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Found 112 results

  1. German Tiger-1 Ver.Early "Operation Citadel" 1:35 Academy via Pocketbond The Tiger tank was part of Hitler's obsession for bigger, heavier and stronger, which drove him to extraordinary and dizzying heights of impracticality later in the war, but in this case served him well. The goal was to mount the extremely successful and powerful 88mm cannon used in the Flak 36 in a tank with sufficient armour to withstand any round fielded by the enemy, and this was achieved, but at the cost of reliability and thirst for fuel. It also made for some interesting bridge-crossing as the finished article weighed in at almost 60 tonnes, which was too much for many smaller bridges of the day. There was a competition with only two contenders, and it was the breakdown of the Porsche designed prototype and subsequent fire that decided in the favour of the less ambitious Henschel design which became the Tiger, and then the Tiger I when the King Tiger came into being. When it first reached the front it caused panic and disaster for the Allies, being able to do almost everything it was designed to do, including knocking out tanks long before their guns were in range. Even when the Allies could get into range, it wasn't until they get VERY close that they had any significant chance of crippling or destroying the mighty Tiger. Many of the early Tigers were lost to mechanical breakdown due to the excessive strain on the transmission, and had to either be dragged off the field by half-tracks under the cover of darkness, armoured protection, or failing that, destroyed to stop them falling into the enemy's hands. The Tiger underwent many and constant changes throughout production to improve performance, fix problems and to simplify construction, but these are generally lumped together into early, mid or late productions for the sake of us modellers. If you want to get maximum accuracy of fit and finish, check your references for certainty. Operation Citadel was the German name of what became known as The Battle of Kursk. The German Army had planned an offensive operation against the Kursk Salient, however through various means including Allied Intelligence the Russian forces knew the attack was coming and were able to prepare an in-depth defensive of the area. The battle was to deplete both German Armour and Air assets. At the same time the Allies invaded Southern Italy and the German forces decided to withdraw from the action. This would be the last German offensive action on the Eastern Front. While there is some debate as to whether this was the largest tank battle ever, it is certainly up there in the top handful of. The Kit The Academy Tiger I is a middle-of-the-road kit that has an attractive price-point while giving plenty of detail to satisfy all but the most detail hungry modellers. This boxing also gives the Henschel turret, however no interior is included. Even thought the base kit have been around since the late 90s Academy have been improving it over time. The original two part split barrel is still in the kit, but there is a new multipart solid round barrel as well. Is worth noting that the new boxing now comes with link and length track instead of the previous rubber band ones. Construction starts with adding the suspension arms to the lower hull. PE fittings must then be made up and added to the lower hull as well. 8 double sets of outer road wheels are made up, followed by 8 double sets of inner road wheels , sandwiching a ploy cap between to the two wheels (inner ones only) . The drive wheels and idler wheels are made up, again sandwiching the poly caps between the halves. The inner single wheels are added to the hull, followed by the inetleved main wheels (two sets), and lastly the outer singles. Drive and idler wheels are also added. Once all the wheels are on the rear bulkhead of the tank is made up with the mud guards and exhausts being added. Next up the upper deck is assembled. Photo etch screens are provided for the engine cooling vents. Full detailed hatches are provided which can be opened, but given the commission of an interior unless you are adding crew figures most will leave them closed. The font bulkhead of the tank is also assembled at this time. The tracks can then be assembled and added to the tank. As mentioned earlier these are now link and length, however no track jig is included. Once the tracks are on the upper hull can be attached. Various tools and towing cables can then be added. Construction now moves to the turret. The multi part barrel and mantle are built up and placed into the turret sides, Smoke dischargers are added. along with stowage boxes and finally the roof; along with the hatches. Finally the turret is added along with the side skirts and a small length of track placed on the front of the tank. Markings As this boxing would suggest there are three marking options for Tigers which took part in Operation Citadel. 9th SS Panzer "Totenkopf" Yellow 921 8th SS Panzer "Das Reich" White S33 Black 211 Decals are printed in house by Academy and should pose no problems. Conclusion It is good to see Academy updating this kit as looking online the kit is quite competitive on price. Recommended Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  2. CM-11 (M-48H) Brave Tiger With ERA 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond The CM-11 is a hybrid MBT borne out if the need to quip the Republic of China (ROC) forces with a new MBT while staying within limitations set by the US-PRC Joint Communique on United States Arms Sales to Taiwan. The MBT was developed by General Dynamics and the ROC Armoured Vehicle Development Center. The hull is that of an M-60A3 and were purchased from the US. The turret is a development of the M-48 A3 unit and was produced by the Army Ordnance Maintenance and Development Center. The turret features a M68A1 105mm main gun with the added advantage of the ballistic calculator developed for the M1 Abrams. Combined with a laser rangefinder and night vision optics this gives the CM-11 a high probability first hit in all conditions and while on the move. The commanders turret featuring an M2 machine gun was procured from Israel. In addition to this gun the loaders hatch has a mounted M240 7.62mm machine gun. During development it was found that the hybrid would not offer the same protection as newer tanks and Explosive Reactive Armour would be introduced to offset this. This proved problematic as the additional weight caused problems with the torsion bar suspension, and the older engine. These problems were solved and in 2011 tanks were seen with the new ERA package installed. The ROC all the MBT the CM-11 Brave Tiger, in the US it has the designation M-48H (H for hybrid). The Kit The ERA kit is a slight modification to the original Brave tiger kit issued by Takom. It was a welcome sight so see this MBT kitted by a major manufacturer. In the box there is the hull casting, turret casting, 6 sprues of light grey plastic, a small clear sprure, a small sheet of PE, a tow cable, 2 lengths of rubber track, 2 steel pins and a very small decal sheet. Construction starts with the lower hull. Various hull fittings are attached along with attachment points for the suspension. The rear gearboxes for the drive wheels are built up and attached. Next up the suspension legs for the road wheels from the torsion bars are built up and attached. These complex parts are built up from three parts each, and 5 parts for the front idler wheel assembly. Care must be taken on assembly as not all of the axles are the same. The road wheels (14), return rollers (6) and drive wheels (2) are then made up and added to their respective axles. Attention now move to the main hull deck. At the front the drivers hatch can be displayed open, or closed (note there is no interior). Th drivers periscope can ether be in the deployed or stowed position as well. Various hull fittings are added as is the rear ravelling mount for the main gun. Note for modellers a fair few holes need to be drilled in the upper deck for various fittings. The front lights are also added at this time. The upper hull can then be joined to the lower one and the engine louvres added at the back. The side plates which go above the tracks on the hull are now made up. There are a fair few stowage boxes on these which are also made up and added. The tracks are added and then the track covers can go on. The tracks supplied are the ribber band tracks, however they seem to be extremely well moulded. Instead of the usual arrangements of clipping them together TAKOM have gone with a metal pin each side to join the runs. Various hull fittings and some of the ERA is then added to the upper hull. Construction then moves to the tank turret. A number of holes need to be drilled to accommodate all the fittings on the turret. Antenna mounts, ventilation covers, grab handles and smoke grenade launchers are added to the hull. The gun and mantle are added. The gun is a one part barrel to which a hollow muzzle end is added. The loader and commanders hatches are added along with their respective machine guns. The various ERA panels are also built up and added ot the turret. The last item to be built up and added is the rear turret stowage basket. Markings This is probably the smallest decal sheet I have seen on a kit, even an AFV. It has only a single number, and a single national marking. Only one paint scheme is available, the US Brown/Black/Green scheme. Conclusion It is good to see TAKOM producing this kit of the MBT from the ROC. The kit si not too complex and will appeal to those who like the M48/M60 gen ration of MBTs, those looking for something a little different, or fans of the ROC. Highly Recommended Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  3. M3 Lee Late Medium Tank 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond The US Army had been remarkably complacent with regard to tank development in the lead-up to WWII, and approached war with precious few that were hopelessly outclassed. This realisation resulted in a frantic clamour to produce a modern tank that could hold its own in combat, with the M3 Lee coming into service as a stop-gap measure within a year of its first design while the M4 Sherman was in development. As a consequence of its rather rushed introduction, it was known to have a number of fairly serious flaws, but it also had some strengths that (at least in part) made up for them. Its high profile and sponson mounted main gun gave the enemy a large target, but when the 75mm main gun was brought to bear on a target, it was surprisingly powerful and effective, gaining a reputation in North Africa. A great many examples were exported to the British and Russian forces in the early stages of WWII, and after the majority of British armour was left on the beaches of Dunkerque, the need became even greater. The British required some changes to improve the vehicle's performance, which most visibly included a new larger turret with a bustle to accommodate radio gear, and a cupola instead of the sub-turret with machine gun mount, which was named the Grant after general Lee's opponent. Due to the pressing need for suitable numbers however, the British did take a number of Lees, and the Soviet Union also took delivery of a substantial number of Lee variants, although some ended up at the bottom of the sea thanks to U-Boat action. The Soviets disliked the Lee intensely and gave it a wide berth wherever they could in favour of the more modern and capable T-34, the production of which ramped up substantially after the initial shock of Barbarossa, which led to its retirement from front-line service by 1943, while the other Allied continued to use them (mainly in Africa) until the end of the war. The Late version deleted the side doors and left only one pistol port. The Kit There have been three kits released initially, one being the Early Lee, the other the British specification Grant (see here), and the M31 Recovery version (see here). This kit does share a core of common parts.. Inside the box are ten sprues and two parts in grey styrene, a small clear sprue with headlights, a PE sheet, decal sheet and instruction booklet as mentioned above. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has a rear bulkhead and final drive housing attached at the front, with three stations on each side for the VVSS (vertical volute-sprung suspension) units, which held a pair of wheels each. The drive sprockets are fitted to the front, and idlers at the rear. The individual double wheel units are made up. 12 wheels are made up and fitted into 6 bogie units. The tracks are link and length, with a jig supplied for the top run, which has an upward curve at the front as it rides over the drive sprocket. The highly curved areas have individual links supplied, with the diagonals under the drive and idler wheels fitted in short lengths. The tracks fit under the sponson floors, with separate sides added. The complex angles of the glacis plate and casemate of the 75mm gun are formed over a number of steps, with the roof having a cut-out for the turret and the limited-traverse mantlet of the main gun attached before it is flipped over and fitted to the rest of the hull. The engine deck is fitted last, and has a choice of pioneer tools and towing cables, which require some holes to be drilled from the inside before fitting. The exhausts and mudflaps are fitted to the rear bulkhead along with a number of panels and towing eyes to the rear, with the driver's hatch and caged light cluster on the wings. The turret has a simple two-part construction, with the mantlet inserted into the lower half, allowing the gun to elevate, while the top machine gun turret actually has more parts, including vision ports, a split hatch, lifting eyes and machine gun barrel. The 37mm gun and coax machine gun are fitted last before the mantlet cover is installed, which makes one wonder what the purpose of the additional machine gun on the top of the turret was when there was already one mounted coaxially. Markings There are four markings options spread over the inner cover pages of the instructions, All of which are in Olive Drab, the captured example featuring applied winter camo. From the box you can build one of the following: Unknown captured tank Pz.kpfw M3 744, probably on the Eastern Front? 1st Armoured Div , England Dec 1942 Tank #9 1st Armoured Div , England Dec 1942 Tank #4 1st Armoured Div , England Dec 1942 Tank #7 The decals are printed anonymously, and have generally good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Recommended Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  4. Panther Mid-Early Production Sd.Kfz.171 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond 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 brand new tooling from Chinese powerhouse Takom, who came from nothing a couple of years ago and have created their own back-catalogue in that short time. The Panther seems to be a popular choice at the moment, and there seems to be a trend of this duplication of effort between some of the Far Eastern operators, but as one company's Panther makes £0 for the other companies, we're spoiled for choice with newly tooled Panthers at the moment. This is the Interior kit of the tank, which has all the greeblies inside that you would expect if you tore open a real one in service. While this sort of attention to detail doesn't appeal to everyone, it's often said by modellers that we know the detail is there, and with the proposition of leaving hatches and panels open, or even doing a cut-away in museum stylee, there are plenty of reasons why one might want one of these uber-kits for your stash. Arriving in a deeper than usual white themed box to give a premium feeling, and accent its special nature, the box is rammed full of sprues as you'd imagine. There are 28 sprues in mid grey styrene in various sizes, plus hull, turret and two track jig parts in the same shade. There are also four braided copper cables in two thicknesses, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) grilles, a single piece of flexible styrene, and two decal sheets, plus of course the instruction booklet in a landscape A4 format. My review samples had received a bit of a shock during transport, which had put a bend in the delicate engine deck supports, breaking a few of the protective sprues between them. The damage wasn't permanent and you can possibly see the stress marks if you look hard enough, but it could have been prevented by bagging it separately from the two jigs, which did the damage. That said, almost every sprue is either bagged separately or with a couple of others, so there's a lot of protection therein, so I suspect I was just unlucky. Construction begins with the floor of the hull, adding scale armour to the underside of the glacis, a conduit and then framework that binds the floor to the sides, and the longitudinal ribs that hold the torsion bars in place. The hull insides have stub axles moulded in for suspension and final drive housings to be added, and the detailed transmission fitted between them when completed. The torsion bars are fitted to one hull side and offered into the slots, then joined by the other side, meshing together across the floor. Externally, the swing-arms with their stub axles are fitted with bump-stops, and aligned using the jigs supplied whilst drying, after which the interleaved road wheels are installed, some in pairs and some singly. Flipping over the hull to right-way up the various assemblies for the lower interior are constructed such as crew seats, ammo racks, radio gear and engine bay walls, then slotted into the hull in order. Inner walls are added to the engine bay to form the compartments for the radiator baths, and a firewall is fitted to the front, through which the transmission projects, linking the transmission to the forthcoming engine. The rest of the space in the lower hull is filled with upright boxes of ammo that have only the tips depicted to save styrene, as nothing of the lower parts can be seen. The bottom surround to the turret basket is placed over the equipment, finishing off the lower hull details forward of the engine, save for some small parts added later. The tracks are of link and length variety, which can be built up on the aforementioned jigs just by using the drive and idler wheels. There are longer lengths where the track runs are straight or gently curved, and individual links for the sharp curves around the ends. It is interesting to note that the hollow guide horns that must be glued into each link have been moulded so that they fit perfectly into each link when applied as they are moulded in long runs. There is a scrap diagram dealing with this clever aspect, so don't get carried away snipping them off the sprues individually, as you'll save some time by checking out step 15. The runs are built up in a vague C-shape, with the bottom run left off until they are attached to the road wheels later, hiding any glue joints from view. The Maybach engine is built up over successive steps, and fitted into the narrow bay where it is surrounded by ancillaries and pipework. Careful painting here will really pay off, but you'll need to check forward a few pages as there is a full-colour page showing the completed interior with call-outs in the instructions using AMMO colour codes. It also shows the demarcation between red primer and the pale bone-white used in the more crew-centred areas. The sponsons are also added, and these are also covered with sloped ammo storage, going a long way toward explaining why crews got out of their tanks in such a hurry when hit. The Panther was quite vulnerable at the sides due to weight-saving reductions in the armour thickness on the sponsons where all that ammo was kept. The radiator baths and fluid tanks are added to the rear of the engine deck at this stage too, and is closed in by the rear bulkhead with its armoured exhausts and stowage boxes. The upper hull is next, with the spaces on the engine deck filled by the cast radiator covers with their mesh, the front aperture by the access panel that houses the two crew hatches for driver and machinegunner, and the main engine deck with mushroom vents, smaller access hatch, and the large cast radiator inlets either side of the circular exhausts. The small triangular side-skirt is fitted at the rear and the pioneer tools are draped along the sides, with the towing ropes made up from styrene eyes that have slide-moulded holes to accommodate the ends of the braided cable. An inner skin is glued into the rear of the glacis plate to give a scale armour thickness, which has the bow machinegun, some driver controls and the vision port mechanism added inside, travel-lock, front fenders and vision blocks from the outside, before it is mated with the lower half. Schurtzen on stand-off brackets are fastened to the sides, towing shackles to the rear, and a sturdy hitch under the rear of the tank completes the hull. The turret is moulded with its roof and sides already together, to which vents, lifting eyes, the commander's cupola and other hatches, vision ports etc. are added, with the commander's cupola having armoured covers on his periscopes, which can be glued in place as one by leaving them on their circular sprue in much the same way as the track links. The corresponding interior parts are fitted, which includes three pistol ports, and once the rear face is brought in, the aft hatch with armoured hinge. The commander gets a ring-mounted MG34 machinegun, which is probably best left off until later, after which the attention turns toward the turret floor, most of which is taken up by the gaping hole. Around it are fitted raised edges, small chunks of equipment and the turning mechanism, and it is then put aside while the mantlet and gun breech are built up. The mantlet is multi-layer, with sighting gear and gun tube projecting through, which hinges at the sides. The outer mantlet fits around and protects the inner assembly, and has two more examples on the sprue that will be used in later boxings. The completed breech with recoil guard plug into the rear of the assembly, and it too is put to one side. The turret basket floor is circular and receives the crew seats which is then fitted under the lip of the turret floor, in readiness for installing in the turret later. A flexible corrugated hose glues into the interior recess for the fume extractor in the turret ceiling, and is later hooked up to the turret basket later on, but first the mantlet is fitted to the front of the turret, and is joined by the barrel, which has a solid core and hollow three-part muzzle. The commander's lift/swing hatch slots into place on his cupola, the turret floor is glued to the underside, which then leaves the turret to drop into its aperture in the hull, with an optional turret ring fitting between them. Markings The decal options are hidden away in the double-folded rear page, and are printed in glossy full-colour using Mig's AMMO paint system for colour call-outs. The two decal sheets are split between internal stencils, which are on the larger sheet, and external numbers and crosses on the smaller sheet. Both sheets are well-printed with good register, colour density and clarity, with instrument decals adding realism to the driver's station. From the box you can build one of the following three options: 3. Pz. Div. Totenkopf, Poland 1944 – green cloud pattern over dunkelgelb. 23 Pz. Reg., 23 Pz. Div., Eastern Front, 1944 – Green/brown camo over dunkelgelb. 