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  1. Flettner Fi-282 Kolibri. (Hummingbird) MiniArt 1:35 History Although the first helicopter to enter service with the German forces in 1939 in the shape of the Fl-265, the 6 machines built were really prototypes for what followed, the Fl-282. The Fl 282 shared the same "intermeshing" rotor design as the Fl 265, this arrangement involving two individual rotor blades crossing one another, without touching, while rotating in opposite directions and on individual masts to achieve the desired vertical lift. The Fl 282 was given an all-new engine in the Bramo Sh.14A, a 7-cylinder, air-cooled radial piston engine outputting at 160 horsepower. Flight testing of the Fl 282 began in 1941 and eventually involved two flyable prototypes. These two prototypes were given enclosed cockpits while follow-up units were to feature the well-photographed open-air design. It was the German Navy that saw the value inherent in the Flettner helicopter and ordered a batch of fifteen for evaluation from its surface ships. Prototypes were designated Fl 282 V1 through V7 and followed by the Fl 282A-1 single-seat reconnaissance version for launching/retrieval from German warships. The Fl 282B-2 designation was given to the submarine-launched, single-seat reconnaissance variants, which were actually two seaters, with a second seat to the rear of the frame. This was for an observer in the scout, reconnaissance or mission liaison role. The Luftwaffe was granted a production order for some 1,000 Fl 282 units sometime in 1944, these to be manufactured by the BMW for the sheer numbers required of the German war effort. But these plans were disrupted when the plant designated to build them was bombed by allied aircraft. In 1945, the Luftwaffe went on to establish a dedicated reconnaissance wing through Transportstaffel 40 (TS/40) which was to stock several Fl 282 helicopters and based out of the Muhldorf District of Bavaria. It is interesting to note, that after the war, Anton Flettner eventually went to work with the Kaman Helicopter company, renowned for using the twin intermeshing rotors on canted masts that Flettner had introduced with his wartime helicopter, and these are still being produced today. The Model I first saw the prototype model at the 2017 IPMS show at Telford and was greatly impressed with the kit and the decision to release such an oddball subject, but then MiniArt are renowned for producing kits that are a little different from the mainstream manufactures. The kit has now finally been released and comes in a nicely illustrated top opening box. Inside it is noticeable that the kit could have fitted in a smaller box as it takes up about half of the available space. That said, once the sprues are removed from the two layers of plastic bags, it does prove that the tightly packed sprues have kept the many fragile parts safe from damage. The model comes on eight sprues of grey styrene, a small sheet of etched brass and a decal sheet. As usual with MiniArt kits the moulding is superb with no sign of flash or other imperfections, but there are an awful lot of moulding pips, particularly on the tubular framework which will require very careful clean-up. The model depicts V-21 which looking at the instructions is the prototype for the two seat submarine variant, later to become the Fl 282B-2. Construction begins with the frame work fuselage; with the main bulkhead drilled, out the two piece rear seat is attached. The floor is fitted with what looks like a keel beam, before the main and rear bulkheads are glued into place, followed by the two side sections. The rear roof section is then added, followed by the two piece fin and single piece rudder. Two tubular cross members are then attached, along with two tubular engine mounts. The engine is a model in itself with a single piece block, which is fitted with one set of conrods on a circular frame and the single piece crankcase, the other conrods are separate as are the cylinder heads which are glued on next. The four piece gearbox is the attached to the crankcase followed by the output shaft. The forward section of the upper fuselage, containing the main rotor gearbox mounting frames is then attached, as are the horizontal tailplanes, control runs and, rather strangely, a two bladed propeller and protective ring to the front of the engine which sits inside the fuselage. The main rotor gearbox is made up from no less than thirty three parts, and includes all the control linkages, filters, rotor masts and other fittings. Probably the most complex part of the build is the assembly of what we could loosely call the cockpit. There are four sections of tubular frame that make the cockpit surrounds, then it is fitted out with the control column, all the control linkages, collective lever, rudder pedals, throttle quadrant with linkages attached and the two piece instrument panel with decal instrument faces, which you can then glaze with your favourite glazing medium. With all this in place it is fitted to the fuselage and the rear of the cockpit fitted with its strangely shaped bulkhead and the two piece seat. The main rotor gearbox assembly is then fitted to its mounting and enclosed with three panels. There are two four piece side panels that enclose the rear seat area and a four piece under fuselage section that fits under the engine area. There are two fuel tanks, each made up from four parts, the seven piece main undercarriage, and five piece nose undercarriage. These are all assembled before being glued into their respective positions. The rear panel of the main rotor gearbox is then fitted, as are the two small instrument panels and two piece PE seatbelts which fit in the cockpit. Lastly the two six piece rotors are fitted to their respective masts completing the build. Decals The single smallish decal sheet provides markings for just the one aircraft, but there appear to be two variations for it. There are also stencils and swastikas, (split into two halves), if you wish to add it. They are well printed, in register and suitably opaque. Conclusion The arrival of this kit was as much a surprise as it is welcome. Although a small aircraft, being in 1:35 it does make for a nice size, and while some parts are quite fiddly, it doesn’t look as bad as some of MiniArt’s armour kits. If you make the side panels detachable then you will be able to pose the machine with the lovely engine, gearbox and ancillaries visible. Review sample courtesy of
  2. German Tank Crew – Special Edition (35283) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models A figure placed in or on a vehicle or diorama gives it scale, and as such they add life to our attempts at scaling down reality. This set from figure masters MiniArt depicts WWII German Panzer crew, and contains six figures in various poses, some more relaxed than others. It arrives in a standard end-opening figure box, and once you've got the film wrap off the box, you are presented with three sprues in grey styrene, plus a small ancillary instruction sheet for the sprue of weapons and kit that is included in this edition. Put the word MiniArt into discussion about figures and you know that the sculpting will be first class, which is the case with this set, having beautifully rendered depictions of cloth, unit badges and insignia, and the faces of crew members with their various headgear. Three of the figures are suitable for turret hatches, with one having no legs for those tight areas, while another could be adapted to fit a hatch, but is stood leaning forward slightly. The other two figures are sitting down with one arm up as if they are manning the front hatches, and one even has his hand out gripping a steering wheel or similar. The crew are wearing the black grey Panzer uniform, with the two front crew having their shirt sleeves rolled up, while the three officers have their jackets on. The commanding officer type is clasping maps etc. behind his back, and is wearing a similar design jacket, but in the Pea Camouflage material that was sometimes seen toward the end of the war. The third sprue contains the additional weapons and pouches as mentioned earlier, including the following: 2 x Kar 98 with ammo pouches 2 x MP40 so-called "Schmeiser" SMGs with ammo pouches and open or folded stock 1 x binocular (with slide moulded lenses) with case 1 x Walther P38 pistol with open or closed holster 1 x flare pistol with holster and ammo pouches 1 x First Aid Kit 1 x Map case 1 x flashlight The first aid kit, MP40s, map case and flare ammo pouch require some minor assembly, which is detailed in the small instruction sheet in the box. The painting guide on the rear of the box gives suggestions as to the colours to use, which is conveniently translated between Vallejo, Mr Color, Life Color, Tamiya, AK, HUmbrol, Revell, and colour names in (probably Ukrainian) Cyrillic and English. The camo swatch is also annotated for your ease, which uses 5 basic colours for your delight and terror. Conclusion Realistic poses, excellent sculpting in a box of 6… well, 5.5 figures. Perfect for crewing your latest Panzer project to give it a little life and scale for very little cash. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  3. US Tank Crew (37005) 1:35 MiniArt A figure placed in or on a vehicle or diorama gives it scale, and as such they add life to our attempts at scaling down reality. This set from figure masters MiniArt depicts a modern US armour crew in a relaxed posture, either in on or stood next to their vehicle. It arrives in a standard end-opening figure box, and once you've got the film wrap off the box, inside you'll find a bag containing five individual sprues, three of which are still connected by a runner on my sample. Each figure (you get five) inhabits its own sprue, with arms, legs, torso, head, helmet and small details all separate for maximum detail. If you're phobic about painting faces you'll be pleased to hear that only two of the five aren't wearing scarves over their faces to protect themselves from the dust, which means that they are best suited to desert or cold weather situations. Put the word MiniArt into discussion about figures and you know that the sculpting will be first class, which is certainly the case with this set, showing all the modern traits of a combat soldier such as plate carriers covered in MOLLE loops, operator gloves with knuckle protection, and comms capable headgear worn by all, with goggles to keep out the dust. The box shows the uniforms in the newer digital cloth, which will make painting a bit tricky, but as more and more sheets of camouflage decal are being produced by the aftermarket companies such as FFSMC from France and Meister Chronicle from Japan these days, they are certainly an option, but a small swatch of camo is included on the box to assist those brave enough to paint their own. As they are AFV crew, they aren't festooned with equipment, but each figure has a separate chin-strap and helmet, with their balaclavas and comms headsets moulded into their heads. One figure (presumably the commander) is also carrying a paddle-holstered pistol on his hip, and most have a comms control box to place on their chests which will need some scratch-built wiring to finish them off. On the subject of poses, all figures are stood after a fashion, either leaning or partially sitting on the edge of their vehicle, which gives plenty of options for placement, either stood in hatchways, or lounging against the vehicle in between operations. None of them appear to tense or in fear for their lives, so are clearly intended to be somewhere where they can afford to relax. The painting guide on the rear of the box gives suggestions as to the colours you could use, which is conveniently translated between Vallejo, Mr Color, Life Color, Tamiya, AK, Humbrol, Revell, and colour names in (probably Ukrainian) Cyrillic and English. The camo swatch is also annotated for your use – now where can I get a digital brush from? Conclusion Superb for adding to your Abrams, Bradley or any of the modern US armour that's available in this scale, and keenly priced. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  4. East European Home Stuff (35584) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd. Dioramas live or die based on the level of ordinary detail that the modeller puts into the background, from leaf litter to dust, from a broken coffee table to plates in the dresser. This set aims to provide the modeller with some of these items to populate their creations with, slanted toward an East European design, but with enough elements that are ubiquitous that they can be used in almost any situation. The set arrives in a standard figure box with a painting of the parts on the front, sprue diagrams and painting guide on the rear, and six small sprues inside. One sprue is in white styrene, but the rest are in mid grey, with a small card envelope protecting the Photo-Etch (PE) parts that are also included. A further sheet of instructions are in the box to guide you through the more complex aspects of the items, and help with placement of the small parts such as the PE. From the box you can build the following: 1 x Sturdy wooden bench table 2 x medium backed dining chair 2 x dining stools 1 x stove with flue 1 x coffee/tea urn 1 x coffee pot 1 x large pan & lid 1 x ladle 1 x frying pan 1 x teapot In addition there are cups, platter, a canister, water jug, slices of bread or cheese, sausage, and loaves in various states of consumption spread over two of the sprues, plus some spoons and a small shovel to feed the stove with fuel. On the PE sheet there are forks, a kitchen knife, plate, various handles for the aforementioned items, and perforated parts for the urn, which has a styrene and PE Fawcett set into the bottom. The painting diagram on the rear of the box gives suggestions as to the colours you could use, which is conveniently translated between Vallejo, Mr Color, Life Color, Tamiya, AK, HUmbrol, Revell, and colour names in (probably Ukrainian) Cyrillic and English. The detail shown in the parts is impressive, and some care will be needed rolling the PE for the urn, but it will be well worth the effort. Even the food will give any scene that it is placed in an element of candour, as if the owners were disturbed mid-meal. The table has grain and scuffs moulded in, while the large pan is heavily dented as if from years of use and abuse – even the stove has the maker's mark in raised Cyrillic lettering on the front. Slide moulding has been used in places to create hollow pots, cups and stove parts, which is so much easier for the modeller than hiding seams from joining halves together. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  5. StuG.III 0-Series (35210) 1:35 MiniArt You can't beat a good StuG. The SturmGeschutz III was engineered based upon the chassis of the Panzer III, bit eschewing the turret of the latter, and replacing it with an armoured casemate that mounted a fixed gun with limited traverse. It was originally intended to be used as infantry support, using its (then) superior armour to advance on the enemy as a mobile blockhouse. It soon found other uses as an ambush predator, and was employed as a tank destroyer hidden waiting for Allied forces to stumble into its path. With the advances in sloped armour employed by the Soviets the original low velocity 75mm StuK 37 L/24 cannon was replaced by higher velocity unit that were also used in the Panzer IV for tank-on-tank combat. The earliest prototypes were made of mild steel and based on Panzer III Ausf.B chassis, and while equipped with guns were unsuitable for combat due to the relative softness of the steel that would have led to a swift demise on the battlefield. They were however used in training up new crews, with one such site being the Training Grounds at Jüterbog in Germany until withdrawal in '41-42. The Kit A brand new tooling from MiniArt, who have really pulled out all the stop recently and are becoming a major player in the 1:35 armour genre. This is doubtless the first of many editions of the StuG III from them, and it seems appropriate to begin at the beginning with a training vehicle. It is important to note that non-combatant status of these early vehicles, as this will affect how you portray them as a finished model if you are looking for realism. Battle damage and evidence of long-standing occupation by a single crew wouldn't be realistic, and Panzer Grey will be the order of the day. There's no doubt that as a training vehicle they would have been used and abused by the trainees however, so the finished model won't necessarily be parade clean either. Note the foam protection to part 2 of sprue Ja to prevent crush damage in transit. There are 29 sprues and 18 more of track links in grey styrene, a sprue of clear parts, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, and a small styrene jig to ease building of the tracks. The package is completed by a small decal sheet and the glossy covered instruction booklet that has colour profiles in the rear for the decal options. Construction begins with fabrication of the lower hull from individual panels, with suspension units and complex damping system added to the sides over a number of steps. Finally, eight sets of paired