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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. CM-11 (M-48H) Brave Tiger With ERA 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond The CM-11 is a hybrid MBT borne out if the need to quip the Republic of China (ROC) forces with a new MBT while staying within limitations set by the US-PRC Joint Communique on United States Arms Sales to Taiwan. The MBT was developed by General Dynamics and the ROC Armoured Vehicle Development Center. The hull is that of an M-60A3 and were purchased from the US. The turret is a development of the M-48 A3 unit and was produced by the Army Ordnance Maintenance and Development Center. The turret features a M68A1 105mm main gun with the added advantage of the ballistic calculator developed for the M1 Abrams. Combined with a laser rangefinder and night vision optics this gives the CM-11 a high probability first hit in all conditions and while on the move. The commanders turret featuring an M2 machine gun was procured from Israel. In addition to this gun the loaders hatch has a mounted M240 7.62mm machine gun. During development it was found that the hybrid would not offer the same protection as newer tanks and Explosive Reactive Armour would be introduced to offset this. This proved problematic as the additional weight caused problems with the torsion bar suspension, and the older engine. These problems were solved and in 2011 tanks were seen with the new ERA package installed. The ROC all the MBT the CM-11 Brave Tiger, in the US it has the designation M-48H (H for hybrid). The Kit The ERA kit is a slight modification to the original Brave tiger kit issued by Takom. It was a welcome sight so see this MBT kitted by a major manufacturer. In the box there is the hull casting, turret casting, 6 sprues of light grey plastic, a small clear sprure, a small sheet of PE, a tow cable, 2 lengths of rubber track, 2 steel pins and a very small decal sheet. Construction starts with the lower hull. Various hull fittings are attached along with attachment points for the suspension. The rear gearboxes for the drive wheels are built up and attached. Next up the suspension legs for the road wheels from the torsion bars are built up and attached. These complex parts are built up from three parts each, and 5 parts for the front idler wheel assembly. Care must be taken on assembly as not all of the axles are the same. The road wheels (14), return rollers (6) and drive wheels (2) are then made up and added to their respective axles. Attention now move to the main hull deck. At the front the drivers hatch can be displayed open, or closed (note there is no interior). Th drivers periscope can ether be in the deployed or stowed position as well. Various hull fittings are added as is the rear ravelling mount for the main gun. Note for modellers a fair few holes need to be drilled in the upper deck for various fittings. The front lights are also added at this time. The upper hull can then be joined to the lower one and the engine louvres added at the back. The side plates which go above the tracks on the hull are now made up. There are a fair few stowage boxes on these which are also made up and added. The tracks are added and then the track covers can go on. The tracks supplied are the ribber band tracks, however they seem to be extremely well moulded. Instead of the usual arrangements of clipping them together TAKOM have gone with a metal pin each side to join the runs. Various hull fittings and some of the ERA is then added to the upper hull. Construction then moves to the tank turret. A number of holes need to be drilled to accommodate all the fittings on the turret. Antenna mounts, ventilation covers, grab handles and smoke grenade launchers are added to the hull. The gun and mantle are added. The gun is a one part barrel to which a hollow muzzle end is added. The loader and commanders hatches are added along with their respective machine guns. The various ERA panels are also built up and added ot the turret. The last item to be built up and added is the rear turret stowage basket. Markings This is probably the smallest decal sheet I have seen on a kit, even an AFV. It has only a single number, and a single national marking. Only one paint scheme is available, the US Brown/Black/Green scheme. Conclusion It is good to see TAKOM producing this kit of the MBT from the ROC. The kit si not too complex and will appeal to those who like the M48/M60 gen ration of MBTs, those looking for something a little different, or fans of the ROC. Highly Recommended Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  11. German Tiger-1 Ver.Early "Operation Citadel" 1:35 Academy via Pocketbond The Tiger tank was part of Hitler's obsession for bigger, heavier and stronger, which drove him to extraordinary and dizzying heights of impracticality later in the war, but in this case served him well. The goal was to mount the extremely successful and powerful 88mm cannon used in the Flak 36 in a tank with sufficient armour to withstand any round fielded by the enemy, and this was achieved, but at the cost of reliability and thirst for fuel. It also made for some interesting