26 Pz. Div., Italy 1944 – all over dunkelgelb with sprayed brown stripes on the schurtzen. Conclusion Panthers are good sellers, and this kit has plenty to recommend it, such as the level of detail packed inside, with a sensible and straight-forward construction process that for the most part mimics the way a modeller that plans to paint the interior would build in assemblies at different stages. The tracks may not appeal to all, but they are detailed and uncomplicated, plus the inclusion of casting/rolling texture on the exterior armour is good to see in a modern kit, although some may want to improve it so that it shows up more under paint. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  5. Churchill 3" Gun Tank with Snake Launcher (DH96006) 1:35 Ding-Hao Hobby The Churchill tank was named after Winnie, who once he realised it wasn't a particularly good tank, wasn’t very pleased with his namesake. It was a cruiser class tank intended to replace the Matilda, and was designed with the last war in mind, as were many of the British early war designs, so was under-armed and under-armoured. Many changes and variants later it was still having problems, and its terrible performance during the ill-fated and poorly prepared Dieppe landings sealed its reputation as a poor design. The post D-Day variants were at least capable of penetrating enemy armour, but as with the Sherman, it struggled with the more heavily armoured Tiger and Panther tanks unless it was at close range. A variant of the chassis was used to create a gun carriage, with a 3" howitzer ball-mounted horizontally in a casemate and protected by thicker armour. Because of the Sherman Fireflies with their superior gun however, they didn't see action, and some were converted to carry the experimental Snake mine-clearing system, which was a development of the Bangalore Torpedo, and fired a line of rockets across the battlefield, detonating the charges within to clear a path for tanks and troops to advance. Sixteen Snake tubes were carried on each sponson over the tracks and extending their full length. The 3" gun was removed and replaced with a blanking plate to reduce the all-up weight and prevent draughts. It wasn't deployed on the battlefield, although its successor Conger did see some deployment, encountering problems with premature detonation, possibly due to the vulnerability of the explosives in such an exposed position. The Kit Ding-Hao are the specialist arm of well-known model company AFV Club, and this is a retooling of their Churchill kit that was released early this decade, with additional sprues added to create the casemate and rocket tubes. It arrives in a brown cardboard box with black overprinting that gives a little background to the company name, and what its aims are, describing the kit as "Collector Grade". The kit specific details are found on a wrap-around cover that shows printed pictures of a complete model, plus the bonus resin figure that is in the box. The box has a captive lid that hinges back, revealing quite a lot of plastic in the box. The Churchill base kit parts are all double-bagged along with the resin figure, and the variant specific parts are separate in their own bags, so there's going to be a lot of crinkly bags to dispose of once you unwrap the kit. There are seventeen sprues in olive green styrene, a clear sprue, two rubbery tracks, four small frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a length of cord, twenty two short springs used in the suspension, a small decal sheet and of course the instruction booklet. The bonus figure is made from cream resin and is supplied in four parts, which fit together very snugly. Construction begins predictably with the suspension and road wheels, utilising all those real springs to give the suspension functionality. It is a little complicated, so take care and follow the instructions, testing the fit as you go. There are a lot of parts, and the working suspension adds another layer of complexity, as well as increasing the part count. The drive sprockets and idler wheels are added at the ends of the sponsons along with access doors and additional parts, after which the two assemblies are joined by attaching the hull floor and lower section of the rear bulkhead. The bulkhead is then decked out with towing hitches, light clusters and radiator parts, with the aft section of the engine deck added on top in two parts after they are detailed with hatches and grab rails. The glacis consists of a thick front plate, and a sloped plate onto which the headlamps are glued, then fire extinguishers, exhausts and their armoured shrouds are attached, then the fenders are installed on the tops of the sponsons after adding the flexible plastic/rubbery tracks, which show a surprisingly good level of detail for their type and moulding era. You can of course replace them with the usual white-metal tracks to get the correct faceted look and weathering opportunities, but that's your choice! Engine intake boxes are fabricated from styrene and PE, then applied to the slots on the sponson sides, with styrene mudguards front and rear that have PE accessories added for scale fidelity. It seems a little out-of-sequence at this stage, but the rear panel that forms the back of the Snake boxes as attached by two faux-bolts to the towing eyes, gluing only the bolts at this stage. Tiny PE firing harnesses are added to the rear of each of the firing pins, with a photo showing how they should be arranged once complete. A quartet of British style jerry cans are attached to the rear fenders, and attention then turns to the casemate. The crew compartment is made up from flat armour just like the real thing, and has a PE blanking plate for the gun mount on the thick mantlet, which glues in from behind. Hatches, commander's cupola and vents are also added before it is dropped into the long hole in the hull, and this is where you find out whether you've managed to build the assembly square or not. It might be best to test this before the glue is dry however, when it will be a lot easier to check. Large F-shaped brackets are fitted to the sponsons, which support the snake tubes, each of which is built from four sides and a separate front, which has the hollow muzzle and a representation of the rockets moulded-in. They slide in through the brackets and butt up against the rear plate attached earlier, with a number of locating pegs ensuring a good fit. Towing cables are made up from some of the supplied cord glued onto the plastic eyes, and an aerial is stretched out from sprue, and that's the kit done. The figure that is supplied is in cream resin as mentioned earlier, and has separate arms and head, with a single part providing the torso and legs. The detail is excellent and the casting is crisp with sensibly placed pouring blocks, which shows up the detail of the tanker's winter coveralls with integrated hood to great effect. The chap is relaxing with a hot cuppa while leaning against his tank, with a very natural pose, which is accentuated by the incredible fit of the parts. When you offer the arms up to the torso, there is along pin that fits into a corresponding hole, and once you have the correct position, the join between the two parts almost disappears. The head is similarly well done, although to me his neck could do with extending by a fraction, as when it is hard down into the socket he looks a bit lacking in the neck department. A small blob of Milliput in the socket would make that an easy correction, and any excess can be smoothed off with a damp blade before it cures. Markings There is only one option in the box, and for some reason you are incited to paint it Dark Earth, when almost every Churchill I've seen, including the box top photo is an olive drab(ish) colour. It's probably best to go with what you know for the main colour, but the instructions for the figure seem to be more appropriate. The decals on my review sample had merged with the protective paper, but most of it peeled away with a little effort. The rest was removed with a moist cotton bud, by rubbing gently side-to-side over the paper adhering to the decals. A few scraps remain, but these should float away when the decal is dumped in water. Conclusion An unusual variant of a fairly unsuccessful line of tanks that on initial release commanded quite a premium price that possibly scared away many potential purchaser. There should by now however be some more attractive offers available, so if you're a fan of the "funnies" or weird dead-end developments, maybe now is the time to pick one up. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  6. USS Ranger, CV-4. 1:350

    USS Ranger, CV-4 Trumpeter 1:350 The USS Ranger (CV-4) was the first aircraft carrier for the US Navy to be specifically designed and built from the keel up. The previous three carriers were converted from existing ship designs and constituted the USS Langley, the USS Lexington and the USS Saratoga - the Langley (CV-1) being a converted collier while the Lexington (CV-2) and Saratoga (CV-3) were built from cancelled battle cruiser keels. In 1922, designs were requested by the United States Navy for an aircraft carrier having more speed and expanded storage for more aircraft than existing carriers in the fleet at the time. The USS Ranger had been planned to have a flat, unobstructed flight deck with no island superstructure and six smoke stacks (funnels) - three to each side - that were hinged to fold horizontally during air operations. An island superstructure was eventually added during construction. A pair of service cranes would facilitate the recovery of seaplanes. Construction was started in 1931 at the Norfolk Navy Yard with work being handled by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company for $2,160,000. The USS Ranger was named for the American colonial fighting men who knew the habits of the enemy and could effectively serve as scouts and combatants behind enemy lines. Ranger was smaller than the USS Saratoga and USS Lexington but, having been constructed from scratch as a dedicated aircraft carrier, she was engineered for maximum aircraft stowage. She displaced about 1/3 the tonnage of the larger ships but was able to carry almost the same complement of planes - 86 against 91 aircraft on the Saratoga and Lexington. She was 769 ft long (234.39m) and, her beam was 109.6ft (33.41m) while her draught was 22.5ft (6.86m). She was slower than the Lexington-class, with a maximum speed of 29.3kts (34mph), and had a range of 12,000 miles (19,312km). For air and sea defence she mounted 8 x 5-inch (130mm)/25 calibre Dual-Purpose (DP) cannons in single mountings and 40 x .50-inch (13mm) anti-aircraft machine guns placed in various positions around the flight deck. Her normal complement was 2,461 officers and men and, fully loaded, she weighed 17,859 tons. Ranger had six oil-fed boilers driving two steam turbines that delivered 53,500 shaft horsepower equating to 39,000kW connected to 2 shafts. The final planning decisions required Ranger's fire control system be cut down, ammunition storage space reduced, and torpedo planes would be eliminated along with their torpedoes due to the lack of room for their storage. Dive bomber aircraft would be used instead and on-deck catapults were to be cancelled as were aircraft booms and safety nets. The arresting gear system was reduced. Ranger was originally planned as a 13,800-ton aircraft carrier under the Washington Naval Treaty but she exceeded this by some 700 tons with her final displacement being 17,500 tons at full load. A major change to the design was made in 1932 that added the island superstructure along the starboard side of the deck forward of the three hinged smoke stacks. The hull was 730 feet in length and her flight deck extended her overall length to 769 feet. On September 26, 1931, Ranger's keel was officially laid. Seventeen months later, the ship was launched and she was subsequently commissioned on June 4th, 1934. The first aircraft landed on her deck - this on June 21st, 1934 - was a SBU-1 Biplane fighter piloted by LtCdr A.C. Davis. The Ranger also received Grumman J2F Duck Bi-Seaplanes. Ranger was more or less an experiment for the debate within the Navy Department as to whether carriers should be small or large based on the limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty. The US Navy saw that the Japanese Navy had produced small carriers and thoughts were that smaller US carriers could be used for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), airborne reconnaissance and destruction of enemy shore strong points. However, during operations throughout the 1930s, the outcome prevailed that the US Navy should focus on larger, faster carriers. USS Ranger left Norfolk on June 21st, 1934 for her "shakedown" training cruise with her new crew and air wings. She cruised off the United States Virginia Capes and conducted standard drills for the crew and flight operations for her new squadrons. She continued south to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo, South America. Here she showed the flag and continued training and drills. On October 4th, 1934, she steamed back to Norfolk for the standard dry dock repairs. On April 1st, 1935 she sailed for the Pacific through the Panama Canal and, six days later, and arrived in port at San Diego, California on 15th. San Diego was her first assigned port and, for the next four years, she patrolled up and down the West Coast as far north as Alaska, as far south as Callao, Peru and as far west as Hawaii. She departed San Diego on January 4th, 1939 for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for fleet operations in the Caribbean. After the exercises were completed, she steamed back to Norfolk, arriving on April 20th, 1939. Ranger was then assigned to cruise the eastern seaboard out of Norfolk and into the Caribbean Sea as her normal patrol station. In the fall of 1939, after total war in Europe had broken out, she commenced Neutrality Patrol operations out of Bermuda along the trade routes of the middle Atlantic and up the eastern seaboard to Newfoundland. She was found to be lacking in sea keeping ability for she could not operate aircraft along her decks in heavy weather conditions. On December 7th, 1941, Ranger was returning to Norfolk from a patrol around Trinidad and Tobago when the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor. Ranger arrived at Norfolk on December 8th where she was resupplied and took on normal scheduled personnel replacements. She sailed on the 21st for patrol in the South Atlantic and re-entered the Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs on March 21th 1942. Ranger was one of fourteen US Navy ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 radar system and also took on the new Grumman Wildcat fighter squadrons to replace her outmoded SBD-1 biplanes. Ranger served as flagship of Rear Admiral A. B. Cook, Commander, Carriers, Atlantic Fleet. She was ordered to Quonset Point, Rhode Island and was loaded with sixty-eight US Army Curtiss P-40 Warhawk pursuit fighters along with their pilots and ground crews of the Army's 33d Pursuit Squadron. Ranger put to sea on April 22nd and made landfall on May 10th at Aeera on the Gold Coast of Africa where she launched the Army P-40 squadron. This was the first time US Army planes were launched from a carrier flight deck. She returned to Quonset Point, Rhode Island on May 28th, 1942, and was loaded with seventy-two more Army P-40 pursuit planes, again destined for Aeera, Africa, finally arriving there and launching aircraft on the 19th. Upon returning to Norfolk, she trained with four escort carriers that had been converted from exiting tankers. The escorts had new crews and Ranger gave valuable training on all phases of carrier operations. The escorts were brought online to help in convoy protection in the Atlantic crossing from German Navy attacks. Ranger was the biggest aircraft carrier in Atlantic waters and was assigned four Sangomon-class escort carriers for defence - each fielding 25 to 34 aircraft. This task force was to provide air cover for the upcoming amphibious invasion of German-controlled French Morocco on November 8th, 1942. Ranger and her task force was 30 miles north of Casablanca and launched her aircraft at 0615 hours, attacking Rabat airfields and destroying 21 enemy aircraft on the ground and strafing the French headquarters without any losses. Additional planes from Ranger's force destroyed another seven enemy planes on the Port Lyautey airfield while others strafed four French destroyers in Casablanca Harbor. The operation lasted three days and Ranger's task force launched a total of 496 sorties in support of the three-pronged landing. The French destroyer Albatros was bombed twice on her forward deck area causing 300 casualties. The French cruiser Primaugut was attacked and damaged as she sorted from Casablanca Harbor. Aircraft dropped depth charges on two submarines and destroyed coastal defences and anti-aircraft batteries. Ranger's pilots reported 21 light enemy tanks were attacked with many destroyed along with 86 military vehicles. Overall, Allied planes destroyed 70+ enemy planes on the ground and shot down 15 in aerial combat. Ranger's task force lost 16 aircraft. Casablanca surrendered to the Allied Forces on November 11th, 1942 to which Ranger departed the Moroccan coast the next day and steamed into Norfolk, Virginia on the 23rd. Ranger stayed in the Norfolk Navy Yard for needed repairs and aircraft replacement from December 16th, 1942 to February 7th, 1943. Returning to her ferrying role, she was loaded with seventy-five P-40-L Army pursuit planes headed to Casablanca, Africa, arriving there on February 23th, 1943. Returning to Norfolk, she patrolled the East Coast of America and steamed with the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, Scotland on August 19th, helping to patrol the sea approaches to the British Isles. The new mission was to attack German shipping in Norwegian waters. On October 2nd, she sailed and attacked a small convoy, sinking two ships and damaging a pair of merchantmen in the process. Further combat sorties destroyed a freighter and damaged another two ships. Air combat shot down two German planes with three Ranger Wildcats lost. Ranger and her squadron returned to Scapa Flow on October 6th, 1943 and she patrolled with the Home Fleet once more before reaching Boston on December 4th, 1943. Soon after her return she began training but soon was ordered to Staten Island, New York to pick up seventy-six P-38 fighter aircraft along with US Army and Navy and French Naval personnel. Casablanca, again, was the destination to which she arrived there on May 4th, 1944. After Ranger unloaded her inventory, damaged US Army aircraft were loaded aboard for stateside repairs. Also, a number of military passengers were taken aboard for their return to New York. Arriving at New York on May 16th, Ranger returned to the Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs and new equipment. The flight deck was strengthened for installation of a new catapult and the radar was upgraded. Arresting gear was installed that provided her with a capacity for night fighter interceptor training. On July 11th, 1944 Ranger departed Norfolk for San Diego, arriving there July 25th. She received the men and aircraft of Night Fighting Squadron 102 and a thousand US Marines. Ranger trained in Hawaiian waters for the next three months, conducting night carrier training operations. On October 18th, Ranger departed Pearl Harbor for San Diego to train air groups and squadrons along the California coast until the end of the war. On September 30th, 1945 she steamed for New Orleans for Navy Day scheduled for October 19th to which she then headed for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on November 18th for an overhaul. She was decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on October 18th, 1946, struck from the Navy Register on October 29th, 1946 and sold for scrapping to Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania on January 28th, 1947. During World War 2, US Ranger served mostly in escort carrier roles for convoy escort, aircraft transport and amphibious support for she lacked sufficient speed or capacity to operate as a fleet carrier during her tenure. Of the eight pre-war U.S. aircraft carriers, these being CV-1 through CV-8, USS Ranger was one of only three to survive all of World War 2. The others became the USS Enterprise and the USS Saratoga. The USS Ranger received two battle stars for her service in the conflict and most of her operations were centred in the Atlantic. Departing San Diego on 30 September 1945, she embarked civilian and military passengers at Balboa and then steamed for New Orleans, Louisiana, arriving on 18 October. Following Navy Day celebrations there, she sailed on 30 October for brief operations at Pensacola, Florida as a training carrier, later relieved in that role by Saipan. After calling at Norfolk, she entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 19 November for overhaul. She remained on the eastern seaboard until decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 18 October 1946. Struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 29 October, she was sold for scrap to Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Chester, Pennsylvania on 31 January 1947 The Model It’s great to see Trumpeter continuing to release new ships, and aircraft carriers in particular. Whilst not one of the most famous ships in the US Navy, USS Ranger was still important in her own right, not only being the first US carrier built from the ground up, but also showing that restricting the build to such a relatively small size didn’t really work, especially in the Pacific where the Fleet carriers really came into their own. The kit comes in an attractive top opening box with an artist’s rendition of the ship at sea. In the box there is a protected area which contains the single piece hull moulding, the hanger deck and flight deck. These and ten other sprues are all in a light grey plastic. There are fifteen sprues for the aircraft in a combination of black, grey and clear plastic, along with three etched brass sheets, a large decal sheet and a length of chain. All the plastic parts are beautifully moulded with no sign of flash of other imperfections, but there are quite a few moulding pips. Considering the size of some of the mouldings it’s surprising there aren’t any sink marks, and is a testament to Trumpeters designers and mould makers. From the research I’ve been able to do, online and reference books, the shape of the hull is pretty accurate, as is the bridge structure and flight deck. Construction begins with the hull upside down and the fitting of the propeller shafts, A frame shaft supports, propellers and the single rudder. The hull is then turned upright and the hanger deck glued into place, with three bulkheads glued to the deck around the aft lift well. The side bulkheads are then glued into place around the aft hull, with optionally opened/closed shutters. There are three large intakes either side aft as well as three flight deck supports. Two more bulkheads are fitted around the aft lift well. The six funnels are each assembled from ten plastic and a PE funnel cap. They have been designed to be movable but you could also glue them in the position you want to keep them. Three of the funnel assemblies are then glued into their respective positions on the port side. The foredeck is also fitted at this point and another of the side bulkheads. More sub-assemblies are built up, these include 47 two piece 20mm Oerlikons, six, five