinged about elsewhere…).

        As long as the ammo holds out, we’ll still be seeing insurgents with AKMs shooting at guys in power armour though… The STG-44 continues to crop up in conflicts to this day (shout out to the blog : https://wwiiafterwwii.wordpress.com/ ).

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