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  1. Fairey Delta 2 (DW72009) British Supersonic Research Aircraft 1:72 Dora Wings distributed in UK by Albion Alloys Following WWII, British aviation technology still lead the world, giving away first place to the speed of sound to the Americans by cancelling the Miles M.52 project and sharing the data. The delta wing had been considered as a new wing planform for early jets, and Fairey was tasked with looking into it along with a great many other new aspects that came alongside jet engines. The Type-R project was originally intended to be a VTOL undertaking, but pivoted to supersonic flight and renamed it the Delta 1 project. An initial contract for three airframes was curtailed once the initial prototype had flown, as it was a difficult aircraft to fly with many vices, although Fairey continued flying it as a test-bed until 1956 when they bent it in a rough landing, grounding it for good. The FD2 originated as a single-engined transonic interceptor, but morphed into something different due to Fairey’s inventiveness and dissatisfaction with doing just what was asked of them. The early data that was gathered during the FD1 project and the experience of the new chief engineer they imported from Hawker gave them a start, although the Gannet project took priority during this period, slowing down progress for a time. Rebels that they were, the FD2 was developed upon a specification that would outstrip requirements by a substantial margin that eventually led the aircraft to be the first in the world to reach 1,000mph. Two prototypes were built, and care was taken to ensure that military equipment could be added later if it reached service, taking to the sky toward the end of 1954. A flameout of the first prototype due to loss of fuel supply resulted in serious damage to the rear end after the main gear failed to deploy in time for the emergency landing. Once back in the sky, supersonic flight became commonplace for the aircraft in France after the Ministry refused permission over the UK because they mistakenly believed that sonic booms could be dangerous at low-level, although no claims for damages were ever lodged in France. Its proximity to and collaboration with French engineers gave Dassault plenty of data that helped in the design of the Mirage III, which shared many of the same characteristic of the FD2, save for the droop-snoot that was later incorporated by the Concorde engineers. The two airframes went on to perform a great deal of test flying, part of which included flying at supersonic speeds without the use of reheat in 1955, despite almost total lack of support from the Ministry, who were under the sway of Duncan Sandys, and only had eyes for missiles. The record had previously been held by a North American F-100 Super Sabre, and after many hurdles were crossed, including reticence from Rolls Royce and the Civil Service (some things never change), Fairey went ahead on the 10th March 1956, reaching 1,132 mph or Mach 1.73, which was 37% more than the previous record. Once the competition had got over the shock, they put their best efforts into taking the record back, which was finally done by the USAF flying an F-101A Voodoo at the end of 1957. Despite the success of the prototypes, Fairey could not manage to convert that success into a completed project, although some of their data and ground-breaking design-work went into the Concorde project in the 60s, including a heavily re-designed FD2 with new wings called the BAC 211. The Kit In true Dora Wings style, this kit is a little out of the ordinary and was unexpected but very, very welcome, especially by the 1:72 modellers on this here forum. I was happy that they are happy of course, and can’t wait for a similar announcement in 1:48. I can dream, can’t I? The kit arrives in a small top-opening box with a painting of the FD2 in-flight over broken cloud, and inside are five crisply-moulded sprues in grey styrene, a small sprue of clear parts, two decal sheets, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE), a sheet of vinyl masks, and a portrait format A5 instruction booklet printed in full-colour on glossy paper. Detail is excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Dora Wings, who seem to improve with every kit. The exterior of the model is sleek like the real thing, with fine engraved panel lines, super detail inside the upper wing halves, moulded-in sidewall detail in the nose, cockpit, gear bays and legs that wouldn’t look out of place on a kit of a larger scale. Construction begins with the cockpit, starting with the narrow instrument panel with decal, covered by a coaming and set aside while the ejection seat is built from five parts plus decals representing four-point seatbelts. The shallow cockpit tub receives the seat on two tabs, plus the short control column with the instrument panel in front, and an oval bulkhead in front of that. The rear bulkhead finishes the cockpit, which is inserted between the nose halves, separated from the fuselage at the pivot-point for the droop-snoot. The canopy is furnished in two parts, which is good news for this scale, then the spine and underside are fitted with aerials and PE vanes on the pitot probe, which are probably left off until after painting. The fuselage has its intakes fleshed-out inside by two additional parts per side, and the exhaust tube is made from two halves plus a forward bulkhead that has the rear face of the engine moulded-in, then it and the nose gear bay are trapped between the two fuselage halves, adding a flat spar between to support the wings. These are built from upper and lower halves, adding aileron and flap to the trailing edges, and an actuator fairing to the ailerons, briefly stopping to admire the detail included in the gear bay mouldings before you slot them onto the spars, following up with the rudder, which can be posed deflected if you wish. The nose can be fitted drooped or straight for in-flight by using one of two bulkheads supplied, glued into the flat front of the fuselage, mating the nose once the glue is cured, and taking note of the two diagrams that show the correct angles from the side. A gaggle of auxiliary intakes are scattered over the upper fuselage, and PE strakes are fitted into shallow grooves in the upper wings, flipping the model over to fit the landing gear and bay doors. The main bay struts are braced by a V-strut, while the nose gear leg is an A-frame with extended central strut and a Y-brace near the top of the retraction jacks. Another retraction jack is fitted as the main legs are installed in their bays, fitting a single main wheel to the axle inboard, with a captive bay door on the outer face. The nose gear leg is installed as-is, slotting two wheels on a cross-axle near the front of the bay. Markings You might expect these prototypes to be bare metal only, but they also got to wear some colourful schemes, especially at shows. From the box you can build one of these four options: WG774, March 1956, World Air Speed Record – 1,132mph, pilot Lieutenant Commander Peter Twiss WG774, 2nd September 1955 WG777, RAF Musuem, Cosford, Shropshire, UK WG774, SBAC Show Farnborough, September 1958 Decals are by Dora’s usual partner, DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin satin carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion The only thing that could make this a better FD2 if it was in 1:48. I know I’m harping on about that a little bit, but I figure if I mither Eugen often enough he might cave in. It’s a great kit with plenty of detail, including the droop-snoot if you feel the urge, just don’t be tempted to fill that join line. Very highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  2. Vultee Vengeance Mk.I/Ia (DFW72038) 1:72 Dora Wings Distributed in the UK by Albion Alloys The A-31 Vultee Vengeance was designed and built for a French order that couldn’t be fulfilled due to Nazis overrunning the country before any deliveries could begin. The British government became interested in the design and placed an order for up to 300 airframes, by which time the aircraft had garnered the name Vengeance. It’s unusual wing design that looked like a diving bird had a 0° angle of incidence that made for an accurate dive with no lift from the wings to draw it off course. After America joined the war the type was investigated for their own use and given the number A-35 for their own and export use. Changes to the wing made it a little less accurate, but gave the pilots a better field of view, and an uprated engine from Mk.Ia onwards gave it a bit more power. By the time the Vengeance reached British service, the losses taken by the Stukas that it had been designed to emulate gave them pause for thought, and they weren’t allocated to the European Theatre of Operation (ETO), but were instead sent to India and Burma initially, although they were later phased out in favour of more capable machines before the war’s end. They eventually found their way to an anti-malarial spraying job, as mosquitos and the malarial plague they brought with them was taking a toll on troops and locals alike. Many of them finished their days as target tugs after being stripped of their weapons. Australia made a larger order and they found them to be much the same as the British did, seeing most of them out of service late in 1944, although a few lingered for a while. The Mk.II that followed was a slightly improved version of the original Mk.I, with just over 500 made. The Kit This is a new tool from Dora Wings of this peculiar beast that looks more like a creature than most. We received the awesome 1:48 kit of the Mk.II in early 2022, and now we’re getting a first look at the 1:72 kit of the Mk.I/Ia. It’s brand new and thoroughly modern, with a level of detail that gives the impression that a shrink-ray has been applied to its larger companion, except for a slight change in sprue layouts, and the fact that shrink rays don’t yet exist. The kit arrives in a small top-opening box, and inside are seven rectangular sprues in a greenish-grey styrene, a sprue of clear parts, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE), a sheet of pre-cut vinyl masks (not pictured), decal sheet, and the instruction booklet. It’s a comprehensive package, and there is plenty of PE at this scale to help you get some serious detail into your Vengeance. Examining the sprues, there has clearly been a lot of effort expended in creating this tooling, as detail is everywhere, and it’s good quality with engraved panel lines and some raised panels giving it a professional finish. Construction begins with the cockpit, which is of a larger size due to it having two crew members. The pilot’s instrument panel is a well-detailed part applying two dial decals, which has more styrene and PE parts plus an sloped wrap-around section, hanging a pair of styrene rudder pedals from the rear of the console. A compass with decal fits to the right diagonal section on a PE bracket, then the floor and bulkheads are made, which doubles as the roof of the bomb bay, as is common. Two seats are built from individual sections including PE diagonals and have PE four-point belts included for the pilot only. He also gets PE head armour and a styrene head rest on the bulkhead behind him, and a pair of side consoles that are built up in the same detailed manner as the instrument panel. The pilot’s seat is fixed to the floor on a ladder frame in front of the bulkhead and is hemmed in by the addition of the instrument panel and side console at that point. The gunner has a complex suspension mount for his seat that fits on a recessed circular section of floor with some additional parts around the area. The fuselage halves have a large area of ribbing engraved into the interior that covers the cockpit and bomb bay, and is further detailed by the addition of various PE and styrene parts before it is put to one side while the cockpit/bomb bay are finished off. The rear section of bulkhead is built up with PE and styrene, creating the base for the mount of the twin machine guns that are made later. A radio box is also put together for later. The bomb bay can be modelled open or closed, but it would be a shame to close the doors on all that detail. The instructions allow you to do that though, as it’s your model after all. Steps 19-27 & 48 cover the bombs with PE fins, a cylindrical tank, the door mechanisms, plus adding constructional beams to detail up the bay to an excellent level. The tail wheel is also made now with yet more detail, and this level of effort also extends to the twin .50cals on their mount, with sighting and bullet-shield parts, plus the twin-spade grips for those defensive moments. With a laundry list of assemblies complete, you can close the fuselage halves on the cockpit and tail wheel assemblies, adding two more detail parts in the area behind the gunner. The top of the fuselage is open forward of the cockpit, which is rectified by adding an insert and convex bulkhead to the front, and an A-frame roll-over bar between the two crew. Attention then turns to the big radial engine up front. The Vengeance Mk.I was powered by a Wright Cyclone R-2600-A5B, the Mk.Ia using a R-2600-19, with twin banks of pistons that are both are present on this model. Work begins with the front bell-housing and ancillaries, which has a drive-shaft for the prop pushed through the front and is held in place by a washer at the rear. Each bank of cylinders is made from front and rear halves, with a star of push-rods and wiring harness added to the front, capped off with the bell-housing. Its exhaust stubs are each made of two halves for fitting to the model, one per side. The engine assembly is attached to the front of the fuselage ready for its cowling later. The oddest part of the Vengeance are the wings. Before they are closed, the main bay walls are added to the upper wing, which has the roof detail moulded-in, augmented by PE ribbing, plus some additional detail added to the front walls. As the two wing halves are brought together, an insert is fixed into the trailing edge that has a curved outer edge to accept the flying surfaces. Two of these are made up, and joined by three flying surfaces with an additional pivot point fixed into the wing as you go along. This gives you plenty of leeway for posing these parts to your whim. The forward sections of the main gear bays are built up with three additional parts that are applied to the sides and front of the detailed roof. If you’ve opted to open the bomb bay, the two bombs are attached to their Y-shaped yokes and laid flat in the bay, then the wings and the angular elevator fin are fixed in place along with the rear gun and radio box in the cockpit. It’s looking like an aircraft now, and the transformation continues as you make up the cowling from two main halves and lip parts, into which the lower intake trunking is installed along with two PE splitters. Care here will reduce any hiding of seams later, which is always nice. The cooling flaps are moulded into the cowling in this smaller kit, making use of PE parts to recreate the dive-spoilers, which can be posed deployed with PE supports, and should look very realistic once painted, especially if their fit is as good as those on the 1:48 kit. The elevators and rudder are all separate assemblies that can again be posed deflected if you wish. The canopy is a large greenhouse with plenty of frames to terrify the masking averse, but they needn’t worry, as Dora have included a set of vinyl masks in translucent grey, pre-cut for your convenience. There are five canopy parts, beginning with the windscreen and working back to the gunner’s windows, all of which are slender and clear within the limits of injection moulding. There is a short vertical aerial on the centre section, which should be rigged with a length of fine line to the forward tip of the rudder fin, which is visible on the box art to assist you in getting it right. The main gear is similar to many American dive bombers, consisting of a straight, thick leg with PE oleo-scissors and detail parts, and a captive “spat” at the bottom of the leg that is a lot less usual. Four small side bay doors are also included with PE openers that are easy to lose as I found out in its larger cousin, and throughout the various bays, detail is excellent. The legs are fixed into the bays with a retraction jack added behind, installing the lower dive-spoilers and the bomb bay doors in the next step. If you’re closing the bomb bay, there is a single part for you to use, but leaving them open you have four parts, two per side, as the doors fold-up into a sharp V-shape at each side of the bay. As an aside, I used the closed bomb bay part as a mask for the open bomb bay in my 1:48 build, cutting notches where the door actuators extend beyond the walls. The fit was so snug that it was held in position by friction alone. A small PE exhaust outlet is inserted into a slot in front of the bomb bay, and at the rear of the aircraft the PE tail bay door is rested against the leg. The propeller is made from a single set of moulded blades that have a combined boss and spinner added to the front. Pop the pitot probe under the right wing, and fit two circular landing lights into their recesses under both wings, and that’s it done. Markings There are a generous four decal options on the sheet, although they’re all wearing the same basic brown/green camouflage scheme, with sky blue undersides, differentiating by their codes and lettering styles. From the box you can build one of the following: Mk.Ia (EZ804), 110(H) Sqn., Burma, 1944 Mk.Ia (EZ977), 8 Sqn., IAF, India, 1944 Mk.I (AN590), 1 GBPi, Brazil, 1943 Mk.Ia (EZ957), 110(H), Sqn., Burma, 1944 <ul style="list-style-type:upper-alpha"> Decals are by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The profiles contain thanks to both Steve Long and the director of the Camden Museum of Aviation for their assistance with this project. Conclusion This is a superbly-detailed model of this lesser-known combatant in the Pacific theatre during WWII, with its weird wings and massive engine cowling making it stand out on your model shelf. The 1:48 kit was a treat to build, and there’s nothing to suggest that this will be any different, with barely any difference in the level of detail supplied. Very highly recommended. Available soon from Dora Wings in the Ukraine, and in the UK from importers Albion Alloys. Review sample courtesy of Available soon in the UK in all good model shops. Distributed by
  3. Focke-Wulf Fw.190A-6 (BF003) 1:35 Border Models via Albion Alloys Introduced in 1941 to combat the ever-improving Spitfire, the Fw.190 was intended to supplant the Bf.109 if it reached a plateau in development, or run alongside it as a stablemate. Its powerful twin-bank radial engine was installed with a close-fitting cowling and was initially equipped with an oversized, ducted prop-spinner to keep the engine cool, which was discarded early in development in favour of a fan that ran on the prop's drive-shaft to push air through over and between the cylinder heads, which also facilitated oil cooling. It was also given a wide-track landing gear, which reduced the likelihood of a nose-over, a problem afflicting both the 109 and Spitfire, due to their narrow track and poor forward visibility. When it first encountered Spitfires, it gave the RAF pilots a shock, as they were expecting 109s, not these agile new aircraft. It caused a frenzy of development at Supermarine, which was just part of the leapfrog game played by both sides throughout the conflict. The initial A-1 production version was equipped with a BMW 801 engine, and by the time the A-4 was signed off, it had two 7.92mm guns in the cowling, and a pair of 20mm MG151 cannons in the wing root, all of which were synchronised with the prop's motion, in turn mated to a more powerful version of the BMW engine. There were several equipment fits used in the many versions that gave the Würger (Shrike) additional weapons and capabilities, including a pressurised cockpit, rocket tubes and reconnaissance cameras. The A-6 was a natural progression of development that started reaching service in mid-1943, with an increased armament that included MG17s in the engine cowling, and two 20mm MG 151 cannons in the wing root as before, and another identical pair just outboard of the landing gear bays. The wings were also lightened whilst improving their strength, leaving space for extra ammunition for the two wing-mounted cannons, in an effort to increase their success in downing the bomber streams that were attacking German industry on a daily basis. The Kit This is a new tooling from Border that was released late in 2023 in their relatively new 1:35 range of aircraft kits. The kit arrives in a satin-finished top-opening box with a painting of an Fw.190 on the ground in a wintery landscape, with an Sd.Kfz.251 half-track in the background and some ground-crew working on the aircraft. Inside the box are nine sprues of grey styrene, two of clear parts, one of which doesn’t appear on the sprue map at the front of the instruction manual, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) and a pair of decal sheets, plus the afore mentioned instruction booklet. Detail is excellent throughout, including a full representation of the two banks of the BMW engine, a detailed cockpit, and gear bays with the distinctive dimpled surfaces, detail that is carried over into the cowling and bay covers that accompany the kit, some of which can be posed open to expose the structure inside. Construction begins with the engine, both banks of pistons made from front and rear halves, linked together by a set of seven pipes, and completed by adding fairings to the tops of the forward cylinder heads. Push-rods are fixed to the rear along with the intake “spider” of pipework, with the exhaust tubing interleaved between them, consisting of four sections that plug into the rear of the cylinder heads. A host of ancillary parts are fitted to the rear of the growing engine assembly, including ducting, support frames and a dozen other parts of various sizes. Another set of push-rods are fixed to the front of the motor, followed by the front bell-housing with magnetos and other parts dotted around it. The completed engine is a dense and well-detailed lump of plastic that will look great in the cowling, and begs to have some of the panels left open to see the details. Wing armament is next, building the breeches and ammo feeds for the wing-root guns, and the full cannons for the outer weapons, plus an ammo feed and box for each one, all of which is handed for each wing. Before installing them, the full-span lower wing is fitted with a spar section behind the bay door openings, adding a central support in front, the wing-mounted cannon assemblies behind, and drilling out several holes in the wings and centreline of the wing. The front gear bay walls with barrels for the root cannons are installed, then the outer wing cannons are fixed on a pair of pins in position, finally adding the combined ammo boxes and feeds for the cowling guns as a single part over the central support. The bays can then be fitted with four ribs each, and the central section is covered by the dimpled fairing that straddles the forward support and butts up against the cowling ammo boxes. At last we get to the cockpit, which is based on a detailed tub with the rear deck moulded-in, to which a PE lid is mounted for personal equipment stowage. Rudder pedal bases and detail inserts are added to the side consoles, then the pilot’s seat is fitted with a cushion, and the PE four-point seatbelts are folded into position before being glued using super-glue, after which the control column is inserted into the floor in front of the seat. PE straps are bent and fixed to the styrene rudder pedals, adding a lever to the port console, then the lower portion of the instrument panel is inserted into the console tops, adding decals to depict the dials, and closing off the footwell with a short bulkhead that is covered above by the floor of the gun bay. The panel also has a pair of styrene and PE levers fixed to it before it is glued in place, after which preparation for closing the fuselage is begun by adding the three-part gunsight to the upper panel portion along with more dial decals, creating the rudder from two halves, the tail-wheel from a two-part yoke and wheel, then making up the prop from the single-part blades and trapping it between the spinner and backing plate, adding the cooling fan and three more parts behind. Paint and a few more small parts are added to the side walls of the fuselage, then all the sub-assemblies bar the propeller are joined to the fuselage halves as they are closed. After you have dealt with the fuselage seams in your preferred manner, the fuselage is lowered over the wing, and the canopy is glued in place, first mounting the windscreen at the front of the cockpit opening, then making up a three-part headrest and armour assembly that fits inside the canopy, which can be posed open or closed as you wish. The upper wing halves have detail moulded into them in the shape of the main gear bay roof and the flap bays, which are filled with ribs that taper toward the trailing edge. The starboard wing has a hole opened to accommodate the pitot probe, then the uppers can be mated with the lower wing, adding the flaps to a hinge-point in the lower wing. Each wingtip has a clear light inserted into a recess once the seams of the wings have been dealt with, then the two halves of the ailerons are glued around their hinges to complete the wing planform. Two lower cowling panels are installed with piano-hinge fittings under the rear of the engine, and these have internal detail included, so could be left open if you chose. The root gun bay doors are similarly detailed inside, and these too can be left open or closed as you wish. The elevators are made by creating the flying surfaces from two halves, then trapping them in place by closing the two halves of the fixed portion along the hinge-line, each one plugging into slots in either side of the tail. The completed engine is mounted on a pair of zig-zag supports, which fits into the bulkhead in front of the cockpit, adding a pair of hoses between the engine and the bulkhead. Two cowling panels with cooling gills are fixed to the engine sides, and the front cowling ring is made from three layers, one in front of the other, fixing them in place along with two upper cowling parts that can be posed open and closed, adding PE support straps to both sides to hold them to the correct angle for maintenance. The top centre cowling section is attached, then the twin machine guns are made, each one a single part that is laid on a two-part mount, secured in place with a bracket over the breech, then fitted into the gun bay, adding the final bulged piece of cowling to the space in front of the windscreen, which can also be flipped up and to the rear, hinging against the sloped windscreen. The propeller assembly can now be installed in the front of the engine, taking care not to dislodge any open panels you have chosen to portray. The crew step, D/F loop and a short aerial are all fitted to the underside of the fuselage, although they are best left off until after painting. The Würger could carry various munitions, and several options are included in this boxing. A two-part fuel tank can be carried under the belly, mounted on a long three-part pylon with towel-rail anti-sway braces, and a pair of W.Gr.21 rocket pods can be fitted, one under each wing. These are built from a slide-moulded tube that has the supports slotted into grooves in the tube, adding a PE rear and a curved PE activation wire from there to the nearest support leg. The rocket is also provided, and is installed in the tube along with the three guide rails that helped it achieve some sort of accuracy, although it wasn’t all that successful in that task. Each completed assembly is fitted into the holes that were drilled out under the wings earlier in the build process. Strangely, the landing gear is only shown built up in the in-flight position, which has most of the detail hidden away under the gear bay doors, but as they hinge down simply from the outer edge of the bays, it’s not rocket science to pose the wheels down, but do look at some references before you apply glue, as the 190 should look a little pin-toed from the front. The struts each have separate two-part oleo scissor-links, plus a styrene brake hose that runs up the leg to the wheel, adding a small PE bracket near the top of each one. The wheels are two-parts each, and these fix to the stub axles at the bottom of the struts, and as mentioned are shown placed flat in the wheel wells glued by their single pivot, with no mention of parts G34 and G35 that I think are the retraction jacks that should keep the legs at the correct angle. This boxing seems to have a step missing where the gear down option is depicted, but the box art shows them correctly installed, albeit in deep shadow. The cover of the instructions also mentions clear cowlings for the engines and cowlings, but they weren’t present in my boxing, and it only mentions two decal options when there are in fact seven. Maybe an errata sheet will be produced for later batches? Markings The decals are printed anonymously on blue backing paper, and a generous seven options are included, the profiles for which have been penned by artists from AMMO, using their brand codes for the paint call-outs along with the colour names. From the box you can build one of the following: The decals are in good registration with sharp detail and colour density, with one sheet covering the stencils, instrument panel and smaller markings. Conclusion It’s a nice rendition of the infamous Butcher Bird in 1:35, with a few slip-ups that shouldn’t cause too many issues for a modeller with common sense and a little bit of skill. It’s still a relatively new scale for fixed-winged aircraft, but should be a welcome sight for anyone wanting a common scale for their AFV and aircraft builds. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  4. Pz.Kpfw.IV/70(A) Mid (BT-028) Jagdpanzer IV 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys Designed as a replacement to the successful StuG III, the Jagdpanzer IV was instead built upon the more modern chassis of the Panzer IV as the nomenclature implies. It went into production despite objections that the StuG III was perfectly adequate for the job going forward, and diversion of resources away from standard Panzer IVs was wasteful. Due to shortages of the new L/70 gun, the initial production was fitted with the 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48, which had a shorter barrel and was less powerful than the Pak 42 L/70 that was eventually fitted, and can be quickly differentiated by the lack of muzzle-brake on the longer gun, with under 800 short-barrels produced. There was an overlap in production between the two main guns, the last L/48 equipped vehicles leaving the factory at the end of 1944, the longer barrelled examples continuing until German industry ground to a halt in the spring of 1945. The type wasn’t without its foibles, and could shed rubber tyres due to the weight of the vehicle on the ground, which sometimes led to installation of all-steel rims, and as rubber was a scarce strategic material anyway, that had its advantages. The longer barrel also made travelling over rough ground problematic, as the increased overhang could result in the muzzle digging-in, thanks to the lack of turret and limited traverse preventing moving the gun around to clear obstacles. Another reason for removing the muzzle-brake was that in dry weather, the gun kicked up immense clouds of dust that could give away its position, negating the benefits of its relatively low silhouette. As the war situation deteriorated for the Nazis, there were efforts made to cease Panzer IV production in favour of the StuG III, as it was concluded that they had performed better at the crucial Kursk turning point of the Eastern Front campaign. This effort failed, although the Pz.IVs were only produced at one factory during the closing months of the war, with StuG IVs taking over some of the production capacity freed up by the shrinking Panzer IV workload. In typical fashion, instead of concentrating on one type and producing a large quantity that were simple to maintain, they manufactured three or four designs that were essentially carrying out the same task, all of which had their own training, parts, and maintenance requirements. Thankfully for the Allies, this worked in their favour and they had to face fewer tanks on the march toward Berlin. As an aside, my SO’s grandfather encountered a Jagdpanzer IV during WWII, and we have a photo of him and his colleagues sitting astride the barrel and superstructure, with a visible shell entry point between the sponson underside plate and engine bay side panel, which was probably the reason for its destruction or abandonment. It would make a great diorama one day if I ever get the time and skills together at the same time. The Kit This is an additive retool and new boxing of a recent kit from Border, and arrives in a substantial top-opening box with a painting of a winter camouflaged Jagdpanzer IV in the midst of a battlefield some time during winter, probably late ‘44 or early ’45 on the long road back to Berlin and eventual defeat. Inside are thirteen sprues, a crisply moulded lower hull and casemate with additional unused parts in grey styrene, a turned aluminium barrel, a large fret of Photo-Etch (PE), a tiny decal sheet containing just twelve decals, and a colour printed instruction booklet in A4 landscape format that includes decal profiles in the rear. Detail on the sprues is excellent, with some finely tooled moulding and judicious use of slide-moulding to achieve increased detail without raising the parts count unduly. There is also rolled steel armour texture moulded into the casemate in the form of a fine dimpled surface, while the highly visible Saukopf mantlet armour and a few other appropriate parts are moulded with a sand-cast texture. Construction begins with the lower hull, which is well-moulded with plenty of detail on all external surfaces, and includes the cooling vents on the sides of the engine compartment, simplifying the build a little. Suspension bump-stops and other components are added to the sides, and the rear bulkhead with idler axle mounts, towing eye on two mounting plates, making up sixteen sets of paired road wheels of two styles that slide onto the twin bogies, which the instructions tell you to make up in two handed sets of four for each on the left and right sides of the vehicle. Eight paired return rollers, two-part drive sprockets and three-part idler wheels are also made up and installed along with the two final drive housings at the front of the hull. The hull can now be righted to install the two glacis plate panels, the upper part having separate inspection hatches with armoured hinge covers and PE brackets, while the front panel is inserted clean. This leads us to the tracks, which are of the link-and-length variety, offering the modeller a simplified variation on independent links, whilst easing the task of obtaining the correct sag, particularly to the upper run, which has substantial sag moulded-in, which was a feature of this tank’s track system. Eight individual links are installed around the drive sprocket along with a short diagonal length then three more individual links, with a similar process carried out at the rear, but with one lower link transferred to fit around the idler wheel, and an extra link moulded into the diagonal section. Detail is excellent, with just a few small ejector-pin marks on the insides of the longer lengths that you can hide if you think they’ll be seen through the muck and grime of weathering. The fenders go on next, adding slide-moulded mudflaps to the ends, and short vertical fillets added at the front. A single headlight is fitted on the front of the left fender, with some miniscule return-springs attached to the sides of the front mudguards, adding PE baffles to the rear vents, although you might need to refer to the later steps that show them in situ, as it’s not immediately clear. What is clear is that a Notek convoy light is glued to the left rear fender behind the vents. Before the casemate can be built, the main gun breech must be made up, taking several steps and many parts to create a detailed depiction of the L/70 breech block, aiming mechanism and the protective frame to the rear. The casemate's frame is thickened with an additional layer to the inside front, fitting the gun-mount bulge to the breech, taking care to apply the glue sparingly, as this is the hollow in which the gun elevates and traverses on a peg that meshes with a hole in the bottom, although there is only around 15° of traverse left or right. It is installed from outside the hull, taking care with the glue again to prevent freezing the gun in place. The casemate rear wall is separate, fitted with a fume extraction fan and armoured mushroom cover, then the roof is dropped in and detailed with periscopes, hinges for the two main hatches, the pop-up hatch for the commander’s binocular sight, and the curved sliding hatch near the front. The binocular periscope and its mount are provided, allowing you to pose it deployed or omit it and leave the hatch down, adding a small handle to the top. During the process, an armoured cover for the gun sight and several small PE tie-down lugs are fixed carefully to the front and sides of the casemate. The pioneer tools are scattered across the remaining sides and deck space in the next steps, including barrel cleaning rods, spanners, the umbrella antenna on a curved mount with PE branches, jack, spade, track tools and a toolbox. The gun barrel is a single solid part that is found next to the 4mm shorter L/48 barrel that has a slide-moulded hollow muzzle, or you could use the turned aluminium alternative, seeing as they’ve been good enough to supply one. The keyed barrel should be inserted into the breech along with the slide-moulded ‘Saukopf’ mantlet armour. An A-frame travel lock is supplied in this boxing, fixing it to the front of the glacis on two brackets, then adding two more towing eyes with pegs to the lower glacis, and these were often connected to the bracket by a short chain to prevent losing them, so if you have some, it won’t look out of place. The engine deck is lowered into position complete with its newly installed tools, adding PE and styrene brackets, plus a pair of rods on the rear of the casemate. The twin exhausts are each made from two styrene parts, plus a PE top surface to the armoured support, fixed to the rear bulkhead offset to the right, dropping two stacked pairs of road wheels on rods over the left vents on the engine deck, plus another simple whip aerial on the back of the engine deck. Most Jagdpanzer IVs were fitted with schürzen down the sides that were attached loosely to the hull on brackets, and this is one of them, utilising comparatively light weight mesh panels that also gave the tankers a little sideways visibility, providing they kept them clean! You are provided with stub brackets that fix to boxes along the fenders and the sides of the casemate, then the rails are fitted with brackets and stops along the length of each one. Once the glue is fully cured on these, four V-shaped brackets of varying shapes are fitted to the sides of the tank, then the rails are glued along them, and here it would be wise of let the glue cure before attempting this step and the next one. You are instructed to glue the individual panels of the schürzen in position, matching the double dash marks with the ends of the stub brackets that were fitted initially. It could be worth experimenting with gluing the stub brackets to the rear of the schürzen panels before you attach them to the hull, as it might ease the task, but it also might complicate your day, so test fit with just one before proceeding. Remember that these panels were intended to pre-detonate incoming shaped-charge rounds to disperse their effect, and weren’t armoured in any sense of the word, so were prone to damage from incoming rounds of most calibres, as well as damage from collisions with other vehicles and the surrounding countryside, so were often bent, mangled and even had entire panels missing at times. That gives you liberty to have a little fun crafting a history into those sheets of mesh and their metal frames, bending, breaking, and losing panels as you see fit. Annealing the brass before going to work will make the metal malleable and easier to work with, which can be done with a lighter or candle flame, applying heat until the metal is discoloured, then letting it cool naturally to retain the softness. Candle flames generally contain soot as a by-product of combustion, so if you have a lighter to hand, it’s the cleaner option. If I’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs however, I apologise. As an aside, the sprues include a few additional items in the shape of a bucket with PE handle, a pair of jerry cans, and a pair of road wheel hubs without rubber tyres. Markings There are three decal options on the small sheet, with a variation of ambush, winter distemper and late war camouflages, each with pair of balkenkreuz and their vehicle codes on the sides of the casemate. From the box you can build one of the following, about which we’re told nothing other than what colours to paint them: The sheet contains twelve decals, the codes printed in black and white, with acceptable registration, colour density and sharpness, plus a matt carrier film cut relatively close to the edges of the printing. There is a tiny offset with the white that shows in the vertical elements of the crosses, but this could be fixed quickly by trimming the larger side with a sharp blade before application. Conclusion A fine rendition of a mid-production Jagdpanzer IV sporting the longer L/70 barrel, with plenty of detail on the exterior, and the breech should be visible through an open hatch, giving you options despite it being officially an exterior-only kit. The later mesh schürzen gives the model a more realistic look, and can be banged up to depict a well-used example, or one driven by a klutz. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  5. Leopard 2A6 Ukraine (BT-031) 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys The Leopard 2 is the successor to the earlier Leopard Main Battle Tank (MBT), and was developed in the 70s, entering service just before the turn of the decade. The original had a vertical faced turret front, while later editions had improved angled armour applied to the turret front that gives the tank a more aggressive look and provides much better protection, and more likelihood of deflecting incoming rounds harmlessly away. It has all the technical features of a modern MBT, including stabilised main gun for firing on the move, thermal imaging, and advanced composite armour, making it a world-class contender as one of the best tanks on the market. The original Leopard 2 variant entered service in 1979, but has been through several upgrades through its service life and the current production variant is the highly advanced 2A7+, with the 2A8 waiting in the wings. The 2A6 is still a powerful battlefield resource however, and likely to be so for some considerable time. It sports the Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore gun with the barrel extended over the A5, which results in a higher muzzle velocity that improves its penetration power over its predecessor, allowing it to reach targets at a greater range and hit harder. It also has an armoured ammunition storage space in the turret that is engineered to blow outward in the event of a detonation of munitions, which again improves the crew survivability further. For close-in defence they are fitted with an MG3 machine gun, and the armour is installed to give it an arrow-head front profile to the turret, as well as several more subtle upgrades that follow on from the 2A5. Sales of the Leopard 2 have been good overseas because of its reputation, and Canada, Turkey, Spain and most of the Nordic countries use it as well as many other smaller operators. Since the unlawful invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2022, many nations have been providing military and other strategic assistance to keep the brave Ukrainians able to defend their nation against the aggressor. Although Germany initially appeared reticent to proffer their leading-edge A6 variants to a non-NATO nation, they eventually supplied A4 and A5 variants, but policy changes led to a small number of the more capable A6s being added to the roster, to be used as “tip-of-the-spear” at the centre of the attack to punch a hole in the front line and give the less capable tanks a helping hand. Unfortunately, there aren’t sufficient numbers available of the A6 to spare from the nations that are supplying them, or more would doubtless be forthcoming. The older Leopard 2 variants have been retro-fitted with Kontakt Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) blocks at key points to enhance their chance of deflecting a direct hit, although the A6 has more capable composite armour so this may be unnecessary. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to armed combat. The Kit The kit on which this boxing is based was first released in 2019, and has been augmented a few times already, but now comes in a new box with additional parts to festoon the model with Kontakt ERA blocks, which look to have been pulled from one of their Russian tank kits, as they are moulded in green styrene. The kit arrives in a standard top-opening box with a painting of a Ukrainian Leopard on the front, and inside are seventeen sprues and two turret halves in grey styrene, seven more in green styrene, one in clear, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) that has been designed by Voyager Models, a turned aluminium barrel, a tree of black poly-caps, a length of braided wire, a small decal sheet, and the instruction booklet printed in colour on glossy paper, with profiles at the rear. Detail is excellent throughout, giving you the opportunity to build either an A5, or early and late examples of the A6 variant that is the subject on the box top. You also get workable track links and torsion suspension to create realistic-looking running gear that should also operate in a similar manner to the real vehicle. As per the text above, there are ERA blocks supplied, although the drawings are a little vague, and at time of writing there it is uncertain whether the Ukrainian engineers will find the need for installation, so they could be left on the sprues, or you could use online photos and your own references if you are unsure. Construction begins with the rear bulkhead of the hull, which is already well-moulded, but is further detailed with light clusters, convoy shield, towing eyes and so forth before it is attached to the hull floor along with the sides, and a supporting bulkhead near where the firewall would be between the crew and engine bay on the real vehicle. This part is purely structural however, and has stiffening web-work over both sides of its surface to create a strong shape ready for the next stage. Various suspension parts are applied to the hull sides, followed by seven torsion bars with swing-arms moulded into the ends on both sides, plus the two idler wheel axles at the front, the drive sprockets and final drive housings already moulded into the side walls. The road wheels are paired, and each one put together around a poly-cap so that the wheels can be added and removed as necessary, the same process applying to the idlers, and to the toothed drive sprockets at the rear. There are two types of circular cooling vents on the engine deck, which differ between the A5 and A6 variants, using different styrene parts, and for the A6, adding PE meshes over the vents. Two smaller raised vents are also made from styrene parts and a narrow length of PE mesh that wraps around the short vertical portion. They are put to one side for a short while so that the tracks can be built up. The track links consist of an upper and lower shell, with track pins and pivots sandwiched between them, which are built up in lengths of five links on the jig numbered 24 that is found on sprue P, gluing the central pivot to prevent them coming adrift during handling. Careful application of glue to the main track link halves results in a set of track links that are as mobile as the real ones, with good detail. I built up a short length of five links using six pivots in a few minutes, and can confirm that the parts are easy to clean-up, requiring trimming with a sharp knife, and the pivot sprue gates have been engineered in such a way as to make their clean-up a breeze. A quick translate of the text next to the number 84 offers a translation into something like “84 links”, so use that as your basis for each run, while 82 is another number I’ve seen. The track building process won’t be the work of five minutes, but it will be substantially quicker than a great many track systems I have used in the past. The upper hull is mated with the lower hull with the tracks in place, and has various detail parts fitted, including the driver’s hatch and surround plus vision blocks, track grousers and pins mounted on the glacis plate, a choice of two aerial bases, and front mudguards. A short two-link length of assembled track is placed between the grousers, adding barrel cleaning rods, towing eye and more grousers over the glacis and front fenders, fitting pioneer tools and frames around the engine deck, after dropping the four cooling vents into position before you do. A bow saw and pry bar are mounted on the right rear of the deck, fitting a travel lock to the centre, fixing light clusters to the glacis along with a wing mirror on the left side. The two towing cables are made from four styrene eyes, one at each end of a portion of the braided wire that is included in the box, although no length is given, but it’s not difficult to estimate this with the eyes tacked in place on the engine deck. The side skirts differ between variants, with pseudo-colour diagrams helping to choose which portions to include or remove. The drawings are a little confusing, so take your time to ensure you get it right. The same is true of the smoke grenade launchers on the sides of the turret, differing in layout between variants, whilst keeping the same eight barrels throughout. Speaking of the turret, it is provided almost complete, consisting of upper and lower halves, fitting the rear wall to the upper portion, whilst inserting five vision blocks around the commander’s cupola from the inside. All barrel options begin with the inner and outer mantlet, barrel shroud and fume extractor hump, but to depict an A5, a styrene barrel and muzzle must be used, as illustrated below in faux colour. The A6 early and late both utilise the turned aluminium barrel (or a styrene one if you prefer), plus the longer muzzle section to depict the substantial extra length of the new gun. The coaxial machine gun is moulded into one side panel, the other fitted to the side of the mantlet, and covered by a top-section that has a curved cut-out to accommodate the barrel. Step 15 seems to be a little upside down, as the top drawing shows the barrel already inserted, while the lower diagram shows the process of trapping the barrel assembly between the top and bottom halves of the gun assembly, fixing a cable roll and dividers in the bustle, with a cover over the top. The gap between the mantlet and the deflection fairings is covered by a three-part panel, building up the loader and commander’s hatches from multiple layers then inserting them into the top deck. Various lifting hooks, grab handles and a pair of aerial bases are fitted around the turret roof, making the MG3 on a two-part pintle mount for installation on the commander’s cupola in due course. Another page of false-colour images show the location of a training exercise beacon if required, cutting off the stub from the deck, and drilling a hole to accommodate it. The diagrams also show how to mount the hatch in open or closed states. There is a surround fitted over the commander’s vision blocks that incorporates two multi-part sighting boxes at the front and rear, which are built with clear lenses to the front, and the turret behind the hatch can be left to rotate if you are careful with the glue. The turret is covered at the front by a set of angled armour panels that give the tank its arrow-head look, and behind those are your chosen configuration of smoke grenade dischargers on an appliqué panel, then at the rear are two tapering stowage baskets, which have PE mesh on all sides, the outermost section folded around the contours of the tubular basket’s framework. The left side of the turret front has an optional set of specialist grenade launchers that are used in training situations to simulate firing of the main gun. They have the incredibly long-winded name of “Kanonenabschussdarstellungsgerät” that is shortened to KADAG. The barrels are separate from their support, and require the removal of three bolts from the armour panel they fit on, but to show the tank without them, the same base part is used, with a simple cover glued over the top. The completed turret is then lowered into the hull, lining up the bayonet lugs and twisting to lock it together. The ERA blocks are shown as an optional final two steps in the instructions, attaching a gaggle of them to the front of the turret, the glacis plate, and with moulded sets of blocks applied to the skirts. The layout of the turret and glacis plate blocks are vague, so if you intend to deploy your model with them applied, check your references, and if you can’t find any pictures of the A6 wearing them, take an educated guess based on those worn by the A5s and A4s that have already seen combat. Markings There is one page depicting the decal option from all sides, and the markings consist of hand-painted white crosses of various sizes, and four Ukrainian flags in blue and yellow in two sizes. From the box you can build the following: The decals are printed anonymously, but are suitable for the task, and there are only two colours plus white, with just the blue and yellow of the flags juxtaposed, but they appear to be in good register. The colour call-outs are given in AMMO codes, which are easy to get hold of almost everywhere, but there are plenty of paint conversion sites, tables and probably apps by now that will assist you if you need it. The main colours are NATO standard, so should be easy to find elsewhere. Conclusion A well-detailed model of an excellent tank that is going to do good work repelling the invader from Ukraine so they can get their country back and go on with their lives. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  6. Kugelblitz Flak Panzer IV (BT-039) 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys Unlike the later Tiger and Panther tanks, the Panzer IV had been designed in the years leading up to the outbreak of WWII, and was intended for a different role than it eventually played, which was as an infantry support tank with the mobile artillery function rolled into one. It was a heavier tank than the previous numbered types, and was well-designed, although it did suffer from the typical WWII German over-engineering that made them complex, expensive and slow to build, as well as difficult to maintain. The type went through several successive variants including enhancements such as a more powerful engine to give better performance, improved armour thickness for survivability, and latterly the provision of a larger gun with a longer high-velocity barrel that was based upon the Pak.40, but with shortened recoil mechanism and an enlarged muzzle-brake that helped contain the powerful recoil from the 75mm round. The new gun was a direct reaction to the first encounter with the T-34 in Soviet hands, an incident that shocked the German tankers and their superiors, as they knew very little of its existence until they had to fight it, and didn’t like the way their shots were prone to ricocheting off the sloped glacis. In true Nazi style, many variants with various intended uses were developed by the engineers from the base chassis, including four anti-aircraft options, starting with the Möbelwagen that looked like a skip dumped on top of a turretless tank, with a 37mm Flak cannon thrown in it, which garnered the nickname Moving Van in English. Its successors were the Wirbelwind and the Ostwind, mounting four 20mm or a single 37mm cannon respectively in a lightly armoured cupola. The final variant was too late to be of any use on the battlefield, and was the Kugelblitz, perhaps recognising that the anti-aircraft installation was as useful defending against ground attacks as aircraft. It mounted two 30mm Mk103 cannons in an armoured turret that had been developed for fitting to U-Boats, but only five pre-production instances were built before the war ended. It is thought that one of the examples was pressed into service toward the end of the war, as its rusted hull was found in 1999 buried at the site of a battle in central Germany. The Kit This kit is billed as a new tooling, however it shares a few sprues for the running gear with other kits in the Border range that are also based upon the Panzer IV chassis, so if you have one of their Jagdpanzer IVs, you might recognise them. The kit arrives in a top-opening box, and inside are eleven sprues and a hull part in grey styrene, a pair of turned and milled brass barrels for the 30mm cannons, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE), a length of braided wire, a tiny sheet of decals, and the instruction booklet that has colour profiles on the rear pages. Detail is good and up with the best Panzer IV kits, bringing link-and-length tracks, metal barrels, and a full depiction of the ball-like turret that is the core of the model. Construction begins with the lower hull, which is slide-moulded with plenty of detail on all external surfaces, and includes the cooling vents on the sides of the engine compartment, simplifying the build a little. Suspension bump-stops and other components are added to the sides, and the rear bulkhead with idler axle mounts, towing eye on two mounting plates, making up sixteen sets of paired road wheels that slide onto the twin bogies, handed to each side. Eight paired return rollers, two-part drive sprockets and four-part idler wheels are also made up and installed along with the two final drive housings at the front of the hull. This leads us to the tracks, which are of the link-and-length variety, offering the modeller a simplified variation on independent links, whilst easing the task of obtaining the correct sag, particularly to the upper run, which has substantial sag moulded-in, a conspicuous feature of this tank’s track system. Eight individual links are installed around the drive sprocket along with a short diagonal length then three more individual links, with a similar process carried out at the rear, but with one lower link transferred to fit around the idler wheel, and an extra link moulded into the diagonal section. Detail is excellent, with just a few small ejector-pin marks on the insides of the longer lengths that you can hide if you think they’ll be seen through the muck and grime of weathering. The hull can now be fitted with the glacis plate, with inspection hatches and armoured hinge covers plus brackets, laying a seven-link length of track across the fixed central panel as DIY appliqué armour. The fenders go on next, adding slide-moulded mudflaps to the ends, cutting off the short schürzen brackets moulded into the outer lip of the fenders. The upper hull is made from the roof and side sections, adding crew hatches to the front, a couple of grab-handles and a tool box over the engine bay, in what is at this stage a pretty standard Panzer IV hull. It is mated with the lower hull, and has the upper glacis place with bow machine gun installed on the right with a barrel stub through the centre, and the driver’s armoured vision port on the left, fitting small return springs to the sides of the front mudguards, and two more at the rear, whilst installing the rear of the engine bay and two armour panels over the exhaust baffles, followed by the covers, which are depicted as open for this boxing. Twin exhausts with slide-moulded exits are mated with their armoured bases that have a PE top, and joined to the rear bulkhead, fixing the four towing eyes to each end of lengths of braided wire and supporting them on a bracket mounted at the top of the rear bulkhead. A full set of pioneer tools, including fire extinguisher, axe, track tools, detailed jack and block, a shovel and various other small parts are dotted around the upper surfaces, adding an open-topped stowage box with four road wheels and two spanners in them on the left fender, and more track links from custom links on the right side. A single headlight is fitted on the front of the left fender, a Notek convoy light on left rear fender, and even more track links are draped across the lower glacis, held on by a bracket welded to the forward towing mounts. Building the turret begins with the short breeches of the mk 103 cannons, which are each three parts, mounting them in a boxy surround, with the two barrel bases projecting through holes in the front face. Gun controls and a door are applied to the rear of the assembly, gluing the door in the lowered position, then adding two side supports and the curved armour to the front. Ammo boxes and arched feeder chutes are attached to the sides, building the roof from several parts before fixing it over the gun assembly. A curved rear panel has hinges added to it before it is glued to the back of the roof, and the whole gun mount is bracketed by two domed pivots that have additional details glued to the inner surface, doubling up the thickness of the rear panel to enhance the detail further. A clamshell hatch with a periscope on one side are inserted in the cut-out in the roof, either open or closed at your whim, then trunnions are installed over circular bearings on each side of the turret, which glue to the sides of the turret ring on recessed areas. Covers are fixed over the ammo boxes with hinges on the inner faces, and the conical splinter shield is lowered over the assembly, clearing the barrel stubs first, and mounting two retaining pins along the break-open portions of the shield. Outer shrouds are slotted over the barrel stubs, and the brass barrels are inserted into the centres, choosing whether to install the travel lock on the rightmost barrel shroud before you install it on the hull. The brass barrels have plenty of detail on them, with a milled muzzle brake at the tips, depicting the side exits, although these don’t extend into the barrel, but are recessed to give the impression that they do. A little black paint will improve that impression once the model is painted. Markings There are two markings options included on the decal sheet, both of which are possibly fictional, although as at least one of the pre-production examples saw combat, one or more could be real. From the box you can build one of the following: The decals are supplied on a tiny sheet, with just four Balkenkreuz provided, one pair in white, the others in black and white. Both are well-printed and suitable for the task, but don’t forget to apply them before any weathering, so they look as grimy as the paint work. Conclusion This is an interesting and unusual variant of the Panzer IV, with plenty of detail and a couple of fun camouflage schemes. You probably can’t tell from the side profiles, but the colourful option looks like a Catherine wheel from above. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  7. IJA 28cm Howitzer Russo-Japanese War 1905 (BT-030) 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys This heavy howitzer was originally developed by the British Armstrong company just before the turn of the 20th century, who manufactured them via their Italian subsidiary, who themselves were in the process of establishing a manufacturing base in Japan, based in Osaka. The Japanese army ordered 220 of these heavy weapons for coastal defence purposes, mounted at strategic points of their islands on turntables to allow them maximum traverse for full coverage of the seas they overlooked. During the war with Russia, the Japanese army attempted to overrun Port Arthur, which had been in Russian hands for several years, and had been strongly fortified. This led to horrific casualties for the Japanese during their early attacks, and they made an urgent request for heavy weapons to assist with the destruction of the fortifications in an effort to reduce future casualties as the battle progressed. These howitzers were used as replacements for the initial batch that were lost when their transport ship was sunk by the Russians. They proved deadly in operation, although installation was a substantial task due to the weight of the gun and its massive turntable, which had to be installed on firm footings to prevent movement whilst firing that would lead to accuracy issues. They were used extensively in the destruction of the Russian fleet that was anchored at Port Arthur, after the Japanese took over a hill fort that overlooked the bay, allowing the howitzers to fire freely on their ships with little danger to themselves. Fitted with an integral crane to hoist the 217kg rounds into position ready to be fed into the breech, these 11” diameter rounds could wreak havoc once they had a target’s range dialled in. In total, six ships were sunk, and two others heavily damaged before they could get out of range, and after the port was captured, the Japanese navy refloated many of them, repairing and recommissioning them under new names in the Japanese Navy. Having fired over 16,500 rounds during the battle, the howitzers continued in use during the interwar period, and as WWII came to a close, they were pressed into service again as coastal defence guns in 1945 when they feared an impending Allied invasion of their home island, which was thankfully averted, but led to the dawn of the nuclear age. The Kit This is a new tooling from Border Models of a gun that played an important part in Japanese expansionism in the early part of the 20th century, but was almost unknown in the West. The kit arrives in a sturdy top-opening box with a painting of the subject matter in action on the front, and inside are three sprues of grey styrene, a 7”/18cm length of 0.5mm/0.018” braided metal wire that hides in the inside corners of the box (not pictured), and an instruction booklet that has a short history and four interesting photos of the guns from the time in the front, including one of the installation of the base that gives an idea of how much work was involved in emplacing them. Detail is good, depicting the rugged thickness and size of the metal structures, bolt-heads and screws, including a realistic depiction of perforated tread-plate on the various flat surfaces where the crew would stand. Construction begins with the gun carriage, which is formed from two tapering beams that have bolted inserts added to recesses on the interior faces, and it should be noted that there are a few ejector-pin marks here, which you may wish to deal with if you think they will be seen. A pair of large diameter bolts with brackets are inserted into the shallow ends, and they are joined together by a rectangular piece of tread-plate, and three further cross-members that locate on raised brackets on the inside face. Four pivot support wheels on rotating yokes and their mounts are fitted to the outer surfaces of the carriage on mounting plates, fixing two sprung adjusters to the top of the beams, a foldable chute on the lower lip of the right beam, and a stepped plate covering the deep end of the carriage. Adjustment handles with gears are glued to the front of the carriage, with a pseudo-colour scrap diagram showing their correct location, leaving the gears unglued so they may rotate. A tread-plated crew platform has curved hand-rails and a pair of steps added, fitting a stepped cylindrical part into a hole in the floor, which is then mounted over the gears from the previous step. The breech block is a complex part that has the threaded breech screw surfaces slotted into the core part, fitting the mushroom head to the inner end before it is inserted into the ring, which has matching threaded inserts added before they are joined, twisting the block to secure it in place without glue, ensuring that the screw surfaces have had time to cure. The unlocking and pull handles are fixed to the block, adding a pivoting 6-part shell support to the ring, then inserting the inner barrel into the hollow front of the breech ring, and sliding a circular section that carries the trunnion pins then the two-part gun sleeve over the inner barrel, which has rifling moulded-in, as per the real gun. The trunnions are spaced apart by fitting four cross-members followed by two layers of perforated tread-plate in the rear, and a heavily riveted base plate underneath that locks all the parts into position, so would be best done before the glue cures, but after it has a grip on the parts. A recuperator tube is made from a two-part outer shell, inner piston with two end caps, fitting it under the trunnion assembly along with three other small parts, then the growing assembly is turned upright so that two five-part spindles with gears can be inserted into the front of the trunnion assembly, taking care not to cement them in position, as this kit is intended to be operable as far as rotation and elevation of the gun is concerned. The barrel is lowered into the trunnion block on its two pins without glue, locking it into position with the outer faces of the trunnions, adding two washers on the lower edge of each side, one with a lever, plus a few other small parts including the elevation indicator, and a large adjustment wheel that bears a resemblance to a ship’s wheel, one for each side, made from three crisply moulded parts, which if glued carefully will allow you to change the elevation of the gun. Two shells are made from a slide-moulded outer with a rear insert, although there is a spare on the sprue, one of which is glued to a trolley that has a pair of small wheels attached to the sides to ease movement of the heavy ordnance around the gun. At this stage the gun and its trunnions are mated with the shallow end of the carriage on two large tabs, making the shell crane from two halves that have a length of the included braided wire threaded through the centre and wrapped around the pulleys at the top, adding a hook to the business end, and wrapping any excess around the bobbin at the bottom of the assembly. Two gears of differing sizes end in a winder that is pinned through the smaller cog, and has a small guide castor fitted to the bottom to transfer its weigh to the emplacement. It is glued to the left side of the carriage on a T-shaped tab, fitting a cross-member over the front, at which point you can put the glue away, as the gun is lowered over its base without cement so that it can rotate freely. As to what you do with the other shell and the spare, that’s entirely up to you, but the instructions show one hanging from the crane, so keep a little wire to one side to facilitate that if you wish, although the drawings on the rear of the instructions show a shell suspended by chain. Markings Camouflage wasn’t important for a howitzer, which generally fired from behind the front-line, so they were painted overall satin black, with just the driving band of the shells and the elevation indicator painted brass, although driving bands are usually copper, as it is more malleable than brass, so deforms and seals better. From the box you can build the following: There are no decals included, as there seem to be no markings on most photos, but on others there is some Japanese writing visible on the crane and a few other places. Check your references if you feel like replicating one of those examples. Conclusion Quite a monster of a gun that is well-depicted, and just begs to be built on a base with some terrain, and possibly some artillery crew dotted around in pre-WWI uniforms. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  8. German Bergepanzer Hetzer Late with 2cm Flak (35105) 1:35 Thunder Model via Albion Alloys The Hetzer was a highly successful tank destroyer that was based upon the chassis of 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 re-targeting at times. The Bergepanzer variant was fitted with a smooth glacis with no gun port or mantlet, and it had an open top for ease of ingress by the crew, who would be in and out connecting 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 schürzen side-skirts that helped dissipate the blast of shaped charges that were in common use by the Allies in the later part of the war. Prototypes of other uses were designed as the war progressed towards its conclusion, which included an mobile anti-aircraft vehicle with a 20mm Flak mount in the centre of the open hull, leaving space for the crew to work around it when not in use. It was an open-topped vehicle that would need a canvas tarpaulin during foul weather to keep it from filling up with water and making the crew extremely uncomfortable at the very least. As far as records go, only one example was made before the end of the war, as the capability of German industry was eroded by almost continuous bombing day and night, worsened in due course by the steady advance of the Allies through their industrial heartland. 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 six boxings including this one, which was preceded by a Limited Special edition boxing that included some upgrades such as a full engine compartment at the rear of the vehicle and additional PE. The kit arrives in a top-opening box with a captive lid, opening to reveal eleven sprues of grey styrene in various shades, plus a ziplock bag that contains three frets of Photo-Etch (PE), a length of brass wire and braided cord. Two versions of the same decal sheet are also found in the Ziploc bag, one with an elfbein (light buff) background to the instruments, the other with a clear carrier film only. 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. The instruction booklet that comes with the kit is suitable for both the special edition that came with a sprue of engine parts and extra PE, so for this standard edition you start on step 5. Due to the open top, quite a lot of the interior will be on display, so it begins with the addition of dozens of tiny rivets around the inside of the hull around the final drive housing, followed by the suspension units with their large wheels plus various suspension parts that are added all around before the link-and-length track is built up around the road wheels and drive sprocket. The rear bulkhead is slotted into the hull beforehand along with the optional towing cables, lifting eyes and towing hooks. The transmission box is constructed over several steps from many parts before it is dropped into the front of the hull, adding some control-rods made from the wire that is supplied with the kit. The driver's seat is made from four parts that includes a back-rest, and this is positioned with PE pedals and controls that are glued into the left side in front of the seat, adding a large PE lever to the left side of the transmission tunnel. The firewall bulkhead is detailed with PE and styrene parts, and is fitted to separate the empty engine bay from the crew compartment, inserting a drive-shaft between it and the end of the transmission as it is slotted in. Before the upper hull can be fitted, the 20mm Flak gun and its mount must be prepared and built, with painting almost a necessity before you close the hull around it. The barrel and breech are moulded as one, fitting a conical muzzle brake and the top detail of the breech to complete the assembly, then the mount is made over several steps with PE parts for the elevation mechanism, which includes mating the inner portion without the use of glue, and joining it to the circular base-plate before the ancillary parts, including the sighting mechanism and seats, can be added. A small splinter-shield is mounted on an L-shaped bracket in front of the gunner’s position on the right, with a ring-and-bead and backup tubular sight fixed to the breech near the gunner’s eyeline. The completed gun is then mounted on the rotation ring, held in position by a large circular platter that glues to the underside of the gun’s ring platform, gluing the outer edge of the ring to the base, which is made from two parts set one on top of the other. The upper hull is open at the top as already mentioned, and the inner lip is festooned with ammo boxes on PE brackets and in cages on both sides and at the front, using styrene for the ammo cans themselves. Several brackets are added to the exterior lip of the hull, including a vision slit for the driver and the convoy light over the left mudguard, the brackets destined to hold extra equipment later in the build. The flak assembly is mounted in the centre of the lower hull, placing another PE rack with two styrene ammo cans where a bow gunner’s seat would have been on the right, after which the upper hull can be lowered over the gun, taking care not to damage the barrel or other delicate parts of the gun as you do. An exhaust, jack and winch assembly are made up, then the panel for the engine deck at the rear is built, which is constructed by adding an inverted T-shape with PE grille in the centre, and fitting the two access panels at the top left and right, the winch cable exiting from the right side. Various PE brackets are used, and the rear fenders are fixed to the hull sides, mounting the Pioneer tools and the bergepanzer specific tools over the slab sides, including the crane arm that is collapsed for transport on the left side with the diagram over the page, and fixing a length of spare track along the top on a PE bracket at the back of the roof with separate bolt heads, plus a curved PE bracket to support the exhaust assembly. Markings There are two markings options in the box, but as neither have any stencils applied, there are just a few decals that includes two crosses and instrument dial decals with a clear background and another with a tan background that is intended to mimic Elfbein. Although no details are given about the location and operation of the vehicles, probably because it is unlikely to have seen service, from the box you can build one of the following: The decals are printed in duplicate with the alternative background to the dials on one sheet, giving you four crosses in total. They are small and printed well enough to be useful for the task at hand. Conclusion This is a nicely detailed model of an unusual Hetzer, with a pair of nicely printed late-war schemes and some useful PE parts, brass wire, and cord to round out the package. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  9. Morris Bofors C9/B Late (35209) 1:35 Thunder Model via Albion Alloys During WWII, after crews of light artillery in transport began firing their weapons from the back of the trucks they were carried upon to save dismounting and increase the speed that they could relocate, the British Military commissioned Morris Motors to create a new mounted weapon that would utilise the chassis of the successful C8 Quad Tractor that was used to tow heavy artillery throughout the war. The official specification was Carrier, SP, 4x4, 40 mm AA, but it was more commonly known as the Morris C9/B, which shared the engine bay cowling up to the windscreen, but differed massively aft of there, mounting a Bofors 40 mm L/60 gun, which was the pre-eminent 40mm auto-cannon of the day, originating in Sweden, but proliferated around the world by the end of WWII. Its 40mm shells were effective up to 23,500 feet in the anti-aircraft role, and it could fire over 120 rounds a minute if it could be fed with ammunition quickly enough. The type was made in large numbers, serving in Europe in large quantities, and it was especially useful in North Africa where its tracer rounds were also inventively used to designate tracks across minefields and indicate lines of attack where it was unclear. The were also unloaded early on D-Day, providing ad hoc air defence that could be deployed and moved quickly without the delays inherent with unlimbering towed artillery. It was also used to provide fire support during the Allied ground advances through France and into Germany, where its 40mm rounds would devastate all but the most heavily armoured targets, especially personnel and softskin vehicles, which would be shredded by the weight of fire. Later in the war they were used on the south coast of Britain as part of the defence against the new terror weapon the V-1 flying bomb that the Nazis were launching from France as an overly-optimistic last-ditch attempt to turn the tide of war. Of course, once they were pushed back from the coastal areas, the V-1 threat to London and the surrounding area evaporated, to be replaced briefly by the ballistic V-2, against which there was no defence. The Kit This is a new tooling from Thunder Model, filling another gap in the WWII British armour and softskin range, and it’s excellent news. The kit arrives in a shallow top-opening box with a captive lid, and inside are eleven sprues of grey styrene, a small clear sprue, a Ziploc bag of five resin tyres, another bag with three sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass and a sheet of decals inside, a length of copper wire, the instruction booklet with errata sheet tucked inside, and a high-gloss colour sheet with painting and marking profiles on both sides, created for them by AK Interactive, using their acrylic and RealColor paint codes to assist with finishing your model. Detail is excellent, which includes the depiction of the engine and chassis, and with the addition of the PE and the resin tyres, it’s unlikely you’ll need to splash out on aftermarket unless you’re in need of extra detail above-and-beyond usual levels. Construction begins with the engine, which is a highly detailed assembly of over thirty parts, including PE and styrene to recreate the block, gearbox, and the transmission. The completed motor is trapped between two sub-frame rails, with a cross-brace at the front, and an asymmetric section at the narrower rear end. The main chassis rails are double-thickness to avoid sink-marks, and there are three substantial cross-members toward the rear, and another small frame at the front that is joined by more cross-members, then it accepts the engine sub-frame so that the front axle can be built under the engine, mounted beneath the rails on leaf-springs, the axle itself highly detailed, utilising some parts without glue that give it the possibility of workable wheels. The rear axle is similarly made, and all axles have large drum-assemblies at each end in preparation for the tyres that will be fitted at the end. The axles are held against the leaf springs by strong U-bolts, which are made from lengths of wire that is included in the kit. Many detail parts are fitted on and around the axles to stabilise the suspension and link the steering to the front axle, including a long drive-shaft that sends power to the rear axle, with a short one providing power to the front axle on this 4x4 vehicle. The exhaust is a long slender part with a narrow muffler that is threaded under the chassis to the engine manifold, and exits at the left side of the vehicle around the midpoint. The next step is to create the open cab, which is made from angular panels, starting with the lower parts of the structure, which has stowage boxes under the three seats, that attach via two C-shaped tubular frames underneath, the rear leg supporting the backrest, which can be folded flat. A fairing is made over the rear of the engine, and the simple dashboard has six decals applied to represent the white dial legends and stencils on the transmission hump. More details are added, including foot pedals, levers, a hose on the engine, and a substantial cross-member that mates with the rear of the cab floor, after which the steering column and wheel are fixed in the cab, and an airbox with linked hose that is surprisingly located within the cab. The space in front of the cab shows the front of the engine at this stage, which has the radiator, fairing, feeder hoses and radiator cap, without gluing one lower side of the radiator to the chassis. A PE cooling fan has its blades twisted to an angle before it is installed at the front of the engine and behind the radiator. The cowling is a three-part affair, and the right-hand section needs a groove filed on one side so that the steering wheel clears it sufficiently, topping off the bonnet with a single part, which prevents modelling the vehicle with the engine exposed unless you either make new cowling parts, wait for a PE set with cowling parts, or carry out surgery on the kit parts. The Bofors installation is attached to the main chassis on its own sub-frame, which is made first, with the turret ring in the centre of a long assembly that straddles the main chassis. It is joined by a pair of stepped outriggers to the rear, and the completed main area of the floor is joined to the chassis, adding a set of pioneer tools on a lower panel, held in position by a pair of straps that are secured by large wingnuts. The rear “bumper” is also a support for the ends of the raised outriggers, and is completed over two steps, after which you find out why it needed to be strong, as there are ten large crates of ammo built from six parts each, plus PE shackles and carry-handles. They are stacked up on the outriggers, and can be locked down by fitting brackets that latch on the handles, snugged down by more wingnuts, as shown in a scrap diagram. Stowage boxes are fitted under the rear of the outriggers, with separate door parts, and a further two smaller ammo crates are supplied to fill any empty space on the ends of the outriggers. Two fuel tanks are made from four parts each, and are suspended from the sides of the chassis on PE brackets that are folded up from straight straps, with a diagram showing their shape from the front. You’ll need to bend four of these, so it may be worthwhile creating a styrene jig from sheet or strip to help you fold them to a uniform shape. They are each protected at the sides by a box with an open bottom, which are folded up from two L-shaped PE parts, covering the filler hatch with a PE lid that is folded into a shallow box, again with no bottom. Two more stowage boxes are fitted under the back of the front arches, and these too have separate doors. To keep the truck stable when firing, a set of support cones are deployed, but in transport mode, they are stowed on the front arches. They are built from a bucket-shaped part that is mounted on a three-layer circular dish, with a fold-down bracket holding them in position from front and rear, plus a pair of PE stops at the front of the arch to prevent them slipping off. The headlamps with clear lenses are attached either side of the radiator on the bumper, plugging into holes in the upper surface. The support cone mechanisms are made from two scissor-links that are chosen depending on whether you plan to pose your model in firing position or in transit. The same rods link the scissors together, with a pivot at the bottom that holds a circular dished plate in position for transit, adding the cone and foot if modelling them deployed. They fix to both sides of the chassis in front of the rear wheels, with the assembly pivoted to the side for transport to decrease the vehicle's width. Another support assembly is fixed under the rear of the load bed, and the last support fits in the centre of the front cross-brace in front of the radiator. The 40mm Bofors is surrounded by a tread-plated and sectioned floor, which is mounted on a tubular frame that rotates with the gun. The base is fixed to the frame first, adding the angular plates around the frame, then fitting the base for the gun in the centre along with some other small details and controls. The core of the gun breech is built from eight parts, then sandwiched between the two outer surfaces, adding an impressive styrene spring to the front that has been created with the use of slide-moulding, but take care removing it from the sprue, as a poor set of nippers could fracture the part. See my recent review of the GodHand Ultimate Nippers if you’re concerned. More detail parts are fitted to the breech and to the sides of the elevation track, gluing the barrel into the front of the breech, then adding recuperators under it, linked to the substantial trunnions, taking note of where not to glue so that the gun can pivot once completed. The assembly is then mated to the floor, and detailing proceeds, adding equipment, mechanisms, and controls to the weapon, plus a pair of two-layer splinter shields fixed to the front of the gun via dog-leg brackets, adding single-layer screens at an angle to the sides. Sighting equipment on a triangular frame is installed above the breech, and in slots in the splinter shield, giving the gunner a bicycle-style seat with shallow backrest, mounted to the left side of the floor, and filling the W-shaped PE rack (a template is found nearby) next to the gun’s shell feeder with a clip of 40mm rounds inserted. The PE ring-sights are fitted to the sighting mechanisms in tandem on both sides of the splinter shield, with a pair of small PE wingnuts giving the impression they’re holding them in place instead of super glue. Two styles of winding handles are supplied for the left side of the gun, finishing work on the weapon for a while. A spare barrel is carried on a rack that is fitted to the right side of the load area, moulded as a barrel with integral spring and separate muzzle that is attached to the rack by being fed through two brackets that are glued to the rack, and detailed with two tiny C-shaped handles near the centre. It mates to the outrigger on two tabs, and then there is a page of steps filled with small parts added around the vehicle, including PE mudflaps, various PE brackets and caps, a pair of rectangular tools on a PE shackle, and a short section of floor at the rear of the vehicle is also made from a sheet of PE. More PE is used in creating a fuel can storage rack, which holds three styrene cans with PE handles and separate fillers, fitting into the lower centre section of the chassis on the left at the same time as the gun mount is lowered into position. The flared muzzle of the gun’s barrel is left off until now, although if you plan to use the travel lock, you will need to leave it off until the barrel is slipped through the detailed part that pivots into a recess in the back of the floor when not in use. A protective cover is folded up from four PE parts and placed over the ammo feed if the gun is not in use, then almost as an afterthought the wheels are fitted to the finished model. The wheels are worthy of note, as Thunder Model have gone to the trouble of supplying resin wheels from the outset, which only need a little sanding to remove the remains of the link to the casting block on the lower side of the tread, offering much better detail than can usually be achieved with styrene parts that are often made from two halves, or a lamination of several layers for detailed tread patterns. Each wheel has a two-part hub cap added in the centre, and the spare tyre is shown hovering in space on the little diagram on the back inside page, which is why it feels like an afterthought. As to the location for the tyre, most pictures don’t show it anywhere on the vehicle, but several photos and some of the early renders of the kit when it was announced shows the tyre lodged between the engine cowling and the left front wheel arch. It is likely it would need a strap to hold it in position, which you could fabricate from tape, some left-over PE or lead foil. If you’d rather not have to adjust the instructions provided to correct it according to the errata sheet included in the instructions, you can download the revised instructions here. Markings There are two decal options on the small sheet, both of which have camouflage schemes applied to them. From the box you can build one of the following: 1st Infantry Division, Italy 1944 119th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, 15th Scottish Infantry Division, North West Europe, 1944 Decals are printed anonymously, and have good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion This is a welcome addition to the range of British WWII AFV subjects available, and it should build into a well-detailed, impressive replica of this highly effective mobile anti-aircraft system that kept enemy attacks from reaching strategic areas under Allied control. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  10. US Tug Clarktor 6, MILL-33 Heavy Duty Airfield Tractor (32001) 1:32 Thunder Model via Albion Alloys Having its origins at the beginning of the 20th century, and formalising the company name at the end of WWI, the Clark Materials Handling Company was formed around and named after their chief designer Eugene Clark. They were innovators in materials handling, creating one of the first transport tractors that utilised the internal combustion engine. They produced the first towing tractor, and in the mid-20s created forklift trucks by modifying one of their tructractors, also adapting them to another use, generating another portmanteau – the Clarktor, which was also first manufactured in the mid-20s. By the time of WWII, the Clarktor-5 was in common usage with the Allies including the British, and when the Clarktor-6 was released in 1942 it too entered service with Allied forces. Powered by a 3.8L flat 6-cylinder Chrysler engine that output 62hp, it could travel at a maximum speed of 15mph, which was perfectly sufficient for towing aircraft, although getting to and from the next towing job must have been a little tedious. The RAF and FAA used over 1,500 Clarktor-6s under Lend/Lease, using its power and traction to tow any ordnance that the British forces launched, dropped or fired, and it could also pull aircraft up to 90 tons, which covered everything up to a fully loaded heavy bomber. The Mill-33 was a lighter-weight variant with single rear wheels, and it carried on in service until well after WWII, when it was superseded by more modern types, although many of the Clarktors were bought and cared for by civilians, either used by small airstrips, maintained as historic exhibits or by re-enactors. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling in 1:32 that will allow modellers in this scale to add them to dioramas or attached to an aircraft in a towing situation. The kit arrives in a flat top-opening box with a captive lid, and inside are three sprues of grey styrene, four flexible black tyres, two frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a clear sprue, a small decal sheet, instruction booklet printed in greyscale on glossy paper, plus two high-gloss sheets with painting and decaling instructions on both sides. This is a full-detail kit with an engine under the hood and chassis depicted, with PE details that improve the look and give a more realistic scale to some of the most important aspects of the model, such as the perforated bumper/guard at the front. Construction begins with the motor, building the block from seven parts that includes the fan belt, adding intake and exhaust manifolds, plus styrene and PE ancillaries and a six-part transmission box, the completed assembly trapped between the two short chassis rails along with a horseshoe bulkhead in front of the driver, and a mounting plate with PE bracket under the front of the engine. The radiator and feeder hoses are applied to the front of the rails, using the cowling temporarily without glue to test-fit and adjust the fitment of the two ends of the engine compartment. The leaf-springs are fitted under the engine bay, with an axle straddling them, and two pivoting stub-axles joined by a linkage, plus a few detail parts under the engine. At this point the steering column is fitted, but it is shown in already in place in the instructions, and the detail parts are being added to the bottom end, so take care with assembly here. A steering arm with pivot are attached between the left chassis rail and the axles, then it’s time to build up the rear axle with differential bulge from two parts, fitting it above the leaf-springs with bolted retention plates underneath, and the shortest drive-shaft I have ever seen, comprising four parts. A pair of levers are installed on the transmission box, with more detail parts on the left chassis rail, fixing the radiator feeder reservoir to the driver’s bulkhead and curving a PE heat shield around it so that the driver doesn’t burn his knees. There is a small diagram showing the location of stencil and dial decals on the bulkhead, totalling five in all, although they’re best left off until painting is done. The floor of the vehicle is placed between the rails, with an end-plate at the rear, covering it with a tread-plated PE skin that is bent up at the front to create the kickboard, through which the two pedals are threaded, with a scrap diagram showing the ledge on the bulkhead where the kickboard should locate. The exhaust consists of a downpipe that leads to a two-part muffler under the chassis, with an exhaust pipe leading out of the rear, angled down at the end. The driver’s floor is bracketed by the two rear arches, and a seat base is made into a box from five parts and is glued to the PE floor with super glue, fixing a plate to the rear of the chassis that holds the towing hitch with pin. The driver’s seat is made from cushion and backrest that is glued to the top of the base, adding a PE fairing around the steering column, and a wheel at the top, plus a PE four-bladed fan at the front of the engine. Another PE insert fills most of the gap around the wheel and pedals to prevent debris from jamming the pedals. The front and rear wheels are made differently, the front wheels consisting of smaller tyres and two hub halves. The rear wheels are a little larger and more complex, making the inner hub from three parts, and trapping the tyre between it and the front hub half. Each wheel fits in an arch, one per corner. The protective front bumper extends up over the radiator, and has perforations to let the cooling air flow through, so it is supplied as a PE part that is bent to an angle on both sides, has stiffener plates added to the sides, and two mounting brackets on the flat front portion, which attach directly to the tops of the chassis rails, using super glue (CA) again, and adding two more L-shaped brackets from beneath to the inner edges of the rails. The last task is to create the engine cowling, starting with the base rails, which are folded to an L-profile and mounted on top of the chassis rails, adding the front arches from PE parts that are bent and folded to a template that is printed at 1:1 in a diagram below with measurements, a job that is repeated on the opposite arch. The top cowling has a pair of headlights with clear lenses attached to the front edge on PE brackets, and a PE badge near the driver’s end. The side cowlings are flat PE parts with two mesh vents sections in the middle, and these are detailed with a grab-handle at the top and two clasps at the bottom. There are question-marks printed next to these last steps, although it’s not entirely clear to this modeller which parts are optional, so check your references to be sure. Markings There are four decal options on the small sheet, and each option has a page of profiles that have been penned by AK Interactive, so uses paint codes from their acrylic and RealColor ranges. The operators and period of service aren’t given on the profiles, but some clues can be found in the serials, one of which says “RAF”. From the box you can build one of the following: The decals are printed anonymously, and are printed only in black or white, so registration isn’t an issue. The only multi-coloured decal is a lamination of black under a white stencil, but you may want to paint the plate black during detail painting to save having to wait for the extra layer of decal to set. Conclusion Great news for 1:32 modellers, who can add a tractor to their latest model without resorting to resin, and with just a little bit of basic PE wrangling to create realism where it matters on the kit. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  11. Republic P-47C Thunderbolt with Ferry Tank (DW48054) 1:48 Dora Wings imported in the UK by Albion Alloys The Thunderbolt was developed from a series of less-than-successful earlier designs that saw Seversky aviation change to Republic, and the project designation from P-35, to P-43 and P-44, each with its own aggressive sounding name. After a realisation that their work so far wasn't going to cut it in the skies over war-torn Europe, they went back to the drawing board and produced the P-47A that was larger, heavier and sported the new Pratt & Whitney R-2800 18-cylinder radial that would also power the B-26 Marauder, P-61 Black Widow and F4U Corsair. With it they added eight .50cal Browning machine guns aligned along the axis of flight in the wing leading edge. The P-47A was still a smaller aircraft, and was initially ordered without military equipment to allow faster completion, but it was considered inferior to the competition then available, so an extensive re-design was ordered that resulted in the much large P-47B, firing up to 100 rounds per second from the eight .50cal wing guns, and with a maximum speed of over 400mph, leaving just the fuel load slightly short of requirements. It first flew mid-1941, and despite being a heavy-weight, its performance was still excellent, and the crash of the prototype didn’t affect the order for over 700 airframes, which were fitted with a more powerful version of the R-2800 and a sliding canopy that made ingress and egress more streamlined, particularly when bailing out of a doomed aircraft. Minor re-designs to early production airframes resulted in a change to the P-47C, which meant that fewer than 200 Bs were made, the C benefitting from improved radio, oxygen systems, and a metal rudder to prevent flutter that had been affecting control at certain points in the performance envelope. A quick way to spot a C is the vertical radio mast behind the canopy, which was changed from forward raked on the C and later variants. The production from a new factory that had been opened to keep up with demand led to the use of the D suffix, and they were initially identical to the C, but the cowling flaps were amended later, making it easier to differentiate. Of course, the later bubble-canopy P-47s were far easier to tell apart from earlier marks, and constant improvement in reliability, performance and fuel load was added along the way. Its weight, firepower and seemingly unstoppable character led to the nickname ‘Juggernaut’, which was inevitably shortened to ‘Jug’ and led to many, many off-colour jokes during and after the war. Jokes that are still soldiering on to this day, despite being older than many of us. The Kit This is a minor variant on a brand-new P-47B tooling from Dora Wings, following on from their P-43 Lancer that we reviewed earlier, which bears more than a passing family resemblance. The kit arrives in a petite top-opening box, with an attractive painting of the subject on the front that has a gloss varnished finish over the aircraft itself and the Dora logo, adding an air of class to the package that is replicated within. Opening the box reveals a clear re-sealable bag that contains eight sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a set of resin wheels in a Ziploc bag, and the instruction booklet in portrait A5 with colour throughout that has two decal sheets and vinyl canopy masks slipped inside. We have been reviewing Dora’s output for several years now, and every kit they release is an improvement over the last, with this one no exception, which is particularly impressive given the ongoing situation in Ukraine. The surface detail is excellent, with fine engraved panel lines, raised and engraved features, a full rendition of the massive power-plant, detailed cockpit and gear bays, and posable flying surfaces. Construction begins with the instrument panel, which has three decals applied to the front, and a pair of rudder pedals with separate actuators attached behind it. The seat has a PE diagonal in the rear of the pan, and has PE four-point belts added to it, plus a mounting frame at the back, also creating a throttle quadrant with PE gate and levers ready for installation in the cockpit later. The cockpit floor is a flat part that is covered in ribbing and other details, adding PE and styrene levers before putting in the rear bulkhead on a keyed tab, then fitting the seat assembly and control column into the centre of the floor. The two sidewalls are detailed with styrene radio and document box, plus the throttle box and PE levers, with a detailed painting guide that continues throughout the build. The sidewalls trap the instrument panel and rudders near the front of the cockpit, with a semi-circular bulkhead closing off the view forward. Attention then shifts to the engine, starting with the reduction bell-housing, which has a horse-shoe wiring harness added to the rear, magnetos and other equipment added to the top of the housing, then fitting a ring of push-rods behind it before fixing the two banks of cylinders behind, both with fine cooling vane detail engraved around the sides, and in order to reduce the thickness of the styrene the rear faces are hollow where they won’t be seen, which is eminently preferable to sink marks in the fine details. This is a trick they have been using for a while, including the Vultee Vengeance I built last year. The cowling is supplied in two halves, with a multi-part insert making up the ducting in the lower portion, locked in place by the one-part cowling lip with its distinctive horse-collar frontal profile. The newly-tooled fuselage is closed around the cockpit, adding a spar through the wing root mouldings, intake backing surfaces in the sides of the fuselage, and the detailed turbosupercharger insert under the tail. A tiny rib is also added to the front of the nose gear bay during closure. The rudder is made from two parts, adding thickness to the lower section, then the elevator fins are each assembled from two parts in preparation for installation in the tail. Before this, the wings are made, starting with the upper skin, which has the main gear bay roof detail moulded-in that is augmented by fitting the bay walls around the edges, and several ribs running aft, plus a retraction jack in the outer section. Before closing the wings, the four .50cal machine gun barrels are inserted into the leading edge on a carrier that sits inside the wing on a groove to ensure they project the correct distance and at the right angle to the wing. The completed wings are slid over the spars and glued in place, adding a smooth central insert in the belly, the ailerons, posing them deflected if you wish, fitting leading-edge inserts around the guns, and a choice of deflectors over the outlets on the fuselage sides. Two small triangular PE webs are glued to the rear of the bays that should be done before painting the bays, a landing light is inserted into a hole in the lower wing, and twin cowling flaps are fixed into position in front of the exhausts. The fairing over the turbosupercharger is then fitted, the detail remaining visible thanks to the outlet at the rear, which you could thin a little more for additional realism. More sub-assemblies are created next, starting with the four-bladed Curtiss Electric prop, which is cleverly made from two almost identical parts with half the boss moulded into each blade pair. The two-part spinner and prop-shaft are slipped through the hole in the centre, and a PE spacer ring is glued to the rear before it is put aside, although it might be as well to paint it and apply the stencil decals to the blades at this stage. The cockpit coaming is vaguely triangular and has the gunsight with reflecting glass fixed to the slot in the rear along with a backup PE ring sight, then the wheels are built using resin tyres that have no central seams, plus styrene hubs each side, while the resin tail wheel is fitted later in the build. The ferry tank is moulded as a two-part dome that conforms to the underside of the new fuselage. The main gear legs are each single parts to which the two-part scissor-links are fitted, adding the lower captive bay door first, then the narrow upper section that has PE links, and a long strut joining the top. The tail wheel strut is in two halves with a separate yoke and two-part actuator that extends deep into the bay for insertion later. The engine is mated to the front of the fuselage via the bulkhead that has a raised centre portion to achieve the correct position so that it will be properly visible through the cowling that is placed over it. The elevator panels and cowling are installed, fitting the wingtip lights and a PE trim-tab to the rear of the starboard aileron, then installing the prop, the rudder that traps the single part elevators in position, the vertical mast behind the cockpit and the pitot in the port wingtip. The canopy is supplied in two parts, the windscreen forming a separate part that has a rear-view mirror fitted to the top, then is joined by the main canopy, which sadly can’t be posed open because it is moulded integrally to the fixed rear sections. Underneath, the main gear is added with its resin wheels and inner bay doors plus actuators, the tail wheel strut is inserted into its bay and has the resin wheel slipped over the axle, gluing bay doors to the sides with PE actuators. Markings There are four decal options on the sheet, all wearing the same olive drab over grey schemes with wavy demarcations, but with decals and bright nose art that help to individualise them. From the box you can build one of the following: P-47C-5-RE (41-6347) 56FG 62FS, Cpt. Eugene W O’Neil, May 1943 P-47C-5-RE (41-6539) 4FG 336FS, Cpt. Kenneth D ‘Black Snake Pete’ Peterson, April 1943 P-47C-5-RE (41-6330) 56FG 62FS, Col. Hubert Zemke, April 1943 P-47C-2-RE (41-6192) 4FG 336FS, Woodrow W Sooman Debden, May 1943 Decals are by Decograph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin satin carrier film cut close to the printed areas. There is a full painting table on the rear page that gives the colour names, plus Mr Hobby, Tamiya, AMMO, Hataka and LifeColor paint codes to assist you with painting your model. Conclusion Dora Wings make interesting and detailed models that are a little out of the ordinary, and while the P-47 is hardly unusual, this and the -B variant were very short-lived, so have their own rarity value and appeal. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of Distributed in the UK and Available in all good model shops by
  12. Fairchild AU-23 Peacemaker (DW72033) 1:72 Dora Wings via Albion Alloys Toward the end of the Vietnam War the US instigated a project to provide the South Vietnamese Air Force with a cheap, light combat aircraft that could provide fire support for troops in engagement as well as take on missions on its own, whilst being able to operate from short, poorly prepared runways in the middle of nowhere. At the time Fairchild were license-producing the Pilatus Porter, and it was one of the contenders, along with another very similar-looking aircraft, the Helio Stallion. Both types were utilised after conversion to include external stores mounting points, including four wing pylons and a sideways firing 3-barrelled version of the 20mm Vulcan cannon. They were converted in small numbers as the AU-23 Peacemaker, powered by a 625hp turbo prop engine, and went into service to prove their worth in combat evaluation, flown by US and Vietnamese personnel in roughly equal measure. They were found to be lacking in power, leaving them vulnerable to ground fire for longer, even once the heavy ordnance had been unloaded on the enemy, a tactic that is known as a zoom climb. The fact the aircraft had no armour to protect the crew or vital systems was also a problem, and anything larger than rifle-fire could cause serious damage or take down the aircraft. The evaluation also exposed weakness in the aircraft’s structure that was possibly due to its new equipment or the more aggressive flying that comes with combat, and that caused groundings and the eventual decision to withdraw them from service, as they were not suitable for combat without extensive upgrades to all the systems and airframe strengthening. They were consigned to storage in Arizona for a period, after which they were sold to the Thai Air Force for border patrol and counter-insurgency operations where the likelihood of large calibre incoming fire and evasive manoeuvring was very slight. Some Pilatus built aircraft were assigned to Air America in the 1960s, the covert airline run and funded by the CIA, and they proved very useful getting into and out of short, poorly prepared and remote airstrips that were common in Vietnam and the surrounding countries at the time. One aircraft was later repainted in the blue and white livery of Air America to star in the film of the same name. The Kit Originally release under the BPK (Big Plane Kits) brand in 2017, the model had new parts added shortly after, then has appeared in a few boxings under BPK and Dora Wings badges with different decals. This new boxing marks the third outing as the Peacemaker, and arrives in a small top-opening box that contains four sprues of grey styrene, a clear sprue, a small bag of resin parts, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE), decal sheet and the A4 portrait form instruction booklet that is printed in colour, and has decal profiles on the rear pages. Detail is good, although a little flash is to be found on a few parts, but it’s nothing that won’t scrape off in a few seconds. One or two short lengths of the panel lines have also degraded over time, most noticeably on the wings, and will need to be rescribed if it concerns you. Construction begins with the interior, starting with the flat floor section that has three single rows of seats on each side, supported by two sets of PE frames on each side of the walkway. The six passenger seats are made up from the cushion and backrest parts, and the two pilots’ seats are different, having raised sides and a high back that implies the presence of protective armour. They are also made from a square base and the winged back part. The pilots have rudders and control columns inserted into holes in the floor, and a two-part instrument panel with decal depicting the dials is built and mounted on a tubular support with two arms that locate under each end of the flat portion of the panel and fix into the floor on two pins. To close the fuselage, the two halves are prepared by adding a grill into the cockpit sidewall area, side windows and portholes behind the side doorways. A bulkhead is inserted behind the floor, and a pair of pillars are placed inside the halves behind the cockpit but in front of the side doors, then the halves are joined together, adding the tail-wheel, two PE fairings and a PE mudguard with stirrup around the wheel. You may have noticed that the fuselage halves stop short of the nose, which is a separate assembly that is itself made from two halves, utilising the resin parts to create the intake and frontal cowling, plus the exhaust shroud and the pipe itself that slots into the rear of the groove down the port side of the assembly. This variant has a three-blade prop that has the tip of the spinner moulded-in, and is completed by adding the back-plate and mating that to the nose, although it’s probably best left until final assembly after painting. The completed nose is fitted in place later. The upper wing is full-span and incorporates a short section of the roof, adding wingtip fairings and the lower wing halves, which also have separate control surfaces with ribbing moulded-in. The elevators are also single span top and bottom, fitting oversized tips and the flying surface to the rear, then detailing it with PE actuator, two trim-tab actuators, and straps on the wingtips. The wing is installed over the cockpit area, adding a pair of PE rails to the inner end of the flaps, and a pair of PE strakes on each leading edge near the root. The clear double-doors are inserted into their cut-outs in the side of the fuselage, fitting the windscreen, which extends into the roof in a manner that’s called panoramic in the motoring world. Small PE parts are added to the doors, and a hatch is glued over the port side window of the cockpit, which is best done after painting, using Klear/Future to adhere it to the window after the masking is removed. The elevator isn’t shown being joined to the flat section of the rear fuselage, but is simply shown in place, having a pair of small appliqué parts added on either side of the fin, which is made of two halves, plus the rudder panel, plugging into the fuselage by the usual slot and tab method. It also has a PE actuator, and all the flying surfaces can be posed deflected if you wish, adding extra interest to your model. A C-shaped PE towel-rail antenna, plus four more styrene parts and a clear light are added to the roof, while the wings are covered in PE access panels near the spar line, most of which are circular, plus rings near the tips. Under the wings several more PE hinges and other small parts are fitted, adding a PE deflector and antenna in front of the tail-wheel at the same stage. The main wheels are made from two halves plus an outer hub, and a PE brake assembly on the rear, through which the axle will pass. The main struts have two tiny PE parts fitted, and are linked together by a shallow V-shaped support, which attaches to the underside of the fuselage on pegs, the struts locating on the sides. The wings are supported by a pair of diagonal struts that link the bottom of the fuselage to the bracket that is moulded into the lower wing, adding PE tie-down loops further outboard. While the model is inverted, a pair of foot steps are attached under the side doors, with another L-shaped part under the starboard double-door and a blade antenna to the rear of the engine cowling. There are weapons included on the sprues that are appropriate for some of the decal options, which includes the choice of a pair of two-part fuel tanks that fit on pylons under the wings, or rocket pods that are made from two halves plus end caps with details moulded-in, and a separate pylon adapter. A set of two flat pods are left on the sprues for use in other boxings. Markings There are four decal options on the small sheet, two in different camouflage schemes, two as Air America airframes, one of which was a film star. From the box you can build one of the following: (B/n 42093) Royal Thai Air Force, Bangkok, January 2018 (S/n N360F) of Air America at Bangkok Airport, late 1960s (B/n 238) Air America Livery, from the film of the same name (S/n 72-1307) at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida USA during 1972 Decals are by Dora Wings’ usual partner, DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion This kit should build up into a creditable replica of the Peacemaker, with a variety of operators depicted on the decal sheet. The inclusion of a movie star also appeals. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  13. Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Early (BT-016) 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys Designed as a replacement to the successful StuG III, the Jagdpanzer IV was based upon the chassis of the Panzer IV as the nomenclature implies. It went into production despite objections that the StuG III was perfectly adequate for the job going forward, and diversion of resources away from standard Panzer IVs was wasteful. Due to shortages of the new L/70 gun, the initial production was fitted with the 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48, which had a shorter barrel and was less powerful than the Pak 42 L/70 that was eventually fitted, and can be quickly differentiated by the lack of muzzle-brake on the longer gun, with under 800 short-barrels produced. There was an overlap in production between the two main guns, the last L/48 equipped vehicles leaving the factory at the end of 1944, the longer barrelled examples continuing until German industry ground to a halt in the spring of 1945. The type wasn’t without its foibles, and could shed rubber tyres due to the weight of the vehicle on the ground, which sometimes led to installation of all-steel rims, and as rubber was a scarce strategic material anyway, that had its advantages. The longer barrel also made travelling over rough ground problematic, as the increased overhang could result in the muzzle digging-in, thanks to the lack of turret and limited traverse preventing moving the gun around to clear obstacles. Another reason for removing the muzzle-brake was that in dry weather, the gun kicked up immense clouds of dust that could give away its position, negating the benefits of its relatively low silhouette. As the war situation deteriorated for the Nazis, there were efforts made to cease Panzer IV production in favour of the StuG III, as it was concluded that they had performed better at the crucial Kursk turning point of the Eastern Front campaign. This effort failed, although the Pz.IVs were only produced at one factory during the closing months of the war, with StuG IVs taking over some of the production capacity freed up by the shrinking Panzer IV workload. In typical fashion, instead of concentrating on one type and producing a large quantity that were simple to maintain, they manufactured three or four designs that were essentially carrying out the same task, all of which had their own training, parts, and maintenance requirements. Thankfully for the Allies, this worked in their favour and they had to face fewer tanks on the march toward Berlin. As an aside, my SO’s grandfather encountered a Jagdpanzer IV during WWII, and we have a photo of him and his colleagues sitting astride the barrel and superstructure, with a visible shell entry point between the sponson underside plate and engine bay side panel, which was probably the reason for its destruction or abandonment. It would make a great diorama one day if I ever get the time and skills together in one place. The Kit This is a new tooling from Border, and arrives in a substantial top-opening box with a painting of a camouflaged Jagdpanzer IV passing a knocked-out Sherman Firefly, most likely somewhere in France due to the markings. Inside are fourteen sprues, a crisply moulded lower hull and saukopf parts in grey styrene, a large fret of Photo-Etch (PE), a smaller nickel-plated fret on thicker gauge metal that contains a trio of Zimmerit application tools, two generous packets of two-part epoxy, a tiny decal sheet containing just seven decals, and a colour printed instruction booklet in A4 landscape format that includes colour profiles in the rear, as well as a detailed guide on how to apply Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste should you be feeling brave. Detail on the sprues is excellent, with some dainty moulding and judicious use of slide-moulding to achieve increased detail without raising the parts count unduly. There is no rolled steel armour texture moulded into the hull armour, however early Jagdpanzer.IVs were often coated with Zimmerit, so it’s unlikely to be seen, while the highly visible Saukopf mantlet armour and a few other appropriate parts are moulded with a sand-cast texture, as these parts weren’t subjected to the coating. Construction begins with the lower hull, which is well-moulded with plenty of detail on all external surfaces, and includes the cooling vents on the sides of the engine compartment, simplifying the build a little. Suspension bump-stops and other components are added to the sides, and the rear bulkhead with idler axle mounts, exhaust muffler and jack block is fixed to the back, making up sixteen pairs of road wheels that slide onto the twin bogies, which the