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Found 95 results

  1. German Medium Tank Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.A late (TS-035) 1:35 Meng Model The Panther was Nazi Germany's answer to the surprise appearance of the Russian T-34 after they finally reacted to the invasion that was Operation Barbarosa. Although the project had been in gestation some time before, they took some design cues from the T-34 in the shape of the sloped armour, resulting in the Panther that was intended to fill the gap between the Panzer.IV and the (then) new Panzer VI Tiger. It was eventually supposed to replace both the Pz.IV and the earlier Pz.III that was really showing its age, but in reality it often fought alongside the Panzer IV. It was planned as a lighter, more manoeuvrable tank than the Tiger, and was fitted with a high velocity gun from the outset, which gave it enormous penetrating power that was only equalled by the British 17-pounder fitted to the Sherman to make the Firefly. The sloped frontal armour gave it an increased effective armour thickness, but this was not so true of the side armour, which was comparatively weak, and this area became the preferred target of engaging allied tanks, especially in urban combat where this was a telling issue. Like most German WWII tanks it was complex to produce, so suffered in terms of volume produced, and this led to it being rushed into service with quite a tick-list of things still to sort out. Later production solved most of these initial gremlins, but loses in the interim were high with many being abandoned after failing during combat. Curiously, the Ausf.D was the first to enter production, with the Ausf.A following later in 1943, replacing attrition of the less reliable Ausf.Ds until they themselves were superseded by the Ausf.G, which became the final major variant with increased ammo storage, simplified design to ease production, and further improvements to reliability, although this was never fully cured with a high rate of attrition due to mechanical issues, some of which resulted in catastrophic fires. A Panther II was planned, which retained much of the look of the original Panther, while improving armour and suspension. They got as far as creating a pair of prototypes before the war ended, and a destroyed but still substantial chunk of the Schmallturm (smaller turret) can be seen at Bovington. The Kit This is a complete new tooling from our friends at Meng, who never cease to impress with their products. Their use of CAD for design is peerless, and they have mastered it to such an extent that their depiction of organic or random textures appear totally natural. They also use advanced moulding techniques such as slide-moulding, and include parts in the box that were once considered aftermarket (and still are) by some producers. Their recent kits have been modular, allowing the modeller to pick and choose whether to buy the base kit, add an interior, working track system, Zimmerit or all of the above depending on their level of interest, skill level or bank balance. The box is typical Meng, with an attractive painting of a Zimmerit encrusted Panther on the front, with profiles, colour codes and information on the sides. Inside are (for the most part) individually bagged sprues to minimise chaffing during transport, and plenty of parts. There are seven sprues in a Primer Red styrene, three sprues in black for the tracks, one in clear, plus two frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, one of which being nickel plated, a decal sheet, two lengths of twisted wire for the tow ropes, a turned aluminium barrel, two strips of poly-caps, instruction booklet, and a Z-fold painting and markings guide. Very nice. First impressions are excellent. The parts breakdown is sensible, whilst also somehow managing to be a bit cool and clever. The detail is superb, with the rolled steel surface of the thickly armoured panels so nice that it would almost be a shame to slap Zimmerit on it. The casting texture on parts like the mantlet (of which there are two) is well done, if a shade too neat, and the wooden texture on the unditching block is also worth a squint. The instructions are typical Meng, offering crisp isometric views of the build with an uncluttered style that still manages to get the point across. You are informed that there are seven decal options at the beginning, and advised that this will affect your choice of parts, so you should choose now. At this point, it is highly likely that you might reach for your wallet to pick up just another Meng Panther, as the options are all so interesting, although some might test your camouflage skills. Construction begins with the road wheels, all of which have a poly-cap between the two dished wheels. The three-part drive sprockets and four-part idler wheels also have poly-caps at their heart, so that wheels can be added and removed throughout the build. In order to mount them however, you need a lower hull, so this is next, being made up from two sides and one floor part, with two bracing parts holding everything rigid inside. If you're building yours with the Suspension Kit (SPS-049), you'll diverge from the instructions here and come back later once you've finished adding all the working metal torsion bars and workable track links. Go on – get your wallet out and I'll meet you back here when you're done, but just in case you're not convinced yet, read the paragraph under this one. If you're sticking with the base kit, the rear bulkhead, final drive housing and the many suspension arms are inserted into the hull sides, and for some reason the towing shackles are also clipped onto the torch-cut ends of the side plates at this stage. The pre-prepared road wheels, idlers and drive sprockets are all slotted into place on the stub-axles, and an optional two hook can be fitted under the rear of the vehicle, directly below the jack, which is also installed now between the armoured exhausts, which gives you a choice of two identical single-tube units, or a triple-tubed port-side unit that resembles a pair of bagpipes. Either side of these the distinctive stowage boxes are added, with separate tops in case you wanted to mess about with them. The tracks on the base kit are individual parts that are glued into track runs and draped around the wheels until they set up, while the aforementioned suspension set has workable links that will drape and move of their own accord, and include a huge quantity of tiny metal track pins! Meng helpfully include a jig that will allow you to make up a length of tracks at the correct slope and sag for that return run from the drive sprocket to the second road wheel, which drops in a gentle curve and would be tricky to arrange without help from the jig. Each track link is free from ejector-pin marks, and has a pair of guide-horns that you will need to glue into place. This is a manual job, so prepare your tweezers and a good album to listen to whilst you plough through this necessarily tedious part, building up 87 links per side. Each track link has six attachment points to the sprue, but the guide-horns only have one on their base, so it's swings and roundabouts. Given the level of detail visible on the external side of each link though, it is worth having those six sprue gates to ensure there is no under-shoot on the detail. A set of ice-cleats are included as an option if you are thinking of a winter scheme. The upper hull has a number of rectangular holes in the front, sides and top, with only some of them making sense initially, until you realise that the glacis and side walls are added separately to give you all that lovely tooling detail. The circular radiator vents are separate too, as is the engine hatch and the two crew hatches at the front of the tank. The crew get clear periscope blocks, while the perforated engine deck vents are covered from the inside by inserts that well-represent the radiator baths and the fan in the centre. The small wedge-shaped skirt at the rear of the sponsons are also added from separate parts, and the underside of the sponsons are closed in by two plates that sit on turrets moulded into the upper hull part, and holds them in place while you add all the brackets for the Schürzen parts, which were fitted to pre-detonate shaped charges. These nickel-plated parts are fitted later, and if scraped gently after painting should reveal some of their bright metal under the paint. The upper hull is then detailed with all the usual parts you would expect, such as the armoured periscope covers; mesh screens on the engine deck; stowage bracketry; spare track links; pioneer tools; gun cleaning kit; towing cables with plastic eyes and wire ropes; a big square profiled unditching beam with excellent wood texture; lifting lugs and so forth, after which the two halves of the hull are combined into something distinctly tank-like. The mudguards are able to be fitted in a complete or missing state, the latter achieved by using the stub parts and omitting the curved guards and their width indicator "lollipops". The turret is constructed on a sketeton framework using individual panels that are detailed up during the build. The rear has a hatch added that can be posed open or closed, front has a letterbox slot for the gun and mantlet, while the sides are undecorated until later. The gun's breech is depicted in three parts, with a pair of poly-caps linking it to the two pivot points that cap either end of the inner mantlet, which is then hidden by one or other of the two cast mantlets that are included. The barrel fits snugly into a keyed slot in the mantlet, and has a three-part flash-suppressor added to the front in styrene, plus the very stub of the coaxial machine gun fitted through from the inside of the mantlet. The Anti-Aircraft (AA) machine gun that fits to the commander's cupola is an MG34 on a simple ring-mount with a belt-feed of ammo into a cloth bag, and that is glued onto the ring after it is fitted to the top of the cupola once the clear vision blocks and hatch cover has been put in place. The completed cupola fits into the roof of the turret with a key ensuring correct alignment, then more track stowage hooks are added to the sides, and/or brackets for spare road wheels at your whim. The track parts come from the spares included with the kit, as do the spare wheels. The turret has a three-lug bayonet fitting, and the gun can be locked in place by using the supplied travel lock, which has a length of simulated chain wrapping over the top. Markings You are treated to seven markings options with this kit, some of which will require you to either purchase the Zimmerit decals I reviewed recently here, or to apply your own the old-fashioned (and sometimes messy) way. From the box you can build one of the following: No.534, 5th Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, SS Panzer Division Wiking, Kovel, VOlyn, Ukraine, Summer 1944 No.113, 1st Battalion, 35th Panzer Regiment, 4th panzer Division, Wehrmacht, Eastern Front, Autumn 1944 No.135, 1st Battalion, 31st Panzer Regiment, 5th Panzer Division, Wehrmacht, Kowel, Poland, June 1944 No.613, 6th Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, SS Panzer Division Wiking, Kowel, Poland, Summer 1944 Sd.Kfz.268 Befehlspanther No.96, 3rd Panzer Regiment, 2nd Panzer Division, Wehrmacht, Normandy, France, Summer 1944 No.011 Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, SS Panzer Division Wiking, Summer 1944 No.503, Panther Tank Company Under Command of Gds. Lt. Sotnikov, 8th Guards Tank Corps, Soviet Red Army, Warsaw, Poland, August 1944 Decals are printed in China, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Option 5 is a Befehlspanther, which is externally identical to an ordinary Panther, but has a reduced ammunition complement in order to accomodate the additional radio gear that is carried by this control tank. Conclusion All personal bias aside, this is an excellent representation of a Panther Ausf.A from the box, but add the suspension set and some Zimmerit, and it will make up into a stunning model. Detail is exceptional, and the build should provide plenty of pleasure due to the fit and finish usually associated with Meng kits. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  2. German Medium Tank Sd.Kfz171 Panther Ausf.A Late Production Zimmerit 1:35 Meng Model If you're not sure what Zimmerit was, it was an anti-magnetic coating applied to the exterior of German AFVs from the end of 1943 to the 9th September 1944 in the factories and a little later in the field. It took the form of a thick fibrous paste with a greyish hue, and the application was usually ridged to give it a larger effective thickness without adding too much weight. It was water-based and applied to all vertical or near vertical surfaces over primer with a comb-like tool or stamp, and drying was then accelerated by using blow-torches over the application. There were a number of patterns used at certain factories, so it can be a minefield debating whether the vehicle had Zimmerit, which pattern it was, and how you would apply your own rendition to your model. Originally you were left to your own devices to use putty and a screw-driver tip, or later-on Photo-Etch (PE), which was a little regimented and inflexible. Now with the advances in decal technology, Meng and a few others have begun creating 3D decals that when applied give the appearance of this rough coating. The sheets arrive in thick plastic bags with a card header, a sheet of visual instructions and a sheet of Zimmerit decal protected by a thick piece of waxy paper. The instructions are simple diagrams showing where each part fits on the hull and turret, including such niceties as shaped parts for the mantlet, kugelblende and even the area under the side-skirts where a brave (foolhardy) man could slap a magnetic shaped-charge. Where appropriate there are alternative parts, which are indicated by arrows in opposite directions. A small note at the bottom indicates that if any edges begin to peel away from your model, you can re-glue them with super-glue (CA) or modelling glue. Personally, I'd be more happy with the CA! Of course these sets have ben patterned for a particular kit, and that kit is the brand-new late-model Panther from their own stable, which has some of the decal options needing Zimmerit, which is handy. There are four sets, as follows: Decal Type 1 (SPS-050) This is the traditional vertical pattern with blocks of grooves laid out in a matrix. Decal Type 2 (SPS-051) This pattern is reminiscent of a waffle-pattern, consisting of large squares, although it is on a larger scale than seen on the true waffle-texture that is seen on other vehicles. Decal Type 3 (SPS-052) This set consists of vertical lines in rows that extend uninterrupted the full width of the surface it covers. Decal Type 4 (SPS-053) Arranged similarly to Type 3, but with diagonal grooves dragged across the surface in a sometimes irregular manner. Conclusion The decals are just the right thickness to be believable, and would of course look best under an airbrushed coat of paint rather than brush-painted, which would be a tiresome exercise anyway, filling in all those little grooves. The patterns have been designed with just the right amount of conformity and a little individuality to look more realistic, away from that "uncanny valley" of PE that just doesn't look quite right. I hope that this method for Zimmerit coatings takes off, consigning PE and the messy putty methods to history at some point. Review sample courtesy of
