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  1. Russian Army Tank Transporter MAZ-537G Tractor w/ ChMZAP-5247G Semitrailer 1:72 Takom The MAZ-537, also known as the KZKT-537, is a military tractor unit manufactured by MAZ and KZKT between 1959 and 1990. Combined with a trailer such as the ChMZAP-5247G, it can tow loads of up to 65 tons. The tractor has been widely employed by the USSR, former USSR states and export customers in a diverse range of military and civilian roles, including tank transportation, artillery tractor and in the oil and gas industry. Powered by a 38.8 litre V12 diesel engine (with pre-heating to cope with cold climates) and drive to all eight wheels, the tractor weighs 21,600 kg. The G version is equipped with a 15 ton winch and can self-extract from adverse terrain. The vehicle has largely been superseded by the KZKT-7428 in Russian service. Takom must have something of an interest in military tractor/trailer combinations. Their range of 1:72 kits is comprised almost entirely of such subjects, including the Hanomag/V2 combo and the M1070/M1000 that we reviewed on this site but a few days ago. This kit continues the trend, but omits any kind of load to put on the trailer. No matter as the likes of Revell and Modelcollect have released lots of Soviet/Russian hardware that would be suitable for the job. Inside the relatively compact top-opening box are four frames of grey plastic, a single small clear frame, a small fret of photo etched parts, decals and a couple of piles of rubber tyres for both the tractor and the trailer. Each item is packed in its own bag for protection. The quality of moulding is clean and crisp and looks good to me. The instruction manual is much smaller than normal (just under A5 size) and although the painting diagrams are in full colour, the size of the illustrations and the decision to use a dark grey background makes them almost impossible to interpret properly. I would probably recommend you give up and find some decent photographs to work from. Construction starts with chassis and drive train of the MAZ-537. As the tractor is eight-wheel drive, there are drive shafts and differentials running the length of the central chassis. The wheels are single, solid parts which just pop into the massive balloon-like tyres. Each is then attached to a small axle sub-assembly, which in turn fits onto the side of the chassis. The whole thing is richly detailed but not overly complex. One the chassis is complete, attention turns to the cab unit. There are various details that have to be fixed to the underside of the floorpan, after which it can be flipped the right way up and fixed to the chassis. Interior detail is limited to the bench seat and a basic dashboard and steering wheel. As with their M1070 kit, the clear parts are moulded from clear polystyrene and the doors are entirely translucent, meaning some masking will be required prior to painting. I would recommend both inside and outside be painted in order to achieve a good finish. finishing touches include the rear view mirrors and tiny photo etched windscreen wipers. The ChMZAP-5247G trailer is comparatively straightforward to assemble. The chassis is basic ladder-like structure, with the upper load surface moulded in place. The road wheels fit onto two suspension bogeys, making two pairs of four wheels. As before, the wheels are separate to the rubber tyres, which will speed up painting and weathering. The spare wheels for both tractor and trailer fit onto the trailer, as do the hydraulic stabilisers. Alternative parts are provided so the latter items can be used for building the trailer in the detached configuration if desired. The painting and marking guide shows four different schemes for the tractor and trailer. The Afghan Army, Hungarian Defence Force, Iranian Army and Soviet Army are all provided for. Paint references are provided for the Ammo by Mig range of paints. Unusually, recommendations are also made for Ammo weathering products as well. As mentioned in the preamble, the painting diagrams are infuriatingly small for such a large vehicle (and no, it's not my age), so extra pictorial references will be essential. Conclusion It feels as though fans of Soviet bloc/Russian hardware are enjoying something of a golden age at the moment. Ten or so years ago, kits of subjects such as this MAZ were either non-existent or strictly limited run. Now, thanks largely to mainstream manufacturers such as Takom, Modelcollect, Revell, ICM and Zvezda, we seem to have a choice of not just MBTs, but APCs and other vehicles such as this in injected plastic. The utilitarian, almost Tonka-esque look of the big MAZ appeals to me enormously and it will look great with a soviet MBT on the back. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  2. Jagdpanther G1 Early w/Zimmerit & Schwerer Platformwagen Type SSys (2125X) Special Edition 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond Ltd. After the Nazis encountered the formidable Russian T-34, their medium tank project took a new turn to become the Panther, which proved to be one of their more successful designs and is still admired today for its technical prowess and abilities. The need for tank killers took the chassis of the Panther, removed the turret and superstructure, replacing it with a casemate and powerful high-velocity gun in a new mount with elevation and limited side to side movement that was used for fine-tuning targeting or chasing a moving target. The heavily sloped glacis extended to the roofline, giving the vehicle a sleek look that was echoed at the sides, with a vertical step down from the roof at the rear onto the engine deck. The G1 variant used the Panther A as a base, while the later models designated G2 were based up on the Panther G chassis. The same Pak 43 88mm gun was mounted, in an internally fixed mantlet initially, and later externally bolted in the G2. As with all WWII German tanks, the design was complex by comparison with the enemy's, so production was slower, which was probably just as well as it was an exceptionally capable tank, just like is turreted progenitor. The gun was virtually unstoppable by armour of the time, the engine had enough power for the task in hand, and it wasn't overweight, so the transmission could handle the power easily. If there had been more of them, they could well have had an impact, certainly slowing down the Allied advances (providing they could find fuel for them), and making gains more costly in men and materiel. Along with other tank types they were usually transported via railway on low-slung wagons due to their propensity to break down during longer road journeys and their command's desire to keep their mileage away from the battlefield low. The Kit This is a new boxing of Takom's 2019 release of the early Jagdpanther G1 with zimmerit anti-mine coating moulded into the hull and other parts. It also includes the 2014 SSys Plattformwagen from Sabre model, which as you can imagine adds extra parts to the box, requiring a little extra depth than usual. The box is white themed with a line-drawing of the combination on the front and sides plus the large green Takom logo, which immediately makes the package a little classy and shows its limited edition status off well. In case you didn't know, Sabre are another Chinese model company with a couple of these kits in 1:35 and 1:72 scale. This of course (do I really need to say it?) is the 1:35 edition. The box is bulging with sprues even though this is an exterior only kit thanks to both the detail included in the Jagdpanther kit, but also because the wagon is a pretty large tooling at this scale. Inside the box are 22 sprues for the tank, 12 sprues for the wagon, two black jig parts, two lengths of braided copper cable, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, two decal sheets and a thick landscape instruction booklet with colour profiles in the rear for painting and markings. The detail on the tank is excellent, especially in regard to the zimmerit coating, which is of the waffle-type and is depicted as worn with an uneven surface that is exactly as it should be. The paste was applied by hand, often by forced labour who were working against their will and didn't give a hoot about how nice their enemy's tanks looked going into battle. Sections of the zimm are missing from the surfaces where tools or other parts are attached, and if there is repetition of the effect, it's difficult to find evidence and it defeated my eyes. The paste was applied to reduce the magnetic signature of the tank's vertical(ish) surfaces in order to defeat magnetic mines that the Russians were alleged to be using, although this threat was much less than expected which is why the paste was eventually removed from the construction process. There is a slight difference in colour between the tank sprues and the wagon sprues, with the wagon having a more bluish tint, while the Takom sprues are their standard grey. Construction begins with the tank, and the lower hull is the first part to be built up. This assembly consists of the floor with lower glacis plate insert, plus the two side plates, both of which have zimmerit coating around their suspension just in case some brave/foolhardy Russian chanced his arm (literally) and shoved a mine in there. The suspension arms are next, slotting into holes in the hull and with two holes in the back of each one that cleverly ensures that they will only fit in the correct direction and at the right angle, aided by leaving the jigs in place during curing. Don't throw the jigs away yet, as they have another job to do later. The wheels are up next, and they travel in pairs to spread the vehicle's weight over the ground. These are built up with their moulded-in rubber tyres (they switched to steel rims later), the outer pairs getting made up after fitting the inner wheel behind the inner part of the pair. The final drive housing and small guide wheel that was fitted to help reduce track-throwing are added to the front of the hull and it's time for tracks! The tracks on this kit are link-and-length, and come with separate twin rows of guide-horns that are best added before you remove the track links from the sprues. The guide-horns come on their own rails that you remove en-masse and apply to the tracks in accordance with the instructions, and once dry you can remove the rail and clean up the sprue-gates. Each of the track links are then cut from the sprues, with only one gate per link making that task fairly quick. Before you can make up the track runs, you need to construct the idler wheels and drive sprockets, with a choice of two types of drive sprocket. The reason for making these now is so that they can be slipped onto the spindles on the jigs to build up the tracks including the independent links around the more curved areas, and the longer lengths on the tops and bottoms. The lower section are shown added after they are fitted to the wheels, which will be most useful to paint them separately then glue them in place after. The final outer wheel from the rear station is fitted into place along with the idler-wheel tensioner and a small collar around the drive sprocket axle to complete the job. With the tracks out of the way, the sponson floors are added to the sides of the lower hull, and the rear bulkhead with complex exhausts is made up, noting that the instructions don't show the zimmerit coating on any of the parts but it is there on the sprues. The stowage boxes on the rear of the tank are coated with zimmerit, as is the bulkhead, while the cast exhaust armour and the tubes themselves aren't coated, although the armour has a nice casting texture moulded-in that helps with the realism. When it is fitted at the rear a pair of towing shackles are glued to the rear extremity and attention turns to the upper hull and casemate. It is worth stating again here that the moulding of the zimmerit on the hull is excellent, and the first act involves adding all the pioneer tools and the track racks to the sides, using a few extra links from the track sprues. The interior of the upper glacis plate is laminated to the outer layer, with the bow-mounted machine gun trapped between them, the zimmerited domed kugelblende, periscope and the inner mantlet moulding all fitted from the outside. The inner mantlet has cast texture included, as does the saukopf that fits at the base of the barrel later, but first the full breech is made up from a substantial number of parts, including compensators, sighting gear and crew seats, which isn't half bad for an exterior kit. The completed breech is fitted from the inside and linked to the barrel, which passes through the aforementioned saukopf, with a choice of two muzzle-brake styles, one large, the other small. Each one has a baffle and end-cap fitted before installation for extra detail. With that the upper hull and lower hull can be joined, and the engine compartment frame fitted to the aft deck in anticipation of the heavy cast louvered parts that are covered with PE mesh grilles to keep grenades and debris out. The front fenders are covered in zimmerit and are fitted to the front along with their headlight, and a long frame and hangers is run down the sides for the schürzen that will be fitted later. Firstly, the casemate roof is assembled, with numerous hatches, periscopes, vents and it's then placed on the roof with the addition of a bit of glue. The shürzen panels are supplied in complete runs, one for each side and they have their edges thinned to give a more accurate look, however if you want to depict them damaged you'll need to either mangle the plastic parts or replace them with thinner material such as brass or thin styrene (aftermarket being the easiest way). Following this the engine deck is filled in with the round louvers and their grilles, plus the large engine hatch with its smaller inner inspection cover complete with mushroom vents on the tops. The rear of the casemate is the last of the hull plates to be added, and this has a drop-down hatch in the centre, stowage box on the left and shell-ejection port on the right with an aerial mount above it. The final act is to cut two lengths of braided wire and attach them to the towing eyes, then fit them to the deck using the small hooks supplied. Schwerer Plattformwagen SSys Moulded in a shinier plastic, this portion of the build begins with the flatbed, which comprises four sections and is best laid flat during curing of the glue to ensure a level bed later. If you are planning on choosing the option of using the upstands along the sides of the bed, you'll need to remove the flashed over points that are picked out in the first step, and you'll probably also want some narrow chain to string between them, as I think that was sometimes the case. With the glue on the bed cured, four longitudinal C-profile ribs are fitted, then seven lateral cross-beams and some smaller ones at angles toward each end. Then the large weight-bearing tapering beams are run along each side, made up from two parts that butt up against each other. Two box section pivots are made up from flat parts, and the sides of each of the two bogies are fitted out with bearings and leaf suspension (four in total), with brake-blocks installed on the inner faces using scrap diagrams to get the position right. The sides are spaced apart by the box section and additional rods are attached between the brake block mechanism, cut to length as required. The wheels are made up on their axles and are also suspended between the sides, the additional bracing girders are attached around the bogie to stiffen the assembly. When complete, these mate with pivot points under the bed assembly, and can be glued in place or left to pivot. The bogies are finished off with buffers, pneumatic brake hoses and a nicely detailed hitch, with a few small parts added to the sides of the bed. Happily, you also get a set of tracks to sit your wagon on, with enough track to sit under the wagon, and some linking plates in case you've decided to get some more track or have another wagon up your sleeve. There are 18 sleepers/ties and two lengths of rail a shade over 30cm/12" in length, and while the rail on my sprues were a little bowed at one end, attaching the sleepers and fixing them to a base will bring the rails back into alignment. The sleepers are shown with a 10mm gap between them, and you thread the rails through their cleats from one end to the other. Markings There are six markings options for the tank with varying camo scheme on a dark yellow base, one of which is straight dunkelgelb without any camo. The profiles are five-view to give you every side of the patterns, and the colours called out using Mig AMMO shades, as they were also involved in the artwork. Decals are printed anonymously with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Yes - those profile backgrounds are all different colours. The wagon decals are printed by Sabre with a copyright of 2014. They are all white, so there's no registration to worry about, but they appear sharp and dense with plenty of stencils along the main beams of the bed with a few more on the bogies. Conclusion The Jagdpanther on its own is a great kit with superior detail, and added to the Sabre Plattformwagen it really lends itself to a transport diorama just by the addition of some groundwork and ballast, with maybe a few figures to add a sense of scale. This has me itching to build it, although at the moment I'm trying to finish at least one project before I start another. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  3. M46 Patton US Medium Tank 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond Despite his insistence that the US Forces didn't require a heavier tank toward the close of WWII, which resulted in the delay of the capable Pershing tank, so that it barely made any difference the final few months of the war, the US Army seem fond of naming tanks after this flamboyant General. The M46 was developed after the shortcomings of the M26 Pershings were determined after WWII. Initially called the M26E2 it was decided the new tank had so many deviations from the M26 it needed its own designation. 1160 were built. The only US combat use of the M46 was in Korea. The only use of the tanks outside the US would be small numbers sent to those countries who would get the later M47 in order for crew training. The Kit Takom seem to want to give us all the variants of the Patton and this is no bad thing. The kit arrives in a standard top-opening box, and inside are seven sprues and three separate parts in mid-grey styrene, a small clear sprue, two khaki coloured track jigs, a small decal sheet and of course the instruction booklet with painting guide on the insides of the glossy cover. Beginning construction involves adding the various suspension parts, using the track jigs to line up all the swing-arms, and creating 14 pairs of road wheels, plus two drive sprockets. The jigs can then be used to create the track runs, which are link-and-length, by installing the idler and drive sprockets temporarily in the jig and lining up the parts of the track with small bars that ensure correct position when dry. The whole assembly can then be lifted off once the glue is dry to install the road wheels and tracks in your preferred order of construction and painting. The upper hull is made up primarily from a single slab with moulded-in engine deck louvres and the sleek cast glacis plate, which has subtle casting texture to its surface. The bow-mounted gun, lifting eyes and towing shackles are added along with the D-shaped front hatches and their periscope, finished off with the light clusters and their protective framing. Shackles, vents, towing eyes added to the rear, and then the two fenders are built up away from the hull, with stowage, pioneer tools, exhaust boxes with shrouds added to both before being attached into long slots with matching tabs in the now complete hull. The turret also has the casting texture moulded-in, which will need a little fettling around the top-bottom join, paying careful attention to your references so that you don't make it too neat and tidy. In fact, it could do with a little sharpening at the bottom edge, with an almost vertical torch-cut pattern where the area has been "tidied" up, and I use that term very loosely. The casting details are nicely embossed on the bustle, and should escape any damage if you are careful when cleaning up/texturing the joint. A functional pivot for the gun is fitted inside the lower half before closure, and if left unglued will enable the gun to be posed after completion, although there is no damping in the shape of poly-caps, so it might need gluing later to prevent droop. The hatches are added, with an M2 derivative machine gun on a simple pintle-mount next to the loaders hatch. Two barrels for the main gun are supplied, depending on whether you will be fitting the canvas mantlet cover or not. Without it, the barrel is a single moulding, with a choice of muzzle types, while with the styrene cover the barrel is split vertically but uses the same muzzle brakes. The searchlight mounted over the gun is then built up and installed. Grab handles and tie-down points, and spare track links are fitted to the sides of the turret, plus smoke dischargers, and then it's just a case of twisting the turret into its bayonet fitting, and you're finished. Markings There are nine marking options from the box, and the profiles have been done in conjunction with Mig Jiménez's company AMMO, so the colour codes are theirs, although you also get the colour names, so conversion to your favourite brand will be relatively easy should you need to. Tank No. 5 of C Company, 6th Tank Battalion, 24th Infantry Division, Korea March 1951. Tank No. 3 of C Company, 6th Tank Battalion, 24th Infantry Division, Korea March 1951. B Company, 73rd Heavy Tank Battalion, Korea 1951. 