instructions tell you to make up in two pairs for each of left and right. The step after next however shows four left and four right bogies installing onto the sides of the hull, which matches the making of sixteen pairs of wheels. Four return rollers, the idler axle socket and final drive housing are attached to the sides first, adding the bogies, idler wheels and drive sprockets, following which the hull can be righted to install the two glacis plate panels, the upper part having separate inspection hatches with armoured hinge covers, while the front panel is inserted either clean, or with a length of spare track-link strapped to it with a bracket. This leads us to the rest of the track, which is of the link-and-length variety, offering the modeller a simplified variation on independent links, whilst easing the task of obtaining the correct sag, particularly to the upper run, which has sag moulded-in. Eight individual links are installed around the drive sprocket along with a short length then three more individual links, with a similar process carried out at the rear, only with one link transferred around the idler wheel, and a slightly longer diagonal section. Detail on the links is excellent, with just a few small ejector-pin marks on the insides of the longer lengths that you can hide if you think they’ll be seen through the muck and grime of weathering. The fenders go on next, adding slide-moulded mudflaps to the ends, and short vertical fillets added at the front. Small vents are also added to the glacis inspection hatches with the openings facing the rear. Before the casemate can be built, the main gun breech must be made up, taking several sub-steps and many parts to create a detailed depiction of the L/48 breech block, aiming mechanism and the protective frame to the rear. The casemate's frame is bulked-out with an internal layer to the front, with some small holes drilled in the engine deck while inverted. The gun-mount bulge is built from two halves, adding the top from the outside, dropping the breech into the recess and closing it in with the bottom half, taking care to apply the glue sparingly, as this is the hollow in which the gun elevates and traverses on a peg that meshes with a hole in the bottom, although there is only around 15° of traverse left or right. The casemate roof is separate, and is detailed with periscopes, hinges for the two main hatches, the pop-up hatch for the commander’s binocular sight, and the curved sliding hatch near the front of the roof. The periscope and its mount are provided, allowing you to pose it deployed or omit it and leave the hatch down. The small rear bulkhead is slotted into place from within, then it is inserted along with the driver’s vision port and two domed covers on the front. The pioneer tools are scattered across the remaining deck space in the next step, including the jack, spanners, track tools and a long pry-bar. The gun barrel is a single solid part that is found next to the 4mm longer L/70 barrel that has a slide-moulded hollow barrel. The earlier L/48 barrel has a choice of three styles of muzzle-brake, each of which are made up from three parts, and the barrel should be inserted into the breech along with the Saukopf mantlet armour. Barrel-cleaning rods are applied to the rear of the casemate, with two stacked pairs of road wheels on brackets over the left vents on the engine deck, and another length of spare track on a bracket on the top rear bulkhead, or another pair of stacked road wheels if you prefer. The upper hull can then be mated with the lower hull and the ends of the fenders detailed with lights, fire extinguisher, convoy light, return springs for the mudflaps, and a pair of towing eyes on the lower glacis. Most Jagdpanzer IVs were fitted with schürzen down the sides, and you are provided with two styles of brackets that fix to the fenders and along the sides of the casemate. Once the glue is dry on these, a diagonal PE sheet is applied over the rear sides of the engine deck over a large wrench, then the main run of four sections of schürzen and their angled returns with styrene brackets glued to the rear with super glue are suspended on the vertical portions of the brackets. Remember that these sheets were intended to pre-detonate incoming shaped-charge rounds, and weren’t case or surface hardened armour in the traditional sense, so were prone to damage from incoming rounds of larger calibre, as well as damage from collisions with other vehicles and the surrounding countryside, so were often bent, mangled and even missing in places. That gives you liberty to have a little fun crafting a history into those sheets of metal, bending, breaking and losing them as you see fit. Go nuts! Annealing the brass before going to work will make the metal malleable and easier to work with, which can be done with a lighter or candle flame, applying heat until the metal is discoloured, then letting it cool naturally to retain the softness. Candle flames generally contain soot as a by-product of combustion, so if you have a lighter to hand, it’s the cleaner option. If I’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs however, I apologise. Zimmerit If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Zimmerit was a grey paste made up from various chemical components and sawdust that was applied to vertical surfaces of German tanks to prevent magnetic mines from sticking to them due to distance, which the Germans thought was a real danger during the early stages of their withdrawal from Russia. It turns out that their fear was unfounded, as mines of this type were uncommon in Soviet units, the realisation dawning on the Nazis in October 1944 along with another unfounded fear that the paste could ignite if hit. Initially, it was applied at the factory with tools that gave it a texture of horizontal lines or waffle pattern, with several variations fielded, which could often pinpoint the factory from which the vehicle originated. The kit includes two packs of putty, which when mixed in equal quantities will create an epoxy putty that will dry in a couple of hours at room temperature. In colder weather curing will take a lot longer, so it’s an idea to place it somewhere warm to cure if you‘re impatient like me. The kit also includes three application tools on a thick PE sheet that can be chucked into an X-Acto style knife handle to make shaping the putty easier. There are detailed instructions at the rear of the booklet with text and pictures to assist even the novice Zimmerit engineer in getting the job done well. You start by mixing the two halves thoroughly, then apply it evenly and thinly to the appropriate armour panels, keeping it moist to prevent premature curing. Using your references and the tools supplied, imprint the pattern appropriate to your decal option, removing any build-up with a knife or tweezers to prevent bogging down of the tool. It also advises that some small details such as raised rivets and bolts can be removed with a knife as they were buried under the coating, and it will make your job easier. Zimmerit occasionally chipped off in use, and many modellers depict the exposed interior of the paste as grey, although there was an ochre colour added to the mix at the Chemische Werke Zimmer & Co in Berlin, which also gives you a big hint where the name came from. Another few pages at the rear show you how to create a rolled-up tarpaulin and strapping from any excess putty, using various additional tools that your average modeller already has in order to personalise your model. The putty in the instructions is coloured rust red so that it shows up well in the pictures, but the packs in my example will mix up into an off-white colour, very similar to Milliput Fine. Markings There are three options on the tiny decal sheet, differentiated mostly by their camouflage schemes, which are all based on Dunkelgelb (Dark Yellow) as applied to German armour later in the war. From the sheet you can build one of the following: Pz.Div.LAH, 1944 Unidentified Unit, Normandy, 1944 Pz.Abt 228, 116 Pz.Div, Normandy, 1944 The sheet contains seven decals, but one is white and can barely be seen against the pale blue backdrop of the sheet. The rest of the decals are printed in black and white, with good registration, colour density and sharpness, plus a matt carrier film cut relatively close to the edges of the printing. If you are applying it over Zimmerit, use plenty of decal softener and a gloss surface to get it to snuggle down into the grooves and avoid silvering. Conclusion A fine rendition of an early Jagdpanzer IV with the shorter L/48 barrel, with plenty of detail on the exterior, and the breech should be visible through an open hatch, giving you options despite it being officially an exterior-only kit. Seldom do you see epoxy resin and tools included to help you with applying Zimmerit, and never have we seen instructions included in addition. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  14. Tiger I Initial Production (BT-014) Pz.Kpfw.VI Ausf.E s.Pz.Abt.502 Leningrad Region 1942/3 Winter 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys The Tiger tank was part of Hitler's obsession for bigger, heavier and stronger, which drove him to extraordinary and dizzying heights of impracticality at times, but in this case served him reasonably well. The goal was to mount the extremely powerful and accurate 88mm cannon used in the Flak 36 in a tank with sufficient armour to withstand any artillery round then-fielded by the enemy. This series of objectives were achieved, but at the cost of reliability and a prodigious thirst for fuel. It also made for some nervous bridge-crossings, as the finished article weighed in at almost 60 tonnes, which was too much for many smaller bridges of the day. A deep-water fording kit was created to get around that issue, allowing the tanks to ford streams and smaller rivers where the bridges or culverts wouldn’t take their weight. A competition was held with only two contenders, and it was the ignominy of the filmed breakdown of the Porsche designed prototype and subsequent fire on his birthday that decided Hitler in favour of the less ambitious Henschel design which became the Tiger, and then the Tiger I after the King Tiger or Tiger II came into being. When it first reached the front it caused panic and heavy losses for the Allies, being capable of almost everything it was designed to do, including knocking out tanks long before the enemy's guns were able to bring them within range. Even when the Allies could get their own guns within range, it wasn't until they got much closer, almost to point-blank range, that they had any measurable chance of crippling or destroying the mighty Tiger, especially during frontal engagements, where a shot might just ricochet off harmlessly. Many of the early Tigers were lost to mechanical breakdown due to excessive strain on the transmission caused by the weight, and had to either be dragged off the field by Famo half-tracks under the cover of darkness, under armoured protection, or failing that, destroyed by demolition charges to prevent them falling into the enemy's hands. The Tiger underwent constant changes throughout production to improve performance, fix problems, simplify and cheapen construction, but these are generally lumped together into early, middle or late productions for the sake of the sanity of us modellers. If you want to get maximum accuracy of fit and finish, check your references for certainty. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling from Border Model, and while some may be thinking “do we need another Tiger?”, other people’s Tigers don’t make any money for Border, and it’s a popular subject. This boxing represents the first production of the vehicle, before the Feifel air filters were installed on the rear bulkhead, and other early equipment and appendages that were later dropped altogether, or amended in light of experience, or the need to simplify construction to get more into the fight sooner. It arrives in a top-opening box, with a painting of a camouflaged Tiger in winter terrain, backed-up by a short-barrelled Panzer IV, as often happened in the field, as there were often insufficient Tigers to create a full squadron. Inside the box are thirteen sprues and the lower hull in grey styrene, some of which are joined together in the box to confuse the numbers, a clear sprue, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE), a length of flexible braided wire, a turned aluminium barrel, two sprues containing a pair of figures, a simple decal sheet, and the instruction booklet that is printed in landscape A4 on glossy paper, with spot colour throughout, and colour profiles on the rear pages that have been penned for them by AMMO, using their paint codes. Detail is good, and it is an exterior-only kit, with no evidence that an interior is planned, although it’s always possible. The surface detail is crisp and well-moulded, but they have elected not to depict the subtle rolled-steel texture that is often seen on armour, possibly because a great many German tanks were covered with Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste, or because it’s fairly easy to depict it yourself with some basic tools and liquid glue, allowing you to be as subtle as you like with the texture. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has a pair of circular inspection hatches added into recesses under the rear, two torch-cut towing eyes at the rear of the hull sides, which have overlapping joints for strength, then the rear bulkhead with a few holes drilled in it, and the torsion bar suspension with swing-arms and stub axles glued into the end, which lock in place in sockets on the opposite wall of the hull. The front portion of the hull walls are detailed with armoured surrounds to the final drive bell-housings, then the road wheels are started, adding the innermost layer in a similar manner to the real thing, layering them to spread out the ground-pressure. If you are depicting your Tiger in transport configuration, the outermost wheels are left off and the next layer have different caps with a PE spring-clip in the centre, although at this stage the reason for leaving them off isn’t mentioned in the instructions. The final drive housings, next layer of paired wheels and towing loops are next, followed by another set of paired wheels and the spoked idler wheels at the rear, then the optional outer layer and (non-optional) drive sprockets to complete the drivetrain. Tracks for this kit are link-and-length, taking advantage of modern moulding techniques to shorten the process of creating a realistic-looking track run by moulding the straight sections as a single part on the top and bottom runs. The instructions show the two curved sections front and rear, using 25 links at the front, and 20 in the rear, with each of the single links having two guide-horns glued in place before they are installed. The instructions show a few guide-horns being added to the top and bottom single-part runs, but inspection of the parts shows they already have them moulded-in. I’m confused. The completed runs are added to the road wheels once complete, although its probably best to drape the runs around the road wheels while the glue is setting, in order to obtain the correct shape and sag where appropriate. Attention then switches to the upper hull, which must first have a collection of holes drilled out from inside, and the hinges for the forward hatches glued inside the cut-outs, adding the hatches with their clear periscopes once the glue is dry. Flipping the assembly over, armoured covers are added over the periscopes, the heavy cast grilles at the back of the engine deck are installed and backed up with interior flat covers, and a choice of two styles of central cover in the middle of the deck. A mushroom vent and pair of wire cutters are fixed to the roof of the forward deck, adding more tools around them and in the shadow of the turret sides. The twin headlights have a clear lens at the centre, and their conduit snakes away into the hull, bravely adding an aerial on the right deck before joining the upper and lower hull together. The headlight conduits are fixed in place by a pair of PE clamps, and four PE mesh panels are glued over the large grilles to keep dust and grenades out of the engine compartment, adding the rear mudguards, Notek convoy light, towing eyes and the start of detailing the rear bulkhead. Turning to the front, the top glacis plate with driver’s vision slot and bow gun socket are applied before it is slipped into the hull, adding a pair of appliqué plates over the hull sides to give it additional thickness, which makes me wonder if alternative boxings with Zimmerit may be in the pipeline, as all horizontal sides are separate parts. The twin exhaust stacks are made up using a series of alternative cylindrical parts depending on which decal option you are planning, building the jack from nine parts plus two more brackets, then fitting the assemblies on the rear bulkhead, plus the armoured bases and thinner shrouds, and a number of brackets that run down the sides of the deck to hold the two towing cables, which are made up from the length of wire plus styrene eyelets and tie-down brackets, although no lengths are given, but could be divined by laying the eyelets on the deck and looping the wires through the tie-downs and back again. More pioneer tools are nestled around the towing cables, and a cap or wading trunk is installed in the rear of the deck, with the jack block attached to the bulkhead on the left using PE straps to hold it on, and adding two PE supports under it. At the front, the remaining horizontal(ish) section of the glacis is put in place, using one of two alternatives, the larger part having a pair of PE mudflaps laid over the ends. The bow machine gun port is surrounded by an armoured bezel before slipping the barrel into the ball-mount, and the driver’s vision port is up-armoured by a four-part assembly with a bullet-splash shield fixed in front on the deck. Two short lengths of spare track are applied to the lower glacis on a pair of C-rails doubling up as extra armour, although it wasn’t really needed at this time of the war. Having said that this is not an interior kit, the initial steps of building the turret from the lower ring and two halves includes adding a pair of seats around the rim, and creating a basic breech for the main gun. The gun itself is supplied on the sprues in styrene, but you can use the turned aluminium barrel in the box to avoid any seam filling and take advantage of the crispness of the metal part. It fixes into the inner mantlet and is locked in place by a clip, with the basics of the recuperator around the inner end, to which the breech block and brass-catcher box-frame are added, gluing the assembly in between the turret sides and installing the two-layer outer mantlet and cylindrical sleeve that is moulded as a single part by sliding it over the barrel. The muzzle brake is assembled from three styrene parts and fixed onto a keyed peg at the end of the barrel, then the turret roof with loader’s hatch and a choice of fume extractor at the rear of the roof. The complicated commander’s cupola is built on a clear castellated circular base, adding five clear lenses over the raised sections, and then lowering the toroidal styrene outer over the top and making up the hatch with three locking ‘dogs’ on the inside, pull handle and hinge on the outside, with the option of leaving it mobile by applying the glue to the four-part hinge sparingly. A rack of three smoke grenade launchers are fitted on brackets on each side of the mantlet, adding a pair of grab handles and pivot plugs nearby. One decal option has a pair of additional stowage boxes on the sides of the turret, looking like a pair of ‘jug ears’, which are each made from a single shell, two-part lid, and four attachment brackets, duplicated on the opposite side. The other decal options and most Tigers had a bustle box at the rear, although these early boxes were more complex than later variants, but it is made up from only three parts. My example had suffered some damage to the brackets, so check yours when you get it. The turret is a drop-fit onto the hull, so remember that next time you get the urge to look at the underside. Figures There are two figures included in the box, which I suspect may be limited to the initial pressing, as they aren’t mentioned in the instructions. Both figures are standing and pointing, dressed in padded winter uniforms with hoods, one of whom is the commander of the tank with a peaked cap and headphones, holding a pair of binoculars in his free hand. The other figure is infantry, as evidenced by his rifle, steel helmet, gas mask canister, day bag, water bottle, and the webbing moulded into his torso. Sculpting is excellent, with sensible breakdown of parts, and splitting the hood into a separate part between the torso and head gives extra detail. Even though there are no instructions with my example, the parts’ locations are self-evident, and this is reinforced by the presence of pegs and slots that differ in shape and size between the parts, so you can’t get it wrong unless you really try. Common sense and referring to the picture on the front of the box should see you through, as well as help you with the painting of the figures once complete. Markings There are four options included, but they relate to three vehicles, with one option being a camouflage variation that was applied to the same vehicle at some point. As mentioned, the profiles are drawn by AMMO, so the colours and suggested additional weathering materials are all available from AMMO, however the colour names should be sufficient to allow you to use your preferred brand of paints and weathering potions. From the box you can build one of the following: S.Pz.Abt.503, Tosno, September 1942 S.Pz.Abt.502, Mishkino, February 1943 S.Pz.Abt.502, Leningrad Sector, September 1942 S.Pz.Abt.502, Leningrad Sector, September 1942 The decals are all white apart from two black number 3s, so registration isn’t an issue, and the sharpness and colour density should be suitable for your use. Conclusion There are many Tiger kits out there, and this is the new offering from Border. It ticks most of the boxes unless you wanted an interior, and is more detailed than many out there, but not the most detailed or complicated. It’s a good mainstream kit, and the link/length tracks should be less time-consuming and fiddly than individual links, which could tempt some adherents away from rubberband tracks. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  15. mtl. Zgkrwg 8t, Sd.Kfz.7 Half Track (DW35037) 1:35 Das Werk via Albion Alloys Standing for mittlerer Zugkraftwagen 8t, Sonderkraftfahrzeug 7, that mouthful was shortened for convenience, time and ink saving, all of which meant Medium Towing Motor Vehicle 8t, Special Purpose Vehicle 7. It’s a long title, even in English, and the type was developed starting in 1934 by Krauss-Maffei, a company that had experience in making large vehicles on wheels and rails, plus the combustion engines to power them. It was accepted into service just prior to the outbreak of WWII, and was intended to be the prime-mover or tractor for the powerful 88mm flak 36, or the larger 15 cm sFH(schwere Feldhaubitze) 18 howitzer, but it was also capable of pulling just about anything with a towing hitch up to its maximum rated towing weight, and probably a little beyond in emergencies. The vehicle weighed in at around 11.5 tonnes, and was capable of pulling loads of up to 8 tonnes, even over rough ground, thanks to the half-track design, using the front wheels for steering adjustments. Asymmetric power delivery to the tracks was also instigated when the driver put in a hard turn, in order to ease the slew of the tracks, reduce ground disruption, and improve turning authority under all conditions. It carried seating for a full crew for any of the weapons it was tasked with towing, plus stowage for their personal gear and other equipment, with a canvas tilt that would be erected overhead during inclement weather to keep most of the precipitation off the passengers. They were in service with German forces throughout WWII, although production of the improved type was ended in 1944 after a run of over 12,000 units in one form or another. The vehicle was a success, and it was adapted to several other functions as a result, including mobile anti-aircraft defence, with up to a quad 20mm flak cannon mounted on the load bed instead of the seating, amongst others. The Italians made a small number of license-built copies, and even the British made an attempt to create a new prime-mover based upon the Sd.Kfz.7 to tow their heavy artillery, re-engineering captured units from Tunisia with twin motors that fed power into a combined prop-shaft, but the end of the war put paid to those experiments. The Kit This is a new kit from Das Werk, and it is a reboxing of the Dragon kit from around 2009, which is no bad thing, as it’s a well-detailed kit of the type, and still holds up incredibly well against time and the competition, and although there is some discussion of the shape, particularly in the forward body and engine cowling, neither offering is perfect, so it’s a roll of the dice, and a case of which you prefer. The kit arrives in a well-appointed top-opening box, and inside are eight sprues* in grey styrene plus two large chassis parts in the same colour, a small sprue of clear parts, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a length of braided metal cable, two bags of track links, but additional three extras, a trio of black flexible tyres, and a nicely printed instruction booklet on glossy paper in full colour. Detail is excellent, as it comes from Dragon’s golden era, and includes a full set of crew figures to seat in the passenger compartment, and it is a full interior model that includes the full chassis and engine on the sprues. * My review sample contained two of the engine sprue D, but only one is noted in the instructions. Construction begins with the chassis, building upon the large ladder-chassis moulding, onto which the leaf-spring suspension, drive axle housings and other suspension parts are fitted before a sub-frame that holds the exhaust system is attached underneath and between the tracks. The engine is made from a substantial catalogue of parts, building up the block, sump, ancillaries and exhaust manifold, with the fan and timing belts fitted to the front of the block, assisted by a pair of scrap diagrams showing the parts in place. A power-transfer box is made up and inserted between the chassis rails next to the drive axle with a large tank over the top, adding the drive sprockets to the large circular housings on the sides of the chassis, and making up the drive wheel pairs, plus the drum for the winch under the cab with a drive-shaft linking it to the transfer box, and routing the tow cable round the spool and through rollers in the heavily detailed front cross-member and terminating in a tow hook. The chassis is finished off by adding the interleaved road wheels, a large tank in the centre and the front wheels, which have a central hub, flexible outer tyre, and a styrene rear section each, making an additional wheel for the spare. The bodywork is started by adding the seats and sub-division onto the large floor moulding that also incorporates the mudguards for the tracks, adding a section of floor at the front for the driving crew. The mudguards should be narrowed first by cutting or sanding away the original mouldings, and replacing them with new parts on one of the sprues to achieve the correct shape. More seats are added, including a set with the outer skin that has pioneer tools applied, and the deck over the stowage area are built, adding a set of railings and duck-board base around the rear, then the engine firewall bulkhead is detailed with the dashboard plus central instrument binnacle that has a number of decals to detail the dials, installed on the front of the body shell along with the steering column and the folding windscreen panel, which has separate wiper blades added beforehand. The body’s sidewalls are prepared by adding the doors to the rear stowage area and side lights at the front, then they are applied along with the rear doors, then the body is detailed underneath with a stowage rack that includes the spare tyre location, stiffening braces, and a pair of panels that fix to the rear of the fenders to hold the number plate, lights and Notek convoy light. The front fenders are adapted by cutting a short section of the rear lip away, then adding the radiator grille, ducting, crew steps with PE grating, headlights, convoy light in one of two positions, and width-marker ‘lollipops’. This and the engine are lowered into position at the front of the chassis, adding a short rod between the right fender and the chassis rail for authenticity. The rear body is then lowered over the chassis, adding a few small parts and braces between the radiator and bulkhead, adding the cowling and louvred sides to the engine bay, with scrap diagrams showing the finished bay and how it should look, pointing out the important aspects in blue. At the same time, the tracks are made up from 54 links with separate track-pads per side, all of which are already removed from the sprues, and have just the mould-lines and the occasional wisp of flash to scrape away before you can build them up. They have the capability of remaining workable once glued together, as the installation of the track-pads on their two pins locks the pivot points of the links together, so if you are careful with the glue, perhaps using a more viscous type in preference to liquid glues to obtain a fully workable track. The links are small, as are the pads, so careful positioning with tweezers is probably a wise decision, along with something such as a track jig or flattened out Blutak to hold the links still whilst locking them together. The completed runs will have excellent detail, and just require careful painting to enhance their realism further. Figures The single sprue contains parts for six figures, each of which have their coat tails moulded into the upper body to provide realistic drape and undercut in the area, and are otherwise broken down as usual, with separate heads, arms and legs, each leg having the forward section of the coat tails added to pegs as well as being individual legs for better detail. The heads have flat tops to accommodate their forage caps, so if you have some steel helmets to replace them, you can go right ahead to add some individualism to your model. One character is moulded with his hands at the quarter-to-three position to mate with the steering wheel, while another, possibly the co-driver is looking over his shoulder whilst leaning on the sill. The other four gentlemen are sitting minding their own business, some looking a little more bored with proceedings than the others. Markings There are four options on the decal sheet, with two per side of the instructions, giving four profiles for each one. From the box you can build one of the following: Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion A welcome and well-detailed reboxing of the Dragon kit, with some new and interesting decal options that are split between camouflage and single/dual colour options to appeal to a wide audience. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  16. German 88mm Gun Flak36 (BT-013) 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys The Flak36 originated as a requirement during WWI, when the initial batch of nascent anti-aircraft weapons were deemed to be of little use other than to give the occasional pilot or balloon rider a fright, so the German High Command began casting around for weapon with a larger calibre that would do more damage, even with a near miss. Their defeat in WWI got in the way, but Rheinmetall were able to carry on surreptitiously using Bofors of Sweden, of whom they owned a significant portion, eventually settling on 88mm as their preferred calibre. Initially designated as the Flak18, perhaps as a nod to their continuation of initial work, then renamed as the Flak36 with the addition of a factory fitted splinter shield. One particular aspect of the design gave it an advantage over other anti-aircraft weapons of the time, as loading was accomplished by placing the next round in a tray before the previous round was fired, the recycled energy from which would eject the spent cartridge and load the new one from the tray, resulting in a high cyclical fire rate of between 15-20 rounds per minute with a good crew. Coupling that with the accuracy and quality of engineering gave it the title of best in class in anti-aircraft artillery. The rise of Hitler gave production an enormous boost, as he began openly re-arming Germany for war in contravention of the Versailles Treaty that he loathed so vehemently. The type also benefited from the flexibility of its transport system, which could permit limited firing of the weapon without removing the axle-bogies, and full set-up could be achieved in two and a half minutes from transit mode to firing mode, which made it very flexible, especially in emergencies. The full set-up involved splaying out all four outriggers to stabilise the weapon after removing the transport axles, following which they would link up with their battery command, who would assist with laying targets, so that the battery of four guns would behave almost as one. When the discovery of its effectiveness against armour was made, splinter shields were fitted to new builds to protect the crews from the retribution of their targets, and could also be retro-fitted to the older Flak18s that had been pressed into service away from air targets. The Flak36 was superseded by the Flak37 predictably, which was fitted with improved targeting equipment and could better act as a unified part of a battery under the command of one target designator. The replacement for the Flak37 improved the maximum altitude when attacking high-flying aircraft, using a longer cartridge to hold more propellant, and a longer barrel to increase the muzzle velocity in order to reach the required heights. Over 12,000 of the almost identical Flak18/36/37s were built during the war, and they served in all theatres where the Nazis fought, gaining a fearsome reputation as a foe on land or air in the process. To further enhance this reputation, the most feared German tanks also mounted a derivative of the 88mm cannon, such as the Tiger I and King Tiger. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling from Border Model, and the initial batch arrives in a limited-edition tin with separate friction-fit lid, and painted all over as if it was a card box. If you miss out on the initial run, you might have to slum it with cardboard, whereas the tin can be used for storage long after you’ve finished building the kit. It’s pleasingly compact to the cocoon the sprues, so doesn’t take up much space in the stash. Inside the box are seventeen sprues in grey styrene for the gun, another linked series of spruelets for the included figures, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, four separate slide-moulded parts in grey styrene, eight flexible grey wheels, although the instructions only note four, the decal sheet, and a turned aluminium barrel, which might also be part of the limited edition aspect. Sprues are bagged individually or in pairs to protect them from damage, and when removed the detail is excellent, which is great news because almost everything will be visible on the finished model, as fairings and cowlings aren’t a feature of artillery pieces, save for the splinter shield. The instruction sheet is landscape A4, and is printed on glossy white paper, with colour profiles on the rear pages that have been penned for them by artists at AMMO, and uses their paint codes to describe the colours. Inside the front cover is a brief history of the weapon, plus a few contemporary photos of the 88 in action, and one after action with a US GI standing idly by an abandoned unit. Construction begins with the removable axle-bogies, each of which begins with the single part that has the base and twin arches moulded-in, to which a myriad of parts are fixed above and below to create suspension and the other mechanisms to mate and detach the bogies from the outriggers, and several pioneer tools dotted around them both in duplicate, before they diverge into front and rear bogies with their specific fitments, such as seats, cable spools and other equipment. Each outrigger is created from halves, adding the spikes through the ends in one direction or another to set the outriggers lower or higher against the floor. Spare spikes are fitted along the sides, and a pivot for the side outriggers is made, allowing them to fold up for transport partway along their length. With the four outriggers completed, they are placed on the base plate at the centre, then closed in by adding the top surface and the tapered pedestal above it. Additional adjustment wheels and levers are fitted along with a few small structural elements between the outriggers, after which you need to choose whether to depict your 88 in firing or transport mode, attaching stays to the folded up side lengths to hold them at the correct angle. The gun cradle floor has the breech block and surround fixed to one end, and has either the styrene barrel with rear insert and hollow muzzle installed, or two of the styrene parts replaced with the aluminium barrel, which will save some seam sanding, which no-one really likes if we’re honest. The base of the cradle, top recuperator on an arch over the breech, and the elevator gear are fixed together, the parts differing depending on whether you are using the splinter shield on your model, and even between the two styles of shield on offer. The barrel assembly is slotted through and rests on the cradle base, sliding a rod inside the recuperator cylinder, and adding the shell cradle along with another sprinkling of ancillary parts, and a choice of two lengths of rod onto the left side of the breech. The trunnions are next, with a choice of details to each one with a host of small parts, seats, mechanical calculators, and wheels for the crew to spin around frantically. The base of the gun is an angular box under the cradle that has another pair of recuperator cylinders that give the 88 its signature look, then it and the gun cradle are sandwiched between the trunnions, with a choice of three splinter shields the next option. A diagram over the page shows how the extended sides can be deployed, as well as the PE parts for the vision slit, and the mounting brackets in the rear. The initial choice between three shield is complicated by three instructions not being in English. From top to bottom they are “Cut off the positioning bar”, “observe the opening”, and “Observe the gate”, for which you can thank the translate option that’s now available on modern iPhone photos. The following page shows the gun assembly mating with the base, adding the travel lock to a weapon that’s ready to fire (odd), and how the axle-bogies are linked to the longitudinal outriggers, and this time they finished the translation, so we’re all good. Each end of the two axles needs a twin wheel assembly, which is made up by creating four hubs from four parts each, then slipping two flexible tyres over the hubs, before they are slotted onto the axles. There are also a couple of shell transport boxes that can hold three shells each, and are made up from five sides (one is L-shaped), plus handles on the ends, all of which are depicted as being wooden. A pair of full wicker cases are also present, with just their ends to be added to finish them off, all of which is good fodder for a diorama, or an accompanying prime-mover that you may be building to go with it. Figures To strengthen the case for a diorama, there are six figures included in the box, all on their own sub-sprues, but supplied linked together, which was a link I quickly nipped off to make photography easier. They are shown in the instructions on a single sheet, with each part shown as a different colour with its part number pointed out. It makes for a colourful page, and the crew are divided up into different tasks, starting with a guy carrying the next shell to the gun while another loads one, a man with a notepad calculating something, a spotter that is holding a stereoscopic targeting device, a gunner sitting down with hands on the adjustment wheels, and finally a crew member with a pair of binoculars that could be looking over and down at the scribblings of the chap with the notepad. Sculpting is excellent, and parts breakdown is standard apart from a few hands or fingers that have been moulded separately to obtain better detail. They are all wearing standard stahlhelms, although the gentlemen with optical devices seems to know it’s going to rain soon, as they have wrinkled covers on their helmets. The uniforms are erring toward winter or Eastern Front, as indicated by the box art, which shows a snowy scene. Markings There are three options available on the decal sheet, with profiles created by AMMO using their own colour shades, and suggesting other possible paints and washes from their range that you could use to enhance your model. From the box you can build one of the following: Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front, 1942-43 Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front, 1942-43 Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front, 1944 The decals are printed anonymously, and as they are all monochrome stencils except for a pair of Hakenkreuz, registration there is good, and the sheet overall has good clarity and colour density. The carrier film is matt and cut closely to the printed areas, so should settle down well with your choice of decal fixer. Conclusion It’s good to see a new tooling of this superb WWII anti-aircraft and general purpose artillery piece on the market, and the detail shown here is well up to modern standards, so should build into a creditable replica of the type with a little skill and some paintwork. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  17. Curtiss-Wright CW-22B (DW48036) 1:48 Dora Wings via Albion Alloys The Curtiss-Wright CW-22 was developed as a light trainer and reconnaissance aircraft, flying as early as 1940, then entering service from 1941. It was a small aircraft with two seats and large canopy that afforded the pilots an excellent view of proceedings. A number were exported to various operators including the Dutch, although because of the state of the war, they were delivered to them in the Dutch East Indies, totalling 25 airframes. The US forces ordered a number to fill gaps in their inventory, with successive increases in the orders resulting in just over 300 airframes entering service in total. A small number also found their way into Japanese service after being captured from the Dutch during their advances across Asia. The Kit This is a reboxing with new parts of a recent tool from Dora Wings of this unusual little aircraft, and the first mainstream kit in this scale, although there have been a few others over the years from niche producers in resin and other materials. It arrives in their appealing top-opening box with glossy sections picked out, and inside are seven sprues in mid grey styrene, a clear sprue, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, vinyl masks, decal sheet and instruction booklet that is printed in colour, roughly A5 in a portrait format. Perusing the sprues reveals a nicely detailed kit that shows continued improvement from their initial releases, and it is a comprehensive package with a crystal-clear single-part canopy. Construction begins with the cockpit, with the two instrument panels attached to their bulkhead hoops and detailed with a decal for each one. The cockpit floor is outfitted with controls, fire extinguisher and several other frames, including a pair of PE rudder pedals on an inverted U-shaped former. The two seats are on a separate sprue, and each has a PE four-point harness fitted before they are installed in the cockpit, with a forward and aft bulkhead bracketing the assembly. The fuselage halves are prepared internally with a long insert that covers up the wing root, adding throttle quadrants, levers and instrument boxes, with a little painting to finish off. The engine must be made up before the fuselage can be closed, and this is depicted by a two-part cylinder bank, a PE wiring loom and a front bell-housing that is then surrounded by the exhaust collector, and you can drill out the aggregation outlet, which exposes the hollow interior that runs all the way around the ring. A flattened intake and some small parts are fitted to the front and sides of the engine, then at the rear the intake tubing spider is fixed over a toroidal spacer and has a simplified depiction of the ancillaries and an exterior ring added before it is glued to the front of the cockpit on a pair of Z-shaped mounts. The fuselage can then be closed around the assembly, and the wings are made up. The lower wings are full-width with some nice detail moulded into the central section, and as expected the upper wings are separated with a gap for the fuselage to fill. The ailerons are separate, and a two-part U-shaped fairing is installed around the main gear bays for later completion, then the tail feathers are installed, all with separate flying surfaces and fine trailing edges. Four small PE cross-members are fixed within each of the main bays, and the lower engine cowling is installed around the exhaust. The wheels are inventive, having two outer halves and a central boss between the halves that gives a see-thru look if aligned correctly. The struts are single parts with a perpendicular axle, plus separate oleo-scissor link and retraction jacks at the base of each leg, fixed between two triangular pivots. Actuators within the bays join the doors together; the landing lights are inserted into depressions under the wings; actuators for the ailerons are added to the wingtips, and the tail-wheel fits into a small hole in the rear of the fuselage. An anti-roll-over cage is placed on a faired over section between the two pilots within the cockpit. The canopy is a single part, which is a shame for this model, as the cockpit is open and well-detailed out of the box. It is very clear however, so your hard work will still be seen. A pitot probe is mounted in the leading edge of the port wing, and the twin-blade prop with a boss and axle is inserted into the hole in the front of the bell-housing. Markings There are three decal options in the box, two from the Dutch East Indies, and one captured airframe in Japanese colours, with the same basic scheme shared by all options. From the box you can build one of the following: Dutch East Indies Air Force, Java 1941 Dutch East Indies Air Force, Java 1941 Captured by Imperial Japanese Air Force, 1942 Decals are in good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas, and as mentioned there are decals for the instrument panels in the cockpit. Conclusion The CW-22B is an extremely niche subject, and it’s an interesting shape. The detail is good, and the model should build up into a good replica of a left-of-field subject, which is Dora Wings’ stock-in-trade. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  18. FV221 Caernarvon British Heavy Tank (35A042) 1:35 Amusing Hobby via Albion Alloys Following WWII’s end, the Allies were a little bit obsessed with emulating the Nazi’s struggle to make bigger and more powerful AFVs, until they realised that perhaps slightly more manageable, mobile armour was more suitable. While Britain thrashed about looking for a suitable heavy tank that would lead to a number of types based on one chassis, the Conqueror came into existence, eventually leading down a dead-end and being replaced by the Chieftain in due course. An offshoot from this project was the CV221 Caernarvon, which was a Conqueror chassis that had a Centurion Mk.II turret grafted on, initially with a 17-pounder for the prototype and later with a 20-pounder main gun from a Centurion Mk.III shoehorned into it. Whether they intended this to be the Main Battle Tank or not is open to conjecture, but only one of the 17-pounder and 21 of the 20-pounders were ever made, which were named Mk.1 and Mk.2 respectively. Some of the Mk.2s were later converted back to Conquerors, which while it could never be termed a success was of more use to the army than the Caernarvons. When the Centurion was upgraded to a 105mm gun, the reason to continue with the Caernarvon must have evaporated in an instant, as it was heavier and lighter armed, leading to the cancellation of the project and the conversion back to Conquerors for many of the experimental series of hulls. The Kit This is another minor retooling of the original Conqueror Mk.I kit (35A006) with the addition of a couple of extra sprues of parts from their Centurion line, and a new decal sheet. Detail is of course good, as per the previous issues, and the new sprues from the Centurion are engineered and detailed in the same manner, so will blend in seamlessly. In the box you get ten sprues and two hull parts in a sand-coloured styrene, a bag of track-links in brown styrene, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a bag of eight springs, a length of braided cord, small decal sheet, colour instruction booklet with painting and markings guide at the rear. Construction begins with the hull, and the suspension bogies that contain the Horstmann suspension units, which is where the real springs come in. These are contained between two end-caps, which affix to a back-plate, and if you're careful with the glue when you attach the perforated front part, you should end up with working suspension. Two pairs of road wheels and a single pair of return rollers are fixed to the axles, and held in place by hub caps that fit using friction alone, so the wheels should turn too if you don't overdo the paint. This is repeated over the eight bogies, a multi-part drive sprocket with final drive housing is installed at the rear and the adjustable idler wheels are added to the lower glacis, with an element of adjustment possible before you apply glue, which should allow you to take up any additional slack in the tracks before you finish construction. A set of small side skirts are glued along the length of the road wheel area, with tie-downs/grab-handles at either end, although it may be better to leave these off until after the tracks are fitted, and possibly until after painting. The rear bulkhead fits to the opening in the back of the hull after being decked-out with towing hooks and various small parts, after which the upper hull becomes the focus for a while. The upper hull is essentially complete save for the front glacis plate, which is the first of the new parts, having the light clusters and lifting eyes fitted, while on the rear deck a few spare track links are added on the moulded-in fenders along with the usual complement of pioneer tools with moulded-in tie-downs. The driver's deck is also installed with a hatch to be used with the hinge and vision block parts, dropping into the aperture in the hull, and leaving the hatch movable. The stowage boxes and other small parts that are sprinkled around the upper hull are also carried over from the Conqueror, with towing cables made up from the braided cord and having styrene eyes at each end. Also on the engine deck the Conqueror Mk.2 exhaust assembly is run down both sides of the area, with angled protective shrouds covering each one in place of the rather complex-looking assembly of the Mk.1. The turret is much the same as the Conqueror in terms of construction, and is made up from an upper part, two-part sides, and separate turret ring, onto which the various hatches, sensors and vision ports are affixed. Two sets of smoke grenade launchers attach to the turret sides, a communications wire reel is fitted to the port side, and the shell-ejection port is glued in place over its port. The mantlet fixes to a pair of pivots that are added to the front of the turret early on, then the single-part barrel with slide-moulded muzzle threads through the hole into the socket with a coaxial machine gun next door. The commander's fancy cupola-cum-sighting-mechanism is next, with the majority of small parts from the Mk.1, including hatch, lifting eyes, vision blocks and machine gun. The completed assembly twists into place, locking to the turret with a bayonet fitting. The final diagram shows the turret, upper hull, lower hull and track runs coming together in one fell swoop. The tracks are very nicely moulded, and are of the click-fit workable variety, which works very well indeed in this instance. The parts are moulded in pairs with a small injection manifold between them, and they are attached by only two sprue gates, with no ejector pins to deal with. Clean-up is super-simple due to the location of the gates, and the click action is quite robust, leaving you with a run of tracks in fairly short order, which is just as well as you need 98 links per side. Having seen a few rather poorly engineered track-joining methods from other major manufacturers over the years, it's refreshing to see a genuinely good track-making method from Amusing Hobby. The last job is to build the gun's travel lock that’s added to a pair of hinge-points on the rear bulkhead. Markings It's an AFV kit, so the decal sheet is the size of an over-motivated stamp, and because of the limited colour palette and lack of complexity of the designs, only five colours are used on the sheet. The two decal options have been penned by AMMO on Amusing Hobby’s behalf, but it isn’t documented where and when they served, if ever. The decals are well-printed in China, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion It didn’t see much service and there weren’t many of them, but the FV 200 series do have a certain presence, especially in the flesh when you realise they’re massive. It’s an interesting divergence from the mainstream, and should be a reasonably easy build with those modeller-friendly tracks helping immensely. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  19. T-72 ‘Ural’ (35A052) 1:35 Amusing Hobby via The T-72 was the successor to the T-55 and T-64, having a larger 125mm main gun and a more reliable auto-loader that gave it an advantage over its predecessor. It was improved further by fixing some niggling problems that were initially present, and was given the name T-72 Ural. The earlier T-72s can be differentiated from the later models by their side-skirts, which are in sections with rubber between them, and they can be swung outward, leading to the nickname ‘Flipper’ side-skirts. Production began in 1973, making examples for Soviet use, as well as for export, with over a 1,000 in service with the Iraqi army for future target practice by the Allies during the Gulf War. Syria also had an eclectic batch of T-72s, some of which were the initial Ural variant and its successors. Unfortunately, back at the factory, problems with production led to delays that required substantial investments in the facilities before full volume could be reached, continuing with modifications until the break-up of the Soviet Union in the early 90s. The type continued with development following the reformation of Russia as a state, and a T-72 was the basis of the much-vaunted but combustible T-90, as well as a number of other subsequent and less costly developments, with over 25,000 and counting produced, the numbers sometimes going up, sometimes going down. It's a difficult time to review a Russian tank, but we’re not going to go down that route, based on the fact that it was tooled by a Japanese company, made in China with a British Distributor, plus Czech, DDR, Syrian and Iraqi decal options. The Kit This is an additive re-tooling of a recent new tool from Amusing Hobby, and is of the full-interior variety, so the box is deep and packed with plastic, grey for the interior, green for the exterior, which is fun – if you were a beginner and wanted to build your kit without paint, you could do so, especially as the tracks are moulded in brown styrene. The box is a top-opener with a nice painting of the kit on the front, and inside are twenty-two sprues in grey, green and brown, twenty-eight ladders of track links in brown, a clear sprue, lower hull and turret top in green, plus a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE), decal sheet, a length of wire, a long coiled spring that looks like a tube from a distance, instruction booklet that has the colour painting guide in the front and rear covers that has been penned for them by the artists at AMMO. The detail is excellent, especially the interior sprues, which have some lovely textures and shapes moulded-in, such as the anti-spall lining in the turret roof, a small impeller inside the hull amongst many others, with judicious use of slide-moulding across the sprues. The tracks are also impressive, having individual links and separate track pins that can leave you with a very fancy workable track run that you don’t need to glue, thanks to its friction-fit nature. The lower hull is separate from the sprues, and has detail moulded into both sides, so there are necessarily some ejector-pin marks on the interior face, which might possibly need filling, but check the instructions to ensure you’re not wasting your time filling things that will be covered by equipment later – I suspect most if not all of them will. Like anyone else, I hate wasting precious modelling time. Construction begins with the lower hull, to which you add various suspension parts, bearings and return-rollers, plus idler-wheel axles and a three-part drive-sprocket that is held in place on the final drive housing by a long thick pin. Under the front glacis is an appliqué armour panel with fittings for the self-entrenching tool or a mine-plough. These are overlaid with hinge-points and rams in a scrap diagram, with the main drawing showing them already in-place, then it’s time to deal with the rear bulkhead. This begins as a flat panel, and has four curved brackets, some spare track-links and an unditching log, before it is attached by two lugs on the moulded-in aft bulkhead. The road wheels are made up from pairs of wheels with a central hub, as are the idlers, with twelve of the former and two of the latter. At this point two additional fuel tanks are built from a slide-moulded tubes that has the strapping moulded-in with separate end-caps. These are set to the side until the wheels are dealt with, beginning with the long torsion-bar suspension units with swing-arms and axles at the tip slid into the hull slots, plus a couple of smaller dampers toward the front, following which the idlers and road wheels are glued to the stub axles. There is a scrap diagram showing the correct orientation of the damper arms in relation to the main swing-arms, which should help a lot. Inserts are added at the sides of the turret ring, and also the first interior parts at the front of the lower glacis plate, which includes the initial driver controls handling the gear shifter in a quadrant with two PE gates. The next step sees the foot pedals and a detailed seat for the driver’s comfort. We’re deep into the interior now, with more controls, what looks like a drinks cooler (it isn’t) with stencil decals just behind and to the left of the driver’s station, then the hull interior sides are made up by decking out the two panels with a host of detail parts, including an instrument panel that has some decals on the sheet, and a few small PE parts, plus some ready-rounds for the big auto-feeder that’s coming soon. More ready-rounds are fitted along with some other equipment boxes, then the crew compartment skin is dropped into the lower hull along with a firewall and another group of rounds stored nose-down and moulded into their storage area. A two-part cylindrical fence for the auto-loader is slotted into the floor, then it’s time to create the auto-loader from a circular base with upstands that have castor-like wheels on every third upstand, plus a photo showing the real thing. Then you make up the shell slots, which are cylindrical, and give you a choice of HE-Frag and HEAT shells. Six of each are made up to be placed within the 22 locations around the base, including 10 empty slots, and a few more ready-rounds. The completed carousel is inserted into the space made for it, and there are a host of helpful colour splat icons throughout the build to assist with colour choices. There is a short bulkhead with a fire extinguisher strapped to it inside the engine bay, plus ancillary equipment and some very nicely detailed final drive/brake cylinders that are made up from three segments for detail, plus the end-caps that slide inside an outer casing, with one each side of the vehicle. A large circular fan and tinwork is made up around the rear bulkhead along with more ancillaries and small parts in preparation to accept the power-pack. The engine is a V-46 V12-cylinder diesel that pumps out a lot of motive power to the drivetrain, which has another photo of a real one to guide you as to how it should look in the end. The cylinder banks are each made up from four sides and the rocker cover plus a couple of small PE lifting eyes and exhaust manifold attached to each one in mirror-image. The engine block is built next with a gaggle of ancillaries at one end, then the cylinder banks are fitted into the top and joined in the central valley by the intake manifold with more ancillaries at the busy end, then a new detail insert for the blank end of the engine is constructed and joined with the main assembly. The rectangular air box has PE intake grilles added around the three-part box, and the sub-assembly is joined to the engine via its thick input trunk, and two longer hoses that run down the side of the engine and attach to new components at the front of the engine. A scrap diagram of the engine shows how it looks from the side for you to ensure that yours is set up correctly. The next assembly is a gearbox with drive-shaft that plugs into some pegs in the floor, then the engine is inserted into