  3. Imperial German Army Stormtroopers (HS-010) 1:35 Meng Model via Creative Models Ltd. Trench warfare in WWI developed rapidly through need, and became a horrifyingly fierce mode of fighting that resulted in massive casualties on both sides. Surprise attacks and raids were common by both sides, and the Germans called their troops Stoßtruppen, which translates to Stormtroopers, or shock troops. They were heavily armed and well-trained in order to achieve gains that the traditional barrage and frontal assault failed to deliver on many occasions. Covering fire to facilitate movement was key, so light machine guns were used as well as potato-masher grenades strapped in groups around a central handle for extra destructive power. The Kit This figure set arrives in the de facto standard figure box with Meng's satin finish and a dramatic painting of the figures on the front. On the back are the construction and painting details, with colour call-outs from their link-up with AK Interactive, with two drawings of each figure showing the parts layout and colours back and front. There are four figures that are held on one sprue, with another smaller sprue containing weapons, bayonets, pouches and helmets. Each figure is broken down as torso, legs, arms and heads, with the faces having suitably aggressive "war-faces". The helmets fit to the flat top of their heads, and in addition two of the figures have ammo pouches and other equipment around their necks and shoulders, which are fitted to flattened parts of the torso for better drape. Figure 1 Posed in the act of throwing a grenade with his mouth wide open, he is posed with weight on his back foot with forefoot and left arm thrown forward for balance. His rifle is slung over his shoulder, and he has ammo pouches and a gas-mask around his neck. He also has a water bottle and day sack on his belt, with putties around his boots. Figure 2 With feet planted firmly apart, toting an MG 08/15 with a bipod being used as a foregrip and a drum mag attached to the side. Even though this weapon had a reduced weight due to a smaller volume water jacket, it still weighed in at just under 21kg when full, plus the weight of the drum mag, which explains the rather staggered look of his legs. It wasn't a gun to be carried by a small man. He wears calf-length jackboots, and has a water bottle, gas mask canister and day sack at his waist. Figure 3 This figure is running in a crouch, carrying his rifle in front of him at the ready. He has grenade pouches on his chest, water bottle, gas mask canister and day sack on his waist, with putties over his boots. Figure 4 This moustachioed soldier is walking forward in a crouch, looking to his left and shading his eyes as he does so. In his right hand (which is a moulded to the gun) is a Bergmann MP18, which is a late war submachine gun, and is fitted with a "snail" 32-round drum magazine with a long feed, which was manufactured by Luger. He also carries the usual complement of gear on his waist and wears jackboots. Painting There are no decals, although I would like to see rank and insignia included in more figure sets as a matter of course. The colour call-outs are in the AK/Meng paint codes, which are given names and swatches on the side of the box in case you use different paints. The uniform of the day was a blue-grey, so keep the lid on your WWII Feldgrau and don't be tempted to use it. Conclusion An excellent addition to any WWI trench diorama, just remember to swap out the MP18 if you are planning something earlier than 1918. Sculpting is first rate, breakdown of parts is sensible, and as it states on the box there are "rich facial expressions" to add a little humanity to the set. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  4. Vickers Medium Tank Mk.II** 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models After WWI there was a hiatus where it was believed by some that tanks would never see combat again after the "war to end all wars", but reality hit and planning for future wars became prevalent again. The Vickers Mark I bore a resemblance to the tanks of the Great War, but had a fully-fledged turret on top of the hull, giving it a more modern look. It was replaced by the Mk.II, which sometimes served alongside its predecessor as both were used to replace the ageing Mark Vs of wartime design. Only a hundred were commissioned initially, with just over half of these upgraded to the II* by moving the commander's position aft to avoid spent shell cases and install new coax machine gun. The rest were upgraded later to the same standard and called II** because they had an additional wireless compartment added to the rear of the turret, giving it a "bustle" and vastly improved inter-crew communications on the battlefield. Another batch of 20 were built as IIAs and a number of special variants were also made before the tank was phased out just before the outbreak of WWII, although the threat of invasion saw a number taken out of mothballs briefly. The Kit This is a revised tooling of the original kit release in 2016 as the Vickers Medium Tank Mk.I (83878), with new parts added to each of the following boxings, working from the II to the II* and now this variant. The box is typical Hobby Boss, and inside the more delicate parts are protected by a small card divider, with ten sprues in sand styrene plus hull and turret parts in the divider, four sprues in brown styrene containing track links, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a small sheet of decals, the instructions and separate colour painting guide. Detail is good, with lots of raised rivets dotted around the slide-moulded hull and turret parts, plus the individual track links, which are crisply moulded. Construction begins with the WWI-esque sponsons, which have well-defined sloped plates on the outer edge to disperse tracked-up mud. Five sets of four road wheels are fitted to the underside of the sponsons, plus a single pair on the end, and the adjustable idler wheel at the front. The hull is built up by adding the hatches and the ball-mounted machine gun in the sides, with the floor panel closing up the underside. Grab handles, steps and various vents, radiators and ports are added to the hull, and the multi-part drive sprockets are installed on pegs at the rear of the hull, joined later by the sponsons, which mate using three pegs to hold it them in place on the sides. A run of return-rollers and a guide rail are glued into the sponsons to support the track, which is fitted later, and a number of PE grilles are added, as is the driver's raised hatch. The tracks are made up from individual links that have two parts each, with the guide-horns fitted to a depression on the inner face of the links. Each run requires 65 links, which are a tight fit and the hollow guide horns are small, so will need a little care and patience. If you use liquid cement and drape them round the road wheels whilst the glue is still flexible, holding them in place with clamps etc., they should look good when painted. If you also use a straight-edge to ensure that they are correctly aligned, the task will be much easier. With the track runs fitted, the fenders can be attached to the remaining slots in the hull sides, with a set of PE brackets formed up to support them, plus the exhaust, light clusters (with optional headlamps) and stiffeners also made up from PE. The turret is mostly preformed by slide-moulding, to which a turret ring is added, and the gun's mantlet slotted into the supports moulded into the turret lower. The coax machine gun barrel slots in next to the mantlet, the radio box is fitted to the rear, and the commander's cupola with clamshell doors popped on top. The final act is to place the turret on the hull (no bayonet fitting here), and fold up then glue on the light boxes that deflect the paltry glow from the headlamps down toward the ground. Markings Only two decal options are provided from the box, which is almost expected for this middle-tier offering from HB, with one only having the number plate "ME 9840", and the other "MK 8227" and series of white Os on the front and turret sides. There's no further information offered, and the decals are all white, so registration isn't an issue, but density and sharpness are just fine, so nothing to worry about. Your MkII** will of course be green. Conclusion A good quality kit of this unusual box-like little tank, which was superseded by the differently boxy Cruiser Mk.I, which fought well in the Mediterranean in the early stages of WWII. With the addition of a commander poking out of the turret, its diminutive size will be well illustrated. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  5. Sukhoi Su-17M3 Fitter-G 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Su-17, with its NATO reporting name Fitter was derived from the earlier Su-7 as a project to improve its low speed handling, particularly during take-off and landing. It was Sukhoi's first attempt at variable geometry wings, and when it reached service was the Soviet Union's first swing-wing aircraft in service. To keep the project costs down, the centre section of the wing remained fixed, with the outer able to swing back for high-speed flight, and forward for slow. A pronounced spine was also added to the rear of the cockpit to carry additional fuel and avionics that were necessary with the advances in aviation. The first airframes reached service in the early 70s, and were soon replaced by more advanced models with the designation M3 and M4, designated Fitter-H and –K respectively by the Allies. The M3 was based on a larger fuselage with two seats from the UM trainer variant and had additional weapons options, developed further and was considered to be the pinnacle of the two-seat Fitter line with a heavily upgraded avionics suite including improved targeting, navigation, and yet more weapons options, as well as improved engines. A downgraded version of the M4 was marketed as the Su-22M3, and was in production until the early 80s. Although the Su-17 was withdrawn from Soviet service in the late 1990s, it remained in service much longer in its export guise, where it was used by both Iran and Iraq, Libya and Angola to name but a few, where it had variable success, which likely had as much to do with pilot skill and training as the merits of the airframe. The Kit This is a tooling variation on the original M4 boxing that was released earlier in the year, and reviewed here at the time. There are a number of shared sprues in the box, with new ones interleaved where appropriate. The boxtop artwork downplays the two-seat nature of the kit, with the aircraft heading toward the "camera", foreshortening the fuselage and extra glazing. That said however, there are definitely two seats in the box, and the newly tooled fuselage has those openings ready to accept the cockpits, with the fixed frame between them moulded into the fuselage halves. The box contains sixteen sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, three "rubbery" wheels, decal sheet, instruction booklet and painting/decaling guide. It seems that someone made a bit of a boo-boo with the instructions, as the sprue guide shows only one seat sprue, with the legend "x2" written in with biro. There is also a loose leaf of corrections to the cockpit instructions, where some of the part numbers have been incorrectly prefixed by a J. A label has been affixed to the page, and the spare leaf is clearly marked "Correction" in English and Mandarin. Construction follows very closely the original boxing, with the large full-length fuselage halves showing the main difference, and accompanied by the two seat cockpit, which is also moulded as one tub with matching seats and bulkheads, instrument panels and side-consoles/walls added. Decals are applied to the consoles and panels to improve detail, and the completed assembly is inserted into the new fuselage along with the nose gear box that is identical to the earlier kit. There's no avoiding installing the nose gear before painting, so take care you don't bend or break it during handling. The nose cone and wedge-shaped splitter-plate are assembled, as is the exhaust with rear engine face and afterburner ring, following which the fuselage can be closed up, taking care to install the glazing panels between the cockpits, which would be very tricky to fiddle into position later, especially as the area is quite fine and prone to damage. Adding the tail and elevators early in the build gives the assembly a lawn-dart look that is spoiled only by the blunted nose. The swing-wings are