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  1. PLA ZTQ15 Light Tank (72-001) 1:72 MENG via Creative Models Ltd The Type 15 light tank was designed as a replacement to the previous generation of tanks that Chinese Army, Navy and Air Force used in high altitude areas where oxygen is limited, on soft ground where heavier vehicles would bog down, and in tight areas such as forests where the lack of mobility of larger, heavier vehicles would be an impediment. It was under development some time early in the new millennium, with prototypes seen during the 2010s, and final acknowledgement by the PLA of it entering service in 2018, by which time it had been in service in growing numbers for two years. It carries a 105mm rifled gun that can fire the usual range of munitions (including NATO rounds), plus Anti-Tank Guided Missiles that can be used to take out enemy tanks at ranges of three to five miles away under the right circumstances. It is armoured with a combined steel and composite hull, with Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) blocks fitted to the front, sides and turret, and the option of adding slat armour where shaped-charge rockets such as RPGs are expected. It can also carry heavier ERA blocks for greater protection, but as with all things, more protection brings more weight, lower speed and a greater likelihood of bogging down. Unusually for an AFV, the Type 15 has an onboard oxygen generator that feeds additional air to both the crew and the engine to compensate for the reduced power output by the 1,000hp diesel engine at higher altitudes, the oxygen permitting the crew to keep their wits about them in circumstances that could otherwise leave them confused and listless due to lack of oxygen in their bloodstreams. The coaxial machine gun in the mantlet is a relatively lightweight 5.8mm, but there is a 12.7mm remote controlled gun station on the turret roof that is mounted side-by-side with a 35mm automatic grenade launcher. On the similar but different overseas variant, the VT-5, there are significant differences to the shape of the forward hull, and the driver’s hatch is mounted centrally, whereas the Type 15 has the driver on the left side of the glacis plate. The systems of the tank are modern, offering full stabilisation of the main gun, which is fed from the bustle-mounted ammo store by an auto-loader that permitted the crew to be reduced to three, and in the event of a direct hit, the ammunition storage is designed to blow outward to protect the crew, and increase the survivability of the vehicle, something the Russian tank designers could take note of. Its drivetrain is similarly modern, using hydro-mechanical transmission, and hydropneumatic suspension to smooth the ride, while the sensor package allows the gunner and commander to share the aiming and firing of the main gun, as well as detecting incoming infrared signals, triggering the launch of smoke grenades to disperse the signal and warn the crew to move their vehicle. Because of its comparatively light-weight, it can be air-transported in pairs, and can be delivered to its intended destination by palletised air-drop, although the crew would probably need a change of underwear once they landed. It is likely to be in service with the Chinese military for some considerable time, increasing its capabilities with in-service updates as time goes by. The Kit This is the first tooling from MENG’s new 1:72 armour line, and it arrives in a figure-sized end-opening box in MENG’s usual satin finish, with an attractive painting of the subject matter on the front, and painting instructions on the rear. Inside the box are four sprues plus the upper hull and turret in light grey styrene, and a concertina-fold instruction booklet in black and white. There are no decals, so you will need to mask or hand-paint the digital camouflage patches that are dotted around the hull and turret, but if you paint the green first and mask it, that shouldn't be an onerous task. Detail is good throughout, with fine raised and recessed detail across all exterior surfaces, extending to the underside, with deeply recessed link-and-length track links, and a well-represented blast-bag on the main gun. Construction begins with the running gear, building twelve pairs of road wheels, two pairs each of drive sprockets and idler wheels, the former made from four parts each. The lower hull is assembled around the floor, adding the sides and the lower glacis plate to the front, then installing the drive sprockets at the rear, and a line of three return rollers to each side of the hull. Six pairs of road wheels and the idler wheels are slid over the stub axles, adding towing shackles to the glacis, which then leads to installing the tracks. A straight length is fitted to the return run, gluing the lower run with diagonal ends, then completing the band with curved sets of three links per end, one for each side of the vehicle. The rear bulkhead with a pair of exhausts and towing shackles is fixed to the back of the hull, after which the upper hull can be mated to the lower, adding the driver’s hatch at the front on the shallow slope of the glacis plate. At the rear, two fuel drums are made up from halves, and are fitted to the bulkhead along with an unditching beam that has wooden bark texture moulded into it along with the two straps that hold it to the vehicle. Side skirts are fitted to both sides as single parts, covering the top track run, which could probably be left off to save yourself some work. The turret assembly is built from top and bottom halves, inserting a sensor into the front, and adding the commander’s cupola over his hatch cut-out, plus a pair of sensors to the forward corners. The rear panel to the bustle is separate, and is fitted along with the two sighting boxes, rear sensors on the corners, the mantlet with sensor box on top, and the two crew hatches. Grenade launchers are fitted as three pairs on the sides of the bustle, and the single-part main gun is inserted into the hole in the mantlet, fixing a pair of sensor masts, aerial bases, additional detail parts to the roof, then building up the co-mounted 12.7mm machine gun and grenade launcher into the remote station from three parts, inserting its mounting peg into a hole in the centre of the roof, and adding a tubular part across the rear of the bustle. The completed turret can then be mated with the hull, twisting the bayonet fitting to lock it into place. Markings There is just one option detailed on the rear of the box, which is all-over sand with green or brown digital camouflage scattered over the surface. There are no decals, so none of the usual concerns over registration, sharpness etc. Conclusion 1:72 AFV modellers should welcome this new range with open arms, as they are well-detailed and yet still relatively simple to build, and what’s more, they don’t stress the purse-strings unduly. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  2. HMS Relentless Type 15 Frigate Atlantic Models 1:350 The Type 15 Frigates were conversions from the WW2 Emergency Class Destroyers made to fill the need for fast anti submarine vessels. These ships were introduced to the fleet from 1951 and filled the role until replaced by the new Type 12 and Leander class Frigates, the last being withdrawn in the early 1970s, as such HMS Relentless started life as an R class destroyer, commissioned in November 1942 and carried out her duties as an anti-submarine escort, both in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean throughout the war. After the war she was placed into reserve until 1949. She spent the next two years being converted into a Type 15 anti-submarine frigate. Placed in reserve again from 1956 to 1964 she was once again called to the front line, but only for a year, as she was put up for disposal, finally being sold for scrap in 1971. The Kit The kit comes in the standard sturdy Atlantic Models box filled with plenty of poly chips to protect the contents. The metal, (8 pieces), and resin, (20 pieces) parts are contained in zip lock bags stapled to a piece of card. The upper and lower hull sections are further protected from damage, by being wrapped in bubble wrap. There is a long envelope found at the bottom of the box containing the sheet of etched brass, whilst a separate zip lock bag contains the sheet of decals. When the hull is unwrapped the first thing that strikes you is the cleanliness of the resin. It is silky smooth, with no sign of deformation, bubbles or other imperfections. The upper and lower hulls are joined together by several pips and holes, but I find that it’s easier to remove the pips and align everything by eye and by feel as they tend to leave a large gap whereas by removing them, the gap almost disappears and there is very little need to filling, just a light touch with a sanding stick. The rest of the resin parts are just as well moulded, although the large sections of the superstructure do appear to have small pips on their undersides that need to be removed. As seen in the photos, some of the smaller parts have a fair bit of flash, but it’s very soft and easily removed. The white metal parts don’t have a lot of flash, but there are seams that will need removing, again, a fairly easy job. The large etch sheet is what we have come to expect from Atlantic Models, beautiful clean relief etching, great design and lots of parts, and is probably the area that makes these models more for the experienced modeller than even the resin. Before any construction can take place, make sure you clean all the parts in warm soapy water to get rid of any mould release agent that may be attached. Naturally for these kits, it’s sub assemblies first. These include the Twin 4” HA/LA gun, consisting of the resin turret, metal gun barrels two PE seats and a pair of rocket rails, one for each side of the turret. Next is the twin 40mm Bofors Mk5, which is made up from the resin turret, metal barrels, and PE shield, seats and sights. The resin funnel is fitted with PE cap, four platforms and two sirens. The rest of the sub-assemblies are all PE, and include the two whip aerial masts, the two piece Type 277 radar antenna with IFF, the five piece foremast top and the seven piece foremast, which once assembled is glued into place on the bridge structure, along with the Type 277 radar, railings, foremast top and bridge wing supports. The mainmast is then assembled from six PE parts and is fitted to the superstructure aft of the funnel, along with the MCDF antenna and bracket which is attached to the starboard side of the structure. The aft superstructure is fitted with the 4” gun director and railings. Aft of gun mount you have a choice of either a pair of Squid mortar mounts, or a pair of Mk.10 mortars. The instructions then call for all the ships railings to be glued into position, but I would generally leave these off until last. The anchors can be fitted though, as well as the ships boats, davits, both gun mountings, as well as the whip aerial masts, PE signal flag lockers, Dan buoy, fuel can rack and cable reels, for which the modeller will need to provide some plastic rod from their own stock. If you are building this as a waterline model then you can miss off the next bit as it’s the fitting of the rudder, propeller shafts, A frames and propellers. Decals The single decal sheet contains the main pennant numbers and ships names for the entire list of Type 15 conversions as well as the bridge windows, depth marks, Union Jack and the White Ensign in two sizes. The decals are very nicely printed, with very little carrier film and are quite thin, although I understand they aren’t as thin as Atlantic's own HMS Leopard and HMS Puma kits, which were a little too unforgiving. Unfortunately the review kit decals were quite badly damaged on arrival, as you can see in the accompanying photograph. So it would be wise to check yours before starting the build. Atlantic have confirmed they will replace any damaged sheets as they are aware of the issue. Conclusion Well, Atlantic Models have done it again, producing a kit that fills another hole in the Royal Navy Cold War story. It may not be on everyone's wish list, but seeing how it’s quite a simple, (relatively), kit to build, it might be a good second or third resin model in preparation for one of Atlantic Models big destroyers. For me it is another winner from Peter. The mouldings are superb, the etch amazing and even if you don’t like the use of white metal, there is still a place for it if it helps produce amazing models, which with a bit of care this kit can be done. Just a shame about the decals in this case. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of Peter Hall of
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