In Need of 1980's Soviet Expertise

The Good Lord knows when I’ll ever get this done, but I’m sure some of you can relate to having a sudden enthusiasm and wanting to get the kits and research some answers…

I’m looking at making a diorama centered on the Tamiya 1/35 1980’s “Modern” U.S. Army infantry. In spite of many advancements over the years, I believe those kits hold up really well. The idea is an infantry engagement in either CENTAG with the 4th Infantry Division or in NORTHAG with 5th Infantry Division. The timeframe would be around 1983 - 1986. If I go with the 5th, I might include an M-113. My goal is to portray a hot war during the transition period when M-16A1’s were still in service and the Army hadn’t completely switched over all of its gear vice flak vests and steel pots and kevlar.

This would be an engagement between American mech warriors and “typical” dismounted Soviet Motor Rifle troops.

My knowledge of Soviet gear is a bit superficial. My understanding is that at this period, the Soviet infantry would still be wearing the Obr. 69 uniforms as the Afghanka was not yet general issue. They would likewise still be wearing the jackboots. Is this correct?

If so, what is the best color range for the Obr. 69? I know photo colors can be unreliable, but I am seeing distinct colors. The first being a dark brown olive and the second being an ochre khaki that is similar to the Afghanka. Which is best? Or is it both?

Soviet infantry models in this period are a bit hard to find, and in good poses for combat. The first are the Dragon kits. The only one showing “action” poses is the Naval Infantry kit. Were the Naval Infantry uniforms styled and cut the same as the Obr. 69, but only in black?

Tank Model has good Soviet infantry from the 1968 Prague uprising, but they’re wearing the old WWII style tunics. Is is possible those uniforms could still be found alongside the Obr. 69 in the 1980’s, particularly among the Category B or C units?

My only other options would be Afghanistan specific kits in which the soldiers are wearing the Afghanka with various soft caps and lace-up boots or sneakers. The other DML kits feature the Afghanka, but they are mostly static poses. I’m generally loathe to use the DML kits unless I need the weapons or the bodies as the accessories are junk.

Thanks for looking and I appreciate the input!

Soviet expertise? Isn’t that what is known as an oxymoron? :thinking:

By the way, Apache26 actually has an old skool M16A1.

1 Like

I would imagine the “Afghanka” uniform would’ve been common issue in those days.

Summer Afghanka Uniform.

Winter Afghanka Uniform.


Soviet Motor Rifle troops in Afghanistan; the soldier on the right is wearing the “butane” camo variant of the Afghanka uniform, typically worn by Soviet Naval Infantry.

Afghanka uniform with “butane” camouflage pattern.

1 Like

I have an XM16E1 clone that I slapped together. Doesn’t have the fun switch, but everything else is in there. Gonna have to post a picture of it, along with the XM177E2 i built as well.

1 Like

You know where to post it!

Mine is on an ATF Form 4. It has the fun switch. I thought 18Bravo posted the videos.

Regarding the Afghanka, my research indicates that it was a theater specific uniform until about 1988 - 1989. I’m not opposed to throwing it in, per-se, if that’s correct, but I’d rather use the older uniforms if I can.

Damn. I have now.

If you’re looking at 4th or 5th those troops would still have steel pots and Vietnam flak vests in ‘86.
As far as Soviet uniforms in 1986/87, the Soviets got rid of the WWII style pullover blouse for chemical warfare decontamination reasons in the early70’s. The warm weather cotton field uniform was a khaki olive color.

Wow the 4th and 5th ID had steel pots and Nam flak vests in ‘86? I was in 2/6 Infantry, 1st AD in Erlangen from ‘85-‘87 and we had k-pots and k-vests. We were considered forward deployed; the only units further deployed than us were the Cav units on the border.
Travis , this would give you more options I would think from a modeling standpoint. Just a thought. Hornet makes US heads with steel pots and helmet covers I think, you could just paint them Woodland Camo.

There is a very decent book for Soviet uniforms called Soviet Uniforms and Militaria 1917-1991 from the Crowood Press which is handy for subjects like this. Info from it is that the initial issue of the Afghanka was between 1981-82 in the Khaki color. Prior to this the Obr69 uniform was, as you mentioned, still widely used. The standard issue great coat was also used in winter well into the 80s too.

The Naval Infantry did use the old style uniform in black as you said. You would, in the period 83-86 you cited, come across the KLMK oversuit.

This would have been issued to specialist troops like the VDV.

In terms of figs I think the resin options might be your best bet- take a look at Evolution too as they have some figs from this period and I know that Zvezda has at least one fairly recently produced set featuring the Afghanka uniform.

Regarding Soviet kit for the time-frame you’re working on: I was ensconced in the Intelligence Staff Branch in HQ BAOR from 1980 to late 82/early 83; we received a constant stream of photographic footage from the British military liaison mission operating throughout East Germany, known as BRIXMIS. I did note that throughout the 80s whenever pics were taken of troops operating in the field, there was a greater use of camouflage uniforms, specifically the one piece coverall shown here:


There was a 2-piece version as well, though to be honest, in 1:35 that’s probably a bit academic:


The Dragon Air Assault set includes a couple of figures in such camouflage uniform.

Personal equipment, relatively scant compared to what is worn today seemed to stay the same:

Note that the respirator case - normally slung like a satchel on the left hip - is not shown; here it is:

Personal weapons, as I’m sure you know, was the AK-74. No matter what the category of unit, the pre-69 uniforms would not have been present.