bridge-crossing as the finished article weighed in at almost 60 tonnes, which was too much for many smaller bridges of the day. There was a competition with only two contenders, and it was the breakdown of the Porsche designed prototype and subsequent fire that decided in the favour of the less ambitious Henschel design which became the Tiger, and then the Tiger I when the King Tiger came into being. When it first reached the front it caused panic and disaster for the Allies, being able to do almost everything it was designed to do, including knocking out tanks long before their guns were in range. Even when the Allies could get into range, it wasn't until they get VERY close that they had any significant chance of crippling or destroying the mighty Tiger. Many of the early Tigers were lost to mechanical breakdown due to the excessive strain on the transmission, and had to either be dragged off the field by half-tracks under the cover of darkness, armoured protection, or failing that, destroyed to stop them falling into the enemy's hands. The Tiger underwent many and constant changes throughout production to improve performance, fix problems and to simplify construction, but these are generally lumped together into early, mid or late productions for the sake of us modellers. If you want to get maximum accuracy of fit and finish, check your references for certainty. Operation Citadel was the German name of what became known as The Battle of Kursk. The German Army had planned an offensive operation against the Kursk Salient, however through various means including Allied Intelligence the Russian forces knew the attack was coming and were able to prepare an in-depth defensive of the area. The battle was to deplete both German Armour and Air assets. At the same time the Allies invaded Southern Italy and the German forces decided to withdraw from the action. This would be the last German offensive action on the Eastern Front. While there is some debate as to whether this was the largest tank battle ever, it is certainly up there in the top handful of. The Kit The Academy Tiger I is a middle-of-the-road kit that has an attractive price-point while giving plenty of detail to satisfy all but the most detail hungry modellers. This boxing also gives the Henschel turret, however no interior is included. Even thought the base kit have been around since the late 90s Academy have been improving it over time. The original two part split barrel is still in the kit, but there is a new multipart solid round barrel as well. Is worth noting that the new boxing now comes with link and length track instead of the previous rubber band ones. Construction starts with adding the suspension arms to the lower hull. PE fittings must then be made up and added to the lower hull as well. 8 double sets of outer road wheels are made up, followed by 8 double sets of inner road wheels , sandwiching a ploy cap between to the two wheels (inner ones only) . The drive wheels and idler wheels are made up, again sandwiching the poly caps between the halves. The inner single wheels are added to the hull, followed by the inetleved main wheels (two sets), and lastly the outer singles. Drive and idler wheels are also added. Once all the wheels are on the rear bulkhead of the tank is made up with the mud guards and exhausts being added. Next up the upper deck is assembled. Photo etch screens are provided for the engine cooling vents. Full detailed hatches are provided which can be opened, but given the commission of an interior unless you are adding crew figures most will leave them closed. The font bulkhead of the tank is also assembled at this time. The tracks can then be assembled and added to the tank. As mentioned earlier these are now link and length, however no track jig is included. Once the tracks are on the upper hull can be attached. Various tools and towing cables can then be added. Construction now moves to the turret. The multi part barrel and mantle are built up and placed into the turret sides, Smoke dischargers are added. along with stowage boxes and finally the roof; along with the hatches. Finally the turret is added along with the side skirts and a small length of track placed on the front of the tank. Markings As this boxing would suggest there are three marking options for Tigers which took part in Operation Citadel. 9th SS Panzer "Totenkopf" Yellow 921 8th SS Panzer "Das Reich" White S33 Black 211 Decals are printed in house by Academy and should pose no problems. Conclusion It is good to see Academy updating this kit as looking online the kit is quite competitive on price. Recommended Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  12. M3 Lee Late Medium Tank 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond The US Army had been remarkably complacent with regard to tank development in the lead-up to WWII, and approached war with precious few that were hopelessly outclassed. This realisation resulted in a frantic clamour to produce a modern tank that could hold its own in combat, with the M3 Lee coming into service as a stop-gap measure within a year of its first design while the M4 Sherman was in development. As a consequence