wheels are made up and installed along with drive sprockets and idler wheels on both sides. The tracks are built fairly early in the build, and as they're individual links the jig will come in handy. Each side uses 96 links, which you can build up in 8-link lengths on the jig, adding the small track-pins in sets of eight, whilst still attached to their sprues thanks to careful spacing of the parts. The links have five sprue gates each set into the curved edges of the part, with no sink marks of ejector pins to deal with, so clean-up before construction should be fairly quick by comparison. The pins fit into holes in the sides of the links like the real ones, and are glued in place with tiny quantities of cement of your favourite type, being very sparing with the amount for fear of gluing the links AND the jig together and making a general mess of things. Patience is most definitely a virtue in this instance. The superstructure is made up of a number of modules that are fabricated into sub-assemblies and then brought together later. The engine deck with PE louvers in the rear, various access panels and the twin exhaust mufflers is first, followed by the glacis plate with twin clamshell transmission hatches, after which the styrene fenders with tread-plate texture are detailed with their mudguards and sprung return mechanism for the inevitable "incidents" with the scenery. A number of holes are drilled in the treadplate to locate tools and such later on, and then all these assemblies are brought together on the lower hull with an engine firewall cutting the crew compartment off, with a pair of nicely detailed MP40s on the back wall, which will be visible if you leave the top hatches open. At this stage your StuG is a convertible, allowing the wind to ruffle the hair of her crew, but this doesn't last as you get a fair portion of the vehicle's interior in the shape of the main gun's breech and the framework that holds it in the chassis. It takes up quite a number of parts and includes three seats (I guess you could call them that) for the crew, all of which can again be seen from the top hatches. The roof of the casemate is fixed in place on two side walls, with a choice of upper glacis parts, one of which has twin holes above the driver's slit. The radio gear is fitted into a scabbed-on box on the fender, accessible from inside and this is then joined by a full set of pioneer tools, fire extinguisher and more stowage boxes, plus the light clusters, towing eyes, horn and antenna. The radio box is fitted with a shot-trap eliminating panel at the front and another on the opposite side, then the short 75mm gun is built up and inserted into the mantlet, with a scrap diagram showing how it mounts against the breech. More detail is added in the shape of jack blocks, stowage boxes, another fire extinguisher, jack and towing cables, which are supplied as eyelets to which the modeller must find their own cable to lay them out as per the overhead scrap diagram. The last part is to add the hatches to the roof of the casemate, which have PE latches added when depicted open. Markings The markings options are somewhat limited due to these early StuG's role and the fact that they are early war tanks, so it's Panzer Grey all the way. Each one has white crosses on the sides of the casemate, A,B or C on the glacis, and in a rosette for two of the options. The decal sheet is the size of a postage stamp as a consequence, and is printed in the Ukraine by DecoGraph with good register, density and sharpness. Conclusion This marks the start of a line of great new tool StuGs, which makes me happy as I have fondness for the squat ugly-but-effective little tanks, and while the subject of this first issue might put a few off, it's actually refreshing to see something in Panzer Grey that played little part in the actual conflict, while the type went on to become an important asset of the Wehrmacht later in the war. The model is well-detailed and should pose no problems during building, other than some mild boredom during the track building process, so it's a firm thumbs up from me. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  6. Shar2

    Tiran 4 Late Type. 1:35

    Tiran 4 Late Type MiniArt 1:35 The meaning of Tiran [pronounced as Tiy-RAE-N] in Hebrew is beginner. Israel's chronic lack of AFV's on one hand and it's phenomenal victory in the 1967 Six Days War on the other, brought the IDF to adopt captured enemy vehicles for its use. The Arab armies lost hundreds of fighting vehicles - mostly Egyptian T-54 and T-55 MBT's which were abandoned by their crews. In order to allow for greater standardization in its armour corps, the IDF initiated a conversion program. The captured tanks were re-engined and re-gunned (with the standard 105mm gun used in the Centurion and Patton MBT's). Chief was the several hundred captured T-54/T-55 tanks that were taken and modified into the Tiran 4 (T-54) and Tiran 5 (T-55). The main difference between the two versions is the main gun armament. The Tiran 4 was armed with the original 100 mm main gun and the Tiran 5 was fitted with a 105 mm main gun, although the 105mm was also fitted to late Tiran 4’s, the subject of this kit. The Model Since this is an upgrade of the earlier T-54 kits there are a lot of similarities but quite a few new parts as well. As with MiniArt kits with interiors there are a lot of sprues, eighty five in this case, of grey styrene, plus three of clear, one sheet of etched brass and a smallish decal sheet. The box, deeper than a standard tank kit box has a nice painting of the tank on the front. On opening you are greeted by a mass of sprues, many of them quite small because of the tooling's modular nature, with quite a few parts going unused for this boxing. The mass of sprues fill up just about all the space in the box, leaving only room for air between the sprues, anyone wishing to just take a look at the sprues and getting them out of their bags will realise that getting all this back in the box is one of life’s little challenges! Construction is almost identical to the earlier releases, complete with the full engine, which is a beautiful model in its own right, and consisting of forty two parts if you include the engine mounting cradle. The lower hull is then fitted out with a multitude of parts that include the torsion beam suspension, multi part axles, gearbox covers, and interior escape hatch plus PE beam covers. The interior is then built up from the fighting compartment floor and includes all the pipe work, seats fire bottles, steering mechanism and internal bulkheads. The interior and exterior of the sidewalls are also covered with detail, including the large racks of shells for the main gun, with additional shells stored around the fighting compartment. The detailed sidewalls are then glued into place, as is the engine assembly, engine compartment firewall and other ancillary equipment. The upper glacis plate is then fitted as are the three piece road wheels, drive sprocket and idlers. The turret ring assembly is the attached, followed by the rear bulkhead, each fitted with more detail parts. The engine deck is then built up and the separate hatches are able to be posed open or closed as per the modellers’ wishes. The deck is topped off with PE grilles in their frames and the large hinge for the main hatch. Another slight difference with the T-54 is the large grille on the rear bulkhead and the additional stowage bin that across the whole width of the hull. The tracks are of individual link type, with ninety links per side, and it will be a case of assembling it like a link and length style, gluing each link together before draping them over the road wheels. The fenders are fitted with stowage boxes, fuel tanks and spare track links plus front and rear mudguards before being glued into position. The two fuel drums mounted to the rear of the tank are assembled and glued into their mounting frames plus the pipework for the fender fuel tanks. The turret is another new moulding, which has even more equipment in it than the earlier versions, due to the improved technology. The turret appears to be where the main changes were made. As with the other kits the turret interior includes the full main gun breech, this time for a 105mm gun, rather than the old 100mm, radios, training motors, seats, hand cranks, and other equipment, but with additional sighting equipment for the main gun, and more spare ammunition boxes for the co-axial Browning 30 cal machine gun. Ready use shells are added to the inside of the upper turret along with a multitude of brackets and clamps. The turret roof comes complete with all the periscopes and hatch details for the commander and gunner positions, two highly detailed Browning 30 cal machine guns, consisting of fifteen parts, one for the commander and one for the gunner. There is also a twenty three piece Browning 50 cal heavy machine gun that is mounted onto the mantlet. Two five piece aerials are affixed to the rear of the turret, along with a large stowage bin; while on the sides are a pair of Jerry cans and their respective cradles. On the right hand side there is another large stowage bin, made up from ten parts. The single piece main barrel is glued into the breech, and fitted with a choice of two mantlet covers. There a many more grab handles fitted to the outside of the turret on this version, not to mention brackets and clamps. The turret assembly is then fitted to the hull, completing the build. Decals The decal sheet gives the modeller four options. The decals are beautifully printed, are clear and in good register with a slightly matt finish. The options are:- Tiran 4 of the Israeli Defence Force for eh 1970’s Tiran 4 of the Israeli Defence Force Training Unit for the Lebanese Army, Negev Desert early 1980’s Tiran 4 of the South Lebanese Army, Used on Operation @Peace For Galilee”, June to September 1982 Tiran 4 of the South Lebanese Army from the 1980’s Conclusion Ok, it’s essentially another T-54, with additional equipment and a different gun, but you can never have enough T-54/55’s. These kits are really coming thick and fast MiniArt’s moulding machines must be going full chat day and night. There is so much detail that it could overwhelm a modeller unless their mojo was really cranked up. But if you break the build into bite sized pieces as sub-assemblies, painting as you go, there shouldn’t be a problem. Not one for beginners or maybe even intermediate modellers, but there are versions being released, without interior, which would perhaps be more suited to their level to gain experience before tackling a full interior build. As bang for your buck goes, these have to be some of the best value kits around these days. Review sample courtesy of
  7. Geschutzwagen 1:72 Hobbyboss The Wehrmacht made good use of the European railway network during the Second World War, moving men and material to the front line quickly and effeciently. The railway network became an obvious choice of sabotage, which in turn meant that armoured trains were a natural requirement of operating in dangerous areas where partisans might be present. Mike reviewed Hobbyboss's BR57 armoured locomotive some time ago (and quite by accident because he forgot to check the scale, the poor old goat) and now we're going to take a look at their armoured wagon. In classic Hobbyboss style, the kit is tightly packed into a sturdy box, with everything meticulously wrapped to ensure it survives the journey from China to wherever you are. The kit is unbelievably simple, comprising just six slide-moulded parts, a sprue of smaller parts and then two sprues holding Hobbyboss's standard track sections. Also in the box are the instructions, a glossy A4 painting sheet and, unlike the BR57, a small sheet of generic decals. The detail of the slide-moulded parts is excellent, with crisp and fine surface details. This is going to be a short review. Construction begins with the lower chassis, which is a long narrow ladder into which the axles and wheels fit. The brake blocks are moulded in place on the wheels, while the leaf spring suspension units are seperate parts. The wheels are boxed in from the inside, but I can't fathom out why as no other interior detail is included. The buffer and couplings (sorry, I'm not a railway buff like Mike) are provided for either end, as well as some grab handles that run along the outside. The upper part of the wagon is incredibly simple; so much so that there is nothing to explain that cannot be deduced from the picture above. The track is broken down into four sectios, the joins in which are cleverly matched to the natural breaks and joined with nicely moulded fish plates. If you want to ramp the detail up a notch then you might want to use OO gauge track, or at least dress the provided sections with some PVA glue and ballast. Only one colour scheme is included on the sheet; a base of Dark Yellow, over which Red brown and Field Green stripes are applied in a similar fashion to contemporary armoured vehicles. Given how filthy railway gear got due to the soot and grease, there is then plenty of scope for the modeller to express themselves with weathering. Conclusion One thing I will say about this kit is that it rails (ho ho!) against the trend of producing models with ever increasing levels of detail and complexity. It will make a great model when paired with the BR57, perhaps in a diorama with some partisans springing an ambush. Whatever you decide, you can't deny that it's nice to have a mainstream model of this interesting subject. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  8. US M911 C-HET (8x6) & M747 Heavy Equipment Semi-Trailer (SS013) 1:35 Meng Model Any army requires transporters for their heavy equipment, and in the US this is abbreviated to HET, which stands for Heavy Equipment Transport, so you hear the use of the phrase applied to a number of heavy-haulers. Tank transport is particularly heavy, with your average M1 Abrams weighing in around 60 tons. The M911 tractor unit was a product of the 70s and was initially paired with a trailer that had previously been used with the M746 that the M911 replaced. During the Gulf War the M911 saw extensive use pulling Abrams tanks from battle to battle, which exposed weaknesses in the tractor's mechanicals that led to its replacement by the M1070, from the same Oshkosh stable. The easiest way of telling them apart is the more streamlined grille of the M1070, versus the square shape of the M911. The Kit This is a completely new tooling from Meng, and given their reputation for detail this is a god thing. It arrives in a large box that possibly could have stood a slightly thicker cardboard stock, and once you open it up, you're greeted by a pretty comprehensive package: 15 sprues in sand coloured styrene 1 sprue in clear styrene 2 frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass 2 sprues of poly-caps 13 flexible styrene tractor tyres (large) 17 flexible styrene semi-trailer tyres (small) 6 flexible styrene pneumatic shock-absorbers 1 sheet of reflective foil for mirrors 1 sheet of pre-cut masks 4 metal axles (long) 2 metal axles (short) 1 red insulated wire 1 blue insulated wire 2 braided cable There's still a little room in the box for stashing any aftermarket you might buy, but it's a well-rounded complement. The detail is of course excellent throughout, and there are lots of clever techniques used in the build, as well as the moulding of the kit. Construction starts with the ladder chassis of the tractor, which consists of two outer rails/i-beams onto which the cross-members and transmission equipment are added, along with a number of tanks for the pneumatic systems. Once the frame becomes a ladder, you can use the jig that is built into the runners of sprue C (see below), but go easy with the glue if you're not taking off the parts first, as you might accidentally drip and mar the surface of them. A chunky-looking transmission box and short drive-shaft are fitted at about the half-way point, with the seriously large leaf-springs and their twin axles added next, linked by more drive-shafts, as every wheel on the tractor is driven. The front springs are only slightly less beefy, and these are also joined by their axle and drive-shaft in due course. In between the front axle and the twin rear axles is a pneumatically-operated fourth axle that can be raised or lowered to spread the weight further. This is referred to as the Pusher Axle, and uses the included flexible shock-absorbers during construction. At this point you choose whether to have this up or down, as the construction process is different for each option. Steering gear for the front axle plus a host of ancillaries throughout the other axles are added, followed by the lower part of the V8 92TA-90 diesel powered engine, and its transmission. If the lower half isn't good enough for you because you wanted to open up the hood/bonnet, then Meng also have you covered with their resin upgrade set SPS-055 (reviewed here), which unsurprisingly gives you the full engine and CLBT-150 transmission. In common with almost everything about this kit, the fuel tanks are massive, with one large one on one side, and a smaller one on the other – a description that can also be applied to the stowage boxes that hang off