built up in the same manner as before, with the gloves/inner panels first, which are festooned with fences and pylons, and you are incited to add the main landing gear legs at this point too. The outer panels with separate slats and clear wingtip lights are clipped into the gloves on two lugs, requiring you to make a choice of open or closed configuration at outset, as they don't rotate. The rear-seater's coaming was installed along with the cockpit due to its location, but the pilot's is fitted late in the build with a two-part clear HUD assembly as well as other details. The canopy is supplied with options for open or closed in a fairly confusing profusion of diagrams, and the rear canopy is fitted with the retractable rear-view mirror that is seen on many two-seat Soviet era jets. As per the original boxing, there is the complex pitot probe on the nose, which has a number of small PE parts added to it and a few to the front of the fuselage to depict other sensors. An additional assembly is provided that builds up into a towing bar for the aircraft, which can often be seen either attached to the nose wheel, or lurking nearby for impromptu tractor hook-up. The generous weapons sprues contain the same options as the single-seater, as follows: 12 x AB-100 Iron bombs on 2 x MER 2 x AB-250 Iron bombs 2 x FAB-500 Iron bombs 2 x S-24B on adapter rails 2 x R-60MK on adapter rails 2 x B-13L rocket pods 2 x B-8M rocket pods 4 x Fuel Tanks The back page of the instruction booklet shows the pylon positions of the various options, but as above, check things over before you proceed. Stencil locations are shown on a separate colour page, with positions and colours all called out. Markings Unusually for a Hobby Boss kit, there are four decal options, and all bar one are documented! The stencil count for the airframe seems a little light however, so check your references and pick up some additional stencils from an aftermarket producer. While the schemes are all camouflaged, there is sufficient difference between them to vary appeal. From the box you can build one of the following: Su-17M3 Yellow 87 Su-17M3 Blue 09, Soviet Naval Air Force, Soviet Union, 1980-1990 Su-17M3 Red 13, 1st AE, 168th APIB, Bolshye Shiraki Air base, Soviet Union, 1982 Su-17M3 Blue 21, 101st ORAP (Independent Reconnaissance Regiment), Soviet Union, late 80s Decal quality is typical Hobby Boss, with good register, colour density and reasonable sharpness, although there is a slight offset between the red and white in the numerals 13 on my copy, which is happily invisible elsewhere on the sheet. The misregistration is thankfully small, so shouldn't cause too much heartache. I do however wish that HB would raise their overall game with decals, so that they feel like less of an afterthought and more of an integral part to the package. Conclusion The two-seat Su-17 is quite a handsome aircraft IMHO, and I know I'm not alone in thinking so. It's another decent addition to their large and still growing line of Soviet/Russian aircraft in 1:48, and I'm looking forward to building it some day. Speaking of "large", it builds up to almost 400mm long, with a wingspan of 285mm, which is not insubstantial. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  6. Su-27 Flanker Early 1:48

    Su-27 Flanker Early 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, and it is this early version that is the subject of the 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 We reviewed the first edition of this kit almost a year ago (at time of writing), and you can see that here, as the box content is almost identical at first glance. The box is a standard top-opener with a Flanker flying "danger close" to a P-3 Orion that has presumably strayed a little too close to Soviet/Russian airspace. Inside is a card insert with the two fuselage halves and their blended wings secured to it by plastic 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 safety. 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 main differences between this and the earlier (later model) kit are to the rear of the fuselage halves, with the streamlined stinger between the engines making an appearance. Also, there is a probe atop each vertical tail, which is not seen in the later marks. Otherwise, it's a big sense of déjà vu until you get to the decal sheet, which is only 50% déjà vu. As the photos of the original boxing were decent and on a similar (if darker) background, I have included those with the old logo, and you can tell the new content by the lighter backdrop and freshly minted logo on those sprues. There's no sense in wasting server space with functionally identical photos, afterall. The weapons provided in the box are generous as normal with Hobby Boss, and the detail is pretty good throughout, although I do wonder how many of those moulded-in aerials and sensors will last at the hands of anyone with big clumsy hands like mine. My feelings regarding the rubber tyres are well known, and even though the detail on the hubs is very nice, I would still probably replace them with resin aftermarket to take away the risk of them melting over time, as was seen many-a-time with the older models. Whether they changed the recipe in light of that is anyone's guess, so from my point of view it's better safe than sorry. Markings The larger decal sheet is a straight-forward reprint of the earlier kit, with only the kit's code changed. The sheet with the more interesting markings is slightly smaller, and contains decals for two options, both of which are in the pale grey, pale blue/grey, and pale blue tri-colour scheme, and from the box you can build one of the following: Red 83 with a green radome and dielectric panels on the tail Red 36 with a grey radome and dielectric panels on the tail The decals are the usual fare from HB, are in decent register, lightfast and reasonably sharp into the bargain. You get a set of decals for the cockpit instruments, as well as a reasonable complement of stencils, but if you want to get it exactly right, you will need to consider some aftermarket stencils, such as those from Begemot. Conclusion Like its stablemate, it is a new tool moulding of an early Flanker, so what's not to like? It will doubtless have some foibles that will irritate the perfectionists, but what kit doesn't? Grab some AKAN paints on your way to the (probably virtual) checkout, and add one to your collection. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  7. German Panzerlok BR57 Armoured Locomotive 1:72 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd. During the 20s and 30s, the German National Railway dropped their previously dismissive doctrine regarding the use of armoured trains and realised that the armoured train was an effective way of pushing the railway further toward the front line, with sufficient protection for the locomotive to counter all but large calibre, high velocity rounds. A standard 1910 Prussian series G10 locomotive (0-10-0) with was fitted with armoured plates of thickness to render them almost invulnerable to small arms fire and air attack, permitting the loco to carry on unmolested unless the track was damaged. This type of loco became the standard in track clearing duties, and often pulled/pushed armoured and armed wagons mounting surplus gun turrets, seeking out ambushes in advance of important consignments that would follow. The BR57 often pulled two tenders and both pulled and pushed a couple of such wagons from the centre of the train. The Kit Although Hobby Boss don't immediately strike you as a producer of railway kits, they and their associate company Trumpeter do have a long-running and infrequent habit of producing (mainly military) engines, rail guns and wagons to go with such things. I have a couple of these in my collection, such as the Trumpy Leopold, the BR52 loco and a Panzerjägerwagen, as well as a diesel shunter the name of which I can't quite remember as I write this. This armoured loco is a new tool, and arrives in a standard HB box with a small card divider within, protecting the bodywork and under frame from damage, with the rest of the sprues individually wrapped, and in places protected by additional foam sheet. Take heed regarding the wrapping around the chassis ends though, as it is quite tightly wound, and could damage the delicate details underneath if removed roughly. Inside the box are seven sprues and two separate parts in sand coloured styrene, a glossy A4 painting sheet, instruction booklet and no decals, which I'm a little surprised about, as military vehicles of all types usually have at least a few stencils. Moving on… The detail of the slide-moulded upper shell parts is excellent, with bulky rivets and panels on the surface. The purists will want to replace the grab rails on the loco sides with wire ones for ultimate fidelity, but care will need to be taken here not to damage the surrounding detail. The overall part count is fairly low due to the fact that much of the structure is covered by armour, but what is there is finely moulded to a high standard. Construction begins with the lower chassis, which is a long narrow ladder into which the bearings, leaf-suspension and brake blocks are added on the inside face, with the wheels on the outer face. The wheels and their connecting rods are applied to the outer face, with a good level of moulded-in detail on the single part, given the limitations of plastic moulding. More parts including the pistons at the front of the wheel runs and the connecting rods are added before the running gear is mated with the lower floor of the loco. The boiler front and tread-plates are fitted to the front of this over the pistons, and plates are added to the front and rear. The armoured body is pretty much a single part, and is moulded with three tabs on the lower edge of each side, which must be removed before it is installed over the floor. Mirrors, couplings, a short funnel, and cheek plates to the pistons are then installed to finish off the loco. The tender has a wider, shorter chassis with three pairs of wheels added inside the frame, and suspension detail moulded to the outer surface of the frame. This and the loco coupling are fitted to the underside of floor, with the armoured shell fitting over the top with steps, grips, buffers and couplings fitted to the exterior. A small valance is fixed to the shroud around the accessway, and a plate is glued to the rear underside of the loco to fix the link between the halves in place, completing the build. Happily, Hobby Boss have included a stand, which consists of four track bed lengths with end-caps that result in a 60cm base that is covered in faux ballast, which if I'm being critical is a little bit too regular. The sleepers/ties are moulded into the ballast, and you slide eight lengths of rail into the cleats, linking them together with bolted plates as per the real thing (before welded rails became a thing of course). This gives the (roughly) 25cm loco and tender plenty of space to float around, and an additional truck or two could be added for a mini-diorama. Markings There are no decals in the box, and only one colour scheme included on the sheet, which is a base of Dark Yellow, over which is applied Red brown and Field Green stripes in a similar fashion seen on Panzers of the time. Given how filthy railway gear got due to the soot and grease, there is then plenty of scope for the modeller to express themselves with weathering. Conclusion A nicely moulded kit that would have benefitted from the inclusion of the footplate and controls, so that the sliding panels over the windows could have been left open. The boiler front is also locked away behind a non-opening armoured door, which again would have been useful to be able to leave ajar for a more candid look to the finished model. That aside, it's an appealing addition to a collection of military railway hardware, which I seem to have been indulging in without even thinking about. Maybe that's where my son gets it from afterall? Review sample courtesy of
  8. German WWII Machine Guns Set (35250) 1:35 MiniArt Germany maintained a perceived advantage throughout WWII in their machine guns, beginning with the MG34 and the even more potent MG42 that gained a fearsome reputation against Allied troops, earning the nickname Hitler's Buzzsaw due to its furious rate of fire, which topped out at 1,200 rounds per minute, although in the real world the actual speed was considerably less, due to the frequent barrel swaps (a 6 barrel rotation), and stopping to load more ammo. Consideration also had to be given to the quantity of ammunition that could be carried by the crew, which were ideally a six man team, but more often it was three men. Less well known is the ZB-53, which was a Czechoslovakian design utilised by the Wehrmacht, and as it was a pre-war design, it had also been licensed by the British, where it was known as the Besa, seeing service in many early war British tanks. All of these were air-cooled and had good rates of fire, but of the three, the ZB-53 with its sturdy tripod and need for boxed ammunition was the least portable. The Kit Arriving in a figure-sized end-opening box, there are five small sprues in the box, plus a branded card envelope that contains a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass for the fine parts. From this you can make two each of the MG-34 and MG-42, plus one of the ZB-53. The instructions are on the rear of the box, and each gun is made up from a number of finely moulded parts, with suitable accessories as follows: MG-34 (shared between two guns) 2 x Ammo boxes with PE handle 2 x Open ammo carriers with PE handle 1 x length of ammo 2 x PE carry straps with and without clips 6 x Gurttrommel drum mags 2 x bipod folded 2 x bipod extended MG-42 (shared between two guns) 2 x Ammo boxes with PE handle 2 x barrel carrier with PE straps 2 x oil cans with PE handle 2 x PE carry straps with and without clips 2 x Gurttrommel drum mags 2 x bipod folded 2 x bipod extended ZB-53 (vz.37) 1 x multi-part tripod with PE parts 2 x Ammo boxes with PE handle PE shrouds, sights and muzzle for the gun Moulding is excellent as you'd expect from MiniArt, and the range of spares included really helps with building a realistic scenario. By the time you have cut all the parts from the sprue there doesn't seem much there, but it's quality stuff that will look exceptional with sympathetic painting. As usual, the paint call-outs use a number system, which cross-refers to a table at the bottom of the instructions that gives alternative codes for Valljo, Testors, Tamiya, Humbrol Revell, Mr. Color, Life Color, as well as the colour names. If you can't get hold of at least one of those brands of paint, you should be able to convert them easily enough as a result. Review sample courtesy of
