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Found 75 results

  1. T-54-2 Mod 1949 (37012) 1:35 MiniArt The T-54's gestation and transformation into the T-55 was long-winded and complicated by constant changes to an as yet unsatisfactory performing vehicle. Production of the T-54-1 was halted due to production and quality issues, and an amalgamation of all the alterations were incorporated into the re-designed T-54-2, which saw the fender machine guns removed and replaced by a more modern bow-mounted single gun, the tracks widened, and the turret design changed to closer resemble the eventual domed shape of the T-55. The -2 didn't last all that long before the -3 replaced it, eliminating the shot-traps on the turret sides, but retaining the more modern gun and sighting improvements that had been made to the dash-2 toward the end of production. The requirement for survival of tactical nuclear blasts led to the eventual introduction of the similar looking, but significantly different T-55 that we know so well. The Kit We reviewed the T-54-1 here recently, and although this kit bears a striking resemblance, there are a large number of parts that are different in minor ways, and although the interior is included in this boxing too, the engine parts are no-longer there, and the kit isn't billed as an "Interior Kit", perhaps indicating that interest in that area wasn't sufficient to justify providing the complete internals. Who knows? The quality of moulding is identical (i.e excellent) to the earlier kit, and inside the box are forty eight (yes, 48) sprues in mid grey styrene, a clear sprue, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a small decal sheet and a glossy bound red and white booklet that mimics the striking design of the box. Construction is almost identical to the earlier boxing, excepting right at the beginning with the engine omission. The lower hull has some minor differences, and the sidewalls require a little modification at the top to introduce a chamfer at the very top, and the ammo storage area is omitted, but sufficient detail will be seen through the opened hatches if you decide to go that way. The engine compartment is of course empty, but with the access panels fitted it wouldn't be seen anyway, which is a similar story to the other omitted internals. The running gear is identical, as are the individual links provided on 10 small sprues, while the upper deck is different in shape, but constructed in the same manner, from individual sections at the front, turret ring area, and the engine deck. The fenders are different due to the removal of the gun "emplacements", with stowage and spare track links taking their place. The turret is a new moulding, and has reduced levels of detail, omitting such things as the ready-ammo, reduced detail on the main gun breech etc., but as this isn't the bells & whistles boxing, you are still getting plenty, such as the coax machine gun, a highly detailed cupola and of course the Dushka (DsHK) on the upper surface. Finally the driver's "hood" that fits over his hatch for inclement weather operations can be posed stowed or in situ for that comedy look. If you are stowing it, there are some PE straps to tie things down on the bustle. Markings The decal sheet consists of predominantly white digits, with a couple of diamonds that have black backgrounds, so registration although minimal is in good, colour density and sharpness being similarly so. From the box you can build one of the following, all of which are in Russian Green: Soviet Army 50 Years – white 649 with black diamond and Roman III in the centre Soviet Army 50 Years – white 003 Soviet Army 50 Years – white 332 Soviet Army 50 Years – white 84 Soviet Army 50 Years – white 534 Soviet Army 50 Years – white 415 Not the most inventive decal choice, but as they're all Russian Green anyway, it's not the end of the world. Some of the options show the Dushka, while others do not, so take care if you are going for accuracy. Conclusion It's another great early T-54 from MiniArt, without the mass of additional parts on the interior, so it should be a quicker build than its stablemate. Detail is first class, and symptomatic of MiniArt's continued growth as a company constantly striving for excellence. Highly recommended. http://www.britmodeller.com/reviews/graphics/bin.jpg Review sample courtesy of
  2. MiniArt

    T-54-1 Medium Tank 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models The WWII T-34 was an excellent all-round tank, combining armour, speed, hitting power and manoeuvrability into a war-winning package that served the Soviet Union well until the end of the war. After the war a new design was needed, and this was based upon the T-44 that had been in development during the final years of the conflict. It was decided that a larger 100mm gun was needed to counter the new tanks that were being developed in the West, but the T-44 chassis couldn't handle the turret that would be required. A new enlarged chassis was designed and was named the T-54, which went through such rapid development and many changes that it soon became a new prototype, the T-54-1. That too suffered teething troubles and after fewer than 1,500 units, production transferred quickly to the T-54-2, and then the T-55, which we've all probably heard of. The T-54-1 kept many of the successful traits of the T-34/85, but with a larger turret the shot-trap was significant, which ultimately led to the familiar domed turret of the T-55. Although outdated, the T-54 stuck around in smallish numbers for quite some period in a number of guises, although by the time the last operational vehicles were drawn down, it was seriously outclassed in every way. The Kit This is a complete new tooling from the good folks at MiniArt in the Ukraine, and it is a major new tooling because it has a complete interior within the box, which is weighty beyond usual expectations. On lifting the lid you are greeted by a glut of sprues, many of them quite small because of the tooling's modular nature, with quite a few parts going unused for this boxing. There are sixty two sprues in grey styrene plus another twelve for the tracks (in the same colour), a sprue in clear, plus two frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, the decal sheet and finally a rather thick and glossy colour instruction booklet with painting guide included to the rear. That little lot fills up just about all the space in the box, leaving only room for air between the sprues – quite daunting to repack too! When MiniArt say "interior" they're not just referring to a couple of seats for the crew and a few black boxes. They really do mean full interior. This starts with the V-54 engine that is built up from crank-case through rocker-covers and is sat upon a trestle engine mount, with a high overall part count. The lower hull is then constructed so that it can take all the interior parts, with the torsion bars and suspension arms slid in and located at the opposite ends in pairs, after which the floor under the turret is slipped over the top of the centre bars, and ancillary equipment is piled in along with more suspension details. The driver's control levers are built up and added to the left front of the hull floor, with a surprisingly comfortable-looking seat added next to the bulkhead that forms a wall of the shell magazine later on. The hull sidewalls are added with interior skins providing the detail and thickness, with yet more equipment studded along their lengths, and some holes need opening up for the shell racks, as shown in a scrap diagram. The two perforated frames attach at the front of the starboard sidewall, and individual shells slot inside the holes, with drop-down gates holding them in place during transport. You could probably get away with painting only the percussion caps and the ends of the shell casings for those that will be stuck in there, so don't go mad unless you will be going for a cut-away in that area. The engine is then added to the rear of the hull on its mount that latches into slots in the floor, and a pair of box-like air intakes are added at the starboard end. A firewall is then constructed with fan, extinguisher and other boxes to fit between the two areas, after which the port side is added, and the glacis plate is fitted into place, the latter having a scale thickness armour panel, foot-pedals and periscopes for the driver installed. The roadwheels are made up in pairs with a central hub-cap, and ten pairs are made up, with five per side held in place by a pin and top-cap in the same way as the two-part drive sprockets are fitted at the rear. The idler wheel is installed right at the front of the hull on an tensioner axle, and is made from two parts, held in place by a pin and top-cap like the rest of the roadwheels, although it is noticeably smaller. The rear bulkhead has two sets of brackets for additional fuel drums, which are included in the box, and this assembly is installed at the rear along with two other small facets, one of which has the rear light cluster mounted. The hull roof is fabricated from shorter sections to preserve detail, starting with the turret ring, which has the driver's hatch within, and once in place, armoured periscope protectors, rotating hatch and pioneer tools are added around. The engine deck is split into three main sections, within which are access hatches, grilles and louvers to allow the engine to breathe and be maintained. The louvers are covered by an additional layer of PE mesh, and the extra fuel drums are strapped in place by a pair of PE straps each if you decide to fit them. The fenders are festooned with stowage of various types, which are loaded up before being added to the sides of the hull along with the obligatory unditching beam and spring-loaded mudguards at the rear. Some PE parts are used as tie-downs and handles here to improve the scale effect of details. Additionally, a pair of ender mounted machine-guns are added in small casemates, one on each fender at the front, with a removable lid for repair and maintenance plus reloading. You get the full breech and interior, which leaves you with some options. Spare ammo cans are stowed next to simplify crew reloading, although doing that task under fire would be no fun! Tracks. Always a divisive subject, as some like band-type, others like individual links, link-and-length, or metal. The list goes on. You might have noticed already that this kit provides individual link tracks of the glue-together variety, which don't do anything fancy such as click in-place. The tracks are built up in segments of 9 links, with 8 links having guide-horns, and one without. All you need to do is remove each link from the sprues via their four gates, trim them flush, glue the parts together in batches of 9 in a run of 90 links each side, and whilst still soft, wrap them around the roadwheels and set the sag with sponges, cotton buds or whatever is to hand to hold them in position. When dry they can be removed with care, especially if you have left an idler or sprocket loose to facilitate. Take care when prepping the track parts, as the plastic is quite soft, and easily marred with careless handling. With the tracks done, the fenders go on, with the duck-bill shaped exhaust crossing the port fender in the rear, with a deflector attached over it. The turret will be a focus of attention for most viewers, and it is filled with detail. The two layer turret ring is added to the lower turret part, and the inside of the turret is then strewn with equipment on both sides, with a stack of ready-ammo at the rear of the bustle in a compact rack that hold seven shells. Crew seats are added, dipping down through the aperture, and the breech of the 100mm gun is constructed from a host of parts, with two being left off if you wanted to move the barrel later. This is mounted between two brackets that sit on the front lip of the turret, with the sighting gear and a stack of four ammo cans to feed the coaxial machine gun slung underneath. The upper turret is similarly bedecked with equipment inside, and at this point a large portion of the roof is missing, being made up in a later step with the crew hatches, periscopes and mushroom fume vent, plus an antenna base. The gunner's cupola has a ring fitted to it that mounts a huge DShk "Dushka" 12.7mm machine gun, which can be used with great effect against soft targets or as an anti-aircraft mount. It is made up from a considerable number of parts, with scrap diagrams showing how to mount the ammo box to the breech with a number of PE parts as well as a length of link for good measure. The upper turret, mantlet armoured cover, coaxial machine gun and the mantlet itself are all brought together at the end to finish the turret main construction, after which a large rolled tarpaulin is draped over the rear of the bustle, with a choice of one of the two driver's "hoods" strapped to the top of it for safe-keeping. There is a low profile and higher profile variant included in the box, with the choice of either or none left to the modeller. Markings There are three options available from the box, with a variety of schemes that should suit most tastes. From the box you can build one of the following: Soviet Army 50s – Soviet green with white 224 on the turret sides. Soviet Army 50s – Winter distemper paint over green and white 222 on turret sides. Soviet Army early 50s – Summer camouflage. Green sand and black soft-edge wavy camouflage and no unit markings other than a small red star. The decal sheet is small and mostly white, with only the red stars to break up the colour (excluding the red border to the sheet). The registration between the two colours seems good, sharpness is too, but I suspect the codes may be slightly translucent when applied to dark colours. They can easily be used as a guide to touch in with a little diluted white on a sharp brush though, as these markings were usually hand-painted. If you wanted to see what can be done with this kit, check out Dmytro Kolesnyk's superb build here on Britmodeller, which you can see more of here. Conclusion Quite a box load! The sheer quantity of parts and the detail therein makes this easy to recommend, and there are endless possibilities for exposing the innards of the beast, which might need just the odd wire or hose added along with some grime to make it look real. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  3. Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger (Henschel Turret) 1:35 Meng Models via Creative Models The King Tiger needs little introduction to any armour lover, as it became one of WWII's iconic AFVs, even though it only saw limited action in the closing months of the war, and had a few serious flaw that were never fully fixed due to its short time in service before the fasctories and the Reich were over-run. As with any new equipment, Hitler stuck his oar in and always wanted bigger, which resulted in a heavily armoured tank with a massively powerful gun, but weight problems (I know that feeling!) that put undue strain on its running gear, resulting in a high maintenance rate and frequent breakdowns on the battlefield. It has been said that more King Tigers were lost to crews having to abandon a broken down vehicle than were knocked out in battle. The design was complex, and although the simpler Henschel turret design was chosen over the alternative and more complicated Porsche offering to ease construction, it still took far too much time and valuable resources to create one. The Porsche company had already built a number of turrets however, so they were used up in the first batch of tanks, and the Henschel design should by rights be the "production turret", as they designed the chassis too. It took bravery on the part of the Allied tankers to take out a KT, as they had to get well inside the killing zone of the mighty 88mm gun in order to penetrate the frontal armour, and even the sides weren't easy to breach. The Kit We have had many King Tiger models in 1:35 over the years, and more recently the market has become a little more crowded with new kits coming out to broaden the modeller's choice. As is often said, X's King Tiger doesn't make any money for Y, and Meng now have their hat in the ring with this new kit that has been produced in conjunction with the Tank Museum in Bovington as well as their magazine, AFV Modeller. They have opted for a modular approach to this kit, which they premiered with their Bradley M3A3 with Busk III, having the same optional interior set for those that would wish to model the interior of this beast. There is also a track set available in case you're not overly fond of the link-and-length tracks that are included in the box, and a set of Zimmerit decals too. Of course this will add to the purchase price, but if you aren't interested in those optional extras, at least you're not paying for plastic that will stay in the box and clutter up your spares bucket for years to come. So what's in the box? Quite a lot, including ten sprues in primer-red styrene, a grey sprue containing two figures, a clear sprue, turned aluminium barrel, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) grilles, some poly-caps, a decal sheet, and of course the instruction booklet with integrated black and white painting guide. A peruse of the sprues shows plenty of detail, and all of the armoured panels have a delicate