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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
Mike posted a topic in KitsZSU-23-4 Shilka Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun 1:35 Meng Models The Shilka was developed in the 60s based on a standard tracked chassis, to which a lightly armoured body and large turret containing four 23mm autocannons that were belt-fed and aimed using radar for optimum accuracy in all weathers and light levels. It was designed to fill the gap between larger longer-range missile defences and the installation it was assigned to protect, whether it was an airfield or otherwise. It is very accurate and forced a change in NATO doctrine due to its efficacy in identifying and neutralising a target. There were numerous variants, and each barrel could be fed with different ammunition, although the usual load was armour piercing tracer and incendiary fragmentation interleaved in the feed. The radar dome is mounted on the turret behind the weapons, and is a proven effective unit that picks up targets quickly at longer range and follows them until they penetrate its sphere of operation. The electro-mechanical targeting "computer" weighs in at a staggering 180kg that calculates a frighteningly accurate lead-time so that the rounds arrive on target at just the right moment. It has seen action in many conflicts, and is in service today in a wide range of countries due to its reputation for being a highly effective weapons system, and from inheritance from the Soviet Union. The Kit This is a complete new tooling from Meng, and quite a welcome sight from someone that owns the old Dragon kit and wasn't looking forward to building it. It is smothered in detail, and has a complete driver compartment under a poseable hatch, with individual link tracks, a small fret of Photo-Etch and flexible hosing to the cannons. It arrives in their usual satin finished box, which is full to the brim on lifting the lid. Inside there are nine sprues in olive green styrene plus a hull lower, four of black styrene, a clear sprue, a medium sized PE fret, a strip of poly-caps and length of very flexible vinyl tubing. A decal sheet and instruction booklet completes the package, which has the usual Meng air of quality about it. Construction begins with the hull, which includes poly-caps for the road wheels, idlers and multi-part drive sprockets. A number of holes need drilling in the detailed hull bottom, and a bulkhead with additional parts is added to the rear. The suspension mounts slot into the hull sides along with bump-stops and final drive housing, and then it's time for the tracks. The tracks are individual links and click together without the use of glue. There are three sprue gates on each link, all of which are on the mating areas, so will be quick to clean up, and there are no ejector pin marks as these have all been placed on the sprues themselves. You will need 91 links per side, which is a total of 182, so 546 sprue gates. With the tracks on, the basic chassis top with fenders is added together with some of the parts in the driver compartment, which are joined by controls, seat and clear instrument panel plus instrument decals. More instruments are added to the underside of the top deck, which has a choice of side panels with different access hatch arrangements. A selection of grilles, hatches and fender parts with the light clusters attached to the front are built up before being added to the upper hull along with a number of smaller parts plus a selection of pioneer tools, hatches, and towing ropes. These parts vary between decal options, so take care when building these sections up. After attaching the upper hull to the lower, the aft bulkhead is detailed with a set of mudguards, a curved grille that is made up using a two part jig (I love these little touches in Meng kits), more tow cables and a large bracket for the unditching beam, which is held in place by two pins and a couple of PE chains. The turret to the Shilka is complex, and construction begins with the four autocannon, which have finely moulded flash-hiders at their tips, with very thin muzzles. These attach to the breeches, and lengths of vinyl hose are added, with dimensions given in the accompanying text. The two pairs of cannon are linked up and surrounded by a perforated box section, with a scrap diagram showing the correct routing of the hoses once complete. The turret body is then built up, and here you need to take careful note of the hole drilling diagram, which has different diameters as well as different patterns depending on your decal choice. The roof, sides and rear are assembled, then the cannon pack is added along with the bays on either side where the ammo feeds are located. These can be left visible by leaving the top covers open later in the build. The lower turret and turret ring are then added, and a pair of cheek compartments, hatch covers, cupolas and the big radar assembly are constructed before being added to the main assembly over the next six steps. The last three steps show the correct equipment for each decal option, so again take care following these. The finished turret can then be inserted into the ring on the hull, twisting it