the ladder chassis. Now for some wheels! Each hub is constructed from the main hub, separate flange, and a poly-cap hidden behind a central boss, that is then (once dry and possibly painted) fitted to the flexible styrene tyre, which should be of the large variety, as the smaller tyres are for the trailer wheels. The rear axles have double tyres, which are constructed differently, with two poly-caps hidden between the two inner faces of the hub. The pusher and the front axles are single tyres, and all wheels can be removed at will thanks to the inclusion of the poly-caps, which makes painting and weathering much easier. The winch station is built up next on a trapezoid base that installs over the front-most of the twin rear axles, and has a pair of cable drums that have the braided cable wound around them during assembly. A plastic eyelet is added to the end of the cable, and the twin motors and control wires are fitted pointing aft. The hydraulics box sits forward of the cable drums, which doubles as a spare tyre bracket, and has a small drive-shaft to take off power from the transmission, as well as pipes and corrugates hoses to transfer the fluid. The winch control box fits between these two assemblies with lots of old-fashioned levers sat atop the box, with a PE front panel, and some decals for stencils near the controls. Turning briefly to the engine again, the large front-mounted radiator and side-mounted air intake and filter are fitted first, and then left while the 5th wheel/9th wheel and its guide plates are fitted to the rear. A pair of pneumatic hoses are wound round a narrow rod to give the impression of the flexible connectors that are typically fitted for quick-disconnect of trailers, with a scrap diagram showing where they should be routed. The large branded mudguards are glued to the ends of the i-beams, and on the side the spare wheel is sited on the bracket on the hydraulic tank. The cab is next, and operations begin with the front bulkhead/firewall, which has the windscreen aperture moulded-in, to which you fit the clear part. There are two quarter-lights that also have glazing panels, and inside you fit the dashboard with decals for the dials and sun visors on each side. The driver gets a separate seat, while the other two crew have to share a similarly upholstered bench seat, which fits into the rear part of the cab, with moulded-in anti-slip ribbing to the floor, which angles up at the front to accept the pedal box, the steering column and other drive controls, which a few nice decals for stencils here and there. At the rear there are three small rear glazing panels added, then the front bulkhead is mated to the rear to form the major part of the cab, to which the support structure is added under the floor. The doors are made up of inner and outer skins that sandwich the clear part between them, and inside a couple of stencils can be added plus the handles and window winders. The right door also has a glazed "cat flap" in the bottom, presumably for judging kerbs etc. The big cowling at the front of the cab is a single part if you ignore the badge at the front of the top, and to the very front you have the radiator grille, which is PE, and needs to be folded. Fret not however, as Meng have thoughtfully provided a two-part jig that will do all the heavy-lifting for you. You position the flat PE grille on the bottom part of the jig, with a lug in each corner locating in corresponding grille holes, then you apply the top part and press down firmly and evenly. This slides down on four turrets so that it doesn't go out of line, and the edges apply pressure to the grille, resulting in nicely curved corners. You mate the finished part to the cowling with some super glue and then add the doors (open or closed) and the roof, remembering to paint it before you do. Another jig is supplied to roll the exhaust's perforated heat-shield, which is then glued on around the styrene muffler, with its feeder pipe leading into the engine cowling past the cab door. With a couple of vents and lights for the roof you can glue the cab onto the chassis, then add the protected bull-bars that also incorporate the front light clusters. The wing mirrors are attached to a frame that goes over the roof, with braces against the cab sides, another pair that are separate, and most interestingly, a set of self-adhesive mirror stickers that you can apply after completion to give a realistic reflection to the viewer. Air horns, rear lamps, towing shackles and another mirror on the front of the engine cowling with its own foil sticker finish off the tractor unit. The semi-trailer is begun by putting together the frame that sits at the rear between the main I-beams of the trailer's chassis, supporting the rear axles. A number of cross-beams are fitted before the undersurface of the trailer can be installed, which has the goose-neck and fifth-wheel attachment point moulded-in, which is strengthened by a sub-assembly of beams, while fillets are added along the length of the chassis to provide additional width to the flat-bed. A stowage are is fabricated on the top of the A-frame by adding a number of panels, with pioneer tools fitted to the exterior, and at the rear, the aft bulkhead is made up, with a large pulley attached inside, and a pair of outrigger beams back at the front of the bed. The flat-bed is fitted with stiffeners along its edges before attachment, and an additional section is then fitted to the goose-neck and A-frame, then the assembly is flipped over to install a number of distinctly Toblerone-like parts under the bed. More parts are fitted to the edges, and a set of large air tanks are made up and fitted into the forward underside of the trailer, with a scrap diagram showing their correct location and orientation. Bump-stops and flexible pneumatic shock absorbers are installed under the bed in anticipation of the rear axle pair, which is made up from straight axles with brakes and massive supports, dropping onto the shock-absorbers to give it some flex. The second pair of axles are fitted to a single-point rocker and clipped around short beams that were glued in place earlier, and have hubs attached to each end, with all axles then getting a pair of wheels apiece, using the same pair of poly-caps trapped between the hubs. The flexible wheels slip over the hubs, and before long you have 16 (more) wheels on your wagon. The trailer's front steadies are able to be fitted extended or retracted by varying the point at which you clip them into the frame parts, which are all PE, so may not stand up to constant changing of stance. It would be wise to pick up or down and stick with it to avoid disappointment when they break from fatigue. Fitting the skids to the pivot point finishes those off, and then attention turns back to the rear for the assembly and fitting of the big loading ramps. Each one is a mirror image, so uses some different parts, so take care to keep track of which is left and right, although it should become obvious when it comes to fitting them, as they'll only fit one way. They are secured in transit by chains, which are styrene in this case, and the diagram shows the correct hooking point for these delicate parts, and some may wish to replace the plastic with real micro-chain which is available in suitable sizes online. The spare wheel and various "greeblies" are fitted to the A-frame along with some hand-holds, with load handling equipment such as stoppers, jack pads, spacers and even a jack fitted into the spaces between the frames. Linking the trailer to the fifth-wheel socket and connecting up the two curly "pneumatic" wires completes the build phase. Markings Despite this being a big model, it has a teeny-tiny decal sheet, mainly because AFVs and softskins seldom have many markings other than number plate, unit and theatre markings, plus the occasional stencil. You get two options from the box, one in generic NATO tricolour green/brown/black camo, the other in desert sand with markings for Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, January 1991. Colour call-outs are in AK Interactive colours, and the schemes are shown in five-view colour profiles printed on glossy paper, separately from the main instructions. Conclusion Awesome! It's not a pocket-money kit by any stretch of the imagination, but the effort, attention to detail and care that has gone into the design makes it a worthy addition to your stash. Even if you don't do the obvious this and plonk an Abrams on top, you've still got a very impressive model. It's a shame Meng haven't yet done an early Abrams that would be suitable for this period, but their M1A2 SEP with TUSK I/II is still worth drooling over as an aside. Just perfect for that long narrow space in your cabinet. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  9. Paul A H

    KM Bismark - 1:700 Meng

    KM Bismarck 1:700 Meng Laid down in July 1936 by Blohm and Voss of Hamburg, the Bismarck was one of the largest and most powerful battleships to see action during the Second World War. She, along with her sister ship Tirpitz, represented the epitome of German warship technology. Weighing in at 50,900 tons deep load, the Bismarck’s design prioritised stability and protection over firepower; her broad beam of 118ft making her a very stable gun platform even in heavy seas. On 21 May 1941, Bismarck left the Kjorsfjord in Norway to embark on her first raiding sortie, accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen and three destroyers. Three days later she sighted and engaged the Royal Navy warships HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales, sinking the Hood and damaging the Prince of Wales. Having suffered damage herself in the engagement, Bismarck disengaged and attempted to make for St Nazaire. Eventually spotted by a Catalina flying boat, her rudder was then jammed by torpedoes launched from the Swordfish of HMS Ark Royal. Left unable to manoeuvre, she was battered by HMS Rodney and HMS King George V and was soon reduced to a burning hulk by their heavy guns. She was finally sunk by torpedoes from HMS Dorsetshire before she could be scuttled. Pretty much every major manufacturer of warship kits has produced a Bismarck at some point. Aoshima, Revell and Trumpeter have all produced kits of the famous warship in this scale, but none have been as colourful as Meng's new kit. The kit has been moulded from styrene in four different tones, each appropriate to the parts represented. The lower hull is moulded from dark red plastic, the deck is moulded in teak-coloured plastic and the rest of the kit, save for a few parts moulded in black, is moulded from battleship grey plastic. The kit is well packed into a sturdy box adorned with evocative artwork. All of the plastic parts are nicely moulded, but the big difference between this and other kits of the Bismarck is the fact that the parts are all snap-fit. In line with this simplified approach to construction, stickers are included instead of decals. Construction of the kit is fairly conventional, notwithstanding the fact that the parts snap together rather than requiring glue. Bearing this in mind, I would advise against test fitting the parts prior to final construction, as snap together rarely means snap apart again - at least not in the same shape! The build begins with the lower hull and fitting the propeller shafts, propellers and rudders. The hull itself is made up of three parts, although you can omit the lower section if you wish to finish the kit in waterline configuration. Once the hull is complete, construction moves on to the deck. The, er, deck coloured parts fit onto a grey part which contains a number of structural parts such as the bases for the turrets. This means you don't need to worry about painting a lot of fiddly deck features, even if you intend to pain the parts anyway. The decks themselves are nicely detailed, with chains and planking moulded in place. The rest of the build is completely conventional, save for the fact that you don't need to use glue (although I suppose you can if you want to make sure the parts are properly welded together). The superstructures, funnels, masts and rangefinders all look just as good as any other conventional kit of the Bismarck. Perhaps the only compromise is the small calibre weapons, which are pretty basic compared to what you get in a Trumpeter kit. Even the ships boats are good enough to pass muster in this scale. Construction of the main turrets is fairly straightforward. While the eight 15 inch guns are not independently posable,they do at least have blast bags moulded in place. Finishing details include the secondary armament, masts and anchors. The display stand will be handy if you wish to finish your model in full hull configuration, although my personal preference would be for the waterline option. The colour scheme is printed in black and white and shows the ship as she appeared at the time of her engagement in the North Atlantic. AK paints are recommended by Meng, in what appears to be a commercial arrangement (their logo is emblazoned on the side of the box). The aforementioned stickers can be used if desired, but I can't imagine many enthusiast modelles will chose to use them. Conclusion While the level of detail is pretty good and the multi-coloured plastic is appealing, I can't say this is the best kit of the Bismark in this scale. It isn't the cheapest either, which is curious given the snap together nature of the kit. There's no doubt that snap together kits have their place, but they don't normally cost north of £30. It's not that the kit is a bad option for those wanted to build a Bismarck, but I'm struggling to see why it would be a better option than the Trumpeter or Revell kits. Nevertheless it is a nice thing and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to review it. Review sample courtesy of
  10. 8V-92TA-90 Diesel Engine & CLBT-150 Transmission (SPS-055) 1:35 Meng Model If you've been reading my review of the new Meng M911 C-HET with M747 Semi-Trailer, (and if not, why not?) you'll know that the kit supplies just the lower portion of the engine and transmission, which is all that's visible with the hood/bonnet down. That'll do just fine for a lot of folks, but if you want to throw open the covers and show off the engine, this resin set will be of great interest. Arriving in a small and unassuming card box with a line-drawn diagram of the engine and its catchy title on a sticker affixed to the top, you'll find three bubble-wrap bags inside. Within those are the parts that go to make up a complete (apart from wiring) engine to replace the kit parts, with detail that you couldn't hope to achieve in styrene. There are fifteen parts in dark grey resin, and each part is cast on a separate block, with sensibly petite attachment gates that help to minimise clean-up. There aren't any instructions in the box however, but the isometric drawing on the lid should give you plenty of clues on how it builds up, but you can see a couple of 3D renders that should end any doubts here, or just by scrolling down. Still, it would have been nice to have instructions, and those pics took a little tracking down. As to painting of the engine, you'll have to do some research and track down suitable pictures, which will also help with the weathering, showing where dirt, oil and grime accumulate on these big units. Clean-up should be a doddle, but wash the parts either in an ultrasonic cleaner with a suitable cleaning solution, or warm soapy water, remembering that too much heat will render the resin flexible again and could ruin your engine parts. Washing the parts in warm water will also improve the adhesion of paint by removing any remaining moulding release agent on the parts. Use CA to attach the parts together, and as usual with resin, take the precaution of wearing a mask when cutting or sanding resin, as the tiny particles are harmful to your health if breathed in. Conclusion Detail is fabulous, the casting is of the highest quality, and sensible moulding blocks make the task of creating this power-pack a relative pleasure. The lack of instructions is a minor pain, but if you follow the 3D renders, there should be little room for error. Very highly recommended. Currently sold out, but check back for a restock. Review sample courtesy of