rolled-steel texture that looks great, although if you're a bit heavy on the paint, it could well disappear under multiple layers. There are a few parts that aren't needed if you are assembling the tank with the interior, so take care and read the instructions fully before you start gluing, as some of the differences are quite notable. The red primer styrene colour is actually quite clever, as if you ever wear through the paint with handling, it will still look authentic after a fashion, a feature that could be done deliberately if you so choose. Inclusion of a metal barrel is great news, as it removes a tiresome seam-filling chore from your task list, but if you really really hate metal barrels, there is a styrene alternative there just in case. The tracks being link and length will delight and horrify modellers in equal measure, as you can't please all the people all the time, especially with track technologies. Suffice to say that the detail is excellent, but if you would prefer a workable track, there is the extra track pack from Meng, or you could opt for some from Friul. Construction begins predictably with the road wheels, which have a poly-cap hidden between the two, and a choice of two types of cap for both inner and outer pairs. The three-piece idler wheel and two-part drive sprocket also have poly-caps at their hearts, which will help when adding the tracks and during painting. The lower hull is fitted with a pair of inserts behind the suspension ports, which is only applied if you aren't building the interior, which has the torsion-bars included as part of the set. Final drive armour and towing eyes are added to the front on each side of the lower glacis, and a pair of bracing bulkheads are inserted into the hull to give it rigidity in the absence of the interior. The swing-arms then fit onto the pins in the suspension ports, and these parts are again only appropriate for the fixed suspension option. The wheels can be fixed onto the stub-axles at this point, and the rear bulkhead is then built, studded with track joining tools, the twin armoured exhausts and some small PE parts for the jack that will be fitted later. This slots into the hull from above, and is joined by another brace that fits near the front of the hull roof, plus the front towing shackles that dangle permanently from the front of any KT. The tracks are link-and-length, as previously mentioned, and are also handed, so care is needed in construction. The exploded diagram shows which parts are fitted where, and the top run will have a degree of natural sag that has been engineered in thanks to the construction jig supplied for this section. The individual links create the sharper curves around the idler and drive sprockets, and here each link is made of the two parts to give extra flex to the shape, which is as it should be. The track pack that's available separately renders all this obsolete of course, and we'll try to get hold of a set in due course to see what's included and how it changes the build process. The upper hull has a separate engine deck, and under this a bracing part is fitted, which would be replaced by the interior set if you opt for it. The upper glacis exterior is moulded into the upper hull, and is backed up by another internal part to give it a more realistic armour thickness. The rest of the hull roof is then fitted, which includes the turret ring and a cut-out for the separate insert with the driver and machine-gunner's hatches. The ball fitting for the bow-mounted machine gun is held in place behind the armoured bulge of the kugelblende, with the barrel sliding through the centre minus breech. At the rear of the upper hull the correct armour thickness is portrayed by the addition of a pair of extra parts that make up the difference without risking sink-marks. The engine deck is split like the real thing, with the radiator baths on each side and PE mesh covers for each outlet, plus a scattering of lifting lugs and pioneer tools. The central panel is for engine access, and has a number of armoured mushroom vents, lifting lugs and grab handles added along with the "easy" access hatch within it for daily preventative maintenance. The final panel is the driver's compartment, which has two more mushroom vents, more lifting lugs, and of course the two hatches with grab handles for the crew. The remainder of the pioneer tools and towing ropes are then installed on the sloped sides of the hull, and the curved PE grilles are shaped around a two-part jig before being glued to their frames and put in place over the forward radiator louvers. The two halves of the hull are brought together and the remaining details are fitted, such as the mudguards, and jack at the rear, fenders along the sides, front mudguards and the central headlight light on the glacis. Now for the turret. For scale fidelity, the turret has a double skin, and the improved, flat Henschel mantlet fits in the front, eliminating the shot-trap that was present in the Porsche design. The turret roof has the cupola details and the central fume extractor vent added inside, and the floor has a commander's seat added (which will be stood on by himself), and a perfunctory pivot for the gun base added at the front. Again, if you're going for the full interior, this will be set aside. With the lid and floor installed, the clear periscope parts and the armoured mantlet slab are glued in place, and the flip-down crew access hatch is built to scale thickness and installed on twin hinges. Incidentally, this hatch doubled as the only way to get the massive gun out of the turret, so wasn't just for crew comfort or their safety. The hinges are covered by protective armour, as are all the vision blocks, vents and the gun's optics, which have a bullet-splash screen added around. Lifting eyes, machine gun ring, and brackets for spare track are added, plus of course the true mantlet of the gun, which flares out to deflect shot into the armour. The metal barrel is tipped with a styrene flash-hider, and a two-part inner shroud to the rear, which is then pushed into the breech with a keyed peg ensuring the correct orientation of the muzzle. The gunner's simple hatch, the commander's MG and his rotating hatch are built up as the final acts, and the turret is then fitted to the hull, minus any retaining mechanism. The Königstiger had a crew of five, and two are supplied in the box on a single grey sprue. If you choose to use them, you can build up the commander and loader in their entirety (i.e. with legs). The commander is stood up and has his binoculars pressed to his eyes, appearing to be looking at what the loader is pointing at from his seated position on the edge of his hatch. Sculpting is up to Meng's usual high standard, and parts breakdown facilitates good detail. Markings The decal sheet is small, and for what must be the first time in my experience, not printed by Cartograf for them. To be frank, it isn't all that important with AFV models for the most part, as the markings are few and were often hand painted by less than talented workers. The quality isn't quite up to the usual standard, but they should suffice for their purpose. On my sample the registration is good, and colour density was of a similar quality, but there were a few tiny artefacts in the black, with slight stepping visible on diagonals under magnification. To the naked eye however, these would be hard to pick up on. From the box you can build one of the following four (not six as mentioned on their website): Tank 334 s.H.Pz.Abt.503, Wehrmacht, Hungary, October 1944 – Dark yellow with green and red-brown camouflage. Tank 124 s.H.Pz.Abt.505, Wehrmacht, Poland, September 1944 – Dark yellow with green and red-brown camouflage. Tank 223 s.H.Pz.Abt.501, SS, Belgium, December 1944 – ambush scheme. Tank 324 s.H.Pz.Abt.509, Wehrmacht, Hungary, March 1945 – white distemper over ambush scheme. The painting guide is in black and white and the shades of grey are only referred to by their colour codes with no names mentioned until the table on the back page, which makes for a more difficult time envisaging which scheme takes your fancy the most. Thankfully, they are all some combination of a Dark Yellow base with green and red-brown camouflage overlaid, except for the last option, which has winter distemper over the dotty ambush scheme. On a slightly sour note, the first two decal options were coated with Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine coating from the factory, which isn't supplied in the box. If choosing A or B, you will either need to apply it yourself using putty of some type, or purchase the Zimmerit decal set that Meng have made available separately. To this reviewer, the Zimmerit decal should have been supplied in the box, or you can't accurately depict half of the decal options. Conclusion We are now spoiled for choice when it comes to the King Tiger, and Meng's approach of making the interior and workable tracks an optional extra allowed them to focus squarely on the design of the kit, with those looking for extra detail purchasing the extra sets if they want them. Many AFV modellers don't bother with interiors in general, so why buy parts you won't use? Detail is excellent, and if you're planning a buttoned up Tiger II, this would make an superb choice, with all the surface detail of the armour already done for you, and a couple of crew figures plus a turned barrel thrown in for good measure. Watch out for the missing Zimmerit though when you're choosing your decal options. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  4. Meng

    Soviet T-10M Heavy Tank 1:35 Meng Models Having already reviewed another kit of this type, I'll take the lazy/sensible way out and paste in the preamble from the earlier kit for your ease, rather than trying to re-write the wheel, as it were. The Kit Meng seem to be locked in a release and subject matter war with other manufacturers in the same global location, with another kit of this massive tank from another manufacturer already on the scene. Meng have produced this kit ploughing their own furrow as always, and fair play to them for doing so. As usual the kit has a quality feel from the outset, with the satin finish to the dramatic box artwork, and carefully wrapped contents. Inside the box you will find nine sprues plus two hull parts in a dark green styrene, twelve in black, two in clear, a strip of poly-caps, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, and a decal sheet. The instruction booklet is glossy for the first pair of pages, with full-colour painting guide occupying the last two pages. Detail is excellent throughout, and it is clear that Meng's designers have paid careful attention to the surface texture of the cast parts. There is a definite and well-executed rolled-steel texture to the upper hull plates, and some low-key welding seams added for good measure. On the underside is a slightly different casting texture, and the turret has a pronounced texture that, with the addition of a little stippled Mr Surfacer would give good rendition of the rough-cast turret's surface. It already has a texture, but it is IMHO a little too subtle without augmentation, which isn't difficult, and it can actually be quite fun attacking the part with a stiff bristled brush daubed with Mr Surfacer. It will also help to hide the seam between upper and lower turret halves, which is on the lower edge and will be visible on the completed model. The build begins with the road wheels as you might expect, with poly-caps trapped between the twin road wheels and identical idler. The drive sprocket is made up from three parts with a choice of style for the front cog, with another poly-cap hidden within, while the return rollers are three parts due to their inclusion of their support and axle. In all you will make up sixteen road wheels, two drive sprockets and six return rollers, but there are no rubber tyres, so there's nothing to tax your circular line painting skills. The lower hull is covered with detail, but more is added in the shape of axle mounts, final drive housing and suspension bump-stops, before the shortened torsion bars with swing-arms and stub axles are added, and the wheels mounted accordingly. Then you're onto tracks, which look like fun! The tracks are provided with a clear two-part jig that holds a run of the pads in place while you glue in the track-pins from each side. However, Meng have cleverly moulded six pins in a run that are perfectly spaced to fit the holes without being removed from their sprue. This reduces the amount of work dealing with fiddly pins, which are instead liberated from their sprue run once the glue has set. Speaking of glue, you should use it sparingly for fear of gumming up the track, or worse, sticking the track to the styrene jig. Each of the 87 links per run has three sprue gates, which should be easy to clean up as they are on the curved edges of the link. The track pins are moulded in blocks of 6 in pairs marked "track pin 01" and "track pin 02" for ease of identification. Once fixed and cut loose, the ends should be easy to clean up with a sanding sponge. To close up the track runs around the wheels, just add single pins to the run to form the loop, and fix with a dot of glue. The rear bulkhead slopes down from the engine deck at a shallow angle, and carried both the gun's travel-lock and the four supports for two of the four cylindrical fuel tanks it carries. This assembly slots into the rear of the upper hull, which is also detailed with engine grilles, front and rear light clusters with protective cages and the driver's hatch. On each front fender and shaped stowage box is installed, with two three-part styrene towing ropes snaking back from the glacis mounted shackles toward the rear. More stowage sits over the rear fenders, and the four tanks are fitted to their cradles, with the seemingly ubiquitous unditching beam (tree trunk) attached to the starboard hull. The basic turret is shaped similarly to that of the T-55, but it can be fitted with a semi-conformal bustle, or a large four-part rolled tarp, depending on your choice. Either way, you'll need to drill some holes in the rear, but they're marked on the inner face, so won't tax your brain too much. The rest of the turret is festooned with vision and sighting devices, spare ammo boxes for the machine gun, with grab-handles aplenty. The aperture through which the gun projects is built up with a few additional parts to get the correct shape, and the gun is mounted to a T-shaped part with poly-caps at each end that is trapped between the upper and lower turret halves. There is no breech detail, but this is fairly standard in AFV modelling, with not much that would be seen through the hatches anyway. Speaking of which, the commander's cupola has clear vision blocks mounted on a carrier ring that is hidden inside the two-part structure, to which protective covers, a small search-light and snap-in hatch are added. The loader's simplified hatch has a snap-in hatch, which if unglued should allow them both to open and close freely, as well as rotate if you leave them unglued in the turret top. The big KPVT machine gun is a multi-part assembly with separate barrel, lifting handle, two-part breech and two piece mount attached to a complex elevation and sighting mechanism that can be posed in the raised or horizontal position by exchanging one set of rams and levers for an alternative set. The mantlet for the main gun has a searchlight (with mount) and coax machine gun added, with a short barrel shroud at the base, and a two-part barrel split vertically, to which a single-piece slide-moulded muzzle-brake and collar are added to the end. Yes… it is an impressive moulding that brought a slight smile to my face when I fished it out from the box. The build is complete by dropping the turret into the ring and locking it in place with the bayonet fitting by rotating it slightly. Markings You get four decal options in the box, although the basic scheme is Russian Green, as you'd expect from that era. Meng have tried to give some variation within that limitation though, and also give you details of the vehicles and their units, as well as the time period that the scheme was appropriate for. From the box you can build one of the following: 13th Guards Heavy Tank Division, 1st Guards Tank Army, Soviet Forces in Germany, Operation Danube, 1968 – large white cross over the turret and upper hull. 20th Independent Tank Battalion, 20th Guards Motor Division, 1st Guards Tank Army, Soviet Forces in Germany, 1972-4 – White 039 on turret back and sides. 1st Guards Tank Army, Soviet Forces in Germany, Berlin Parade, 1960 – Soviet wreath & flag on turret sides. A certain Soviet Army Unit, late 1960s to early 1970s – white 202 on turret sides. That last one is a bit vague, and Google was very little help, so you're on your own with deciphering the meaning behind it. As always with Meng, the decals have been printed for them by Cartograf, and the quality is excellent. Registration, colour density and sharpness are top notch, and the carrier film is thin, with a matt finish, cut closely around the printed edges. Conclusion As always, this is a quality piece of styrene engineering from Meng, and even the unditching log's texture impresses. They have made some very interesting strides in texturing of their models to add realism, and this one is a benchmark that many producers could aspire to. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  5. All too often these days we seem quick of the mark in complaining when things don't go the way we expect. Is never been so easy to vent our frustrations quickly and some times with out thought. So what happens when things exceed our expectations? Do we offer positive feedback in the same rapid fire mode, maybe not. Its quite refreshing there for that I do pass on my positive comments in this case to all at Creative models for offering a superb level of service. The latest example of which saw the item ordered at 1300hrs and the kit was in my hands less than 24hrs later, post free as well (if ordered over £30 in value). Every order to date I have placed has seen the same timely delivery with exception over a weekend. Great work and thank you, Rick G