to lock it in place. Markings There appear to be only four markings options on first glance, but there are actually nine, as three types have two or three different schemes provided. A wide range of schemes are included that should satisfy most modellers without resorting to their own research and decals. From the box you can build one of the following: ZSU-23-4V1 55th anniversary Parade on Red Square, November 1972 – Russian Green with white striping and hub caps. ZSU-23-4V1 A certain unit, Polish Army 2010 – Russian green with 0388 on the turret. ZSU-23-4V1 A certain unit, Far Eastern Military District, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation "Peace Mission 2014", joint anti-terror military Drill 2014 – Sand, green and black camo, Russian flag on the hull sides. ZSU-23-4M No.505 Anti-aircraft Battalion, 324th Motorised Rifle Regiment, Ural Military District, the First Chechen War, 1995-1996 – Russian green with lighter green camo, 505 on the hull sides. ZSU-23-4M A certain unit, National People's Army, the former German Democratic Republic – Dark green with GDR symbol and 2613 on the turret. ZSU-23-4M2 Marines of the Black Sea Fleet, 2011 – Russian green with light green camo and black demarcation strips. ZSU-23-4MZ No.185 Anti-aircraft battalion, 105th Motorised Rifle Regiment, Ural Military District, 1998 – Russian green, mid green and blue/grey camo, 185 on the hull sides. ZSU-23-4MZ No.822 Anti-aircraft Battalion, 341st Tank Regiment, Ural Military District, 1997 – Green, light green, orange brown camo, with 822 on the hull sides. ZSU-23-4MZ No.370 Soviet troops in Afghanistan, 1988 – Light green with black camo, white 370 on the turret sides. Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Two instrument panel decals and a couple of data placards are included along with the national and unit markings. Conclusion This is now the definitive Shilka in this scale, with lots of detail, a diverse decal sheet covering multiple variants, and a comprehensive package that includes everything most modellers will need to build a good representation of this efficient killer. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
T-90 w/TBS-86 Tank Dozer 1:35 Meng We reviewed the original T-90A release of this kit here back in July 2013, although it only feels like a few months ago to this reviewer. I won't re-tread old group describing the genesis of the tank, suffice to say that this edition includes a TBS-86 dozer blade for entrenching and snow clearance, and one tank in each platoon has such a blade fitted. The Kit Although this release seems very similar to the previous one on first inspection (apart from the dozer, of course!), it is actually very much different, and only shares three main sprues, hull parts, and the five sprues that make up the roadwheels with the earlier kit. There are a number of differences as follows: The dozer blade… it had to be said. Different shaped cast turret and appliqué armour in flexible styrene. New track system with moulded in links, but separate track pins. New track jig to cater for the new tracks. Revised turret base with additional parts to accommodate the lighting system. Didn't I mention the lights? A new LED based lighting loom that allows the switched lighting of the Infrared dazzlers on the front of the turret. That last one got my attention, as I love gimmicks! It's the same high quality product as you'd expect from Meng, and the extent to which they have gone to change this issue and improve on the previous one is good to see. There has even been a small extra piece of sprue added around the anti-aircraft gun for the turret to protect the barrel from handling, whilst still retaining the slide-moulded hollow muzzle. Construction starts with the common areas such as the wheels and lower hull, which differs in the front and rear bulkheads, lacking the self-entrenching tool rams at the rear, and having a lower spare track-link count on the rear. The tracks are changed markedly in their construction, with a much reduced part count and simplified build process with only one sprue gate per link and no ejector pin marks to deal with. It does away with the end-caps, separate guide horns and complex jigs in favour of one two-part jig into which you place five links, then insert five track-pins whilst still attached to their sprue. Once this is done, the length is removed from the jig and the pins are cut from their sprue and tidied up, all with no glue needed. The other side of the link is held together by a small pin that locks it into the next link along, a link that can no longer slide free once the pins are inserted the other side. There are no track pads on this variant either, which is a bonus. The finished runs of 96 links are wrapped around the track run, and clipped together by adding a single pin that has been removed from the sprue. The engine is dropped in this release too, so construction moves on to the upper hull with a number of skin parts added to the basic shape, plus light-clusters, stowage bins on the fenders, bullet-splash guards around the turret ring, fender mudguards, and engine deck grilles. The engine access panels are glued in the down position, with the cooling slats at