the bay, with a stiffening bar across the top, a couple of pots for fluids attached, and more gear added too. Each track run has 95 links, and the individual links are moulded in a tree of eight links, with three sprue gates on each one. They’re easy to nip off and clean up as they are situated on the curved edges of the link, and were very easy to remove thanks to the slightly soft plastic. The jig that you can find on each of the pin sprues has a pair of tabs that allow you to build a much longer jig from it if you like, or you can build them up in runs of eight. With the flat side up, you drop the links into the jig with the guide-horns sliding through the holes, then you cut a set of four track-pins still fixed to their sprue (imagine a four-pronged pitchfork), and push them into the pin holes in the sides of the links. These push home snugly and you can see some of the receivers discolouring with stress-marks as this happens. After they are inserted, you simply cut them off neatly, and that’s your lot. I made up a test-run of sixteen links in a few minutes using just a pair of side-cutters, a thin sanding stick and some patience (I borrowed that), and was very impressed with how easy it was to do. It makes sense to leave the sprue on the pins long to give you some room for handling them without pinging them off into the ravening maw of the evil carpet monster. It’s going to take a little time, but they’re among the best, most robust, flexible and easiest styrene tracks I’ve built. The glacis plate is a two-layer lamination with detail moulded into the inside plus a pair of fire extinguishers and other small parts added, then it’s a case of flipping it over and adding the light clusters with clear lenses and two-part cages, as well as the V-shaped bow-wash deflector. A tow cable is created from a section of the thread 8.5cm long and two styrene eyes, which is clipped to the deck on the glacis plate while the two front mudguards are being attached to the front of the fenders with styrene springs added along the way, then a pair of triangular webs are fitted between the guards and the front lip of the glacis and a series of stiffeners in styrene and PE are fixed along the length of the fenders in preparation for the additional fuel tanks, exhaust and stowage laid over it. The rear ends are finished off with more detail parts to close them over. The upper hull is formed from the forward section with the turret ring moulded in, to which equipment and vision blocks are added inside along with the driver’s hatch, then it is dropped into the hull along with three engine deck panels, which are first fitted out with mesh from the PE sheet and optional top covers. This completes the deck so that the flexible spring with wire run through the centre can be cut and glued into position to depict the hosing for the fuel tanks as per the accompanying diagram and a black & white photo from the engine deck. Another tow cable is made up from 8.5cm of cord and two more towing eyes to drape over the rear, again as per the scrap diagram. The side skirts on an early T-72 are made in part from thick flexible material and metal sections, which is depicted in the kit by new parts, with four parts per side mounted on styrene hinges. Now we’re getting there, and can finally make up the 2A46(D-81) 125mm smooth bore cannon, the breech of which is shown assembled in the first drawing as reference. It is made up from breech halves split vertically, block parts that are split horizontally and painted yellow so you can’t miss it, and a two-part sliding portion of the block, plus a myriad of smaller parts on the breech as well as the breech safety frame and coax machine gun on a mount with ammo can that fits to the right side. The gunner’s station is then constructed with optical binocular sight in front of the gunner’s framework seat. This attaches to the underside of the turret rim with a large T-shaped support, and a number of equipment boxes and mechanisms dotted around the rim. Another seat is assembled and glued to the rim, then the turret upper is started. As with most turrets, the inside is substantially smaller than the exterior because of the thickness of the armour, so the interior skin has quite a confined feel to its quilted interior, which is the comfy, insulating side of the anti-spall liner. More equipment boxes are plastered to the walls on flat-spots, and a part of the auto-loader mechanism runs up the back wall where a curved insert is used to enclosed the wall fully. A periscope is attached to the outer roof, then the two halves are joined, and a large equipment box is fixed to the bustle. The exterior is festooned with spare ammo cans, search light, and the outer part of the periscope, the round commander’s cupola and the D-shaped gunner’s hatch, both of which have handles, vision blocks and even another searchlight on the commander’s more luxurious hatch. He also gets a NSVT 12.7mm machine gun mount, which is a huge piece of equipment that is made up from a substantial number of parts, and mounts on the rear of the cupola with an ammo box, and the folding hatch. There is an intermediate stage to the auto-loader that has a stepped circular platform that prevents the turret crew from getting mashed legs, and it is filled with a large number of parts that on first inspection resembles a jumble of cylinders and boxes, plus a few ready-rounds strapped to the top – a complete trip hazard! The turret is slotted into the hull after dropping the platform on top of the lower feed mechanism of the loader, and the completed commander’s cupola with armoured upstand is also glued in place at this time. You may wonder where the barrel is, but it’s remedied in the last instruction step, with the gun tube made from two halves split horizontally, and a separate muzzle section to give it a hollow tip, then a circular bolted PE part fitted between the shroud and the barrel. A turned metal barrel would have been almost impossible due to the cooling jacket that is strapped around the gun tube, so take the time to align the halves well to minimise clean-up once the glue has set. Markings There are five decal options included in this boxing, with three at the front of the booklet and two at the rear, the latter two having more interesting camouflage options. From the box you can build one of the following: USSR DDR Czech Army Libyan Army Syrian War The decals are printed in China and are in good register with enough sharpness to get the job done, although you can see some very slight dithering here and there under 2.5x magnification. It’s all but invisible to the naked eye however. The profiles have been penned by AMMO and use their codes for the paint shades, with the names next to the swatches, and below each profile there is a suggestion list of AMMO weathering products to add a little depth and realism to the finished model if you wish. Conclusion The kit offers a substantial level of detail inside and outside in a sensible, straight-forward build that should keep you busy modelling for many an hour. A choice of different operators should give people enough options to keep them happy. Very highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  20. 155mm Howitzer Carriage Model 1918 – Schneider (DW35023) 1:35 Das Werk When America joined the fighting in WWI during 1917, it used French-made Schneider artillery pieces to speed their entry into meaningful combat rather than develop new equipment of their own, as they weren’t confident about the home-grown artillery pieces they’d been using up until that point. They bought guns and the rights to manufacture their own based upon the blueprints provided by Schneider, which cost them a substantial sum but worked to their advantage, as after the Armistice the weapon remained in service through a the early days of WWII, and longer with other operators. The 1918 variant was changed from the original to use a flat splinter shield and pneumatic tyres to improve the carriage’s suspension over the previous unforgiving steel rims. The guns were used through the 1920s as stand-ins for a proposed 105mm medium howitzer, the project for which stalled due to apathy and a lack of funding during the interval between wars. The M1 sub-variant used air-brakes to allow it to be towed at higher road speeds without overtaking its tractor during hard braking. They saw service at the beginning of America’s part of WWII until they were superseded by the new 155 mm howitzer M1 that was substantially different from its predecessor. The 1918M1 lingered on the battlefield during the early part of the war until the production problems and shortages plaguing the replacement M1 were resolved, after which it fell out of use in US service. Great Britain used 100 of the type during the beginning of WWII, although they too were retired before too long. The longest serving guns were in use until the 1980s with Finnish forces, who have a habit of making good use of allegedly old hardware. The Kit This is an additive re-tool of Das Werk’s earlier French 155mm C17S howitzer that was released in 2021, commonly known as last year at time of writing. The older sprues have the code 35022, while the three new ones have the code for this boxing. The kit arrives in a small top-opening box with an attractive painting of the subject matter on the lid, and inside are seven sprues in grey styrene, plus two vaguely Y-shaped parts in the same colour. A small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) is found in a small Ziploc bag, a small decal sheet and the A5 portrait instruction booklet with glossy pages with coffee stains and general wear-and-tear printed-on to give it some visual interest. Detail is excellent throughout, with the tyres especially crisp and detailed, although the brand “Firestoner” might not be all that familiar… dude. It’s probably a Copyright or Trademark issue, but a careful slice and a little sanding will render it more accurate. Construction begins with the tyres, which are made up from a central hoop to which two tread hoops and two more sidewall parts are added to replicate the detailed tread of the real thing, and don’t forget to remove the R from the branding on the side before you get too far. The completed tyre is finished by adding a hub at the front, and a circular rear to the hub from the other side, and don’t forget you need two. Some ammo crates are included in the box, each one containing two rounds, and you can leave the lids of the crates off, although you might want to fill the ejector-pin marks before you build them if that’s the case. The gun barrel is made from two halves split vertically, to which a six-part breech-block is fitted to the rear later, then it is glued to a PE slide that has the edges folded up and is joined by a styrene part. The rear of the breech is made from a further three parts, and two more parts of the recoil mechanism are fitted under the barrel, with the breech block able to be fixed in open or close position, locked in place by a single pin. The elevation arc is a curved assembly with toothed edges that is built-up like a ladder with three cross-members linking the two sides together, which is attached to the underside of the cradle, which has a pair of recoil tubes added, plus a number of supports and guide rods, and a scrap diagram shows that some small parts would be opened up to service the weapon in case you are planning a diorama. The completed barrel and sled are joined to the cradle, and a PE recuperator instruction panel is folded up and glued in place on the side, with a scrap diagram showing how it should look when in place. The elevation axle has a gear on each end, and this is pressed against the teeth in the arc when it is trapped between the two sides of the trail, with the axle surround forward of a cross-member. The spade mount forms an H-shape and joins to the spade with two additional small parts, to be trapped under the trail by the frame’s floor, which also has another cross-brace inserted into the front after drilling two 0.7mm holes where indicated. The horizontal part of the spade glues to the underside of the trail, then the top section of the frame closes in another cross-brace, with two short curved parts toward the front of the frame, with the instructions advising you to test-fit them before resorting to glue. At the rear two additional parts form the basic towing hitch for the gun. The elevation gear is built from six styrene parts and one PE lever, plus a pair of long levers, and another on the opposite side with PE adjustment wheel, both assemblies having a scrap diagram to assist you with assembly. You can choose to depict your model in travel mode or ready for action by using different aft pivots for the cradle, adding a cover to the recess in the top of the trail, and four spade rotation parts, which if glued in place will stop the spade from rotating. An oval PE manufacturer’s plate is glued just forward of the spade, then the cleaning and operating tools are dotted around the sides of the trail with the T-shaped hand-spike laid flat at the rear. A three-part channel clips over the cover on top of the trail, and the aiming mechanism is finished by adding a combination of styrene and PE parts, the two PE adjustment wheels having styrene handles. An air receiver is made up from two halves and fixed to the front of the gun under the shield, which has a seven-part frame, a separate vision port cover and two individual manual brake levers on the front surface, then the axle halves are added on each side, followed by fitting the shield and the brake mechanisms so that the wheels can be slipped over the ends of the axle. Lastly, the simple towing hitch is cut off and a more detailed hitch is glued over its location. Markings The overall colour of the gun is olive drab, but three different shield colours can add a little variation to your model, one of which is plain olive drab, the other two are camouflaged. From the box you can build one of the following: The decals are printed anonymously and are suitable for this or the earlier boxing, with most of the decals plain white. The one multi-colour decal is in good register, and all decals have good colour density and sharpness. Conclusion It’s a well-detailed kit of a chunky little 155mm howitzer that saw some action in early WWII after missing most of the action in WWI. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  21. Ju-87G1/G2 Stuka (BF-002) 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys The Stuka must be one of the most well-known German aircraft of WWII, partially because of its propaganda effects during the Nazis’ early successes with Blitzkrieg as they over-ran much of Europe, one after another. It was developed in the mid-30s as a dive-bomber, with distinctive gull-wing and fixed undercarriage with spatted wheels, which housed the so-called ‘Jericho Trumpet’ sirens that terrified its victims, knowing that the bombers were entering the dive phase of their attack from an almost vertical angle. The pilots would often black-out during the dive, but they were assisted by an automatic pull-out system that prevented many pilots from ploughing into the ground whilst unconscious. When they were used to attack the British Isles they experienced heavy losses due to the fact that they were preyed upon by a faster, more agile opponent, and those fighters were being accurately directed toward them by radar operated ground-control. They began to be used in conjunction with Bf.110 escorts, but even the 110s were no match, needing their own escorts against the British Spitfires and Hurricanes. Rather than withdrawing the type from service entirely, they worked upon improving the airframe, and re-tasked it for other roles in less dangerous environments where the fighter opponents were either absent or less capable than the typical Allied aircraft of the day. The initial Ju.87B that was so badly mauled by the RAF gave way to the C, the D, and finally the R, which included a pivot to the ground-attack and tank destroyer role in which it had mixed success, partly due to its relatively slow speed over the battlefield making it an easy target. It lost the ground-attack role to the Fw.190, ending production of the type at the close of 1944, by which time it was hopelessly outclassed. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling from Border models from their new line of 1:35 aircraft that began with the Bf.109 that we reviewed here a while ago. It arrives in a large top-opening box, and inside are five sprues of medium grey styrene, two sprues of clear parts, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a four-part resin figure, a decal sheet, and the glossy instruction booklet, with colour profiles on the back pages that have been penned for them by AMMO. Detail is very good, and once you get over the slightly unusual scale of things, especially the pilot, who appears too tall for the scale, but that’s an optical illusion from staring at 1:32 pilot figures for years. Measuring it, the fellow scales out at approximately 5’10” ignoring the extra height of his cap. Construction begins with the Jumo 211J engine that could output up to 1,400hp on a good day, and this starts with the inverted V-12 block, which has two sides and two end-caps, with a top section added, and a V-shaped underside, plus a fluid reservoir on the top. It is bracketed by a pair of engine mounts, with another rectangular reservoir on the side of one of them, plus a drive-shaft to the front. More ancillaries are built up and mated with the engine, totalling 16 parts, plus a pair of cylinder head covers underneath. The firewall is detailed with seven extra parts, the oil-cooler is built of four styrene parts, plus two PE grilles at the rear, then the three sub-assemblies are joined together for insertion into the nose, which is made up from two halves separately from the main fuselage. When the engine is inserted, the front is closed up by a circular insert, and the exhaust stubs are slotted into the sides, each one having a slide-moulded hollow lip to add realism, and two tiny PE L-shaped parts placed in slots just in front of the radiator intake. The cockpit is begun by making up the pilot’s seat from four styrene parts and two PE belts, with the bulkhead behind it made of two more before being added to the stepped floor surface, which also has a clear view-port in the floor, control column, two-part rear seat, gun mount and rear bulkhead. A large rectangular ammo can is added to either side of the gun mount, then the two sidewalls are made up with PE and styrene parts, and glued to the inside of the fuselage halves after drilling a few holes, then trapping the cockpit between the halves along with a circular insert behind the gunner’s position. The two-part rudder with control linkages and clear light are also fitted at this time. Attention shifts to the wings, which have a separate gull-shaped centre section on the lower wing and shorter outer sections, both of which have a landing light and clear cover in the leading edge. The relocated radiators under the centre of the wings have separate inserts with PE grilles on both sides, which are glued in first then covered by the cowlings. Each wing has the period-typical Junkers flying surfaces that run the full width of the wingspan in three sections, attaching by narrow rods into slots, with additional actuators added for each part, plus a couple of horn balances on the outer section. The upper wings close over the lights, and because they overlap the joint between the lower inner and outer sections, makes for a strong joint. Wingtips, a top-side square insert, and on the port side a strange little horn that requires the drilling out of a slot outboard of the inner/outer join. In the open centre section, the lower-view glazing is added, and an un-numbered surround that supports another piece of glazing, which I eventually found on sprue C after (far too) much searching. It’s part C7 in case you wondered. The instructions also repeat the completion of the centre section along with the other wing, but it’s easy enough to ignore that. The Stuka had a large greenhouse canopy, and you have a choice of three styles of front opener, one with a straight lower rail, one with a pair of sliding windows in the middle, and another with a kinked lower rail. The windscreen has two choices, one that has simplified cheek panels, the other with an additional vertical frame, and both have an external piece of armoured glass added to the front, which is best done late in the build and possibly using a clear varnish to avoid bubbles. The fixed centre section has a roll-over frame inserted inside before it is glued in place, and the rear glazing has two styrene inserts added before the zwilling (twin) mounted MG15s are made up and slipped through the port in the rear. The barrels and breeches are a single part, with four more styrene parts making up the mount, and a pair of PE ring sights are added to a curved bar above each barrel. Behind the gun position, the EZ6 direction-finding unit receives a clear styrene cover, although it’s not clear from the profiles whether this should be left clear or painted over. The elevators have separate flying surfaces with twin actuators and a tip-mounted pivot that is made from two parts. Two of the tabs on the elevators should be removed from each of the flying surfaces before they are mated, then they attach to the fuselage by the usual slot-and-tab method. The nose is joined to the fuselage before the canopy is completed, and is joined by another section of the upper fuselage under the windscreen, which has rudder pedals and instrument panel that doesn’t mention the decal that is present on the sheet four-fold, but it’s there and you know about it now. The gunsight and clear lens are added at the front, then the sub-assembly is dropped into the space in front of the pilot. The prop has a central boss in two halves, with separate blades with keyed bases, plus front and back sections of the spinner enclosing it after attachment to the drive-shaft with a flat circular retaining plate. The fuselage and wings are also mated at this point, followed by the main gear legs, which are made wheels first, having two half tyres and two-part hubs that the strut slips over, and this is then covered over by the spatted fairing, with a separate scissor-link hidden away inside. The tail-wheel is similarly made from four parts, with a two-part yoke trapping it in place for installation under the aircraft that allows it to stand on its own “feet” for the first time. The G often carried gondola-mounted 37mm cannons under each wing, with a 6-round magazine containing armour-piercing rounds that garnered the nickname Kanonenvogel, which literally translates to Cannon Bird. The breeches are made of two halves that are surrounded by a lozenge-shaped cowling with the magazine projecting from both sides about half way. The pylons they mount on are also in halves, and have additional styrene parts and PE mounting plates added so they can be fitted under the wings in the pre-drilled holes. The final jobs involve adding the pitot probe to the starboard wing leading edge, plus optional armour panels on the sides of the pilot’s cockpit if using the simplified windscreen and kinked lower edge to the sliding canopy that protects him. The Figure Included in this first boxing is a four-part pilot figure in a greenish-grey resin. It has separate arms and head, but the rest is cast in one, with crisp casting and moulding that has no visible bubbles or defects. The head had fallen off its casting block on my example, but the chap is still smiling from under his cap, so it’s all good. The drape of his costume, features and pose are all first rate too, so it’s a welcome addition. Markings There are two decal options at the back of the instruction booklet, both wearing green splinter camouflage and a yellow tail band, and flown by the same well-known pilot. From the box you can build one of the following: Ju-87G-1, Hans-Ulrich Rudel, Kursk, 1943 Ju-87G-2, Hans-Ulrich Rudel, Eastern Front, Germany 1944 Decals are printed anonymously, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The dials on the instrument panels are very slightly out of register however, but it is so unlikely to be noticed that it doesn’t really matter. There are a few stencils on the sheet, and some Swastikas for the tail fin, although they are absent from the profiles at the back of the instruction booklet. Conclusion If you want to engage in this relatively new scale for aircraft, this seems like a good plan. It is well-detailed and should be simple to put together with a bit of care and attention, so should build up into a creditable replica of this genuinely iconic aircraft. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  22. Messerschmitt Me.262 HG.III (48A003) 1:48 Amusing Hobby via Albion Alloys The Me.262 was a ground-breaking aircraft, as it was the world’s first fully operational jet-powered fighter that went into action too late to make any real difference to the outcome of WWII thanks to Hitler’s meddling (Nice one Adolf!), insisting that it was made capable of performing as a fighter-bomber, thus delaying its entry into service by around a year – a crucial period in wartime. It was an amazing leap forward in technology, able to outpace the best piston-engined fighters by around 100mph, although it wasn’t without its problems, mainly because of the engines. Due to their isolation from the metallurgical technology and supplies from the majority of the free world, the Nazis were unable to make the kind of metals that were needed to stand up to the rigors and heat of burning jet fuel for more than a short period, which meant that the engines were effectively ruined within a few hundred hours of use. The Junkers Jumo 004 engines were the more advanced axial-flow type, but they were slow to spool up and down, which made the aircraft vulnerable to attack during take-off or landing, which resulted in a lot of losses once the Allies caught on. Add to that the weakness of the nose gear to this early tricycle design, and it was far from perfect. As with all technology, the next version is underway before the original has even reached completion, and the 262 was no exception. A streamlined canopy option was mooted initially, and that became known as the Hochgeschwindigkeit I or HG.I. Another variant was to have a greater sweep to the wings at 35o and closer-set engine nacelles, with a V-tail that turned out to be an aerodynamic faux pas. A further design had a greater sweep still at 45o and two of the more advanced Heinkel HeS 011 engine in semi-conformal nacelles buried in the wing root, but the war ended before that got further than the drawing board. Some of the DNA of the HG.III may well be found in subsequent designs in early US, British or Soviet jet aviation. The Kit Anyone that knows me will also know that I have a bit of a thing for Me.262s, so when I saw this one in the Rumourmonger area of the site, I was very happy and you can probably see my excited comment there if you care to have a look – feel free to roll your eyes. Amusing Hobby specialise in models of unusual types, whether it’s armour or aircraft, and this is their third venture into aviation, which makes me very happy they have. The kit arrives in a slim top-opening box, and inside are two large sprues in sand-coloured styrene, a clear sprue, decal sheet and the glossy instruction booklet with colour profiles on the rear for the markings options. Two sprues may seem a little light for a 1:48 jet fighter, but because of the design of the HG.III, the blended forward fuselage, nacelles and wings take up only two parts, with another two for the aft section of the fuselage. This cuts down on the part-count substantially, as does some nice moulding of the cockpit and the nose gear bay. Construction begins with the lower fuselage for a change, into which you add the long nose gear bay, after deciding whether the deeply hidden ejector-pin mark in the very depths of the bay is worth hiding. Speaking personally, I will be putting a tiny shim of plastic over the complete roof of the bay to make sure it’s never seen again. A central spine is inserted onto three turrets running from the nose gear bay to the aft of the main gear bays, forming the centreline of the latter. From the outside the gear leg, its retraction jack and captive door are added to the front, and nearer the rear a side-opening door with its own retractor is fixed, with a scrap diagram showing the correct orientation of the jack. The nose wheel is a two-part assembly with radial tread and a separate inner hub, just like those in the standard 262. The tapering intakes are made from top and bottom halves, and these are slipped inside a bulkhead with half-circular cut-outs, then the assembly is dropped into the lower fuselage on a number of receiver turrets. At the rear of the engine trunking, the rear fan and bullet fairings are slotted into place in the exhaust trunking in preparation for the centre section that will be visible through the main gear bay openings. The centre section has a pair of oddly-shaped sort-of figure-of-eight bulkheads that are spaced apart by two sets of trunking, which comprise a series of stepped cylinders. A pair of jacks are set diagonally between the two bulkheads before it is inserted into the lower fuselage ready for closure. The cockpit finally gets some attention, based upon a familiar cylindrical part that bears a close resemblance to the original 262 cockpit, into which the seat, control column and rudder pedals are mounted, with a fuse box on the right side and the main instrument panel lowered into a slot in the sidewalls with a clear gunsight on a rod mount passing through a notch in the top of the panel. Given the relatively low part-count for the cockpit, detail is good, with excellent raised and etched dials on the panel and side consoles. If you wanted to add more detail however, it’s entirely probable that existing Me.262 aftermarket will fit due to the similarities between it and the standard cockpit. The completed assembly is inserted into the upper fuselage, then the two halves are joined together, with a chunk of weight added to the space in the nose, although you aren’t given a value to help you work it out. The D/F loop and pitot probe are glued into position at this point, but I’ll be leaving them off until after painting. The canopy is sadly a single part, and fits into the recess over the cockpit, with a portion of the fuselage moulded into the front of the windscreen for ease of merging it with the rest of the fuselage. My example had a few small scratches on the surface, but they will probably disappear after a coat of Klear, and incidentally it’s the streamlined canopy, not the standard comparatively upright version. Underneath, the main gear legs are inserted into a pair of sockets moulded into the upper fuselage, and both have a two-part wheels with diamond tread fixed to the axles, and a half-circular bay door with jack, and a triangular rear bay door, with an antenna just behind the bays. A scrap diagram shows the correct angles from the front to assist you in placing them. The aft fuselage is split vertically, and has the elevators fixed to slots in the tail, then the completed assembly is mated with a stepped lip at the rear of the forward fuselage. I would leave the elevators off until after the fuselage is joined to ensure that they are set perfectly square with the wings, but that’s just me being cautious. I couldn’t resist nipping a few of the major parts off the sprues and taping them together after completing the review. Fit is excellent without glue, and the canopy slots into place perfectly, so probably won’t need any remedial work if you’re careful with the glue. The join between the front and aft fuselage is cleverly stepped for strength, and the elevators have one or two tabs to ensure the correct one is installed. It’s surprisingly large! Markings The HG.III was a paper project so it’s unlikely that anyone got as far as designing a camouflage scheme specifically for it, so the world is your lobster when it comes to markings. In sensible mode, extrapolating existing late war schemes would be a sensible move, but no-one can argue even if you painted it sky blue pink with purple spots, although they may question your sanity in private. There are two decal options included on the sheet, with profiles provided by AMMO, and using their colour codes to identify the shades. From the box you can build one of the following: Decals have never been the strongest part of Amusing Hobby’s offerings, but this sheet seems well-printed apart from a slight smudge on one of the E3 decals, with a matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The supplied Swastikas are in dog-leg halves, and they seem a little large to my untrained eye. The white ones with black outlines will need a little of the black outline cutting away if used, but the black with white outline markings correctly have a gap in the white outline where they will overlap. I’ll be using some of my Xtradecal Swastikas when I build mine for my own ease. Conclusion Hopefully, all those that would pooh-pooh this release because it “never existed” have given up reading by now, and I sometimes wonder how they cope when they’re watching fictional movies, Sci-Fi or other non-existent things. It’s an injection moulded Me.262 HG.III, which I thought we’d never see in my lifetime, so there’s a lot to be happy about. The detail that is provided is good, but if you’re a detail fiend you might hold off your build until someone has created detail sets for the landing gear bays, which could be seen as a little simplified to some, although little will be seen once it’s in the cabinet. External detail is excellent however, with rivets and raised details over the entire surface. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  23. IDF Shot Kal w/Gimel (35A032) 1:35 Amusing Hobby via Albion Alloys No-one that is familiar with WWII British armour could say with hand on heart that the tanks fielded were adequate for the task in hand, and sometimes they were barely adequate to even be used in battle. The War Office was painfully aware of the fact, which can be partly laid at the door of inadequate development and funding in the approach to the war, but by 1943 work had begun to rectifying this lapse in quality. What became known as the Centurion was on the drawing board and in development during the last two years of the war, and the initial instances rolled off the production line while the guns were still firing during January of 1945. They took the suspension of the lacklustre Comet, extended it with an extra wheel-set and also widened it, using Horstmann suspension for practicality’s sake, even though its ride was inferior to the bulkier Christie type. It was outfitted with sloped armour that was best-in-class, and at outset it used the Rolls Royce Meteor engine, which was both capable and well-known by that point. Initial production used the 17-pounder gun that had transformed the Sherman into the Firefly, which was capable of taking out a Tiger at a reasonable distance. The Mark II followed quickly with increased performance and armour, again replaced by the Mk.III that was a major update with gun stabilisation giving the crew the capability of firing the new 20 pounder gun accurately on the move, accelerating the removal of the Mk.I and Mk.IIs from service due to its massive improvement over its forebears. The Mk.V used the even more capable L7 gun that kept it ahead of most tanks of its day, a weapon that saw long service wherever it was used. Overseas sales of the type were excellent, with a large number of operators, some of whom used them for an extensive period, such as Israel, who named the initial batch Sho’t, which translates to Whip in English. With the capture of enemy tanks during the 60s, the Israelis had over 300 on hand, which they began upgrading in their usual manner to extend their lifespan and improve crew survivability. With a new engine and transmission that required a raised engine deck, and a new armour pack from the Mk.13, the name was changed to Sho’t Kal, with a further suffix depending on what upgrades the type carried. The Gimel received a new turret rotation mechanism, Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) package, and a new cupola for the commander, keeping it at the top of the AFV tree in its area of operation. The gradual drawdown of the Sho’t Kal began before 1990, with most of the survivors re-engineered to be used as Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) such as the Puma or Nagmachon, and Combat Engineering Vehicles that extended their usefulness long beyond that anticipated by the original designers. The Kit This is a substantial additive re-tool of the original Centurion/FV4005 kit from Amusing Hobby from recent times, adding four more sprues to the box. The kit arrives in a sturdy top-opening box with an appealing painting of the subject matter on the top, and inside are fifteen sprues and one hull part in sand-coloured styrene, a bag of 210+ (I lost count) individual track links in brown styrene, a single round clear part (not pictured), a bag of six brass springs, a length of braided thread, a new fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a small decal sheet and an instruction booklet in portrait A4 format. Detail is up to the standards we’ve come to expect from Amusing Hobby, and the new parts include a replacement engine deck, the mantlet and corrugated blast-bag, and the additional stowage basket on the rear of the turret. Construction begins with the assembly of the bogies that are built around the six metal springs to give the suspension arms some real travel, providing you keep the glue away from the pivot points. There are three of these each side of the large hull tub, and each one carries four wheels in pairs on two axles each, held onto the axles with a central hub cap. The tracks are wide, so the return rollers sit on projecting bases, and long stand-off brackets are added to support the side skirts later in the build. The huge final drive housing is layered up and topped with a toothed drive sprocket and a small roller that is probably there to prevent track shedding during turns, as seen on the WWII Panther. At the front is the idler wheel on an armoured axle that pivots to give good track tension once you have made them up and wrapped them around the road wheels. The tracks are supplied free of any sprues and quite free of clean-up, especially if you are planning on dirtying them up later, so you can just start making them up there and then. Each side uses 102 links, and as they snap-together they shouldn’t take too long to assemble, which is nice. I put together 12 links in a few minutes, and they do remain workable, although they aren’t as mobile as they perhaps could be under ideal circumstances. You might get the occasional one coming adrift, but in general they should be fairly easy to fit, and if you want to freeze them in place once you have them installed, a dab of glue to each link will do the trick, leaving you free to handle them more roughly during the painting and weathering process. Both runs of links are applied to the vehicles with the traction bar on each link to the rear, so ensure you test-fit them properly before you put them in for the final time. A number of spare track links are fitted to the rear bulkhead with more towing eyes and the infantry telephone box, separated by an insert. A number of PE stiffening plates are added to the sloped lower bulkhead, which have large bolts etched in. The new engine deck has PE plates fixed to it and a hole bored from inside, as does the glacis plate, the driver's glacis panel and the turret ring section. The driver’s clamshell hatch has a pair of vision blocks with armoured housings added to their front, with some small curved parts added from PE along the way. The glacis plate has the front fenders moulded into it, and this is outfitted with ERA blocks and a few small PE parts during installation plus fender extensions, completing the basic hull. The fenders have some holes drilled and some small sections removed, as do some of the small parts that add detail, and create the detailed stowage boxes on top of them. The detail level is then increased further with more boxes than other boxings, supports and a selection of pioneer tools, with more PE parts being added to some of the boxes here and there. The engine deck has a pair of exhaust pipes with separate PE flappers added, and a large number of grab handles and other small parts, plus the travel-lock for the barrel. At the front, more ERA blocks are dotted around, some on top of stowage boxes, a pair of front light clusters behind protective frames, attaching to the ram, and the sturdy arrow-head ram with a spare road wheel bolted to the top. The side-skirts are glued into place with the fenders, and the two towing cables are made up from styrene eyes with two lengths of braided cord of 12cm running between them, with a scrap diagram showing how they should be attached and laid over the rear of the vehicle. Now for the turret. It is built on a floor surround, which has the turret ring cut out, and has the two sides and the roof wrapped around it, trapping the highly-detailed covered mantlet and its coax machine gun in place, allowing it to elevate if you keep the glue off the pivot pegs. Some holes are drilled and filled in the roof, then the prominent angular stowage boxes are added to the sides along with aerial bases, and ERA blocks under the stowage boxes. The commander’s cupola and search light fit into the hole in the roof with armoured covers over the vision blocks, then uzi SMGs on racks, additional ammo boxes, barrel cleaning rods and other small assemblies are scattered around the top and sides of the turret. More ERA blocks are fixed to the sloped forward section of the turret roof, and the mantlet is first decked out with brackets to mount the ERA blocks that fix either side of the main gun. The grenade launcher boxes are detailed assemblies that are handed, and attach to the front corners of the turret on brackets with more ERA blocks. The two crew machine guns are made up and fixed to their brackets on the two hatches, and a large boxy search light is created using the single clear lens and a number of detail parts, to be attached at the root of the barrel later on. The rear bustle framework is first made from a number of fine tubular parts, then wrapped with PE mesh and has additional fuel cans affixed. It is glued to the turret rear, which has a pair of circular PE parts glued to the underside, then it is flipped over for making up the main gun. The gun tube is made of three parts, all of which are keyed to ensure the correct orientation, with the corrugated sleeve, tubular fume extractor and tapering muzzle sections, all of which are hollow-tipped, thanks in part to sliding moulds. You can now choose to use the searchlight or a remote .50cal M2 Browning machine gun over the barrel shroud, making up the latter from a good number of parts and a hollow barrel thanks to another sliding mould. If you are using the MG on the barrel, the searchlight is stowed on the back of the turret next to the indigenous rear basket, or if you choose to employ it, the empty bracket is shown installed in place on the rear. Pop the turret on the hull and that’s the gluey part over with. Markings There are decals for two vehicles supplied that wear one paint scheme, and it’s IDF sand grey. From the box you can depict this: The decals are printed in-house and are perfectly adequate for the task in black and white. Conclusion Another substantial investment in an additive tooling from Amusing Hobby, and it should build into an attractive model. Anyone wanting to depict the history of the Centurion or with an interest in IDF hardware should get a lot out of this boxing. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  24. Swedish Strv-104 (35A043) 1:35 Amusing Hobby via Albion Alloys Following WWII, Sweden assessed their defensive arsenal and reached the conclusion that they needed to re-equip with more modern tanks, so they went on the prowl for a suitable vehicle to defend their country. Having seen the technical and developmental promise of the new British Centurion, they made advances to the British Government, and were initially rebuffed in favour of equipping the British Army first. It occurred to someone along the British chain of command that a big influx of cash into the war weakened coffers would be welcome, so minds were changed and an offer of 80 of the much-improved Mk.3s was made, arriving in Sweden in the early 50s. Further orders followed, ending with an order of over 100 Mk.10s that served alongside their indigenous and ingenious (not to mention unusual) S-Tank (Strv-103) for many years under the name Strv-101. In the early 80s the Swedish engineers began a midlife upgrade programme that would help extend the life of the type further, in line with their original feelings on the capabilities of the basic hull. The gun was better stabilised and jacketed to keep the barrel cool, the engine and transmission were updated, and the whole electronics package was upgraded to modern standards, including the fitting of night-vision optics amongst other improvements such as laser range-finding and targeting. The armour was also modernised to include appliqué Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) packages around the front of the hull and its turret to counter the ever-improving penetrative capabilities of projectiles at the time. This variant was given the name Strv-104, leapfrogging the S-tank by one. Both types were withdrawn from service at about the same time in the later 1990s after the Swedish military made comparison trials with modern types that found the 104 wanting in enough areas to warrant replacement. The German Leopard 2 was their final choice, entering Swedish service as the Strv-121, and later as the improved Strv-122. The Kit This is a substantial additive re-tool of the original Centurion/FV4005 kit from Amusing Hobby from recent times, adding two more sprues to the box and nipping off the original smooth exterior barrel from one of the existing ones. The kit arrives in a sturdy top-opening box with an appealing painting of the subject matter on the top, and inside are twelve sprues and one hull part in sand-coloured styrene, a bag of 210+ (I lost count) individual track links in brown styrene, a bag of six brass springs, a length of braided thread, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a small decal sheet and an instruction booklet in portrait A4 format. Detail is up to the standards we’ve come to expect from Amusing Hobby, and the new parts include a replacement engine deck, the cooling-jacket wrapped barrel that uses slide-moulding to achieve the details, and the angular ERA blocks for the front of the vehicle. Construction begins with the assembly of the bogies that are built around the six metal springs to give the suspension arms some real travel, providing you keep the glue away from the pivot points. There are three of these each side of the large hull tub, and each one carries four wheels in pairs on two axles each, held onto the axles with a central hub cap. The tracks are wide, so the return rollers sit on projecting bases, and long stand-off brackets are added to support the side skirts later in the build. The huge final drive housing is layered up and topped with a toothed drive sprocket and a small roller that is probably there to prevent track shedding during turns, as seen on the WWII Panther. At the front is the idler wheel on an axle that pivots to give good track tension once you have made them up and wrapped them around the road wheels. The tracks are supplied free of any sprues and quite free of clean-up, especially if you are planning on dirtying them up later, so you can just start making them up there and then. Each side uses 102 links, and as they snap-together they shouldn’t take too long to assemble, which is nice. I put together 12 links in a few minutes, and they do remain workable, although they aren’t as mobile as they perhaps could be under ideal circumstances. You might get the occasional one coming adrift, but in general they should be fairly easy to fit, and if you want to freeze them in place once you have them installed, a dab of glue to each link will do the trick, leaving you free to handle them more roughly during the painting and weathering process. Both runs of links are applied to the vehicles with the traction bar on each link to the rear, so ensure you test-fit them properly before you put them in for the final time. The rear bulkhead needs a little adaptation for this boxing, moving the towing eyes to the top of the raised locating marks, then removing the unused section and smoothing it back down. A number of spare track links are fitted to the top section of the bulkhead with more towing eyes and the infantry telephone box, separated by an insert. Two small marks on each side of the lower hull are also removed and made good during installation of the bulkhead. The new engine deck has a hole bored from inside, as does the glacis plate, the driver's glacis panel and the turret ring section, then the exterior of the engine deck has a dozen small pips removed from the centre of the deck as it is fitted along with the other parts to the top of the hull. The driver’s clamshell hatch has a pair of vision blocks with armoured housings added to their front, with some small curved parts added from PE along the way. The glacis plate has the front fenders moulded into it, and this is outfitted with ERA blocks and a few small PE parts during installation, completing the basic hull. The fenders have some holes drilled and some small sections removed, as do some of the small parts that add detail, and create the stowage boxes on top of them. The detail level is then increased further with more boxes, supports and a selection of pioneer tools, with more PE parts being added to some of the boxes here and there. The side-skirts are glued into place with the fenders, after cutting out the foot-holes at the front and rear, which are marked and pre-thinned from the inside to help you out. The hull is finished off by fitting a number of additional fill-in ERA blocks, the front light clusters with protective cages, and other small parts. At the rear the engine deck is detailed with a number of small parts and a protective bumper around the rear of the turret, with a scrap diagram showing how it should look from above. Now for the turret. It is built on a floor panel, which has the turret ring cut out, and has the two sides and the roof wrapped around it, trapping the two-part mantlet in place, allowing it to elevate if you keep the glue off the pivot pegs. Some holes are drilled and filled in the roof, then the prominent angular stowage boxes are added to the sides along with spare smoke grenades, their launchers, aerials, and of course the tapered ERA blocks on the mantlet, which attach via brackets and have a number of bolt-heads applied around the edges from the shaped section of sprue L. The commander’s cupola and binocular sighting glasses fit into the hole in the roof with armoured covers over the vision blocks, then a few more spare track links on PE brackets on the rear corner facets, the commander’s machine gun on a relaxed mount, and the main gun are all glued in place to complete the turret. The gun tube is made of three parts, all of which are keyed to ensure the correct orientation, with the sleeve, fume extractor and muzzle sections, all of which are hollow-tipped, thanks in part to sliding moulds. The smooth sided bore evacuator is left over from the earlier boxings, while the other two barrel segments have the texture of the cooling jacket with its attachment belts moulded into the styrene, giving a realistic look. Pop the turret on the hull and that’s the gluey part over with. Markings There’s only one markings option supplied and one paint scheme, as that’s what they wore. It’s the Swedish splinter pattern, and it makes anything look good. From the box you can depict this: Decals are printed in China and up to the task. There aren’t many of them, so there’s not much to say. Conclusion It has taken some investment by Amusing Hobby to tool the new parts for this slightly niche option, so it’s good to see a kit that allows you to make an Strv-104 from the box in good-old-fashioned styrene, with a little bit of PE to give you some in-scale thickness parts where sensible. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
  25. Marcel-Block MB.151 (DW48039 & DW72030) Foreign Service Greece & Luftwaffe 1:48 & 1:72 Dora Wings via Albion Alloys The MB.150 was a design for a modern metal monoplane from the Bloch company and began life in 1934, reaching prototype stage, only to find that it wasn’t what the designers had hoped, so they went back to the drawing board and came up with the MB.151, which was very similar to the original, but improved enough to give it the potential for entering service with the French Air Force, Armée de l'Air. Although the 151 was better, it still wasn’t what was needed, and development continued with the MB.152 running in parallel with the 151, as well as other options that were considering US developed Twin Wasp and Cyclone engines, but neither of these variants reached fruition. One option that involved mounting a much more powerful Gnome-Rhône 14R-4 engine showed much promise, but it came too late to do the French any good, and it was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid after the Armistice. The 151 was ordered into production in small quantities along with the 152, and a number of them were in service for conflict by the time WWII began, although many of the 151s weren’t considered combat ready, having some quite important parts missing, such as the 20mm guns or props. As the 151 entered service in a less-than-desirable condition, it was an unknown quantity that soon became known, but not in a good way. In combat it was found to be too slow to cope with the Bf.109, and even struggled to keep up with the twin-engined Bf.110, which itself was no longer state-of-the-art. They suffered heavy losses when involved in fighter-to-fighter engagements, although they were more than capable of tackling the bombers, as 20mm cannons make large holes. Fortunately, the airframe was able to take damage and remain airborne, which probably saved a few lives, but not many. The remaining airframes of both the 151 and the superior 152 were taken by the Luftwaffe after the fall of France, finding their way into pressed service with the Germans, although hypocritically the German high command forced the Vichy Air Force to standardise on one type, the Dewoitine D.520 under their control. before the fall, Greece had ordered a small number of 151s, but only received a handful, barely enough to equip a squadron, which fought bravely against the Axis until they were all shot down. In total there were under 150 of the MB.151, with almost 500 of the MB.152. The Kit (DW48039) 1:48 This is a reboxing of the original kit of 2019 vintage, and arrives in a smallish top-opening box with eight sprues of grey styrene, one of clear parts, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a sheet of vinyl masks (not pictured), a single resin part, decal sheet and A5 portrait instruction booklet with spot colour. Detail is good, and it’s a comprehensive package that should be buildable without aftermarket for most, which makes it highly cost-effective. Construction begins with the cockpit, which is built on a flat floor and includes a PE seat frame and rear, plus a styrene cushion, control column, controls and forward bulkhead, plus sundry parts affixed to the floor. A set of PE seatbelts are provided, then it is put to one side while you build the prop with two-part spinner, the tail fin with separate rudder, and the Gnome-Rhône 14N-35 radial engine, which has two banks of pistons, wiring harness in PE and bell-housing into which a drive-shaft is glued, which after painting is enclosed in a three-part cowling, rear bulkhead and intake insert in the lower edge. In true “instructions written by a modeller” style, other sub-assemblies are created, such as the elevators with separate control surfaces and the main gear legs, which have two-part wheels and captive bay door covers, plus a retraction jack each. Closing of the fuselage involves detailing the cockpit sidewalls with small parts, adding an insert for the antenna base, and attaching the wing root fairings to the rectangular cut-outs in the fuselage halves. The cockpit is inserted into the fuselage after adding a horseshoe-shaped instrument panel and gun sight, with the vertical parts moulded into the bulkhead installed earlier. The moulded-in detail is good, and is improved by a pair of decals on the sheet, although the wrong decal numbers are given, but if you can’t figure out which decal goes where, you should arrange to see your doctor as a matter of some urgency! The lower wings are unusually supplied in three parts with a butt-joint between the centre and outer sections. There is a spar section to help you achieve the correct dihedral however, and this has end-caps with one resin and one styrene part – I’m guessing someone forgot they needed two! Additional parts close in the main gear bays, then the upper wing halves can be glued in place, followed by the ailerons and the clear wingtips and landing light in the port leading edge. The fuselage and wings are joined at the same time as the three tail fins, and the engine in its cowling is offered up to the front. A trio of scrap diagrams show the correct orientation of the lumps and bumps on the cowling, and notes that there is a slight downward tilt to the thrust-line when fitted correctly, so don’t fret if it looks a bit droopy when you glue it on. The canopy is two part, although you would have to cut the aft section to pose the canopy open, which is a shame. There is also a spare windscreen part on the clear sprue, and it’s the one with the hole in the front that you need, through which the pilot will be able to see the three-part ring and bead sight on its fittings if he can stop his eyes from watering. Inside the rear of the canopy is a deck that has a PE piece of head armour attached to its front, so remember to put that in the paint rotation and install it before you close the canopy over. The final step involves detailing the underside of the aircraft with landing gear, oil cooler, a flush-fitting aerial, the tail wheel and two supports for the elevators. The Kit (DW72030) 1:72 Given the fact that the 1:48 kit is half as large again as this kit, this one arrives in a smaller box, and contains four sprues of darker grey styrene, one of clear parts, a sheet of canopy masks (not pictured), a PE fret and a set of decals, plus the instruction booklet in A5 portrait format, printed in spot colour. The part count is lower of course, but the detail is still good, bringing almost everything that’s in the 1:48 to this smaller scale, just with fewer parts. Construction starts with the seat, which is completely styrene comprising five parts, and this joins to the cockpit floor along with the controls and a set of PE seatbelts for the pilot. The front bulkhead and horseshoe-shaped instrument panel are coupled together and have decals plus a gunsight with PE surround. It is glued as a unit to the cockpit floor along with various detail parts, more of which are attached to the interior of the fuselage, after which you can close up the fuselage, adding the antenna base behind the cockpit, the deck behind the pilot’s seat, and a partial bulkhead that forms part of the main gear bay. The lower wings are a single part with a spar that has end-caps forming the outer ends of the bays, and a divider between the two sections. The upper wings are glued over the top, then the assembly is joined to the fuselage, which has the wing root fairings moulded-in. The engine has a lower parts count, but still represents both banks of cylinders, with a slightly simplified bell housing at the front. The block is attached to a bulkhead, ready to be surrounded by the three-part cowling, with the lower intake section and a drive-shaft inserted into the bell housing. The prop is a single part with two-part spinner, and like its larger sibling, the landing gear is made up from two-part wheels, strut with retraction jack and captive bay door. The tail feathers give you the choice of posable rudder and a tip extension to the fin, but the elevators are single parts, each moulded with their flying surfaces integral, and the supports added underneath later. The PE head armour is attached to the front of the deck in the cockpit, the droopy engine cowling is glued in place, and the canopy with holey windscreen plus antenna are all put in place alongside the wingtip and landing light clear parts and pitot probe. The prop is slotted into the engine, then the gear, the oil cooler and small PE parts are inserted into the underside. The gunsight is just as well detailed as the larger kit, and is still made from PE for detail. Markings There are four identical options on the decal sheet in both scales, two each of captured German airframes, and Greek aircraft, all wearing similar three-tone grey/green/brown camouflage, while one of the Greek aircraft has black theatre markings on its lower wings. From the box you can build one of the following: CQ+OF Luftwaffe FFC A/B116 Neudorf-Oppeln, winter 1940-41 24 Sqn., Elefsina 1939-41, Royal Hellenic Air Force 24 Sqn., Elefsina 1939-41, Royal Hellenic Air Force Luftwaffe captured aircraft in 1940 Decals 1:48 Decals 1:72 Decals are by DecoGraph, 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 the most stellar performing fighter in the French WWII arsenal, but a really nice model of the type with plenty of detail in both scales, and who doesn’t like a kit with canopy masks included? Something a little different for the cabinet too. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops while stocks last. Review sample courtesy of
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