  9. Soviet Tank Crew At Rest (35246) 1:35 MiniArt There's a phrase that says "War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror", which from the little I know is a truism. We see many figure kits with guys in combat poses, but much fewer with soldiers relaxing or doing everyday "stuff". Guess what? This figure set as the name implies shows a group of five Russian tankers in poses that couldn't be much more relaxed unless they fell over. The set arrives in a standard sized end-opening figure box with a painting of the intended poses on the front, and a combined instruction and painting guide on the rear of the box. Inside are five sprues in mid grey styrene, two containing figure parts, one with weapons, and three more with ammunition and their containers to help create a little clutter around the figures. All five figures are complete, with four of them stood up. One is leaning on something with his helmet still on, another has his helmet in his hand, and the third is either taking off, or putting on his overalls. Number four is overall free and stood with his hands in pockets and helmet loosely on his head, while number five is sat down and having a crafty smoke. I do hope he's not near any flammable liquids! The part numbers are given on the included instruction sheet, as are the numbers for the weapons, all of which are optional to use as you see fit. The extra three sprues allow you to build up three crates of either OF-540 HE Fragmentation shells, or HEAC Anti-Concret shell G-530, both of which have a separate brass casing containing the propellant powder charge. The crates are made up from a complicated array of small parts, which should give you good detail, and one compartment has a hole in one of the sections that allows the conical end of the shell to pass through and be supported by a cushioning insert at the rear. The other compartment is for the brass casing, which is common between both shells. Depending on which shell type you insert, you will be left with the alternative for the spares box, or to display loose with a flagrant disregard for safety! Conclusion With MiniArt we have come to expect excellent sculpting, and this set does not disappoint, with realistic poses, drape of clothing and faces. The extras are also finely sculpted, even down to triggers and guards on the pistols. The box is marked as a "Special Edition", which I guess refers to the extras that come with the figures. If those appeal to you, buy 'em sooner, rather than later. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  10. World War Toons King Tiger (Porsche Turret) "Scale is just a number" Meng Model In the World War Toons (WWT) universe, things are a bit distorted… in many ways, come to think of it. Short, stubby and chunky are the new normal, and in case you haven't asked Google yet, the kits are based upon a cartoonish first person shooter that seems to be available on the Playstation 4, and on which you can even play using their Playstation.VR headset if you're lucky enough to own one. I don't have either, being a PC gamer when I do, so I can't speak to their realism in that universe, but with it being Meng, I'm sure they've done a decent job! As you can see from the video below, they don't take any of it too seriously which makes something in the back of my brain itch uncomfortably a little. Still, toward the end you can see some of the tanks that Meng have released, and I'm now wondering whether the game will find its way to other platforms in due course, or if it's just a PS4 exclusive. The Kit Arriving in a short fat box with an end-opening flap, which otherwise fits the usual Meng profile, you notice on the front there are comments about it being able to be built without cement, having a rotating turret, and it being cute. Ok. Not something you see often on a model boxtop of a tank, that's for certain. Moving on. Quickly. Inside are five sprues and a lower hull in dark grey styrene, poly-caps, plus two rubber-band tracks and a small sheet of decals. Much better than stickers, which I was half expecting. The instructions round out the package, and are printed in an A5 booklet in glossy black, with each step drawn in CAD format with four language section headers and additional instructions. Just like a "real" model you start with the idler wheels and drive sprockets, which are both two-part and have a poly-cap secured between them. The lower hull receives two layers of road wheels on each side, which are fixed with pins on a friction-fit basis, while the drive and idler wheels just push-fit on their poly-caps. Towing eyes are fixed to the front, and a bunch of pioneer tools are added to the upper hull, along with towing cables and the Kugelblende armoured panel over the bow machine gun. The tracks slip over the wheels, and the hull clips in place, after which the rear bulkhead with exhausts, towing eyes and jack are pressed into position before the completed assembly is clipped into place. The turret is in two parts, with the mantlet fixed in place by their assembly. A single part gun with slide-moulded muzzle-brake finishes off the main assembly, with grab-handles, hatches and extra tracks added around the top and rear. It fits in place with a bayonet connection to the hull, and that's it done! If you're going to be silly about it, you can either add Zimmerit with filler, or simulate the rolled steel armour texture, neither of which are present (hardly unexpected) on the kit's surface. Markings The decals for one tank are printed in China, and have excellent registration with a red "48" for the turret and four crosses for the hull, plus some yellow chevrons and white lightning bolts for the rear and engine deck. Just the one option is available, and this has a number plate too, which is highly irregular! Build Tips Use glue for the small parts, as otherwise you'll be hunting round for them at the slightest jolt. I spent 20 minutes looking for one of the exhausts after the rear bulkhead fell out of my hands during construction and the assembly flew apart, depositing the missing exhaust into my spare parts bin. Glue the turret halves too, as the front will spread a little due to the mantlet if you don't. The review sample tracks come out of the box a little twisted, but once installed they have already begun to return to shape, although resting the weight of the model on the twisted section is a good idea. Incidentally, the detail on the outer face of the tracks is really rather nice. I plan on gluing mine and painting it eventually, so you might notice that some of the smallest parts are missing from the photos (mainly grab handles), and that the wheels are at odd angles because I haven't pushed the axle pins fully home yet. You can also see a few sprue gates, which have been roughly pared at this point. Conclusion Did Meng even LOOK at a King Tiger when they tooled this? The shape is all wrong, the gun too short, and the tracks are simplified! Unbuildable!!!!!! But seriously, it's cool really. This is just one from a growing range of appealing and cutesie kit that should attract plenty of folks that will never even hear of the game (unless they read this). Great for serious and non-serious modellers, and could also be used as a vehicle (geddit?) to attract younger modellers into the fold. I'm not a big fan of egg-planes, but these I like. The initial issue are out of stock already, so if you're planning on getting one of these, be quick as they seem to be selling fast! Very highly recommended. The full range Review sample courtesy of
  11. Russian Armed Forces Tank Crew (HS-007) 1:35 Meng Model It's all very well getting the latest tooled model of a stunning T-90A from Meng like the one we reviewed here, but without crew they lack a human scale, and can seem somewhat blank. Modern Russian crew members have been a little thin on the ground, so now we have a number of modern kits to choose from, it's appropriate that we also have crew members to place in and around them. Meng's Human series has been slowly expanding over the years, and this latest offering from them fills the void above, with five crew figures (or relevant parts thereof) that arrive in a figure-sized box in their usual satin finish. A painting of the chaps adorns the front of the box, and drawings of them are found on the rear, together with paint and part numbers to assist you with your endeavours. Two scrap drawings also show where the two crew stands can be placed, using the T-90A as an example. Inside the box is a single sprue that rattles about a bit due to the small size, and that probably has you wondering about how they managed to fit the five figures into such a small space. That's easily explained by looking at the rear of the box, as although you do get three full figures, the forward crew – driver and radio operator only poke their heads and shoulders over their hatches, so that's all you get. That and a pair of stands that will let them sit at the right height in their hatches. Sculpting is excellent, although as usual with Meng figures, the moulding seams are prominent, but with a Moulding Flash Sander chucked into your Dremel that shouldn't be too vexing. Conclusion A very useful set indeed that can doubtless be adapted to use with other appropriate vehicles. The price is quite pocket-friendly too Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  12. Air Carried Missiles & Bombs for Post War Jets 1:48 Meng Model Supplier Series You can't have too many weapons in hand when you're building something relatively modern (post WWII) from the Allies with jet engines, as you can almost guarantee that at least some of the items you want to add to your load-out won't be in stock. Most people keep any weapons they don't use for future reference, but sometimes that's not enough, and you have to resort to aftermarket. The old Hasegawa weapons sets are long in the tooth now, and hard to find, and resin isn't suitable for everyone's skillset or pocket, which is why I guess Meng decided to round out their recent Supplier range with three sets of US weapons. These are broken down between missiles of short range, missiles with long range, and guided bombs, all of which are in styrene, which will appeal to a wider audience due to everyone's familiarity with the medium and its reasonable cost. Each set comes in a satin-finish Meng figure sized box, with a delightful end-opening box that everyone loves so much. The front of the box shows diagrams of each item in the box, with construction diagrams on the back, and finally the painting and decaling details on the sides, called out in AK Interactive colour codes. US Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles(SPS-043) This box contains a selection of short range missiles from the early Falcon to the increasingly capable Sidewinder that is used by so many countries today. In the box you get the following: 4 x AIM-4C Falcon 4 x AIM-4F Falcon 4 x AIM-4G* Falcon 4 x AIM-4D* Falcon 4 x AIM-9B Sidewinder 4 x AIM-9E* Sidewinder 4 x AIM-9NP* Sidewinder 4 x AIM-9D* Sidewinder 4 x AIM-9M* Sidewinder 4 x AIM-9X* Sidewinder with adapter rail Each missile body is a single part, with two fins from each set moulded-in, and the others as separate parts. The weapons marked with an asterisk also have a clear seeker head part, and the AIM-9X had an additional exhaust part for added detail to this latest version. The stencils for both missile types are included, and differ between variants, as do their colours. The earlier AIM-4s have at least a portion of their bodies painted bright red, while the AIM-9s are all grey or white. US Long/Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (SPS-044) This set contains the larger missiles with greater range, which are intended to keep the enemy at arm's length and make dogfights a thing of the past. The Sparrow, AMRAAM and the Phoenix missiles are all included, plus training, ECM and instrumentation pods. The box contains: 2 x ACMI Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation Pod 4 x AIM120B AMRAAM Missile 4 x AIM120C AMRAAM Missile 4 x AIM-7M Sparrow Missile 4 x AIM-7E Sparrow Missile 4 x AIM-54A Phoenix Missile 4 x AIM-54C Phoenix Missile 2 x AN/ALQ-188 training pod 2 x EML8222 Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) Pod Again, the Sparrow and AMRAAM missile bodies are single parts with some fins moulded-in, and others as separate parts, plus small adapter rails. The larger Phoenix missiles that were used solely on the F-14 Tomcat are supplied in halves, with a separate tail and two of the fins. The ACMI pod is a single delicate part, while the others are build from separate halves with additional sensors added to the sides or ends. Colours and stencils are copious, and detailed on the box sides, so remember not to throw them away. The AIM-7M hasn't been given part numbers on the instructions, but by a process of deduction we can tell you that they are on sprue B. US Satellite-Guided Bombs (SPS-045) The final set has a raft of different smart bombs of varying sizes, plus the more recent Small Diameter Bombs that have become popular due to the reduced collateral damage from the smaller explosive yield. A pair of laser targeting pods are also included, as follows: 2 x GBU-31-V1 JDAM with Mk.84 payload 2 x GBU-31-V3 JDAM with BLU-109 payload 2 x ANAAQ-33 LANTIRN targeting pod 2 x GBU-54 laser JDAM with Mk.82 payload 8 x GBU-53 precision-guided glide bomb 8 x GBU-39 precision-guided glide "bunker-buster" bomb 2 x BRU-61 that can carry 4 x GBU-53 or -39 The bombs all have two-part bodies, with separate fins and in the case of the GBU-39, separate winglets and tail unit. The construction of the BRU-61 bomb carriers are correctly designated, but when shown mated with the bombs it is incorrectly called out as an AIM-54A. It is also a little frustrating that there sufficient bombs to fill 4 racks, yet only two are included in the box. As with the other sets, the painting and markings guide are shown on the sides, and some complex masking will be needed around the "shroud" that the larger GBUs wear. Review sample courtesy of