the rear of the engine deck posed in the open position if the engine is running, or closed if it is stopped. Side-skirts, unditching beam and towing cables are identical, the latter made up from styrene shackles and a length of synthetic braided cord. The additional fuel drums and their hosing on the rear is the same, as is the barrel to the main gun, but as mentioned before, the turret is vastly different due to it being cast rather than made up from panels. Firstly, the anti-radiation appliqué armour is added from flexible styrene parts, over which is laid a number of Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) blocks and sighting devices. The flexible plastic gun mantlet cover is installed at the front over a two part inner, and the commander's cupola ring is added, as are the mounts for the IR dazzler lights. The light fittings are built up around a small wafer of circuit, to which a Surface Mount Device (SMD) LED is already attached. This performs the job of the old-fashioned grain-of-wheat bulbs, uses up a lot less electricity and produces only a fraction of the heat, minimising the chance of melting your lovely model. The wires are fed inside the turret before the lower part is added, and a blanking plate 3-volt CR2032 coin cell, which isn't included in the package, but widely available – most cheaply on eBay. Around about now you'll probably be looking for painting instructions for the dazzler lenses, but don't worry – Meng have already thought about that, and have installed bright red LEDs, which will do the job admirably. I popped an old CR2025 that I had lying about the workshop into the battery holder, and that worked too. Next is the angled ERA blocks that adorn the front of the turret, and the side mounted smoke grenade launching racks, plus a bustle made up from three stowage boxes, a suite of sensors on the roof and the commander's highly detailed cupola, to which the big 12.7mm Kord heavy machine gun is added, with a dump bag to collect the used shell casings that could pose a crew and mechanical hazard if left to spill on the deck. Adding the barrel is the last job, and the turret joins to the hull in the usual twist-to-lock fashion, and you can access the push on/off switch for the dazzlers by removing the turret. You now have the optional dozer blade to build, and with Meng being their usual helpful selves, you can also build it without, so all the parts for the front self-entrenching blade are included too. If you're using the blade, you leave those parts in the box and add a set of brackets and sliders on the lower front of the hull, and then build up the hydraulic gear, which is then attached to the mounting plate that fits on the front of the tank. A number of PE guard plates are added to the hydraulics, all of which require limited bending to fit in place correctly. The dozer blade itself is then built from two main parts, a pair of PE hinge-brackets, and two small hooks at the top centre of the assembly. The blade mates with the mechanism at three large points for strength, and it can then be offered up to the lower glacis, where it mounts in four holes. The control wiring runs from beside the driver's cab into the completed dozer blade, and this has sensibly been moulded from flexible styrene to allow sufficient play when raising or lowering the blade. Markings Three schemes are included in the box, and they're different enough to interest most folks, with one colourful one that's bound to attract attention. 108th Tank Regiment, 5th Guards Tank Division of the Siberian Military District – Sand, green, black camouflage with an olive dozer blade. Number 161 in white on the turret sides. 467th Training Centre, Kourov – all over Russian Green, with 346 on turret sides in white. 38th Research Institute in Kubinka, Tanker's Day celebration – Sand, black, dark green camouflage with a Russian eagle/flag motif and T-90 on the side skirts, and 313 in white on the turret sides. The decals are by Cartograf, with all the quality that implies, including good register, colour density and sharpness, all covered in a matt carrier film that is cut close to each decal. The Russian Eagle/flag decal is split into three parts, and printing here is superb. Conclusion Another lovely kit from Meng, with some changes, additions and a cool gimmick in the shape of the LED IR dazzler lights that are quite innovative in the armour field, which seldom sees much in the way electronics in the box of a standard kit. Detail is up to Meng's usual high standards, the instructions are good, and the new parts make it a different enough subject to tempt even those with their earlier kit. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