of its rather rushed introduction, it was known to have a number of fairly serious flaws, but it also had some strengths that (at least in part) made up for them. Its high profile and sponson mounted main gun gave the enemy a large target, but when the 75mm main gun was brought to bear on a target, it was surprisingly powerful and effective, gaining a reputation in North Africa. A great many examples were exported to the British and Russian forces in the early stages of WWII, and after the majority of British armour was left on the beaches of Dunkerque, the need became even greater. The British required some changes to improve the vehicle's performance, which most visibly included a new larger turret with a bustle to accommodate radio gear, and a cupola instead of the sub-turret with machine gun mount, which was named the Grant after general Lee's opponent. Due to the pressing need for suitable numbers however, the British did take a number of Lees, and the Soviet Union also took delivery of a substantial number of Lee variants, although some ended up at the bottom of the sea thanks to U-Boat action. The Soviets disliked the Lee intensely and gave it a wide berth wherever they could in favour of the more modern and capable T-34, the production of which ramped up substantially after the initial shock of Barbarossa, which led to its retirement from front-line service by 1943, while the other Allied continued to use them (mainly in Africa) until the end of the war. The Late version deleted the side doors and left only one pistol port. The Kit There have been three kits released initially, one being the Early Lee, the other the British specification Grant (see here), and the M31 Recovery version (see here). This kit does share a core of common parts.. Inside the box are ten sprues and two parts in grey styrene, a small clear sprue with headlights, a PE sheet, decal sheet and instruction booklet as mentioned above. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has a rear bulkhead and final drive housing attached at the front, with three stations on each side for the VVSS (vertical volute-sprung suspension) units, which held a pair of wheels each. The drive sprockets are fitted to the front, and idlers at the rear. The individual double wheel units are made up. 12 wheels are made up and fitted into 6 bogie units. The tracks are link and length, with a jig supplied for the top run, which has an upward curve at the front as it rides over the drive sprocket. The highly curved areas have individual links supplied, with the diagonals under the drive and idler wheels fitted in short lengths. The tracks fit under the sponson floors, with separate sides added. The complex angles of the glacis plate and casemate of the 75mm gun are formed over a number of steps, with the roof having a cut-out for the turret and the limited-traverse mantlet of the main gun attached before it is flipped over and fitted to the rest of the hull. The engine deck is fitted last, and has a choice of pioneer tools and towing cables, which require some holes to be drilled from the inside before fitting. The exhausts and mudflaps are fitted to the rear bulkhead along with a number of panels and towing eyes to the rear, with the driver's hatch and caged light cluster on the wings. The turret has a simple two-part construction, with the mantlet inserted into the lower half, allowing the gun to elevate, while the top machine gun turret actually has more parts, including vision ports, a split hatch, lifting eyes and machine gun barrel. The 37mm gun and coax machine gun are fitted last before the mantlet cover is installed, which makes one wonder what the purpose of the additional machine gun on the top of the turret was when there was already one mounted coaxially. Markings There are four markings options spread over the inner cover pages of the instructions, All of which are in Olive Drab, the captured example featuring applied winter camo. From the box you can build one of the following: Unknown captured tank Pz.kpfw M3 744, probably on the Eastern Front? 1st Armoured Div , England Dec 1942 Tank #9 1st Armoured Div , England Dec 1942 Tank #4 1st Armoured Div , England Dec 1942 Tank #7 The decals are printed anonymously, and have generally good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Recommended Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  13. 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