64th Tank Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Korea 1951. E Company, 2nd Medium Tank Battalion, 40th Armour, 7th Infantry Division, Korea 1955. D Company, 1st Marine Tank Battalion, Korea 1952. C Company, 1st Marine Tank Battalion, Korea 1952. Tank 53, Tank Platoon, 5th Marine Regiment, Korea 1952. 64th Tank Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Chorwan, Korea, 1953. The decal sheet is printed anonymously, but is of high quality so could be by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion Not everyone likes link-and-length tracks, but otherwise this should appeal to many modellers, with plenty of relatively unusual schemes to choose from. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  4. Soviet PL-37 Light Artillery Wagon Trumpeter 1:35 History There is very little in the way of history that I can find on the PL-37, whether in my library or on the interweb. What is known is that the first Russian armoured train was built around 1915 with a number being captured after the revolution. The Soviets built up a fleet of armoured trains in the interwar years, used mostly by the Red Army, but the NKVD also used them in conjunction with their armoured cruisers. In the 1930’s this fleet was modernised with the introduction of the PR-35 and PL-37 wagons. Each train consisted of one BR-35 armoured engine, one PR-35 and two PL-37 wagons. During Operation Barbarossa, the Germans captured or destroyed most of these trains, usually through bombing as they were particularly vulnerable of this. During the war more heavily armoured trains and cruisers were built, with around 70 being available in 1945. The Model The kit comes in quite a large top opening box with an artistic impression of the wagon, strangely on its own without the rest of the train it should be attached to, firing its cannon at the enemy. As with the Panzertriebwagen No.16, reviewed HERE on opening the modeller is confronted with a box full of medium grey styrene, ten sprues in total, along with separate hull, in its own protective box, floor, turrets and five rail ballast sections. All the parts are beautifully moulded, particularly the single piece hull of the wagon, 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. Being a fair bit smaller than the Panzertriebwagen there are far fewer steps in the construction, which begins with the construction of the rail tracks. 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. The wagon construction begins with the floor, the underside of which is fitted out with two longitudinal strengthening beams and two cross beams, on at each end. Toe plates, with added swivels are then attached to the underside in preparation for fitting the two bogies. Inside the main box structure there are four machine gun positions fitted. Each of these consists of the gun muzzle with the ball glued to the rear end. The ball is then placed in the socket of the mounting plate and covered with a semi-circular backing, allowing the muzzle to move. Each completed mounting plate is the glued into position, this is the limit of what’s in the interior. With the machine guns fitted, the floor assembly can be joined to the hull, along with the four two part buffers, two at each end. Each of the two bogies is built up from two side frames to which the two axle boxes are attached along with the parts that represent the spring suspension. Each axle is fitted with two wheels, with two axles sandwiched between the side frames, along with the bogie pivot block, which has been fitted with the four, three piece, brake shoes. The completed assemblies are then attached to the pivot mounts previously fitted to the underside of the wagon floor. The buffer plates are then attached, along with the ID plate to each end, whilst the wagon sides are fitted with the various hand rails and the access door. With the wagon the right side up, more hand and foot rails are fitted to the ends of the car, along with the five piece couplings and air line. On the side with the access door, three steps are added beneath the door and two long hand rails either side. The observation tower is made up of the single piece tower, to which the two top mounted hatches are fitted, along with the periscope cover, with the six viewing ports attached, one per side of the hexagon shaped tower. The completed tower is then fitted to the hole in the centre of the wagon roof. The two turrets are identical and consist of the single piece turret, a machine gun mount similar to those fitted to the wagon sides, a five piece main gun, made up of a two piece front barrel section, single piece rear barrel section, recuperator, and a figure of eight shaped joining piece. The machine gun, and main gun are fitted to the inside of the turret, before the turret base is attached. On the outside the turret is fitted with aiming port, periscope port, hatch hinge and an under-barrel plate. The hatch is then fitted with the other end of the hinge before being fitted into position, followed by a hinged mantlet plate, complete with two hinges. This can be posed closed up for low elevations or open for high. There are two protective plates fitted to each side of the barrel and these are attached along with the roof mounted radio aerial. Lastly the turret mounted rear hatch doors are fitted along with their hinges. The two completed turret assemblies are then fitted slotted into position and the railcar is completed with the addition of two armoured plates fitted either side of the couplings, each plate having previously been fitted with two hinges. The completed model can then be placed on the rail tracks. For improvements to the tracks, such as the rails, ties and ballast see the link in the Panzertriebwagen review. Conclusion I’m really loving the releases of these rail wagons. Having got all the German armoured train components, it’ll be great if Trumpeter 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 or anyone interested in these trains, or those wanting something unusual in their collection. The camouflage possibilities are endless, with a fair few photos on the web showing how each individual unit painted their wagons differently. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  5. King Tiger Sd.Kfz.182 Henschel Turret with Zimmerit – Full Interior (2045) 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond Hitler, and therefore Nazi Germany was obsessed with bigger which they equated with better, and this was reflected in almost every aspect of arms production in the run-up to, and throughout World War II. After the Panzer IV had been matched by Allied designs, the Tiger addressed the balance back in their favour, becoming the most feared combatant from any force, despite several draw-backs of its design, such as a weak transmission, and a level of complexity that meant it was slow to manufacture, prone to break-downs and expensive to repair. Expecting the Allies to bring heavier tanks to the field before too long, the King Tiger, Tiger II, or Königstiger as the Sd.Kfz.182 was known came into existence, having begun development even before the war started. Porsche's ground-breaking and complex design was unsuccessful for this reason, while the Henschel proposal was taken forward to production, using the same underpowered Maybach engine that was barely adequate for the Tiger I, and taking on the sloped armour of the successful Panther to significantly increase the effective thickness of the armour whilst keeping weight down to a staggering 70 tonnes. The initial turrets had curved surfaces that were difficult to manufacture, and a redesign was necessary to cure this and remove the shot-trap under the mantlet, with the new design being known today as the Henschel turret, while the old design became the Porsche turret, although both were designed by Krupps. A weak transmission design, coupled with the underpowered engine ensured that many vehicles broke down in the field, and plans were in progress to improve both aspects with fuel-injection and a new drive-train, but were curtailed by the end of the war. Most of the initial order of 1,500 units were built under difficult circumstances due to bombing of the factories and the encroaching Allied forces, and despite its problems it became one of the icons of German tank design of WWII, with a number surviving to be placed in museums, with some still running. The Kit We have had a few King Tiger (KT) kits in 1:35 over the years, but nothing new for quite a while, and at times the preferred brands have been hard to come by with prices reaching silly levels on eBay. Takom's new range of KT kits aims to provide a full set of these imposing tanks, with and without Zimmerit anti-mine coating, with Henschel and Porsche turrets, and with or without interiors. This should cater for almost every possibility, and if you like your tanks buttoned up, you won't be wasting the interior if you buy wisely. If you're unfamiliar with Zimmerit, it was a paste containing sawdust that was applied at the factory beginning in December 1943 and ending in September 1944, designed to prevent magnetic mines from sticking to the sides of tanks. It was applied in a number of different patterns, but was mostly seen in short horizontal ridges as depicted on this kit. Late war production eschewed this protection to speed production and remove the danger of fire hazard, the latter turning out to be false. This is a complete new tooling from Takom, and the first to feature a full interior from the box in this scale, although more new KT kits are on the way shortly. The box shows the tank cut in half to show off the interior, on a white background, and has deep sides to accommodate the contents, although my box didn't survive shipping very well and will need a bit of repair. Inspecting the parts shows that the Zimmerit coating has been well-done, showing individual tooling marks for each indent and "crowding" of the marks around raised areas on the mantlet and rear bulkhead, meaning that someone has spent a lot of time researching and producing this aspect, rather than just copy-paste (excuse the pun) of blocks of texture onto the CAD designs. The weld seams have all been reproduced too, and the skin has been quoted as being of scale-thickness to accurately depict the interior size. This has been done by laminating parts around the hull, rather than risk sink marks on the delicate Zimmerit texture. The interior has been faithfully reproduced within the limits of injection moulding too, and really does beg you to leave open as many hatches as possible so that all the detail isn't lost to darkness. There are bound to be some modellers tempted to do a partial cut-away to expose yet more of the detail, and I'm sorely tempted myself, but will probably chicken out eventually. Inside the box are a lot of sprues, taking up almost all the available space. There are fifteen sprues, two hull parts and upper turret in a grey styrene, one sprue of clear parts, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, two decal sheets, and three bags of tracks, with one each for the tracks and their links, plus another for spare links for the turret sides. The instruction guide is in the by-now-familiar Takom format, in landscape A4, with glossy cover and painting instructions to the rear. A separate interior painting guide is provided that works for either turret design, with labels showing which is which. Construction begins with the whe… No, the hull, actually. The lower hull is decorated with cross-members internally, the final-drive housings at the front, and along the interior sides inserts add all the extra detail as well as scale armour thickness that will be visible around the interior parts. Torsion bar bearings are added across the hull in long lines, which receive the two-part axle/torsion-bar combination later on. Various internal equipment enclosures and fuel tanks are added to floor, along with the driver's controls. Even the lower escape hatch is depicted, and has handles and locking wheel added before it is installed in the front floor. The road wheels are built into pairs and attached to the axles, with long bearings on the inner sets and short ones on the outer, so that they all line up. The driver's seat is a complex arrangement that is attached to the floor, with the final drive unit to its right, supplying the motive power to the two bell-housings and drive-sprockets. It also includes the steering column, with a quadrant style wheel on the left. The rear firewall of the crew compartment is then detailed and added at around two-thirds of the way back, creating the engine compartment with drive-shafts and transfer boxes reaching from the bulkhead to the rear of the final drive housing. The engine compartment is split longitudinally into three main compartment, with the power-pack in the central section, a radiator bath with fans on either side, and a pair of slope-sides fuel tanks using up the space over the rear wheels inside the sponsons. Each section is separated by bulkheads, which are inserted before the engine is built up from a large number of parts over a couple of pages of the instructions, with colour call-outs on the interior painting guide. Add some wiring, some grease and grime, and it should look superb. Additional hoses, panels and a final centrally mounted fuel tank are added behind the engine, all of which were interlinked to allow the driver to select where to draw the fuel from, and were even filled centrally from the rear filler cap. Parts of the hosing are included for good measure, although some is hidden from view. The two radiator housings are identical, and are topped off with a fan each, with another fuel tank outboard, as previously mentioned. A tread-plated panel with a large circular cut-out for the turret base is added to the aft of the crew compartment, along with a webbing across the forward section of the area, with ten machine-gun ammo bags attached ready for the bow gunner's use. All of the space over the sponsons is then filled with ammunition storage, which is represented by four trapezoid packs of shells in racks, which are built up from two or three layers of shells moulded to their racks, with PE percussion bases for each one. At this point all the lower hull parts are completed, with only the parts attached to the inside of the upper hull left to install, so that's where we go next. The upper hull has a separate panel including the driver and gunner's hatch, which fits into the hull along a fairly prominent panel line on the real thing. The edges of the insert are recessed and have recessed bolt-holes to allow the modeller to leave it off, or loose to show off the interior. Its underside has detail too, and a few raised ejector pin marks that are near some rivet lines, but away from much of the detail. The underside of the upper hull has some recessed ejector pin marks too, which will need filling level if you are serious about the realism of the interior, which will also behove you to remove the product code from the ceiling to the right of the insert. A selection of pioneer tools are included for attachment to the outer hull sides, and these have been supplied with little PE clasps that you bend into a U-shape to replace the kit lugs to better mimic the latches used by the Germans in WWII. These could have been done completely in PE, but would probably have alienated most purchasers, as they are notoriously tricky to complete, so this is a good compromise that promotes their use, while leaving the PE averse to use the plastic option rather than cut the lugs off. The engine deck is also separate from the upper hull, to allow for the subtle differences between production runs, whilst squeezing the maximum detail out of the area. The central armoured section has a large access panel with two mushroom vents in the centre, and this can be removed entirely (requiring a hoist for the real thing), or the inner section hinged open to reveal some of the detail of the engine. The radiator housing covers both have the circular armoured vent that is covered with a PE mesh guard, plus the two intake ducts, which are also covered over with PE mesh panels, but the right panel holds the extinguisher cartridge, while the left has the wire/bolt cutters lashed to it with another optional PE clasp. These covers hinge toward the centre, and have the hinge-notches laid out to allow them to be posed open or closed to further increase the detail on show just for the hell of it, or for diorama purposes. The array of towing cables are supplied as moulded parts with the barrel-cleaning rods moulded-in, which is perhaps a little retrograde in terms of detail, but makes the job of fitting them a lot easier, and with some sympathetic painting, they should look just as good as braided wire or cord. Flipping the upper hull over, the glacis plate is thickened to scale with an insert that has the kügelblende aperture moulded in, and the side armour is scaled by adding another insert on each side. Externally, the kügelblende's ball-mount is inserted from outside, then covered with a two-part armoured dome, which has the Zimmerit coating moulded into its surface, giving it a faceted look. The sides of the upper hull are coated entirely with Zimmerit patterning, which extends under the side skirt mounting points, which I have seen described as wrong, but after a little research, it appears that it was sometimes done at the factory, although never (or seldom) on the side skirts themselves. These were mounted by paired brackets on the hull, which are present in the moulding, in case you wanted to remove any or all the panels, and the skirts are provided as single parts from each side, with recesses in the back to accommodate the brackets without any cutting. Although moulded from styrene, the skirts have been given a very nice slender edge by chamfering the mould, the trick of which would only be exposed if you decided to remove any sections, or elected to inflict damage to the panels, as was frequently seen. If you intend the former, trimming the thickness at the breaks between panels will see you right, but the latter is probably better done using an aftermarket PE set to obtain the best scale thickness and ruggedness of the metal parts. Inside the upper hull the bow machine gun is installed with a pair of ammo bags of the kind attached to the bulkhead (and the rear of the turret ring too), and the raise/swivel mechanism for the hatch openers are also made up and inserted under the hinge-point on the deck. The front fenders attach to lugs moulded into the upper hull, and have the same chamfered edge to fool the eye into thinking they're thinner than they are. They are attached and have three small PE jointing parts locking them to the sloped edge of the side-skirt, and between them is fitted the single headlight and bracket with a styrene part portraying the wire coming from a small armoured gland on the front of the deck. Two armoured covers for the vision blocks are added to the tops of the driver's rotating periscope and the bow-gunner's fixed 'scope to finish off the upper hull. Tracks can be pretty tedious to put together, and if you ask different modellers, rubber-band, individual link, link-and-length, or full metal workable track links are the only way to travel. Speaking personally, it's only rubber-band tracks that grate on my nerves, as they merely bend around the end-of-run, and you don't get that faceted look that is present on many of the real things. In this kit you get individual links in two bags, as each track link is made from two sections that interlink. They are also handed, and only go on the sprockets one way – fact that isn't mentioned in the instructions, which also omits the number of links you'll need to make a complete run for each side. 96 of each type are included in the bags, so it's a fair bet that it's around 45 pairs per side. Gluing up the tracks into a run using liquid glue along a straight-edge and then wrapping them around the wheels and fixing them in place will usually result in a good finish, but if you want to paint them off the vehicle, it might be as well to build them in two sections so they can be removed. That's up to you of course! Each link has four very small ejector pin marks on the interior surface, which can be buffed off in seconds with a sanding stick, although you'll need a skinny one for the mark between the two guide-horns. Equally, you could just slather the tracks with some muck to hide these from view and forget all