  11. German Soldiers w/Fuel Drums Special Edition (35256) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Being in an army isn't all guts and glory. Some of it (most of it, some would argue) is pure drudgery, and in wartime that's punctuated by moments of abject terror. Fuel of course doesn't transport itself at any time, and many an infantryman and storesman was chosen to move barrels of it around, load and unload it until the truck or train was full or their officer (who never usually partook) told them to stop or take a break. This figure set from MiniArt depicts exactly that scenario, and arrives in a standard figure box with Special Edition marked on it. Inside the box are three sprues in grey styrene, a sheet of thick styrene in a similar colour, and an instruction sheet. From these parts you can build five figures, and two fairly careworn fuel drums, plus the ramps often used to push them uphill onto the truckbed, sometimes assisted with a guy pulling from inside the truck with a rope wrapped round the drum. I've just described three of the figures without thinking about it, and the other two are their supervisor leaning lazily against something with hand in pocket and the other nursing a cigarette, plus an officer with a notepad counting off the barrels as they're loaded. Neither of them working particularly hard, bless them. Each figure is well sculpted and made up from separate legs, torso, arms and head, with hat. In the case of my review sample, someone at the factory seems to have popped a civilian figure in as the third smaller sprue, so check your box out before you commit it to the stash, watching out for the shirt and tie, and the pre-neckbeard Fedora, which typically has a wider brim than the Trilby, and the Homberg, with its rolled brim. Hat geek! I've since spoken to Creative who have checked their stock and this seems to be the only one with a civvie in the box. Good news! The back of the box shows the construction of the figures, and this is used in conjunction with the sprue map on the instructions, which also covers the building of the two included drums, both of which have a creased, beaten up look moulded in, which differs between them. Conclusion Apart from my one-off guy with the Fedora, who I think is sitting reading a newspaper (probably from the tram passenger set), this is a great addition to any truck in a diorama, adding a dynamic and candid appeal to an otherwise blank canvas on wheels. Highly recommended, just check your box for stray civilians! Review sample courtesy of
  12. SU-76M With Crew - Special Edition MiniArt 1:35 (35262) The SU-76 was one of the most widely used AFVs of WWII by the Russians, and was based upon an enlarged version of the T-70 Light Tank chassis, adding width and an extra road wheel to the length of the vehicle. Although the T-70 wasn't particularly effective or well liked, this much changed and improved development of its basic running gear was, because of its simple agricultural design, which made it easy to maintain, and forgiving in combat conditions. Initial problems with the drive-train were soon cured, and the SU-76M was the result, with the armoured roof of the casemate removed for ease of service and repair of the 76.2mm ZiS-3 gun. Production went on to reach almost 14,000 units before war's end, and although production of the SU-76 ceased, a further development continued production in the form of the ZSU-37, the first dedicated anti-aircraft tank in Soviet service. The Kit The kit has been around for a while from Miniart (since 2008) and if its not broke dont fix it here works. There is the main hull, a further 4 sprues of grey plastic, and a tiny clear sprue. There is one sprue of figures, four sprues of additional ammunition, and ammo storage boxes. There is also a sheet of PE for the kit to update it a bit, and a set of track links. The first thing that is immediately apparent is that the hull of this tank is rather small. One of its nicknames was "bare a**ed Ferdinand", which referred to its similar layout but diminutive size when compared to the giant German design. The tub struggles to make 5" in length, but detail on the outer hull is good, with rivets, panel lines and raised detail in good supply. There is also detail inside the hull toward the rear where it will be visible due to its open top. Whether you will need to remove the large injection moulding lump that sits in the middle of the hull bottom is questionable, especially as there is a panel placed between it and the viewer during later construction. Unusually for a tank, the gun and its support-work are first to be built up, and there are plenty of parts to make this a well detailed section of the model. The barrel is supplied in two halves, so the more aftermarket conscious amongst us might want to source a replacement, but with some careful seam-work, the kit part should suffice, particularly as it has a 2-piece flash-hider that is added after the barrel is pushed through the mantlet, giving the impression of a hollow barrel. Careful assembly and judicious use of glue should permit you to retain the ability to traverse and raise the barrel, which is of use to retain until you have chosen the final position of the gun, at which time it can be fixed by freezing the pivot points with liquid glue. Once the gun is completed, the chassis makes an appearance, and each side takes six keyed suspension arms, onto which a road wheel is glued. A triplet of return rollers fix further up the side of the hull on axles, and the idler wheel attaches at the very rear of the vehicle, almost as an afterthought trailing behind. The drive sprockets are mounted to the front on their final drive housings, the edge of which stand proud of the glacis plate once complete. The front of the chassis is boxed in with armour plate at this stage, and various shackles and detail parts are added to the forward and aft bulkheads. There are two hatches on the glacis plate, one for access to the gearbox and the other for the driver, which has a domed armoured surface that has a nice cast texture moulded in. The tracks are separate links that are provided on ladder-like sprues with only small stubs of sprue between each link and no outer runners. Detail is excellent throughout, and they should clip together with no glue, which is backed up by a symbol in the instruction. Each link has three sprue gates sensibly placed, and no ejector pin marks – these have been cleverly left on the sprue stubs between each link. Clean-up and construction of each track of 92 links should proceed relatively quickly as a result of these positives, and there are 8 links spare in case of broken pins. The slide-moulded fenders are then mounted with five bracing brackets on each side, along with some small details and stowage areas. A driving light is placed on the port fender, which has a clear lens piece, so the rear of the part will need painting silver to represent the reflector. On the rear of the starboard fender is a large box containing the radiator and the twin exhaust pipes. The open face of the radiator has moulded baffles that expand the surface area, which are neatly moulded, and the exhausts are made up from two halves with an exhaust pipe stub which will need drilling out to add a little realism. The upper hull is then covered with pioneer tools, while the fenders receive more stowage boxes, and the towing cable is bend into a C-shape for mounting on the glacis plate. My sample had already sheared where the two cooling wavefronts of styrene had met and cooled too quickly to mix, so the single-piece rope would be of no use. However, MiniArt have sensibly included an extra pair of towing eyes without rope moulded to them in case you want to make your own. As usual with my armour builds, I will be using a length of RB Models braided cable, because nothing looks quite like braided cable other than braided cable! At this stage the gun is installed onto a hub moulded into the rear of the top deck, and secured in place from the underside with a pin, which will take some very careful gluing to retain the ability to traverse. A basic floor piece is added, which has some treadplate detail moulded in, plus the aforementioned doors into the inner hull that blank off the moulding pip on the lower hull. A series of parts then build up into the rest of the cladding of the fighting compartment, blocking off the view into the rest of the chassis. Five palettes of shells are built up for the interior, containing a mixture of blunt nosed shells and more pointed armour piercing in each. These are sited around the crew compartment, making for a very loud bang indeed if it received a direct hit. The casemate is next to be built up, and is constructed from three individual sides, each of which is detailed up before installation. Painting the interior in stages is likely to be a necessity with this kit due to its open top and close confines. Fortunately, the casemate panels all meet the hull at an angle, so could be installed completely painted onto the model. A rear bulkhead is then added with a small door that simply eases the step over the back of the hull. Corner stiffener plates are added to the casemate, an aerial onto the starboard side, and safety "roll-cage" to the rear. Curiously, the exhaust pipes from the engine to the mufflers/silencers are almost the last parts to be added, disappearing into an angular box on the top of the hull. The Crew A set of five crew figures are included with this kit as a bonus item, and they are contained on the fifth sprue. There are three figures holding shells, one appearing to lean forward to operate the sighting mechanism of the gun, while the final figure would be the commander figure, who is looking through a pair of binoculars. The commander and one shell carrier are wearing heavy greatcoats, while the remaining three wear quilted Soviet tankers uniform. All the figures are wearing the protective leather helmets used by soviet tank crew, which are separate parts on the sprue. The figures are nicely moulded and the greatcoat wearers have separate lowers to their coats, to give a more realistic appearance to them. Some of the crew have separate hands where appropriate, while all have separate arms and legs. The legs are moulded separately and joined at the crotch to give better detail to the inseam area, and all the heads are separate parts. Some small personal items are included for the figures' belts, and eight shells are provided for the chaps to hold (the set is also sold separately as a figure set). Additional Ammunition and storage boxes Four extra sprues provide additional ammo storage boxes and rounds. Decals There is one small sheet of home produced decals with 5 options; SPG Artillery Division 11th Guard Army, Eastern Prussia, 1944 Unknown Slef-Propelled Regiment, Eastern Prussia, 1945 1238th SPG Regiment, Poland, March 1945 1448th SPG Artillery Regiment, 9th Krasnodar Kozak Division, Poland, 1944 1223rd SPG Artillery Regiment, 5th Guard Tank Army, 3rd Belorussian front, Vilnus, July 1944 Conclusion It is good to see this kit re-released as it's a good one. The additional PE and ammuntion are nice additions to the kit. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  13. Soviet MBV-2 Heavy Armoured Rail Cruiser HobbyBoss 1:35 History The MBV-2 was a very large, self propelled armoured train or rail cruiser, as they were sometimes called. It was fitted with three turrets armed originally with the 76.2mm KT-28 guns removed from old T-28 Medium Tanks. These were replaced by the newer, more potent, 76.2mm L-11/F-34 series guns and turrets taken from T-34 Medium Tanks. They also carried four maxim machine guns within the hull with a further three DT machine guns in each turret. For anti-aircraft protection, the turret mounted DT’s in AA mounts were augmented by a Quad maxim in a retractable mounting between the control tower and first of the rear turrets. A pyramidal structure amidships formed something of a command cupola jutting out of the angled, armoured hull. This hull was simply fitted over the existing train car. Unlike other armoured trains built before, the MBV-2 included its own power pack - a diesel engine mated to a hydraulic transmission system - which allowed it to be self-propelled removing the use of a dedicated locomotive. In practice, MBV-2 trains were generally deployed as ranged fire support weapons and as deterrents along key fronts. Its firepower was capable of stopping all known light- and medium-armoured German tanks of the war which made German war planners take their threat seriously. However, the MBV-2 trains suffered from what other armoured trains suffered from - they were confined to existing railroad networks and weighed down by their heavy armament, ammunition, and armour. Fortunately for the Soviets, the country managed an extensive railway network - its value already proven in the First World War. Additionally, if disabled for any reason, these trains could also serve in a valuable static defence role. At least one (the second) MBV-2 armoured train was present along the Leningrad Front where it served as part of the 14th Independent Armoured Train Battalion (23rd Army). This example was saved from the scrap heap following the war to find sanctuary as a showpiece of the Kubinka Tank Museum. The Model The kit comes in a large new style of box. It has a nice artist’s rendition of the rail cruiser on the front and a clear panel, through which you can see part of the main hull. Opening one end, you will find three of the main parts separate from the sprues, which are contained in two top opening boxes. On opening the smaller boxes the modeller is confronted with a box full of medium grey styrene, twenty sprues in total, along with separate hull, floor, bogies, control cupola, and turrets. There are also five rail ballast sections and a sprue of rails and sleepers in a light grey styrene. All the parts are beautifully moulded, particularly the single piece hull of the cruiser, with no sign of flash and only a few moulding pips, so cleaning up after removal from the sprues should be a bit of a doddle. Be aware that this is quite a large kit measuring out at 570mm in length and 94mm in width. The cruiser construction begins with the bogies, one is fitted with a frame, three sets of brake pads, three axles and three pairs of wheels. With the wheels fitted, the two side plates/axle bearings plus the front and rear plates. The second bogie is of similar construction, but with only two sets of wheels plus driving connecting rods and counterweights. The main body is then fitted out with the four two piece maxim machine guns from the inside. The floor is then attached followed a pair of air bottles and a single cross member. Two sets of control rods are then assembled and glued to the underside, followed by the two bogies and a pair of accumulators. The underside is then finished off with a pair of angled side skirts. Probably the most complex build is that of the quad AA maxim machine gun mount. The frame is assembled, followed by the four machine guns with separate handles. A connecting frame is attached to the front of the gund and two elevation arc frames fitted underneath. The ammunition boxes are glued to the guide frame which in turn is glued to the underside of the machine guns. The main mounting is part solid pyramid, part tripod with a two piece mount joint on top. The machine gun assembly is fitted to the joint and the completed assembly slid into the compartment just aft of the control tower hole. Unfortunately there are no bulkheads to this mounting position, so you can see straight through the main hull, including the previously fitted maxims, which are only the muzzle sections. You may wish to close this are in, but don’t forget any access doors. On the bow of the hull there is a three piece machine gun mounting for a DT gun, along with the two, two piece buffers, mid mounted dome and a load of handrails all over the hull. The six piece control tower/cupola is glued into place, along with more hand rails, as are the couplings fitted fore and aft. Four hinges are made up and attached to the hatch covers for the maxim pit, these can be made operable or just glued into the chosen position. Each of the three turrets are assembled from single piece upper sections, turret ring section, five piece coaxial DT machine guns seven piece main guns, two piece periscopes, and the separate commanders and gunners hatches. Two of the turrets also have another five piece DT machine gun fitted on the turrets rear face, while all three have a DT AA mount on the roof made of 10 parts. The completed turrets are then placed into their respective positions and the completed cruiser placed onto the rails. The three sections that make up the majority of the track are joined together and fitted with the two end pieces, one of which needs to be modified to fit. The sleeper sections are then fitted from beneath, again with one section requiring modification to fit. The rails are then slid through the ties and joined together with two fishplates per rail. Since most of the track laid in Russia seems to have been pretty much straight onto the ground surface, it might be best to leave the track bed parts and lay it onto a board or such like as part of a diorama. Conclusion I really love these armed rail wagons. Having got all the German armoured train components, it’ll be great if Trumpeter/Hobbyboss continues with further releases of the Soviet trains. The build of this one isn’t at all complicated and would be a good first build for anyone interested in these trains, or those wanting something unusual in their collection. The camouflage possibilities are interesting, with a few photos on the web showing how the two cruisers were painted. Review sample courtesy of