  6. ZSU-23-4 Shilka Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun 1:35 Meng Models The Shilka was developed in the 60s based on a standard tracked chassis, to which a lightly armoured body and large turret containing four 23mm autocannons that were belt-fed and aimed using radar for optimum accuracy in all weathers and light levels. It was designed to fill the gap between larger longer-range missile defences and the installation it was assigned to protect, whether it was an airfield or otherwise. It is very accurate and forced a change in NATO doctrine due to its efficacy in identifying and neutralising a target. There were numerous variants, and each barrel could be fed with different ammunition, although the usual load was armour piercing tracer and incendiary fragmentation interleaved in the feed. The radar dome is mounted on the turret behind the weapons, and is a proven effective unit that picks up targets quickly at longer range and follows them until they penetrate its sphere of operation. The electro-mechanical targeting "computer" weighs in at a staggering 180kg that calculates a frighteningly accurate lead-time so that the rounds arrive on target at just the right moment. It has seen action in many conflicts, and is in service today in a wide range of countries due to its reputation for being a highly effective weapons system, and from inheritance from the Soviet Union. The Kit This is a complete new tooling from Meng, and quite a welcome sight from someone that owns the old Dragon kit and wasn't looking forward to building it. It is smothered in detail, and has a complete driver compartment under a poseable hatch, with individual link tracks, a small fret of Photo-Etch and flexible hosing to the cannons. It arrives in their usual satin finished box, which is full to the brim on lifting the lid. Inside there are nine sprues in olive green styrene plus a hull lower, four of black styrene, a clear sprue, a medium sized PE fret, a strip of poly-caps and length of very flexible vinyl tubing. A decal sheet and instruction booklet completes the package, which has the usual Meng air of quality about it. Construction begins with the hull, which includes poly-caps for the road wheels, idlers and multi-part drive sprockets. A number of holes need drilling in the detailed hull bottom, and a bulkhead with additional parts is added to the rear. The suspension mounts slot into the hull sides along with bump-stops and final drive housing, and then it's time for the tracks. The tracks are individual links and click together without the use of glue. There are three sprue gates on each link, all of which are on the mating areas, so will be quick to clean up, and there are no ejector pin marks as these have all been placed on the sprues themselves. You will need 91 links per side, which is a total of 182, so 546 sprue gates. With the tracks on, the basic chassis top with fenders is added together with some of the parts in the driver compartment, which are joined by controls, seat and clear instrument panel plus instrument decals. More instruments are added to the underside of the top deck, which has a choice of side panels with different access hatch arrangements. A selection of grilles, hatches and fender parts with the light clusters attached to the front are built up before being added to the upper hull along with a number of smaller parts plus a selection of pioneer tools, hatches, and towing ropes. These parts vary between decal options, so take care when building these sections up. After attaching the upper hull to the lower, the aft bulkhead is detailed with a set of mudguards, a curved grille that is made up using a two part jig (I love these little touches in Meng kits), more tow cables and a large bracket for the unditching beam, which is held in place by two pins and a couple of PE chains. The turret to the Shilka is complex, and construction begins with the four autocannon, which have finely moulded flash-hiders at their tips, with very thin muzzles. These attach to the breeches, and lengths of vinyl hose are added, with dimensions given in the accompanying text. The two pairs of cannon are linked up and surrounded by a perforated box section, with a scrap diagram showing the correct routing of the hoses once complete. The turret body is then built up, and here you need to take careful note of the hole drilling diagram, which has different diameters as well as different patterns depending on your decal choice. The roof, sides and rear are assembled, then the cannon pack is added along with the bays on either side where the ammo feeds are located. These can be left visible by leaving the top covers open later in the build. The lower turret and turret ring are then added, and a pair of cheek compartments, hatch covers, cupolas and the big radar assembly are constructed before being added to the main assembly over the next six steps. The last three steps show the correct equipment for each decal option, so again take care following these. The finished turret can then be inserted into the ring on the hull, twisting it to lock it in place. Markings There appear to be only four markings options on first glance, but there are actually nine, as three types have two or three different schemes provided. A wide range of schemes are included that should satisfy most modellers without resorting to their own research and decals. From the box you can build one of the following: ZSU-23-4V1 55th anniversary Parade on Red Square, November 1972 – Russian Green with white striping and hub caps. ZSU-23-4V1 A certain unit, Polish Army 2010 – Russian green with 0388 on the turret. ZSU-23-4V1 A certain unit, Far Eastern Military District, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation "Peace Mission 2014", joint anti-terror military Drill 2014 – Sand, green and black camo, Russian flag on the hull sides. ZSU-23-4M No.505 Anti-aircraft Battalion, 324th Motorised Rifle Regiment, Ural Military District, the First Chechen War, 1995-1996 – Russian green with lighter green camo, 505 on the hull sides. ZSU-23-4M A certain unit, National People's Army, the former German Democratic Republic – Dark green with GDR symbol and 2613 on the turret. ZSU-23-4M2 Marines of the Black Sea Fleet, 2011 – Russian green with light green camo and black demarcation strips. ZSU-23-4MZ No.185 Anti-aircraft battalion, 105th Motorised Rifle Regiment, Ural Military District, 1998 – Russian green, mid green and blue/grey camo, 185 on the hull sides. ZSU-23-4MZ No.822 Anti-aircraft Battalion, 341st Tank Regiment, Ural Military District, 1997 – Green, light green, orange brown camo, with 822 on the hull sides. ZSU-23-4MZ No.370 Soviet troops in Afghanistan, 1988 – Light green with black camo, white 370 on the turret sides. Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Two instrument panel decals and a couple of data placards are included along with the national and unit markings. Conclusion This is now the definitive Shilka in this scale, with lots of detail, a diverse decal sheet covering multiple variants, and a comprehensive package that includes everything most modellers will need to build a good representation of this efficient killer. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  7. Wine Bottles & Wooden Crates 1:35 MiniArt Dioramas. They always look better with some personalisation, as do AFVs and softskins. What could be more personal than some looted (or otherwise) booze that has been liberated from an abandoned pub, or the cellar of a ruined mansion. Simulated glass can be hard to replicate yourself, but injection moulding or clear resin moulding makes your life a little easier. Along comes MiniArt with a set of wine bottle AND the crates to put them in. Not only that, but they come with decals to replicate labels and crate stencils! Arriving in a figure-sized end-opening box, inside you get six sprues each of transparent green and red styrene, plus twelve sprues in an orange/tan styrene, and you can doubtless guess which ones the crates are made up from. The transparent sprues have sixteen bottles of two shapes each, giving you 96 green, 96 red bottles and 12 crates in which to put them, if that's your goal. The decal sheet gives you 144 labels of 9 types, plus 19 stencils for crates, most of which are French, with one type German. Additionally, you get five German Eagle symbols with the Swastika, although only half of the Swastika is printed, probably to save problems in certain territories where displaying Nazi symbolism is unlawful. You will have to paint the bottle foils, corks and caps yourself, but that's not too arduous a task, a description that can also apply to the location of the sprue gates on the bottles, which is on their bottoms, so easy to clean up. If you intend to depict a few on their sides, a touch with a drill bit should make the necessary indent to give the correct look. The crates are the only part of the kit that needs assembly as such, and this is detailed on the back of the box. The outer surface is built up from four parts, then the divides are made up and it is all brought together with the base to complete the process. The parts are all textured with wood grain and nail heads, so should respond well to painting and possibly a little dry-brushing to bring out the detail. Applying the stencils with some decal solution will help them settle down over the texture of the wood, but as they are pleasingly thin, the carrier film should almost disappear after clear coat. Conclusion A useful addition to any AFV model or diorama that has been carefully thought out to ease construction and finishing. Review sample courtesy of
  8. Railroad Water Crane (35567) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models We're on diorama fodder today, and if you saw my review the other week of the rail track here, this might be something of interest. MiniArt's latest is a railroad water crane that trains used to fill up their water tanks from at the side of the track. They were a common site around the railways of the world until Diesel and electric locomotives became more numerous, but have since almost disappeared. The kit arrives in a long custom-shaped end-opening box, and inside are three sprues in grey styrene, plus one in clear, and a small bundle of grey thread. Construction information is covered on the back of the box, and begins with the support column, which is split vertically, and in its lower sections is conical. A number of additional parts stack on top of the conical section, along with a couple of fine levers that are used in the operation of the crane. The column is topped with a dome-shaped casting, from which a support wire stretches out to the feeder tube. Two lamps attach to the top of the arm with clamps, both lanterns made up from two clear parts each that are painted transparent red. The final section of the feeder arm is able to rotate around its end for fine-tuning of the nozzle, and this is held in place by a pin, so with careful gluing could be left mobile. On the real thing the nozzle is moved using a pulley and rope, which is where the cord comes in. Two lengths are used, one hanging down for the operator to pull upon, and another running from a transfer box to the end of the nozzle. On the base is a cut-off valve set into a flat plate, which is bolted down onto a (presumably) concrete base. Painting instructions are given throughout the build as numbers linked to a paint chart at the bottom of the instructions, which gives you options for AMMO, Vallejo, Testors, Tamiya, Humbrol, Revell, Mr Color, LifeColor and plain-old colour names, so you shouldn't be left scratching for the right shade. Conclusion An excellent addition to any railway based diorama. I have one formulating in my mind already involving a King Tiger and the railway track, or perhaps it'll end up next to my BR52 someday. Review sample courtesy of
  9. British Infantry – Somme Period, 1916 1:35 Master Box Ltd Master Box have seen a market for some well-sculpted, modern mouldings of WWI soldiers, that will be a must-have to anyone building the rash of newly tooled WWI armour that we are currently blessed with. The old Emhar figures are nice, but limited in stance, so without surgery you'll be in for a lot of work. This set arrives in the de facto standard figure shaped box with a painting of the included figures on the front, and parts breakdown with pictorial instructions on the rear. On opening the end of the box, you're greeted by a re-sealable bag containing one large sprue and one smaller one containing all the parts you'll need to build five figures in fairly relaxed non-combat stances. Contrary to the sprue photos on the back of the box, the styrene is grey, which shows off the contours and captures all the detail that has been included in the kit. All figures are standing, with four standing upright in a pose that suggests they're taking a breather from a trudge somewhere, which could explain the fifth figure, who appears to be giving directions, having one arm outstretched, pointing behind him. He is also dressed as an officer, having a greatcoat and swagger stick, with a pistol on a belt at his waist. The other figures have their fatigues over which are the sleeveless leather jackets that gave some level of weather and wear resistance to their torsos. Some are open, while others are buttoned up, and weapons are slung over shoulders and rested butt-first on the ground. Weapons include a Lewis gun and Lee Enfields with and without bayonets fitted. Various bags and pouches are also included, both for rifle ammo and the dinner-plate style drum mags for the Lewis gun, which one of the soldiers is shown carrying in the instructions. Torsos, legs, arms and heads are all separate parts, with coat-tails also separate for a more realistic in-scale feel, with helmets, weapons and load-out also separate, which gives the modeller some scope for individualising each figure without too much work. The sculpting is first rate, and the sheer detail of each part is stunning, from the smallest pucker in the corner of a bag to belts that cut into the shoulder, plus realistic drape of the clothing. Conclusion Master Box have a superb range of figures, and this set is both timely and very well done. If you want to add a sense of scale to your WWI armour, this set will do just that. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  10. French VBL Armoured Car with MILAN 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models The VBL is France's answer to the light armoured car, which was quite forward-looking, as it was designed in the 80s with mine protection as one of the prime requirements along with efficiency, 4-wheel drive, NBC and small arms resistance. It was also engineered to amphibious and although it is by no means quick in the water, it still crosses rivers better than a HUMVEE if the bridge is out! As it is light, it is both fuel efficient and capable of being air dropped into the field, which makes it a very useful vehicle. Introduced in the 90s it has gone on to see service in many hot zones both in France's former colonies as well as with the UN banner on its doors. A surprising number of derivatives and variants have been created to fulfil different subsections of the light armoured car role, which is facilitated by a number of different body shells, plus a lengthened chassis. VBL stands for Véhicule Blindé Léger, which translates directly to light armoured car, and it is made in France by Panhard, a company with experience in this market and now owned by automotive giant Renault. The Kit This is almost a carbon copy of the initial release without the Milan fit, reviewed here in May of this year (2016). The main difference apart from the boxtop artwork extends to one small sprue of parts, the small decal sheet, and of course the markings sheet. In the box you get six sprues in an olive styrene, plus three separately moulded parts in the same colour, nestling inside a card divide with four "rubber" tyres, a small decal sheet, two identical clear sprues, and a simple Photo-Etch (PE) sheet. The instruction booklet is standard black & white fare, and the single sided colour and decal instruction sheet are on glossy paper. Construction follows the same path as the original with the notable exception of the MILAN Anti-Tank Guided Missile fitment on the rear roof of the vehicle, giving the lightly armed patrol vehicle the capability to take on armoured or hardened targets if the need arises. The base straddles the rear of the vehicle and locates on a pair of moulded in pips, with the rotation point suspended above the roof to clear the top hatch. The missile launch tube fits on top of a compact mount, which although small is well-detailed. Three additional rounds are supplied for the interior of the vehicle, fitted within their launch tubes, which are discarded after firing to be replaced by a new one. Also on the new sprue is a large container with rounded corners, the purpose of which isn't immediately obvious. Markings There is only one markings option for this boxing, which is the more traditional NATO Green/Black/Earth scheme, and as usual with Hobby Boss you don't get to know any background information about the vehicle portrayed. The decals are of good quality and should settle down well enough, and there are four decals including instrument binnacle to be applied to the driver's station. Conclusion A nice simple variation on the original theme, which adds a little interest on the roofline. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  11. Hobby Boss