piece quad 40mm Bofors, and eight, nine piece 5” mountings. The side bulkheads around the port side forward hull are now glued into position, again with optionally open/closed shutters, but being two and three bay shutters you will have cut them apart if you don’t want them all open. Fifteen, four piece carley float ramps are then assembled, as well as the beautiful PE floatplane handling cranes. These are then glued into position, along with more flightdeck supports bulkhead mounted structures and the railings. The Oerlikon galleries for the port side are then attached amidships and aft, along with the internal lift support columns on the inside of the bulkhead. The starboard side bulkhead is fitted with several platforms and supports before being glued into place. The two main battery directors are each made from four plastic and seven PE parts. The radars array of each needs to be carefully rolled and bent to shape, so pay close attention to the instructions diagram. The bridge is made up from only nine main parts, but is then detailed with two saluting guns, vertical and inclined ladders, the two director assemblies, eight piece mast assembly, two more radars, two PE wind deflectors, and the various railings. The completed assembly is then put to one side. The starboard side funnel position is assembled a fitted to the deck, along with three intakes and the three remaining funnels. These are then followed by the starboard side aft bulkheads being glued into position, along with the flightdeck supports, railings, crane, and Oerlikon galleries. Two, two piece ships boats are then assembled and fitted to their cradles, before being glued into position in the open bays either side of the ship. Two boat booms are then attached; two per side aft, while two bulkhead are glued to the forward hanger area. The Oerlikon galleries are then fitted with the Oerlikon assemblies, along with more railings, the 5” gun platforms and the two accommodation ladders. The stern and quarterdeck is detailed with platform, ventilators, railings, gas bottles, inclined ladders, two Oerlikons and a quad 40mm, while the aft 5” mounts are fitted to their platforms, two per side. Right forward, the 5” mounting platforms are attached, while the complex lattice of the flightdeck support beams are assembled and glued to the centre section of the hanger. The fo’c’sle is fitted with cleats, bollards, capstans, anchor chains, and railings. The anchors are glued into place, as are the 40mm mounting platforms just aft of the 5” platforms. The four flight deck supports are also fitted to the fo’c’sle, as is a Quad 40mm mount, 40mm director platform and a large deck house. The 5” mounts are fitted to their platforms, as are the side mounted quad 40’s and yet more railing. Before the flightdeck is fitted, the lattice structure fore and aft needs to be glued into position as are the foreward Oerlikon galleries. With the deck in place, the Oerlikons are fitted, as are the PE arrester wires, lifts and folding deck flaps for the funnels. Two more quad 40mm mountings are assembled and fitted with the guns, before being fitted fore and aft of the island, which is also glued into place, as is a 40mm director tower, just foreward of the island, completing the ship build. There are however, fifteen aircraft to assemble, five SBD-3 Dauntless, five TBF-1 Avenger, and five F6F-3 Hellcats. Each aircraft is built up much like a larger scale aircraft, with separate fuselage sides, horizontal tailplanes, canopies, cowlings propellers and undercarriage. The F6F and TBF both have the option of folding wings. Note however, that you should research the period for which you are building the Ranger, as early in her career, she didn’t carry torpedo bombers, only dive bombers and fighters. Decals The very large decal sheet, is very well printed. There are a full range of markings for the flightdeck, including the lift surrounds and three dotted lines that extend the full length of the deck. The large flightdeck id numbers are at least the correct colour for the period, being black, whereas in other carrier kits they were white. There are also examples of the Stars and Stripes in wave or straight forms. Each of the aircraft is provided with a full set of national insignia, but no individual squadron codes are provided. The decals look suitably thin, so great care will be needed when laying the flightdeck stripes down, they appear in good register and nicely opaque. Conclusion Well, what can I say, being ex-FAA, I naturally love aircraft carriers, no matter what nation or era, so it’s great to see another one released. Ok, it’s not eh biggest, or the most well known, but this doesn’t make it any less important, particularly for the US fleet. To see the USS Ranger being released in this scale is a joy to see, and something I wouldn’t have thought ever happening in my modelling life. Having pretty much everything in the box, It would be difficult to imagine how the aftermarket companies can improve on the kit, other than some nice detail for the hanger and perhaps some deck handling vehicles. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  7. M31 US Tank Recovery Vehicle 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond by Bachmann The Tank Recovery vehicle, or ARV has been around nearly as long as the Tank has. Ever since WWI when British Mark IV tanks were fitted with jibs to produce salvage tanks the ability to recover and move inoperable tanks has been needed. In WWII the Germans become very adept at ths. WWII was the beginning of the true ARV, these were most often converted tanks which were obsolete. Many would get cranes or jibs to enable lifting operations as well. In more modern times the ARV is a version of the countires Main Battle Tank in order that another vehicle is not used to simplify logistics and repair needs. The M31 was based on the M3 Medium Tank. This was selected as it was still in production, but soon to replaced as the US Main tank by the M4 Sherman. The Tank Recovery Vehicle would be known as the T2. In order to save weight both the main 75mm gun, and the turret mounted 37mm gun were removed, however they were replaced by dummy units, and the front of the 75mm modified to provide a crew access door. The forward 30cal machine gun in the hull was retained, and the turret received a second 30cal on a British designed copula. A Garwood crane would be mounted in the gap left by the 37mm gun on the turret. This could carry 5 tons if countered by the weight of the vehicle alone, or 15 tons of the vehicle was stabilised. For whinching operations a 60,000lbs winch was installed in the crew compartment which could be used from the front or back of the vehicle. In addition it could go out through the turret to the crane. The M31 would make its combat debut with the 1st Armoured Division in Tunisia in 1943. Just over 800 M31s were produced and they would service throughout WWII never managing to get replaced by the later M32 (Based on the M4 Sherman). As well as the crane the M31 was distinguished by the numerous tool boxes on the exterior to carry all of the crews equipment, quite how successful re-tainment of the dummy guns were in obscuring the true identity of the vehicle were is open to question! The Kit There have been two kits released initially, one being the Lee, the other the British specification Grant. Both kits share a core of common parts, which have come over into the M31. This boxing has all the additional parts for the crane and exterior boxes. Inside the box are 11 sprues and two parts in grey styrene, a small clear sprue with headlights, a PE sheet, decal sheet and instruction booklet as mentioned above. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has a rear bulkhead and final drive housing attached at the front. Rollers are fitted into the floor which was where the winch cable comes out. Three stations on each side for the VVSS (vertical volute-sprung suspension) units are added, which each hold a pair of wheels. The drive sprockets are fitted to the front, and idlers at the rear on a trailing arm that is where tension is adjusted on the rear thing. A number of large bolt heads are added to the suspension units, which can be found on the sprue runners and are cut free with a sharp blade to be glued in the noted position on each arm. The tracks are link and length, with a jig supplied for the top run, which has an upward curve at the front as it rides over the drive sprocket. The highly curved areas have individual links supplied, with the diagonals under the drive and idler wheels fitted in short lengths. The tracks fit under the sponson floors, with separate sides added, which have crew hatches cut into the sides for later fitting. The complex angles of the glacis plate and casemate of the dummy 75mm gun is formed over a number of steps, with the roof having a cut-out for the turret. The engine deck is fitted last, and has a choice of pioneer tools and towing cables, which require some holes to be drilled from the inside before fitting. The exhausts and mudflaps are fitted to the rear bulkhead along with a number of panels and towing eyes to the rear, while the bolted glacis flanges are fitted to the front, with the driver's hatch and caged light cluster on the wings. A number of large tool boxes are then constructed and added to the main hull. Rear mounted winch rollers are added along with the surrounds for the associated equipment. Conctruction then moves onto the turret and attached crane. The dummy 37mm gun is attached to the rear of the turret and then the crane made up. As you may expect the crane comes with a fair number of parts all on a new sprue from the original release of the tank. Care is needed to get the myriad of parts in the correct place here. Cable is provided for the crane. The modeller will need to decide if they want the crane in front of the vehicle, or behind as there are 2 different mounting options. Markings There are five markings options spread over the inner cover pages of the instructions. From the box you can build one of the following: 1st Armoured Regiment Service Company, El Guettar, Tunisia, Aprli 1943. 2nd Armoured Division, 2/66th Armour Regiment "Gerogia on my mind", SV38 Operation Huskey, July 1943. Unknown Unit, Theater Issue Depot, Oran Algeria, May 1943. 2nd Armoured Division, 2/66th Armour Regiment "Invader", SV38, France, July 1944. 5th Army, 756th Tank Battalion, SV39, Mt Lungo, Italy, Jan 1944. The decals are printed anonymously, and have generally good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion It is good to see this variant now being issued following the original release from Takom, and that these support vehicles are not being forgotten. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  8. M3 Lee Early/Grant Medium Tanks 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond The US Army had been remarkably complacent with regard to tank development in the lead-up to WWII, and approached war with precious few that were hopelessly outclassed. This realisation resulted in a frantic clamour to produce a modern tank that could hold its own in combat, with the M3 Lee coming into service as a stop-gap measure within a year of its first design while the M4 Sherman was in development. As a consequence of its rather rushed introduction, it was known to have a number of fairly serious flaws, but it also had some strengths that (at least in part) made up for them. Its high profile and sponson mounted main gun gave the enemy a large target, but when the 75mm main gun was brought to bear on a target, it was surprisingly powerful and effective, gaining a reputation in North Africa. A great many examples were exported to the British and Russian forces in the early stages of WWII, and after the majority of British armour was left on the beaches of Dunkerque, the need became even greater. The British required some changes to improve the vehicle's performance, which most visibly included a new larger turret with a bustle to accommodate radio gear, and a cupola instead of the sub-turret with machine gun mount, which was named the Grant after general Lee's opponent. Due to the pressing need for suitable numbers however, the British did take a number of Lees, and the Soviet Union also took delivery of a substantial number of Lee variants, although some ended up at the bottom of the sea thanks to U-Boat action. The Soviets disliked the Lee intensely and gave it a wide berth wherever they could in favour of the more modern and capable T-34, the production of which ramped up substantially after the initial shock of Barbarossa, which led to its retirement from front-line service by 1943, while the other Allied continued to use them (mainly in Africa) until the end of the war. The Kits There have been two kits released initially, one being the Lee, the other the British specification Grant. Both kits share a core of common parts, which is why I'm reviewing them together. Like the real thing, I'll deal with the Lee first, then note the differences between it and the Grant, with pictures of the common sprues and the individual Grant sprues, as the Lee sprues are effectively a subset of the Grant boxing with one exception in the tracks, but more on that later. Both kits arrive in the same box that shares the tank's feature of having a modest size but higher profile. Sprues are bagged individually, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, decal sheet and a landscape A5 instruction booklet in each box. The box art shows one of the decal options, however some of the glue on the box corners appears to be failing already, so you might want to put a precautionary staple in yours when it arrives to save scattering sprues everywhere at some later point. M3 Lee Medium Tank - Early (2085) Inside the box are ten sprues and two parts in grey styrene, a small clear sprue with headlights, a PE sheet, decal sheet and instruction booklet as mentioned above. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has a rear bulkhead and final drive housing attached at the front, with three stations on each side for the VVSS (vertical volute-sprung suspension) units, which held a pair of wheels each. The drive sprockets are fitted to the front, and idlers at the rear on a trailing arm that is where tension is adjusted on the rear thing. A number of large bolt heads are added to the suspension units, which can be found on the sprue runners and are cut free with a sharp blade to be glued in the noted position on each arm. The tracks are link and length, with a jig supplied for the top run, which has an upward curve at the front as it rides over the drive sprocket. The highly curved areas have individual links supplied, with the diagonals under the drive and idler wheels fitted in short lengths. The tracks fit under the sponson floors, with separate sides added, which have crew hatches cut into the sides for later fitting. The complex angles of the glacis plate and casemate of the 75mm gun are formed over a number of steps, with the roof having a cut-out for the turret and the limited-traverse mantlet of the main gun attached before it is flipped over and fitted to the rest of the hull. The engine deck is fitted last, and has a choice of pioneer tools and towing cables, which require some holes to be drilled from the inside before fitting. The exhausts and mudflaps are fitted to the rear bulkhead along with a number of panels and towing eyes to the rear, while the bolted glacis flanges are fitted to the front, with the driver's hatch and caged light cluster on the wings. The turret has a simple two-part construction, with the mantlet inserted into the lower half, allowing the gun to elevate, while the top machine gun turret actually has more parts, including vision ports, a split hatch, lifting eyes and machine gun barrel. The 37mm gun and coax machine gun are fitted last before the mantlet cover is installed, which makes one wonder what the purpose of the additional machine gun on the top of the turret was when there was already one mounted coaxially. Markings There are four markings options spread over the inner cover pages of the instructions, All of which are in Olive Drab expect for the Soviet option, which is in Russian Green. From the box you can build one of the following: Soviet Union, unknown unit, unknown date, with red star on the turret, and patriotic slogan on the glacis. US 2nd Armoured Division, 1942 with colourful red/white/blue star roundel on the sides, glacis and turret top. Unknown training unit, Desert Warfare Centre USA, 1942 – white star and 16 on turret with yellow band at the bustle. Unknown training unit, Desert Warfare Centre USA, 1942 – White star and yellow band on turret. The decals are printed anonymously, and have generally good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. On my sample the blue centre to the early roundel is slightly offset, but not all that noticeably. M3 Grant Medium Tank (2086) With two addition sprues and one replacement, the build is essentially the same except for the replacement of the smooth track links with treaded plates, with a set of side-skirts and additional stowage on the engine deck setting the hull apart from the earlier Lee. The mudflaps on the Grant are boxed in to reduce dust kick-up in conjunction with the side-skirts, after which the turret is a totally new assembly. Using the same turret ring size as the Lee, the Grant's turret is appreciably larger, although it mounts the same 37mm gun in the same manner as the other, but omits the machine gun turret in favour of a folding hatch in a cupola. It retains the coaxial machine gun and mantlet plate, but goes at least some way toward reducing the profile of the tank in the enemy's sights. it appears on closer inspection that the moulding insert on the cheeks of the turret has not lined up completely, and has left an infinitesmal mark around the port. This should be pretty easy to clean up, just by mimicking the texture with a round burr in your motor tool, and a little judicious sanding. cast armour was never all that cleanly done. Look at the sharpness of the bolt heads below, and the casting numbers on the Lee turret. Crisp! Markings Because the Grant saw service with the British and Commonwealth forces in the deserts of North Africa, the base colour of the tanks were a sandy yellow, with camouflage patches of various shades applied over the top. From the box you can build one of the following: 2/10 Armoured Regiment, 1st Australian Armoured Division – Khaki green camouflage and yellow triangle on the turret. British 7th Armoured Division, 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars, Squadron C, battle of Al-Gazala, 1942 – black camouflage pattern and yellow circle on the turret. 3 RTR north Africa, 1942 – Brown camouflage patches, and Khaki green horizontal surfaces. Montgomery's personal command tank, 8th Army HQ, 1942-3 – Khaki green camouflage. Decals are again anonymously printed, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The denim colour of the Porky Pig emblem is slightly offset on my sample, but as it looks like a highlight, it shouldn't pose much of an issue. Conclusion Whilst the old Academy offering isn't a bad kit and includes a basic interior, it is beginning to look dated to the modern modeller's more demanding eyes, so these new releases should be welcomed, especially as the cast texture on the turrets and various other parts is provided in-box without any messy dabbling on the modeller's part with noxious solvents and tools. The lack of interior will hardly bother many, as a lot of models are built with their hatches closed up, or with crew figures to give the vehicle a sense of scale. Detail is excellent, and with a number of other variants including a recovery vehicle forthcoming, Grant/Lee aficionados will be pleased. The Priest also shares the same basic chassis, so perhaps we might see a new tooling of this in due course? Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  9. Finnish Self Propelled Anti Aircraft Gun ltPsv 90 Marksman SPAAG 1:35 Takom The Marksman system was developed by Marconi to be a drop-in solution to the need for mobile, radar-targeted anti-aircraft gun platforms for close-in support of troops, installations and other valuable assets. The system comprises a pair of Swiss made 35mm Oerlikon guns with a fire rate of 18 rounds per second. The Marconi 400 series frequency agile surveillance and tracking X/J band radar is able to detect targets at 12 KM and track them from 10 KM Although the turret could be mated with many different hulls, the British chose the Chieftain tank for trials of this system. The second prototype was mounted on a Chieftain, and have the vehicle a top-heavy look, with the crew hatches perched high on the top of the turret, overshadowed by the radar dish that made it so accurate to its maximum range of 4,000m. Sadly, the Chieftain installation never progressed beyond prototype and it didn't see service with the British Army. The turret did see limited service with other operators such as Finland who mounted it on Polish T-55AM chassis. The Fins moved these systems to wartime storage but have since been fitting the turrets to Leopard 2A4 chassis The Kit This is a re-tooling of the new tool T-55AM kit with added parts for the Marksman turret as seen in the Chieftain Marksman kit we reviewed here. Construction starts with the T-55 chassis. The front plate is added to the rea hull and plates are added for the drive sprockets at the rear. The front idler wheels are made up and added to the hull, these are followed by the drive wheels and suspension arms for the road wheels. The ten pairs of road wheels (five either side) are made up. Here the rubber tyres on the outside of the wheels (moulded in plastic) are separate and are added over the main wheels. With careful construction this could ease the difficulty of painting the tyres that you get with tanks. With the road wheels then fitted you move to the upper hull of the tank. The three parts of the upper hull are joined together, PE rear engine mesh is added along with the drivers hatch. Some tools and a headlight assembly are then added though I suspect some will leave this until last. The upper hull can then be added and the rear bulkhead put in place. The tracks consist of 92 individual links per side. These are put together (i know not as easy as it sounds!). Once the tracks are on the track guards either side are completed. There are PE webs for these, and along with tool boxes and tow cables to add. Once complete they can be added to the sides and the vertical parts added over the tracks. Final assembly of the hull then takes place with a myriad of small brackets, tools, tool boxes etc to add. The turret is then started, with the guns built up first from two halves that have some lovely moulding that results in a hollow flash-guide as per the real thing. These then fit onto a five-part breech fairing that has an axle for joining to the turret body. The two interlock in the middle of the turret, but as there is nothing to provide a friction-fit braking on the pivot-points, you will have to either fabricate your own, or glue them in position, or they will flop. The lower turret with moulded in ring closes up the turret, whilst providing the floor of the bustle that is added later from a single part. A number of sensors and vision devices are installed on the top, along with an insert that contains the two crew hatches and forms the base of the radar installation. The top section of the insert flips up on a pair of hinges for stowage of the radar during travel. More small parts such as smoke dischargers and antennae mounts are added on the sides of the turret and then the tapered radar base is inserted on the hinged panel along with the motor housing. The radome and receiver are put together with some additional sensors on the head-unit, which must again be glued in position. The turret ring then has its bayonet-fitting added to the bottom. When dry the turret is fitted to the hull and twisted to engage the bayonet lugs. Markings Only one set of markings for a Finnish example are provided. These are in the two tone green & black scheme. Conclusion Following on the from the Chieftain marksman there was hope that Takom would kit the one real user of the type. It makes good use of the tooling already developed, and its good to see that they are prepared to invest in this type of kit. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  10. AML-90 French Light Armoured Car 1:35 Takom The AML-90 was designed from the original AML-245 specification by Panhard originally being designated the AML-245C. The main feature of this model is the DEFA D921 low pressure 90mm gun. The gun was specifically designed for light vehicles (<10 Tonnes), This made the AML-90 well armed in proportion to its weight. The gun has shallow rifling and coupled with fin stabilised rounds gives a an improved range, however the low muzzle velocity does only favour close combat. Combat in the South African border Wars, and The Six Day War would show the AML-90 was out ranged by older T-34/85 and M48 Patton tanks. Optical fire control, and no power assist on the turret traverse also hampered operations. Even given these factors the AML-90 is capable of destroying older main battle tanks. A Libyan T-62 was reported destroyed in the Toyota War (Libyan/Chad border conflict of 1987). The Kit This is a welcome new tool from Takom who seem to be on a mission to bring us less mainstream vehicles. It is an addition to the Takom AML-60 kit as both vehicles use the same AML-245 chassis (the two kits sharing 3 common sprues & the lower hull). The kit arrives on 4 main sprues, a small clear sprue, 5 rubber tyres, a lower hull part, and the turret. All of the parts are up to Takom's usual standard. The kit does not feature an interior. Of note are the instructions (which I dont normally mention), it seems Takom have shrunk their normal A4 instructions down to A5 to fint in the box, and this had made them harder to read. Construction starts with the lower hull. The rear of the car is attached to the hull along with additional side parts the rear frame and the main side door. The rear wheel housing and suspension components and springs are also added. Additional handles and smaller parts are also added at this stage. The front suspension components are then built up and added to the lower hull. Followed by the wheel housing and their suspension components. The wheels can then be built up. These consist of five plastic components for each wheel in addition to the tyres. The upper hull deck can then be added to the lower hull. Tools and periscopes are added at this stage., along with a sand channel and other parts which I suspect a lot of modellers will leave off until the end. Next the turret is built up from the main part with the hatches, tools and other ancillary parts being added. This turret is much larger than the AML-60. The lower and upper parts are put together with the gun mantlet being added between the two. The hatches, other lights and smoke dischargers are added along with the rear turret bin. the 90mm gun is then made up and added. The completed turret can then be added to the hull. Markings There are 5 options included with the kit, and are featured on the coloured artwork. Argentinian Army - Falklands War 1982 (Green/brown camo) French Army - (Green / sand camo) Israeli Defence Forces (overall sand grey) Iraqi Army - Kuwait 1991 (overall sand) Lebanese Army Special Forces - 2012 (4 colour camo) Conclusion This is welcome new tool from Takom of Armoured Car which was used by the Armies of many nations around the world. No doubt the aftermarket producers will do decals and probably a full interior at some point. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  11. AML-60 French Light Armoured Car 1:35 Takom The AML-60 was designed from the original AML-245 specification by Panhard originally being designated the AML-245B. This was the initial production variant with a rounded turret containing twin 7.62mm machine guns and a breech lading 60mm mortar. The mortar was normally loaded from inside the vehicle via its breech like normal artillery, or from outside the vehicle like a conventional mortar. It has an elevation of +80° and a depression of −15°. In the vehicle the commander acquires targets and direct the gunner sighting via a combined monocular telescope & binocular periscope. Range of the mortar is 300m in the direct fire role, and 1700m in the indirect fire role. 3200 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition and 32 mortar bombs are carried. The AML60-20 would later replace the twin machine guns with a 20mm autocannon. The Kit This is a welcome new tool from Takom who seem to be on a mission to bring us less mainstream vehicles. The kit arrives on 4 main sprues, a small clear sprue, 5 rubber tyres, a lower hull part, and the turret. All of the parts are up to Takom's usual standard. The kit does not feature an interior. Of note are the instructions (which I dont normally mention), it seems Takom have shrunk their normal A4 instructions down to A5 to fint in the box, and this had made them harder to read. Construction starts with the lower hull. The rear of the car is attached to the hull along with additional side parts the rear frame and the main side door. The rear wheel housing and suspension components and springs are also added. Additional handles and smaller parts are also added at this stage. The front suspension components are then built up and added to the lower hull. Followed by the wheel housing and their suspension components. The wheels can then be built up. These consist of five plastic components for each wheel in addition to the tyres. The upper hull deck can then be added to the lower hull. Tools and periscopes are added at this stage., along with a sand channel and other parts which I suspect a lot of modellers will leave off untill the end. Next the turret is built up from the main part with the hatches, tools and other ancillary parts being added. A choice of twin machines guns & motar, or the 20mm autocannon can be added though the instruction make no note which of any of the decal options carried this, and the decal / markings guides do not show any vehicles with this armament! Once the choice of armament is in place the lower turret ring can be added, other lights and a tarp can then be added to the turret. The completed turret can then be added to the hull. Markings There are 4 options included with the kit, and are featured on the coloured artwork. Spanish Legion - Sahara 1970s (overall sand) Spanish Legion - Sahara 1970s (overall green) French Army - (3 colour camo) Portuguese Army (overall green) Conclusion This is welcome new tool from Takom of Armoured Car which was used by the Armies of many nations around the world. No doubt the aftermarket producers will do decals and probably a full interior at some point. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  12. IDF Tiran 4. 1:35

    IDF Tiran 4 Takom 1:35 History The meaning of Tiran [pronounced as Tiy-RAE-N] in Hebrew is beginner. Israel's chronic lack of AFV's on one hand and it's phenomenal victory in the 1967 Six Days War on the other, brought the IDF to adopt captured enemy vehicles for its use. The Arab armies lost hundreds of fighting vehicles - mostly Egyptian T-54 and T-55 MBT's which were abandoned by their crews. In order to allow for greater standardization in its armour corps, the IDF initiated a conversion program. The captured tanks were re-engined and re-gunned (with the standard 105mm gun used in the Centurion and Patton MBT's). Chief was the several hundred captured T-54/T-55 tanks that were taken and modified into the Tiran 4 (T-54) and Tiran 5 (T-55), called Ti-67 (Tank Israeli-1967) in the west. The main difference between the two versions is the main gun armament. The Tiran 4 having a 100 mm main gun while the Tiran 5 having a 105 mm main gun. The first version of the Tiran 4 is distinguished by a few minor additions such as two brackets, Jerry cans on the back of the turret and a new communication system. The rest seem to be original, even up to the ammunition. The first standard Tiran 4 is one of several sub-versions of the Tiran vehicles. It was directly taken from the T-54 and received a set of different mud guards to the rear, a cal.30 Browning was fitted to the turret, and a box on the rear of the chassis which was also used on most of the Tiran versions. The next version of the Tiran 4 was unusual, in that it retained its original 100mm gun, but fitted with a fume extractor. Many of these cannon are visible on other Tiran versions in the IDF. The second version of the Tiran 4 was fitted with a few additional changes, such as antennas, hatch, and searchlights on the turret, along with spare track links, the biggest change being the fitting of the 105 mm M-68 main gun. The first combat use of captured tanks by the IDF was in operation "Raviv" (8-9 September 1969) - an amphibious raid across the Suez channel. Three T-54 tanks and six BTR-50 APC's were used to wreak havoc behind the Egyptian lines. Tirans were used along Israel's borders - mostly at the Suez front. In the 1973 Yom Kippur war Tirans were used in combat in the southern front - against Egyptian T-54/55 (which caused a lot of confusion). During the 1973 war the IDF managed to capture the newest Soviet MBT of the time - the T-62. Plans for conversion into Tiran-6 were made, but the relatively small numbers captured, together with the massive numbers of M-60 MBT's supplied by the US brought them to a halt (several prototypes were made, however). During the early 1980's Tiran MBT's were withdrawn from active duty. Some were sold to foreign states (including, reportedly, to Iran during its war with Iraq), some were given to Israel's allies in Lebanon and some were converted into the Achzarit APC. Ironicaly, some of the Tirans supplied to the SLA (South Lebanon Army) militia fell into Hizballah hands after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon (June 2000). In a way, those tanks made a full circle. The Model We must be getting pretty close to having every single Russian/Soviet tank type being released in injection moulded plastic. At least this kit fills the gap between the JS tanks and the T-62s, and there weren’t too many versions of this vehicle when compared with the T-62 series onwards. Contained in a nicely illustrated box are fourteen sprues and two separate parts in grey styrene, a bag of individual track links in the same material, a smallish sheet of etched brass and a small decal sheet, oh!, and a length of wire. The moulding is superb, with no sign of flash or other imperfections, just a few of the usual moulding pips to clean up. The fact that the individual links are already off the sprue and ready to use is very helpful. Construction begins with the lower glacis plate being attached to the front, the sprocket gear covers to the rear and the idler wheel assemblies to the front. Each idler wheel, which actually looks like a modified sprocket, each one is made up from seven parts. Each road wheel is made up from two wheels and two separate tyres, which will at least make it easier to paint, whilst the sprockets are just two parts, the inner and outer hubs. The slightly confusing bit is that there are three different styles of suspension arm per side, and up to three parts per arm, so take care when assembling and fitting each arm to ensure you are using the right parts for each particular side. The upper hull decking is made up from front middle and rear sections, which, when joined together is fitted out with the drivers hatch, PE grilles, six piece headlight cluster, fastening strips, hooks and other sundry items. With the wheels and tracks fitted, the upper hull decking is attached to the lower hull, followed by the rear bulkhead and inner sprocket gearbox fairings. As stated above, each individual track link is all ready to be used, it’s just a shame they aren’t the click together type as seen in Takom’s Mk.IV and Mk.V Heavy Tanks. They are easy to fit and glue, but it might be an idea to make up lengths of them to match the point in the track and any associated sag required before joining them up around the sprockets and idlers, you will need around 92 links per side. Before the track guards are fitted several holes of various diameters need to be drilled out. The starboard guard is then fitted with the various storage boxes, angled support arms, spare fuel tanks, plus the front and rear mudguards. The pioneer tool rack and tools is fitted to the port track guard, along with the barrel cleaning kit tube, and more storage boxes. They are then fitted to the hull and the fuel tanks pipework attached to the appropriate tanks. The rear bulkhead is fitted with the mounting brackets for the two four piece auxiliary fuel drums and the unditching beam. The build then moves onto the turret, with the single piece upper section being fitted with the hatch rings, internal co-axial machine gun, various brackets, stowage eyes, sight doors, and hand rails before the gunners hatch, which is made up from no less than twelve parts, is attached, along with a sight. The much simpler, four part commanders hatch is glued into position, as is the mantlet cover, three piece 60mm mortar, two jerry cans, small two piece storage box, three piece large storage box, two, three piece aerial bases, and ten piece rear stowage basket. There are two types of main gun barrel, one with a fume extractor and one without, both made up from two halves split longitudinally, so care to minimise the seam will be required, or wait for an aftermarket company to release a metal barrel, the barrel is fitted in place and finished off with the separate muzzle end piece. The six piece 30cal Browning machine gun and eight piece 50cal machine gun are attached, the 50cal having alternate positons. The completed turret is then fitted to the hull at which point the build is ready for paint. Decals Whilst there are three schemes in the full colour paint chart the actual decal sheet is very small and is only required for two of the schemes, one of which only has registration numbers, the other has registration numbers, identification chevrons, and three white rings on the barrel. The schemes are for the following vehicles:- Tiran 4 of the South Lebanese Army, used during the Peace for Galilee operation 1982. Tiran 4 of the South Lebanese Army, Negev Desert, early 80’s Tiran 4 of the South Lebanese Army, Jezzine, 1985 Conclusion Takom really are getting the most of their T-54 moulds, but this is still a very nice kit and looks like it will be a joy to build, much like their other kits. What with Trumpeter and Tamiya producing other versions of the Tiran series, you could end up with a full set. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  13. FV432 Mk.3 Bulldog 1:35

    FV432 Mk.3 Bulldog 1:35 Takom Dating back to the 1960, the design for this British front-line "battle taxi" has undergone many changes over the years, and many British Army soldiers will be hugely familiar with this robust, quirky little vehicle. Originally to have been declared obsolete and sent to the scrapyard or into private hands, the eruption of hostilities in the Middle East saw renewed use for the 432, and in light of experience gained in that theatre, a thousand chassis were upgraded and zero-houred to the new Mark 3 standard, including new steering, braking and propulsion systems, as well as reactive armour and even air-conditioning units for those bound for the sandbox were fitted. In addition, new systems were employed to protect the crew and passengers from the perils of asymmetric combat, in the shape of IEDs and RPGs. Along with a number of other vehicles in theatre, perhaps in a psy-ops style attempt to give the 432 some "fear factor", the upgraded vehicles were christened "Bulldog" to represent their pugnacious character and their by-now broad beam. A heavily modified 432 (probably one of those sold off before the need arose) was seen performing duties as a Hover Tank in the new Star Wars film, Rogue One. The Kit Lots of British AFV fans were very pleased about Takom's announcement of a new series of models of this iconic and popular vehicle, which allowed them to push their ancient and iffy Academy kits to the back of the shelf, or offload them to a well-known auction site. This is the second issue from Takom, the first being the 2/1 that came with a full interior, which we sadly missed due to unforeseen circumstances. The Bulldog boxing is a substantially new issue due to the massive differences between the kits, and as we've not yet reviewed its stablemate, we'll start at the very beginning. The box is the now traditional Takom style with separate lid, and individually bagged sprues (with the exception of the multiple sprues) inside, which are resealable if you're one of those folks that like to rebag your sprues after fondling them (you wierdos!). In addition to the ten grey sprues and two hull halves, there is a sprue of clear parts, a small Photo-Etch (PE) fret, a decal sheet, a track jig, and the instructions with integrated painting and markings guide. Not unusually, construction begins with the lower hull and the many suspension parts being added, lined up using the holes in the track jig mentioned above. This is repeated both sides, and the twelve road wheels and two drive sprockets are made up in readiness. The sprocket and one road wheel are placed in the jig and are dressed with the link and length tracks, with two being needed, so a bit of a delay will be necessary to allow the first run to set up before you can start the second. Scrap diagrams show how the finished article should look from both sides, and above the sponson floor the sidewalls are fitted, with a number of mounts moulded-in to accept the stand-off reactive armour. The exhaust is directed along the left side and exits at deck height toward the rear of the vehicle, which is also added at this time. Large stowage boxes fit either side of the wide rear door, and a number of small holes are drilled out in preparation for the fitting of detailing parts. The separate sponson rear ends have long mudflaps added from PE, and the door is made up with ammo boxes fitted to the inside, plus handle and number plate on the outside. The glacis plate has a change of angle around half way up, and is built from two sections to accommodate this (the upper section moulded into the deck), with ERA blocks fitted to the fixed section and slat armour added over the hatch on the lower section. More slat armour panels are fitted below the nose, with light clusters and sensor boxes for good measure. The deck is full of holes at this point, but has pioneer tools and copious smoke grenade launchers installed before attachment to the model, which first needs the outer shell constructing before fitting. Engine ventilation covers are added to the right side of the hull, and are immediately covered by the outer hull panel and its appliqué armour, which has a separate top panel for preservation of detail. This is repeated on the other side, allowing the fitment of the glacis and deck panels, which are detailed with the hatches and grilles to fill all those holes bar the main "turret ring" at the rear, and the commander's cupola, which is added later with clear vision blocks. Additional slat-armour corner parts are inserted in the gaps to protect those areas, and this is repeated at the rear, with the air conditioning box perched on the very back of the deck, overhanging the rear door and decked with aerials and jammer antennae. The rear of the vehicle has a complicated set of slat armour panels that allow the rear door to operate, with bracing struts preventing strumming over rough ground. More sensors, antennae, the rear clamshell top hatch, and the large crew station are built and added, the latter made from a substantial number of parts, which provides more than adequate protection for the top cover man, with shields and armoured glazing all around his GPMG station, which can also be operated remotely from inside thanks to the TV box on the opposite side of the mount to the ammo can. Markings Takom and Ammo hooked up to do the colour and markings options fairly early on, and this carries on in the back pages of the instruction booklet. There are three decal options, all of which are applied over a sand yellow base, with little to differentiate other than the weapons fit and unit markings. From the box you can build one of the following: 1st Battalion Scots Guards Reconnaissance Platoon, Operation Telic, Southern Iraq, January 2008 – Yellow 12 marking on rear and unshrouded GPMG on the upper deck. 1st Battalion Scots Guards Reconnaissance Platoon, Operation Telic, Southern Iraq, January 2008 – Rob Roy on sides, shrouded GPMG on the cupola. 1st Battalion Scots Guards Reconnaissance Platoon, Operation Telic, Southern Iraq, January 2008 – Robert Bruce on sides, and unshrouded GPMG on the upper deck. The decals are printed anonymously, and due to their simplicity there is little need for register (which seems good anyway), with the lighter colours appearing suitably dense. There is a tiny amount of over-printing of the yellow around the white backing, but that should disappear on a sand coloured backdrop. A little variation in units would have been nice to see, but as there's not much in the way of decals anyway, it wouldn't be too hard to build your own choice of subject, taking note of the personalisations to the vehicles. Conclusion The FV432 is long overdue in 1:35, and this seems to hit the spot. If you've spent a lot of time around these vehicles as some of my friends have, you'll be bound to pick up some things that might need attention, but for the majority of us (self included), this is a welcome addition to Takom's increasing armour range. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  14. Boulton Paul Defiant Trumpeter 1:48 History The Boulton Paul Defiant was designed in response to Air Ministry Specification F9/35 of 26 June 1935 calling for a two-seat fighter with all its armament concentrated in a turret. It was believed at the time that, in avoiding an enemy aircraft’s slipstream, fire from a powered turret would be more accurate than that provided by fixed forward firing guns. Five companies responded to the specification but, for various reasons, four withdrew leaving Boulton Paul the sole contender. Designed by John Dudley North, the P82 prototype (minus turret) first flew on 11 Dec 1937 at which point it was named the Defiant. A second prototype was fitted with a Type A four-gun turret based on a French design already licensed for use on Boulton Paul’s Overstrand bomber, and this version with but minor changes became the production Defiant Mk1. The turret was electro-hydraulically operated with a mechanical backup and carried 4 x .303 Browning machine guns, electrically fired with cut-off points in the turret ring preventing activation when pointing at the propeller disc or tailplane. Whilst the gunner could lock the turret forward and transfer firing control to the pilot, this was rarely practised given forward elevation restrictions and the lack of pilot gunsight. The Defiant entered RAF service with No 264 Squadron in December 1939 and saw combat for the first time in May 1940 during the evacuation of Dunkirk. It was initially successful with Luftwaffe fighters sustaining losses, but a change of enemy tactics with attacks from below or head on soon saw Defiants forfeit the initiative. Following the loss by 264 Squadron of 7 aircraft with 9 crewmen dead over the three days 26th to 28th August 1940, the Defiant was withdrawn from the day fighter role. Four squadrons were equipped with the aircraft for night fighter duties, however, and it is apposite that during the “Blitz” of 1940-41 the Defiant destroyed more enemy bombers than any other type. It was finally retired from the front line in 1942 and thereafter used for training, target-towing, ECM and air sea rescue – many aircraft having had their turrets removed. The “Daffy”, as the Defiant was affectionately known, also saw service with the Royal Navy and the air forces of Australia, Canada and Poland. The Model We hadn’t had a Defiant in 1:48 at all, then within a year we have two. Unfortunately Trumpeter seem to have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory again with some sloppy research. This is particularly noticeable on the fuselage. The nose appears to be the wrong shape, being too deep and not long enough. The shape of the rear fuselage is no better, being too deep and also missing the kink on the lower fuselage between just aft of the turret and the tail. I'm not really sure of the right nomenclature, should it be F1, or Mk.1. The detail is nicely restrained, but many of the panel lines are spurious at best, many being moulded complete with two lines of rivets where the real aircraft only has a single line of rivets and no panel line. Having said all that, the moulding is very nice and, apparently, according to some build reviews it is easy to build and look nice, if wrong, on the shelf. Not having the Airfix kit, means I cannot do a direct comparison, but I get the feeling that the Airfix one is more accurate, if a little lacking in surface detail. So, on with the build, beginning with the cockpit, naturally; this is built up from the floor, seat, rudder bar, joystick, the two sidewalls and instrument panel with decal instruments. The cockpit assembly is then glued into one half of the fuselage while a small switchbox is fitted to the starboard side. The fuselage is then closed up, with the two piece tailwheel sandwiched between. The clear parts of the section between the cockpit and turret and then added from the outside. The wing is comprised of a single piece lower section complete with wheel wells and two upper sections, once assembled this is glued to the fuselage. Each main undercarriage assembly is made up from the single piece wheel, undercarriage leg and outer bay door. Once glued in place the retraction actuator is then attached along with the inner bay door. The individual exhaust stubs are then attached; three per side, as well as the landing light covers, navigation light covers and separate ailerons. The propeller is a single piece item, with separate spinner and backplate whilst the radiator bath is a two piece affair whilst the oil cooler is a single piece item. The lower outer bay doors are then glued into position along with the optionally posed flaps, as is the separate rudder, main and rear mounted aerial masts. The turret is very well detailed, made up of seventeen plastic and two brass parts. The four gun barrels are hollowed out at the muzzle, giving them a nice appearance. With the turret assembled it can be inserted into its aperture. Unfortunately, the turtle deck, aft of the turret is fixed, and there si no option to have it retracted, without further surgery. The build is finished off with the fitting of the windscreen and canopy, which cannot be posed open without some surgery, the two horizontal tailplanes and finally the pitot probe. Decals The decal sheet provided markings for two aircraft and are designed and printed by Trumpeter themselves. The decals are sharp, in good register, nicely opaque and with minimal carrier film, except around the letters of the main identification letters. The aircraft markings are for the following:- Defiant F1 L7009 TW-H in a day fighter scheme of dark green, dark brown over light aircraft grey. Defiant F1 N3328 DZ-Z in a night fighter scheme of overall black. Conclusion This looks to be quite a nice to build and will no doubt look stunning in an experts hands if they can get over the kits inaccuracies. It would certainly be a good kit for a novice modeller too as it’s not too taxing, although they may need a little help with the turret. Just a shame that Trumpeter failed to get the shape right as it could have been a great kit. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  15. German Bergepanzer Hetzer late 1:35 Thunder Model The Hetzer was a highly successful tank destroyer that was based on the Czech P38(t), which mounted a powerful 75mm gun in the glacis with limited traverse capability, obviating the need for a turret and thereby reducing its profile, but requiring the driver to slew the vehicle for gross re-targeting. The Bergepanzer variant was fitted with a smooth glacis with no gun port, and had an open top for ease of ingress by the crew, who would be in and out connecting up towing ropes etc. to any vehicle in distress, possibly whilst still under fire. Due to its designation as a "light" recovery vehicle its use was limited to an extent, and only 170 were built in total, with later models benefitting from experience in the field, and from side skirts that helped defuse the blast of shaped charges that were in use in the later part of the war. The Kit This is a variant on Thunder Model's original Bergepanzer Hetzer late, which has been released with different parts to bring a total of four boxings including this one, which is a Limited Special edition with some upgrades to detail in the shape of metal and resin parts. Thunder Model are another Chinese company, with a number of unusual kits under their belts already, and some more to be released going forwards. Their tooling style reminds me of Hasegawa, whether it's the colour of styrene they use, or the look of the parts, I'm not sure. Their boxes have captive lids, opening up to reveal seven sprues of that grey styrene, plus the extras, which you will find in a ziplok bag. Take care when opening the bag, as some of the parts are necessarily small and easily lost. There are two sheets of copper Photo-Etch (PE), a small sheet of brass PE, another nickel plated fret with painted dials, a length of brass chain, three lengths of braided string/rope with no fuzzy threads, a length of brass wire, two short loops of thicker gauge steel and copper wire, and two resin towing cable eyes. Almost everything you will need other than glue and paint to complete your model. The instructions are printed on an A4 booklet in portrait with greyscale isometric views, and the painting guide is printed on glossy stock in full colour. Due to the open top, quite a lot of the interior will be on display, so construction begins with the engine, which is nicely detailed, with ancillary parts also included, such as fuel tanks, radiator and air ducting parts. A number of tiny rivets are added around the inside of the hull by the final drive housing, and the leaf-spring suspension units with their large wheels are added all around before the link-and-length track is built up around the road wheels and drive sprocket. The rear bulkhead is added to the hull along with the towing cables, lifting eyes and towing hooks, while the transmission box is constructed over a number of steps before it is dropped into the front of the hull, and the driver's position with PE pedals and controls are glued into the left side. Behind and to his right a power take-off runs the internal winch that passes out through the rear armour, and behind that the bulkhead is fitted to separate the engine bay from the crew compartment. The upper hull is open at the top and has a separate engine deck, which is constructed by adding an inverted T-shape with PE grilled to the centre, and fitting the two access panels at the top left and right, the winch cable exiting from the starboard side. Various PE brackets and a length of replacement track are used, and the special edition rear fenders are built up from the included PE, which can be deformed to show use in a more realistic way, as well as having more scale thickness. The Pioneer tools and the bergepanzer specific tools are festooned over the slab sides, and the crane can either be shown collapsed for transport in the port side, or with the addition of its cabling and hook, it can be shown erected on the top of the hull. A choice of PE or styrene side skirts are also fitted to the hull and fender edges, which can also be dented, twisted or plain-old ripped free depending on how good your imaginary driver was at his job. A shallow stowage bin is fitted into the crew compartment aperture, which can be fitted with a choice of pulley assemblies, and the final act involves building up the chunky entrenching blade that fits to the rear of the vehicle and hinges vertically for travel. Small PE lifting eyes are added to the rear of the blade, and an addendum is included on a slip of paper in the box for the support arms, so staple it into the booklet before you start to remind you. Markings There are two markings options in the box, but as neither have any stencils applied, there are no decals, just instructions on how to paint your Hetzer. From the box you can build one of the following: Germany, March 1945 - Dotted ambush pattern in red brown and green over a dark yellow base. Rhineland, 1945 - Wavy-edged hard demarcation pattern in red brown and green over a dark yellow base. There are tools out there to help with these schemes, such as masks for the dotted pattern, and the Clever Putty to achieve the hard lines of the wavy edged pattern. Conclusion It's worth picking up the limited edition boxing for the extras that it includes, which includes the engine compartment, as the cost saving is notable, and it will be interesting to work with the softer copper PE for the first time (for this modeller at least). Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  16. M47/G Patton Medium Tank 1:35

    M47/G Patton 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond Despite his insistence that the US Forces didn't require a heavier tank toward the close of WWII, which resulted in the delay of the capable Pershing tank, so that it barely made any difference the final few months of the war, the US Army seem fond of naming tanks after this flamboyant General. Of the four, the M47 was the second, and was a development of the earlier M46, which was always to be an interim solution whilst they waited for the ill-fated T42 medium tank. The M47 was also supposed to be a stop-gap, but it took the M46 chassis and mated it with the turret from the T42, with a 90mm gun as the main armament. It also had the distinction of being the last US tank to have a bow mounted machine gun in the glacis, with following designs having a coax machine gun alongside the barrel for flexibility in combat. Over 9,000 examples were made, and its front-line lifespan was relatively short, being superseded by the M48 Patton almost as soon as production ceased, and being declared obsolete only 5 years later. By the end of the 50s, the US army had sold their stock to overseas customers, and even the US Marines, who aren't so quick to throw their kit away had replaced them by that time too. All in all, not a well-loved tank in US Service, but it served other Allied nations such as Italy and Spain in large numbers, so it wasn't a total loss. The Kit The juggernaut of new releases from Takom continues apace, and the Patton range of tanks seems to be one of the current subjects in hand. The kit arrives in a standard top-opening box, and inside are seven sprues and three separate parts in mid-grey styrene, a small clear sprue, two khaki coloured track jigs, a small decal sheet and of course the instruction booklet with painting guide on the insides of the glossy cover. Beginning construction with the M46 Patton styled underside involved adding the various suspension parts, using the track jigs to line up all the swing-arms, and creating 14 pairs of road wheels, plus two drive sprockets. The jigs can then be used to create the track runs, which are link-and-length, by installing the idler and drive sprockets temporarily in the jig and lining up the parts of the track with small bars that ensure correct position when dry. The whole assembly can then be lifted off once the glue is dry to install the road wheels and tracks in your preferred order of construction and painting. The upper hull is made up primarily from a single slab with moulded-in engine deck louvers and the sleek cast glacis plate, which has subtle casting texture to its surface. The bow-mounted gun, lifting eyes and towing shackles are added along with the D-shaped front hatches and their periscope, finished off with the light clusters and their protective framing. Shackles, vents, towing eyes and tow-ropes are added to the rea, and then the two fenders are built up away from the hull, with stowage, pioneer tools, exhaust boxes with shrouds added to both before being attached into long slots with matching tabs in the now complete hull. The turret also has the casting texture moulded-in, which will need a little fettling around the top-bottom join, paying careful attention to your references so that you don't make it too neat and tidy. In fact, it could do with a little sharpening at the bottom edge, with an almost vertical torch-cut pattern where the area has been "tidied" up, and I use that term very loosely. The casting details are nicely embossed on the bustle, and should escape any damage if you are careful when cleaning up/texturing the joint. A functional pivot for the gun is fitted inside the lower half before closure, and if left unglued will enable the gun to be posed after completion, although there is no damping in the shape of poly-caps, so it might need gluing later to prevent droop. A big trapezoid stowage box is added to the rear with spare fuel cans strapped to the sides, and the commander's cupola with clear vision blocks and periscope is dropped into the hole in the turret top, next to the simple loader's hatch, with an M2 derivative machine gun on a simple pintle-mount next to his hatch. Two barrels for the main gun are supplied, depending on whether you will be fitting the canvas mantlet cover or not. Without it, the barrel is a single moulding, with a choice of muzzle types, while with the styrene cover the barrel is split vertically but uses the same muzzle brakes. If you are fitting the cover however, you will need to remove the little catches that are attached to the front of the turret, as these are moulded to the cover. Grab handles and tie-down points are fitted to the sides of the turret, plus smoke dischargers, and then it's just a case of twisting the turret into its bayonet fitting, and you're finished. Markings There are six marking options from the box, and the profiles have been done in conjunction with Mig Jiménez's company AMMO, so the colour codes are theirs, although you also get the colour names, so conversion to your favourite brand will be relatively easy should you need to. Given the more widespread use of the vehicle by foreign powers, there is only one US option, with the rest being from various countries as follows: M47 Early production Detroit Tank Arsenal, USA 1951 – all over green. M47 G, Western Germany, 1960s – all over green with post-war German cross. M47 Pakistan Army Battle of Assal Uttar Sep 10th 1965 Indo-Pakistan war – Green with wavy brown camo. M47 South Koeran Army, 1980s – Green/sand/white/black camo. M47 Jordanian army 6 days war, 1967 – sand with wavy green camo. M47 Croatian Army Bosnia Herzegovina – green with red-brown and sand yellow camo. The decal sheet is printed anonymously, but is of high quality so could be 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. Conclusion Not everyone likes link-and-length tracks, but otherwise this should appeal to many modellers, with plenty of relatively unusual schemes to choose from. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  17. Russian Su-34 Fullback Fighter-Bomber 1:72 Trumpeter The Sukhoi Su-34, known by the NATO reporting name 'Fullback' is an all-weather strike fighter, designed to replace the ageing Su-24 Fencer in Russian service. Despite being based on an existing design (the Su-27), the type endured an extremely protracted development, punctuated by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Eventually, 200 of the type are expected to enter service, replacing approximately 300 Su-24s. There are many differences between the Su-27 and the Su34, principal amongst which is a completely new nose, which accomodates the crew side-by-side. Since September 2015, Su-34s have been involved in the conflict in Syria, dropping BETAB-500 and OFAB-500 bombs. There has already been interest in the type from overseas customers. Algeria has ordered an initial batch of 12 aircraft, while Vietnam is apparently also interested in the type. This kit represents another high-profile release from the Trumpeter stable. Following hot on the heels of their gorwing range of Su-27 variants, as well as the 1:48 Su-34 from Hobbyboss, the kit has been fairly warmly received by fans of modern Russian hardware, save from the fairly well known issue with the shape of the nose. The kit arrives in a fairly large box, inside which are a fairly staggering 550 parts spread across 34 sprues of grey plastic (not including the upper and lower fuselage/wing parts, which are not on a sprue) and a single clear sprue. You have to hand it to Trumpeter, they know how to cram a lot of plastic into a box! The parts are well protected and the quality of moulding is up to the usual Trumpeter standard, with fine, consistent panel lines and plenty of detail. The overall shape and arrangement of parts appears to match photographs and plans of the real aircraft well, with the only exception being the shape of the nose. Some modellers have commented that this could be improved with a little work with a sanding stick, but I'm not so sure. No doubt someone will pop up with a resin replacement before too long, however. Construction begins with the cockpit. This is made up of sixteen parts, including two crisply moulded K36 ejection seats. The cockpit is well detailed and includes a door in the rear bulkhead which leads to the nose gear bay and crew access point. The nose gear bay itself is made up of seven parts and is just as well detailed as the cockpit. Both sub-assemblies fit into the lower fuselage, while the parts for the main landing gear bay fit into the upper fuselage. With this done the upper and lowe fusealge halves can be joined. As with most kits of blended-wing aircraft, the fuselage is split vertically with the entire wing moulded in place. The fences for the outer wing are all present and correct. The canards, vertical tail and tail boom are next. The rudders are moulded seperately, but can't be posed off centre as they have large tabs that lock them into place. The upper tail boom is moulded seperately and there is a cutout for the APU vent. The wing flaps and elevators are next, along with the multi-part engine exhausts. These are well detailed and slot into the fuselage up to their real depth. Next up is the rugged landing gear. Each main gear leg is moulded from five parts, with the uppermost part of the main leg seperate from the rest of the leg. I have to say that the structural strength of this breakdown concerns me a little. The complex nose gear leg is made up of seven parts, with an optional crew access ladder. The engine air intakes are next. These are partly slide moulded, which makes construction relatively pain free. Engine turbine faces are included, which will prevent the dreaded see-through effect. As the build draws to a conclusion, the pylons have to be added. The canopy is nicely realised and very cleanly moulded. This kit famously includes a quite frankly ludicrous amount of weaponry. This probably accounts for at least a third of the asking price, but who doesn't like spare ordnance? All told, you get: 2 x KH-31 Krypton air-to-surface missiles; 2 x KH-58 Kilter anti-radiation missiles; 2 x KH-59 Ovod cruise missiles; 2 x KMGU-2 munitions dispenser; 12 x FAB-100 bombs; 2 x KAB-500L bombs; 2 x KAB-1500L bombs; 2 x KAB-1500T bombs; 2 x R-27T infrared homing air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-27R semi-active radar homing air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-27ET extended range infrared homing air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-27ER extended range semi-active radar homing air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-73E infrared homing air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-77 active radar homing air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-172 'AWACS killer' air-to-air missiles; 2 x PTB-3000 drop tanks; and 2 x APK-9 data link pods. Decal options are provided for two Russian Air Force Su-34s, one in the blue/blue/green disruptive pattern and the other in the much less pleasing dark grey over blue finish that the aircraft operating in Syria wore. Decals are also included for the pile of ordnance. The decals look nicely printed and should perform well. Conclusion This is an interesting kit which will probably divide opinion. It's big, complex, well detailed and includes a very generous selection of ordnance. On the other hand, it's not that cheap and it has a wonky nose. Whether you decide to take the plunge will depend very much on whether you think the kit represents value for money, as well as how much you care about the nose (or how much time or money you are willing to spend fixing it). Whichever route you choose, you will be rewarded with an impressive kit. Now let's hope some more foreign governments splash out on the real thing so we can have some more impressive marking options. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  18. Russian Su-33 Flanker D (with carrier deck) 1:72 Trumpeter Instantly recognisable to enthusiasts of Cold War or modern jet aircraft, the Su-27 Flanker has formed the backbone of the Russian Air Force's air superiority fighter force for much of the last thirty years. The design marked a departure from previous Soviet/Russian aircraft, with its podded engines, large wing and sophisticated avionics (it was the first fly-by-wire aircraft to enter service in the Soviet Union). Emerging in prototype form as the T-10 in 1977, the design showed great promise, and before long it had beaten the time-to-height records set by the modified Streak Eagle in 1975. Although originally designed as a long-range air superiority fighter, like many of its contemporaries the Su-27 has been developed to take on a variety of roles, including air-to-surface missions. The multirole Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker D is the navalised variant of the successful all-weather interceptor. Around 35 examples of the type have been constructed for Russian Naval Aviation, all of which operate from the Aircraft carrier ‘Admiral Kuznestov’. The Su-33 differs from the Su-27 in a number of respects. Most noticeable are the canards, situated forward of the wing to provide additional lift and manoeuvrability. The Su-33 also features larger wings with a powered folding mechanism, folding horizontal stabilisers, in-flight refuelling capability and the ability to carry a range of air-to-surface weapons. Despite the relatively small number of aircraft produced, this is the latest in a steady trickle of kits of the Su-33 to emerge. Things got off to a less-than-promising start, with the old and not very accurate Italeri Su-27 Sea Flanker (re-boxed by Zvezda). A few years ago Hasegawa gave us a much more sophisticated kit which, while still not perfect, was very good indeed. Trumpeter released an all-new kit along with a typically generous selection of ordnance a few years agp, just before Zveda added their own kit. At this rate it won't be long before we can build every one of the 35 aircraft with a different kit! Anyway, Trumpeter's kit is back once again, but with a slight twist this time. Inside the large top-opening box are over 300 parts spread across around twenty sprues of grey plastic and a single clear sprue. In typical Trumpeter style, the plastic parts are exquisitely moulded, with engraved panel lines, rivet and fastener detail. Also in the box is a small fret of photo etched parts, two decal sheets (one for markings and one for stencils) and a colour painting diagram as well as instructions. In common with other Trumpeter kits, the parts are extremely well packed and all of the sprues are individually bagged. Certain parts, such as the clear sprue are wrapped in foam for extra protection. This version of the kit differs from the last one we received for review as it contains extra parts for a large section of carrier deck, complete with hydraulic jet blast deflector, crew and a few extra optional parts for the aircraft itself. Trumpeter don't appear to have trumpeted (ha ha) this fact, however, as it doesn't appear to be mentioned on the box artwork. Nothing has changed since we reviewed the last iteration of this kit, so it's still the case that the overall shape and arrangement of parts appears to match photographs and plans of the real thing very well. The canopy has the correct profile, which means a seam down the middle, but this is a five minute job to clean up with the right tools. Trumpeter have even included the option to build the model with the wings and horizontal tails folded, which is very pleasing to see and exactly how I intend to finish mine. Construction begins with the cockpit. This is made up of five parts, including a crisply moulded K36 ejection seat, which slots into a cockpit tub adorned with convincing moulded details (although decals re also provided). Once completed, the whole sub-assembly fits inside the fuselage halves. As with most kits of blended-wing aircraft, the fuselage is split vertically with the inner section of wing moulded in place. The outer sections of the wings are moulded separately so that the model can be built with the wings folded. Some modellers will find this a pain as it creates an extra joint to deal with, but as I mentioned before, I think it's great that Trumpeter included this option because it wasn't possible to finish the Hasegawa kit like this without major surgery. Do note, however, that you must drill a number of holes in order to fit the appropriate pylons to the outer wing sections before your cement the parts together. There are different parts to use for each option, as the outer flaps are dropped when the wings are folded. The same applies to the horizontal tail surfaces, with different versions provided for folded and unfolded options. In this boxing there is an additional sprue with extra parts for the drooped flaps which wasn't included with the original kit. The engine air intakes are next. These are slide moulded, which makes construction relatively pain free. Engine turbine faces are included, which will prevent the dreaded see-through effect, and parts such as the auxiliary air intake louvers are moulded separately in order to maximise the level of detail. The Su-33's rugged landing gear is next. Each main gear leg is moulded as a single part, which should translate into a degree of structural strength, while the more complex nose gear leg is made up of seven parts. In both cases the wheels are moulded separately. While the model is on its back, you have to add the Su-33's beefy tail hook – a nicely detailed part is made up of four parts. The pylons have to be added at this stage too, so make sure you drill out the appropriate holes at the start of the build, or this is the point at which you'll really regret it. The canopy is nicely realised and, as mentioned above, accurate in profile. Because of the shape of the canopy and the way it has had to be moulded, there is a little distortion around the sides, but by way of compensation it can be finished in either open or closed positions. The major difference between this version of the kit and the previous version is the inclusion of a section of carrier deck, complete with jet blast deflector, decals and crew. The carrier deck is a hell of a slab of plastic, and will look very impressive with the aircraft and crew positioned in place. I think the Olymp 10 ton deck tractor will be a virtually mandatory purchase with this kit! In typical Trumpeter style, a very extensive range of ordnance is included. Of course there is so much that you can't possibly use it all, but who doesn't like spare ordnance? All told, you get: 4 x KH-31 Krypton air-to-surface missiles; 4 x KH-35 Zvezda anti-ship missiles; 4 x KH-59M Ovod cruise missiles; 2 x B-8M rocket pods; 1 x APK-9 data link pod (for use with the KH-59 missiles); 2 x R-77 active radar homing air-to-air missiles; 4 x R-27ET extended range infrared homing air-to-air missiles; 4 x R-27ER extended range semi-active radar homing air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-73 infrared homing air-to-air missiles; No, it doesn't fit inside my photo tent... Nothing has changed when it comes to the decal sheet, so you still have a choice of two schemes - Su-33 Flanker D 'Red 67' and Su-33 Flanker D 'Red 80', both of the Russian Navy. The decal sheets are nicely printed and you get a full set of stencils too, which is a bonus. Conclusion Trumpeter are definitely on a role with their 1:72 aircraft, having given us fans of Soviet/Russian aircraft a hat-trick of very decent kits in the shape of the MiG-29, Su-24 and now the Su-33. This is a very decent representation of an interesting variant of an important aircraft. The basic shape of the aircraft looks to be about spot on and, with the option to fold the wings, it has much to recommend it, even when compared to the Hasegawa kit. The inclusion of the deck section is a worthwhile addition too. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  19. HMS Ark Royal 1939 1:350 Merit International via Pocketbond Despite the fact that the Ark did not survive WWII, she was considered a lucky ship, having a few close scrapes that she survived, and as such she was seen as a good posting. She was involved in a lot of action, including the hunt for the Bismark before being hit by a torpedo in the Mediterranean in 1941, slowly sinking beneath the waves whilst being towed to port. Only one crew member was lost, having the misfortune to be low down in the hull when the torpedo struck. Laid down in 1935, with launch following two years later and a further year taken up with the fitting out of the hull. Several famous squadrons embarked on the Ark during her fairly short service life, flying Swordfish, Skua, Roc, Fulmar and Albacore torpedo bombers. She was involved in the hunt for the Graf Spee, and before deployment to the Med., where she became part of Force H, returning to duties after a refit. She also hunted the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau where she was damaged after a failed launch of a Swordfish resulted in the depth charges it was carrying going off under the hull. After repairs she was involved in hunting the Bismark, having a close squeak that almost ended in the accidental destruction of the Sheffield, followed by eventual contact with the real quarry, where a successful attack from Ark Royal Swordfishes led to the Bismark's partial disablement and subsequent destruction. After this she returned to Force H, ferrying aircraft to Malta but on their return trip to Gibraltar, she was picked up by U-81, which managed to hit her with just one torpedo amidships. The damage was massive, due to the relatively deep hit, exacerbated by her movement, and she soon began to list to the side. Although they managed to stablise the situation briefly, water continued to encroach through open hatches, and the list increased after which the crew were evacuated to HMS Legion, who was assisting in trying to keep her afloat. She later capsized and broke into two parts, ending up quite a way from the expected wreck location. She was discovered by a BBC documentary crew early in the new millennium, who concluded that after the engines failed nothing could save her due to some design flaws that were not appreciated at the time. The Kit This is a new tooling from Merit International, and has been awaited with baited breath by many fans of the Ark, myself amongst them. I have no idea why I find her so intriguing, and I freely profess that I'm no expert on her, but I have a fondness that I can't explain. The box is best described as BIG, as at 1:350, she scales out at 696mm long. Gulp! Deep breaths Mike – don't wonder how you're going to photograph the hull parts and the box top. Moving on. Inside the huge top-opening box are the two hull halves and the carrier deck, which notably has no cut-outs for the lifts and thereby no view into the interior. Beneath a card divider are the rest of the sprues, all in the same mid-grey styrene. There are twenty three sprues of various sizes (excluding the aforementioned hull & deck), plus eight Photo-Etch (PE) frets of varying sizes. A large black stand and sheet of decals complete the parts list, and of course the instruction booklet rounds out the package with a folded glossy A3 sheet containing the painting and marking instructions for both the ship and her complement of aircraft. Speaking of which, you get the following spread over thirteen small sprues. 5 x Fairey Swordfish 4 x Fairey Fulmar 4 x Blackburn Skua The Swordfish also have 5 sheets of PE for their interplane struts, which will enhance their realism substantially, especially if you are brave enough to rig them with… human hair? The detail on the aircraft at this scale is excellent, and even the wings are commendably thin, as are the props. Ideally you could do with squadron strength of at least one of the aircraft choices, but it's not a major problem, although at this stage there are no extra sprues available separately from Merit. The absence of aircraft lifts is a shame, as this would have opened up some extra potential deck-handling scenarios that add a little interest to any aircraft carrier model. I'm sure it won't be long before this happens via aftermarket however. As with most ship kits, there is a lot of repetition in the parts count, as there are multiple instances of anti-aircraft gun emplacements, lifeboats, cranes and of course the aircraft lurking around the decks. Construction starts with the hull sides, which are detailed up with long rectangular boxes into which dividers and lifeboats are placed, to simulate some of the detail. A number of PE railings are used to prevent folks from pitching off the sides in bad weather, and these along with the interiors will need painting before they are installed. With both halves completed, the hull halves are brought together, being held at the correct width by the addition of three strong mini-bulkheads that plug into sockets on each side of the hull. Inserts are also provided for the open deck sections under the bow and round-down at the stern, which can be fitted once the two halves are together. A single rudder is also fitted, and additional PE railings are added fore and aft, before the flight deck is dropped into place. At this stage eight anti-aircraft guns are added to their emplacements, with twin 4.5" barrels slotted through the enclosed gun-shield, the latter being slide-moulded to obtain maximum detail. The hull is inverted briefly to install the twin screws and their driveshaft fairings, and then she is flipped over again to begin the installation of the various suspended walkways that festoon the exterior of the upper hull, complete with the life rafts that were usually visible in period photos strapped to the sides of the hull. Eight davits are made up from a combination of PE and styrene in various configurations, and these are added to the sides of the hull in the raised position throughout the rest of the construction process, as are a number of bofors 40mm pom-pom guns. More railings are added throughout the process, and the two ship's cranes are installed at midships near the launches. Toward the bow a set of parts for the last-ditch retrieval nets are supplied, which block the route of an aircraft that has failed to trap-on to the front and sides of the last usable section of deck before the pilot gets his feet wet. The penultimate task is to build the Island, which is fairly simple, consisting of only a few decks plus the bridge, smoke stack to the rear with a PE grating, additional Pom-Pom mounts, and a number of lights for communications. A set of PE railings are fitted to the crow's nest, around the radar installation, and to form the bracing for the topmost section of the mast. Finally the aircraft are up for construction. The five Swordfish are complex, and made from a number of parts, including four for the landing gear, separate upper and lower wings, a two-part fuselage with the tail captive to one side for finesse, separate engine cowling and prop, elevators, and of course the PE to simulate both the interplane stuts and the rigging, which will take some care to do well. The four Fulmars are a much simpler affair, with two fuselage halves, a single piece wing, two gear legs, two elevators and the prop, as are the four Skuas, although they have a single piece elevator instead. The island is then attached to a raised part on the deck, which prevents it being fitted the wrong way round. Three more bofors sets are also added along with another set of netting to complement the last-gasp set further toward the bow. Assuming everything is painted and decaled, the finished model can be rests on the supplied plinth with a name plaque provided with raised lettering to inform the casual observer. Markings The decal sheet is fairly large due mainly to the white lines on the desk and the markings for the aircraft. The boot topping must be painted, and as there are no moulded-in lines to assist with this, you will need to be careful when masking it up to ensure that it doesn't wobble during the process. The decals are serviceable, however, some of the roundels are a little squiffy, but at this scale it isn't all that noticeable. Some of the more complex lining on the deck has a substantial amount of carrier film accompanying it by necessity, so a good glossy surface will be needed to keep them from silvering, followed by additional gloss-coats to hide the raised edges of the film. Only the national markings are supplied for the aircraft, and their positioning is shown in scrap diagrams around the guide, with paint colours called out in Gunze shades, but with conversions to Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol provided in tables at the top of the sheet. Conclusion Maritime Modellers have been waiting for a decent model of the Ark in 1:350 for some time, and now we have one. It lacks a few of the expected aspects such as the lifts and some semblance of a hangar, but otherwise it is well detailed and a good quality model. It's certainly an item ticked off my modelling wish list. Apologies go to Pocketbond for the delay in getting this one done, which was mainly due to photographing the large parts and my poor memory. Keep your eyes open for the upcoming review of the comprehensive upgrade set from Tetra Model Works soon. It's a work of art! Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  20. King Tiger Sd.Kfz.182 Henschel Turret with Zimmerit – Full Interior (2045) 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond Hitler, and therefore Nazi Germany was obsessed with bigger which they equated with better, and this was reflected in almost every aspect of arms production in the run-up to, and throughout World War II. After the Panzer IV had been matched by Allied designs, the Tiger addressed the balance back in their favour, becoming the most feared combatant from any force, despite several draw-backs of its design, such as a weak transmission, and a level of complexity that meant it was slow to manufacture, prone to break-downs and expensive to repair. Expecting the Allies to bring heavier tanks to the field before too long, the King Tiger, Tiger II, or Königstiger as the Sd.Kfz.182 was known came into existence, having begun development even before the war started. Porsche's ground-breaking and complex design was unsuccessful for this reason, while the Henschel proposal was taken forward to production, using the same underpowered Maybach engine that was barely adequate for the Tiger I, and taking on the sloped armour of the successful Panther to significantly increase the effective thickness of the armour whilst keeping weight down to a staggering 70 tonnes. The initial turrets had curved surfaces that were difficult to manufacture, and a redesign was necessary to cure this and remove the shot-trap under the mantlet, with the new design being known today as the Henschel turret, while the old design became the Porsche turret, although both were designed by Krupps. A weak transmission design, coupled with the underpowered engine ensured that many vehicles broke down in the field, and plans were in progress to improve both aspects with fuel-injection and a new drive-train, but were curtailed by the end of the war. Most of the initial order of 1,500 units were built under difficult circumstances due to bombing of the factories and the encroaching Allied forces, and despite its problems it became one of the icons of German tank design of WWII, with a number surviving to be placed in museums, with some still running. The Kit We have had a few King Tiger (KT) kits in 1:35 over the years, but nothing new for quite a while, and at times the preferred brands have been hard to come by with prices reaching silly levels on eBay. Takom's new range of KT kits aims to provide a full set of these imposing tanks, with and without Zimmerit anti-mine coating, with Henschel and Porsche turrets, and with or without interiors. This should cater for almost every possibility, and if you like your tanks buttoned up, you won't be wasting the interior if you buy wisely. If you're unfamiliar with Zimmerit, it was a paste containing sawdust that was applied at the factory beginning in December 1943 and ending in September 1944, designed to prevent magnetic mines from sticking to the sides of tanks. It was applied in a number of different patterns, but was mostly seen in short horizontal ridges as depicted on this kit. Late war production eschewed this protection to speed production and remove the danger of fire hazard, the latter turning out to be false. This is a complete new tooling from Takom, and the first to feature a full interior from the box in this scale, although more new KT kits are on the way shortly. The box shows the tank cut in half to show off the interior, on a white background, and has deep sides to accommodate the contents, although my box didn't survive shipping very well and will need a bit of repair. Inspecting the parts shows that the Zimmerit coating has been well-done, showing individual tooling marks for each indent and "crowding" of the marks around raised areas on the mantlet and rear bulkhead, meaning that someone has spent a lot of time researching and producing this aspect, rather than just copy-paste (excuse the pun) of blocks of texture onto the CAD designs. The weld seams have all been reproduced too, and the skin has been quoted as being of scale-thickness to accurately depict the interior size. This has been done by laminating parts around the hull, rather than risk sink marks on the delicate Zimmerit texture. The interior has been faithfully reproduced within the limits of injection moulding too, and really does beg you to leave open as many hatches as possible so that all the detail isn't lost to darkness. There are bound to be some modellers tempted to do a partial cut-away to expose yet more of the detail, and I'm sorely tempted myself, but will probably chicken out eventually. Inside the box are a lot of sprues, taking up almost all the available space. There are fifteen sprues, two hull parts and upper turret in a grey styrene, one sprue of clear parts, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, two decal sheets, and three bags of tracks, with one each for the tracks and their links, plus another for spare links for the turret sides. The instruction guide is in the by-now-familiar Takom format, in landscape A4, with glossy cover and painting instructions to the rear. A separate interior painting guide is provided that works for either turret design, with labels showing which is which. Construction begins with the whe… No, the hull, actually. The lower hull is decorated with cross-members internally, the final-drive housings at the front, and along the interior sides inserts add all the extra detail as well as scale armour thickness that will be visible around the interior parts. Torsion bar bearings are added across the hull in long lines, which receive the two-part axle/torsion-bar combination later on. Various internal equipment enclosures and fuel tanks are added to floor, along with the driver's controls. Even the lower escape hatch is depicted, and has handles and locking wheel added before it is installed in the front floor. The road wheels are built into pairs and attached to the axles, with long bearings on the inner sets and short ones on the outer, so that they all line up. The driver's seat is a complex arrangement that is attached to the floor, with the final drive unit to its right, supplying the motive power to the two bell-housings and drive-sprockets. It also includes the steering column, with a quadrant style wheel on the left. The rear firewall of the crew compartment is then detailed and added at around two-thirds of the way back, creating the engine compartment with drive-shafts and transfer boxes reaching from the bulkhead to the rear of the final drive housing. The engine compartment is split longitudinally into three main compartment, with the power-pack in the central section, a radiator bath with fans on either side, and a pair of slope-sides fuel tanks using up the space over the rear wheels inside the sponsons. Each section is separated by bulkheads, which are inserted before the engine is built up from a large number of parts over a couple of pages of the instructions, with colour call-outs on the interior painting guide. Add some wiring, some grease and grime, and it should look superb. Additional hoses, panels and a final centrally mounted fuel tank are added behind the engine, all of which were interlinked to allow the driver to select where to draw the fuel from, and were even filled centrally from the rear filler cap. Parts of the hosing are included for good measure, although some is hidden from view. The two radiator housings are identical, and are topped off with a fan each, with another fuel tank outboard, as previously mentioned. A