  13. F-35A Lightning II 1:48

    F-35A Lightning II 1:48 Meng Model Probably one of the (if not the) most contentious and publically berated projects since the beginning of aviation over a hundred years ago, the F-35 in its three guises has been a marathon journey from proposal to production and testing, with the first few going into service this decade. Initially named the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), there were three variants proposed, all of which shared the same overall configuration and look, as well as borrowing technology from the now in-service F-22. Combining a stealthy surface with internal weapons bays, supersonic performance and an in-depth sensor-fusion that provides the pilot with excellent situational awareness and a broader "sense" of the whole battlesphere, the software alone has been a mammoth task. Coupled with the new technologies utilised, and the number of contractors/countries involved, it has gone over time and budget on a number of occasions, with frequent threats and calls to cancel the project in favour of other options. Various customers have also opted in and out of the end-of-project purchase, and numbers of airframes have been chopped and changed by various customers as political wrangling and budget-balancing became involved. Irrespective of the political back and forth, the engineering side of things has progressed through the hurdles, and at the end of 2006 the maiden flight of an A variant was made, followed two years later by the STOVL B variant with its controversial lift fan. Fast-forward to 2015 and the US Marines were happy enough to call it suitable for initial operations. The navalised F-35C will join the fray in 2018 after many issues are resolved around carrier operations. The A variant is the smallest of the three airframes and is aiming to replace the F-16 eventually, although it will have a monster of a job replacing the Falcon in the hearts of aviation enthusiasts, as well as the differences in cost. Great Britain will be taking a number of A and B variants amongst its purchase for "synergy" between forces. Don't you just love management speak? No, me neither. The Kit We've had a couple of kits in this scale of the F-35, with a fairly recent release from another company that I suspect is about to be eclipsed by this brand new tooling from Meng, who have an excellent reputation for quality products. The kit arrives in one of Meng's usual high class boxes with their trademark satin finish, and a handsome painting on the top. On the sides are profiles of the decal choices, as well as an announcement of their collaboration with AK Interactive on new paints specifically to depict the tricky colours of the Radar Absorbent Material (RAM) coatings applied to these and other modern jets. Inside the box are thirteen sprues and two fuselage halves in a dark blue/grey styrene, a clear sprue, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) parts, decal sheet, a diminutive instruction booklet, and a colour painting and decaling guide in the same narrow portrait format. First impressions are that unlike the companies that issued F-22 kits in this scale a few years back, Meng have got the balance of raised detail about right, with neither too much nor too little, all of which should look good under paint. Speaking of paint, we'll be reviewing a new set of masks for this kit's complex RAM coatings from Galaxy Model soon, so watch this space. I'll put a link to it when it's live. Parts breakdown seems logical, detail is good, and a set of PE belts are included for the cockpit, which is always nice. Construction begins with this area, with a six-part ejection seat plus the aforementioned belts fitting into the cockpit tub, with only rudder, the two sticks making up the HOTAS control system, plus the instrument panel and coaming added last of all. There is an instrument panel decal for the digital panel that takes up most of the room, which should look good once set within the deep coaming. The gear bays must be built up next, as they will be closed up within the fuselage once complete. The nose gear bay is a single part into which the completed single-wheeled nose gear leg fits, with the scissor-link and retraction jack being separate parts, as well as two more that complete the detail. This can be left off until after painting, happily. The main bays are two-part assemblies, and the main gear legs have separate retraction jacks, links and scissor-links, totalling 6 parts each. Whilst these bays should suffice for a great many, a little additional detail would have been appreciated, as they seem a bit simplified on closer nspection. The weapons bays are both 6-part assemblies that depict the large tubing that runs their entire length, and while they too could be considered a little simplified, once you install the supplied GBU-53 small diameter bombs and their pylons in the bays, you'll probably see very little. The intake trunking is full depth, with the two intakes joining in front of the single fan of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine, which is a separate part with the fan face moulded in. The exhaust is relatively short, with a one-piece cylindrical trunk with the rear of the engine at the bottom, into which there are two PE mesh parts added, hiding most of what would otherwise be visible. The exhaust petals have excellent detail and finesse, and should be fine for all but the most detail-conscious, slipping over the end of the trunk and locking within the fuselage bottom on two lips. The port and starboard weapons bays, main bays, nose bay and intake trunking all attach to the lower fuselage half, with only the cockpit tub fitting into the upper half. Two pairs of small holes are drilled through the top in the aft section and then the two halves are brought together, with a few small panels added to recesses in front of the cockpit and on the spine, with the option of open or closed refuelling receptacle. Although the airframe has blended wings, they are separate parts, with a healthy overlap on the topside providing excellent strength of the finished article. Leading edge slats and flaps are added to the two-part wings, with holes drilled out for the pylons if you intend to fit them. Breaking the stealthy configuration allows the carriage of more munitions on the two underwing pylons, with a smaller outer pylon able to take addition air-to-air defensive armament of either AIM-9 or AIM-120 missiles. The elevators can be posed at a 10o droop, or in line with the airframe by using one of two inserts on the booms at either side of the exhaust, into which the completed two-part assemblies fix. The twin fins are also two parts each, with the stealthy lumps hiding all the machinery within. Under the fuselage the built-in laser-designator and various other lumps are added, after which you can choose to close up or leave open any combination of bays by adding or leaving off the hinges on some, or choosing the appropriate closed parts for the nose gear. There are a LOT of doors due to the internal weapons carried, but take your time and it'll all come together. In addition, a pair of AIM-120s can be fitted to the main weapons bays on a small pylon adapter, which deploys the weapon as the doors open. The F-35's canopy is quite heavily tinted with a golden hue, and that tint is sadly missing from the kit part. It isn't difficult to replicate however, simply by adding some clear acrylic yellow (or food colouring) to the Klear/Future that you dip the canopy into. There are numerous tutorials online, and I did just this with my Mig-31 Foxhound build a while back. Don't be tempted to sand off those fine canopy frame lines, as they're supposed to be there, and you'd have a devil of a job doing it because they're on the inside of the part! Clarity of the canopy is excellent, and Meng's inclusion of a piece of self-cling foil to the sprue certainly helps keep it that way until you are ready for it. There is an internal plastic frame part that glues inside the clear part, and this should be painted in anticipation of installation, as should the fine framework mentioned earlier. Masking is the way to go here, and while you are working in the area, you might as well paint the inside of the canopy for further realism. Fitting the canopy in the closed position is simply a case of applying glue to the part and pressing it home, while an open canopy requires the installation of four parts in the coaming, as the whole canopy tilts forward for pilot egress. With that the model is ostensibly completed, apart from adding any exterior stores that you might wish to depict. If you don't use the two AIM-120s in the belly, these can be used on the outer wing pylons, as can a pair of AIM-9Xs that sadly aren't included. The main wing pylons are wired for bombs such as the GBU-13, -39, -53 or -54, all of which are detailed in the final diagram that shows their probable location even though these items aren't included in the kit. There is however a new range of aftermarket styrene weapons sets coming from Meng, which may go at least some way toward explaining the dearth in the box. Markings I can almost hear a chorus of "boring grey jet" from some readers (if they haven't tuned out already), and you wouldn't be wrong about the grey part, to an extent at least. Both decal options are painted a dark grey, with some of the raised panels a lighter grey, both of which weather out a little lighter with use, as can be seen on the F-22 that has now seen some active service. Masking those areas would be a chore, and could drive a modeller insane, so look out for my upcoming review of the Galaxy Models mask set in due course. From the box you can build one of the following: F-35A 13-5071 34th FS, 388th FW, USAF piloted by Lt. Col. George Watkins, Hill AFB, 2016 F-35A 11-5033 33rd FW, USAF, piloted by Lance Pilch, Eglin AFB, 2015 The colours are called out in AK Interactive codes, as well as Acrysion Water Based Color, which is a new issue from the Mr Hobby range that dries faster than their existing colours. Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion If you've got this far, you're clearly in the market for a model of an F-35A, and in my humble opinion this is now the one to get if fit and finish is key to your modelling enjoyment. Casting my eyes over the parts in the box, this is a typical Meng product, so will please many. Of course they have gone into competition with another previously released modern tooling of the subject, but Meng have built up a following by providing excellent kits of sometimes unusual subjects, and I for one am a fan. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  14. Sukhoi Su-30MKK Flanker-G 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models What do you get it you cross an Su-30 with an Su-35? The Su-30MKK could be one answer, as it incorporates some of the avionics advances of the Su-35 and applies it to the basic Su-30 airframe with two seats, and gets the new NATO moniker Flanker-G to differentiate from the Su-30 Flanker-C. The initial customer was China, with an agreement signed at the turn of the millennium and the first of a small order arriving with the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force soon after in 2001. The aircraft is capable of flying all the muntions and pods that the Su-35 can carry, but has different software due to the mission capability requirements of the PLANAF, with carbon fibre and lighter aluminium alloys used to keep weight in check, and additional fuel stored in the twin tail fins to help give it the long range that was required. Fuel capacity elsewhere is also increased, and the increase in nose weight led to the addition of another nose wheel in tandem with the original. Further upgrades have led to the MK2 and MK3 variants that are being sold in small numbers to Vietnam, Indonesia amongst others. The Kit The Chinese juggernaut that comprises Hobby Boss and Trumpeter are on a big Russian/Soviet kick at the moment both in the aviation and AFV scenes, with Hobby Boss releasing some super stuff with wings in 1:48. We've been reviewing them as and when we can, and along comes the Su-30MKK, which is doubtless a subject close to Chinese hearts, as they have a shade under a hundred of them in service thanks to the aforementioned deal with Sukhoi and Russia. Pretty soon they will have filled all the gaps with new toolings of these impressive F-15 equivalents popping out every couple of months with different variants. The kit arrives in quite a large box, and inside is a divider to keep the small sprues rattling about, as well as a tray to which the fuselage/wing halves are attached via a bunch of plastic coated wires that are twisted into place. Both ends of the two parts are wrapped in foam sheet that is taped into place to avoid damage, and this method of protection is seen again in different parts of the package. In the box are seventeen sprues of grey styrene of variable size plus the two fuselage halves, three sprues of clear parts, four rubbery tyres, a small nickel-plated Photo-Etch (PE) sheet , two decal sheets, instruction booklet and two sheets of glossy paper for the markings and weapons stencils, both printed in colour. This is a BIG airframe, and you are greeted with this fact on opening the box, with the majority of the