    Mig-31 Foxhound 1:48 HobbyBoss The Mig-31 is an incredible machine even today, but was innovative and even more impressive when it was first brought into service, delivering on the failed promises of the Mig-25 Foxbat, and adding more capabilities. Its job as an interceptor and missile truck was carried out with aplomb, and it was one of the first aircraft to be able to shoot down cruise missiles from above. Carrying two pilots, with twin engines and tails, it was capable of flying supersonic at low levels due to the strength of the airframe, and had a capable radar system to detect all manner of threats. I'm using the past tense here, but the aircraft is still in service in Russia, and although they are scheduled to be retired, the date is not yet set in stone. The Kit Until recently modellers in 1:48 scale had little choice when it came to the Foxhound, but now they have two modern new toolings. I have reviewed and built the other kit, so it will be interesting to compare and contrast the two as we go along, but first impressions are good, with a lot of detail included, including a set of partial metal landing gear, good use of slide-moulding, and a sensible parts break-down. There are twenty two sprues of varying sizes in grey styrene, two sprues of clear parts, two frets of Photo-Etch (PE) parts, seven pieces of white metal, six black "rubber" tyres, two decal sheets, a single fuselage part with a cardboard protector over the aft section, instruction booklet and two separate sheets for the painting and decaling of the airframe and included weapons. As already mentioned, the detail in the box looks to be excellent, with a few immediate differences noticeable. Firstly, the interior of the intake trunking is portrayed differently, and the clear parts aren't tinted gold, so you'll have to do that yourself. There also isn't a separate canopy for the closed option, so you will have to fit them carefully if you wish to go down that route. Oddly, the panel lines on the fuselage that will be under the wing are raised, which I will look into later, but seemed strange. There are only a few there, and most of the are straight, but if they turn out to be incorrect, it's on a few minutes work. Initially, the fuselage also appears to be shorter than the competitor, but this is because more of the intake trunking is included on a separate assembly with the bleed-vents on the top causing the apparent difference. The partial metal gear should give it sufficient strength to support its own weight, which has been a problem in the past that has lately affected my built-up. This is a BIG model. Construction begins with the cockpit, which has nicely detailed seats with moulded in seatbelts, instrument panels and side consoles with decals, as well as decals for instruments that are embedded in the sidewall inserts. The cockpit is then installed in the nose, which is where another difference appears. The nose is split vertically down the centre, and has the nose cone moulded in, which although different, I can't seem to muster an opinion as to whether it is better or worse. We'll just call it different. The coaming is well-detailed with PE HUD supports and clear parts adding further to the complexity. The instructions tell you to install the fixed portions of the canopy at this stage, which is no bad thing, as the canopy struts stick up beyond the sills. The intakes are then built up from fewer main parts, with the outer wall simply thicker, rather than using two thicknesses, which removes one of the seams to tidy. The bleed-vents are separate parts and install in the top using a small tab and hole for accuracy. The intake trunks are depicted to full depth, and have raised outlines of the shapes that are actually indented into the trunks on the real thing. This is a major saving on tooling from a production point of view, but is a negative as far as accuracy is concerned, but if you're fitting intake blanks or suspect no-one will notice, it's probably a fair assumption to make. The main gear bays are made up in a similar manner to the other kit, as is the nose gear bay and its gear leg, which has a metal core that also includes the angled end section of the leg, which should make it more robust. Gear bay detail should be good once painted and weathered. The three bays are glued inside the fuselage lower, along with a recessed box for the 8TK IRSK that sits out at the front of the lower fuselage section, and is added later in the stowed position. The nose assembly is then added to the front of the fuselage, which was a bit of a surprise. This makes a little more sense when the intakes and their trunking are then added along with a blanking plate/bulkhead with engine faces installed, allowing you to line everything up. It might be wise to place the upper wing/fuselage part at this stage, to ensure your joints are all aligned and there are no horrible gaps or steps. The majority of the upper fuselage is attached to the upper wing panel, which is of course full width, and has strengthening ribs inside to prevent flexing, plus a set of exhaust bulkheads that will be used later. The lower wing fixes to the underside, with the leading-edge slats moulded-in, while the trailing-edge control surfaces are separate parts, with different locating pegs to be removed if you are posing them deployed or stowed, which saves wasting additional parts. This assembly is then dropped onto the fuselage, creating the almost complete airframe, which just needs the tail feathers and engines, plus a number of other smaller parts of course. The exhausts are familiar, with a multi-stage tube assembled from three cylindrical parts, plus flame-holder for the afterburner and the rear face of the engine in each tube. Careful painting is needed, and some pictures of the real thing show some sections are a Russian green shade, although this varies, and isn't throughout the exhaust, so don't be misled by the instructions. Check your references before you commit to a totally green exhaust interior. The parapack is a two-part assembly that is split horizontally for easier alignment, and fits to the rear of the spine on two small pins with corresponding holes in the deck. The elevators are each single parts, due to their slim profile, and should (in general) be posed level when parked up, but can pivot around their axle if you feel the urge. The twin tails are each two equal parts that avoids too-thick plastic that can lead to sink-marks that might mar the detail, but there are many fewer rivets depicted than the real McCoy, which are quite noticeable, and often have distinctive weathering that would be tricky to achieve without them as a guide. Adding them won't require too much effort, but it would have been nice to have them there from the outset. The raised rivets on the leading edges are also absent, and unless you have some Archer 3D rivet transfers, they'll be a little harder to add, and the bullet-fairings that house the various systems also seem simplified, and look like they have been copied from one tail to the other, when they should be asymmetrical. It will take some modelling skill to replicate these correctly, which might grate a little if you weren't expecting to have to engage in this type of work. The instructions then have you building up the canopies, which they have taken an interesting route to completion. The outer canopy is of course clear, but has some detail moulded-in, and has only an outer surround added in grey styrene. That initially seems like an over-simplification until you notice the number of small PE parts that are added to the inside of the canopy to represent the strips that hold the green insulation material in place. To make your life easier, bend these parts to shape and then "glue" them with your favourite acrylic gloss varnish, as using CA could end up with a fogged canopy, which no-one wants. A complete interior skin would make the painting part easier, but this method results in a more scale-thickness canopy structure, so if you take your time with the paint brush, it should look just about right when you finish. The pilot's canopy is more simple, but has a set of rear-view mirrors added in PE, and both fit by their rear edge to the airframe, and rest on the rams that hold them to the correct angle. They have also moulded the co-pilot's pop-up rear-view mirror in clear, so with an undercoat on the rear of chrome, it should have a more realistic look if you opt to post it raised. The landing gear is designed for rough-field handling, and has an inboard/outboard pair of wheels on the main legs, which splay outward slightly, putting quite a lot of stress on the scale-replica legs, so strength is needed, and initially was absent from the other recent model of this type. The designers have provided limited metal gear for this kit, including a metal core to the main leg, a metal bogey (with plastic parts), and a metal bracing strut that should give adequate staying power to prevent the Foxhound from taking a squat on your display shelf. The plastic parts provide the cosmetic details, and the smaller jacks and struts are also styrene, as they hold no structural weight. Coupled with the metal nose-gear core, the legs should be good for extended duty. The wheels have styrene hubs and a slightly flexible black plastic tyre, which has tread moulded in (a rarity from the pictures I have seen), as well as some nice sidewall detail. They would benefit from some careful painting, as the black is a little too dark for the real world, but for the novice, they could be used as is after a scrub of the contact surface with a sanding stick. Underneath the fuselage the gun blister is constructed from two parts and glued to the slot on the starboard fuselage side, while the lower intake flaps are added in either dropped (for extra air intake) or raised positions as you see fit, including their straight or kinked actuator fairings. The large air-brake/gear bay doors are also inserted into their hinge-points and struts, with recessed detail on the inner face, and the nose wheel receives a nicely moulded mud-guard that straddles the ends of its axle. The rest of the gear bay doors are then added along with their struts and some nice PE parts. The nose gear's front door has three holes for the landing lights, which are separate clear parts that are fitted from behind, making it easy to give them nice shiny reflectors, although the designers still haven't managed to avoid ejector pins in the rear. A profusion of aerials, probes and intakes are fitted to the underside and nose of the beast, with Angle-of-Attack (AoA) probes on the sides of the nose in PE, as well as some of the others that will be most visible. Of note is the lack of refuelling probe option on this boxing, but unless I'm imagining it, there appears to be a spot for it, so we will perhaps see at least another boxing with the probe and a few other subtle differences. Let's hope they adjust those tail fins. Now for the fun parts – the weapons. This starts with the wing pylons, which are built up from two halves each, and fit into pre-drilled holes in the underside of the wing panels. If you are fitting the big R-33 missiles on the semi-recessed belly stations you will need to remove the tops of two raised sections on the fuselage underside, so if that's the plan it would be sensible to do that before you start, to avoid any unnecessary cursing later. There are no fancy single-part mouldings with the missiles, which I was on the fence about anyway, as you double up on the seams to scrape, so I won't lament their loss, but simply comment on the difference. The R-33s build up from two halves with two fins moulded-in, the other two added to the slots, and the steering vanes added at the rear. The two folded-over vanes are shown as "optional", which isn't the case unless you are showing a missile in flight or on a rack. The vanes fold over next to the fuselage to prevent the two interfering, so ensure that the "top" two nearest the shackle-points receive those parts, and if in doubt, check your references. Each of the four missiles has a connecting plate added to the shackles, and they are then glued into the belly recesses. For the wing pylons you have some choices, so either follow the load-out guide, check your references, or pick a selection that you think looks good – entirely your choice! 4 x R-60 AA-8 Aphid infrared short range A2A missile on twin launch rail adapter 2 x R-40T AA-6 Acrid infrared medium range A2A missiles 2 x R-40R AA-6 Acrid radar medium range A2A missiles 2 x Fuel tanks with pylon adapters All of the missiles are supplied in halves, so take care in aligning the parts to minimise the clean-up work after the glue has set, and take care in adding the separate fins, steering vanes and exhausts to ensure they are all square. Markings There are three markings options supplied in the box, although a full complement of digits in three flavours are included if you want to depart from the sheet. The markings are spread over two decal sheets, with a lot of stencils applied, which given the size of the diagrams and the profusion of numbers and lines, is going to be a little tricky without magnification. There are a good range of instrument decals provided though, which should help in making the cockpit look its best, and the missiles are supplied with stencils too. Without wishing to make you spend your hard-earned money on aftermarket before you've even broken the seals on the bags, I would heartily recommend the wet transfer stencil set from HGW (248025), which although intended for the other kit, would fit this kit too, and would leave you with no carrier film to disguise. The drawings are bigger too! If I can't tempt you, the stencils included in the kit are of good quality, and with a little care, the carrier film can be hidden with the application of a few coats of gloss varnish and cautious sanding. The pink Germetika sealant decals are also missing from this boxing, and as the ground crews slap it on all over the place, it would be useful to add this during painting and masking. The rest of the decals are sharp, in good register and with suitably dense colours to prevent bleed-through of the paint underneath. From the box you can build one of the following: 24 Blue 61 Blue 174th Safanov GvIAP, 6th OA, "Boris Safonov" red 08 All aircraft are medium grey (see AKAN for the perfect colours), and have the obligatory National markings of red stars on the wings and tail surfaces. The last option appears to have more information than the others for no apparent reason, and also has the name Борис Сафонов (Boris Safanov) in red on the intake sides under a blue flash. Safanov was a decorated pilot during WWII, flying 234 combat missions before being lost in the sea after his P-40 came down after a dogfight. He was awarded the Order of the Red Banner three times, the order of Lenin, Hero of the Soviet Union, and even a British Distinguished Flying Cross and is still remembered in aviation circles. Conclusion I knew from the start that this was going to be a difficult conclusion to write, as the kit has a lot to recommend it, but also has some flaws such as the tail ironwork and the oddly detailed intake trunking. It is up against stiff competition, and for the most part it comes across as a well thought out kit, but loses marks for the errors and simplifications. Little things such as the lack of the large circular decal from the tail and over-busy decal guide also conspire against it, losing it critical points along the way. As a norm we don't discuss prices in our reviews, as these vary massively once the discounters get hold of a kit, but at the retail price point, it is difficult to recommend over… you know, the other one. If you find one at a good price and the aspects I have mentioned don't bother you or you fancy a crack at fixing them, you could pick one up and it will build up to a model that will impress all but the accuracy obsessed and those that know the airframe well. None of the flaws I have picked up on are fatal, but together they do the kit no favours. Our sincere thanks to our friends at Creative for letting us have this review sample. Review sample courtesy of