tread-plated panel with a large circular cut-out for the turret base is added to the aft of the crew compartment, along with a webbing across the forward section of the area, with ten machine-gun ammo bags attached ready for the bow gunner's use. All of the space over the sponsons is then filled with ammunition storage, which is represented by four trapezoid packs of shells in racks, which are built up from two or three layers of shells moulded to their racks, with PE percussion bases for each one. At this point all the lower hull parts are completed, with only the parts attached to the inside of the upper hull left to install, so that's where we go next. The upper hull has a separate panel including the driver and gunner's hatch, which fits into the hull along a fairly prominent panel line on the real thing. The edges of the insert are recessed and have recessed bolt-holes to allow the modeller to leave it off, or loose to show off the interior. Its underside has detail too, and a few raised ejector pin marks that are near some rivet lines, but away from much of the detail. The underside of the upper hull has some recessed ejector pin marks too, which will need filling level if you are serious about the realism of the interior, which will also behove you to remove the product code from the ceiling to the right of the insert. A selection of pioneer tools are included for attachment to the outer hull sides, and these have been supplied with little PE clasps that you bend into a U-shape to replace the kit lugs to better mimic the latches used by the Germans in WWII. These could have been done completely in PE, but would probably have alienated most purchasers, as they are notoriously tricky to complete, so this is a good compromise that promotes their use, while leaving the PE averse to use the plastic option rather than cut the lugs off. The engine deck is also separate from the upper hull, to allow for the subtle differences between production runs, whilst squeezing the maximum detail out of the area. The central armoured section has a large access panel with two mushroom vents in the centre, and this can be removed entirely (requiring a hoist for the real thing), or the inner section hinged open to reveal some of the detail of the engine. The radiator housing covers both have the circular armoured vent that is covered with a PE mesh guard, plus the two intake ducts, which are also covered over with PE mesh panels, but the right panel holds the extinguisher cartridge, while the left has the wire/bolt cutters lashed to it with another optional PE clasp. These covers hinge toward the centre, and have the hinge-notches laid out to allow them to be posed open or closed to further increase the detail on show just for the hell of it, or for diorama purposes. The array of towing cables are supplied as moulded parts with the barrel-cleaning rods moulded-in, which is perhaps a little retrograde in terms of detail, but makes the job of fitting them a lot easier, and with some sympathetic painting, they should look just as good as braided wire or cord. Flipping the upper hull over, the glacis plate is thickened to scale with an insert that has the kügelblende aperture moulded in, and the side armour is scaled by adding another insert on each side. Externally, the kügelblende's ball-mount is inserted from outside, then covered with a two-part armoured dome, which has the Zimmerit coating moulded into its surface, giving it a faceted look. The sides of the upper hull are coated entirely with Zimmerit patterning, which extends under the side skirt mounting points, which I have seen described as wrong, but after a little research, it appears that it was sometimes done at the factory, although never (or seldom) on the side skirts themselves. These were mounted by paired brackets on the hull, which are present in the moulding, in case you wanted to remove any or all the panels, and the skirts are provided as single parts from each side, with recesses in the back to accommodate the brackets without any cutting. Although moulded from styrene, the skirts have been given a very nice slender edge by chamfering the mould, the trick of which would only be exposed if you decided to remove any sections, or elected to inflict damage to the panels, as was frequently seen. If you intend the former, trimming the thickness at the breaks between panels will see you right, but the latter is probably better done using an aftermarket PE set to obtain the best scale thickness and ruggedness of the metal parts. Inside the upper hull the bow machine gun is installed with a pair of ammo bags of the kind attached to the bulkhead (and the rear of the turret ring too), and the raise/swivel mechanism for the hatch openers are also made up and inserted under the hinge-point on the deck. The front fenders attach to lugs moulded into the upper hull, and have the same chamfered edge to fool the eye into thinking they're thinner than they are. They are attached and have three small PE jointing parts locking them to the sloped edge of the side-skirt, and between them is fitted the single headlight and bracket with a styrene part portraying the wire coming from a small armoured gland on the front of the deck. Two armoured covers for the vision blocks are added to the tops of the driver's rotating periscope and the bow-gunner's fixed 'scope to finish off the upper hull. Tracks can be pretty tedious to put together, and if you ask different modellers, rubber-band, individual link, link-and-length, or full metal workable track links are the only way to travel. Speaking personally, it's only rubber-band tracks that grate on my nerves, as they merely bend around the end-of-run, and you don't get that faceted look that is present on many of the real things. In this kit you get individual links in two bags, as each track link is made from two sections that interlink. They are also handed, and only go on the sprockets one way – fact that isn't mentioned in the instructions, which also omits the number of links you'll need to make a complete run for each side. 96 of each type are included in the bags, so it's a fair bet that it's around 45 pairs per side. Gluing up the tracks into a run using liquid glue along a straight-edge and then wrapping them around the wheels and fixing them in place will usually result in a good finish, but if you want to paint them off the vehicle, it might be as well to build them in two sections so they can be removed. That's up to you of course! Each link has four very small ejector pin marks on the interior surface, which can be buffed off in seconds with a sanding stick, although you'll need a skinny one for the mark between the two guide-horns. Equally, you could just slather the tracks with some muck to hide these from view and forget all about them! With the tracks on, the upper hull is joined to the lower, and the front of the lower hull receives the big armoured plate-ends and final drive protection that incorporates the towing eye holes, with the towing shackles clipping over the holes and giving the impression of the real thing. RB Productions do a lovely set of brass shackles to upgrade the look here if you feel inclined. The rear bulkhead is detailed with the armoured access panels, the C-shaped track tools and jack-block, plus a multi-part jack that fits on long brackets at the bottom of the bulkhead. The exhausts are two parts each, and have hollow tips, but you will need to hide the seamline after gluing, which are then covered by large cast armoured shrouds with separate lifting lugs on their sides. The rear mudguards butt-fit on the bulkhead against the hinge-detail that is moulded into the panel, and the whole assembly is glued to the rear of the hull, being careful to line up the exhaust pipes with the holes in the bulkhead, which also has a couple of ejector pin marks to fill while we're there. Another pair of shackles clip over the holes in the aft of the side armour, and we finally get to the fun part. Who doesn't like a big turret? With a separate roof making removal of the (sadly necessary) ejector pin marks easier, they will be the first task, followed by mating the roof with the side shell and the front. Inside are a number of items such as the fume extractor, periscopes, extinguisher and the interior portion of the commander's cupola, plus the gunner's hatch with optional open or closed positions of the ram that controls its movement achieved by swapping parts, as per the scrap diagram. The large rear hatch was partly for escaping a doomed tank, but was also the only way of extracting the big 88mm gun without dismantling the turret. This version has the pistol port, and attaches to the rear of the turret by two large armoured covers that allow it to hinge down flat to the deck for ease of exit. On the roof the various mushroom vents, shell cartridge ejection port and lifting lugs are all glued in place along with all the track hangers on the turret sides, which fit on little pips moulded into the Zimmerit finish. The topside of the cupola is built up with the covered vision blocks and a mount for the commander's machine-gun, with the lift/rotate hatch fitting neatly in the centre, while the gunner has to slum it with his simple opening hatch as described earlier. The spare track links are bagged separately, but I can see no discernible difference between them and the tracks themselves, so I guess someone put them in as a last minute addition? With most builds, the turret would be almost finished, but with a full interior, the basket, breech and sighting gear are required, and these are built up on a circular base that fits into the bottom of the turret, with a serious amount of detail and plenty of parts making for a good looking assembly. You will need to curve a few PE panels around the inside of the turret aperture, but that's not outwith the bounds of the skills of most modellers, and leaving them off may be noticed. If you've not rolled PE before and don't have suitable tools, just fold up a piece of kitchen roll, place the PE on that and use a cylinder of some kind (pen barrel or X-Acto knife handle) to apply pressure as you roll it over the part gently. Keep testing the fit, and stop when you get there. The glue will hold the parts in place from thereon in, just remember to use Super Glue (CA). The bustle contains a pair of ready-ammo racks with 11 shells on each side of the access-way, which are supplied in the same style as the shells in the lower hull. The finished assemblies fit to panels that mate with the turret floor, and again there are PE bases to each one. The long-barrel Krupp 88mm KwK 43 L/71 was considerably longer than that mounted on the Tiger I, and could propel the shell significantly faster due to the new design, increasing its penetrating power immensely with the new Armour Piercing (AP) shells that were designed for it. Typically, the KT carried a mix of AP and High Explosive (HE), and this is accommodated on the second decal sheet, which includes the correct stencilling and painting guides. The full breech is depicted, and the part count is high, as you'd expect, with the completed assembly fitting unglued between two supports that attach to the floor of the turret to enable it to elevate once completed. With the breech fitted and the glue cured, the upper turret is slipped over the end of the breech and glued together, the circular mantlet is built up from three sections, and the one-piece barrel are both then glued to the breech, with the three-part muzzle brake added to the end of the solid barrel to give it a hollow tip. Before the turret is dropped into place on the hull, a pair of PE mesh panels are added to plastic frames and applied to the front of the engine deck. The turret is just drop-fit, so remember this when you're handling the finished model. Markings You get two options in the box, and of course the decal sheet is small – this is an armour kit afterall. Registration, colour density and sharpness are all good though, and from the box you can build one of the following: Tiger II Ausf.B, 3./s.H.Pz.Abt.503, No.301 Mailly De Camp, France, July 1944. Tiger II Henschel s.H.Pz.Abt.503, No.233 Budapest 1944. Both are painted in Dunkelgelb, Olivegrun and shokoladebraun camouflage but in different patterns, and the colour call-outs are in Mig AMMO, who also drew the profiles, with small advertisements to the sides showing the new paint sets that Takom and AMMO have collaborated on to coincide with this release. We've got a couple of sets in for review, so watch out for that in due course. The second sheet of decals contains stencils for the many shells, the driver's instruments and even the red cross for the first-aid box, all of which are small details that improve the look of any model. Conclusion This is a very nice kit of the lumbering pinnacle of German WWII armour, and there have been some nice examples of attention to detail and careful tooling of the moulds to improve or preserve detail. The full interior is well worth the additional effort, and despite my initial concerns that none of it would be seen, there are plenty of opportunities to leave various panels off that will allow you almost full access without cutting into the model. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  21. M1A2 Abrams SEP v2/TUSK I/TUSK II 1:35 Academy 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. The A2 was improved again, giving the commander his own sighting system as well as other system changes. The SEP (System Enhancement Package) received additional changes to its armour and systems, with a remote weapons station added later on. An auxiliary pwer unit was added to the tank in the rear turret basket to enable the tank to operate all its systems without having to have the main gas turbine engine running. 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 ease. 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 TUSK II kit improved on the original TUSK with shaped charges incorporated into the ERA blocks on the sides of the tank, and additional shields for the crew when exposed. Both kits were field-installable, which reduced the cost and time spent out of the field. The Kit I must admit to thinking Academy would add parts to their existing Abrams to bring us this kit, bit NO this is a complete new tool kit from Academy. The kit arrives on nine sprues of sand coloured plastic, a clear sprue, a small sheet of photo-etch, a small sheet of masks; and two rubber tracks. The box is really packed with plastic and the main sprues are on the large size barely fitting into the reviewers photo booth. The moulding quality of all the parts is excellent. One word of caution is to read the extensive instructions (3 booklets) to follow the correct steps for the version you will be constructing as the instructions are not the clearest out there. Construction starts with the lower hull. Unlike some AFV kits this is not one part and has to be built up. The lower plate needs adding to the side parts with two internal stiffening bulkheads being added. Once the lower hill is complete the mounting points for the wheels need to be built up and added. Then seven pairs of road wheels each side are made up and added, along with two idler wheels and the two drive sprockets at the rear. Two return rollers each side are then added. Once the wheels are on the mounting brackets and supports for the side armour is added. If doing a TUSK then the under hull armour needs to be added last. To finish of the lower hull the rear section is made up and added. Construction then moves onto the upper hull. The drivers hatch is added along with some parts to the rear engine decking and sides. The front light clusters are also built up and added. Some of the PE parts are also added at this stage. The top deck can then be added to the lower hull. Next the side armour is built up, different parts being added depending on the version being built. Once complete they can be added to the main hull. The turret is the next major step. First the barrel is built up. Unlike conventional Tank kits the barrel is not two halves which the modeller has to try hard to assemble into a convincing barrel. Here there are three sections of tube which slot together, a much better idea in the opinion of this reviewer. Once the barrel is complete it can be added to the breach assembly. This is then added into the lower turret ring. The upper turret can then be added to complete the main assembly. Take care on which holes need to be opened up for the version you are building. The next construction stage is to make up the various guns / copulas etc which go on top of the turret. The TUSK version also features a M2 machine gun mounted on top of the main gun. The turret can be configured with crew served light weapons in protected turrets and the CROWS II remotely operated station. The up-armoured crew hatches are also supplied. Following completion of the turret of your choice the rear turret basket is added. All the mesh here is provided as photo-etch. The Basket mounted aux power unit is added (if for the right version). The side turret units are added along with any additional armour units your version carried. Decals Decals are provided for 9 examples; M1A2 SEP V2 - 2nd Infantry Division US Army, South Korea 2013. M1A2 SEP V2 - 2-7 Infantry, NATO Joint Training, Poland, Latvia & Estonia 2015. M1A2 SEP Tusk I - 4th Infantry Division, 1-68 Armoured Regiment US Army, Iraq 2008. M1A2 SEP Tusk I - Combined Arms Battalion, 1-68 Armoured Regiment US Army, Iraq 2008. M1A2 SEP Tusk I - 1st Cavalry Division, 2-7 Cavalry Regiment US Army, Iraq 2011. M1A2 SEP Tusk I - 3rd Sqn, G troop 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment US Army, Iraq 2011. M1A2 SEP Tusk I - 2nd Sqn, E troop 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment US Army, Iraq 2011. M1A2 SEP Tusk I - 3rd Sqn, H troop 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment US Army, Iraq 2011. M1A2 SEP Tusk II- 1st Battalion. 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Div, US Army, Iraq 2008 Conclusion This is thoroughly modern tooling of the latest M1 Abrams. Included are all the modern Abrams upgrades and add ons and the modeller will need to study their references and the instructions to fit the correct set of parts for their kit. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  22. British Army AH-64D "Afghanistan" 1:72 Academy The AH-64 Apache was developed from the US Army's Advanced Attack Helicopter programme in the early 1970s. This stemmed from The US Army need to fill its anti armour role, following the cancellation of the AH-65 Cheyenne programme. This was designed to find the replacement for the AH-1 Cobra. Hughes Helicopters developed their Model 77 which became the YAH-64. The YAH-64 first flew in 1977. It features a nose mounted sensor suite containing targeting sensors and night vision equipment. A 30mm chain gun was carried under the forward fuselage and stub wing pylons provided four hard points for carrying AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and unguided rocket pods. The helicopter was introduced into US Army service in 1986. The UK operate a form of the Apache license built by the then Westland Helicopters. This is designated the Apache AH.1. The first 8 were built in the US and the remaining 59 in the UK. in 1993 the UK Government had a competition to select a new attack helicopter for the Army. Bids were received from Eurocopter Tiger, Bell with a modernised AH-1 SuperCobra, the AH-64 Apache, the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, and the Agusta A129 Mangusta. The Apache was selected and contracts signed in 1995 for 67 Helicopters. Unlike American machines all UK Apaches would carry the Longbow radar. Also in typical UK fashion we would change many systems on the airframe and the engines. Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 engines would replace the GE units. These do give more power and allowed easier operations in Afghanistan than other helicopters. Primary armament of Hellfire missiles and the 30mm chain gun are the same, however the UK Apache carries the Canadian CRV7 rocket system instead of the US Hydra one. The Kit The kit contains the same base plastic as the new tool Hughes AH-64D Apache Block II kit I reviewed here last August. It was a given at the time that this version would be produced. The kit is produced to a fine standard, crisply moulded parts and no defects present anywhere. A great touch is the one part main rotor in the kit so you wont have the often problematic job of aligning the rotor blades to a main hub and stopping them from drooping down! The kit also features fine engraved panel lines, great detail throughout and slide moulded engine pods which are basically one piece. The kit differs from the US Apache kit by having a separate sprue containing the different UK only fittings. Construction starts with the main fuselage halves. Holes must be opened up for various parts to attach later on in the build. Once this is done construction can move onto the cockpit. Control columns are added to both cockpits, along with the main display panels. There appears to be a cyclic control only and no collective. The one part moulded seats can then be added. Coamings are then added to the front and rear panels. The next step is to make up the mount for the main rotor blades. Once this is done the completed cockpit assembly and rotor mount can be added into the fuselage and the halves closed up. Next on the list of jobs is to make up the wings for mounting the weapons systems. Once made up these are attached to the main fuselage along with the top cover for the engine area. A five part assembly each side is required each side for the front landing gear. Once made up these too can be added to the main fuselage. The next major step is to attach the fairings down both sides an underneath which house a lot of the electronics carried as well as the feed system for the 30mm canon. Once the underside part is on the 30mm canon itself can be added. The tail wheel is also added at this point. Rocket pods and/or hellfire missiles can be added to the weapons pylons next (though I suspect these will be left to last by most modellers). Next up are the engine pods. The engine fronts and heat shielding exhaust parts are added and then pods can be attached to the main fuselage. Following this the main sensor package can be assembled and attached to the front of the helo. Now that the man parts of the helo have been assembled it is time to add the myriad of aerials, sensors, handles etc that seem to festoon the exterior. The last steps in construction are to add the main and tail rotors. The main rotor is one part while the tail rotor is a more complicated four part affair. The last item to be added is the mast mounted radar system, though check your references as often this was not carried to save weight in a lower threat environment. Canopy The canopy is a one part one which is a shame you cant open it up and show of the cockpit more. It is clear and distortion free. Decals Markings on these helicopters tend to be sparse so Academy have provided the main basic markings, and serial numbers to do any of the UK Apaches. Decals are by Cartograf so should pose no issues. Conclusion This is thoroughly modern tooling of the UK Apache. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  23. HMS Hood. 1:200