airframe complete in just two parts due to the blended-wing design of the original. Surface detail is good, with restrained engraved panel lines and rows of rivets, plus a number of delicate louvered vents on the fuselage. The weapons provided are also generous, taking up six of the sprues, with plenty to choose from. Construction begins with the two cockpits, which are well-appointed with rudder pedals and control sticks, detailed ejection seats, instrument panels and coamings, plus bulkheads and ejection seat ramps at the rear of each compartment. Decals are supplied for the instrument panels and side consoles, although they aren't mentioned in the instructions until you get to the painting and markings section. The nose gear bay is built at this point too, as is the nose gear leg and wheel, because the leg is trapped against the fuselage by the bay before the fuselage is closed up. The aft portion of the engine, afterburner ring and the initial section of exhaust trunking are also placed within the lower fuselage before the halves are joined, with a small bay for the refuelling probe also added, which if you forget could probably be snuck inside before the nose cone is added later. Flaps and slats are added to the near-complete wings, and the elevators are attached to the rear fuselages, complete with their outriggers that allow them to sit next to the exhaust petals. Speaking of which, there is a choice of either constricted or relaxed variants of the exhausts, which coupled with the separate rudders on the big fins, give you the capability for a bit of variation at the rear end. The air intakes are separate from the main fuselage parts, and are constructed separately before being added. The roof of the intakes are separate, and the drop-down FOD guard is depicted in the mount of the intake, removing any need for trunking, despite there being an engine face part included that won't be seen unless you retract them using whatever modelling skills you possess. These two and the strakes that sit below the elevators are added underneath, the former having a ledge in the fuselage to ensure good fit of the rounded joint, the latter fitting using the slot and tab method. The main gear are each made from a tow-part leg, two-part hub and of course the rubbery tyre that I dislike so much but couldn't really tell you why. Perhaps it’s a hangover from the old days where these things would melt over the years and ruin your kits? I've no experience of the modern type doing this, but I'm loathed to find out. I'll be quiet about them now. Gear bay doors with moulded-in hinges and separate actuators are fitted next with a PE AoA probe under the nose, with the large nose cone moulded as a single part fitted to the front with no talk of nose weight to prevent a tail-sitter. Use your judgement there, but at this late stage of construction, you should be able to test its centre of balance by perching it (carefully) on the edge of a rule on your desk and playing seesaw. The small and delicate pitot probe should probably be fitted later, and won't make that much difference to your calculations, but remember there will be weapons and the canopy to install before you're done. The canopy is two-part, and with modern blown canopies that give the pilots better situational awareness, there is the necessary seamline down the outside of each part, which can be sanded away and polished back to clear with some micromesh or similar. The windscreen has a separate IRST sensor part in clear, and the main canopy has internal structure, opener, and a set of four rear-view mirrors in PE. Behind the canopy is the airbrake, which has a two-part skin, and a large actuator, with it shown deployed and nothing mentioned about its retracted position if you were aiming for a "clean" airframe. It shouldn't be too difficult to achieve with test-fitting and a little filler if required. More sensors are fitted to the sides of the fuselage along with the refuelling probe, which is also shown deployed. The Su-30MKK is capable of carrying a significant quantity of munitions, as evidenced by the four pylons under each wing, with another four on the underside of the fuselage. These are fitted in readiness for the weapons, with options for the tip pylons to be replaced by a sensor pod, and the centre station on the wing underside has an alternative pylon style. The weapons capable of being carried are included, and there are quite a few, as follows: 2 x KH-31P Krypton passive seeker air to surface missile 2 x KH-29L Kedge-A semi-active laser guided air to surface missile 2 x KH-29T Kedge-B TV guided air to surface missile 4 x R-27R Alamo-B semi-active radar homing missiles 4 x R-27ER Alamo-C semi-active radar homing missiles with extended range 4 x R-73 Archer A2A missiles 4 x R-77 Adder active radar A2A homing missile The final step shows the pylons that each weapon is fitted to, but you may wish to check your references to see the typical load-outs carried in the real world. Markings Despite the large total size of the two sheets, only two options are included in the box, but with the additional serials that are on the sheet, other airframes could be modelled by consulting your references. From the box you can build one of the following: PLAAF Blue 59 PLANAF Blue 18 With typical reticence, they tell you little else about the subjects, even down to difference in colour used by the two operators. The decals are printed in-house, and overall are in good register, with adequate colour density and sharpness, but with the red Chinese tail markings, there appears to have been an issue with the red on the review sample. It seems to have come very close to clumping whilst drying, and coupled with a slight registration issue between the yellow and red, makes the decals a little bit low quality for such a prominent placement. Conclusion Another appealing big Russian/Chinese fighter that has been slightly let down by the slightly suspect national markings on the decal sheet. Review sample courtesy of
  15. US T29E1 Heavy Tank 1:35

    US T29E1 Heavy Tank 1:35 Hobby Boss Toward the end of WWII when the almost invulnerable (if temperamental) King Tiger reached the battlefield, the Allied began a scramble to complete existing heavy tank projects, and initiated some new ones. The delayed Pershing project did manage to play a limited part in the final days of the conflict, but was considered too light to be effective counter to the Tiger II, which resulted in a larger chassis, a lengthened Pershing hull being mated to a huge turret that could house a previously unbeaten 105mm gun. The all-up weight was around 64 tons, with armour that was almost 100mm thicker than the King Tiger on the front, so would have been able to march right up to one and knock on its glacis plate with its high velocity 4.1" diameter rounds, driven along by an engine putting out in excess of 700hp. Sadly for the designers, the T-29 was unfinished by the end of the war, and as such became somewhat extraneous to requirements, ending its days as an engineering exercise for pushing the envelope in terms of tank design. The Kit Another new tooling from Hobby Boss, who seem to be enjoying kitting the many "almost" projects that were either made in small numbers, or barely got to the prototype stage. As someone that enjoys seeing the unusual and odd, I'm enjoying this phase of theirs too, so always look forward to seeing what's around the corner. The box is standard Hobby Boss, and inside are nine sprues and three large parts in grey styrene, eight sprues of track links in brown styrene, decal sheet, instruction booklet and separate colour painting guide. The standout part in the box is the massive upper hull, which is… well, BIG. The turret parts are also pretty large, and have a nice casting texture that should look good under a few coats of paint. The tracks look like they could be a little fiddly, but we'll take a proper look at those later in the review. Wheels. Lots of them. Every tank has this to a greater or lesser extent, and there are 18 pairs of road wheels to make up, which have a styrene (not poly-cap) collar between the halves that has a friction fit with the axle. Careful gluing is the order of the day if you want them to remain freewheeling. The drive sprockets are similar, but with more parts, and the idler wheels are included in the road wheel set, as they are identical. The drive sprockets are at the rear, and a portion of the lower hull is made up with the final drive housings and rear bulkhead attached, which is fitted to the back of the one-piece hull after removal of a couple of pegs from the top sides. Suspension parts are then studded all over the hull sides, with bump-stops, dampers and stub-axles of various types added, and a run of seven two-part idler wheels on each side, with nine road wheels and the drive sprockets added to complete the underside. Tracks come later. The upper hull is structurally complete, but with gaps for the gratings on the engine deck, and all the usual light clusters, pioneer tools etc. The fenders are also moulded in, and the starboard side has the exhaust and stowage boxes added, plus the bow-mounted machine gun barrel in its ball mount. 12 little shackles are added to the edges of the fenders, after which the upper hull is set aside while the tracks are constructed. 113 links per side are needed, with a jig supplied to ease construction. Five links are constructed at a time, with two separate end-caps to the links, which fit onto two pins projecting from each side of each link. The instructions tell you to glue these to the tracks, but if you do, you will be left with a flat length of track that isn't much use to you. I tried gluing one side of each pin to see whether I could obtain a workable link, but this failed due to the glue seeping across to the other side. You could create the links in batches of five, wrapping them immediately around the wheels, but remember that the outer caps have a spade-like extension to give the tracks extra width, which the instructions don't mention. I'm hoping for aftermarket tracks to become available before I build this, but with the addition of the sideskirts, less track would need to be used if you find it a chore, creating only enough to be seen. The travel-lock for the main armament finishes off the hull, and we move onto the turret. The turret halves are brought together immediately, and care will need to be taken in aligning the seams, and creating a realistic joint, which was a rough curve in places, and sharp in others. Check your references and reinstate any lost texture using glue and a stippling paint brush. The mantlet is in two parts and glues into the front of the turret, leaving the outer mantlet free to move, and the barrel is a two part moulding that fits into a keyed hole in the mantlet. There are three hatches on the top of the turret, with no clear parts, so you'll have to paint the vision blocks a suitable colour to give it some realism, plus of course a .5 M2 derivative on a mount at the front of the turret, and aerial mounts at the rear. The turret attaches to the hull with a standard bayonet fixing that you drop in and twist to lock, leaving it free to rotate. Markings Don't get too excited, as there are four decals on a tiny wee sheet, and all of them are white, and all of those are type designations for the front glacis and rear fenders. Olive drab is the scheme, but there's nothing to stop you from going off-book and doing a speculative scheme as if it had entered service either at the end of a longer WWII, or in Korea to name a couple of examples. Imagine a Maus and a T29 going head-to-head in Berlin! Conclusion A real monster of a tank that didn't go beyond prototype, but is still an interesting dead-end that shows how worried about the King Tiger and whatever was to come next from the Nazi War Machine. It's available at a fairly pocket friendly price too. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  16. Sukhoi Su-17M4 Fitter-K