  14. T-60 Late Series, Screened Gorly Auto Plant. INTERIOR KIT 1:35 MiniArt The T-60 was the result of the ongoing development of light tanks that had started well before WWII. This particular tank started development in 1938 as an attempt to replace the T-26, T-40, the failed T-46 project and the T-50. Whilst such a large number were produced, it was hated by all who had to deal with it – all except the Germans, who found it to be a substandard and underwhelming opponent, and a rather nice ammunition carrier or gun towing tractor, once captured. As a result of its poor armour, substandard armament and sluggish performance, it was more dangerous to its crews than anybody else, earning it the title Bratskaya Mogila Na Dovoikh, literally: “a brother’s grave for two.” The basic design was completed in a mere fifteen days, and Astrov, seconded by Lieutenant Colonel V.P. Okunev, wrote to Stalin contrasting the advantages of the mass-producible T-60 with the more complicated T-50, which had already received the go-ahead. An inspection from a senior minister resulted in two decisions: firstly, the 12.7 mm (0.5 in) machine gun was to be replaced with a 20 mm (0.79 in) ShVAK, although it was still inadequate against the Panzer IIIs and IVs that the T-60 would almost certainly engage whilst there was a shortage of T-34s. Secondly, the Main Defence Committee (GKO), headed by Stalin, ordered 10,000 T-60s to be produced immediately. Some sources have claimed that Stalin’s interest in the vehicle is because he attended the vehicle’s final trials in person. The displacement of the Soviet industry in 1941 disrupted production and further refinement of the T-60. In autumn, Zavod Nr 37’s work on the T-60 was transferred to Zavod Nr 38 at Kirov and GAZ in Gorki. Shortly after, industrial evacuations continued, and GAZ was the sole producer of the T-60. In 1942, the T-60’s frontal armour was increased to 35 mm (1.37 in), which was still inadequate and made the tank more sluggish. The GAZ-203 engine gave the T-60 theoretical speeds of 44 km/h (27 mph) on road and 22 km/h (14 mph) off-road, but this was always difficult to achieve as a result of horrifically bad mud and snow. Replacing the spoked road wheels on the 1941 model with all-metal disc wheels, especially as a result of rubber shortages, did not help alleviate this problem either. The development of removable track extensions also did little to help mobility. Finally, any attempt to increase the calibre of the gun proved difficult. There were attempts to replace the main gun with a 37 mm (1.45 in) ZiS-19 or a 45 mm (1.77 in) ZiS-19BM, but proved unsuccessful as a result of the small turret. By the time a redesigned turret with the ZiS-19BM had passed trials, the T-60 as a whole was cancelled with the introduction of the T-70 in late 1942, although 55 T-60s were produced in 1943. The Germans would use captured tanks under the designation Panzerkampfwagen T-60 743(r), and the Romanians would modify 34 captured tanks into TACAM tank destroyers in 1943 armed with captured Russian 76mm divisional guns housed in a lightly armoured superstructure. These vehicles were confiscated by the Russians when Roumania changed sides in 1944. The Model The kit comes in the fairly standard, yet sturdy and colourful top opening box MiniArt use, with an artists impression of the vehicle on the front. This later tank is easily distinguished by the solid road wheels. Inside there are thirty three sprues of varying sizes, mostly small, in a medium to dark grey styrene, along with one sprue of clear styrene, two small sheets of etched brass and a smallish decal sheet. As with most MiniArt kits there is a huge amount of detail contained on the sprues and in this one there are 490 parts, including the etched brass. The mouldings are superb with no imperfections and very few moulding pips. Some of the smaller parts, and there are a lot of them, do have a fair number of sprue gates, but fortunately they are relatively small and shouldn’t cause too many problems. The sheer number of parts is explained by the fact that this kit is equipped with a full, and I mean full interior, which for a model/vehicle this size will mean you will need a magnifying glass/Optivisor when building. The build starts with the lower hull floor, to which the drivers position is attached, complete with detailed gearbox, levers and brake drums. Then there is the comprehensively detailed engine, which is a model in itself, and has more parts than some whole kits, around 22 in total. The two batteries and battery tray are then added to the left hand side of the hull adjacent to the drivers position, followed by the right side panel which is fitted with a fire extinguisher and four support brackets. The rear bulkhead is fitted out with several parts on the outside, before being attached to the lower hull, as is the lower glacis plate. The engine assembly is then glued into position and connected to the gearbox via a couple of drive shafts. The interior is slowly built up with bulkheads, ammunition racks with spare ammunition drums and boxes and another fire extinguisher. The left hull panel is then attached, along with the outer drive covers, idler axles, internal longitudinal bulkhead and several pipes. The upper hull plate is fitted with several panels before being glued into place. The drivers hatch is made up from five parts, while the drivers vision block is made up from six parts. Both assemblies are then glued to the driver position, and can be posed either open of closed. Depending on which colour scheme the modeller has chosen there are two options for the style of headlights to be used. The suspension arms are then glued to the hull, followed by the road wheels, return rollers, drive sprockets and idler wheels. The engine cover is next made up of three plastic and two etched grille pieces. This is then glued into position on the top deck, along with the drivers access and viewing plate. The tracks are each built up from eighty five individual links, which, unfortunately are not click able, but have to be glued, making it a little more awkward to get the sag and fitted around the idlers/drive sprockets. But with plenty of patience and care they can be made to look the business. The track guards are fitted with many PE brackets, as well as storage boxes, pioneer tools and a nicely detailed jack. These are then fitted to the hull and the build moves on to the turret. There is a large PE grille fitted to the rear engine deck along with a PE surround. There are two covers that go over this if winterising the vehicle, each plate is fixed with four to six PE wing nuts. While the turret is very small there is still plenty of detail packed into it. The turret ring is fitted with commander’s seat, ready use ammunition locker, plus traversing and elevation gearboxes and hand wheels. Inside the turret itself there are two four piece vision blocks, spent ammunition plug, vent cover, the breech and sight for the main gun which is slide through the trunnion mount, as is the three piece co-axial machine gun. The turret roof is fitted with a two piece hatch and before it is glued into position the machine gun ammunition drum is attached and the spent cartridge chute to the main gun. The roof is then attached, as is the outer mantlet and barrel cover of the main gun. The turret is the attached o the hull and the build is finished off with the fitting of more PE brackets around the hull and the engine exhaust glued into position. Decals The small decal sheet contains markings for four tanks. Unidentified Red Army unit, 1942. 22nd Panzer Corps, South Western Front July 1942. 3rd Shock Army of the Kalinin Front, Dec 1942. Unidentified Red Army unit, 1942. Conclusion This is another amazing kit from MiniArt and brings yet another lesser known military vehicle to the mainstream modelling community. With the numerous parts count and the large number of very small parts, this kit is really aimed at the more experienced modeller, it looks like it should build up into a superb model, absolutely full of detail, so much so that there shouldn’t be any need for aftermarket parts. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of Creative Models
  15. Russian T-62 Mod 1960 (01546) 1:35 Trumpeter The T-62 was developed from the T-55, and to the uninitiated could be mistaken for one. On closer inspection there is 115mm main gun with a longer barrel and improved penetration, which required the turret to be enlarged and the chassis enlarged in turn to accommodate the larger turret ring. Despite family resemblance and an almost identical layout there is little commonality of major parts due to the size changes that propagated out due to the change of main armament, which was a world first in respect of the smooth bore, allowing it to launch shells at a substantially increased velocity. The interior equipment however was broadly similar to the T-55, so conversion between them wasn't over-difficult, and even though the vehicle is larger, the crew compartment is still horribly cramped for the four crew. The Mod 1960 was the initial production model that was preceded by five examples of the T-62A, which were stretched T-55s, and as such below par compared to the T-62. It was able to carry 40 rounds of ammunition for the 115mm Molot smooth bore gun, and 2,500 rounds of 7.62mm for the PKT coaxial machine gun. On the turret roof was an optional 12.7m "Dushka" anti-aircraft machine gun, which required the loader to expose his upper body in the hatchway in order to fire. Although not as numerous as the legendary T-55, the T-62 has seen numerous variants and license built "lite" copies made in North Korea, but most began life at the Ukrainian factory, with many seeing modifications at the hands of their purchasers at a later date. The Kit This kit and its box were included in the Hobby Boss kit (85513) of a KrAZ-6446 tractor and trailer as the load, but as it was also released a couple of years back as a stand-alone kit, I have split it out for expediency and to prevent the original review from getting too large. The box is typical Trumpeter with the cardboard corrugations showing through on the artwork, and a divider keeping the smaller parts from rattling around inside the box. There are seven sprues in light grey styrene, seven in brown styrene, four in black styrene, one in clear, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) parts, a length of brass wire, a metal gun barrel, decal sheet, instruction booklet and separate painting and decaling guide. It is one of many kits of the T-62 from Trumpeter, so if you have seen any of them you stand a good chance of recognising at least some of the parts here. In the usual fashion construction begins with building up of the road wheels, which are made in pairs with separate black tyre parts that offer the possibility of painting the parts separately to avoid masking. The idler and drive sprocket are both made up of two parts, and each of the two types of road wheel pairings have hub cab parts added to the centre. The lower hull is fitted with a rear bulkhead, final drive housing and axles, then the wheels are glued onto them, with the track lengths created from the individual brown links on the seven sprues. Each link has four sprue gates and no ejector pins or sink marks to fill, with 96 links per side needed. Construction with liquid cement followed by draping and packing the lengths around the wheels while the adhesive is still malleable is your best recipe for success, and you may wish to build each run in two halves for ease of painting and installation. An unditching beam is fitted to the rear bulkhead along with final drive armour, and attention turns to the upper deck, which needs a number of flashed-over holes opening up for this mark. The deck includes the upper glacis, which is detailed with lights, mine roller mounts, and the driver's hatch, plus a bow wave deflector, while the engine deck is constructed separately in two sub-assemblies that include PE mesh parts. These are added later with the fenders, which have been prepared with stowage bins, fuel tanks and exhaust on the port fender before being glued to the hull using the long slots and tabs running along the sides. The prototypical fuel barrels attach to the rear of the hull by curved brackets, but no fuel hosing is included in the kit, which can easily be fabricated if you desire by checking your references. The towing cables are made up from styrene eyes and copper/brass braided wire for a realistic look, with lengths and attachment points marked on the instructions. The T-62's enlarged turret is supplied as an upper and lower part, with only a stub of the coaxial machine gun, mantlet cheek parts needing adding and some holes drilling out before it can be closed up. The holes are for the multiple grab-rails that encompass most of the turret, with the two hatches, shell-ejection port and various vision ports scattered around the roof, plus lifting eyes and a small searchlight next to the commander's low-rise cupola. The larger searchlight is fitted to a bracket next to the main gun, and the snorkel tube is attached to the back of the turret, after which you get to choose between adding a cover to the mantlet or leaving is bare. The main gun is turned aluminium, which is nice to see, but if you don't like these for any reason, you can use the plastic parts that are included, but you are in for a lot more preparation of seams if you go down this route. A delicate linkage between the gun and searchlight is the last task, other than dropping the turret into place on the hull. There are no bayonet lugs, so either glue it down, or remember to put a finger on top if you ever need to move or invert it. Markings Russian Green anyone? There is only one option included, and the designers aren't very forthcoming about where and when White 545 was stationed or saw deployment. The decal sheet includes lots of white numbers in two different styles, plus a pair of Soviet emblems, so if you have a different scheme in mind, this generic sheet may be of at least partial use. The registration of colours on the emblems is excellent, and the white seems sufficiently dense for the purpose, and everything is nice and sharply printed on my sample. Conclusion Another nice model from Trumpeter that will look good next to a T-55 on your display shelves. The exterior has been well done, but unless you plan to put crew in the hatches, you'll need to leave them closed to avoid displaying the empty interior. The part count is sensible, with only a few compromises in detail as a result, such as the exhaust that is slightly simplified and partially moulded into the fender. Overall though, a nice kit that would look super on the back of a tank transporter. Supplied as part of the KrAZ 6446 Tractor with MAZ/ChMZAP-5247G trailer kit 85513 Currently on sale with a deep 35% discount at Creative at time of writing
  16. Ukrainian KrAZ-6446 Tractor with MAZ/ChMZAP-5247G Semi-Trailer AND Trumpeter T-62 Mod 1960 1:35 Hobby Boss The KrAZ-6446 tractor unit is a modern go-anywhere all-terrain military transporter that is intended to pull a semi-trailer amongst other things. It is built in the Ukraine by the AutoKraz company, and has 6 wheel drive and substantial ground clearance, which coupled with the YaMZ-238D turbo-diesel engine and gearbox lets it climb up to 60% gradients and pull 50 tonnes. The ChMZAP-5427G trailer is an older twin axle transporter for oversized loads, and in military service it is used primarily to transport tanks, with adjustable track guides and eight tyres spreading the load. The G variant is updated with a small well in the load area that is wider and longer than the original, able to carry more load, and is fitted with powered folding ramps at the rear. The Kit This is new tooling, but some of the parts have been seen before such as the trailer (from 2007), and one good thing that isn't made at all clear on the boxtop, in fact isn't mentioned at all other than in the pictures, is that there's a complete T-62 Mod 1960 kit in the box, complete with its own Trumpeter box, instructions etc. that I'll be reviewing separately so that this review doesn't become monolithic in proportion. So, you get tractor, trailer AND a great big tank to finish off the trio and Hobby Boss have really slipped up with their packaging, so be aware. If you're comparing prices between this kit and another manufacturer's kit, you're not comparing like for like. There's a bloomin' great big tank inside the box too! Ok, as long as I've made that clear, we'll move on. Here is the review of the T-62 in its Trumpeter boxing. Go away and read that if you like, then come back here and finish off this review. Or the other way round. Entirely up to you The box is split into three sections by a divider, with one apportioned to the aforementioned T-62 kit, and two to the tractor/trailer. The box contains the T-62 kit in its own box, eighteen sprues and the load bed in sand coloured styrene, two of clear styrene, seven large and nine smaller tyres in black flexible plastic, three sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a length of brass wire, a sheet of die-cut masking material, decals for the instrument panel, instruction booklet and separate colour painting and decaling diagram. With the T-62 out of the box there's a fair amount of room to spread out the sprues, which will come in handy. The first item for assembly is the big diesel lump up front, which is depicted in serious detail with two pages devoted to its construction and plenty of colour call-outs using Gunze Sangyo paint codes and their names. The radiator, gearbox and power-takeoff box are built up together and set aside for assembly within the