M2A3 Bradley w/BUSK III 1:35 Meng Models Named after General Omar Bradley, the M2 replaced the venerable M113 with something of the calibre of the Soviet BMP armed APCs, which caused some shock and awe when they were first fielded. In service since the early 80s, the Bradley has undergone many upgrades to improve its capabilities, including reactive applique armour to protect the crew inside the largely aluminium hull, which was originally intended to stop only small calibre rifle rounds. Systems have been upgraded too, including the addition on the side of the turret of a pair of TOW missile tubes, targeting systems, a more powerful engine, and other tactical systems for navigation and battlefield awareness. After their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Army added the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK) to the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, and it was decided to develop a similar system for the Bradley, called the Bradley Urban Survival Kit, or BUSK. Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) blocks were added to the hull to combat larger rounds and RPG shoulder launched rockets, crew protection, a more powerful engine (800bhp) and additional suites of sensors to give the crew a 360o view of the battlefield. Because of the increase in weight by three tonnes, and tests of the vehicle establishing that the improvement to survivability was disappointing, the new BUSK III variant was introduced that adds more features to provide a stop-gap until the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle is completed, which is currently scheduled to be off the drawing board in 2015. The Kit Meng's armour catalogue in 1:35 has a number of unusual and interesting kits within, and this is probably their most mainstream to date, and likely to be popular due to the fact that it is both American, and a very visible part of the UN operations in the Middle East. Add to that the fact that it includes a FULL interior that will keep most modellers busy for a while, and it should do well at the tills. It arrives in the standard sized satin-finished box, which has been deepened significantly to around 14cm in order to contain the mass of sprues within. The content is such that a bulleted list is probably more appropriate in this case: 13 sprues of sand coloured styrene covering the external structure 2 hull halves in sand coloured styrene 4 sprues of pale green styrene covering the internal fittings 2 sprues of dark grey styrene to build up the power pack 2 sprues of clear parts 1 sprue of tinted clear parts for armoured vision blocks and windows 1 bag of 188 black styrene track links 3 frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass 1 sprue of black poly-caps 6 flexible styrene harnesses, 1 canvas mantlet cover and 1 ammo feed run 8 metal tubes for the suspension struts 1 decal sheet 1 sheet of paper warning placards 1 thick instruction booklet with colour painting and decaling guide at the rear That's a seriously busy packing list, and only one complaint is that the flexible styrene parts are loose within one pair of bagged sprues, which makes them prone to loss after unbagging, so these have been placed in a small ziplok bag for safe keeping. The rest is very safely packaged in separate bags, with the clear parts wrapped in protective tacky clear film to avoid scratching, and the PE sheets backed with white card to reduce the chance of distortion. Some sprues are bagged in pairs, which isn't a problem due to the close-fit with minimal chance for chaffing damage to the sprues. The differing colours of the parts is an interesting touch, that both makes identifying the parts you need a little easier, and could allow a reasonable model to be made by a novice without going to the trouble of painting everything. Whether a novice would be able to cope with the part count though, is another story, but fit wouldn't be off-putting, as this is Meng, and their kits fit very well in my experience. First impressions are excellent, and the part count is pretty impressive too. Surface detail on the hull is excellent where it has been added, but as very little of the upper hull will be visible when complete, there are large parts of the upper hull that are blank apart from some location holes or slots. Most "full interior" kits exclude the engine, but as you can see from the packing list, that is most definitely present, so you'll be working on the interior of this model for some time. The instructions are thick, to say the least, with the first 7 pages devoted to a four-language description of the vehicle and General Bradley, and 3 pages to the rear of sprue diagrams. The pages between detail the construction of the model over 61 steps, starting with the roadwheels, which are built up in pairs with a poly-cap trapped between them. The wheels have separate rubber tyres, but as the lip of the rim is built into the edge, you will need to paint them using the supplied PE stencil mask, which work surprisingly well, requiring you to paint the tyres black or rubber colour first, then airbrush the hub through the hole in the PE stencil. You might want to put a piece of tape over the nearby stencil for the track pads to avoid overspray first, but it's a huge time saver. The three-part drive sprocket traps another poly-cap, as does the two-part idler wheel, both of which are built in twos. The suspension arms are moulded into the torsion bars, with a separate front skin with detail, of which you must build a total of ten of four different sub-types. The dampers are then built up from a central ram, the cylindrical metal sleeves, and a stop-end with mounting eye moulded in. The torsion beams slide into the lower hull where the