  14. USS Kitty Hawk, CVA-63 Merit International 1:350 The history of USS Kitty Hawk closely parallels the course of naval aviation over the past 37 years. Built in Camden, NJ, Kitty Hawk was heralded as the first in a new class of "super carrier" at her commissioning at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on April 29, 1961. The 82,000-ton ship departed her homeport of San Diego on her first Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment in 1962. Since that time, Kitty Hawk and a variety of Carrier Air Wings have completed 18 deployments in support of operations including Vietnam, the Iranian hostage crisis, Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and air strikes against Iraq, and as the leader of the joint, coalition offensive strike launched in response to increasing Iraqi violations of United Nations sanctions. Kitty Hawk underwent three overhauls in the Bremerton, Wash., Naval Shipyard in 1977, 1982 and 1998. The ship's most significant maintenance period, however, was a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard beginning in 1987. That rigorous four-year overhaul added an estimated 20 years to the planned 30-year life of the ship. The ship displayed the long reach of carrier aviation by completing a world cruise on the way to Philadelphia and returned by rounding the southernmost tip of South America. The ship set sail on its 17th deployment on June 24, 1994. During the six-month cruise, the ship, and Carrier Air Wing Fifteen, under the direction of the Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group FIVE, provided a stabilizing influence in the Western Pacific during a time of great tension in the Far East. Soon after her return from deployment, the ship was awarded the Battle Efficiency Award, or Battle "E," given yearly to the best carrier in the Pacific Fleet. In October, she welcomed aboard the proud members and imposing airpower of Carrier Air Wing Eleven, fresh off a deployment to the Persian Gulf aboard the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72). The Kitty Hawk and Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN, refined their teamwork during workups, enjoying a very successful participation in Exercise Rim of the Pacific '96, a multi-national exercise taking place around the Hawaiian Islands involving the maritime forces of Canada, Japan, South Korea, Chile and Australia, in preparation for deployment in October 1996. The Kitty Hawk/CVW-11 team made port calls in Hong Kong and Singapore. Christmas was celebrated in port Bahrain, and two Gulf port calls were made to Jebel Ali, U.A.E. Returning from a successful tour at the "tip of the spear", the crew enjoyed liberty in Fremantle, Australia and Hobart, Tasmania. After a brief stop in Hawaii, Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego April 11, 1997. In August 1998, Kitty Hawk changed its homeport from San Diego, Calif., to Yokosuka in Japan and relieved the USS Independence (CV 62) as the only carrier forward deployed to another country. On March 2, 1999, Kitty Hawk departed Yokosuka on a three-and-a-half month deployment to the Arabian Gulf where she operated in support of Operation Southern Watch. Before entering the Indian Ocean she participated in Exercise Tandem Thrust in the Pacific, during which the former USS Oklahoma City (CLG 5) was being used as a target. After the exercise, Kitty Hawk visited Apra Harbor, Guam, on April 3, 1999, before departing for the Persian Gulf where she patrolled the No-Fly-Zone over southern Iraq. Kitty Hawk departed the Gulf on July 15, 1999, and returned to Yokosuka where she arrived on August 25, 1999. The year 2000 saw Kitty Hawk and her Battle Group operating in the western Pacific. The carrier took part in Exercise Cobra Gold 2000 and conducted port visits to Phattaya, Thailand; Hong Kong and Singapore. After the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, on September 11, 2001, the Kitty Hawk Battle Group was ordered to deploy to the Indian Ocean and was later involved in combat missions against the Taliban and Al Qaida in Afghanistan. The Battle Group returned to Yokosuka on December 23, 2001. On March 21, 2002, the Kitty Hawk became the first carrier in the US Navy to perform test firings with the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) System. On October 25, 2002, the Kitty Hawk Battle Group left Yokosuka for a regular scheduled underway period. After a port visit to Hong Kong November 29 through December 3, the Battle Group returned to Japan on December 13. The ships got underway again late January with orders to deploy to the Persian Gulf as part of the build-up of military forces in the area in preparation for the war against the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. she arrived on station late February/early March and from March 20 on, participated in air strikes against targets in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After serving 104 continuous days at sea, Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka May 6, entering a dry-dock period ending Oct. 17. 2004 was an eventful year that involved a series of inspections, exercises, and port visits. On Feb. 19, a new chapter in the book of Kitty Hawk Strike Groups history began with the first landing of an F/A-18F Super Hornet on board the ships 4.1-acre flight deck during the ships 12th FDNF underway period. The VFA-102 Diamondbacks introduced the improved F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet to the 7th Fleet area of operation, replacing the F-14 Tomcat, after more than 30 years of service. Kitty Hawk capped off the year with Annual Exercise 2005, which ran from November 9 to 18. Annualex provided Kitty Hawk with the opportunity to increase its military partnership with the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force. She was one of 61 naval vessels which participated, including: two U.S. submarines; 10 other