    Su-17M4 Fitter-K 1:48 Hobby Boss The Su-17, with its NATO reporting name Fitter was derived from the earlier Su-7 as a project to improve its low speed handling, particularly during take-off and landing. It was Sukhoi's first attempt at variable geometry wings, and when it reached service was the Soviet Union's first swing-wing aircraft in service. To keep the project costs down, the centre section of the wing remained fixed, with the outer able to swing back for high-speed flight, and forward for slow. A pronounced spine was also added to the rear of the cockpit to carry additional fuel and avionics that were necessary with the advances in aviation. The first airframes reached service in the early 70s, and were soon replaced by more advanced models with the designation M3 and M4, designated Fitter-H and –K respectively by the Allies. The M4 was based on a larger fuselage and had additional weapons options, developed further and was considered to be the pinnacle of the Fitter line with a heavily upgraded avionics suite including improved targeting, navigation, and yet more weapons options, as well as improved engines. A downgraded version of the M4 was marketed as the Su-22M4, and was in production until 1990! Although the Su-17 was withdrawn from Soviet service in the late 1990s, it remained in service much longer in its export guise, where it was used by both Iran and Iraq, Libya and Angola to name but a few, where it had variable success, which likely had as much to do with pilot skill and training as the merits of the airframe. The Kit It's London buses time again! We reviewed this same subject by another company in January of this year, and less than half a year later, we're doing it again for the juggernaut that is Hobby Boss. This is a new tooling from them, and arrives in their standard top opening box with just a hint of the cardboard corrugations showing through the lid. Inside are fifteen grey sprues, two clear ones, three "rubber" tyres, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a decal sheet, instruction booklet, and two loose leaves of full colour glossy printed painting and markings guide. The first thing to note is that the fuselage is made from two full-length halves, which will simplify construction and appeal to some over the multi-part fuselage of the other new kit. Detail seems good throughout, although some of the finer stuff is absent to an extent, such as the riveting around the wing strakes, in the wheel bay, and the lack of separate blow-in doors on the nose sides. There are other positives that outweigh these minor issues however, such as a more detailed canopy interior, and the lack of a few extraneous surface details that were visible on the other contender. The nose gear bay is built up first with its gear leg captive from the outset, which I find a little inconvenient, but if you leave off the yoke and wheel, the rest is sturdy enough to survive the build, unless you are really clumsy (like me). Following on close behind is the cockpit, which assembles around a tub part, with a nicely detailed seat, side consoles and sidewalls, plus decals for the consoles and the instrument panel. The exhaust is made up from a number of cylinders and has nice detail, as is the intake bullet with its radome and bright green finish. All these assemblies are inserted into the fuselage as it is closed up, leaving you with a long tube onto which you add the strakes, centreline pylon, sensors and eventually the tail, which has two halves and a moulded-in rudder, but separate blade antennae on each side. This fits in on two pegs, with the elevators using the same method, and the host of intakes that litter the fuselage sides all nestle into their own positions on the port, with their outlines raised on the surface. The inner wing panels are next, with the correct thickness obtained by inserting the one-piece wheel bay sidewalls between the halves, which have the bay roof detail (minus copious rivets) moulded into the upper skin. Strakes and pylons are also added, as are the main gear, which can be left off until later, having a peg/hole fit, two-part hub and those rubber tyres that I'm not all that keen on for no discernible reason. These glue to the fuselage sides with two large pegs fitting into corresponding holes to keep everything aligned. A chaffe and flare dispenser is scabbed onto the rear fuselage on the starboard side, and attention shifts to the outer wing panels. (Specially for Gabor) The outer wings rotate to perform the variable geometry role, and each one has separate slats and ailerons, plus a clear navigation light at the very tip. You use one set of panels for swept configuration, the alternative set showing them in their fully extended low-speed configuration, which is a neat idea, with the same pin/hole fitting between the inner and outer sections. The cockpit needs a coaming, which is built up to include the HUD, which has two clear parts, the display element supported by angled styrene parts. More sensors are added around the nose with PE parts, and the styrene pitot is further detailed with more small PE parts that have tiny slots into which they fit, making for a more robust finished item than you would initially expect. Take some care in aligning everything, and it will look good. The canopy is in two parts, with separate windscreen and canopy, the latter having a combined PE and styrene insert that adds a level of detail that is more pleasing to the eye than simple clear styrene alone. As a bonus, you get a tow-bar with the kit, which is quite detailed, with plenty of parts to add a little more interest to your finished model. Weapons Hobby Boss aren't known for being stingy with these, and as you'd expect there are plenty to choose from on a number of sprues, as you see fit. As always, check your references for likely load-outs if you are going for accuracy, or slap them all on if not. It's your choice! 12 x AB-100 Iron bombs on 2 x MER 2 x AB-250 Iron bombs 2 x FAB-500 Iron bombs 2 x S-24B on adapter rails 2 x R-60MK on adapter rails 2 x B-13L rocket pods 2 x B-8M rocket pods 4 x Fuel Tanks The back page of the instruction booklet shows the pylon positions of the various options, but as above, check things over before you proceed. Stencil locations are shown on a separate colour page, with positions and colours all called out. Markings Hobby Boss often supply only one option with their kits, but this one has two, and they have even documented which airframes and timescales they relate to, which is good to see. The decals are printed in house, and are of good quality, although some of the stencils are illegible for one reason or another. The other decals are in register with good colour density and adequate sharpness, although the yellow seems a little pale to my eyes. If ultimate detail appeals, you could supplant the kit details with some stencils from your favourite aftermarket decal company, but as a lot of folks don't relish the thought of adding hundreds of tiny decals, it shouldn't be seen as mandatory! As usual with Hobby Boss, the colours are given in Mr Hobby, Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol numbers, with a few gaps in the non Mr-Hobby ranges that will require a bit of research to fill. From the box you can build one of the following: Su-17M4 Yellow 27, 20th GvAPIB, Templin (Gross Dölln) Air Base, April 5, 1994. Su-17M4R, 886th ORAP, Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, December 1998. Conclusion Hobby Boss's Russian aircraft are often better than their western kits, with the FAA kits of a few years back being the major exception. I expect this kit to build up pretty easily with no real fit issues due to the relatively simple breakdown of parts, and with a little access to my references, as well as our Walkaround, it does a good job of convincing me that it is reasonably good shapewise, but it is always a bit tricky to make statements like that without first building the kit. I'd have preferred a bit more detail, but it's nothing too major, and if you have some Archer 3D rivets you could have the missing rivets done in a modelling session. The captive rudder shouldn't be too difficult to liberate from the fin if you are minded, but remember to leave the bullet at the bottom attached to the fin if you do. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  17. Soviet Assault Infantry 1:35 MiniArt MiniArt have a great selection of figures in their catalogue, the latest set is of five Soviet assault infantry with winter camouflage cloaks. Each of the five men are in different poses, which look similar to tank rider positions. Only the figure with the DP light machine gun is really in a firing position, although two others look in a pretty high state of readiness, whilst the other two look more relaxed. Each figure is made from multiple parts, with separate torso, legs, arms and head. To the assembled body, there are three parts for the hood of the cloak and the various weapons each is holding. There are a number of different styles of pouches, but these aren’t used on the figures, but could be used separately, hanging from a tree or armoured vehicle. There are three different weapons included, the PPSh-41 with its distinctive drum magazine a separate part. Four of these assault weapons are provided, but you only need to use them with three figures. The DP light machine gun is assembled with a separate disc magazine, front sight and bi-pod, with the option of pose extended or folded. There is another light machine gun, which I cannot identify in the kit, very similar to the DP, but with a metal, folding stock should you wish to use it. There are three rifles provided, two Mosin–Nagant rifles, one standard, with separate bolt section and one PU sniper rifle with bolt section and separate telescopic sight. There is also a Mosin–Nagant carbine, but not used. Conclusion The parts are nicely moulded, but there does appear to be some seams that will need removing and quite a few moulding pips. Assembly is pretty straight forward and they will look great in a winter scene diorama. The biggest headache will be painting them to look realistic. Review sample courtesy of
  18. Modern German Tank Crew (HS-006) 1:35 Meng Model With the plethora of modern German armour coming from Meng as well as other model companies, it was only natural that someone would produce a crew set to accompany them, and it seems natural that Meng should be at least one company that would do so. This is their set, and it arrives in a traditional end-opening figure-sized box, with a single sprue in sand coloured styrene within, and build/painting guide on the rear of the box. There are four figures in the box and two are dressed in Temperate with two more in desert clothing, which will be useful for crewing at least two tanks, possibly more if you use one figure per vehicle. The desert crew have their sleeves rolled up, sunglasses on, and pistols on their thigh panel holsters. They are also wearing operator-style gloves and a tactical vest with MOLLE-like loops all over it. One figure wears a boonie-style floppy brimmed hat with his hands resting on the turret lip, while the other is sporting a tanker helmet with one elbow on the turret lip, and the other up to his headphone as if he is communicating. The European based figures look quite miserable on the box, but then it does get cold in Germany in the winter. They both have the soft helmets with comms built-in and are wearing a hooded smock over combats. The full figure is stood high in the turret with one hand on the turret lip, while the other is absent below mid-thigh, and has his hands resting on the cupola, looking off to his side. German soldiers wear Flecktarn camouflage pattern, and it's a complex scheme that will be taxing to reproduce in scale, but study an online sample swatch before you start, and you'll do a much better job. The base for the desert scheme is a sandy colour with green and tan pattern, while the Temperate is a dark green, with brown and green splodges densely packed together. In addition there are two pairs of binoculars, a couple of MP2 SMGs which are licensed copies of the Uzi, and there paddle-holstered pistols, meaning one for spares. The figures are broken down with separate torsos and legs (bar the part figure), heads and helmets, plus separate arms for maximum detail. The hoods on the smocks are also separate to give a more natural look. Sculpting is excellent as always and although the mould seam lines are heavy (as is often the case with Meng figures), which is accompanied by some flash, there is no evidence of mould slip, so clean-up should be pretty easy, especially if you use this handy tool that we reviewed a couple of years back. The painting guide uses their own AK produced paint codes with no alternatives given, but it shouldn't be too hard to find codes for your preferred brand using the table on the side of the box which gives the colour names to assist you. Review sample courtesy of
  19. USMC/US Army M1A1 AIM Abrams TUSK Main Battle Tank 1:35 Meng Model via Creative Models The Abrams Main Battle Tank is the direct replacement to the M60, when it was realised that the venerable design was ill-suited to further modification. The new design entered limited service in 1980 and went on to become the main heavy tank in the Army and Marines branches of the American armed forces. It saw extensive action in the two Gulf Wars, where it cleaned up against older Soviet designs with minimal damage inflicted in a stand-up fight due to its composite armour. It was developed further with the AIM programme, which upgraded the battle management systems and returned the vehicles to factory fresh condition. With the involvement of the Abrams in urban combat during the Afghanistan campaign, it became clear that the tank was vulnerable in close-quarters combat, where the top of the tank was open to attack from small arms fire and RPGs could be used with relative safety, as the firing team could pop up and disappear in between shots. The problems of IEDs buried on roads or in buildings also disabled a number of tanks in practice, all of which led to the TUSK and improved TUSK II upgrade packages, which stands for Tank Urban Survival Kit. To counter IEDs an angled "keel" was added to the underside to deflect blast away from the hull, reactive armour blocks were added to the side skirts and turrets, and bullet-resistant glass cages were mounted around the crew hatches on the turrets to provide protection for the crew during urban transit or if they were called upon to use their weapons in combat. A combat telephone was also installed on the rear of the tank to allow communication between accompanying troops and the tank, as well as slat armour to protect the exhausts for the gas turbine engine, the blast from which was directed upwards by a deflector panel that could be attached to the grille to avoid frying troops behind. The USMC have substantially different requirements to the Army, and amongst the changes made for their original HA (Heavy Armour) which were carried over to the later homogenised chassis were the Missile Countermeasure Device (MCD) on the top turret, and the deep water wading kit, which consists of a number of tubes ducting air in and exhaust out of the engine compartment. The Kit Although Meng have already released the TUSK II boxing that we reviewed here, this ostensibly similar boxing is substantially different once you get to the nitty-gritty. A lot of parts are similar, but the sprue layout and detail parts are so different that it's not really even worth reusing any of the historically newer but older boxing's photos. Dammit! The box is standard Meng and exudes class, with a nice painting on the front, and plenty of plastic inside. A more modular approach has been taken with the sprues on this boxing, so the sprue count is higher at ten plus the lower hull in sand coloured styrene, plus three clear sprues and four in black containing the track parts. Two runs of poly-caps, two nickel-plated Photo-Etch (PE) frets and a decal sheet complete the parts list, with the instruction booklet in black and