lock into C-shaped recesses, and the swing-arm is linked to the damper without glue, with the other end glued to the hull side. This should allow the suspension to move a little, although knowing the short fatigue life of styrene, it's not advisable to test this over-much. A detail insert is added to the glacis plate on the lower hull along with a pair of towing shackles, with the final drive housings added to the recesses on the side. The large cylindrical armoured fronts of the housing sit forward of the glacis plate, and have plenty of bolt detail moulded on, as well as a couple of small lifting/towing eyes at the top edge. Three return rollers are added to the sides of the hull, and the roadwheels are pushed into place. Now the fun with the green styrene begins! The first item to be put in place is the floor of the fighting compartment, which extends past the gap left for the power pack to include the driver's seating area. The interior is then festooned with a lot of parts, representing equipment, hosing, armour and electronics, as well as the lower guard around the turret basket. Seating is next, with two for the turret, one for the driver, and a single, a two and three-seat bench seats for the passengers. More equipment is added along with the seats, and then the power pack is built up from the grey sprues. It looks to be pretty complete, although I'm sure there will be small elements and wiring needed to carry out a super-detailed job, and at the end of the task you have an engine block and a transmission block, which sit together in the engine compartment, to which the driver's controls and some small stencil decals are added. A huge air box is added behind the power pack with a cylindrical input to the engine that has a circular PE mesh section at the engine side. Pipes and hoses join it together, and attention switches back to the crew compartment with the installation of the seats and then the turret basket protective bulkhead, which has a shrouded conduit leading around it that attaches to a small equipment bundle on the side. The rear accessway is added, and the upper hull receives a set of interior skin parts, equipment and the flexible passenger harnesses that hang from the roof. A couple of actuator rods are added between the driver controls and the engine before the upper hull is added, sitting snugly on a set of lugs around the edge. At this stage the engine compartment, driver hatch, top passenger hatch and the turret are still open to the elements. The outer skin of the hull is skinned with version specific sections with a full set of pioneer tools stashed on the side near the turret ring. The applique glacis plate is added to the front, and has moulded in anti-slip coating, as do a number of the other panels. The driver's hatch is built up with four clear (or tinted) vision blocks, plus internal equipment, and then added to the hull, held in place by a large hinge that permits it to remain mobile if you're careful with the glue. A number of PE mesh grilles cover the louvers on the top of the hull, and the large hinged engine cover is added, with no alternative instructions for leaving it open, although you are told not to glue it in place. Bullet-splash screens are added to the turret ring, the exhaust stack on the starboard forward deck, and the large armoured hatch on the roof that gives the passengers an alternative exit if the rear dock is blocked are installed next, the latter hingeing to allow it to be posed open or closed. On the rear bulkhead either side of the door a number of frame parts are added, and the door itself is built up from inner and outer parts, with an optionally open squared-oval door-within-a-door built separately. The main door hinges at the bottom, and in line with the other doors, can be left to swing open or closed at your whim. The tracks are of the individual link type, and are supplied on spruelets of two links with two sprue-gates on each link for minimal clean-up. Before the haters of individual links get too sad however, these are Meng's click-to-connect links, so no glue is required to build them up, and 80 clicks per side are all that is needed. Paint the tracks your preferred track colours, then apply the PE stencil mask to five links at a time to spray a rubber shade onto the Bigfoot rubber pads. I'd recommend Vallejo's Dark Rubber (70.036), and so do Meng, but any dark grey will do just as well. The tracks are added along with the idler wheel, and the fenders front and rear are added to the underside of the hull. You can't go to war without some of the home comforts, and for hot climates, air-conditioning is one that you would be very glad of. The Bradley has two of these scabbed onto the rear bulkhead either side of the door on stand-off brackets, and they are built up from a C-shaped back section with separate side faces and a detailed front panel with the two extraction fans moulded in. They are covered by a pair of circular grilles, which are in turn covered by another that extends across the whole front of the appliance. The rear light-cluster sits atop each handed unit, and they are added to the rear of the vehicle with their brackets. The next section deals with the ERA blocks on the