Navy ships; and 49 JMSDF ships. The ship departed Fleet Activities Yokosuka, June 8, 2006, for its 16th FDNF underway period. During the 99-day deployment, the ship took part in Exercise Valiant Shield, a multi-service war game involving three carrier strike groups, 22,000 personnel, and 280 aircraft June 19 to 23. It was the largest military exercise conducted by the United States in Pacific waters since the Vietnam War. The carrier then pulled into Otaru, Japan, on Hokkaido Island from July 1 to 5 after Valiant Shield. Also during the deployment, the crew made three more port visits: Singapore; Fremantle, Australia; and Laem Chabang, Thailand. Dozens of distinguished visitors boarded the carrier during this underway period for tours. Visitors included the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, the Royal Thai army commander in chief, and various officials from Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, and Japan. The ship returned to Yokosuka September for a short period before departing for its summer deployment. During this two-month deployment, Kitty Hawk and embarked Carrier Air Wing 5 travelled more than 15,200 nautical miles and launched more than 8,000 aircraft. After a stop in Sasebo, Japan, the strike group took part in the 18th Annual Exercise, a week-long exercise which had more than 100 American and JMSDF ships training together, between November 9 and 14. The deployments last stop was Hong Kong, from November 23 to 27. Kitty Hawks Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Division organized 20 tours of Hong Kong and its surrounding areas, including mainland China, for 702 Sailors. The ship also hosted Japanese author Hiromi Nakamura who interviewed 41 Kitty Hawk Sailors for a book about Kitty Hawks flight deck. After returning to its homeport on December 10, the ship settled down for the holiday season and the New Year. The ship then went through a four-month maintenance period, during which the ship hosted Vice President Dick Cheney. The carrier then departed May 23, 2007, after completing sea trials and pilot refresher training, known as carrier qualifications. Kitty Hawk kicked off the summer cruise with Talisman Saber 2007, in which the United States and Australia combined land, sea and air forces. The exercise brought together more than 12,000 Australian and 20,000 U.S. personnel from all branches of the armed services. The ship made port visits to Brisbane and Sydney, Australia. Then-Prime Minister John Howard and current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Academy Award Winning Actor Russell Crowe made visits to the ship while it was moored in Sydney. Kitty Hawk then participated in Exercise Valiant Shield 2007, one of the largest annual exercises in the Western Pacific. The week-long exercise involved about 30 ships, 280 aircraft and 22,000 U.S. Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines who worked together to build joint combat skills. The 30 ships involved with Valiant Shield were from three carrier strike groups: Kitty Hawks, USS Nimitzs (CVN 68) and USS John C. Stenniss (CVN 74). During the exercise, Rear Adm. Rick Wren, commander of the Kitty Hawk strike group and Task Force 70, had command of all three strike groups. The ship also took part in Malabar, a six-day exercise that took place in the Indian Oceans Bay of Bengal, involving more than 20,000 personnel on 28 ships and 150 aircraft from the United States Navy, Indian navy, Royal Australian navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force, and the Republic of Singapore navy. The ship returned to Yokosuka September 21. After a short in-port period, she set out for its final fall deployment October 21, 2007. Kitty Hawk participated in the 19th Annual Exercise, the maritime component of Exercise Keen Sword 2008. The exercise was the largest joint exercise for the Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force. The ship also had a port visit in Muroran, Japan. This was the first time a U.S. Navy ship made a visit to the port. The carrier pulled to its homeport November 27 after 38 days at sea. She stayed in port for a 5-month maintenance period before setting out to complete sea trials and carrier qualifications. On May 28, 2008, the Kitty Hawk left Yokosuka for the last time enroute to Guam and continued on to Pearl Harbor, Hi., to participate in RIMPAC 2008. Before heading out to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, for decommissioning in May 2009, the ship stopped in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to turnover with the USS George Washington (CVN 73) and thereafter continued to San Diego, Calif. She currently resides at the Bremerton Naval Yard in Washington State whilst a preservation group tries to garner enough funds to turn her into a museum ship. The Model Its certainly been a great year for the maritime modeller, with a wide selection of 1:350 scale ship kits being released, and it doesnt seem to be diminishing. There arent many 1:350 aircraft carriers released in the course of a year, but this month we have seen two, the USS Enterprise from WWII, reviewed HERE and this magnificent beast, the USS Kitty