ladder chassis, which needs its cross-braces and a few blocks removing first. With both sides fitted, it begins to look like the basics of a vehicle, which is improved further by the addition of the front bumper/fender with PE steps, the fifth-wheel base and horse-shoe, the exhaust system and the front axle with steering gear, struts and hubs/brakes parts. The power transfer box is built and installed under the takeoff box, with drive-shafts from the engine and to the rear axle, which sits on a single mighty set of leaf-springs and has a pivot on which the twin axles are then mounted with a substantial drive-shaft between them too. Fuel tanks, stowage, steps and cylinders are added down the length of the chassis rail, and a pair of twin axle fenders are fitted on brackets at the rear, with light-clusters sat on the rear of each one. The larger set of seven tyres are fitted to the four-part hubs of the main wheels, and the direction of the tread is important, so take care at this point. They push fit onto the axles, and will probably need to be glued to prevent losing any in the future. The cab is made up on the floor pan, with seats and driver controls applied, the front of the cab with window frames, dash board (with decal), pedals and steering wheel fixed to the front, then the front windows with wrap-around quarter-lights glued in from the outside, and masked up with the supplied masks. The back, doors and roof enclose the cab, with windows and door cards fitted to the insides of the doors before they are glued in. The roof has a number of small clear lights and a floodlight added, and then it is time to build up the bonnet/hood, beginning with the wheel arches that flank the engine compartment. The hood, with power-bulge and air box are fabricated, but installed later once the windscreen wipers and large wing mirrors have been fitted, and the cab installed on the chassis. The spare wheel is kept in a large frame that mounts transversely behind the cab, with the wheel to the right and a large box (possibly tools?) on the left, and that's the prime-mover done. Now comes the Goose-neck! The two giant curved beams are set either side of a tapering deck that has two bracing struts across the centre to hold everything square once the tabs and slots are all mated together. A pair of mudguard "ears" are fitted to the sites, and two triangular panels are installed at the inside bottom for additional rigidity. Wind-down legs and various fittings are added, and then the load-bed is made up, with only three parts (top, brace and bottom) making up the main bed, but lots of ancillary parts draped around the sides, some of which are made up from folding PE into tapered boxes. The rear fender and additional mudguards are glued to the back, and under the raised aft section of the deck the pairs of twin axles are mounted on large, triangular pivots, with the smaller wheels fitted to the two-part hubs with pins within them, allowing the wheels to rotate if you don't get glue on them. The spare wheel is later fitted to the top of the gooseneck with a T-shaped clamp. The inner guides on the bed are folded up from PE strips into a C-shape, with additional braces along their length. More smaller braces are fitted along the hump over the wheels, and it may be a good idea to solder these in place for a little extra resilience to handling and brumming tanks on and off when no-one is looking. If you don't have any solder paste already, it's quite useful for this sort of soldering. The loads drive up onto the load bed via a pair of ramps shaped like an old woman's shoe, that are made of four layers held abreast by tubes and capped with a ribbed treadplate for the vehicle to gain traction. The "soles" are blanked off with extra panels, with grab-handles, hinges and the manual handles that you can use to raise and lower them (glue permitting) finishing them off ready for gluing to the rear fender. A pair of stop-brackets are bent up from PE for the load bed and attached to slots in the floor, after which it's just a case of joining the two main assemblies together, grabbing your T-62 and making tank noises while you load it up for transport. Markings Unless you count the decal for the instrument panel, there aren't any, and just one scheme is provided on the glossy painting guide. It's green of course, but if you look around the web, there have been other schemes that are a bit more fun, and even some civilian schemes if you feel like a change. Conclusion Quite a good value package overall, with a tank thrown into the mix unexpectedly, and lots of detail. If you have a thing about tank transporter, or just like to the look of this one, it'll build up to an impressive finished model with a little care. Highly recommended. Currently on sale with a deep 35% discount at Creative at time of writing! Review sample courtesy of
  17. Sukhoi Su-17M3 Fitter-G 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Su-17, with its NATO reporting name Fitter was derived from the earlier Su-7 as a project to improve its low speed handling, particularly during take-off and landing. It was Sukhoi's first attempt at variable geometry wings, and when it reached service was the Soviet Union's first swing-wing aircraft in service. To keep the project costs down, the centre section of the wing remained fixed, with the outer able to swing back for high-speed flight, and forward for slow. A pronounced spine was also added to the rear of the cockpit to carry additional fuel and avionics that were necessary with the advances in aviation. The first airframes reached service in the early 70s, and were soon replaced by more advanced models with the designation M3 and M4, designated Fitter-H and –K respectively by the Allies. The M3 was based on a larger fuselage with two seats from the UM trainer variant and had additional weapons options, developed further and was considered to be the pinnacle of the two-seat Fitter line with a heavily upgraded avionics suite including improved targeting, navigation, and yet more weapons options, as well as improved engines. A downgraded version of the M4 was marketed as the Su-22M3, and was in production until the early 80s. Although the Su-17 was withdrawn from Soviet service in the late 1990s, it remained in service much longer in its export guise, where it was used by both Iran and Iraq, Libya and Angola to name but a few, where it had variable success, which likely had as much to do with pilot skill and training as the merits of the airframe. The Kit This is a tooling variation on the original M4 boxing that was released earlier in the year, and reviewed here at the time. There are a number of shared sprues in the box, with new ones interleaved where appropriate. The boxtop artwork downplays the two-seat nature of the kit, with the aircraft heading toward the "camera", foreshortening the fuselage and extra glazing. That said however, there are definitely two seats in the box, and the newly tooled fuselage has those openings ready to accept the cockpits, with the fixed frame between them moulded into the fuselage halves. The box contains sixteen sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, three "rubbery" wheels, decal sheet, instruction booklet and painting/decaling guide. It seems that someone made a bit of a boo-boo with the instructions, as the sprue guide shows only one seat sprue, with the legend "x2" written in with biro. There is also a loose leaf of corrections to the cockpit instructions, where some of the part numbers have been incorrectly prefixed by a J. A label has been affixed to the page, and the spare leaf is clearly marked "Correction" in English and Mandarin. Construction follows very closely the original boxing, with the large full-length fuselage halves showing the main difference, and accompanied by the two seat cockpit, which is also moulded as one tub with matching seats and bulkheads, instrument panels and side-consoles/walls added. Decals are applied to the consoles and panels to improve detail, and the completed assembly is inserted into the new fuselage along with the nose gear box that is identical to the earlier kit. There's no avoiding installing the nose gear before painting, so take care you don't bend or break it during handling. The nose cone and wedge-shaped splitter-plate are assembled, as is the exhaust with rear engine face and afterburner ring, following which the fuselage can be closed up, taking care to install the glazing panels between the cockpits, which would be very tricky to fiddle into position later, especially as the area is quite fine and prone to damage. Adding the tail and elevators early in the build gives the assembly a lawn-dart look that is spoiled only by the blunted nose. The swing-wings are built up in the same manner as before, with the gloves/inner panels first, which are festooned with fences and pylons, and you are incited to add the main landing gear legs at this point too. The outer panels with separate slats and clear wingtip lights are clipped into the gloves on two lugs, requiring you to make a choice of open or closed configuration at outset, as they don't rotate. The rear-seater's coaming was installed along with the cockpit due to its location, but the pilot's is fitted late in the build with a two-part clear HUD assembly as well as other details. The canopy is supplied with options for open or closed in a fairly confusing profusion of diagrams, and the rear canopy is fitted with the retractable rear-view mirror that is seen on many two-seat Soviet era jets. As per the original boxing, there is the complex pitot probe on the nose, which has a number of small PE parts added to it and a few to the front of the fuselage to depict other sensors. An additional assembly is provided that builds up into a towing bar for the aircraft, which can often be seen either attached to the nose wheel, or lurking nearby for impromptu tractor hook-up. The generous weapons sprues contain the same options as the single-seater, as follows: 12 x AB-100 Iron bombs on 2 x MER 2 x AB-250 Iron bombs 2 x FAB-500 Iron bombs 2 x S-24B on adapter rails 2 x R-60MK on adapter rails 2 x B-13L rocket pods 2 x B-8M rocket pods 4 x Fuel Tanks The back page of the instruction booklet shows the pylon positions of the various options, but as above, check things over before you proceed. Stencil locations are shown on a separate colour page, with positions and colours all called out. Markings Unusually for a Hobby Boss kit, there are four decal options, and all bar one are documented! The stencil count for the airframe seems a little light however, so check your references and pick up some additional stencils from an aftermarket producer. While the schemes are all camouflaged, there is sufficient difference between them to vary appeal. From the box you can build one of the following: Su-17M3 Yellow 87 Su-17M3 Blue 09, Soviet Naval Air Force, Soviet Union, 1980-1990 Su-17M3 Red 13, 1st AE, 168th APIB, Bolshye Shiraki Air base, Soviet Union, 1982 Su-17M3 Blue 21, 101st ORAP (Independent Reconnaissance Regiment), Soviet Union, late 80s Decal quality is typical Hobby Boss, with good register, colour density and reasonable sharpness, although there is a slight offset between the red and white in the numerals 13 on my copy, which is happily invisible elsewhere on the sheet. The misregistration is thankfully small, so shouldn't cause too much heartache. I do however wish that HB would raise their overall game with decals, so that they feel like less of an afterthought and more of an integral part to the package. Conclusion The two-seat Su-17 is quite a handsome aircraft IMHO, and I know I'm not alone in thinking so. It's another decent addition to their large and still growing line of Soviet/Russian aircraft in 1:48, and I'm looking forward to building it some day. Speaking of "large", it builds up to almost 400mm long, with a wingspan of 285mm, which is not insubstantial. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  18. German Medium Tank Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.A late (TS-035) 1:35 Meng Model The Panther was Nazi Germany's answer to the surprise appearance of the Russian T-34 after they finally reacted to the invasion that was Operation Barbarosa. Although the project had been in gestation some time before, they took some design cues from the T-34 in the shape of the sloped armour, resulting in the Panther that was intended to fill the gap between the Panzer.IV and the (then) new Panzer VI Tiger. It was eventually supposed to replace both the Pz.IV and the earlier Pz.III that was really showing its age, but in reality it often fought alongside the Panzer IV. It was planned as a lighter, more manoeuvrable tank than the Tiger, and was fitted with a high velocity gun from the outset, which gave it enormous penetrating power that was only equalled by the British 17-pounder fitted to the Sherman to make the Firefly. The sloped frontal armour gave it an increased effective armour thickness, but this was not so true of the side armour, which was comparatively weak, and this area became the preferred target of engaging allied tanks, especially in urban combat where this was a telling issue. Like most German WWII tanks it was complex to produce, so suffered in terms of volume produced, and this led to it being rushed into service with quite a tick-list of things still to sort out. Later production solved most of these initial gremlins, but loses in the interim were high with many being abandoned after failing during combat. Curiously, the Ausf.D was the first to enter production, with the Ausf.A following later in 1943, replacing attrition of the less reliable Ausf.Ds until they themselves were superseded by the Ausf.G, which became the final major variant with increased ammo storage, simplified design to ease production, and further improvements to reliability, although this was never fully cured with a high rate of attrition due to mechanical issues, some of which resulted in catastrophic fires. A Panther II was planned, which retained much of the look of the original Panther, while improving armour and suspension. They got as far as creating a pair of prototypes before the war ended, and a destroyed but still substantial chunk of the Schmallturm (smaller turret) can be seen at Bovington. The Kit This is a complete new tooling from our friends at Meng, who never cease to impress with their products. Their use of CAD for design is peerless, and they have mastered it to such an extent that their depiction of organic or random textures appear totally natural. They also use advanced moulding techniques such as slide-moulding, and include parts in the box that were once considered aftermarket (and still are) by some producers. Their recent kits have been modular, allowing the modeller to pick and choose whether to buy the base kit, add an interior, working track system, Zimmerit or all of the above depending on their level of interest, skill level or bank balance. The box is typical Meng, with an attractive painting of a Zimmerit encrusted Panther on the front, with profiles, colour codes and information on the sides. Inside are (for the most part) individually bagged sprues to minimise chaffing during transport, and plenty of parts. There are seven sprues in a Primer Red styrene, three sprues in black for the tracks, one in clear, plus two frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, one of which being nickel plated, a decal sheet, two lengths of twisted wire for the tow ropes, a turned aluminium barrel, two strips of poly-caps, instruction booklet, and a Z-fold painting and markings guide. Very nice. First impressions are excellent. The parts breakdown is sensible, whilst also somehow managing to be a bit cool and clever. The detail is superb, with the rolled steel surface of the thickly armoured panels so nice that it would almost be a shame to slap Zimmerit on it. The casting texture on parts like the mantlet (of which there are two) is well done, if a shade too neat, and the wooden texture on the unditching block is also worth a squint. The instructions are typical Meng, offering crisp isometric views of the build with an uncluttered style that still manages to get the point across. You are informed that there are seven decal options at the beginning, and advised that this will affect your choice of parts, so you should choose now. At this point, it is highly likely that you might reach for your wallet to pick up just another Meng Panther, as the options are all so interesting, although some might test your camouflage skills. Construction begins with the road wheels, all of which have a poly-cap between the two dished wheels. The three-part drive sprockets and four-part idler wheels also have poly-caps at their heart, so that wheels can be added and removed throughout the build. In order to mount them however, you need a lower hull, so this is next, being made up from two sides and one floor part, with two bracing parts holding everything rigid inside. If you're building yours with the Suspension Kit (SPS-049), you'll diverge from the instructions here and come back later once you've finished adding all the working metal torsion bars and workable track links. Go on – get your wallet out and I'll meet you back here when