side-skirts and vehicle front, which are supplied in runs that have separate end parts, with the lower row attaching to the thin skirt via a framework of brackets. It is worthy of note that each side has a different block layout, with the left side having a cut-out at the front where the driver's station is, affording him a better view, but leaving him slightly more vulnerable to a side attack. The ERA blocks on the glacis are split to allow easier access to the engine compartment, and consist of a narrow single width set on the right, the larger five block wide engine compartment set, and a three column set on the left, plus the front light clusters mounted on the outermost block of the two smaller sections. In theory, the engine compartment can still be posed open, and the top row of blocks are sloped to improve oversight and to ease the hinge area. Construction of the turret begins with the lower half being fitted out with equipment and the poly-cap mounted breech of the Bushmaster 25mm auto-cannon, which is surprisingly bereft of much detail. The coaxial 7.62mm M240 sits on a pivot to the right with a flexible ammo feed leading to the ammo storage out of sight. More equipment and turret controls are added around the front and rear, with decals for stencils, screens and keyboards spread liberally amongst them to improve the detail. The turret roof is covered with vision blocks, a periscope and the gunner's Integrated Sight Unit (ISU), after which the turret basket is built up from sections that attach to the circular base, plus the realistic mesh inserts in the sides, which are made from PE that is pre-formed by the modeller around a compound curved disposable part, to ensure it matches the shape of the frame into which you will fit it. The lower turret is attached to the turret ring and basket, and the upper turret is added to the top, feeding the barrel of the M240 through its firing slit first. A separate facet of the turret is added to close it up, and this has a poly-cap held in place by a cylindrical cup on the inside of the turret, and will later receive the Tow missile mount. Additional armour is added to the lower half of the turret, plus smoke dischargers on each side of the main gun, with more armour added to the turret roof, front sloping panel around the guns, and on one rear facet of the of the turret sides. The two crew hatches are built up and added to the roof, an again can be left to move freely. The ERA blocks on the turret are customised to the faceted shape of the turret, and build up onto mounting plates with PE brackets and styrene ERA blocks. These must be placed on their correct facet, so take care with building them up, and take careful note of the placement instructions, as if you rush it, you may live to regret it. The external portion of the gunner's ISU is a box that fits on the roof to the left of the main gun, and it is built up from separate sides with a PE mesh covering the screen, and doors to protect it from small arms fire that can be posed open or closed. The commander's protection extends to a four-sided set of bullet-resistant glass screens, three of which are inserted into a single part that you must then bend to the correct angle to fit the base plate. The forth panel is raised above the rest and gives the commander extra protection above the gunner's ISU box to the left. The commander's own Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV), not to be confused with Children's ITV here in the UK, is another large box that is attached to a hefty pintle-mount on a circular base to permit 360o rotation, plus elevation. This is attached to a bracket and sits on the rear-right facet of the turret side, and provides reasonable protection for the commander's hatch from the rear. The TOW system is designed for taking out heavier armour than the Bushmaster can handle, and the Bradley's installation has two tubes on a box mounted on the side of the turret, giving it full rotation and elevation. The box is built up first, after which the TOW tubes are slotted in through the rear, in much the same way as they would be reloaded in the field. The mount and protective door for the firing tubes are added, with the door able to be posed open or closed for transport. This is attached to the poly-cap equipped hole on the left side of the turret, and can be posed at any sensible inclination. The rear turret bustle supports a pair of large sensor aerials with cylindrical enclosures, as well as other comms aerials, and space for personal equipment, as well as the provided ammo boxes that sit on the outside wall of the basket. To finish the build, the whole assembly is dropped into the hull and twisted to lock it in place with the usual bayonet turret retention mechanism. Markings Three markings options are provided with the kit, and as the BUSK III has (so far) deployed to the Middle East, all options are of a desert painted vehicle. A substantial portion of the decal sheet is devoted to decals for the interior of the vehicle, and the majority of the external decals are stencils too. The decals are printed by Cartograf and of course the quality is up to their usual standards of registration, colour density and sharpness. From the box you can build one of the following vehicles: 1st Battalion, 68th Armour Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, US Army, Kuwait, 2003 – small black star on the front and rear of the vehicle. 