  12. European Tracks & Concrete Telegraph Poles 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models MiniArt are masters of diorama details, making figures, vacformed backdrops and styrene kits of unusual things such as these two kits featured today. Both are of the latter type, being moulded in grey styrene, and are intended to provide you with easily constructed infrastructure to give your diorama bases relevance. Concrete telegraph Poles (35563) This kit arrives in a long end-opening box with a selection of four types of posts on the front. Inside are four sprues with the same basic post, which is lightened with rectangular holes, with a choice of four different tops in the shape of a pair of insulators on one side, a T-piece with an insulator on both sides, a stack of five insulators on each side, and a lamp post with a short pendant lamp hanging from a decorative fixing on each side. From the box you can build four of the first three types, but only two of the latter lamps, unless you fit one lamp to each post. You can of course mix and match to suit yourself. The clear parts provide four glass domes for the lamps, plus four clear light bulbs for that extra bit of realism, which is a neat little addition. The parts are crisply moulded, and slide-moulding has been used to create a one-piece dome for the lamp, but the concrete posts don't have any texture to them. Initially this seems a shame, but when you think that you will be joining the two halves together and hiding the seams, this gives you the opportunity to stipple a texture pattern with liquid glue or Mr Surfacer after you have finished hiding the seams. A cool accessory that stands 200mm tall when completed. European Gauge Railway Track (35561) This set arrives in a top-opening box, and contains eight sprues in grey styrene. On each sprue are five differently textured wooden track ties/sleepers, which have the bottom parts of the rail shoulder-plates, to which you add the bolt-on shoulders after adding the rails. Each rail is 170mm long, and has small pips on the bottom at regular intervals to match corresponding depressions on the shoulder-plates, making spacing a doddle. The rails also have keyed ends to join two parts together to get the correct spacing between the connecting fishplates. The fishplates have their bolts moulded-in, but the track ends have holes that match pips on the back of the fishplate parts, which fit one on each side. The finished length of track from the box is 686mm, which should be plenty for at least one diorama unless you think BIG! If you were to need more, the track is designed so that successive sets will interlink seamlessly one after the other. Adding the ballast to the track is your responsibility, but the likes of Deluxe Materials produce ballast that you can mix with powdered adhesive, then wet it to lock the ballast in place once you are happy with your work. Review sample courtesy of
  13. Hobby Boss

    Su-27 Flanker B 1:48 Hobby Boss The Su-27 and sibling Mig-29 were developed as a complementary pair of heavy and lighter fighters to combat the F-15 that was in development as the F-X at the time. It first flew in 1977, but encountered serious problems that resulted in some fairly spectacular crashes, some of which were fatal, but with persistence and successive rounds of improvements it came on strength with the Russian air force in 1985, but was still plagued with problems that prevented it from being seen in operational service for a further five years, and it is known as the Su-27S or Flanker B by the NATO countries. A navalised Flanker was also put into development, but that's a whole 'nother model. It proved to be a capable fighter, and after the fall of the Berlin wall, Russia continued its development, with other variants incorporating improvements, and wholesale conversions leading to other marks entirely, such as the SU-30, Su-33 and Su-34 with side-by-side pilot seating. The Flanker continues to impress the crowds at airshows with the controversial (for some reason) and contagious Cobra manoeuver that caused quite a stir when first seen. Sukhoi had a number of export successes, and China also manufactured Flankers under license as the Shengyang J-11 after an initial delivery of Russian built airframes. The Kit This is a newly tooled kit from Hobby Boss and arrives in a large top opening box with a Flanker flying across the front. Inside you are greeted by a card insert with the two fuselage halves and their blended wings secured to it by coated wire, twisted around the nose, tail and wings. The nose and tail are further protected by a wrapping of thin foam, while the delicate parts of the wingtips are surrounded by a detachable sprue for good measure. Under the insert are fifteen more sprues of various sizes in the same grey styrene, two clear sprues, a small fret of what looks to be Photo-Etch (PE) stainless steel, or something similar. There are also three black "rubber" tyres, and two decal sheets plus of course the instruction booklet and two separate glossy pages detailing the painting and decaling. The fuselage and wings strapped to the insert in the top of the box as a monolithic chunk of plastic is impressive, and having a look over it whilst perusing photos of the real thing, it seems to be ticking the boxes in terms of shape, although it's still tricky to be 100% about that when big chunks of the airframe are still on the sprues. That said, there are no immediate alarm-bells going off, so I'm hoping this turns out to be a more complete job than their recent Mig-31 that was a little disappointing. Construction starts with the cockpit, which is well detailed and has a multi-part seat, rudder pedals and control column, plus decals for all the main instrument panels. The instructions switch straight to building up the landing gear, as the nose gear is held in place by the addition of the gear bay to the lower fuselage, so they must have decided they might as well get you to build the main gear too. The gear legs are multi-part affairs, and the nose leg has the characteristic mud-guard and landing lights attached, the former in two parts that close around the nose wheel. The wheels are all two-part hubs with those black rubberised tyres, which have tread pattern moulded in, although no sidewall detail is present. Speaking purely personally, I would replace these with resin parts, as the plastic of the tyre seems rather slick and may have difficulty taking paint, as well as the usual detail improvements that resin provides. The cockpit is installed from the underside in the upper fuselage, while the nose gear with the two exhaust trunks are placed in the lower half. The trunking is blanked off at the front by a simulated engine rear, and a slightly chunky-looking flame holder for the afterburner. That's it! The fuselage can go together, and if the dry-fit is anything to go by, there should be little if any clean-up to do. The leading edge slats and flaps are separate, and adding them completes the wings, while the elevators fit to the rear at the side of the exhausts. The twin stabs have separate rudders and asymmetrical detail at the trailing edge, which is as it should be, and if you'd read the Mig-31 review, you'll know why it's worth a mention. You then have a choice of either open or constricted exhaust petals, which are both single parts per side, but one of my constricted parts had a tiny under-shot in the lip, which could be fixed fairly easily with a little putty and re-shaping, but it is worth checking your copy before you add it to the loft insulation. The rear section of the engine pods are moulded into the fuselage, but the forward section is separate, with a detailed roof section, and a built-in FOD (Foreign Object Debris) screen blocking your view of the intake fan for the engines, which are supplied anyway. These fit onto ledges at the front of the fuselage-bound aft sections, with a cut-out over each main wheel bay, allowing you to fit the pre-prepared legs at this point if you wish. Each main gear bay has two doors, which have their actuator jacks included, as does the main nose gear bay, with the smaller rear door captive to the trailing retraction jack. The nose cone is a single part, and has plenty of space for a nose weight if you think it will be necessary, although the instructions don't mention it. The canopy is also added at this stage, which is broken down into windscreen section with a clear bulb for the windscreen mounted sensor added as a separate part, and the canopy which has opening equipment depicted, as well as the PE rear-view mirrors. The canopy is correctly blown in front profile, which requires a three-part mould, so there is a seam on the top of the canopy that you will need to sand away and then polish back to clarity. The windscreen part seems to suffer a bit from distortion around the curved section at the lower edges where it meets the framing, but a dip in Klear might help alleviate this to an extent. Add a few probes and sensors, and that's the airframe built. No modern fighter would be complete without a selection of weapons to hang under its wings and fuselage, and the Su-27 is not short of stations, with three under each wing and another four under the fuselage. Of course, they're seldom all populated, so check your references, choose a layout from the diagram on the back page, or just make one up that looks cool to you, and shrug your shoulders when someone tells you it's not representative. It's your model! In the box you get the following types: 4 x R-73E (AA-11 Archer) short range A2A missile. 4 x R-27R (AA-10 Alamo-A) semi-active radar homing medium to long range A2A missile. 4 x R-27ER (AA-10 Alamo-C) semi-active radar homing extended range A2A missile. The smaller Archers are single part bodies with top & bottom fins moulded-in, and the side fins as separate parts, with a clear seeker head and additional exhaust part. The Alamo missile bodies are split vertically with the same method for adding the additional fins. The wing tip launch rails can be swapped out for streamlined ECM pods at your option, so again check your references. Markings You get two markings options from the box, both of which have a rather blue theme, but are different enough to appeal to a lot of folks, and overall the decals of of good quality, however the blue seems to be slightly out of register, which affects the black-outlined "14" and the white outlined "10", and would benefit from a dot of matching blue paint for the former, and a careful trim for the latter. From the box you can build one of the following, but as usual you don't get much information on the where and when these schemes were carried: Blue 14 – Three-tone pale blue/mid-blue/grey camouflage. Blue 10 – Two-tone pale blue/mid-blue camouflage with a red/blue/white stripe and shield on the port outer stab. If you are a stickler for detail, you might want to invest in some Su-27 Stencils from Begemot (48009(1)), as you can bank on those being comprehensive, and the instructions will be a little easier to follow without the national markings on the same diagram. The second sheet provides cockpit decals, which have instruments and details, but no background colour to match your paint to (which is a good thing), and a substantial number of stripes and stencils for the included missiles. Conclusion This seems to be a promising release of a model that has been needed to replace the rather archaic Academy kit for some time now. Detail is good, and the shape also seems to be too, although the true proof of the pudding will be in the building. I think I have some Eduard resin wheels somewhere. Consider me tempted. Highly recommended. Currently discounted at time of writing! Review sample courtesy of
  14. Russian Main Battle Tank T-72B3 1:35 Meng Model The T-72 was the ultimate replacement of the poorly engineered T-64, which was over-ambitious for its era, so struggled with the requirements placed on it by the Russian hierarchy. After much improvement on the flawed original it became such a different beast that they renamed it, after even the hull was re-engineered to take the punishment of the improved power plant. The new T-72 (Objekt 172M) suffered from teething problems however, and initial deliveries were slow, plagued with issues until the factories were properly tooled up and the production started to run smoothly. Along with the earlier T-55 it became one of the most commonly used tanks of the Soviet Union, and has been in service for years with many upgrades and variants. The T-72B was introduced in the mid-80s with improved armour, a new engine with more power, and a complete overhaul of the main gun system from sights to stabilizer. The B3 variant was a substantial upgrade to the previous versions, beginning in 2010 and took reserve tanks, overhauled the systems that would be retained, and replaced many of the electronics, especially the sensor suite that would improve survivability on the modern battlefield. The hull and running gear were also upgraded with new tracks that have two pins instead of the earlier one, and the crew/hardware are protected by an improved fire suppression system. The gun hasn't escaped improvement, and the auto-loader that reduced the crew to three has been improved to feed the new 2A46M5 gun, which fires kinetic penetrator rounds in a discarding sabot outer, similar to the western tanks. Entering service in 2013 there are now over 500 in use, which is increasing as time goes by. The Kit A new tool from Meng, who seem to be moving fast with the new releases at the moment, with Russian/Soviet armour their current vogue. The recent BMPT Terminator that we reviewed in 2014 here used the T-72 chassis as a base, so some of the parts will be common to this kit, and there's hope that more variants will be forthcoming in due course to maximise their returns on the basic moulds. The box is typical Meng, with a satin finish, but the lower carton has been strengthened to a substantial degree to protect the contents, which is good to see, as many modellers stack their models in the stash and a weak box is a pain if the piles are large. Inside the box are fifteen sprues in green styrene; a sprue of flexible styrene in the same colour; two hull parts and the turret top; a clear sprue; a black sprue containing jigs for construction; seven sprues of black styrene track links and seven sprues of the interlinking end-caps in flexible black styrene; a length of braided synthetic string (not pictured); a run of black poly-caps; two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass; a clear suspension positioning tool; decals, and the usual glossy instruction booklet with painting and marking guide to the rear. It's a Meng kit, so of course the first impression is one of a professionally presented and highly detailed model. There's a lot of detail included in the box, and the construction proceeds logically, which as you'd expect begins with the road wheels, idlers and drive sprockets, all of which have poly-caps trapped between the inner and outer portions. Return rollers and suspension parts are added to the lower hull at the same time as the self-entrenching tool is installed in the lower glacis. The suspension is torsion-bar driven on the real thing, and this is replicated in styrene here, with long bars going through the lower hull and short swing-arms holding the stub axles at their ends. A clear styrene tool is provided to get everything in alignment here, so that if you are electing to have your suspension un-deflected, everything will touch the ground. With the rear bulkhead detail panel added along with some spare track links, the road wheels are pushed into place on the by-now cured suspension, and that leads us to the tracks. The tracks are the same design as those for the Terminator, and have three jigs to facilitate construction. Firstly, the guide horns are cut from their sprue and here the instructions tell you to leave them in pairs with a little piece of sprue between them. I had to test this theory, as it looked rather unwieldy to me, and I did indeed find it so when I attempted the first run of six links. For the second run of six, I removed the horns and cleaned up their sprue gate marks first, then clipped them onto the links via the moulded-in pins that run the full width of the links, whilst holding them on the jig J3. It was less fiddly, and a knack was soon stumbled on to get them clipped together. With six links on the jig, a top part J2 is clipped over the lower, holding the links in place. You then insert a section of sprue containing five flexible styrene end-caps into the third part of the jog J1, and cut them loose with a sharp blade. These are then offered en-masse to the pins on one side of the tracks, pushing in only one way due to the shape of the keys on the sides of the jigs. Here you have to be careful to insert the end-caps in the correct orientation according to the scrap diagrams in this section. Optionally, you can finally install a set of track-pads to finish off the length, or leave them rough and ready for cross-country work. They fit into recesses in the outer surface of the links, and glue in quite easily, but be sparing with it, as you'll ruin all your work if the glue gets into the pins. In conclusion on the tracks, they are fiddly, delicate and really require your full attention, so don't expect to have them finished in an hour. I was already speeding up production by the time I'd made the 2nd run of six, and the results are worth the effort, being detailed and workable, but be prepared to