about them! With the tracks on, the upper hull is joined to the lower, and the front of the lower hull receives the big armoured plate-ends and final drive protection that incorporates the towing eye holes, with the towing shackles clipping over the holes and giving the impression of the real thing. RB Productions do a lovely set of brass shackles to upgrade the look here if you feel inclined. The rear bulkhead is detailed with the armoured access panels, the C-shaped track tools and jack-block, plus a multi-part jack that fits on long brackets at the bottom of the bulkhead. The exhausts are two parts each, and have hollow tips, but you will need to hide the seamline after gluing, which are then covered by large cast armoured shrouds with separate lifting lugs on their sides. The rear mudguards butt-fit on the bulkhead against the hinge-detail that is moulded into the panel, and the whole assembly is glued to the rear of the hull, being careful to line up the exhaust pipes with the holes in the bulkhead, which also has a couple of ejector pin marks to fill while we're there. Another pair of shackles clip over the holes in the aft of the side armour, and we finally get to the fun part. Who doesn't like a big turret? With a separate roof making removal of the (sadly necessary) ejector pin marks easier, they will be the first task, followed by mating the roof with the side shell and the front. Inside are a number of items such as the fume extractor, periscopes, extinguisher and the interior portion of the commander's cupola, plus the gunner's hatch with optional open or closed positions of the ram that controls its movement achieved by swapping parts, as per the scrap diagram. The large rear hatch was partly for escaping a doomed tank, but was also the only way of extracting the big 88mm gun without dismantling the turret. This version has the pistol port, and attaches to the rear of the turret by two large armoured covers that allow it to hinge down flat to the deck for ease of exit. On the roof the various mushroom vents, shell cartridge ejection port and lifting lugs are all glued in place along with all the track hangers on the turret sides, which fit on little pips moulded into the Zimmerit finish. The topside of the cupola is built up with the covered vision blocks and a mount for the commander's machine-gun, with the lift/rotate hatch fitting neatly in the centre, while the gunner has to slum it with his simple opening hatch as described earlier. The spare track links are bagged separately, but I can see no discernible difference between them and the tracks themselves, so I guess someone put them in as a last minute addition? With most builds, the turret would be almost finished, but with a full interior, the basket, breech and sighting gear are required, and these are built up on a circular base that fits into the bottom of the turret, with a serious amount of detail and plenty of parts making for a good looking assembly. You will need to curve a few PE panels around the inside of the turret aperture, but that's not outwith the bounds of the skills of most modellers, and leaving them off may be noticed. If you've not rolled PE before and don't have suitable tools, just fold up a piece of kitchen roll, place the PE on that and use a cylinder of some kind (pen barrel or X-Acto knife handle) to apply pressure as you roll it over the part gently. Keep testing the fit, and stop when you get there. The glue will hold the parts in place from thereon in, just remember to use Super Glue (CA). The bustle contains a pair of ready-ammo racks with 11 shells on each side of the access-way, which are supplied in the same style as the shells in the lower hull. The finished assemblies fit to panels that mate with the turret floor, and again there are PE bases to each one. The long-barrel Krupp 88mm KwK 43 L/71 was considerably longer than that mounted on the Tiger I, and could propel the shell significantly faster due to the new design, increasing its penetrating power immensely with the new Armour Piercing (AP) shells that were designed for it. Typically, the KT carried a mix of AP and High Explosive (HE), and this is accommodated on the second decal sheet, which includes the correct stencilling and painting guides. The full breech is depicted, and the part count is high, as you'd expect, with the completed assembly fitting unglued between two supports that attach to the floor of the turret to enable it to elevate once completed. With the breech fitted and the glue cured, the upper turret is slipped over the end of the breech and glued together, the circular mantlet is built up from three sections, and the one-piece barrel are both then glued to the breech, with the three-part muzzle brake added to the end of the solid barrel to give it a hollow tip. Before the turret is dropped into place on the hull, a pair of PE mesh panels are added to plastic frames and applied to the front of the engine deck. The turret is just drop-fit, so remember this when you're handling the finished model. Markings You get two options in the box, and of course the decal sheet is small – this is an armour kit afterall. Registration, colour density and sharpness are all good though, and from the box you can build one of the following: Tiger II Ausf.B, 3./s.H.Pz.Abt.503, No.301 Mailly De Camp, France, July 1944. Tiger II Henschel s.H.Pz.Abt.503, No.233 Budapest 1944. Both are painted in Dunkelgelb, Olivegrun and shokoladebraun camouflage but in different patterns, and the colour call-outs are in Mig AMMO, who also drew the profiles, with small advertisements to the sides showing the new paint sets that Takom and AMMO have collaborated on to coincide with this release. We've got a couple of sets in for review, so watch out for that in due course. The second sheet of decals contains stencils for the many shells, the driver's instruments and even the red cross for the first-aid box, all of which are small details that improve the look of any model. Conclusion This is a very nice kit of the lumbering pinnacle of German WWII armour, and there have been some nice examples of attention to detail and careful tooling of the moulds to improve or preserve detail. The full interior is well worth the additional effort, and despite my initial concerns that none of it would be seen, there are plenty of opportunities to leave various panels off that will allow you almost full access without cutting into the model. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  6. Stratenwerth 16T Strabokran & Vidalwagen with V-2 Rocket (2123) 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond The V2 rocket was way ahead of its time and was the world's first ballistic missile designed by a team led by Werner Von Braun, who was later captured by the Americans and became the driving force behind the Apollo programme. The rocket weighed in at over 12 tonnes, so handling it was a task for large equipment that was designed specifically for the task. Due to its short range it was necessary to launch them close to the Channel in order to reach London, so mobile carriers/erectors were designed by Hanomag, and Takom have already kitted this as number (kit #2030). A handling trolley was made to carry the rockets shorter distances behind a lorry (without the erection/launch capability) and was known as a Vidalwagen, with a 16 tonne gantry crane called the Strabokran that could be dismantled or erected in an hour by a team of 10 men. This combination of equipment permitted the rockets to be launched from ad hoc sites and allowed the crews to leave the area before any retribution from the Allies could be attempted. Of course the advancing Allies eventually put paid to their mobile launches as the front line went past the V-2's ultimate range, and the RAF's carpet bombing of their permanent launch facility La Coupole in France before it could be brought into service. The final V-2 was launched on 27th of March 1945, and once the factories were over-run the missiles and their equipment were hoovered up by the Allies, including the British with real examples of this kit stashed away in warehouses by the RAF Museum. The Kit This is a new offering from Takom that is a bringing together of previous releases in a new box. The V-2 was originally released some time ago and has been included in other boxing, as has the Vidalwagen. Finally the 16T Strabokran was originally released as a tank related kit (sometimes boxed with a Panther kit), because the same crane was used by the Wehrmacht as by the V-2 crews. Overall, it's an interesting combination of parts that you can now buy in one box, which suits me nicely. I like V-2s. Not what they were used to do, but the technology. The kit arrives in a standard Takom top-opener box and inside are 17 sprues in grey styrene, two bags containing 6 and 8 black rubberised tyres, a bag of copper chain, two decal sheets, two Photo-Etch (PE) sheets and two long lengths of thin and thicker braided cord. There are two main instruction booklets, plus a separate sheet to show how the V-2 is suspended from the crane, and if you have any other boxings you'll possibly be familiar with them. One booklet is entitled "Hanomag SS100/V-2/Vidalwagen", but the SS100 related pages have been removed. The Strabokran instruction booklet is separate and was available separately initially, so no changes there. Even though I have stood beside a full-size V-2 at Cosford, the size of it in the box is impressive at around 38cm (15") even without the very tip of the nose cone and the fins. Detail is what we've come to expect from Takom with many rivets and panel lines on the rocket, and well moulded framework for the trailer and crane plus all the extras that are sometimes left out of other models, such as the cord, PE and chain. Construction begins with whatever you fancy really, as there are three main elements to this kit, and you can arrange them however you like. Make your choice and build them up in the order you see fit, and try to resist the urge to put a huge diorama together than includes a Hanomag SS100 and another V-2. We'll start with the rocket and its trailer, as that's the fun part and there's no messing about with cockpits and gear bays so it should go together pretty quickly. The trailer is first for consideration, and is a simple tubular framed chassis with a fixed rear axle and a pivoting front axle with towing hitch leading the front wheels. It begins with a triple towing tube that has a central shock-absorber between it and the towing vehicle, with the twin leaf-springs either side of the front axle and one wheel per side, which are made up from a two-part hub slipped from either side into a flexible plastic tyre. There is also a collar inside the central cap that allows the wheel to rotate on the axle, so take care with the glue at this point. The rear is made up from a shallow A-frame that has a tubular "bumper" around it to protect the rocket's fins from damage, and this has the two cradles fitted to its topside, and more bracing tubes added all around before adding the rear axle and damper onto two more leaf-springs with dual wheels on each side. This is attached to the bottom of the rear frame along with the towing arm and front axle to finish it off. The rocket is made up from two parts that make up the pointy end and the majority of the body, with a one piece ring between it and the lower portion where the fairings for the fins are found, which are again made up from two halves. The exhaust chamber is fitted into the lower end of the rear with some small vents on the exterior, with the graphite steering vanes added in the path of the exhaust. The fins are joined to the fairings via a pair of tabs and slots and the three sections are brought together, plus some tiny little fasteners are added to the nose section equipment bay then tipped with a separate part to get the desired point. To join the rocket to the trailer, a few small parts are added to the sides of the rocket and a pair of PE straps are used to tie it down, with plastic parts representing the ratchet mechanisms used to tighten the bands. The last diagram isn't necessary but shows the trailer being hitched to an SS100 as per the original kit these instructions came from. The Strabokran has its own instructions, and construction of this element begins with the horizontal box-section that contains the shuttle from which the jib hangs. This is moved from side-to-side by pulling on the chain loops at the end, and another hanging chain allows the hook to be raised and lowered. This is built up in much the same manner as the real thing, with the sides fitted with end-plates, bobbins and pulleys, and an electric motor at one end. The shuttle runs along rails and is moved by being incorporated into two loops of chain that wrap around pulleys at each end, and after insertion the top section of the gantry is fitted in place with a plate over the pulleys and motor to protect them from the weather and falling debris. The legs to the crane are based upon large bogies that have twin wheels at each end and when in position they are jacked up on legs to prevent slippage. The bogies and upstands are made up and joined together to make an inverted T-shape, the height of which can be adjusted on the real thing using the gears, pulleys and cables within the structure. They can also be flat-packed for towing, so make your selection early in the build, and cross out the steps you won't need to follow to avoid mistakes. The structure is built up much like the real thing with the cable substituted with cord and scrap diagrams showing the layout. You will have to take your time over this process to ensure you make no mistakes, but the result should be well worth the effort. An axle is attached under the bogie and the twin wheels are fitted to each end, then the jacks are added to the holes in the ends of the bogie. You'll need one for each side, so repeat until you have two of whichever flavour (up or down) you have chosen. The erected legs have some small parts added before completion, while the two packed legs have the towing arm added to one, and a couple of braces fitted under the rearmost section, then glued to the circular attachment points under the gantry. The process for the erected crane is similar but for the height off the ground when finished! Because the Strabokran wasn't originally released with V-2s in mind, there is a separate sheet of instructions that show how the cradle is built and attached to the lashing points on the missile, with cord, lifting eyes and PE straps included, and a final drawing showing the cradle fitted to the rocket and how this attaches to the crane. Markings The painting and decaling instructions are found at the back of each booklet of this kit, and you can bet your boots that the rockets are all painted the prototypical black and white chequered pattern, while the Strabokran can be painted dark yellow, green or camouflaged in both colours, and the Vidalwagen is either panzer grey or dark yellow. The decal sheets are miniscule and are printed mostly in black and white with a couple of red stencils for the rocket, and as such registration, clarity and sharpness are more than adequate for the task. Be warned – decaling won't take long! Conclusion Sure it's not new plastic, but if you're interested in the V-2 then it's a nice way of displaying one in a slightly different manner than usual, either leaving the factory or being transferred from one carrier to another for launch or transport. Detail is good, and as long as you take care with cabling and chaining up the Strabokran, you'll end up with an excellent replica. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  7. Russian MiG-31M Foxhound 1:72 Trumpeter The Mikoyan MiG-31, known by the NATO reporting name 'Foxhound' is an all-weather interceptor and replacement for the more famous but far less capable MiG-25 Foxbat. Although the MiG-31 bears a close resemblance to its predecessor, it is only the basic elements of the design that are shared. The MiG-31 is a much more modern aircraft and benefits from a very capable suite of avionics which provides full look down/shoot down capability against targets are small as cruise missiles. One thing it does have in common with the venerable Foxbat is its speed. The Foxhound is one of the fastest combat aircraft around and can show a clean pair of heels to most comparable jets. The weapon of choice for the Foxbat is the long-range R-33 missile, but it is also capable of using the now obsolete R-40, as well as the short-range R-73. Some variants can deploy the KH-31 and KH-58 anti-radiation missiles in the SEAD role. The MiG-31M was an intended upgrade featuring a one piece rounded windscreen, enlarged dorsal spine, digital flight controls and multi-mode phased array radar. It was also fitted with upgraded engines. The type was prevented from entering full production by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Trumpeter have pleased a lot of modellers with a penchant for Russian hardware of late. This kit follows their MiG-29, Su-24 and Su-27/33/34 families, as well as their MiG-31 and MiG-31B/BM kits. In classic Trumpeter style, the kit arrives in a large sturdy box with the parts packed so well that it is almost impossible to get them back in the box once unpacked. The box contains an over 330 parts, although this is relatively modest compared to their Su-34. The parts are well protected and the quality of moulding is up to the usual Trumpeter standard, with fine, consistent panel lines and plenty of detail. The overall breakdown of parts is virtually identical to previous iterations of this kit, but with revised parts to ring the changes between the original MiG-31 and the M. The cockpit is nicely replicated, with detailed instrument panels and sidewalls, as well as neat two-part K36 seats. The nose gear bay has to be built around the landing gear leg, which means painting the whole thing before it goes into the kit, but does at least replicate the detail of this part accurately. The nose and forward fuselage is a seperate part to the rest of the airframe, so I guess it could be assembled and put to one side while the rest of the beast is gradually assembled from its component parts. Construction moves on to a number of major sub-assemblies, most of which have to be completed at this stage in order to progress the build. The massive engine air intakes are full length, and contain eight parts each, not including the engine compressor blades. The main landing gear legs and bays also have to be assembled at this stage, although they look both well detailed and reasonably sturdy. Once complete, the nose gear bay, main gear bays and engine intakes can all be cemented into the large, slide moulded lower-rear fuselage, while the nose section can also be slotted into place. In order the bring the whole thing together, the single span upper wing can have the lower wing surfaces added and be joined to the rest of the airframe. With the collosal fuselage complete, most of the rest of the build is spent adding a few more large parts and a whole host of finishing details. Unlike the Hobbyboss kit, the vertical tails are moulded as solid parts and have plenty of rivet detail moulded in place. This is so fine, however, that I am reasonably confident that it will disappear completely under a coat of primer, particularly given that the whole kit has quite a rough, textured finish. The jet exhausts are each made up from three parts and are suitably imposing, although not quite the dustbin-like cans of the MiG-25. The canopy is moulded so it can be finished in the open position, and of course the one-piece windscreen is present and correct. The air brakes are also molded separately and are designed to be finished in the extended position. Trumpeter aren't usually shy when it comes to ordnance, so you get fair deal with this kit. Included in the asking price are: 6 x R-37 air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-40T infrared homing air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-40R radar homing air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-73E air-to-air missiles; 2 x R-77 air-to-air missiles; and 2 x drop tanks. The painting and marking guide shows the prototype, 037 Blue, but sufficient bort numbers are included to allow other aircraft to be built, if you fancy a very mild 'what if'. Stencils are included for the airframe and ordnance, which is also nice to see. The decals themselves look nicely printed and should perform well. Conclusion This is very nice kit which comfortably moves straight to the top of the tree when it comes to MiG-31s available in this scale. It's big but not too complex, well detailed and includes a fair selection of ordnance. On the other hand, it's far from cheap, especially when compared to the main competition. My main criticism of the kit is that the panel lines and rivit detail are incredibly fine and will surely disappear under a layer of primer. Not good for an aicraft that really needs a panel line wash to match the grubby appearance of the real thing. Nevertheless, if you do choose to build one, you will be rewarded with an impressive kit. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  8. British 7.2inch Howitzer (35211) 1:35 Thunder Model via Pocketbond The British were Looking for a suitable howitzer to replace the old 8" type that had seen action in WWI and was already known to have poor range in the run up to WWII, but it took until 1940 to select 7.2" as the most promising candidate, and engineering solutions were sought to make this a reality. Due to cost concerns the original 8" design was fine-tuned, and the old barrel had a liner installed to reduce the bore to the required size, which is called "lining-down". A more modern sighting mechanism was installed, along with brakes that were needed by then-current towing vehicles, and pneumatic tyres to get it over difficult terrain and provide some measure of suspension, first seeing service in 1942. The adaptation of the old design gave the gun a rather aged look, and the large tyres look out of place, jarring to the eye. There were four variants from I to IV due to the use of various types of barrel, and because of the massive recoil when firing with all four charges in the breech, large ramped wedges were fitted behind the gun to catch and minimise its movement, which was otherwise hazardous to the crew as well as terrifying to watch from close by. It was supposed to be replaced by a Mark V, but as that was unsuccessful it was eventually replaced by a completely new design that was called Mark.6 and remained in service until after the war, propelling the shells an additional 3,000m out to almost 18,000m. The Kit A new tool from Thunder Models that ties in nicely with their Scammell Pioneer R100, which was the usual prime mover used to tow these guns. It arrives in a flip-top box with four pale grey styrene sprues inside, plus two small sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, two short lengths of copper wire, a small sheet of decals, instruction booklet, and two painting and markings guides for the gun itself and the accessories that come with it. It is these accessories that are assembled first, with two ammo boxes, a curved topped charging cradle that feeds the gun, plus four shells and four charges, which have PE connectors and containers with PE handles. Construction of the gun begins with the chassis frame, with a warning to treat the parts with care due to their thickness (or lack thereof) to obtain a scale-like look to the finished assembly. The floor with cut-out, top and side panels make the trail up, with a spade and towing eye to the rear. Details such as tie-downs and shackles for tools are added, and the assembly is put to one side while the breech cradle is assembled along with the trunnions and elevation mechanism, which is then mated with the trail and has the sighting and adjustment equipment added around the area. A brace fits across the cut-out in the trail to prevent over-elevation, with a scrap diagram showing how this is properly fitted. The gun tube is supplied in top and bottom halves and encompasses both the barrel and breech, with inserts depicting the aperture and breech block, with another gaggle of small parts added to the assembly. Due to its WWI heritage the suspension is entirely in the tyres, with simple stub-axles that have brake actuators linking the system to the drum brakes hidden in the back of the hubs. The tyres are styrene, and built from back and front parts with a centre insert to give the impression of circumferential tread, plus a little lynch pin that fits at the centre of the hub. Two types of chocks are included, one for the front and the large curved ramps for the rear, which are each one part with a hollow underside, and an optional part that digs into the ground on each of the rear ramps to prevent slippage. Markings The base colour is British Military green SCC2, with two options from the box. One has a wavy lined stone grey underside to the barrel and front of the cradle, reminiscent of the Sherman Firefly scheme that was used to fool the enemy regarding its barrel size, the other is a more usual green/black camo. Colour call-outs are given using the AMMO paint system, but also gives their names in case you use another manufacturer for your models. They even suggest a few weathering compounds from the AMMO range if you wanted to go for a more "lived-in" look for your model. The decals are printed in either black or white, and are used entirely on the shells, charges and cases, so there's no concern over registration, and as I could read each one with my Optivisor on, sharpness shouldn't be an issue either. Conclusion It's nice to see some of the more neglected subjects covered from a British point of view, and this model does seem to tick all the boxes of good detail, some nice accessories and (to me at least, and probably you if you're reading this) an interesting subject in the dominant AFV scale. Put this together with an R100 and it'll make an impressive model. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  9. Soviet T-28 Medium Tank (Welded) 1:72 Trumpeter The T-28 was a Soviet medium tank, not dissimilar to the larger T-35. It suffered from many of the same problems as the T-35 , such as an unreliable engine & transmission, being under-armoured, and poor, out-dated suspension. The tank had a main turret lifted directly from the T-35, and two small machine–gun turrets from the T-26. The main gun was a hefty 76mm cannon, which was later upgraded to a more effective longer barrelled unit. After the initial poor showing in the Winter War against Finland, the armour was upgraded by adding appliqué panels. By 1940 the tank was hopelessly outdated and overshadowed by the new T-34, as well as enemy tanks such as the Panzer IV. As we saw with their recent T-80B, Trumpeter are once again releasing all-new AFV kits in 1:72 scale. Following on from the blueprint set by their most recent kits (and those released by sister company Hobbyboss), the kit makes extensive use of slide moulding in order to reduce the part count to a minimum while preserving detail. This is evident from the wheels and tracks, which are moulded as a single part. While compromises clearly have to be made in order to mould something like this, I still find it preferable to horrible rubber band tracks that are impossible to fix in place. Construction starts with the lower hull. This part is moulded as a single tub, on to which the return rollers and tow eyes have to be added. The inner run of road wheels, drive sprockets and idlers, along with the tracks, are all moulded as a single part. These have to be added to the lower hull, after which the individual outer road wheels, drive sprockets and idlers can be fitted. The upper hull (again, a single part), can be added next, along with the engine cover, stowage boxes and various details such as spare road wheels. The two small machine gun turrets are each comprised just four parts, including individually moulded machine guns. The main turret is only a little more complex, but includes a nicely rendered railing and a commander's cupola that is moulded separately from the rest of the turret. The stubby main gun is moulded as a solid part with a hollow muzzle thanks to the use of a multi-part mould. The small decal sheet provides three marking options, but none of them are identified as individual tanks. Conclusion This is a decent little kit that does a good job of balancing ease of construction with quality of finish. While the low part count means some compromises have been made, they are not as noticeable as you might think, and the overall level of detail compares pretty well to other manufacturers operating in this scale. Trumpeter are to be congratulated on producing a mainstream kit of this tank. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  10. Panther Mid-Early Production Sd.Kfz.171 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond The Panther was Nazi Germany's answer to the surprise appearance of the Russian T-34 after they finally reacted to the invasion that was Operation Barbarosa. Although the project had been in gestation some time before, they took some design cues from the T-34 in the shape of the sloped armour, resulting in the Panther that was intended to fill the gap between the Panzer.IV and the (then) new Panzer VI Tiger. It was eventually supposed to replace both the Pz.IV and the earlier Pz.III that was really showing its age, but in reality it often fought alongside the Panzer IV. It was planned as a lighter, more manoeuvrable tank than the Tiger, and was fitted with a high velocity gun from the outset, which gave it enormous penetrating power that was only equalled by the British 17-pounder fitted to the Sherman to make the Firefly. The sloped frontal armour gave it an increased effective armour thickness, but this was not so true of the side armour, which was comparatively weak, and this area became the preferred target of engaging allied tanks, especially in urban combat where this was a telling issue. Like most German WWII tanks it was complex to produce, so suffered in terms of volume produced, and this led to it being rushed into service with quite a tick-list of things still to sort out. Later production solved most of these initial gremlins, but loses in the interim were high with many being abandoned after failing during combat. Curiously, the Ausf.D was the first to enter production, with the Ausf.A following later in 1943, replacing attrition of the less reliable Ausf.Ds until they themselves were superseded by the Ausf.G, which became the final major variant with increased ammo storage, simplified design to ease production, and further improvements to reliability, although this was never fully cured with a high rate of attrition due to mechanical issues, some of which resulted in catastrophic fires. A Panther II was planned, which retained much of the look of the original Panther, while improving armour and suspension. They got as far as creating a pair of prototypes before the war ended, and a destroyed but still substantial chunk of the Schmallturm (smaller turret) can be seen at Bovington. The Kit This is a brand new tooling from Chinese powerhouse Takom, who came from nothing a couple of years ago and have created their own back-catalogue in that short time. The Panther seems to be a popular choice at the moment, and there seems to be a trend of this duplication of effort between some of the Far Eastern operators, but as one company's Panther makes £0 for the other companies, we're spoiled for choice with newly tooled Panthers at the moment. This is the Interior kit of the tank, which has all the greeblies inside that you would expect if you tore open a real one in service. While this sort of attention to detail doesn't appeal to everyone, it's often said by modellers that we know the detail is there, and with the proposition of leaving hatches and panels open, or even doing a cut-away in museum stylee, there are plenty of reasons why one might want one of these uber-kits for your stash. Arriving in a deeper than usual white themed box to give a premium feeling, and accent its special nature, the box is rammed full of sprues as you'd imagine. There are 28 sprues in mid grey styrene in various sizes, plus hull, turret and two track jig parts in the same shade. There are also four braided copper cables in two thicknesses, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) grilles, a single piece of flexible styrene, and two decal sheets, plus of course the instruction booklet in a landscape A4 format. My review samples had received a bit of a shock during transport, which had put a bend in the delicate engine deck supports, breaking a few of the protective sprues between them. The damage wasn't permanent and you can possibly see the stress marks if you look hard enough, but it could have been prevented by bagging it separately from the two jigs, which did the damage. That said, almost every sprue is either bagged separately or with a couple of others, so there's a lot of protection therein, so I suspect I was just unlucky. Construction begins with the floor of the hull, adding scale armour to the underside of the glacis, a conduit and then framework that binds the floor to the sides, and the longitudinal ribs that hold the torsion bars in place. The hull insides have stub axles moulded in for suspension and final drive housings to be added, and the detailed transmission fitted between them when completed. The torsion bars are fitted to one hull side and offered into the slots, then joined by the other side, meshing together across the floor. Externally, the swing-arms with their stub axles are fitted with bump-stops, and aligned using the jigs supplied whilst drying, after which the interleaved road wheels are installed, some in pairs and some singly. Flipping over the hull to right-way up the various assemblies for the lower interior are constructed such as crew seats, ammo racks, radio gear and engine bay walls, then slotted into the hull in order. Inner walls are added to the engine bay to form the compartments for the radiator baths, and a firewall is fitted to the front, through which the transmission projects, linking the transmission to the forthcoming engine. The rest of the space in the lower hull is filled with upright boxes of ammo that have only the tips depicted to save styrene, as nothing of the lower parts can be seen. The bottom surround to the turret basket is placed over the equipment, finishing off the lower hull details forward of the engine, save for some small parts added later. The tracks are of link and length variety, which can be built up on the aforementioned jigs just by using the drive and idler wheels. There are longer lengths where the track runs are straight or gently curved, and individual links for the sharp curves around the ends. It is interesting to note that the hollow guide horns that must be glued into each link have been moulded so that they fit perfectly into each link when applied as they are moulded in long runs. There is a scrap diagram dealing with this clever aspect, so don't get carried away snipping them off the sprues individually, as you'll save some time by checking out step 15. The runs are built up in a vague C-shape, with the bottom run left off until they are attached to the road wheels later, hiding any glue joints from view. The Maybach engine is built up over successive steps, and fitted into the narrow bay where it is surrounded by ancillaries and pipework. Careful painting here will really pay off, but you'll need to check forward a few pages as there is a full-colour page showing the completed interior with call-outs in the instructions using AMMO colour codes. It also shows the demarcation between red primer and the pale bone-white used in the more crew-centred areas. The sponsons are also added, and these are also covered with sloped ammo storage, going a long way toward explaining why crews got out of their tanks in such a hurry when hit. The Panther was quite vulnerable at the sides due to weight-saving reductions in the armour thickness on the sponsons where all that ammo was kept. The radiator baths and fluid tanks are added to the rear of the engine deck at this stage too, and is closed in by the rear bulkhead with its armoured exhausts and stowage boxes. The upper hull is next, with the spaces on the engine deck filled by the cast radiator covers with their mesh, the front aperture by the access panel that houses the two crew hatches for driver and machinegunner, and the main engine deck with mushroom vents, smaller access hatch, and the large cast radiator inlets either side of the circular exhausts. The small triangular side-skirt is fitted at the rear and the pioneer tools are draped along the sides, with the towing ropes made up from styrene eyes that have slide-moulded holes to accommodate the ends of the braided cable. An inner skin is glued into the rear of the glacis plate to give a scale armour thickness, which has the bow machinegun, some driver controls and the vision port mechanism added inside, travel-lock, front fenders and vision blocks from the outside, before it is mated with the lower half. Schurtzen on stand-off brackets are fastened to the sides, towing shackles to the rear, and a sturdy hitch under the rear of the tank completes the hull. The turret is moulded with its roof and sides already together, to which vents, lifting eyes, the commander's cupola and other hatches, vision ports etc. are added, with the commander's cupola having armoured covers on his periscopes, which can be glued in place as one by leaving them on their circular sprue in much the same way as the track links. The corresponding interior parts are fitted, which includes three pistol ports, and once the rear face is brought in, the aft hatch with armoured hinge. The commander gets a ring-mounted MG34 machinegun, which is probably best left off until later, after which the attention turns toward the turret floor, most of which is taken up by the gaping hole. Around it are fitted raised edges, small chunks of equipment and the turning mechanism, and it is then put aside while the mantlet and gun breech are built up. The mantlet is multi-layer, with sighting gear and gun tube projecting through, which hinges at the sides. The outer mantlet fits around and protects the inner assembly, and has two more examples on the sprue that will be used in later boxings. The completed breech with recoil guard plug into the rear of the assembly, and it too is put to one side. The turret basket floor is circular and receives the crew seats which is then fitted under the lip of the turret floor, in readiness for installing in the turret later. A flexible corrugated hose glues into the interior recess for the fume extractor in the turret ceiling, and is later hooked up to the turret basket later on, but first the mantlet is fitted to the front of the turret, and is joined by the barrel, which has a solid core and hollow three-part muzzle. The commander's lift/swing hatch slots into place on his cupola, the turret floor is glued to the underside, which then leaves the turret to drop into its aperture in the hull, with an optional turret ring fitting between them. Markings The decal options are hidden away in the double-folded rear page, and are printed in glossy full-colour using Mig's AMMO paint system for colour call-outs. The two decal sheets are split between internal stencils, which are on the larger sheet, and external numbers and crosses on the smaller sheet. Both sheets are well-printed with good register, colour density and clarity, with instrument decals adding realism to the driver's station. From the box you can build one of the following three options: 3. Pz. Div. Totenkopf, Poland 1944 – green cloud pattern over dunkelgelb. 23 Pz. Reg., 23 Pz. Div., Eastern Front, 1944 – Green/brown camo over dunkelgelb. 26 Pz. Div., Italy 1944 – all over dunkelgelb with sprayed brown stripes on the schurtzen. Conclusion Panthers are good sellers, and this kit has plenty to recommend it, such as the level of detail packed inside, with a sensible and straight-forward construction process that for the most part mimics the way a modeller that plans to paint the interior would build in assemblies at different stages. The tracks may not appeal to all, but they are detailed and uncomplicated, plus the inclusion of casting/rolling texture on the exterior armour is good to see in a modern kit, although some may want to improve it so that it shows up more under paint. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  11. F-14D Tomcat Trumpeter 1:144 The final variant of the F-14 was the F-14D Super Tomcat. The F-14D variant was first delivered in 1991. The original TF-30 engines were replaced with GE F110-400 engines, similar to the F-14B. The F-14D also included newer digital avionics systems including a glass cockpit and replaced the AWG-9 with the newer AN/APG-71 radar. Other systems included the Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ), Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS), SJU-17(V) Naval Aircrew Common Ejection Seats (NACES) and Infra-red search and track (IRST) Although the F-14D was to be the definitive version of the Tomcat, not all fleet units received the D variant. In 1989, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney refused to approve the purchase of any more F-14D model aircraft for $50 million each and pushed for a $25 million modernization of the F-14 fleet instead. Congress decided not to shut production down and funded 55 aircraft as part of a compromise. A total of 37 new aircraft were completed, and 18 F-14A models were upgraded to D-models, designated F-14D® for rebuild. An upgrade to the F-14D's computer software to allow AIM-120 AMRAAM missile capability was planned but was later terminated. While upgrades had kept the F-14 competitive with modern fighter aircraft technology, Cheney called the F-14 1960s technology. Starting in 2005, some F-14Ds received the ROVER III upgrade. Source: Wikipedia The Kit The kit comes in a typical top and bottom card box layout; with an evocative rendition of the F-14D Tomcat, 100 AJ (BuNo164342) of VHF-31 "Tomcatters" in flight with wings fully extended; these markings are included in the decal sets. Within the box are four grey plastic sprues, one clear canopy sprue, two sets of decal sheets and an illustrated instructions booklet also with colour callouts. For anyone who has the earlier F-14B kit (Trumpeter 03918) it will be clear that this new kit is exactly the same kit; however, there are differences and some parts will need to used in place of the F-14B version. Even with their first F-14 kit, the F-14A (Trumpeter 03910) the producers obviously planned to issue all the U.S. versions as there are interchangeable parts for all the types here. With this latest offering there are various components which are used in place of the F-14B kit; namely, ejection seats, TCS units and wheels. The first sprue (A) has the lower component of the main fuselage unit, the wings, plus two pylons for the AIM-9 sidewinder missiles Sprue B holds the upper unit of the main fuselage, the tail fins and the mounts for the AIM-54 Phoenix missiles. Next up is sprue C1 and this, along with C2, has the remaining items that would be attached to the main fuselage unit. The parts here consist of the nose unit, intake fairings, front & main undercarriage struts external fuel tanks; plus AIM-7 Sparrow, AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-54 Phoenix missiles. It also has one set of the two forward fuselage pairs and a pair of Martin Baker GRU-7 ejection seats,all of which are not required for this variant. The final grey plastic sprue is C2 and has the cockpit internal base, more missiles; plus the forward fuselage pairs, Martin Baker NACES ejection seats, electronic chin-pod (consisting of TCS, IRS-seeker, ALQ-100 antenna and position light) and wheels specific to the F-14B & D variants (parts no.C30). Also included are the exhaust vents for the, not required, Pratt & Whitney TF-30 P-414A engines, and the General Electric F-110-GE-400 units that will be used with this kit. Each exhaust vent has a plug, representing the turbofan blades, in order not to leave a gaping hole when viewed inside. The canopy sprue holds a single, closed, canopy piece. The frames look to be well defined and the glazed area is very clear. Instructions and colour cards The kit comes with a 4-page booklet, containing an illustrated parts list and a set of assembly instructions. There is also a 2-sided sheet of colour details and marking placement guides. One is for a VF-31 aircraft of the "Tomcatters" based on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The second sheet depicts another aircraft from VF-31 "Tomcatters"; this time in low vis markings. Decals The decal sheets for this kit are the most comprehensive that I have seen for such a small model. There are two sheets of decals and, remembering that this kit is in 1:144 scale, measuring approx. 13cm by 13cm (fully extended), there are no less than 175 markings, insignia and stencils etc on the first sheet alone. The second sheet is smaller but it as over 90 more stencils and demarcation strips. This lot should keep the most dedicated modeller busy for quite a while with this lot! Conclusion This is a lovely little kit of the F-14D Super Tomcat; however, as mentioned previously, there are appears to be enough parts to be able to F-14D or even backdate to the F-14B or possibly even a late (upgraded) F-14A. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  12. HMS Ark Royal 1939 1:350 Merit International via Pocketbond Despite the fact that the Ark did not survive WWII, she was considered a lucky ship, having a few close scrapes that she survived, and as such she was seen as a good posting. She was involved in a lot of action, including the hunt for the Bismark before being hit by a torpedo in the Mediterranean in 1941, slowly sinking beneath the waves whilst being towed to port. Only one crew member was lost, having the misfortune to be low down in the hull when the torpedo struck. Laid down in 1935, with launch following two years later and a further year taken up with the fitting out of the hull. Several famous squadrons embarked on the Ark during her fairly short service life, flying Swordfish, Skua, Roc, Fulmar and Albacore torpedo bombers. She was involved in the hunt for the Graf Spee, and before deployment to the Med., where she became part of Force H, returning to duties after a refit. She also hunted the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau where she was damaged after a failed launch of a Swordfish resulted in the depth charges it was carrying going off under the hull. After repairs she was involved in hunting the Bismark, having a close squeak that almost ended in the accidental destruction of the Sheffield, followed by eventual contact with the real quarry, where a successful attack from Ark Royal Swordfishes led to the Bismark's partial disablement and subsequent destruction. After this she returned to Force H, ferrying aircraft to Malta but on their return trip to Gibraltar, she was picked up by U-81, which managed to hit her with just one torpedo amidships. The damage was massive, due to the relatively deep hit, exacerbated by her movement, and she soon began to list to the side. Although they managed to stablise the situation briefly, water continued to encroach through open hatches, and the list increased after which the crew were evacuated to HMS Legion, who was assisting in trying to keep her afloat. She later capsized and broke into two parts, ending up quite a way from the expected wreck location. She was discovered by a BBC documentary crew early in the new millennium, who concluded that after the engines failed nothing could save her due to some design flaws that were not appreciated at the time. The Kit This is a new tooling from Merit International, and has been awaited with baited breath by many fans of the Ark, myself amongst them. I have no idea why I find her so intriguing, and I freely profess that I'm no expert on her, but I have a fondness that I can't explain. The box is best described as BIG, as at 1:350, she scales out at 696mm long. Gulp! Deep breaths Mike – don't wonder how you're going to photograph the hull parts and the box top. Moving on. Inside the huge top-opening box are the two hull halves and the carrier deck, which notably has no cut-outs for the lifts and thereby no view into the interior. Beneath a card divider are the rest of the sprues, all in the same mid-grey styrene. There are twenty three sprues of various sizes (excluding the aforementioned hull & deck), plus eight Photo-Etch (PE) frets of varying sizes. A large black stand and sheet of decals complete the parts list, and of course the instruction booklet rounds out the package with a folded glossy A3 sheet containing the painting and marking instructions for both the ship and her complement of aircraft. Speaking of which, you get the following spread over thirteen small sprues. 5 x Fairey Swordfish 4 x Fairey Fulmar 4 x Blackburn Skua The Swordfish also have 5 sheets of PE for their interplane struts, which will enhance their realism substantially, especially if you are brave enough to rig them with… human hair? The detail on the aircraft at this scale is excellent, and even the wings are commendably thin, as are the props. Ideally you could do with squadron strength of at least one of the aircraft choices, but it's not a major problem, although at this stage there are no extra sprues available separately from Merit. The absence of aircraft lifts is a shame, as this would have opened up some extra potential deck-handling scenarios that add a little interest to any aircraft carrier model. I'm sure it won't be long before this happens via aftermarket however. As with most ship kits, there is a lot of repetition in the parts count, as there are multiple instances of anti-aircraft gun emplacements, lifeboats, cranes and of course the aircraft lurking around the decks. Construction starts with the hull sides, which are detailed up with long rectangular boxes into which dividers and lifeboats are placed, to simulate some of the detail. A number of PE railings are used to prevent folks from pitching off the sides in bad weather, and these along with the interiors will need painting before they are installed. With both halves completed, the hull halves are brought together, being held at the correct width by the addition of three strong mini-bulkheads that plug into sockets on each side of the hull. Inserts are also provided for the open deck sections under the bow and round-down at the stern, which can be fitted once the two halves are together. A single rudder is also fitted, and additional PE railings are added fore and aft, before the flight deck is dropped into place. At this stage eight anti-aircraft guns are added to their emplacements, with twin 4.5" barrels slotted through the enclosed gun-shield, the latter being slide-moulded to obtain maximum detail. The hull is inverted briefly to install the twin screws and their driveshaft fairings, and then she is flipped over again to begin the installation of the various suspended walkways that festoon the exterior of the upper hull, complete with the life rafts that were usually visible in period photos strapped to the sides of the hull. Eight davits are made up from a combination of PE and styrene in various configurations, and these are added to the sides of the hull in the raised position throughout the rest of the construction process, as are a number of bofors 40mm pom-pom guns. More railings are added throughout the process, and the two ship's cranes are installed at midships near the launches. Toward the bow a set of parts for the last-ditch retrieval nets are supplied, which block the route of an aircraft that has failed to trap-on to the front and sides of the last usable section of deck before the pilot gets his feet wet. The penultimate task is to build the Island, which is fairly simple, consisting of only a few decks plus the bridge, smoke stack to the rear with a PE grating, additional Pom-Pom mounts, and a number of lights for communications. A set of PE railings are fitted to the crow's nest, around the radar installation, and to form the bracing for the topmost section of the mast. Finally the aircraft are up for construction. The five Swordfish are complex, and made from a number of parts, including four for the landing gear, separate upper and lower wings, a two-part fuselage with the tail captive to one side for finesse, separate engine cowling and prop, elevators, and of course the PE to simulate both the interplane stuts and the rigging, which will take some care to do well. The four Fulmars are a much simpler affair, with two fuselage halves, a single piece wing, two gear legs, two elevators and the prop, as are the four Skuas, although they have a single piece elevator instead. The island is then attached to a raised part on the deck, which prevents it being fitted the wrong way round. Three more bofors sets are also added along with another set of netting to complement the last-gasp set further toward the bow. Assuming everything is painted and decaled, the finished model can be rests on the supplied plinth with a name plaque provided with raised lettering to inform the casual observer. Markings The decal sheet is fairly large due mainly to the white lines on the desk and the markings for the aircraft. The boot topping must be painted, and as there are no moulded-in lines to assist with this, you will need to be careful when masking it up to ensure that it doesn't wobble during the process. The decals are serviceable, however, some of the roundels are a little squiffy, but at this scale it isn't all that noticeable. Some of the more complex lining on the deck has a substantial amount of carrier film accompanying it by necessity, so a good glossy surface will be needed to keep them from silvering, followed by additional gloss-coats to hide the raised edges of the film. Only the national markings are supplied for the aircraft, and their positioning is shown in scrap diagrams around the guide, with paint colours called out in Gunze shades, but with conversions to Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol provided in tables at the top of the sheet. Conclusion Maritime Modellers have been waiting for a decent model of the Ark in 1:350 for some time, and now we have one. It lacks a few of the expected aspects such as the lifts and some semblance of a hangar, but otherwise it is well detailed and a good quality model. It's certainly an item ticked off my modelling wish list. Apologies go to Pocketbond for the delay in getting this one done, which was mainly due to photographing the large parts and my poor memory. Keep your eyes open for the upcoming review of the comprehensive upgrade set from Tetra Model Works soon. It's a work of art! Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  13. DeHavilland Sea Hornet NF.21 Trumpeter 1:48 History The Hornet was designed with the possibility of naval service in carriers firmly in mind. To this end good low speed handling was required, along with good all-round visibility for the pilot. The basic Hornet design excelled at meeting these requirements. Shortly after the first Hornet prototype flew, Specification N.5/44 was issued to de Havilland covering the modification of the Hornet for naval service. The Heston Aircraft Company was contracted to carry out the conversion work on three early production F.Is. The work entailed altering the wings to incorporate folding mechanisms so that each outer wing panel, from the aileron/flap line outboard could be folded upwards and inwards at an angle. The hinges were part of the upper wing skin structure while the lower wing skins incorporated securing latches. Lockheed hydraulic jacks were used to actuate the wing panels. Slotted flaps were introduced to improve low speed "flaps down" control. The lower rear fuselage was reinforced with two additional spruce longerons designed to take the stresses imposed by the external "vee" framed arrestor hook, which was flush-mounted below the fuselage. The frame was made up of steel tubing with a forged-steel hook and was held against the fuselage by a "snap gear". Because the Hornet used the American "3-point" system of catapult-assisted takeoff, two forged steel catapult bridle hooks were fitted, one below each wing, close to the fuselage. The de Havilland rubber-in-compression undercarriage legs could not absorb the rebound energies imposed by carrier landings. They were replaced by more conventional hydraulic oleos which embodied torque links. Merlin 133/134s (de-rated from 2,070 hp/1,543 kW to 2,030 hp/1,535 kW) were fitted to all Sea Hornets. Other specialised naval equipment (mainly different radio gear), was fitted and provision was made for three camera ports, one on each side of the rear fuselage and one pointing down. Sea Hornet F 20s also incorporated the modifications of the Hornet F 3, although the internal fuel capacity was 347 Imp gal (1,557 l), slightly reduced from that of the F I. In total, all of the modifications added some 550 lb (249 kg) to the weight of the aircraft. Maximum speed was decreased by 11 mph (18 km/h). The Hornet NF 21 was designed to fill a need for a naval night fighter. Special flame dampening exhausts were installed, and a second basic cockpit was added to the rear fuselage, just above the wing trailing edges. ASH radar equipment was placed in the rear of this cockpit; with the radar operator/navigator seated facing aft. To gain access, a small trap door was provided in the lower fuselage; a fixed, teardrop shaped bubble canopy, which could be jettisoned in an emergency, provided a good field of view. At the front of the aircraft, the nose underwent a transformation with the small rotating ASH radar dish being housed under an elongated "thimble" radome. The horizontal tail units were increased in span. The effect of these modifications on performance was minimal; about 4 mph (6 km/h) The Sea Hornet PR 22 was a dedicated photo reconnaissance aircraft version of the F 20. The cannon were removed and the apertures faired over. Three cameras were installed in the rear fuselage; two F 52s for night time use and one K.19B for daytime use. A total of 23 PR 22s were built, interspersed with F.20s being built at Hatfield. The Model Trumpeter do have a penchant for producing very nice boxart for their kits and this one is no exception, painted directly from a period photograph showing a Sea Hornet on deck with wings folded. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the styrene inside. Whilst the parts are all beautifully moulded, with no sign of flash or other imperfections, the faults that were noted in their previously released Hornets have been reproduce with this kit. Shame really as the artwork shows how it should look. The nose appears a little too deep, which has then caused problems with the windscreen, the lower edge of which should be pretty much horizontal, whereas the kit has a sharp incline from the fuselage to the upper nose panel. The rudder, ailerons and elevators also have quite pronounced ribbing effects, when they should be flat as they were metal skinned, not fabric. Without building it I cannot say whether the undercarriage position is correct, but I believe the kit of the land based version was wrong, so wouldn’t have though that Trumpeter would have corrected it since they hadn’t with the nose. There also appears to something very wrong woth the ailerons, in that they don't match the shape or even reach the wing tips, it's like they're short shot, but it looks like they're moulded that way. Ok, that’s the accuracy and perhaps slight negativity sorted, what do you actually get in the box? There are six sprues of medium grey styrene, one sprue of clear styrene and a decal sheet. Going by the thickness of the instruction booklet and parts count, this won’t be a complicated build, and if you aren’t too bothered about accuracy it does sort of look like a Sea Hornet, if you squint a bit, but will probably go together without too many problems. The build begins with the front cockpit, with the seat and seat armour being fitted to the cockpit tub. The joystick, instrument panel, with decal instruments, gunsight, gunsight glass and the rear cockpit tray. Now this tray doesn’t look quite right. It seems to be fitted with a tank of some sort, and two boxes positioned fore and aft. Now I’m happy to be corrected, but I presumed these would be the ammunition boxes and positioned athwartships, but I’m only going on what a BM member is doing with his magnificent 1:32 detailing of the HpH kit, as I cannot find a good photograph of the area even in the David Collins’ superb book on the type. Anyway, with the tray in place the spring like rod is fitted between the aft end of the try and the seat, followed by the two cockpit side panels. The rear cockpit is made up from front and rear bulkheads, seat and side panels. The two cockpits are then fitted to one half of the fuselage, after which the fuselage can be closed up, and the 20mm cannon troughs, radome, rear cockpit access door, and tailcone are fitted. Each of the two nacelles and undercarriage are assembled next. Each one comprising of the two nacelle halves, front and rear bulkheads, gear bay roof and sides, main gear leg, single piece main wheel and exhaust stubs. The propellers are each assembled from the backplate, four individual blades and spinner. Make sure you use the correct blades per side as they are handed. The nacelles are finished off with the fitting of the main gear doors and exhaust shrouds. The inner wing sections are split horizontally and once the two halves are joined the radiator intakes are fitted as well as the rib at the fold point. The outer wing sections are built in the same way, and have a clear part fitted to represent the navigation lights; the port wing is fitted with a pitot probe. The tail fin, with rudder moulded together and the horizontal tailplanes, are also moulded in two halves, which once assembled can be fitted to the fuselage, followed by the inner wing panels, windscreen, canopy and rear dome. Now, the instructions call for the outer wing panels to be fitted before the nacelle assemblies. In my view it would be better the other way round. As it is, the modeller has the option to display the outer wing panels folded or extended by way of different adjoining parts which when folded represent the main hinge point. Once the wings have been fitted and the nacelles attached the model is completed with the fitting of the tail hook, tail wheel/oleo, and optionally positioned flaps. Decals The smallish decal sheet provides markings for two aircraft, both in dark sea grey over sky. Although neither marking option is provided with any information of the aircraft squadrons or bases, a bit of detective work shows that they are:- DeHavilland Sea Hornet NF-21, VZ672 of 809NAS based on HMS Vengeance DeHavilland Sea Hornet NF-21, VW967, Probably of the Airwork Fleet Requirements Unit, but with spurious 424 codes, although the BY tail code seems correct. The decals are well printed, in registers with good opacity and with nicely thin carrier film. The only problem I can see is that, although glossy, some of that gloss appears to have come away with the protective sheet, which shouldn’t cause too many problems once they’ve been sealed in with a gloss coat and finished with matt varnish. Conclusion The Hornet has got to be one to them ost beautiful piston fighters ever built, and whilst the modifications needed to build the NF-21 didn’t help matters, it’s still a handsome aircraft. This is a very nice kit, spoiled by some poor research, heck, they could have just looked at the box cover to see where they went wrong with the nose and windscreen, but no, they’ve once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Shame really as it could have been a cracker of a weekend build. I guess it still can be if you’re either ignore the faults or for the purists, go to town on the modifications. Recommended with the above caveats. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  14. US Military Motorcycle Indian 741B (35003) 1:35 Thunder Model via PocketBond Ltd Indian Motorcycles were one of the two main motorcycle companies in the US at the time of WWII, and together with Harley Davidson supplied the Allies with the majority of their motorcycles. The 741 was a 500cc side-valve V-twin variant of their Thirty-Fifty Scout that was used predominantly by British and Commonwealth forces, as it differed from the Harley in having a foot-operated clutch that was difficult for established riders to adapt to. They were also needed to make up after a shortfall that was inevitable when the Triumph factory was bombed out during the bombing of Coventry. It was probably due to this favouritism on the US military's part that extended to cancelling contracts completely toward the end of the war, coupled with the company's lack of attention to the home market during the war that began their eventual demise, with the 741 leaving service at the end of the war and the company began a long spiral round the drain. The Kit This is a doubled-up reboxing of Thunder Model's 2017 kit, which now has two of everything, rather than just one bike in the box. It arrives in a top-hinging box with captive lid, and inside are four sprues of light grey styrene, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) still attached to their outer runner, a small ziplok back containing two decal sheets and a length of wire. The instruction booklet is printed in black and white, while the separate markings guide is printed on glossy paper in full colour, with profiles done by the almost ubiquitous AMMO artists. The instructions are a little confusing to my eyes, as they are printed landscape inside a portrait cover, and the orientation makes it feel wrongo to be flicking them that way. That may just be me though, so don't let it worry you. Construction begins with the wheels, which have three-part styrene tyres and rims that are layered together with two layers of PE spokes and a central spacer/drum brake to give a realistic representation of spoked wheels, although you'll need to drill out the centres and remember not to glue them, and pre-dish the PE spokes as per the instructions. The two cylinder heads are then fixed to the engine block, which is moulded into the main chassis tubes, and then has the casing, fuel tank, leg guards and handlebars added in short order. The front wheel is mated to the forks, and the single spring that gives up to 50mm of travel on the real thing attaches to the bottom of the head tube, with two more attachments lower down for strength. The rear wheel is put in place after the chain-stays are added along with the chain, and the mudguard fixes to two points on the frame, which leaves the model looking rather bike-like, although with nowhere comfy to sit yet. The exhaust, foot plates and forward mudguard stays are installed along with the chain-guard, brake linkage, kick-stand, rear lights and load rack, which has a pair of pannier bags added later, and finally the seat, perched on two springs to give the rider's bum some light relief. The final parts are instruments and filler cap on the fuel tank, with PE alternatives for some parts, and decals for the instruments. If you're going for detail, the instructions also show you where to route a length of 0.2mm wire for the brake and speedo linkage, however the included wire is 0.4mm, but I doubt many people will mind or notice. Markings There are three options in the box, one of which is for a military bike, the other two being for civilian versions, which were seen on the roads after the war. The decal sheet is small, and has a few stencils in white, instrument dials in white with black decals to put under them, and the Indian logo and name in orange, which under magnification is made up from yellow and brown (possibly) dots, although you'd be hard pushed to notice unless you were really looking. The civil options are rather bright, and just have the Indian logos or name on their two-tone fuel tanks. Conclusion A nice detailed little model times two that would look good in the background of a diorama, or with a figure riding it if you can find or adapt one suitable. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  15. Junkers Ju-87G-2 Stuka Trumpeter 1:32 History Even before the Battle of Stalingrad, German concern about the large quantity of Soviet mobile armour on the Eastern Front during 1942 resulted in the formation of an experimental air-to-ground anti-tank unit. Tests showed that arming the Junkers Ju87 Stuka with a 37mm cannon under each wing promised the optimal tank-busting weapon. This Ju87 variant was designated the Junkers Ju87G Kanonenvogel (cannon-bird). The Ju87G-2 was developed from the long-wing Ju87D-5 Stuka dive bomber. It was a rugged design powered by a single Junkers Jumo 211J-1 twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled engine. The type displayed outstanding qualities as a tool for precision ground attack. However, in the air the Ju87G-2 was both cumbersome and slow. Defensive armament was limited to 7.9 mm Mauser MG 81Z twin-mounted machine guns at the rear of the large glasshouse canopy. A total of 174 G-2s were built before production of all Ju 87 variants ceased in October 1944. The Ju87G began its career in February 1943 in the battles for the Kuban peninsula in Southern Russia. It was at this time that Oberstleutnant Hans-Ulrich Rudel began tank-busting operations, having recently become the first Luftwaffe pilot to fly 1000 operational missions. Later, in July 1943, Rudel took part in the epic tank battle for the Kursk salient. More than 350 Ju87's participated in these operations, including a handful of production Ju87Gs. Rudel went on to fly no fewer than 2,530 sorties and notched up a total of 2,000 targets destroyed; including 800 vehicles, 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, a destroyer, 2 cruisers, the Soviet battleship Marat, 70 landing craft, 4 armoured trains, several bridges and 9 aircraft. Given the shortcomings of the Ju87G in terms of its speed, agility and defensive capability this speaks volumes for the piloting skills of Rudel himself and the marksmanship of his rear gunners. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was the most decorated serviceman of all the fighting arms of the German forces. He was the only recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds. Unswervingly dedicated to waging war against the enemies of the Third Reich, Rudel continued in active service following injuries sustained in February 1945 that resulted in a leg amputation. Such was his prowess and notoriety, that the Soviets placed a significant bounty on his head. Wisely deciding to evade capture at Russian hands, in a final act Rudel led three Ju87s and four Focke-Wulf FW 190s westward from Bohemia. He surrendered to U.S. forces, on 8 May 1945. The Model This is probably my favourite variant of the Stuka, what with the rakish lines of the canopy and the huge cannon in their winged pods, it just looks the business. So, it was with great news on hearing that Trumpeter where going to release one. The kit comes in one of Trumpeters standard top opening boxes with a very attractive piece of artwork on the front showing the aircraft in action over the Eastern Front. Inside there are fourteen sprues of medium grey styrene, two of clear, two small sheets of etched brass, three rubber tyres and the decal sheet. All the parts are well moulded with no sign of flash or other imperfections and only a few moulding pips, so cleaning up should be nice and easy once the parts are removed from the sprues. The kit comes with lots of lovely detail along with options for various weapons loads to be fitted in addition to the cannon pods. Construction begins with the assembly of the Junkers Jumo engine. This consists of the three piece engine block to which the sump, crankcase, propshaft, rocker covers, oil tank, exhaust and intake manifolds, coolant tank and the four part fuel unit. The rear of the engine is fitted with the auxiliary pack with ancillaries such as the generators, pulleys, fuel pump and turbo intake. Once the exhaust plates have been added the two engine bearers can be fitted. The completed engine is then attached to the firewall, along with four other fittings before the two halves of the cowling are fitted around the engine with the large radiator sandwiched between them. Since there are no loose panels you will see very little, if anything of the completed engine unless the modeller carries out a bit of surgery, which is a bit of a shame as it looks very nice. The front fuselage is completed with the addition of the radiator grille, exhausts and propeller, which is made up of the backplate, three separate blades, hub and spinner. This section can now be places to one side as construction moves to the cockpit. The nicely detailed cockpit consists of a single piece floor to which the pilots seat, (made up of three parts, six if you include the headrest and armour), gunners seat, (made up of three base supports and the seat itself), are fitted. The radio sets are fitted to the mid mounted dwarf bulkhead and fitted just forward of the gunners seat. Beneath the bulkhead mounted radios another set, made up from two parts is glued to the floor. Additional parts, such as the rudder bar, joystick, two oxygen regulators and the rear gun mount, with its two ammunition tanks, are also fitted. The cockpit sidewalls are fitted out with various control boxes, throttle quadrant and trim wheels before being glued to the cockpit floor, producing a nice sturdy tub. The completed cockpit is then sandwiched between the two fuselage halves, followed by the fitting of the rear cockpit panel, complete with clear circular cover and the pilots coaming, with added instrument panel and crash bar. At this point the horizontal tailplanes are fitted, along with the elevators, associated control horns and the end caps, followed by the rudder with separate tail light. The construction of the wings begins with the assembly of the centre section. The centre panel is fitted with the lower viewing tunnel with clear parts at each end, followed by the front and rear spars, and completed with the two upper panels. Each outer wing panel is fitted with a machine gun bay. Each bay consists of four parts into which the three part machine gun, complete with ammunition feed, is mounted and covered with the optionally posed door. Before gluing the upper and lower wing halves together, ensure you have opened the correct holes for the weapons option you have chosen. With the wings closed up they are finished off with the separate wing tips and navigation lights. At this point, the instructions call for the fitting of the cockpit windscreen and canopies. There is a choice of windscreen and pilots canopy depending on the model being built, along with a couple of panels that can be posed open or closed on the sliding section. The windscreen, no matter which type is fitted with two grab handles, a clinometer and aiming bar. The rearmost canopy is fitted with the twin machine gun mount, which comes with separate barrels and a two part hanger mechanism. The wing centre section is then glued to the fuselage, before being fitted with the two outer wing panels, followed by the front fuselage/engine section. On the undersides of the wings the prominent flaps are fitted to the trailing along with the actuator rods. There is no option to display them in drooped, unless surgery is carried out. Whilst the model is upside down the two radiators are glued into position along with their covers. The main undercarriage is also attached, each made up of a two part wheel, two part oleo all sandwiched between the two halves of the spats. The tailwheel comes as a four part sub-assembly, including the two part wheel, the oleo and yoke half. Now it’s on to the weaponry build. The main 37mm cannon are used in all options and consist of six part mount, including separate crutches, to which the cannon fairing is attached, followed by the barrel. Each of the two “wings” are made up from folded PE, which are then glued to the fairing sides. Each wing has two blocks of shells slid into them, although since you won’t be able to see much of them you could just display them separately. The completed cannon are then glued into position just outboard of the wheel spats. The other weapons included in the kit are the centre mounted 500kg bomb, made up form two halves with two parts to complete the fins, plus the separate fin cross members and the bomb cradle/swing arm. The mountings are the same for the twin 50kg bombs, (each bomb comes as four parts and can be fitted with optional fuse extenders), drop tanks, Each from two halves, four mounting bolts and a PE strap), or what I can only describe as a six barrelled machine gun pod, (with four parts to each pod, plus three twin barrels. There is also the option of mounting two sets of five smaller bombs all mounted on a single cradle, making up what could be construed as a cluster bomb. I wish Trumpeter would label what things were. With the various weapons loaded the build is complete. Decals The single decal sheet provides options for two aircraft, and comes complete with stencils for one. The decals are very nicely printed, with good colour density, in register and with very little in the way of carrier film, and what there is, is very thin. The Balkenkreuz do appear to have a bit of mottling on them as if they had stuck slightly to something. I would have thought that once on and covered in gloss/matt varnish this will disappear. The swastikas are each cut in half at the centre, and should cause too many problems when positioning them. The two aircraft options are:- Junkers Ju-87G-2, Stab/SG 2 <-+-, W.Nr. 484110 Junkers Ju-87G-2, Stab/SG 2 <-+-, W.Nr. 494193 Conclusion As I said above, this has to be my favourite version of the Ju-87, with perhaps the slightly odd looking Ju-87A being a close second. The kit does come with quite a lot of detail, and should build nicely straight out of the box, but there is quite a bit of room, particularly in the cockpit to add more, so it should appeal to those who like to take to the next level. It’s a bit of shame to have a well detailed engine covered up and not even have the option to show it off, but I’m sure the aftermarket companies will be all over this soon. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  16. Panther Ausf.D Early/Mid Production Sd.Kfz.171 (2103) 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond The Panther was 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 weaker, and this area became the preferred target area of 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, this led to it being rushed into service with quite a list of problems 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. The Kit This is update form TAKOM's earlier boxing with about 50% commonalty with the earlier kit and a whole host of new sprues. When opening the box you are greeted by a Forrest of plastic. As seems to be the norm now the kit has a full interior which in a lot of cases cant normally be seen. To rectify this Takom have now provided in this kit a complete clear top hull, and new turret. This will allow the modeller to display the complete interior. To help on this they include a full colour 3D interior painting guide. Arriving in a deeper than usual themed box to give a premium feeling, and accent its special nature, the box is rammed full of sprues as you'd imagine. There are 29 sprues in mid grey styrene in various sizes, plus hull, turret and two track jig parts in the same shade. For this boxing there is also the clear top deck & Turret. There are also four braided copper cables in two thicknesses, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) grilles, a single piece of flexible styrene, and two decal sheets, plus of course the instruction booklet in a landscape A4 format. Construction begins with the floor of the hull, adding scale armour to the underside of the glacis, a conduit and then framework that binds the floor to the sides, and the longitudinal ribs that hold the torsion bars in place. The hull insides have stub axles moulded in for suspension and final drive housings to be added, and the detailed transmission fitted between them when completed. The torsion bars are fitted to one hull side and offered into the slots, then joined by the other side, meshing together across the floor. Externally, the swing-arms with their stub axles are fitted with bump-stops, and aligned using the jigs supplied whilst drying, after which the interleaved road wheels are installed, some in pairs and some singly. Flipping over the hull to right-way up the various assemblies for the lower interior are constructed such as crew seats, ammo racks, radio gear and engine bay walls, then slotted into the hull in order. Inner walls are added to the engine bay to form the compartments for the radiator baths, and a firewall is fitted to the front, through which the transmission projects, linking the transmission to the forthcoming engine. The rest of the space in the lower hull is filled with upright boxes of ammo that have only the tips depicted to save styrene, as nothing of the lower parts can be seen. The bottom surround to the turret basket is placed over the equipment, finishing off the lower hull details forward of the engine, save for some small parts added later. The tracks are of link and length variety, which can be built up on the aforementioned jigs just by using the drive and idler wheels. There are longer lengths where the track runs are straight or gently curved, and individual links for the sharp curves around the ends. It is interesting to note that the hollow guide horns that must be glued into each link have been moulded so that they fit perfectly into each link when applied as they are moulded in long runs. There is a scrap diagram dealing with this clever aspect, so don't get carried away snipping them off the sprues individually, as you'll save some time by checking out step 15. The runs are built up in a vague C-shape, with the bottom run left off until they are attached to the road wheels later, hiding any glue joints from view. The Maybach engine is built up over successive steps, and fitted into the narrow bay where it is surrounded by ancillaries and pipework. Careful painting here will really pay off, but you'll need to check forward a few pages as there is a full-colour page showing the completed interior with call-outs in the instructions using AMMO colour codes. It also shows the demarcation between red primer and the pale bone-white used in the more crew-centred areas. The sponsons are also added, and these are also covered with sloped ammo storage, going a long way toward explaining why crews got out of their tanks in such a hurry when hit. The Panther was quite vulnerable at the sides due to weight-saving reductions in the armour thickness on the sponsons where all that ammo was kept. The radiator baths and fluid tanks are added to the rear of the engine deck at this stage too, and is closed in by the rear bulkhead with its armoured exhausts and stowage boxes. The upper hull is next, with the spaces on the engine deck filled by the cast radiator covers with their mesh, the front aperture by the access panel that houses the two crew hatches for driver and machine gunner, and the main engine deck with mushroom vents, smaller access hatch, and the large cast radiator inlets either side of the circular exhausts. The small triangular side-skirt is fitted at the rear and the pioneer tools are draped along the sides, with the towing ropes made up from styrene eyes that have slide-moulded holes to accommodate the ends of the braided cable. An inner skin is glued into the rear of the glacis plate to give a scale armour thickness, which has the bow machinegun, some driver controls and the vision port mechanism added inside, travel-lock, front fenders and vision blocks from the outside, before it is mated with the lower half. Schurtzen on stand-off brackets are fastened to the sides, towing shackles to the rear, and a sturdy hitch under the rear of the tank completes the hull. The turret is moulded with its roof and sides already together, to which vents, lifting eyes, the commander's cupola and other hatches, vision ports etc. are added, with the commander's cupola having armoured covers on his periscopes, which can be glued in place as one by leaving them on their circular sprue in much the same way as the track links. The corresponding interior parts are fitted, which includes three pistol ports, and once the rear face is brought in, the aft hatch with armoured hinge. The commander gets a ring-mounted MG34 machinegun, which is probably best left off until later, after which the attention turns toward the turret floor, most of which is taken up by the gaping hole. Around it are fitted raised edges, small chunks of equipment and the turning mechanism, and it is then put aside while the mantlet and gun breech are built up. The mantlet is multi-layer, with sighting gear and gun tube projecting through, which hinges at the sides. The outer mantlet fits around and protects the inner assembly, and has two more examples on the sprue that will be used in later boxings. The completed breech with recoil guard plug into the rear of the assembly, and it too is put to one side. The turret basket floor is circular and receives the crew seats which is then fitted under the lip of the turret floor, in readiness for installing in the turret later. A flexible corrugated hose glues into the interior recess for the fume extractor in the turret ceiling, and is later hooked up to the turret basket later on, but first the mantlet is fitted to the front of the turret, and is joined by the barrel, which has a solid core and hollow three-part muzzle. The commander's lift/swing hatch slots into place on his cupola, the turret floor is glued to the underside, which then leaves the turret to drop into its aperture in the hull, with an optional turret ring fitting between them. Markings The decal options are hidden away in the double-folded rear page, and are printed in glossy full-colour using Mig's AMMO paint system for colour call-outs. The two decal sheets are split between internal stencils, which are on the larger sheet, and external numbers and crosses on the smaller sheet. Both sheets are well-printed with good register, colour density and clarity, with instrument decals adding realism to the driver's station. From the box you can build one of the following three options: 8th Kompanie, 52nd Panzer Abteilung, 39th Panzer Regiment, Kursk 1943 1st Kompanie "Grossdeutschlad" Panzer regiment, Karachev 1943 2nd Kompanie "Grossdeutschlad" Panzer regiment, Karachev 1943 4th Kompanie, 51st Panzer Abteilung, 39th Panzer Regiment, Kursk 1943 Conclusion Panthers are good sellers, and this kit has plenty to recommend it, such as the level of detail packed inside, with a sensible and straight-forward construction process that for the most part mimics the way a modeller that plans to paint the interior would build in assemblies at different stages. The tracks may not appeal to all, but they are detailed and uncomplicated, plus the inclusion of casting/rolling texture on the exterior armour is good to see in a modern kit, although some may want to improve it so that it shows up more under paint. Very highly recommended normally but even more so now you can see all of that great interior. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  17. HIPS Plastic Sheet (0.3, 0.5, 1.0mm) Master Tools via Pocketbond Master Tools is the hobby tool brand of Trumpeter, and they have a large and ever-growing range of tools for modellers that probably isn't as well-known as it should be. They have some cool tools that I quite fancy. You're probably wondering what HIPS is, or like me had guessed that it stands for High Impact PolyStyrene. Now – we all know that polystyrene is an aromatic hydrocarbon polymer… no, we didn't, but some smart alec probably did. It's one of the most widely used plastics due to its working properties and to the fact that it is pretty cheap to acquire, which is probably why most councils don't recycle it because they can't make any money out of it, despite the fact that it doesn't biodegrade well or quickly. Straight styrene is a bit brittle however (Tactic polystyrene is even more so, but that's another story, and why it isn't used much in industry), so adding a substance such as polybutadiene (synthetic) rubber during polymerisation adds much needed strength and flexibility to withstand our clumsy ministrations. Ok – that’s that over with, now let us talk about what these little packages are. Firstly, they arrive in resealable bags backed with cardboard that folds round the front to form a header and footer to the package, keeping the two sheets of plastic safe from damage. On the back of the card sheet are instructions on use in English and Chinese, giving a few hints and tips, as well as telling you about some of their other tools you could use in your modelling. The sheets themselves have a matt side and a glossy side, with a sheet size 295 x 210mm, times two of course. The sheets are cleanly cut and flat, and the more observant amongst you will have noticed that they are grey, rather than the more usual white, so will match up with a lot of the models out there if you're doing conversion or upgrade work. Grey is also just a bit easier to cover up with primer, but otherwise it's a fairly cosmetic choice. How does it handle? I've only had time for a quick play with a few pieces that I sliced off the sheets, but it cuts well enough, the thicker 1mm sheet scores and breaks easily, and sanding it is just as you'd expect. It's akin to sanding a piece of Trumpeter plastic, so no surprises there. I also glued a few bits together with some Tamiya Extra thin cement, my weapon of choice for plastic welding. I glued a piece of 0.3mm flat against the 1mm sheet on the shiny side, to see whether it would crinkle and melt like some thin sheets do. It didn't. +1 for Master Tools HIPS. Then I butted a chunk of 1mm against the side of the 0.3mm and ran some glue along the joint. It's currently still standing upright and likely to continue to do so until I squish it with my elbow, which is highly likely given the clutter on my bench at the moment. That's another +1, so we're doing well. Having since tried to pull the assembly apart probably 10 minutes after bonding it, there was a LOT of resistance before it came apart. I reglued it, and a couple of hours later it was as tough as old boots, or as near to it as styrene gets. Conclusion I didn't really have any doubts that this sheet styrene from Master Tools/Trumpeter would be good enough for use, but the fact that it comes in its own protective package adds a bit more likelihood that it will arrive in good shape from your favourite online retailer, if you're like me and don't go out much. A quick Google doesn't show up much on the net yet, but now Pocketbond have got stocks, you should start seeing it soon in shops online and in the flesh, so give it a try. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  18. Russian T-80B MBT 1:72 Trumpeter Developed from the complex but innovative T-64 MBT, the T-80 was the first production tank to be powered by a gas turbine engine rather than a conventional diesel unit. A lengthy development period was required in order to adapt the design for gas turbine power and this resulted in a number of changes when compared to the older T-64, including redesigned running gear and tracks, a revised gearbox and simpler torsion bar suspension in place of the T-64's pneumatic arrangement. Like the T-64, the T-80 features an automatic loader and a reduced crew of three. The main gun is a development of the 2A46 125mm smoothbore gun used in the earlier tank. The considerable punch offered by the gas turbine engine made the T-80 the fastest and most mobile tank in the Soviet inventory, although range was compromised by the somewhat thirsty power plant. Later models did adopt a diesel engine that was both cheaper to produce and easier to maintain in the field. As an advanced weapon system, export of the T-80 was restricted. Nevertheless, T-80s in various configurations have been supplied to Pakistan and Cyprus, as well as a small number obtained by South Korea as payment for debts and a handful procured by the United Kingdom for evaluation purposes. Thousands of T-80s are still in service today. After an initial flurry of activity, it appeared as though Trumpeter had ceased expansion of their range of 1:72 AFV kits. This turned out not to be the case, however, and they are now releasing all-new kits once again. This T-80B covers the more modern end of the spectrum. Following on from the blueprint set by their most recent kits (and those released by sister company Hobbyboss), the kit makes extensive use of slide moulding in order to reduce the part count to a minimum while preserving detail. This is evident from the single-piece lower hull, but even more so from the wheels and tracks, which are moulded as a single part. While compromises clearly have to be made in order to mould something like this, I still find it preferable to manky old rubber band tracks that are impossible to glue with any substance known to man. Other than that, the parts are well protected in the box and the quality of moulded detail is up to the usual Trumpeter standard. As you would anticipate from the breakdown of parts, construction of the kit is simplicity itself. The upper and lower halves of the hull are fixed together prior to the addition of the individually moulded inner road wheels and drive sprockets. The beaching log is also added at this stage. The outer run of road wheels, complete with tracks, can be added next. The main compromise caused by this method of moulding is that the outer faces of the return rollers are completely plain. This is less of an issue that you would think, however, as they will be completely covered by the side skirts. These items are themselves nicely detailed and feature stowage boxes moulded in place. The auxiliary fuel tanks, necessitated by that thirsty gas turbine engine, are next and are simply split horizontally. The turret is the most complex part of the build in the sense that it is of entirely conventional construction. Once the upper and lower halves have been joined, the smoke dispensers can be added, along with the various stowage boxes, sighting systems, searchlight and the highly detailed 12.7mm DShK machine gun. The 120mm smoothbore gun is moulded as a single part with recess in the muzzle achieved through slide moulding. Conclusion This is a nice little kit that does a good job of balancing ease of construction with quality of finish. While the low part count means some compromises have been made, they are not as noticeable as you might think. In fact the overall level of detail compares pretty well to other manufacturers operating in this scale. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  19. V2 Rocket, Hanomag SS-100 and Miellerwagen 1:72 Takom The Vergeltungswaffe 2, commonly known as the V-2, was the first ballistic missile to be used in combat anywhere in the world. Although relatively simple by modern standards, it laid the foundations for the space programmes of both the USA and the Soviet Union in the postwar period. The V-2 was a liquid-fuelled, single-stage rocket, steered by rudders placed on the tail fins and graphite vanes at the exhaust nozzle. Guidance was provided by two gyroscopes (one for horizontal and one for vertical) and an accelerometer providing inputs to an analogue computer. From September 1944, over 3,000 V-2 rockets were launched against targets such as London, causing an estimated 9,000 civilian and military casualties. The British Government initially sought to suppress public information about the V-2 rockets, blaming the damage caused on gas main explosions. The public were not fooled however, and the V-2s acquired the sardonic nickname of "flying gas pipes". The missiles proved almost impossible to intercept, and the most effective countermeasure proved to be the disinformation system operated by MI5, whereby double agents fed false reports about the impact points and damage caused by V-2 attacks. The SS-100 was developed by the famous Hanomag Company in the mid-1930s. Although successful in its own right on the civilian market, the SS-100 was also widely used by the Nazi military machine as it was ideal for lugging heavy payloads and aircraft. Such was the level of demand for the vehicle that licence production had to be started by Fross Bussing of Vienna. The SS-100 was powered by a D 85S six-cylinder, 8.5 litre engine coupled to a four speed gearbox. The Gigant was capable of 40 kph and, with a large fuel tank located behind the cabin, had an unrefueled range of 500 kilometres. The SS-100 was the tractor unit of choice for moving V-2 rockets during the latter half of the war. Takom, a name more commonly associated with huge 1:16 scale kits (and less huge 1:35 scale kits), have surprised everyone by releasing a 1:72 scale kit. Even more surprising is the subject - not only have they produced a V2 rocket, but they have also given us the hanomag tractor and trailer unit. The only previous kits of these subjects I recall were produced by Special Hobby under their Special Armor imprint. The kits are not related, however. Inside the relatively compact top-opening box are four sprues of grey plastic, a small clear sprue, a small fret of photo etched parts and a veritable pile of black rubber tyres. I've never seen a Takom kit up close, but the quality of moulding looks good to me and the details are clean and crisp. Construction starts with the SS-100, or more specifically its chassis. Much of the detail is moulded in place, but the axles, leaf springs and exhaust are all separate parts that have to be fixed in place. The wheels are moulded sans tyres, and while the rubber items supplied won't be to everyone's tastes, they will at least reduce the amount of time spent painting. A fairly decent interior is provided, including seats, a dashboard, steering wheel and gear levers. The windows are moulded from clear plastic, which I prefer to having to cut them from a sheet. The cab of the tractor unit has been slide moulded into a single part, meaning that you just have to add the radiator grille, lights, trafficators, spare wheel, fuel tank and other details. Next up is the Miellerwagen trailer-cum-launch vehicle. This is a complex structure which essentially comprises a chassis (complete with lots of details such as gas bottles), the cradle/launch platform for the V2 and the road wheels. The Miellerwagen can be finished in either towed or launch positions, with parts such as the stabilisers for launch being stowed if not used. The front road wheels are connected to a separate bogey which in turn hitches to the back of the SS-100. There are a few options that you will need to pay attention to depending on whether you wish to finish your model in the launch position or not. Unfortunately the instructions are rather small, so you may need to slip your readers on before getting stuck in. As you might expect the V2 rocket itself is the simplest of the three sub-assemblies. The launch platform itself is still pretty complex, however. The painting and marking guide shows a number of different colour schemes, with references for the Mig Ammo range of acrylic paint. No decals are included, however. Conclusion This is a nice little set that will enable the modeller to finish the subject in a range of configurations or dioramas. It's interesting to note that Takom have taken a different approach to Special Armor by including all three items in a single box. This makes sense in a lot of ways, and it can't be denied that the finished article will look pretty impressive on the shelf. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  20. Holt 75 Artillery Tractor Roden 1:35 With the onset of large-scale hostilities in early 1915, the leadership of the British Army understood very well that the transportation of heavy weapons such as heavy artillery, by horses wearing harnesses, was no longer an efficient method, especially in the off-road conditions of autumn and winter. In view of this, it was decided to limit horse drawn transportation only for light artillery, and to procure tractors, already in use for agricultural purposes before the start of the war, for the movement of heavy weapons. Soon after the turn of the century, American inventor Benjamin Holt built an agricultural machine with a gasoline internal combustion engine and a chassis running on crawler tracks, which proved to be very successful in design, and was copied not only in the United States, but also in England and France, as well as in some other countries. The vehicle was classified as a "tractor" and was named the Holt 75. Even before the start of the First World, these machines were already being used extensively in agriculture, however, not as yet for any military purposes. After successful tests in quarry sites, where in contrast to the horses the Holt 75 easily towed not only the 6-inch but also the super-heavy 9-inch guns, it was decided to acquire them for the needs of the Royal Artillery Corps immediately. Of course, the speed of the tractor was very low - it could tow a gun at only 2 miles per hour, but even this performance figure outweighed the significant losses of military animals due to their exhaustion in delivery of the guns, especially in off-road conditions. Simultaneously with the UK, France also became interested in the military use of tractors, suffering likewise from the near-impossibility of pulling heavy weapons solely with horses. In late 1916, about 800 tractors were ordered for the transportation of heavy guns. After the United States' entry into the First World War in 1918, the American Expeditionary Force in Europe also used tractors of this type extensively. In total these machines as used by the allies, amounted to almost 2,000 units by the end of the war, of which 445 were built under license in the UK. Their work was not glamorous, in contrast to the tanks for instance, used for the first time during the war; but their role as a new component in the military machine, namely, the artillery tractor, was also very important, and in the following years this type of military equipment became ubiquitous, widespread even today. The Model The kit comes in a very attractive, full colour box with a representation of the vehicle in use. The kit is contained on 12 sprues of light grey styrene; there is also a small decal sheet. Although still very much having the look of a short run kit all the parts are very nicely moulded, with some small areas of flash but no other imperfections and only a few moulding pips. The parts breakdown is pretty standard, and the instruction sheet nice and clear to read. This is the first Roden armour kit I’ve actually had a close look at, and for me the detail is perhaps a little soft, again, looking like a short run kit. That said the detail is there, but may need picking out better with a wash or careful painting. Construction begins with what are effectively the six return rollers and their axle frames, three per side, on a common transverse frame. Then there is what I can only describe as a coal bunker, a circular storage bin with a small hatch, perhaps harking back to the steam age. The ten road wheels are then assembled, each from two halves. The road wheels are then sandwiched between to skid like frames which are then fitted with a top plate and four springs. The return roller frame is then glued on top with two cross beams fitted underneath. The front mounted wheel is then assembled from thirteen parts and put to one side to dry. The main chassis consists of two longitudinal rails four cross-members and the tow piece circular mounting ring for the front wheel. The wheel assembly is the fitted into place, as is the road wheel/return roller assembly. The rear sprocket axles are glued into place along with the separate mid axle which is fitted into a large semi-circular cover on the underside of the rear chassis. The towing plates are fitted to the rear chassis cross-member, while the sprockets, with track tensioners are also glued into place. The road wheel assemblies are fitted with adjustable bottle jacks and the front wheel gear is fitted with a corresponding steering gear unit. The “coal bunker” is fitted with a number of longitudinal, vertical and lateral panels, to create the rear crew section of the vehicle. Before moving on further with the upper works, the engine needs to be built, this is a delightful little model in itself, with the main block and barrels in two halves, separate cylinder heads, oil pipes, starter motor, auxiliary fan belts and fans, ignition rails and valve stems, a battery, flywheel and throttle. The oil tank is then assembled from five parts and then glued onto the left hand side of the of the engine mounting plate, which is another six parts. The track guards are next to assembled, each from five parts, the engine is then fitted onto its mounting. The five piece idler wheels, which include the axles and tensioners are fitted and the tracks fitted. The track link, although of individual type are nice and easy to build. They are held on to the sprue by two gates each, but these are easy to clean up, there is also a bit of flash on each link, but nothing to trouble even the most novice modeller. The links themselves just clip together, a bit like the Takom WWI tank kits, but these look a little more fragile. If you have any spare links from the Takom kits you may want to use them instead as they are virtually the same type. The main sub-assemblies are now brought together; these include the main chassis, engine, “coal bunker”, and track guards. The flywheel cover/footplate is then glued into position, as is the gearbox cover. On the underside the main control linkages and a large lateral plate, just aft of the front wheel are fitted, whilst topside, the four piece fuel tank, gear stick and linkage are glued into place. The roof assembly is then constructed with inner and outer roof sections, five piece front supports and three piece rear support beams are added and the assembly put to one side. The long steering column is attached to the front wheel gear via two separate gears, then the steering wheel attached, followed but the rear steering column support, drivers seat support, seat and a myriad of other links and levers. The engine exhaust manifold and stack is attached and the roof assembly slid over it and glued into place. Finally the two piece radiator is fitted, along with its two support brackets pkus upper and lower hoses. Decals The small decal sheet provides decals for two different tractors, with various markings for around the vehicle. The decals have been printed by Roden themselves and appear to be very well printed, with good opacity, which is nice as there are all white and will need it when used on the two colour schemes on the paint guide. Holt 75 Tractor of an unknown artillery unit, US Expeditionary Forces in Europe 1918, in overall Olive Brown. Hot 75 Tractor of an unknown artillery unit of the British Army Western Front 1917, in overall Royal Hussars Green(?) Conclusion It’s great to see a rather unusual bit of kit from WWI and very welcome it is too. Whilst it is certainly not for the absolute beginner, it should certainly be a fairly relaxing build for the average modeller. While it it looks like a short run kit, with some of the challenges this may bring, it will look great next to other WWI releases and with the forthcoming BL 8-inch Howitzer Mk VI from Roden, it will make a nice vignette or diorama piece too. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  21. US Army M163 Vulcan Defense System 1:35 Academy via Pocketbond The M163 VADS (Vulcan Air Defence System) is a self propelled Anti Aircraft gun system designed for and used by the US Army. The base vehicle is a modified M113, the M741 carrier and mounts an M61 20mm Vulcan Cannon. The GE M61 is a 6 barrelled electrically driven weapon which normally fires at 6000 rounds per minute, this is reduced to 3000 for the M163. In the field the M163 was designed to work along side the M48 Chaparral Missile system. The system was intended to be replaced by the M247 Sgt York but this never happened. On operations the system has never really been needed in its intended role, though like many AA guns in history it has been pressed into use as a ground support weapon. Indeed in Operation "Just Cause" in Panama in 1989 one was used to sink a Vosper Patrol Boat. As well as the US Army the system is still in current use with Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Portugal, South Korea, Thailand, and Tunisia. The Kit This is a reboxing of Academy's kit which originated in 1995. The kit has been updated with a small sheet of PE and individual link tracks of you don't want to use the rubber band type which are also included. Construction starts with the main hull of the APC. The rear areas each side of the main door are built up, and the main suspension arms are added to each side. The rear door is also built up and added. Next up the road wheels, drive sprockets, and return rollers are mode up and added to the hull. Next up the tracks are added. The modeller can either use the rubber tracks or to 60 parts per side individual links. Following this the front of the APC and the engine hatch are built up. PE grills are provided if the modeller wants to use them. Next up the Vulcan cannon and its turret are made up. For the cannon 3 sets of two barrels are brought together around a central hub, this is then added to a base and the feed mechanism is added. All of this is then built into a surrounding framework. This is then added to the turret base and the side shroud is added. The ranging radar is then added as well. Going back to hull the front parts and the roof are then added, along with various tools & equipment, including bags. The turret and side armour is then added to the hull. Lastly track covers are added if the version being modelled carried them. Markings Decals are in house and look to be sharp & in register. From the box you can build 3 vehicles; 24th Infantry Division, 1st Brigade, 6th Air Defence Artillery, Fort Irwin, Nov 1988 3rd Armoured Division, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defence Artillery, Germany, Nov 1987 Unknown unit, Fort Irwin, March 1988 Conclusion It is good to see this kit re-issued, and with a few tweaks to bring it up a notch. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  22. Bandvagn BV 206S with Interior (2083) 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond Originally developed as a replacement for the Volvo Bv202 for the Swedish army by Hagglunds, which are now part of the global Bae Systems conglomerate, the Bandvagn is a segmented tracked vehicle that was initially designed for troop and equipment transport, with the crew cab in front, and an adaptable rear cab that can be reconfigured to a number of specific tasks. All four tracks are powered and have very low ground pressure to help it travel over both arctic tundra and boggy conditions during the Swedish thaw, with an additional amphibious capability making it almost unstoppable. It has been so successful that dozens of countries now field them, with the United Kingdom amongst them, (a larger variant named the Viking) using them to good effect in the desert during recent actions in the Gulf and Afghanistan. The S variant is armoured to withstand small-arms fire, and can carry 12 fully equipped troops spread between the two compartments, which improves survivability in the case of a hit from a larger calibre round or IED. While the British BvS 10 is similar in form, it is substantially larger with a more powerful Steyr engine to pull its added bulk along. The Kit This is a brand new tooling from Takom, and it seems fitting that it's the (likely) more popular armoured variant that has led the way, although I'm sure that other variants will follow. Whether this will extend to the Viking is uncertain, as I would imagine it would require an almost complete retool, given the dimensional differences. This variant is fielded by Sweden, Spain, Germany, France, Netherlands and Italy, so there should be plenty of options to go at amongst those operators. It's not a huge vehicle, so the box is commensurately compact, with six sprues and two hull parts in grey styrene; four rubberband-style black flexible tracks and a small sprue in the same material; a clear sprue; decals and of course the instruction booklet, which has a correction sheet included for step 21. The booklet is around a5 in size in portrait form, with a glossy fold-out at the rear containing the decal and markings options. Detail is good, with some slide-moulded parts at the edges of sprues to improve it further, and the main compartments are moulded as individual shells, again using slide-moulding to obtain superior detail on the sides of the parts. There may have been a bit of groaning at the inclusion of "rubber" tracks, but as the real things are made of just that, it's entirely accurate and having seen the larger ones coiled up at the Tank Museum, they're very chunky, not to mention incredibly heavy, which doesn't really carry through to them in 1:35 as you can imagine. The inclusion of an interior is useful due to the large ballistic windscreen in the forward compartment, which would look a bit odd otherwise. Construction begins with the large beam-mounted running gear, with four road wheels, idler and drive sprocket on each one. The front and rear suspension is identical but handed, so you end up with four subassemblies, which each have their boat-like mine resistant hull fitted with slightly different drive-shafts and mounting struts, both of which are well-detailed. The tracks wrap around the suspension and are glued at the ends using standard cement, with a large contact patch and four shallow pins making this task a little easier. Once on the road wheels, the outer half of the drive sprocket locks them in place and the finished subassemblies fit on pegs to their mounts. The rear compartment has a complex umbilical as part of its drive assembly, which is linked to the front compartment via a recessed back panel that keeps the gap between parts small. At this point the lower portion of the vehicle(s) is/are complete. In the crew cab the driver and co-pilot's seats are installed on the sponsons, and the engine compartment cover slips between their chairs, while a pair of jump-seats attach to the rear wall. The pedal box and other controls are fitted before the upper hull is detailed with exterior parts, separate front and passenger doors and the thick glazed panels, with an overhead console and sun visors added inside. The rear compartment's details are all fitted to the upper hull part, including jump seats, stowage locker on the roof, and the obligatory fire extinguisher. At this point it is worth mentioning that if you are going for accuracy, you will need to shave off the copyright and kit details from inside the roof of each compartment, as well as some ejector-pin marks that simply couldn't be avoided in these large parts. There is sure to be some additional detail missing from the rooves too, which you'll have to scratch-build yourself although who will ever see it? That's entirely up to you though The upper and lower are now ready to be brought together with the addition of mudflaps front and rear, running-board on the forward compartment, and rear doors on both parts. The rear compartment's door has a window included, as well as the usual windscreen wiper (very thoughtful for the troops), light clusters etc. The rear door of the front compartment covers up the linkage and what looks like the heat exchanger on the roof mounted air conditioning unit. Markings You get three possible schemes in the box, with the decals mostly consisting of number plates and unit markings. Two of the options are Spanish with one Italian, with the Spanish in Khaki green all over, and the Italian in NATO camouflage. You can build one of the following: Regimiento de Montaña 66 2002 – Khaki Green Regimiento de Cazadores de Montaña 66, 2009 – Khaki Green 9th Reggimento de Alpini, 2008 – NATO Green, Brown & Black camo As the profiles cover less than two pages you might need your magnifying glass to read the print, but usefully the interior colours have been provided next to the final profiles to assist you with painting. The decal sheet is small, but is reminiscent of Cartograf's style, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. A couple of instrument dials are included at the bottom of the sheet, which will improve the realism of the dashboard. Conclusion It's awesome to see the sheer volume of modern and near-modern armour being kitted now, and this is one of those instances. Clearly, there's more mileage in the Bv206S due to the number of operators, but as a British modeller, I'm now hoping we'll get the Viking at some point down the line. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  23. Sikorsky SH-3A/D Seaking (AR14405) 1:144 AFV Club via Pocketbond The Sea King is one of the most enduring aircraft of the post-war period, the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King flew for the first time in 1959. Although no longer in production, the Sea King continues to serve with air arms around the world, including those of Canada, Germany India, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The SH-3H was a US variant developed specifically for anti-submarine warfare. Originally conceived of as a development of the SH-3D, the SH-3H morphed into a sophisticated ASW platform and was fitted with anti-ship missile detection equipment. It was capable of carrying a pair of torpedoes as well as a range of depth charge weapons. Just as they had done with earlier Sikorsky designs such as the S-55/H-19 Chickasaw (produced in the UK as the Whirlwind) and S-58 Choctaw (Wessex), Britain's Westland Helicopters secure a licence to produce the Sea King not long after the aircraft made its first flight. The Kit In what seems to be an extension of their Mini aircraft series is seems AFV club are expanding their 1/144 scale kits (They previously only did P-40 kits in this scale). Inside the box there is enough plastic and decals to build two Sea Kings. All parts are well moulded, there is no visible flash, and there are fine engraved panel lines. In the cockpit two rudimentary seats and an instrument panel are added, the centre console being moulded in. The front and aft bulkheads are then attached to the main cabin floor. Windows are added into the main cabin along with the pilot entry door, and then the two fuselage sides are brought together around the cabin floor. The lower boat shaped hull part is then added, along with the cockpit glazing. On top the engine inlets are added along with a part on the rotor head box. The main side door and its running strip are then added. The two sponsons are then built up and added, with the main gear wheels being built and added into them. The tail wheel is also added. The winch over the mail door is added. The tail boom is assembled and added at this point. It can either be out, or in the folded position. Once added the tail rotor is fixed on. Next up the min rotor is added. Again like the tail boom the rotors can be in the extended position or folded. Markings There is a fairly comprehensive decal sheet which looks to be printed in house. The colours appear good, and everything seems to be in register. Whats good is that AFV Club have not skimped on such things as the US Navy titles, so from the box you can build any two of the four markings; HS-4, USS Iwo Jima, April 1970 HC-1, USS Coral Sea, 1972 INS Shikra, Mubai, 1980 HS 50, Royal Canadian Navy, HMCS Bonaventture 1965. Conclusion It is good to see more kits for those modelling in this smaller scale, these are quality kits and come highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  24. Panzer IV PzKpfw IV Auf. H Ver MID (13516) 1:35 Academy via Pocketbond The Panzer IV was a German medium tank, and most widely used German armoured vehicle of WWII. It would see action in all fronts for the Germany Army and was the only tank to see continuous service for the Germans in WWII. There were many versions of the Tank throughout WWII. The Auf H version began production in 1943. Glasis armour was improved by making it a single 80mm thick plate. On the sides of the hull and turret spaced armour plates (5mm & 8mm) were added to defeat hollow charge warheads. The roof of the tank was reinforced from 10mm to 16mm armour, and 25mm in places. The extra armour resulted in about 2500kgs of extra weight and a reinforced final drive train with higher gear rations was added. The tank had the 75mm KwK 40/L48 main gun. The Kit This is a brand new tooling from Academy arriving on 9 sprues of plastic and still with the rubber band style tracks. Unlike a lot of AFV kits which arrive with a one part hull and single part main deck, with this kit you have to make these parts up. The lower hull is made up from a bottom plate, two sides, a back and two internal bulkheads. A front half plate is added along with the front top sloping plate, and an additional rear cover plate is also added. To the side the drive gear boxes are added along with the suspension carrier units (4 each side). The road wheels (8 each side) are then made up and added along with the drive sprockets and idler wheels. 4 return rollers are also added to each side. The flexible tracks can then be added. This now completes the lower hull. For the upper hull the front plate for the driver and machine fun positions is added to the main centre section along with the front fenders and the rear engine deck. The engine deck is made up from 5 parts and includes detail under the louvres. Once completed this can then be added on to the main hull. Additional parts are then added to the rear of the tank, with stowage for extra track links and the exhaust system being added. Parts are then added onto the sides of the tank to take the side plates. Racks are also added to take spare road wheels. Additional spare track links are added to the front of the tank, along with the driver's and machine gunner's hatches. Attachment points are added to the side plates and then these can be mounted to the tank. Construction now moves onto the turret and gun. The single part barrel is added to the mantle with a breach part going the inside. External mounting parts are fitted over the barrel and then the 3 part muzzle brake is added. There are two different muzzle brake styles provided, however there is no information on which to use so the modeller will have to consult their references. The gun is fitted to the lower turret ring and then the main body of the turret is fitted over it. Additional side armour panels are then fitted. The large rear turret bin is made up and added to the back of the turret. Side hatches are also then fitted. Next up the mounting points are fitted for the stand off armour plates, along then with the plates themselves. The commanders copula and machine gun are then made up and added. The turret can then be fitted to the main hull. Markings From the box you can build one of three tanks from the 12th SS Panzer Division in Normandy 1944. A nice inclusion in the decals is textured decals to apply for the Zimmermit before painting. Conclusion This is a great new tool from Academy of the import German Panzer type from WWII and will be welcomes by many modellers. It also seems to be offered at a good price point for a new tool Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  25. Finnish Army K9FIN "Moukari" 1:35 Academy via Pocketbond The K9 Thunder is a modern 155mm artillery system developed by Samsung for the Republic Of Korea (South Korea) Armed Forces. The need to a new system was recognised in the late 1980's and the new gun system was produced and put into service 10 years later. This self propelled gun features steel armour capable of withstanding 14.mm Armour piercing rounds, and 152mm shell fragments. The 155mm 52 calibre gun has a range of 40km. The gun also features a hydro-pneumatic suspension system and a 1000hp engine. The Finnish Army realised their current Artillery systems would be outdated fairly soon and have struck a deal to buy 48 used K9's from the South Koreans. Now their neighbours Norway and Estonia are looking to procure the gun as well. The Kit This is a reboxing of Academy's 2009 boxing of the ROK 2009., with only new decals to differentiate it. You can always rely on Academy to give us kits of ROK equipment. The kit arrives as the main upper & lower hulls, five sprues of plastic and a set of runner tracks. Construction starts by adding the suspension components to the lower hull. The track return rollers are added along with the mounts for the lower suspension, once these are on the suspension arms are added. At the front the drive gear boxes are added. The two part road wheels (6 per side are added along with the drive sprockets. An idler wheel is added at the back. The rear bulkhead for the gun is made up and added to the lower hull. Construction then shifts to the upper hull. The drivers hatch, engine access hatches and grills are added along with a spare pair of track links. The drivers vision blocks are added along with headlights, and their protective covers. We now shift to the gun turret. The back is added to the turret and then it can be added to the base plate. Hatches are added along with external tools, and jerrycan stowage. A tow cable is added to the roof along with lifting eyes. A roof mounted sight is made up and added along with the commanders hatch and its heavy machine gun. Stowage baskets are then added to the rear of the turret. Next up the gun is put together. The front and rear parts of the barrel are in two halves and these are joined by a centre section, muzzle brake is then fitted to the end. The gun mount is then made up and the gun added, this sub assembly can then be added to the turret. The upper and lower hulls can then be assembled and the turret added. The flexible track is also added. A gun travelling mount is also then made up for the front hull. Markings From the box you can build one vehicle which was seen at the National Flag Day Parade in June 2017. Conclusion It is good to see models of these gun systems used by the less mainstream countires. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
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