white, and painting/decaling guide printed separately on glossy paper in full colour. Construction begins with the running gear, as you'd expect. Each of the paired road wheels have a polycap trapped inside, as do the drive sprockets, which are also two-part assemblies. The idler wheels are the same as a road-wheels, which makes repair easier both in the workshop and on the field. The torsion-bar suspension is made up from styrene parts and inserted through the hull into cups on the opposite side of the hull, to be joined by the final drive housing and a number of stand-off struts for the side skirts that will be installed later. The wheels just push onto their axles and can be removed for painting at your whim, and at this stage the shallow keel armour is installed before the hull is flipped over to accept the upper parts and their PE meshes. Various assemblies are built up to be added to the hull, such as the light clusters, driver's hatch, engine exhaust grilles, battery hatch and a quantity of lifting or towing eyes. The rear vents for the turbine engine's hot gases are built up in layers, with the option of the snorkel needing a few changes, and inserted into the rear of the hull along with the telephone box and rear light clusters. Side skirts are optional, so build up wither the slimline original skirts, of the ERA box-encrusted TUSK skirts as you see fit, duplicating the work on both sides. These get fitted after completion of the tracks, which are styrene and of the individual link type, which can remain workable if you are prepared to forego most of the glue. This adds a little complexity and increased parts count to the build, but with a little patience, you will be rewarded with a very realistic looking track-run. The supplied jig and carefully laid out parts allow you to make up five links at a time without scattering small parts everywhere, ensuring that the track-pins are first glued to the guide-horns whilst still on their sprues. Ten bottom track pad halves are then laid out on the jig, and the pin/horn combo is placed on top after releasing the now dry horns from their runners. The inner parts of the track pads are then added, then you release the track-pins from their sprues, as there are two friction-fit pins that hold the inner and outer track-pads together. Be careful after construction, as any side-force on the pads could result in the pin ends popping off, as happened to me on my first test. The majority of your time will be spent cleaning up the sprue gates, and take care when cutting the pads, as they can burst if you cut them too closely, leaving you with a messy joint to clean up. Another tip is to ensure that when linking all the lengths together, you arrange the clean ends with the hollow track-pin ends on the same side, as these can then be placed on the outside of the runs, because the pads are omni-directional. Repeat that process until you have two runs of 81 links and you're done. Zone out and put some good music on to make the time go faster. The snorkel kit is all attached to the hull, with one tube fitted to the rear, deflecting the hot gases from the engine upwards, while the intakes are on the engine deck to the left of the turret bustle, and have two tubes servicing the long panel that is found there. They stand up a good 3cm from the engine deck, above the level of the commander's cupola so he drowns before the engine does. The turret is next in the queue, and again a few variant specific holes are drilled in the upper, while the simple gun pivot is added to the lower with polycaps supplying friction damping on any barrel movement and allowing it to be posed at will. The big blow-off ammo storage doors, radio masts and lots of conduits, bases for the crew-served weapons are added, and the gun barrel are made up, the latter being split vertically with a hollow muzzle and a key in the rear to prevent the fume extractor bulge ending up the wrong way. The mantlet has a dust cover that you are told to tape from inside to allow it to move during elevation, but I would consider using glue to hold the tape in place, in case old age takes its toll on the adhesive. The mantlet pushes into a large socket in the pivoting base, and the sides of the turret are adorned with a large pair of stowage boxes and smaller boxes of extra cartridges for the smoke dischargers. The simple loader's hatch as clear vision blocks, as does the commander's more complex cupola, and the TV box on the right of the turret roof, plus the CITV (not the children's channel) on the front left. The smoke dischargers with covers or cartridges installed are fitted, as is the coax M2 derivative machine gun, the TV housing, the CITV turret, and the armoured conduit to the CITV. More stowage area is supplied in the form of tubular framed bins on the left and right, with more to the rear, part of which is taken up by the air conditioning unit. An additional basket can be added to the rear of the bustle, and all of these have PE mesh floors. Under the turret lower the extra armoured conduits for the AC and other hardware are scabbed onto the surface, showing how much the Abrams has changed since its early days with sleek slab sides. The MCD box fits on a bracket over the front left in an armoured enclosure with large vertical fins projecting slightly from the front, and another smaller box to the side of the TV box on the right. The commander's cupola on the TUSK variant is almost a turret in itself, having full field vision in the shape of an octagonal set of clear vision blocks set into a styrene frame. A wash of clear blue/green will give them the correct bullet-proof hue, and don't forget to mask them before it gets too cluttered. The vision blocks are dropped onto a gun-ring and the bullet-proof panels that protect the commander are built up around the sides, sitting on top of the vision blocks without impeding their view, but leaving his back exposed. The M2 machine gun is fitted to a bracket with a glazed shield preventing bullets or shrapnel sneaking past the gap. The loader's shields are slightly less impressive, and his gun is an L249 derivative, but he benefits from the protection of the commander's cupola on one side, although this was improved in the later TUSK II kit. A coax M2 machine gun is mounted on a bracket atop the mantlet, with a big box of ammo reducing the need for risky reloads under fire. Various antennae and countermeasures masts are installed to the rear of the turret along with extra ammo and fuel cans, which completes the build save for the addition of the turret to the hull. I found the equipment fit a little confusing from scanning the instructions, so choose your decal option, note down which assemblies are fitted, and put a line through those you don't need, or you'll have leftovers when you're done. Markings There are four markings options from the box that are different both in terms of colour schemes and equipment fit. The decals are printed in China, but appear to be good quality, sharpness and colour density. Registration isn't an issue, as only two decals are two colours, and they look fine. From the box you can build one of the following: A Company, 8th Tank Battalion, the II Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Task Force Tarawa), US Marine Corps., Iraq 2003. 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marines Division, US Marine Corps. D Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marines Division, US Marine Corps., Helmand Province, Afghanistan, February 2011. B Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armoured Regiment, US Army, Iraq, July 2008. Conclusion Another awesome Abrams kit from Meng, with slightly confusing instructions for the hard of thinking (me), and plenty of options to go off-piste with the decals to model many other vehicles from the busy period in the Middle East. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  20. Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger Interior (Henschel Turret) 1:35 Meng Model We reviewed the new King Tiger kit from Meng in May 2017, which you can see here. So what? Well, you're going to need one of those if you're planning on buying this set/kit, because this is the interior for that kit (TS-031) in case you hadn't read the title and put two-and-two together. It arrives in a box that is exactly the same size as the kit box with a cut-away drawing of the tank on the front, showing what delights lie inside. The box size isn't just frippery either, as it is pretty full of sprues – eleven to be precise, in a mid-grey styrene. There is also an instruction booklet, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE), a decal sheet containing interior stencils, plus a small spring. The instruction booklet is quite clever, as it replaces the majority of the first parts of the original kit instructions, but you have to read the annotations carefully to ensure that you don't make a mistake, or omit something. When you're gluing assemblies together and batch-painting things, this is likely, so ensure you make notes and don't rush things. Construction begins with the lower hull, creating the gridwork of ribs between the torsion-bar suspension. The suspension arm and brake drum with PE surround are added to replacement inner skins, along with another two damper arms that help the rest of the suspension over difficult terrain. A pair of stringers are laid along the length of the hull, with holes for the bars to slide through, and the driver's controls are started, to be finished after the torsion-bars are complete. Various other boxes and pieces of equipment are added to the floor over the torsion bars along with a highly detailed firewall between the crew compartment and the engine bay, plus the tread-plate that fits around the turret basket in the centre of the compartment. Attention switches to the engine, which is built up from many parts over the next page of instructions, and inserted in the aft portion of the hull, then flanked by the radiator baths and the manual starter behind the engine, which is accessed by the crew through an armoured hatch on the rear bulkhead. Fuel tanks and plumbing fill up the rest of the bay, and are enclosed by the addition of the inner rear bulkhead, and a PE surround for the engine access hatch. The transmission is the assembled and placed in the forward hull next to the driver, with the two-part drive-shaft and power transfer box under the centre of the turret basket. More boxes, ammunition stowage and even a first aid kit are added around the area, plus radio gear that sits atop the transmission box, making for a claustrophobic interior, even before the bracing struts and main ammo storage are added. The ammunition racks are shaped to fit the confines of the over-sponson area, with individual shells slotting inside, which is where most of the decals are used up, providing the identifying stencils applied to each one. They are applied to the tops of the sponsons in rows of three, ready to be hemmed in by the upper hull frame. The bow mounted machine gun is constructed in three steps with face-cushion against the optics, and twin dump-bags for the spent brass, sliding into the aperture in the glacis plate before the upper hull is joined to the lower. The top of the hull is detailed with periscopes and spare dump-bags for the machine guns, and the front hatch panel is prepared with the opening mechanisms for the lift-and-swing hatches, which projects far into the hull. The engine intake and cooling covers are last to be added to the upper deck along with the lift-off engine hatch, with all the exterior detail being added after reference to the instructions for the main kit. The turret is equally cluttered, with hatch operating rams and various other parts added before the huge breech is installed. The turret basket is fully depicted, which drops through the two-layered turret floor to hang below it, after which the floor itself is decked with racks, spare periscope glass, an additional seat. The breech is a complex assembly, and includes a spring that will allow the gun to recoil if installed correctly. The coax machine gun and its ammo feed fit to the right side, and yet more ammo racks are made up, fitting into the tapered bustle area behind the crew. With the breech glued to the lower turret, the upper turret (from the kit) is slid over it, and the rear turret hatch is built and then added. From here on, you are back to using the kit instructions, although I would have liked to see an downloadable version of the instructions that amalgamated both kits to create one continuous booklet that removed any confusion. Markings As well as the stencils for the shells, there are also dials for the controls and stencils for the various boxes on the interior. The decals are printed in China, and are of good quality, legible and where registration is apparent on the dials, it appears good even under magnification. Conclusion Apart from the chances of mild confusion from switching between instruction booklets, this is an awesome addition to the base kit, and if you didn't understand why it was separated from the kit before, you probably will now. That quantity of plastic would be utterly wasted if it found its way into the stash of a modeller that doesn't do interiors, and as they would also have paid for it, that's got to be a win. The kit has hit the market with a competitive price-point, and this additional set/kit will too, giving the modeller the option to spend a little more for a lot more plastic. Detail is excellent, the instructions as comprehensive as they can be, and colour call-outs throughout help immensely. Can you say "cut-away"? Very highly recommended. Due to the level of demand, initial stocks are depleted, but check back with Creative for a restock soon. Review sample courtesy of
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. T-54-1 Medium Tank 1:35

    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
  24. 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
  25. 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