Hawk. The kit, naturally, comes in a huge top opening box, with a dramatic piece of artwork on the top of the ship at sea, and is a good indicator as to the size of the model. The kit is made up from over 1400 parts, which will build into to a model some 935mm long, with a width of 245.4mm. Inside, the single piece hull is protected in its own protective compartment with cardboard enclosures protecting the bow and stern sections. There are two separate boxes, each with a line profile of the ship on the lids, and these contain all the sprues and most of the individually moulded parts, such as the bridge and two piece hanger deck. You have to remove both of these boxes to finally get your hands on the massive, single piece flightdeck. This amazing piece of moulding is flawless and includes all the tiedown points, blast deflector bays and arrestor wires. The biggest disappointment is that, other than the hanger deck, there is absolutely no details included for the hanger, unlike the Enterprise release. This is quite a big empty space to fill and you will need good references to produce whats required for the particular era this kit is designed to replicate. Of course, the simple method would be just having all the hanger doors closed up, but you cant, as the closed doors also arent included. Its like the kit was signed off before the design was finished. I guess the other disappointment is that the ship has been modelled as she was not long before her retirement, rather than the more interesting period when she took part in the Vietnam war. Perhaps Merit will release an earlier incarnation of this fine ship. Although it seems the Kitty Hawks sister ship the John F. Kennedy, due to be released soon, is also for a late period fit. Although the kit is a large one and there are a lot of parts the instructions dont appear to be that thick, even though there are forty pages. Each stage of the build is very clearly drawn and shouldnt cause too many problems with following them, but care should be taken on some of the more complex sub-assemblies and where there are multiple parts of the same type, such as the life rafts spread around the flight deck edges. As with the other kits from Merit reviewed so far, the parts are all beautifully moulded, with no sign of flash. There are no perceivable imperfections, other than on the underside of the hull where the moulding sprues have been removed, although it wouldnt take much to clean these areas up. The kit includes fourteen sprues, the separate hull, bridge, flightdeck, and two hanger deck parts moulded in light grey styrene, with twenty two sprues of clear styrene, two sheets of etched brass and two large decal sheets. Construction begins with the two hanger deck section inserted into position within the hull, the aft section of which is fitted with two large bitts, five smaller bitts, a cleat and a large deckhouse, on what will become the quarter deck. The quarterdeck bulkhead is fitted with two side walls and glued into place, before the area is further detailed with a large mezzanine deck, five large stern mounted bumpers, a platform on the aft edge of the quarterdeck, and another attached to the bulkhead and fitted with the stern light cluster. The four hanger door openings are fitted into their respective openings in the hull, after which the hull can be turned over. The four propeller shafts each have two A frame supports and finished off with the propellers themselves. Each rudder is moulded with a separate rudder post, presumably so that the rudders can be posed to the modellers wishes. To complete the work on the lower hull, other than painting of course, is the fitting of the two lone bilge keels. Some small sub-assemblies are next on the build list, with the two Mk.29 Guided Missile Launch Systems, (GMLS), with each of the four launcher boxes being made from six parts, and two boxes fitted to each launcher pedestal. The two lifeboats are next, with the interior section being fitted to the hull, then each boat being fitted to their own cradle. Three hull sponsons, which require a number of holes to be opened up before the rest of the parts can be added. On the starboard side there are from forward to aft, the main sponsons are for the Rolling Airframe Missile, (RAM), saluting guns, radar structure, RAS, mooring, and Phalanx CIWS. There are also three small sponsons a deck lower than the larger ones. On the port side, the main sponsons are for the RAM, lifeboat, mooring, and Phalanx CIWS. As with the starboard side there are smaller sponsons dotted along the side. There are also a large number of unidentifiable box structures fitted on both sides; some of these are radar arrays, and other I guess are stowage boxes. Before the flight deck is glued, the large island support sponson is glued into position. The hull assembly is now put to one side so that construction can move onto the island. Before actual work on the island itself can begin several of the islands platforms need to be populated with the various deck fittings and smaller radar arrays, such as the Automatic Landing System, (ALS), array. The island is then fitted out with eleven floodlight fixtures, a couple of hose