put in the effort – you need 2 runs of 81 links. With the tracks out of the way, attention turns to the upper hull, which is based on the large part as seen in the sprue pictures. The raised portions for the driver's compartment, the turret ring armoured sections, PE engine grilles, optional armoured covers, and the exhaust are added to the upper, with a detail insert forming the glacis, plus fuel and equipment stowage covering the majority of the length of the fenders. The shaped front mudguard is delicately moulded with thinner edges to give a more scale look, and has the rebound hinges as separate parts added before they are glued to the front of the fenders. At the rear a smaller pair of simple fenders are installed, and the engine deck is completed with more parts, including another pair of PE grilles. The light clusters are built up and added, as are the four holders for the additional fuel drums, with a larger light cluster at the front, and the rear unditching beam added later, moulded from a single part with plenty of bark detail. The side skirts are multi-parts, with lots of detail moulded on, and they have further ERA blocks to the front, which hang off a trio of brackets that are glued to the sides of the skirts first. Back to the rear, and a pair of towing cables are fabricated from 100mm lengths of the synthetic cord, added to styrene towing eyes and wrapped around the drum supports. Speaking of drums, there are two of these included in the box, with five parts each, which can be added to the curved supports if you so wish, or left in the spares box for later. If you use them, open up a few small holes as instructed, and fit the hosing loom to the front for added realism. The turret is always a fun part of the build for me, and this one starts with the big barrel, which is built up in sections, some of which are moulded complete, while the longer sections are split vertically and will require careful alignment and seam sanding to get a nice tubular barrel. There is no interior other than the commander's instrument panel at the front of his hatch, so the turret lower is used to close up the assembly early, after which a host of ERA blocks are glued all over the place, which is why the bare turret looks like it has already been shot up, as well as bearing little resemblance to the shape of the finished article. Equipment, grab-handles, smoke grenade dispenser and sensors are dotted around between the armour, and the mantlet is installed with a flexible styrene cover giving it a realistic crumpled look for good measure. Around the rear are stowage boxes, one of which has a portable missile launcher lashed to it on the centre station. The commander's cupola has vision blocks around it, a protective shield at his rear and the big anti-aircraft machine gun on a mount to the front. When advancing, the shield is pointed forward to provide protection, and has a reinforced viewing slot to keep the commander safe and give him better situational awareness for longer during a skirmish. The gunner's hatch is a much more straight-forward flap with handles and latch on the underside, and this, like the rotation and activity of the commander's hatch can be left mobile by leaving off the glue. Finally, the barrel is mated to the mantlet via a keyed lug, and the turret is attached to the hull via the usual bayonet twist-to-fit mechanism. Markings If you're expecting a sea of Russian green, you'd be partly right, but two of the four schemes are far from drab, while one of the green jobs is done up in Great Patriotic War Parade decals, with twin white "go faster" stripes on the sides and glacis. From the box you can build one of the following: 20th Army, Western Military District, Russia 2014 – all over green. Victory Day Parade 70th Anniversary of the World Anti-Fascist War, ST Petersburg, May 9th, 2015 – green with stylised red star and black/orange striped markings on the side, white stripes on the sides and glacis. Russian Team, International Tank Biathlon Championship, 2015 – offwhite, brown, red-brown camo. Russian Army Expo, Nizhny Tagil, 2015 – Sand, brown and dark brown splinter scheme. Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. As an aside, you also get a little circular PE template to mask off your road wheels, which is a common extra in Meng tank kits that doesn't get as much appreciation as it perhaps should. Conclusion A solid and detailed model of this modern Russian tank that will go together easily, although the tracks will keep you pretty busy for a while. The colour options are nice and varied, but the opportunities for weathering of the colourful options is likely limited due to their parade ground finish. Bring on the next one! Review sample courtesy of
  15. Precast Concrete Walls (SPS-031) 1:35 Meng Model Another new issue from the Meng Supplies series are these handy precast concrete barriers that are often found on the road running up to a gateway or checkpoint, to force oncoming traffic into a chicane that slows them down and prevents high speed ram-raid attacks. The set arrives in the familiar black box with orange interior, and contains four barriers of two types, one being thick and fitted with lifting eyes, the other being thinner with a weighted base, and both types are sub-divided into new(ish) and beaten-up examples. They are moulded in pressure cast resin, and to cut down on weight they are partially hollow inside, with an internal framework keeping the parts rigid. They have already been removed from their casting blocks, although a little sanding will still be needed to get them to sit flat on the ground. The detail is excellent, and the texture of the rough-cast concrete is very realistic, as are the distressed effects, which are mostly confined to the edges. Both types top out at a shade under 6cm, which in the case of the thicker barrier includes the height of the two lifting eyes. The thin barrier is 6cm wide and 3cm thick at the bottom, while the thicker one is only 5.7cm wide, and 2.5cm at the bottom. If you plan on doing anything more with them than described above, you might find yourself using more than one pack, and it would have been useful if they were provided in packs of a single type to assist in this respect, but at this point this is all we have. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  16. German Flakpanzer Gepard A1/A2 1:35 Meng Model The German Army had fielded many different Flakpanzers through WWII, and it was no surprise that they would continue this into the cold war. The Gepard or Cheetah was developed to fill this role in the 1960's with deployment beginning in the early 1970's. The system used the proven chassis of the Leopard 1 tank carrying a large turret carrying the two 35mm auto cannons and radar dishes. The anti-aircraft system combines two radar dishes; a general search radar, and a tracking radar/ There is also a Laser range-finder. The German systems featured an S band radar for search, and a Ku Band radar for tracking, whereas the Dutch systems featured an X and Xu bad radars. The German system having a search & track range of 15kms, the Dutch having a search of 15kms, but track of only 13kms. The gun system fitted is a twin 35mm Oerlikon KDA system. Each gun can fire 550 rounds per minute. They fire a Frangible Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot and Armour piercing ammunition with a range of up to 5.5kms. The usual load is 320 frangible and 20 AP rounds per gun. The German Army ordered 377 units, the Dutch 95 and the Belgians 55 which were identical to the German ones. The Germans retired the Gepard in 2010 but they are in storage, as have the Dutch and Belgian units. The system is still used in other countries though. Brazil currently has 36, and Romania 43 obtained from Germany. Jordan purchased 60 from the Dutch. The Kit This is brand new tooling from Meng, and takes advantage of some of the Leopard parts, including hull and tracks, which is in line with the real thing so totally expected. The box is typical Meng with that satin finish I like so much, even though mine always end up in the bin when I've finished building them. Inside the box eight sprues and three hull and turret parts in green styrene, a flexible styrene sprue, clear sprue, two sprues of different sized poly-caps, a bag of track link parts, a length of braided synthetic cord, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE), a pair of chrome stickers for wing-mirrors, a couple of bags of track links, a small sprue of ice-cleats with jig, and a small decal sheet. The instruction booklet is portrait A4+ with colour on the outermost pages on glossy paper, and a black and white centre section where colour isn't needed. I'm a big fan of Meng's products, and this one isn't going to dent my faith in them, as straight from the box it is a quality model kit. The build starts with the pairs of road wheels, which have poly-caps trapped between them, and these are fitted onto the working torsion suspension arms along with a number of return-rollers and other suspension parts on the sides of the lower hull. The idler wheels are ostensibly the same as the road wheels, with subtle differences telling them apart, and the drive sprockets are built up from three parts each, again hiding a poly-cap in the centre. The upper hull is different in shape, but sports mostly bog-standard Leopard hardware, with an insert on the engine deck that is (sadly) covered by a PE mesh grille, before the Gepard turret adapter ring is added, which just sits over the top of the smaller turret ring of the Leopard, aft of the driver's hatch. Various boxes and lumps are added around the upper hull, plus folded PE vision block armour, towing shackles and light clusters on both sides. At the rear a large optional stowage box can be added on the back of the engine deck, or two large flexible styrene bags if you prefer, which are lashed down by some straps made form the same material. A pair of mudguards, towing cable made from the cord and styrene eyes, lights and shackles are also added to the rear bulkhead later in the build. The tracks are the same as supplied in the Leopard 1 A5 here. They take on the form of individual workable links in styrene, each link of which consists of five parts. The central piece has track-pins moulded in, and two track pads are constructed from halves, linking the pin sections together one after another. A jig is included to help with this, and the winter ice-cleats are shown with seven links between them in case you wish to use them. The track-pin part has four attachment points to the sprue, while the pads have only one each, with a double pin/hole combination differentiating between the inner and outer portions. There are very small contact patches between the pad halves, which bothers me a little in case they decide to come apart during the build, but take your time, and make full use of the jig. You need 85 links per side, so allow plenty of time for the task. The top run is almost totally covered in the next step when the side skirts and front fenders with integrated mudguards are attached, so decide for yourself whether you will do a full run, or just the parts that are visible. Finally, we get to the turret! Construction here starts with the smoke dispensers, the sights and the tracking radar, which builds up from a large number of parts, with a pair of big poly-caps holding the two side sensors in place, and a bayonet fitting allowing the whole assembly to rotate on the turret. The turret itself is built up from top and bottom sections, with an insert for the sloped panel behind the radar assembly, and an equipment insert within the rear of the turret. The sight, lifting lugs, smoke dispensers and flashing orange beacon are added to the exterior along with armoured shrouds for the crew vision blocks around the hatch, and a number of smaller assemblies. The guns are slide-moulded as single parts, with optional early barrels or late barrels that have more complex muzzles supplied, fitting into the rotating housings which hold the breeches and ammo feed. The Power Box Supply is built up over two stages, with lots of parts making for a detailed part, which then accepts the target search radar assembly at the top, with a single part moulding for the parabolic dish. This can be mounted on the rear turret in either the open or closed position, exposing the detail insert placed within earlier in construction. The two guns are then inserted into the large side mounts, interlocking and remaining movable in synchronisation. For the A2 turret, these are a few different parts, and the construction of this variant is described separately following the A1 turret. The A2 turret has a choice of different barrels, additional crew air conditioning units on the back of the turret, as well as more storage on the rear deck. Markings All markings options are based on the tri-tonal NATO scheme of green, black and brown, with the decals being what sets them apart. Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. From the box you can build one of the following: 3rd Battery, 12th Armoured Air Defence Gun Battalion, Bundeswehr, Hardheim. 2nd Battery, 131st Armoured Air Defence Gun Battalion, Bundeswehr, Hohenmölsen. 2nd battery, 2nd Armoured Air Defence Gun Battalion, Bunderwehr, Exercise Caravan Guard, Westerwald, 1989. If you wanted to go off-piste for some additional fun, there are some photos of a rather fetching winter camouflage with green and white distemper floating round the net, which should add a little interest to your modern German armour display. Conclusion Detail is sharp, as is the attention to the intricacies of moulding such things as weld-lines and anti-slip texturing, and these won't be found on other kits of this unusual-looking vehicle in this scale. Construction follows a sensible route, and with the exception of the tracks, which will take some effort, the model should build up relatively quickly. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  17. Meng

    Russian Light AA Gun Set 1:35 Meng Model As part of their "Supplier" series that is aimed at providing (avoided saying supplying!) the modeller for accessories and diorama fodder, this kit kind of falls between two stools, as it really is a proper kit. In fact it's four proper kits in the one box, which makes for a very full box that wouldn't react well to having dozens of other kits placed on top of it. It arrived in an unassuming sand yellow topped box, and inside are sixteen sprues in green styrene, plus a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, no decals and an instruction booklet with the painting guide inside the rear glossy pages. There are parts in the box to make one each of the following Anti-Aircraft guns: ZU-23-2 (three configurations) Previously seen in the Toyota Hilux kit VS-004 in 2012. A two barrelled 23mm cannon towed on its two-wheeled chassis, with optional mounting on a vehicle flat-bed by removing the wheels. ZPU-1 (two variants) Previously seen in the Toyota Hilux Pickup kit VS-001 in 2011. A single barrelled 14.5mm gun on a low tripod for ground installation, also able to be built as the Chinese Type 80. ZPU-2 (three configurations for two variants) Previously seen in the Toyota Land Cruiser kit VS-005 in 2014. A double barrelled 14.5mm gun on a trailer mount that can also be flat-bed mounted by removal of the wheels. This can also be built as the Chinese Type 58. ZPU-4 (two configurations for two variants) A new tooling for this boxing in 2016. A four-barrelled 14.5mm gun on a four-wheel trailer with ground anchors for firing. It can also be built as the Chinese Type 56. As mentioned, all but the ZPU-4 have seen release as cargo for the various Pickup trucks that Meng have released over the years, so it appears that rather than release the new tooling as a small single boxing, the marketing people at Meng decided to bundle in their previous work to produce a comprehensive set of light AA guns, with a few details added to each one on the PE sheet. The barrels have all be slide-moulded, and detail is excellent throughout, irrespective of the time when they were originally moulded. The detail on the cooling jackets is superb given the limitations of injection moulding, and the guns with wheels are all styrene, split vertically. Markings It's a shame that no stencils were included in the kit, even if they were just for the ammo cans, but there it is, and if you wanted to add that extra detail you would need to source some elsewhere. The colour scheme is fairly simple with Russian Green being the dominant shade, with the option of sand for an Iraqi ZPU-4. It wouldn't be difficult to find some other colours from the many operators of these long-lived and almost ubiquitous anti-aircraft guns. The colour call-outs have been done in their new collaborative effort with AK Interactive to produce acrylic paint sets specifically aimed at their own models. We'll be reviewing some of these in the coming weeks. Conclusion A great bunch of kits that would look equally well on your shelf or in diorama settings. Well detailed and quick to build due to the simplicity of colour. Highly Recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  18. Volkssturm, Germany 1944-5 1:35 Master Box As the war continued to go against Germany and the attrition of trained men of fighting age put more pressure on their military, many civilians and veterans of WWI were pressed into service. Men, boys and even women were trained to operate the basic weapons of defence, such as the Kar98 rifle, and the dreaded Panzerfaust that could turn a housewife into a tank destroyer, providing she could get close enough to fire it effectively. The Volkssturm, which means "people's storm" were hastily trained, often by those that had been invalided out of the service, or older soldiers that weren't fit for front-line service anymore. This set contains five figures in injection moulded styrene on one sprue that is held within a standard figure sized box. Included are the following: A moustachioed old soldier with puttees, greatcoat and forage cap, loading a Kar98 rifle, which has the bolt back and a clip of ammo being pressed home. A lady in a fur-trimmed ¾ coat with matching hat, toting a Panzerfaust on her right shoulder in the aiming position. An older soldier in great coat, boots and forage cap explaining the finer points of firing a Panzerfaust. An officer in great coat, boots and holding an instruction manual, with the option of either holding a cigarette in his right hand, or an alternative part that represents an empty sleeve, allowing him to be posed as a former soldier, recalled to duty. A gentleman in a double-breasted rain coat, trilby and brogues, watching a demonstration intently with his hands clasped behind his back. As usual with Master Box, the sculpting is first rate, and all the figures are broken down sensibly to improve detail whilst minimising joint clean-up. All figures have separate legs up to their waists, with the coat tails as separate thin parts that shroud the upper legs realistically, so there are no solid areas when viewed from below. Heads, hats and caps are separate too, as are the arms, and the lady has been sculpted on a frame appropriately smaller than the men in the set, so that she looks distinctly female. The colours, part numbers and construction notes are found on the back of the box, using Vallejo and Lifecolor paint codes as reference. Conclusion A superbly candid scene during the desperate final days of WWII is depicted, needing only a battle scarred backdrop to finish it off. Sympathetically painted, these figures will tell their own story. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  19. Soviet T-18 Light Tank Mod 1927 1:35 HobbyBoss At the end of the Great War the French FT-17 light tank was well-regarded, as it was the first true tank with a fully rotating turret and reasonable manoeuvrability, which were two things that the British tanks didn't have. The Americans used the design, as did Japan into the 1930s, and this Soviet light tank is also based on the same basic chassis, but with improved suspensions and a redesigned upper hull to mount a larger turret, which resulted in an enlarged upper deck that overhangs the tracks. The design went through some changes to counter the initial lacklustre performance of the original T-16 design, although the out-dated 37mm gun was retained, which although it wasn't capable enough to target and penetrate other armoured targets, could be loaded with shrapnel rounds that were quite effective against soft targets. It stayed in service until the early 30s as a training vehicle, as it was found to be unsatisfactory in frontline use. The Kit We have been treated to FT-17 kits in 1:35 of late, and HobbyBoss are slowly working their way through the more esoteric Russian early armour, so the T-18 turning up was just a matter of time. It is a new tooling, and comes in a small top-opening box with a card divider inside to protect the delicate hull parts. Cocooned within individual bags, some of which are further protected by a thin foam sheet, there are four sprues in a sand coloured styrene, plus three individual parts in the same colour, two in brown styrene for the tracks, plus a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE), instruction booklet and a separate glossy painting guide. The kit seems nicely detailed, uses a smattering of slide-moulding to improve detail further, and parts breakdown is sensible, so should go together well with few issues. Construction begins with the road wheel bogies, which have the revised vertical travel suspension arms grouped in two sets of two, and one of three with the longer one at the front, that has an additional strut attached, reducing the initial deflection on hitting an obstacle. A set of return rollers that were added to keep the track from strumming are fitted over the road wheels, with the larger front idler wheel and drive sprocket at the rear completing the running gear work, until the installation of the tracks later on. The lower hull is tiny, so the addition of the rounded casemate below the turret gives it a rather top heavy look that is partially reduced by the fenders added to the sides. These mate neatly with the lower hull, and the front deck is completed with doors for the driver that form the larger part of the small glacis. The rear bulkhead has a row of holes drilled in its rear for engine cooling, which turned out to be insufficient in practice. This is replicated by a PE panel that is bent over the underlying plastic part, and it would be a good idea to anneal the PE in a flame to soften it before applying, and considering removing the styrene behind the holes for a more realistic look. The FT-17's unditching skid at the rear is carried over almost unchanged, and is made up from the skid surface plus a slightly simplified supporting framework. The hull is completed with some louvres on the rear deck, pioneer tools and a vision hatch for the driver, after which the tracks can be added. The tracks are held on the two brown sprues, and you will need 51 individual links per side, which have three sprue gates per link, but no ejector pin marks, making clean-up quite straight forward. Simply glue the links with liquid glue against a straight-edge, and then wrap the still soft track run around the wheels, dialling in the correct sag by packing the links to hold them in place. The detail on the outer surface of the links is excellent, and they should look good once painted up and weathered. Only the turret remains to build, and this is a fairly straight forward affair, as it has no internal detail to complicate matters. The upper section is dressed with the mantlet insert fitting into one facet of the front, receiving the hollow muzzled 37mm barrel, while the other facet has two machine gun barrels inserted in a small mount, both of which could do with their barrels drilling out to add realism. They also aren't shown on the box art, which instead shows a single, more Hotchkiss-like gun in a ball mount. A small raised "mushroom" cupola fits into the hole in the top, and the turret just drop-fits into the hull. Markings There aren't any! You can paint it Russian Green though, and the glossy guide shows you that it goes everywhere on the hull and roadhweels. I guess that because it was barely used, there aren't that many photos of any markings, so they erred on the cautious side and saved a few Yuan. Conclusion It's an interesting little project in itself, and if you have an FT-17 in your cabinet, it will look good as a show of progression that might generate the occasional question as to why a French tank (if you put some markings of your own on it) is in Russian colours. Shame there were no decals though, but it's quite keenly priced, so you can forgive them that. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  20. French FT-17 Crew & Orderly Figure Set (HS-005) 1:35 Meng Model via Creative Models The diminutive Renault FT-17 tank from WWI is a personal favourite, and Meng did a superb job of creating models of both the cast and riveted turret versions a few years back. This new figure set fills a gap in providing crew for the tank, plus a dispatch rider handing over some new orders to the two-man crew. So we have three figures right? Nope. We have six, as there are two of each figure on duplicate sprues, plus two early motor bikes on an additional sprue, making a total of three sprues in the box. Said box is the de facto standard figure box sized, and has an excellent painting of the contents, with the majority of the tank greyed out to imply for the hard of thinking that you don't get the tank too! Meng's small but growing figure line is produced under their "human Series" banner, and the sculpting is always first rate. The standing figure is wearing a beret with a chainmail anti-spall mask hanging round his neck and a pistol holster on his hip. An additional left arm is also included to give an alternative pose to vary your figure from the next modeller's. The seated figure is designed to be hanging out of the rear hatch on the turret, taking the orders off the motorcyclist. The motorcyclist figure is handing the orders up to the commander, and is supplied with a head with a leather motorcycle helmet on, or a peaked cap to add some more variation. The bike (there is only one) is a Peugeot 1917 750cc 2-cylinder bikes, according to a search of the internet, and of course it wasn't possible to mould the wheel spokes to scale, but I'm sure you can forgive the designers that under the circumstances. Sadly, one bike means that one of the figures will have nothing to sit on. There's a little flash on the figure sprues as you can probably see from the photo, but none of it seems to be on the parts, so you can ignore it. The paint codes are called out on the back of the box, which doubles as the construction guide for the motorcycle. The codes are in the new Meng paint range that stems from their collaboration with AK Interactive, supplying modellers with convenient colours for their new kits. Conclusion A figure set designed with a particular kit in mind can often be used elsewhere, and with the growth of the WWI armour genre this is bound to be handy somewhere, even if you don't have an FT-17. The figures are superb and with two sprues of them, you end up with six figures, and the remainder figure can be adapted either using the spares, or your own modelling skills. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  21. US Marines Individual Load-Carrying Equipment (SPS-027) 1:35 Meng Model Meng's Supplies series continues to expand with this handy set of load-carrying equipment, MOLLE bags and such that would be extremely useful in dioramas or to add to your AFV as stowage. The set comes in their usual black box with the funky orange interior, and the resin parts broken down between two bubble-wrap bags and four re-sealable clear foil bags. There are no instructions in the box, and none visible on the site, so it's either a head-scratching session while you figure out what goes where, or you can use the guide below that I've pieced together from what I know, photos on the net, and trial-and-error. The parts list online doesn't show everything in the box, so I've laid out a complete list below, with the straps and attachments cross-referenced with their part numbers in brackets for your ease. Duffle Bag (1) with harness (2) FILBE Main pack (3) with side pouches (4,5) and harness (6,7,8) ILBE Assault Pack (9) with straps (10,11) FILBE Assault Pack(12) with harness (13) MOLLE II Patrol Pack(14) with harness (15) Folded MSS Sleeping Bag (16) Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) (17) Soft Gun case (18) M4A1 Rifle with EOTech 552 Holo-Sight (19) M4A1 Rifle with Trijicon ACOG TA31 Sight (20) Folded APLS Litter (21) Casting is first rate and the detail is crisply moulded and of superb quality, with one exception being the barrel on one of the guns, which had an unfortunately placed bubble that has rendered the muzzle separate. That's fairly easy to fix though, so a dab of CA will be applied to join them up, and some light sanding to return it to the correct section. As usual, take the precaution of wearing a mask when cutting or sanding resin, as the tiny particles are harmful to your health if breathed in. Washing the parts in warm water will also improve the adhesion of paint, as there may still be some moulding release agent on the parts when you receive them. The parts fit together beautifully once you know where they go, so a little super glue (CA) and you'll be done. Review sample courtesy of
  22. HobbyBoss

    French R35 Tank 1:35 HobbyBoss Designed by Renault, this was an interwar light infantry tank used by the French army in their unsuccessful defence of their homeland at the beginning of WWII, after which it remained in service with the German forces as a beutepanzer, where it was either used in second line service, or heavily converted to a makeshift gun carriage and used as a self-propelled howitzer. It was originally intended as a replacement for the diminutive FT-17, but due to the sloth in re-training their crews, they were still ill-prepared even on the eve of war. When Germany pounced, there were almost a thousand R35s in service, although they had been found unreliable, poorly armed to combat tanks, and with too little armour. All the remaining vehicles were taken on charge by the Germans and more than a little tinkering with cutting torches began. Some had their turrets removed to use as small gun emplacements, while others were thoroughly butchered to become tank destroyers, although in doing so the original chassis was horribly overloaded, leading to slow, breakdown prone vehicles such as this, that must have been loathed by their crews. By the end of the war a small number were left and used by the French until they were replaced with more capable tanks. The Kit It seems no subject is too off-piste for HobbyBoss, and the little R35 proves this, although it was important to the French at the outbreak of WWII. There are a number of options to make use of the basic chassis, which HB will naturally exploit to the maximum as you'd expect. The kit arrives in a fairly small box with a divider keeping the sprues from rattling about. Inside are seven sprues, upper hull and turret parts in sand coloured styrene; two sprues in a brown styrene containing the tracks; a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a brass turned barrel, decal sheet, colour painting guide and black and white instruction manual. Someone made a mistake with the inner cover's sprue map, so a separate sheet was included to correct that goof. It shares a number of sprues with the catchily titled 5cm Pak(t) Sfl.Fgst. Pz.Kpfw.35R 731(f) that we reviewed here a few months ago, which shares the same chassis. The engine is first to be constructed, with a two part block that is heavily detailed with additional parts, a great many of which are absolutely tiny, which conspires to give you a very nicely depicted motor for your R35 chassis. Work then commences on integrating the engine with the lower hull, beginning with the sand-cast rear bulkhead, which has the idler tensioning devices and towing hook added, after which the radiator, cooling fan and ducting are assembled with the power-take-off wheel projecting from the rear of the box. The hull itself is made up from two side panels and a floor piece, into which the radiator housing, a styrene/PE stiffening plate and driver controls are added. The side panels are fitted out with three return-rollers and a final drive housing per side, and four bogies with two wheels per housing and a big suspension spring are built up. Two more solo bogies, two drive sprockets and two idler wheels are also constructed, and are installed on the suspension mounting points on the hull sides. At the same time the driver's seat, fuel tank and engine-mount bulkhead are ensconced within the hull, and the rear bulkhead closes up the rear. After adding a few more driver controls and their linkages, the drive-train is dropped into the hull, with a transmission housing added to the front, and driver-shafts to the sprockets complete the drive-train. Given their small size in 1:35, HB have decided to go down the link and length route with the tracks, and I can't say I blame them. The straight track runs are made up from six parts with a few links in between the curved lower sections, and twelve individual links at each end. Each of the individual links have three sprue gates, while the lengths have additional dead-end tabs that ensure against short-shot links, and also double as ejector-pin positions, saving the delicate detail from marring by mis-alignments. Unless you're going to the trouble of using metal replacements, these should do you proud with a bit of sympathetic painting and weathering. Give them a rub with an artist's pencil to impart metallic sheen where they get worn, and you'll never know they weren't metal. With the tracks in place, the full length fenders are added, along with a little stowage and a big bottle-jack on the right rear. The upper hull is detailed inside with the driver's instrument panel, plus a choice of actuator for his vision hatch, which can be posed open or closed. The final drive inspection hatch is added along with some PE parts, as is the lower part of the driver's hatch, with the upper section added in the open or closed aspect, depending on your whim. The upper hull is then closed up and a host of pioneer tools are threaded through their tie-down blocks to be added to the sides of the hull together with the silencer/muffler and exhaust, the feeder pipe for which comes from the rear of the vehicle. The small cast turret has the top hatch added, with a number of lifting and tie-down lugs around the edges, and the side view ports installed, before the main gun is slotted through the aperture, with its brass turned barrel. The rear hatch can be left unglued to open and close, and the turret is then completed by the addition of the floor with integrated turret ring. Twist the turret into place on its bayonet lugs, and it's done. Markings There are two options in the box for this kit, one in French service and one in German as a beutepanzer or war prize. You can build one of the following from the box: French R35 in brown/green camo, with a blue club in a white triangle on the turret sides German R35 in Panzer Grey with white crosses on turret sides and top hatch The sheet is small with good register and sharpness, but check the colour density with one of the decals you aren't using before you commit, as white decals can be precocious. Conclusion It's a small tank that's almost cute in 1:35, with plenty of detail included in the box. If it floats your boat, you should be pretty happy with what's in the box. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  23. AuF1 TA Self-Propelled Howitzer 1:35 Meng Models Developed from the successful AMX-30 Main Battle Tank, the AuF1 is a 155mm howitzer that as well as being rather heavy (over 41 tonnes), is also fast and manoeuvrable, as well as having an automatic loading system giving it a high sustained fire rate of 6 rounds per minute, and burst mode of 8 RPM on a good day. Because the vehicle has sufficient room inside for the whole 4-man crew to travel inside the cab, it has quite a high profile, but because it has a range of almost 24km it has little need for stealth, and is in fact only lightly armoured to a thickness of 20mm to withstand small arms fire. The AuF1 is used by the French army, all of which are now upgraded to the AuF2 spec, as well as the Saudis who have over 50 units on strength. Iraq had 85 that saw action during the Iran/Iraq war, but following the first Gulf War, some remained intact, possibly because they were unable to take part in operations due to a lack of spares caused by the years of arms embargoes in the run up to the conflict. There were rows of abandoned machines at a former Republican Guard base that made for quite an impressive sight. The Model Meng originally released a version of the AuF-1 back in 2012 which came complete with the interior of the turret. This new version unfortunately doesn’t have the interior, so will make for a simpler, if less interesting build. They have also changed the colour of the styrene to a very dark green colour, which not only makes for a more challenging painting experience, but was a real pain to photograph. There are eleven sprues, and a separate lower hull section in the green styrene, one of clear and four in a dark brown. The kit also included a short length of brass wire, a length of string, a small sheet of etched brass, twenty poly caps and a small decal sheet. Construction of the lower hull is identical to the previous release, as you'd expect, with paired drive wheels attached to the suspension arms by friction fit of the poly-caps, and full-length torsion bars mimicking the real suspension. The upper hull is, naturally, the same too, with the same hatches on the glacis plate at the front, side pioneer tool panels, and the rear bulkhead/radiator/exhaust assemblies. The light clusters, spare fuel cans and external telephone are all present, as are the PE grilles that cover the hot exhausts. There are pair of large front mounted tool box assemblies which are built up and the right hand side box fitted with fire extinguishers, before both are fitted to the front of the vehicle. The tow ropes are consigned to the port side panels with the pioneer tools. The tracks are meant to be working, and to build them, Meng have included an ingenious part C10 as a template for building up the individual click-together track links, 80 parts per run. The main difference between releases is that you only get the external parts of the gun, so that means the barrel base, with its four recuperators are assembled and fitted to the simple trunnion mount, which is fitted from the inside of the mantlet. The mantlet is installed at the front of the turret, and is joined by the sides, then the frame of the rear wall, and finally the roof. The roof has some boxes, smoke dischargers and various lifting eyes added around the turret before the large side doors are constructed from an inner skin joined to the outer, with a clear vision port and internal handle to improve the detail. These can be posed open or closed on the moulded-in hinges, and the top hatches are left loose to be posed open or closed at will, but with no interior it’s not much of an option. Grab-handles, an antenna base, along with two sets of barrel cleaning rods, and a roof mounted searchlight are attached, along with a 50cal weapon with mount and ammo-box is added to the left-hand hatch. The rear magazine doors can only be posed closed, thus needing the hinges removing. The final parts are the main gun barrel, which is supplied as separate halves, with a small detail section added to the aft of the muzzle brake. Once complete and the seams hidden, this just slots into the hole between the recuperators, and could even be left loose for ease of transport, as it is a little on the long side! Decals Unlike the first release, this version comes with two marking options, one with the standard French tri-colour scheme depicting a vehicle from the 1st battalion, 40th Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armoured Brigade of the French Army. The second option is for a vehicle of the 1st Marine Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armoured Brigade of the French Army, as used in the Lebanon in 2006 and is painted in the UN overall white scheme. The decals are well printed, with good register, colour density and crisp demarcations. The colour profiles cover every side of the vehicle, so there will be no guess work on where the various colour splodges start and finish, which makes a nice change from recent experiences with other manufacturers. The large crest/shield on the decal sheet is beautifully printed, unfortunately there is nothing in the instructions showing where, or if this is used, but I’m sure a bit of research on the internet will show it. Conclusion This is still an imposing model, with its huge gun barrel. Just a shame that Meng decided not to include the interior parts of the turret, as it would have given this kit some more options on how to display it. It’s still a great kit and one I can whole heartily recommend it. It will certainly stand out in the collection if painted in the UN scheme. Review sample courtesy of
  24. MAZ-543M Sagged Wheel Set 1:35 Meng Models This set of resin wheels is designed to fit their new 9A52-2 Smerch in 1:35, which I've just reviewed here, to replace the kit parts with something a little more detailed that has a degree of sag engineered in. The set arrived in a black box, and inside is a stunning orange liner, plus eight resin wheels with moulded-in hubs, all individually coddled in small bubble-wrap bags. The wheels are all cast on small tapered block with three sprues attaching it to the bottom tread-blocks on the sagged part of the tyre. There is also a number embossed on the side of the casting block, ranging from one to eight. This is because Meng haven't just made one master and cast it eight times, but have instead made eight masters in different positions so that the tread-blocks and nomenclature embossed into the sidewalls is in a different position, as would most likely happen in the field. This adds a little realism and shows Meng's dedication to the finer points of modelling. The casting is first-rate, as is the detail, and the pour stubs have been located so that clean-up is minimal. The picture above shows two wheels of the eight that had snapped off the blocks during transit. Little more than a buff with a sander would see them ready for a wash in warm soapy water and then installation. Below is a picture lifted from Meng's site showing the wheels painted and weathered – and very nice they look too! Conclusion While the kit parts would probably suffice for most modellers, these resin replacements are easy to use, more detailed, and more robust long-term. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  25. IDF APC Nagmachon (Doghouse II) Trumpeter 1:35 History With the success of the Achzarit [T54/T55 based] and Puma Combat Engineer Assault Vehicles, the IDF began looking around their armour graveyards for more refits. The most obvious choice was the large selection of Centurions falling apart and rusting away. These were rebuilt with a new engine and named the Nagmashot (circa 1983), the Nagmachon (circa 1980s) and the Nakpadon (circa mid 1990s). The main drawback of these vehicles was their lack of mobility and therefore, inability to support Merkava MBTs. Nagmachon is a heavily armoured personnel carrier fielded by the Israel Defence Forces. The Nagmachon evolved from the Nagmashot APC, which in turn was based on Centurion. It made its first appearance in the Lebanon Conquest, upsetting many Arabs who found their AT missiles bouncing off the APC's thick hide. The Nagmachon is an improved version of the Nagmashot and Sho't. Nagmachon is an acronym for Nagmashot and Machon. Nagmashot is an acronym for Nagmash and Sho't; Nagmash is an acronym for Noseh Guysot Meshoryan, Sho't being a whip, the Hebrew name for the Centurion main battle tank; Machon is Hebrew for belly. Head-on photographs of the Nagmachon disclose an additional layer (in some cases two layers) of armour plating on the underside of the hull. The turret is removed and the space replaced by troop seats, a raised superstructure, and hatches. Machineguns ring the superstructure, and the engine is replaced with a smaller, more efficient design, allowing a small door in the rear of the vehicle. The Nagmachon can be fitted with several devices in the front, including mine-breaching devices such as Nochri anti-mine system. Along with its heavy bully armour plate, this makes it ideal for breaching routes through mine-fields and booby-trapped areas. Therefore, it can be classified as combat engineering vehicle (CEV). The Nagmachon is very notable due to the elevated pillbox turret, an elevated armoured cabin with shooting-sights and 7.62 mm machine guns, enabling the troops inside to shoot soft targets without being exposed to enemy's fire. This feature makes it very efficient for urban warfare and security patrols. The features which make it ideal for mine-clearing and urban warfare were proven valuable when the Nagmachon was heavily employed in the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Beside opening routes for other AFVs and patrolling in hostile populated areas, it was also used to mobilize infantry and carry them in the Palestinian cities. Because of their elevated turret, Nagmachon CEVs supervised and secured armoured Caterpillar D9 bulldozers in dangerous combat zones and under fire. The latest Nagmachon vehicles have increased belly armour for mine protection and a distinctive armoured extension on the top, called the doghouse. Those features optimize it for counter-insurgency operations but reduce its capacity for traditional mechanized warfare. The Nagmachon weighs 52 tons, has a 750 hp engine, and carries a crew of 2 and 10 infantry. The Model The kit comes in a surprisingly large box, certainly bigger than Trumpeter normally uses for their MBT’s. The boxart shows a Nagmachon driving in the desert in the company of a Merkava MBT. Inside there are twelve sprues and three separate parts, all in a beige coloured styrene, four of a brown coloured styrene, two sprues of clear, two etched brass sheets, twenty four styrene “tyres” and a small deal sheet. As we have come to expect from Hobbyboss, the parts are all very well moulded, with some very nice detail, no signs of flash or other imperfections, but there are quite a few moulding pips that will need to be cleaned off. Of particular note in this kit si the comprehensive suite of bar armour which is all injection moulded and yet, very finely done. There really isn’t a need to replace this with etched brass, unless you are particularly picky about these sorts of details. The instructions are nice and clear with only a few operations per step. There doesn’t appear to be anything too taxing, with perhaps the exception of the tracks which I will mention in detail later. The build begins with the assembly of all the road wheels and the fitting of the separate tyres. Of course, these can be left off until after painting, which will alleviate the masking that would be required otherwise. The sprockets and idlers are also assembled at this point. The suspension blocks are each made up from six parts. The rear bulkhead is fitted out with two short lengths of track, a storage box, two grab handles, two steps and two towing eyes. Before any parts are added to the lower hull, there are a number of moulded sections that need to be removed and holes drilled out. Once these are done the bump stops are added to the hull sides, along with the suspension assemblies and two piece idler axles. The rear bulkhead is attached, followed by the skirt supports, three rear mounted three piece towing hooks the two piece sprocket gear covers, the road wheels, idler wheels, return rollers and drive sprockets. The engine deck also requires some holes being drilled out before fitting to the hull. The exhausts, each made up from three parts are attached to each side rear of the deck, whilst the four piece stowage rack is fitted to the centre. The foredeck is also attached, and fitted with the ERA blocks. The tracks are made up from individual links, each connected to the sprue with four sprue gates. Fortunately these are very thin and shouldn’t take too long to clean up the 106 links per side that are required. Since the links require to be glued together it may be best to make up lengths of track before fitting, using only individual links to fit around the idler wheels and sprockets. If you want to, you can get away with only doing the sections of track that aren’t covered by the side skirts. With the tracks fitted the rear light clusters are attached and a pair of Jerry cans assembled and placed in the storage cage on the engine deck. Each of the two fenders are made up of the main length and a separate front mudguard section. Each fender also requires several holes to be opened up before they can be fitted with the wide selection of storage boxes, front light clusters and guards, more Jerry cans, racks and brackets for the forward mounted self defence systems boxes and two piece rear mudguard flaps. The two fender assemblies are then fitted to the hull, followed by the revised drivers position, complete with viewing ports, large hatch, ERA boxes and bar armour. More bar armour sections are attached to the front of the engine deck, immediately aft of the “turret” pillbox position. The middle section of the pillbox is fitted with two large hatches which are detailed with viewing ports, handles, catches, vents, hinges and large springs which aid opening on the real vehicle. The upper section of the pillbox is fitted with four panels, two large panels fore and aft, which are fitted with armoured glass panels, steps, and grab handles, whilst the forward and aft quarter panels are each fitted with a machine gun and armoured glass. On top of the pillbox, two, three piece hatches are fitted. The top and mid sections of the pillbox are then joined together and the bar armour supports fitted. The faceted base is then assembled and fitted with ERA boxes, a two door rear hatch, two whip aerial bases, two ECM aerial bases and yet more ERA blocks. The top assembly is then glued to the base and fitted to the hull, before the bar armour is attached, along with their associated supports. Two large aerials are fitted to a separate base unit, before being attached to the rear of the engine deck. The larger of the two aerials is fitted with a PE part which will need some careful rolling and teasing to shape to get it to look right. The side skirts are assembled and are actually large ERA blocks for the first two thirds of their length, with the aft sections just armour plate, with the rearmost section fitted above the rear decking keeping the sprocket wheel clear of possible clogging mud and sand. The section just forward of the sprocket is fitted with a large three piece step, whilst on either side of the engine deck a three piece stretcher is fitted, completing the build Decals Whilst the decal sheet isn’t the smallest I’ve come across, there are in fact very few decals on it. The huge Israeli flag dominates the sheet and will require some stretched sprue or thread to attach it to the rear of the pillbox. There are three number plates and two lots of numbers, 070 and 038, but these aren’t mentioned in the painting guide. Conclusion As with a lot of Israeli vehicles this one is certainly an unusual design and will stand out from the crowd in any collection. The injection moulded bar armour is really well done, being really quite fine. If the kit builds like some other Hobbyboss releases I have completed, then it should be an enjoyable time for any modeller. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of