    HMS Hood Trumpeter 1:200 HMS Hood (pennant number 51) was the last battlecruiser built for the Royal Navy. Commissioned in 1920, she was named after the 18th-century Admiral Samuel Hood. One of four Admiral-class battlecruisers ordered in mid-1916, Hood had serious design limitations, though her design was drastically revised after the Battle of Jutland and improved while she was under construction. For this reason she was the only ship of her class to be completed. As one of the largest and, ostensibly, the most powerful warships in the world, Hood was the pride of the Royal Navy and, carrying immense prestige, was known as ‘The Mighty Hood’. She was involved in several showing the flag exercises between her commissioning in 1920 and the outbreak of war in 1939, including training exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and a circumnavigation of the globe with the Special Service Squadron in 1923 and 1924. She was attached to the Mediterranean Fleet following the outbreak of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, Hood was officially assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet until she had to return to Britain in 1939 for an overhaul. By this time, advances in naval gunnery had reduced Hood's usefulness. She was scheduled to undergo a major rebuild in 1941 to correct these issues, but the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 forced the ship into service without the upgrades. When war with Germany was declared, Hood was operating in the area around Iceland, and she spent the next several months hunting between Iceland and the Norwegian Sea for German commerce raiders and blockade runners. After a brief overhaul of her propulsion system, she sailed as the flagship of Force H, and participated in the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir. Relieved as flagship of Force H, Hood was dispatched to Scapa Flow, and operated in the area as a convoy escort and later as a defence against a potential German invasion fleet. In May 1941, she and the battleship Prince of Wales were ordered to intercept the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, which were en route to the Atlantic where they were to attack convoys. On 24 May 1941, early in the Battle of the Denmark Strait, Hood was struck by several German shells, exploded and sank. Due to her perceived invincibility, the loss had a profound effect on the British people. The Royal Navy conducted two inquiries into the reasons for the ship's quick demise. The first, held very quickly after the ship's loss, concluded that Hood's aft magazine had exploded after one of Bismarck's shells penetrated the ship's armour. A second inquiry was held after complaints that the first board had failed to consider alternative explanations, such as an explosion of the ship's torpedoes. It was more thorough than the first board and concurred with the first board's conclusion. Despite the official explanation, some historians continued to believe that the torpedoes caused the ship's loss, while others proposed an accidental explosion inside one of the ship's gun turrets that reached down into the magazine. Other historians have concentrated on the cause of the magazine explosion. The discovery of the ship's wreck in 2001 confirmed the conclusion of both boards, although the exact reason the magazines detonated will always be a mystery since that area of the ship was entirely destroyed in the explosion. The Model I think I’m right in saying this is one release that maritime modellers have been really looking forward to. Since Trumpeter started their 1:200 scale product line, the Hood was one ship that was always mooted to be included. Well, here she is in her beautiful, enormous glory. Arriving in a huge box with a great painting of the mighty Hood at sea on the front the sheer size of the box gives a hint at what is inside. Once the lid has been prized away the modeller is confronted with three smaller boxes and a flapped area which covers the single piece hull, the mould for which must be amazing to see. The hull is well protected by two cardboard supports and foam pieces at each end to ensure the delicate bow and stern aren’t subject to transportation damage. Inside the other three boxes are four separate deck sections, three for the main deck and one for the shelter deck, twenty sprues, eight separate superstructures/deckhouses and four separate propellers, all in a grey styrene. There are also seven sheets of etched brass, four metal rods, a length of chain, and a smallish decal sheet. As with most Trumpeter kits the moulding of all the parts is superb, with no signs of flash or other imperfections, which is quite amazing considering the size of some of the parts, although there are quite a few moulding pips which will require extra cleaning up and the propeller blades have a slightly annoying tag on their outer edges, as you will see in the accompanying photographs. Unfortunately, also as with a lot of Trumpeter kits there are some really annoying inaccuracies, which is strange, since they did so well with their 1:350 scale kit. Whilst some are easily handled, like the rubbing down of the rather too prominent hull plates, although the hull itself is generally correct, there are also those which are a bit more difficult to rectify, namely the different sized funnels where they should be the same. Hopefully someone will release a fix for this, or it may be time to try some scratch-building. Over it is pretty accurate though, with a few minor problems, which are best noted in the excellent review by the HMS Hood association, HERE Construction begins with the fitting of the six strengthening braces into the hull; topped off with the fore deck, centre deck and quarterdeck. On the underside the propeller shaft exit glands are attached, followed by the metal shafts, A frames, propellers, ensuring you have the correct propellers on each side as they are handed, and the single rudder. Turing the hull the right side up, six parts of the rear superstructure are attached to the rear of the centre deck, along with four cable reels which are a combination of PE and plastic, followed by a selection of vents, hatches and upper deck supports. The large, single piece shelter deck is then fitted atop of the superstructure parts, also covering the join between the foredeck and centre deck. The lower bridge structure is fitted with bottom sections of the mast supports, a pair of three piece paravanes, six boat booms, four Carley floats and some small platforms, before being glued into position. The shelter deck is then fitted out with numerous ventilator mushrooms, inclined ladders, and derricks, whilst a large boat boom is fitted to either side of the hull amidships. The cradles for the ships boats are then added to the shelter deck, followed by yet more ventilators, chimneys and a pair of large ammunition hatches. The sixteen small ready use lockers and seventeen cable reels are then assembled and glued into position, followed by the thirty five large ready use lockers. On the foredeck, the anchor chain windlasses, four smaller windlasses, and main breakwater are attached, along with the breakwaters either side of B turret. Then more mushroom vents, windlass, lockers and chain pipes are fitted, followed by the large vents around both B turret barbette and the armoured control tower base, which also has three winches fitted to the deck around it. The four piece anchors are then assembled and fitted to the hawse pipes, followed by two lengths of chain and two deckhouses attached to the rear of the main breakwater. The quarterdeck is similarly fitted out with mushroom vents, although not quite so many, winches, large vents around X turret barbette and the prominent inclined ladders either side of the rear superstructure, as well as the square scuttles sited nearby. Back on the foredeck there are several derricks fitted, along with the Jackstaff, cleats, and bollards. Similar fittings are attached to the quarter deck, along with the Ensign staff, as you can see the instructions bounce around a little. The build then moves onto the superstructure, with the assembly of the sundry parts fitted to the rear funnel base, as well as Carley floats, winches and two of the smaller ships boats, a smaller tower structure is attached, and fitted with two, two piece wireless arms. The after tower structure at the end of the shelter deck is a single piece item and is fitted with a number of platforms and their associated supports, the after main armament director, made up from nine parts, two large intakes, two six piece searchlights and one of three, eleven piece AA directors, one large and two small Carley floats. The two structures are then glued to their respective positions. The shelter deck is then fitted with more hatches, intakes and five deckhouses. The four searchlight platforms, two either side of the aft tower and two alongside the aft funnel are fitted along with their searchlights, whilst the aft PomPom platform and two quad machine gun platforms along with their seven piece mounts are glued into position. The base of the bridge tower is attached to the tops of three deckhouses, behind which the four flag lockers are fitted on either side of the forward shelter deck there are two observers binoculars, and aldis lamp, a large signal lamps, a semaphore pole and a quad machine gun mount. Two large and two small directors/rangefinders are also fitted near the signal lamps. The armoured tower and deck structure are then glued into position, followed by the tower roof and the large six piece director/rangefinder. Onto the deck, three deckhouses are fitted, along with four inclined ladders and a vertical ladder. The bridge itself is a single piece part, and is fitted out with sixteen observers binoculars, two AA directors, two searchlights, three further decks the lower mast supports, foremast, the complex PE foremast starfish structure, top mast, lower yardarm, inclined ladders, vertical ladders, and main armament director. The funnels are next on the assembly line, and whilst the rear funnel is the wrong size, most modellers will probably overlook this and build the kit straight out of the box. Each funnel is in two halves, which are then glued to the base, and fitted out with PE hand/foot rails, internal platform, spacers funnel cap and grilles, followed by the numerous uptakes fitted to the outside of each funnel. The main mast is next up and whilst the mast itself is a relatively simple build, the various fittings for the boat crane are PE parts, as is the complex starfish platform. The upper mast is attached to the platform and topped off with the Type 281 radar array. The crane is a single piece jib, PE hook assembly and PE cable assembly. Once complete the funnels, foremast and mainmast assemblies are glued to their respective positions, as are two smaller boat cranes fitted one each side of the rear funnel. There are thirteen large ships boats provided in the kit, a mixture of cutters and motor boats and each is made up from multiple parts, including propellers, propeller shafts, rudders, etc, but strangely the rowing boats are not provided with any oars. They may have been stored elsewhere when cruising, but it would have been nice to have some for interest. The completed boats are then attached to their respective cradles. Finally we come to the armament. There are four, six piece UP mountings, with the option of using PE or plastic parts to build them, six, seven piece four inch secondary turrets, and three, eighteen piece octuple 2pdr PomPoms. The main turrets are very nicely moulded, although perhaps a little deep. Each turret is made up from the turret, turret base, trunnion mounts, and two slide moulded gun barrels. Each turret is then fitted with a four piece rangefinder mounted to the rear, but only B turret is then fitted with a UP mounting platform that sits astride the rangefinder and X turret is fitted with two platforms that are attached to the starboard side of the turret roof. The completed armament is then fitted to the model. To complete the model, a full ships worth of railings is provided in PE, as well as four accommodation ladders, four Jacobs ladders and a pair of lifering quick release racks. Oh and of course the rigging and painting to the modellers taste. Decals For the size of the model, the decal sheet is actually quite small and contains only the ships two nameplates for the rear quarters and a selection of Union Jacks and White Ensigns in different sizes and in straight or wavy form along with two Vice Admiral’s pennants. They are nicely produced and appear to have a nice thin carrier film and to be in register. Conclusion It’s been a little while since this kit has been released, and its popularity has meant that we have only now been able to get hold of it. Overall impressions are very good, with the hull and most of the structure being pretty accurate overall. It’s just a shame that Trumpeter, once again, have snatched defeat from what would have been a great victory with the difference in funnel sizes even without the smaller discrepancies. It’s still a wonderful kit and with a super detail set from the likes of Pontos, who look like they are including a new resin funnel, and Mk1 Designs you can relatively easily produce an amazing, museum standard model. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  24. Gepard SPAAG A1/A2 Bundeswehr Flakpanzer Takom 1:35 The German Army had fielded many different Flakpanzers through WWII, and it was no surprise that they would continue this into the cold war. The Gepard or Cheetah was developed to fill this role in the 1960's with deployment beginning in the early 1970's. The system used the proven chassis of the Leopard 1 tank carrying a large turret carrying the two 35mm auto cannons and radar dishes. The anti-aircraft system combines two radar dishes; a general search radar, and a tracking radar/ There is also a Laser rangefinder. The German systems featured an S band radar for search, and a Ku Band radar for tracking, where as the Dutch systems featured an X and Xu bad radars. The German system having a search & track range of 15kms, the Dutch having a search of 15kms, but track of only 13kms. The gun system fitted is a twin 35mm Oerlikon KDA system. Each gun can fire 550 rounds per minute. They fire a Frangible Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot and Armour piercing ammunition with a range of 5.5kms. The usual load is 320 frangible and 20 AP rounds per gun. The German Army would order 377 units, the Dutch 95 and the Belgians 55 which were identical to the German ones. The Germans retired the units in 2010 but they are in storage. The Dutch and Belgian units have now been withdrawn form service. The system is still used in other countries though. Brazil has 36, and Roumania 43 from Germany. Jordan purchased 60 from the Dutch. The Kit Like many kits this was earlier kitted by Tamyia, and now the Takom version will battle it out with a Meng kit and a Hobby Boss one. A fairly packed box arrives from Takom here. Along with the main upper & lower hull plus the Turret there are four main sprues of parts, two sprues of suspension/wheel components; and three spures of track components (plus a bag of flexible parts). In addition there is a clear sprue, a sheet of photo etch, two metal tow cable, and a small sheet of decals. Construction starts with the lower hull, various suspension components are added and the wheels are built up. There are two drive sprockets, two idler wheels and 7 pairs of road wheels (on each side). Holes need to be drilled in the lower hull where indicated for attaching parts later on. Normally the next stage is to put the tracks on. Takom have failed to include great instructions for this. The tracks supplied are on 3 sprues of injected plastic with 6 runs of soft vinyl end covers. After some research on the net it seems these are made by a company called Orochi. The individual track links are moulded as one part with the track on one side, and the pads on the other. They clip together with the guide horns. The vinyl end caps are then slid onto pins on the end of the links. The end connectors can be slid on while they are still on their sprues according to what I have read. I could find no information about how many are needed for each side. Following construction of the lower hull, the modeller then moves to the upper hull. The hatches and lights are added along with other parts for the upper hull. These include the engine exhaust grilles, stowage boxes and a large insert which will take the Gepard turret as opposed to the normal tank one. The lower and uppers hulls can then be joined and the rear part of the hull added. Now its onto the main event for the Gepard the turret and guns. The main turret is moulded as one part. The first item to be added is the large main hatch. After this it is the main radar system at the front. Following this the guns are made up. The barrels are two part with different muzzle ends depending on the version being modelled (though not much information on the instruction sheet for this). The main housings either side are built up first and the guns added. Once the housings are added to the hull they join in the middle of the turret to ensure the move as a pair. Once the guns are on the turret the turret floor can be added. The rear radar unit which forms the back of the turret is now constructed and added to the turret. The radar can be in the raised or travel position. Various turret fittings are added and then the complete turret can be fitted to the main hull. Lastly stowage is added to the hull and turret. Decals A small decal sheet is provided as these carries few markings in service. Eight markings options are offered in the kit. German Army - All over green German Army 3 colour camo German Army 3 colour camo - KFOR operations Romanian Army - German 3 colour camo German Army - 3 colour desert camo German Army - Cheetah spot scheme Belgian Army - Overall green Brazilian Army - German 3 colour camo Conclusion This is a really nice kit. Very highly recommended despite the less than great instructions. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  25. Soviet ZSU-57-2 SPAAG - Takom 1:35

    Soviet ZSU-57-2 SPAAG Takom 1:35 Following WWII and with the advent of the cold war the Soviets found themselves facing a potential enemy with good ground attack aircraft, they realised that a dedicated Anti-aircraft gun mounting auto cannons not machine guns was needed. To keep up with armoured forces this would also need to be tracked. Using the newest tank chassis the T-54 it was proposed as objeck 500 and would mount a twin 57mm S-68 automatic cannon. Development began in the late 1940's with updates in the early 1950's, finally entering service in 1955. The system relied entirely on optical/mechanical computing and carried no radar system which proved to be a major weakness. There were proposals to upgrade the system but these did not come to fruition as newer systems would come online. These guns would be retired on the early 1970s to be replaced by ZSU-23-4s. Like many Soviet systems of the time they would be supplied to their sattilite states and the system was used by Cuba, Finland, Iraq and Egypt as well as the normal Warsaw pact countries. In combat they were using Vietnam and the Middle East. Lastly in the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, and the invasion of Iraq. The Kit Like many kits this was earlier kitted by Tamyia, and now the Takom version will battle it out with a Trumpeter kit. Takom are making full use of their T-54/55 kits by producing this kit which utilises the same chassis. A fairly packed box arrives from Takom here. Along with the main lower hull plus the Turret there are five main sprues of parts, four sprues of suspension/wheel components, two sprues of gun parts, five sprues of ammunition; and a bag of track components. In addition there is a clear sprue, a sheet of photo etch, a metal tow cable, a flexible part which is the stowed canvas cover; and a small sheet of decals. The turret on this vehicle is open and you get a full interior and ammunition load. Construction begins with the running gear of the tank. The suspension comments are added to the hull. The main wheels feature an inner and outer wheel, here Takom have moulded the rubber tyre as a separate part which needs to be added to the outside of the steel wheel. Eight main wheels in total are made up along with a two drive sprockets and two idler wheels. Once all the wheels are constructed they can be added to the lower hull. Once the lower hull is complete construction moves to the upper hull. The hatches here can be left open, but as there is no interior there is little point. The rear grill is added along with spare tracklinks carried on the hull. The tracks are the next major parts to be added. Here you get individual track links, but they are not the type you click together, you will have to glue them. I suspect the best way is to do the lower run first and let it dry. The upper parts can be constructed, and when your glue is going off they should still be flexible enough to drape around the wheels to get the run looking right. Not the best solution. There are 92 links per side. The upper side covers for the tracks can now be built up. These feature equipment boxes on both sides with the front and rear mud guards being added. Once made up they can be attached to the upper hull. There are different configurations or the side parts depending on the country of the vehicle being made. The instructions are as clear as mud here, with a couple for the options being named, but the rest not. Given the various combinations of lockers etc the modeller should consult their references for the vehicle being modelled. Various grab handles, lights, cables etc can now be fitted as needed. There are also various tools and a ditching beam to add to the model. Once the main hull is completed then we move onto the main event for this kit, the turret with its twin 54mm guns. This is highly detailed with a full interior. Construction starts with the central mounting platform. This is the core of the gun system. All of the sighting and control systems will mount to this. The lower controls and sighting systems are built up and added to this central part. Crew seats are added, then the barrels go one, these are one piece each with well moulded muzzle brakes. Attention now moves to the inside of the main turret. The turret basket is made up. A full ammunition load is made up and added to the turret base, along with crew seats and controls. The turret basket can be added to the lower side and then the guns mounted. Additional ammunition is then added inside the turret. The main upper part of the turret is the next to receive attention. This single moulded part receives more ammunition stowage on the inside, and a series of grab handles on the outside. The rear turret basket is made up from photo-etch and added. The upper and lower turret parts can then be joined and fitted to the hull. The flexible cover can then be added to the rear of the turret. Decals These vehicles carried little in the way of markings, and even with a small decal sheet you are able to build 11 versions out of the box. Egyptian Army - Six Day War Finnish Army Iranian Army - Iran Iraq War Iranian Army PKK North Iraq/Kurdistan East German Army Red Army - Moscow Parade 1960 Serbian Army - Balkan War 1991 Syrian Army - Yom Kippur War 1973 North Vietnamese Army - Vietnam War - 2 different variants Conclusion This is a really good kit, just be careful with the tracks, and consult your references as the instructions are a little vague in places. It is good to see other tracked vehicles apart from tanks now appearing for modellers. Overall highly recommended Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for