3rd Infantry Division, US Army, Iraq, 2005 – small black star on the glacis, crudely painted out unit markings on the front and rear of the vehicle, provided as dirty yellow decals. 2nd Squadron, 2rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, US Army, Phase III of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Baghdad, Iraq, 2005 – small black star on the front and rear of the vehicle. The small sheet of caution placards that are often found on the back of coalition vehicles isn't mentioned in the instructions, but it is there for you to personalise your Bradley a little. Check your references to see which type and where they were typically placed. Conclusion Comprehensive is a good word to describe this kit, and as they say in the US, it's the full meal deal. It contains a lot of highly detailed plastic and metal, all of which should build into a well detailed replica of the famous Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Add some crew personalisation, a few bits of stowage and maybe a few figures, and you'll have a stunning centrepiece to any diorama. I really can't wait to see some built up and painted. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
Achzarit Heavy APC (Early) 1:35 Meng Models The Achzarit was developed in the early 1980s from retiring T-55 Tiran tanks to fulfil a requirement for a heavy APC that could take troops into a war zone whilst being able to protect them from more than small arms fire. The T-55 chassis was adapted to the role by shifting the power-pack to the side to give the crew and up to nine troops a protected rear exit, although it was by necessity a very claustrophobic passageway, alleviated only a little by a section of the roof pivoting up to give extra headroom. The hull was re-designed above the track level to provide the extra room and protection for the interior in typical Israeli style, which gives the vehicle a slightly home-brewed appearance. It entered service in the late 80s, with a mid-life upgrade seeing the suspension and wheelset replaced by those from a Centurion, and it is still in service with the IDF, although they are gradually being replaced with the new Namer heavy APC, based upon the Merkava. The Kit Secrecy is clearly paramount at Meng, as they seem to play their cards close to their chests until they are ready. This kit is part of their recent IDF related releases, probably due in part to the assistance and collaboration with Desert Eagle Publishing, who also design the decals for the kits. The kit arrives in a standard Meng box and inside are seven sprues of sand coloured styrene, two hull parts, clear sprue, two rub-band style track runs, a large fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a run of poly-caps, a length of synthetic rope/string, decals instruction booklet and painting/decaling guide. The first thing that stands out on the kit is the size of the hull, which is large and bulky, consisting of top and bottom parts. Surface detail is good, and the part count shouldn't over-face the more impatient modeller, while a couple of items on the boxtop could be seen as slightly misleading, perhaps due to a change in specification between their design and release of the finished product. The hull is actually a two-piece assembly consisting of top and bottom halves, while there is only one PE fret of a single thickness 0.3mm brass, although some of the parts have been etched to half-thickness to better represent the real thing. The box wording implies more than one fret, and that's not the case. Because the Achzarit is based on a T-55, the running gear should be quite familiar on this early variant at least. Five pairs of roadwheels are built up on each side, plus idler wheels and drive sprocket on each side, all of which have a poly-cap placed in the middle before gluing. This will give a little flexibility when assembling the tracks and painting the vehicle after construction, which I find quite useful. The lower hull part is decked out with the suspension swing-arms, glacis plate and towing eyes, with a choice of three PE "number plates" on the central block, and the wheels are pushed into place. Short mudguards are added to the underside of the sponsons at the rear, and the lower armoured section of the rear-access door is assembled to glue-free hinges which fix to depressions on the back of the hull. I have the feeling that greater things were initially planned for this kit, as although there is no true interior, there are parts of the interior supplied here and there, with an opening rear door, and separate upper hatches that lead me to surmise that plans may have changed along the way. The power pack's external walls are built up and added to the interior, as well as two sidewall inserts that sit on top of the internal fenders. The roof also has some internal detail moulded in, and there are some unused sockets on the floor that make me wonder. The offset rear bulkhead is covered with a large stowage basket that is moulded in one very well