As you’ve already identified, there aren’t that many suitable figures out there, save the Dragon ones, and they are a bit limited. As for so many Cold War scenarios, you may have to convert/modify and dust off the Milliput or similar. Making the personal equipment isn’t that difficult (though Dragon provide some of the kit) utilisng a mix of Milliput and say, plastic card/rod; the fact that camouflage smocks were worn at the time is in your favour as modifying a figure (with Milliput) is relatively straightforward; I’m no great figure sculptor but even I can manage a coverall - just:

Jackboots were still the norm, or at least in GSFG as far as I can remember from the BRIXMIS pics. Hornet Heads will also help enhance your figures.

Pepending on how “hot” you want your Cold War scenario to be, you may have to consider figures like this:

(Note: not one of my models but filched off the www)

and there’s precious few of them around in 1:35. There was a new type of respirator coming into service in around the mid 80s; even so, modifying a figure to the extent required is a lot more work - depending on your skill set of course.

Beyond 1982 I can’t really help; I was long gone from BAOR.

'Hope this helps in whatever you decide.

1 Like

That’s probably why you guys had all the “good” stuff, being forward deployed. At 5th ID, we didn’t get K-pots until summer of ‘87. My old battalion, 4/6 Inf, went to war in Panama in Dec.89 with K-pots and Vietnam Flak Vests


Gentlemen, thanks for the input. It looks like I may have pigeon holed myself a bit with the timeframe and some of my expectations based on the lack of Soviet material. Zvezda does indeed make a single Soviet kit of paratroopers in Afghanistan. It’s out of production but I found one on EBay.

Here’s the next question: were the Soviets expected to issue body armor in a war in Europe? Most of the Afghan Soviet kits feature some sort of SB series armor. I didn’t think that the mass issue of body armor to Soviet troops was expected in Europe.

Thanks for the photos! I see you still had M-16A1’s well into 1989-90. I’m not opposed to pushing the timeline forward a bit and using the 5th ID in a 1987 - 88 scenario.

My motivation for this comes from a couple places. The first is that the Tamiya infantry kit was one of the first kits I ever had as a kid. My dad took me into a hobby store during a family trip in 1988. I had no idea they were models; I thought they’d be like G.I. Joes. The second is that one of my first NCO’s when I was a lieutenant was a 5th ID Panama veteran. He’s a great guy and a good friend now. You guys may have hated it at the time, but I always loved that there were units that were still rocking old gear in the late 80’s.

Lastly, regarding M-69 vests, they were still around in the early 2000’s. On my second Iraq tour during OIF II we worked with the 39th NG BDE. They had been issued modern IBA’s, but they brought along all their old M-69 vests. They were using them to line the floors of convoy trucks and they were draping them over the doors for added protection. I should have stolen a couple. They were only going to go into the trash.

I’d have to say that given the Soviet preoccupation with mass having a virtue all of its own, (in other words a certain dispensability), probably not; in what, in the mid-80s, was already becoming a resources-strapped empire, I doubt any form of body-armour was planned, or even stockpiled, for GSFG. However, who knows? Perhaps experience from the Afghanistan debacle did indeed filter down.

Technically, as your plans are a “What-If” scenario, you can please yourself and depict what you consider possible, but that would have to be your call - I suspect the figure mods required may dictate what you actually end up doing(!)

Just one further thought: what you could do is utilise Soviet WW2 figures and convert to smock-wearing individuals; any Milliput modification would easily conceal the high collar of the earlier uniform, and you may end up with more purposeful poses for your plan. Weapons would require replacement obviously, and personal kit would need to be adapted/fashioned as I indicated earlier. Jackboots and helmet would already be in place (on the base figure).

1 Like

@Apache26 you could get away with tan uniforms, brown khaki uniforms and even gear from WW2. I’m assuming you’d do a build about a frontline category A army unit, they would have new equipment. I built a diorama based off a what if scenario of red storm rising of a category C unit being sent in. I’ll try and find some pictures of it later. Funny you mention that you’re doing this dio, i have a team yankee dio id line to build and a what if red dawn scenario too.

I’d love to see it!

My other inspiration, having grown up in the 1980’s zeitgeist, is the game “Twilight 2000”. The 1995 - 2000 setting of that game never made sense to me - probably because I was too young and by the time I was a teenager the Soviet Union was kaput. I always envisioned a 1985 - 1990 timeline. For the past few years I’ve been painting 1/72 minis for wargaming and role playing. There are a great deal more options for Soviets in that scale.

Having read “Red Storm Rising”, “Team Yankee”, “The Third World War” and “Red Army”, I’m going with many of their assumptions. That is to say that the Soviets would limit chemical attacks to airbases and the war would largely remain conventional - without widespread tactical nukes. Unlike those books, however, my military mind doesn’t envision a war that ends within weeks. I think that the grind envisioned by “Twilight 2000” to be more realistic (even though nukes feature prominently in its storyline). This gets us to the REFORGER units and Soviet Cat B and C units.

If i am not mistaken, everybody failed to mention very reliable ICM sets that could be adapted to your needs:

Hope this helps

1 Like

Here is Scalemates full listing of 1/35 Soviet Cold War figures.

1/35 Soviet Cold War Figures

Damn - sure wish those figures in NBC suits were still available.