you're done, but just in case you're not convinced yet, read the paragraph under this one. If you're sticking with the base kit, the rear bulkhead, final drive housing and the many suspension arms are inserted into the hull sides, and for some reason the towing shackles are also clipped onto the torch-cut ends of the side plates at this stage. The pre-prepared road wheels, idlers and drive sprockets are all slotted into place on the stub-axles, and an optional two hook can be fitted under the rear of the vehicle, directly below the jack, which is also installed now between the armoured exhausts, which gives you a choice of two identical single-tube units, or a triple-tubed port-side unit that resembles a pair of bagpipes. Either side of these the distinctive stowage boxes are added, with separate tops in case you wanted to mess about with them. The tracks on the base kit are individual parts that are glued into track runs and draped around the wheels until they set up, while the aforementioned suspension set has workable links that will drape and move of their own accord, and include a huge quantity of tiny metal track pins! Meng helpfully include a jig that will allow you to make up a length of tracks at the correct slope and sag for that return run from the drive sprocket to the second road wheel, which drops in a gentle curve and would be tricky to arrange without help from the jig. Each track link is free from ejector-pin marks, and has a pair of guide-horns that you will need to glue into place. This is a manual job, so prepare your tweezers and a good album to listen to whilst you plough through this necessarily tedious part, building up 87 links per side. Each track link has six attachment points to the sprue, but the guide-horns only have one on their base, so it's swings and roundabouts. Given the level of detail visible on the external side of each link though, it is worth having those six sprue gates to ensure there is no under-shoot on the detail. A set of ice-cleats are included as an option if you are thinking of a winter scheme. The upper hull has a number of rectangular holes in the front, sides and top, with only some of them making sense initially, until you realise that the glacis and side walls are added separately to give you all that lovely tooling detail. The circular radiator vents are separate too, as is the engine hatch and the two crew hatches at the front of the tank. The crew get clear periscope blocks, while the perforated engine deck vents are covered from the inside by inserts that well-represent the radiator baths and the fan in the centre. The small wedge-shaped skirt at the rear of the sponsons are also added from separate parts, and the underside of the sponsons are closed in by two plates that sit on turrets moulded into the upper hull part, and holds them in place while you add all the brackets for the Schürzen parts, which were fitted to pre-detonate shaped charges. These nickel-plated parts are fitted later, and if scraped gently after painting should reveal some of their bright metal under the paint. The upper hull is then detailed with all the usual parts you would expect, such as the armoured periscope covers; mesh screens on the engine deck; stowage bracketry; spare track links; pioneer tools; gun cleaning kit; towing cables with plastic eyes and wire ropes; a big square profiled unditching beam with excellent wood texture; lifting lugs and so forth, after which the two halves of the hull are combined into something distinctly tank-like. The mudguards are able to be fitted in a complete or missing state, the latter achieved by using the stub parts and omitting the curved guards and their width indicator "lollipops". The turret is constructed on a sketeton framework using individual panels that are detailed up during the build. The rear has a hatch added that can be posed open or closed, front has a letterbox slot for the gun and mantlet, while the sides are undecorated until later. The gun's breech is depicted in three parts, with a pair of poly-caps linking it to the two pivot points that cap either end of the inner mantlet, which is then hidden by one or other of the two cast mantlets that are included. The barrel fits snugly into a keyed slot in the mantlet, and has a three-part flash-suppressor added to the front in styrene, plus the very stub of the coaxial machine gun fitted through from the inside of the mantlet. The Anti-Aircraft (AA) machine gun that fits to the commander's cupola is an MG34 on a simple ring-mount with a belt-feed of ammo into a cloth bag, and that is glued onto the ring after it is fitted to the top of the cupola once the clear vision blocks and hatch cover has been put in place. The completed cupola fits into the roof of the turret with a key ensuring correct alignment, then more track stowage hooks are added to the sides, and/or brackets for spare road wheels at your whim. The track parts come from the spares included with the kit, as do the spare wheels. The turret has a three-lug bayonet fitting, and the gun can be locked in place by using the supplied travel lock, which has a length of simulated chain wrapping over the top. Markings You are treated to seven markings options with this kit, some of which will require you to either purchase the Zimmerit decals I reviewed recently here, or to apply your own the old-fashioned (and sometimes messy) way. From the box you can build one of the following: No.534, 5th Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, SS Panzer Division Wiking, Kovel, VOlyn, Ukraine, Summer 1944 No.113, 1st Battalion, 35th Panzer Regiment, 4th panzer Division, Wehrmacht, Eastern Front, Autumn 1944 No.135, 1st Battalion, 31st Panzer Regiment, 5th Panzer Division, Wehrmacht, Kowel, Poland, June 1944 No.613, 6th Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, SS Panzer Division Wiking, Kowel, Poland, Summer 1944 Sd.Kfz.268 Befehlspanther No.96, 3rd Panzer Regiment, 2nd Panzer Division, Wehrmacht, Normandy, France, Summer 1944 No.011 Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, SS Panzer Division Wiking, Summer 1944 No.503, Panther Tank Company Under Command of Gds. Lt. Sotnikov, 8th Guards Tank Corps, Soviet Red Army, Warsaw, Poland, August 1944 Decals are printed in China, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Option 5 is a Befehlspanther, which is externally identical to an ordinary Panther, but has a reduced ammunition complement in order to accomodate the additional radio gear that is carried by this control tank. Conclusion All personal bias aside, this is an excellent representation of a Panther Ausf.A from the box, but add the suspension set and some Zimmerit, and it will make up into a stunning model. Detail is exceptional, and the build should provide plenty of pleasure due to the fit and finish usually associated with Meng kits. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  19. German Medium Tank Sd.Kfz171 Panther Ausf.A Late Production Zimmerit 1:35 Meng Model If you're not sure what Zimmerit was, it was an anti-magnetic coating applied to the exterior of German AFVs from the end of 1943 to the 9th September 1944 in the factories and a little later in the field. It took the form of a thick fibrous paste with a greyish hue, and the application was usually ridged to give it a larger effective thickness without adding too much weight. It was water-based and applied to all vertical or near vertical surfaces over primer with a comb-like tool or stamp, and drying was then accelerated by using blow-torches over the application. There were a number of patterns used at certain factories, so it can be a minefield debating whether the vehicle had Zimmerit, which pattern it was, and how you would apply your own rendition to your model. Originally you were left to your own devices to use putty and a screw-driver tip, or later-on Photo-Etch (PE), which was a little regimented and inflexible. Now with the advances in decal technology, Meng and a few others have begun creating 3D decals that when applied give the appearance of this rough coating. The sheets arrive in thick plastic bags with a card header, a sheet of visual instructions and a sheet of Zimmerit decal protected by a thick piece of waxy paper. The instructions are simple diagrams showing where each part fits on the hull and turret, including such niceties as shaped parts for the mantlet, kugelblende and even the area under the side-skirts where a brave (foolhardy) man could slap a magnetic shaped-charge. Where appropriate there are alternative parts, which are indicated by arrows in opposite directions. A small note at the bottom indicates that if any edges begin to peel away from your model, you can re-glue them with super-glue (CA) or modelling glue. Personally, I'd be more happy with the CA! Of course these sets have ben patterned for a particular kit, and that kit is the brand-new late-model Panther from their own stable, which has some of the decal options needing Zimmerit, which is handy. There are four sets, as follows: Decal Type 1 (SPS-050) This is the traditional vertical pattern with blocks of grooves laid out in a matrix. Decal Type 2 (SPS-051) This pattern is reminiscent of a waffle-pattern, consisting of large squares, although it is on a larger scale than seen on the true waffle-texture that is seen on other vehicles. Decal Type 3 (SPS-052) This set consists of vertical lines in rows that extend uninterrupted the full width of the surface it covers. Decal Type 4 (SPS-053) Arranged similarly to Type 3, but with diagonal grooves dragged across the surface in a sometimes irregular manner. Conclusion The decals are just the right thickness to be believable, and would of course look best under an airbrushed coat of paint rather than brush-painted, which would be a tiresome exercise anyway, filling in all those little grooves. The patterns have been designed with just the right amount of conformity and a little individuality to look more realistic, away from that "uncanny valley" of PE that just doesn't look quite right. I hope that this method for Zimmerit coatings takes off, consigning PE and the messy putty methods to history at some point. Review sample courtesy of
  20. Imperial German Army Stormtroopers (HS-010) 1:35 Meng Model via Creative Models Ltd. Trench warfare in WWI developed rapidly through need, and became a horrifyingly fierce mode of fighting that resulted in massive casualties on both sides. Surprise attacks and raids were common by both sides, and the Germans called their troops Stoßtruppen, which translates to Stormtroopers, or shock troops. They were heavily armed and well-trained in order to achieve gains that the traditional barrage and frontal assault failed to deliver on many occasions. Covering fire to facilitate movement was key, so light machine guns were used as well as potato-masher grenades strapped in groups around a central handle for extra destructive power. The Kit This figure set arrives in the de facto standard figure box with Meng's satin finish and a dramatic painting of the figures on the front. On the back are the construction and painting details, with colour call-outs from their link-up with AK Interactive, with two drawings of each figure showing the parts layout and colours back and front. There are four figures that are held on one sprue, with another smaller sprue containing weapons, bayonets, pouches and helmets. Each figure is broken down as torso, legs, arms and heads, with the faces having suitably aggressive "war-faces". The helmets fit to the flat top of their heads, and in addition two of the figures have ammo pouches and other equipment around their necks and shoulders, which are fitted to flattened parts of the torso for better drape. Figure 1 Posed in the act of throwing a grenade with his mouth wide open, he is posed with weight on his back foot with forefoot and left arm thrown forward for balance. His rifle is slung over his shoulder, and he has ammo pouches and a gas-mask around his neck. He also has a water bottle and day sack on his belt, with putties around his boots. Figure 2 With feet planted firmly apart, toting an MG 08/15 with a bipod being used as a foregrip and a drum mag attached to the side. Even though this weapon had a reduced weight due to a smaller volume water jacket, it still weighed in at just under 21kg when full, plus the weight of the drum mag, which explains the rather staggered look of his legs. It wasn't a gun to be carried by a small man. He wears calf-length jackboots, and has a water bottle, gas mask canister and day sack at his waist. Figure 3 This figure is running in a crouch, carrying his rifle in front of him at the ready. He has grenade pouches on his chest, water bottle, gas mask canister and day sack on his waist, with putties over his boots. Figure 4 This moustachioed soldier is walking forward in a crouch, looking to his left and shading his eyes as he does so. In his right hand (which is a moulded to the gun) is a Bergmann MP18, which is a late war submachine gun, and is fitted with a "snail" 32-round drum magazine with a long feed, which was manufactured by Luger. He also carries the usual complement of gear on his waist and wears jackboots. Painting There are no decals, although I would like to see rank and insignia included in more figure sets as a matter of course. The colour call-outs are in the AK/Meng paint codes, which are given names and swatches on the side of the box in case you use different paints. The uniform of the day was a blue-grey, so keep the lid on your WWII Feldgrau and don't be tempted to use it. Conclusion An excellent addition to any WWI trench diorama, just remember to swap out the MP18 if you are planning something earlier than 1918. Sculpting is first rate, breakdown of parts is sensible, and as it states on the box there are "rich facial expressions" to add a little humanity to the set. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  21. Vickers Medium Tank Mk.II** 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models After WWI there was a hiatus where it was believed by some that tanks would never see combat again after the "war to end all wars", but reality hit and planning for future wars became prevalent again. The Vickers Mark I bore a resemblance to the tanks of the Great War, but had a fully-fledged turret on top of the hull, giving it a more modern look. It was replaced by the Mk.II, which sometimes served alongside its predecessor as both were used to replace the ageing Mark Vs of wartime design. Only a hundred were commissioned initially, with just over half of these upgraded to the II* by moving the commander's position aft to avoid spent shell cases and install new coax machine gun. The rest were upgraded later to the same standard and called II** because they had an additional wireless compartment added to the rear of the turret, giving it a "bustle" and vastly improved inter-crew communications on the battlefield. Another batch of 20 were built as IIAs and a number of special variants were also made before the tank was phased out just before the outbreak of WWII, although the threat of invasion saw a number taken out of mothballs briefly. The Kit This is a revised tooling of the original kit release in 2016 as the Vickers Medium Tank Mk.I (83878), with new parts added to each of the following boxings, working from the II to the II* and now this variant. The box is typical Hobby Boss, and inside the more delicate parts are protected by a small card divider, with ten sprues in sand styrene plus hull and turret parts in the divider, four sprues in brown styrene containing track links, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a small sheet of decals, the instructions and separate colour painting guide. Detail is good, with lots of raised rivets dotted around the slide-moulded hull and turret parts, plus the individual track links, which are crisply moulded. Construction begins with the WWI-esque sponsons, which have well-defined sloped plates on the outer edge to disperse tracked-up mud. Five sets of four road wheels are fitted to the underside of the sponsons, plus a single pair on the end, and the adjustable idler wheel at the front. The hull is built up by adding the hatches and the ball-mounted machine gun in the sides, with the floor panel closing up the underside. Grab handles, steps and various vents, radiators and ports are added to the hull, and the multi-part drive sprockets are installed on pegs at the rear of the hull, joined later by the sponsons, which mate using three pegs to hold it them in place on the sides. A run of return-rollers and a guide rail are glued into the sponsons to support the track, which is fitted later, and a number of PE grilles are added, as is the driver's raised hatch. The tracks are made up from individual links that have two parts each, with the guide-horns fitted to a depression on the inner face of the links. Each run requires 65 links, which are a tight fit and the hollow guide horns are small, so will need a little care and patience. If you use liquid cement and drape them round the road wheels whilst the glue is still flexible, holding them in place with clamps etc., they should look good when painted. If you also use a straight-edge to ensure that they are correctly aligned, the task will be much easier. With the track runs fitted, the fenders can be attached to the remaining slots in the hull sides, with a set of PE brackets formed up to support them, plus the exhaust, light clusters (with optional headlamps) and stiffeners also made up from PE. The turret is mostly preformed by slide-moulding, to which a turret ring is added, and the gun's mantlet slotted into the supports moulded into the turret lower. The coax machine gun barrel slots in next to the mantlet, the radio box is fitted to the rear, and the commander's cupola with clamshell doors popped on top. The final act is to place the turret on the hull (no bayonet fitting here), and fold up then glue on the light boxes that deflect the paltry glow from the headlamps down toward the ground. Markings Only two decal options are provided from the box, which is almost expected for this middle-tier offering from HB, with one only having the number plate "ME 9840", and the other "MK 8227" and series of white Os on the front and turret sides. There's no further information offered, and the decals are all white, so registration isn't an issue, but density and sharpness are just fine, so nothing to worry about. Your MkII** will of course be green. Conclusion A good quality kit of this unusual box-like little tank, which was superseded by the differently boxy Cruiser Mk.I, which fought well in the Mediterranean in the early stages of WWII. With the addition of a commander poking out of the turret, its diminutive size will be well illustrated. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  22. Mike