detailed piece, plus a couple of small additional bits, and is then glued to the rear of the hull. If you are posing the crew ramp open, there is a restraining strap provided that attaches to the side of the engine bay. The upper hull is next, building up the edges with box profile sections and adding ten vision blocks in clear styrene from the inside. A rotating periscope for the remote GPMG is placed on its mount next to the driver's hatch, secured in place from the inside by a doughnut shaped part, after which the two halves are brought together and the top hatches added, all of which can be left to open and close by careful gluing. The top of the clamshell rear hatch has similar no-glue hinges that fix just forward of the power-pack, with a wedge-shaped guard hanging down inside the hull acting as a shot deflector. Each of the vision blocks have matching clear covers on the top deck, so should either be masked, or left of until main painting is finished. The top deck is further festooned with a surprising three GPMG light machine-guns, including the aforementioned remote controlled unit, all of which have ammo boxes to the sides and pintle-mount onto two circular panels on the roof next to access hatches, where there is precious little cover if the operators were to come under fire. It would be far better to be operating the remote station from inside the hull when receiving accurate incoming fire. A roughly textured mesh part in PE fits over the rear radiator louvers, and two large slabs of perforated PE are fitted to the sides of the vehicle covering the aft third of the Achzarit's length. Behind these are various stowage options, with brackets and stand-off mounts added beforehand. Painting of these areas would be advisable before adding the PE, which would be best painted by airbrush to preserve the delicate texturing and holes that cover each part. A number of small squares of PE are added to the outside of these panels for extra detail, and at the front another number plate is placed on the very edge of the glacis plate. A single jerry can is slotted into the back of the engine deck, and two towing ropes are made up from styrene ends with 15.5cm of the acrylic string acting as the braided cable unless you have any of the real stuff lying around. The tracks provided are moulded in TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane), and have an overlapping section with a pin and hole mechanism to prevent them slipping apart after gluing. They are handed too, although I can't quite see any differences myself, and this is denoted by a small tag affixed to the mating tongue, so must be removed before assembly. The detail on the tracks is more than acceptable, and the mould lines won't show under a liberal coating of pigment and simulated dirt, but some might want to explore the possibility of using aftermarket tracks for a more realistic drape of the tracks around the sprockets. I've done a quick check against a pair of the excellent white metal Friul tracks I pinched from the box of a Tamiya T-55 I have, and they seem to be a perfect fit. Certainly worth a look! Markings The painting guide is laid out on a double sided and folded sheet of A3 glossy paper in full colour, giving four views of the vehicle plus a scrap view of the unit markings on the other side. The colours are given in Vallejo codes, with 71.023 Hemp covering the majority of the Achzarit for all marking options. Only the addition of the vehicle's unit markings and the dull red of grab-handles, turnbuckles and shackles gives any relief from the solid colour, so weathering and wear (as well as stowage and personalisation) will be important to breathe some life into the scheme. From the box you can build one of the following vehicles: Commander's vehicle of the 3rd Company in 1st Golani Brigade Vehicle of the 2nd Platoon, 3rd Company in unknown Brigade Vehicle of the 2nd squad, 3rd Company, in unknown Brigade in a security operation near the Gaza border in 2008 Unknown or undisclosed. You decide. The decals are of course printed by Cartograf in black and white, and have a fine satin carrier film cut close to the printing. With only two colours of startling tonal difference, registration is important, and it is perfect on my review sample under 2.5x magnification. Conclusion From the exterior a very nice kit of a less well-known modern APC. Whether I'm right about the interior being partly cancelled, we will probably never find out, but if an aftermarket company wanted to finish the job, the basics are there. I'm not a massive fan of rubber-band tracks because of the way they transition smoothly around the curved sections of track, and the difficulty in obtaining a realistic sag, but these will probably suit 95% of modellers, and I can see that the extra cost of tooling individual track links might not have been worthwhile from a budget point of view. Coupled with Meng's recent IDF Tank Crew, this will build into an impressive looking model, and is rather tempting to this reviewer due to the lack of interior to get bogged down in as a way to ease myself back into building armour after around a year of building flying things. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of