    Su-27 Flanker Early 1:48

    Su-27 Flanker Early 1:48 Hobby Boss The Su-27 and sibling Mig-29 were developed as a complementary pair of heavy and lighter fighters to combat the F-15 that was in development as the F-X at the time. It first flew in 1977, but encountered serious problems that resulted in some fairly spectacular crashes, some of which were fatal, but with persistence and successive rounds of improvements it came on strength with the Russian air force in 1985, but was still plagued with problems that prevented it from being seen in operational service for a further five years, and it is known as the Su-27S or Flanker B by the NATO countries, and it is this early version that is the subject of the model It proved to be a capable fighter, and after the fall of the Berlin wall, Russia continued its development, with other variants incorporating improvements, and wholesale conversions leading to other marks entirely, such as the SU-30, Su-33 and Su-34 with side-by-side pilot seating. The Flanker continues to impress the crowds at airshows with the controversial (for some reason) and contagious Cobra manoeuver that caused quite a stir when first seen. Sukhoi had a number of export successes, and China also manufactured Flankers under license as the Shengyang J-11 after an initial delivery of Russian built airframes. The Kit We reviewed the first edition of this kit almost a year ago (at time of writing), and you can see that here, as the box content is almost identical at first glance. The box is a standard top-opener with a Flanker flying "danger close" to a P-3 Orion that has presumably strayed a little too close to Soviet/Russian airspace. Inside is a card insert with the two fuselage halves and their blended wings secured to it by plastic coated wire, twisted around the nose, tail and wings. The nose and tail are further protected by a wrapping of thin foam, while the delicate parts of the wingtips are surrounded by a detachable sprue for safety. Under the insert are fifteen more sprues of various sizes in the same grey styrene, two clear sprues, a small fret of what looks to be Photo-Etch (PE) stainless steel, or something similar. There are also three black "rubber" tyres, and two decal sheets plus of course the instruction booklet and two separate glossy pages detailing the painting and decaling. The main differences between this and the earlier (later model) kit are to the rear of the fuselage halves, with the streamlined stinger between the engines making an appearance. Also, there is a probe atop each vertical tail, which is not seen in the later marks. Otherwise, it's a big sense of déjà vu until you get to the decal sheet, which is only 50% déjà vu. As the photos of the original boxing were decent and on a similar (if darker) background, I have included those with the old logo, and you can tell the new content by the lighter backdrop and freshly minted logo on those sprues. There's no sense in wasting server space with functionally identical photos, afterall. The weapons provided in the box are generous as normal with Hobby Boss, and the detail is pretty good throughout, although I do wonder how many of those moulded-in aerials and sensors will last at the hands of anyone with big clumsy hands like mine. My feelings regarding the rubber tyres are well known, and even though the detail on the hubs is very nice, I would still probably replace them with resin aftermarket to take away the risk of them melting over time, as was seen many-a-time with the older models. Whether they changed the recipe in light of that is anyone's guess, so from my point of view it's better safe than sorry. Markings The larger decal sheet is a straight-forward reprint of the earlier kit, with only the kit's code changed. The sheet with the more interesting markings is slightly smaller, and contains decals for two options, both of which are in the pale grey, pale blue/grey, and pale blue tri-colour scheme, and from the box you can build one of the following: Red 83 with a green radome and dielectric panels on the tail Red 36 with a grey radome and dielectric panels on the tail The decals are the usual fare from HB, are in decent register, lightfast and reasonably sharp into the bargain. You get a set of decals for the cockpit instruments, as well as a reasonable complement of stencils, but if you want to get it exactly right, you will need to consider some aftermarket stencils, such as those from Begemot. Conclusion Like its stablemate, it is a new tool moulding of an early Flanker, so what's not to like? It will doubtless have some foibles that will irritate the perfectionists, but what kit doesn't? Grab some AKAN paints on your way to the (probably virtual) checkout, and add one to your collection. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  23. German Panzerlok BR57 Armoured Locomotive 1:72 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd. During the 20s and 30s, the German National Railway dropped their previously dismissive doctrine regarding the use of armoured trains and realised that the armoured train was an effective way of pushing the railway further toward the front line, with sufficient protection for the locomotive to counter all but large calibre, high velocity rounds. A standard 1910 Prussian series G10 locomotive (0-10-0) with was fitted with armoured plates of thickness to render them almost invulnerable to small arms fire and air attack, permitting the loco to carry on unmolested unless the track was damaged. This type of loco became the standard in track clearing duties, and often pulled/pushed armoured and armed wagons mounting surplus gun turrets, seeking out ambushes in advance of important consignments that would follow. The BR57 often pulled two tenders and both pulled and pushed a couple of such wagons from the centre of the train. The Kit Although Hobby Boss don't immediately strike you as a producer of railway kits, they and their associate company Trumpeter do have a long-running and infrequent habit of producing (mainly military) engines, rail guns and wagons to go with such things. I have a couple of these in my collection, such as the Trumpy Leopold, the BR52 loco and a Panzerjägerwagen, as well as a diesel shunter the name of which I can't quite remember as I write this. This armoured loco is a new tool, and arrives in a standard HB box with a small card divider within, protecting the bodywork and under frame from damage, with the rest of the sprues individually wrapped, and in places protected by additional foam sheet. Take heed regarding the wrapping around the chassis ends though, as it is quite tightly wound, and could damage the delicate details underneath if removed roughly. Inside the box are seven sprues and two separate parts in sand coloured styrene, a glossy A4 painting sheet, instruction booklet and no decals, which I'm a little surprised about, as military vehicles of all types usually have at least a few stencils. Moving on… The detail of the slide-moulded upper shell parts is excellent, with bulky rivets and panels on the surface. The purists will want to replace the grab rails on the loco sides with wire ones for ultimate fidelity, but care will need to be taken here not to damage the surrounding detail. The overall part count is fairly low due to the fact that much of the structure is covered by armour, but what is there is finely moulded to a high standard. Construction begins with the lower chassis, which is a long narrow ladder into which the bearings, leaf-suspension and brake blocks are added on the inside face, with the wheels on the outer face. The wheels and their connecting rods are applied to the outer face, with a good level of moulded-in detail on the single part, given the limitations of plastic moulding. More parts including the pistons at the front of the wheel runs and the connecting rods are added before the running gear is mated with the lower floor of the loco. The boiler front and tread-plates are fitted to the front of this over the pistons, and plates are added to the front and rear. The armoured body is pretty much a single part, and is moulded with three tabs on the lower edge of each side, which must be removed before it is installed over the floor. Mirrors, couplings, a short funnel, and cheek plates to the pistons are then installed to finish off the loco. The tender has a wider, shorter chassis with three pairs of wheels added inside the frame, and suspension detail moulded to the outer surface of the frame. This and the loco coupling are fitted to the underside of floor, with the armoured shell fitting over the top with steps, grips, buffers and couplings fitted to the exterior. A small valance is fixed to the shroud around the accessway, and a plate is glued to the rear underside of the loco to fix the link between the halves in place, completing the build. Happily, Hobby Boss have included a stand, which consists of four track bed lengths with end-caps that result in a 60cm base that is covered in faux ballast, which if I'm being critical is a little bit too regular. The sleepers/ties are moulded into the ballast, and you slide eight lengths of rail into the cleats, linking them together with bolted plates as per the real thing (before welded rails became a thing of course). This gives the (roughly) 25cm loco and tender plenty of space to float around, and an additional truck or two could be added for a mini-diorama. Markings There are no decals in the box, and only one colour scheme included on the sheet, which is a base of Dark Yellow, over which is applied Red brown and Field Green stripes in a similar fashion seen on Panzers of the time. Given how filthy railway gear got due to the soot and grease, there is then plenty of scope for the modeller to express themselves with weathering. Conclusion A nicely moulded kit that would have benefitted from the inclusion of the footplate and controls, so that the sliding panels over the windows could have been left open. The boiler front is also locked away behind a non-opening armoured door, which again would have been useful to be able to leave ajar for a more candid look to the finished model. That aside, it's an appealing addition to a collection of military railway hardware, which I seem to have been indulging in without even thinking about. Maybe that's where my son gets it from afterall? Review sample courtesy of
  24. German WWII Machine Guns Set (35250) 1:35 MiniArt Germany maintained a perceived advantage throughout WWII in their machine guns, beginning with the MG34 and the even more potent MG42 that gained a fearsome reputation against Allied troops, earning the nickname Hitler's Buzzsaw due to its furious rate of fire, which topped out at 1,200 rounds per minute, although in the real world the actual speed was considerably less, due to the frequent barrel swaps (a 6 barrel rotation), and stopping to load more ammo. Consideration also had to be given to the quantity of ammunition that could be carried by the crew, which were ideally a six man team, but more often it was three men. Less well known is the ZB-53, which was a Czechoslovakian design utilised by the Wehrmacht, and as it was a pre-war design, it had also been licensed by the British, where it was known as the Besa, seeing service in many early war British tanks. All of these were air-cooled and had good rates of fire, but of the three, the ZB-53 with its sturdy tripod and need for boxed ammunition was the least portable. The Kit Arriving in a figure-sized end-opening box, there are five small sprues in the box, plus a branded card envelope that contains a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass for the fine parts. From this you can make two each of the MG-34 and MG-42, plus one of the ZB-53. The instructions are on the rear of the box, and each gun is made up from a number of finely moulded parts, with suitable accessories as follows: MG-34 (shared between two guns) 2 x Ammo boxes with PE handle 2 x Open ammo carriers with PE handle 1 x length of ammo 2 x PE carry straps with and without clips 6 x Gurttrommel drum mags 2 x bipod folded 2 x bipod extended MG-42 (shared between two guns) 2 x Ammo boxes with PE handle 2 x barrel carrier with PE straps 2 x oil cans with PE handle 2 x PE carry straps with and without clips 2 x Gurttrommel drum mags 2 x bipod folded 2 x bipod extended ZB-53 (vz.37) 1 x multi-part tripod with PE parts 2 x Ammo boxes with PE handle PE shrouds, sights and muzzle for the gun Moulding is excellent as you'd expect from MiniArt, and the range of spares included really helps with building a realistic scenario. By the time you have cut all the parts from the sprue there doesn't seem much there, but it's quality stuff that will look exceptional with sympathetic painting. As usual, the paint call-outs use a number system, which cross-refers to a table at the bottom of the instructions that gives alternative codes for Valljo, Testors, Tamiya, Humbrol Revell, Mr. Color, Life Color, as well as the colour names. If you can't get hold of at least one of those brands of paint, you should be able to convert them easily enough as a result. Review sample courtesy of
  25. Soviet Tank Crew At Rest (35246) 1:35 MiniArt There's a phrase that says "War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror", which from the little I know is a truism. We see many figure kits with guys in combat poses, but much fewer with soldiers relaxing or doing everyday "stuff". Guess what? This figure set as the name implies shows a group of five Russian tankers in poses that couldn't be much more relaxed unless they fell over. The set arrives in a standard sized end-opening figure box with a painting of the intended poses on the front, and a combined instruction and painting guide on the rear of the box. Inside are five sprues in mid grey styrene, two containing figure parts, one with weapons, and three more with ammunition and their containers to help create a little clutter around the figures. All five figures are complete, with four of them stood up. One is leaning on something with his helmet still on, another has his helmet in his hand, and the third is either taking off, or putting on his overalls. Number four is overall free and stood with his hands in pockets and helmet loosely on his head, while number five is sat down and having a crafty smoke. I do hope he's not near any flammable liquids! The part numbers are given on the included instruction sheet, as are the numbers for the weapons, all of which are optional to use as you see fit. The extra three sprues allow you to build up three crates of either OF-540 HE Fragmentation shells, or HEAC Anti-Concret shell G-530, both of which have a separate brass casing containing the propellant powder charge. The crates are made up from a complicated array of small parts, which should give you good detail, and one compartment has a hole in one of the sections that allows the conical end of the shell to pass through and be supported by a cushioning insert at the rear. The other compartment is for the brass casing, which is common between both shells. Depending on which shell type you insert, you will be left with the alternative for the spares box, or to display loose with a flagrant disregard for safety! Conclusion With MiniArt we have come to expect excellent sculpting, and this set does not disappoint, with realistic poses, drape of clothing and faces. The extras are also finely sculpted, even down to triggers and guards on the pistols. The box is marked as a "Special Edition", which I guess refers to the extras that come with the figures. If those appeal to you, buy 'em sooner, rather than later. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of