reels and other fixtures. The bridge deck is now attached to the top of the island structure, along with the large rear platform and its two support braces. The clear parts that make up the bridge and Admirals bridge are glued to the bridge roof, followed by a support rail that fits between the windows of the two bridges, which is in-turn fitted with two more floodlights, whilst four more are fitted to the bridge roof. With the bridge in the position and the separate starboard side bridge structure in place, its FLYCOs turn. His control position is sited at the rear of the island but at the same level as the bridge, FLYCOs bridge is made up from three large parts and numerous aerials, and further flightdeck lighting. Several platforms are fitted onto the island at this level, and include two side looking radar arrays. One level above the bridge is pretty much an aerial farm, with radomes for SATCOM, AN/SPQ-9 and other functions sited there, along with an AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare System, AN/SPS-49 surface air antenna and other unidentifiable antenna. The single pole mast is fitted with three triple legged platforms near the top, each kitted out with different aerials and radar domes, the topmost being the TACAN dome. Below these platforms the large yardarm is attached along with yet more platforms including the one carrying the four piece radar array. The completed mast is stepped, and the large funnel cap glued into position, followed by yet more aerials and radar arrays on their respective platforms. Moving back to the hull, there are several more large sponsons to assembled and fit, including those for the Sea Sparrow launchers. Each of the sponsons is also fitted with a cat walk around the outer edge and yet more aerials, platforms and ESM arrays. The biggest of the sponsons is that fitted port side which also includes a boat deck cut-out. Whilst the hull is upside down for the sponson fitting, the deck edge lift tracks are fitted, two per lift, and the flightdeck overhang structures are attached. All around the flightdeck catwalks there are fixtures and fittings added, such as the refuelling area hose reels, ladders, access hatches and the numerous liferafts. The four lifts are now installed, as are the four jet blast deflectors, which can be posed either raised or lowed, plus the PE radar mast and its associated fittings, including the AN/SPS-48, and attached to the deck just aft of the island which can also now be fitted, along with the large deck mount crane. With the carrier now pretty much complete, the aircraft and deck vehicles can be assembled. The kit provides, twelve F-18F Hornets, five E-6B Prowlers, two E-2C Hawkeyes and two HH-60H Rescue Hawks, plus Dumbo, the large mobile deck crane, forklifts, and deck tractors. Each is made up from multiple parts creating some very nicely detailed aircraft. If you need more, then they are easily accessible. Decals The two very large decal sheets are very well printed and should keep you busy for hours. The first sheet is for the ship and contains all the flightdeck stripes, lift surrounds, weapons lift surrounds and large numbers for the foreward end, the island, with ships numbers and ships medal tally etc. The aircraft sheet includes markings for all the aircraft, including special schemes for at least one from each squadron, including the Hornets of VF-102 Diamondbacks. Each aircraft is provided with national insignia and titles along with tail codes/artwork and aircraft ID codes. Best get your optivisor out for these, as you will need them. Conclusion As stated above its turning into a bit of a carrier month, and Im certainly not complaining. This is a great kit and will look magnificent on the mantelpiece. Just a shame its been spoilt by a little lack of imagination in the design stage, or it's been rushed into production, especially as its still possible to view the ship at Bremerton. If they had included at least some of the major parts for the hanger, such as the prominent fire doors etc, and given the option of having the hanger doors closed up, then this could have been one of those fabled uber kits, but alas, its close, but no cigar. Maybe the likes of CMK or Eduard will come to the rescue, or shares in plasticard will hit the roof as so much will be needed, by those wishing to scratchbuild the interior. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  15. AML-90 French Light Armoured Car 1:35 Takom The AML-90 was designed from the original AML-245 specification by Panhard originally being designated the AML-245C. The main feature of this model is the DEFA D921 low pressure 90mm gun. The gun was specifically designed for light vehicles (<10 Tonnes), This made the AML-90 well armed in proportion to its weight. The gun has shallow rifling and coupled with fin stabilised rounds gives a an improved range, however the low muzzle velocity does only favour close combat. Combat in the South African border Wars, and The Six Day War would show the AML-90 was out ranged by older T-34/85 and M48 Patton tanks. Optical fire control, and no power assist on the turret traverse also hampered operations. Even given these factors the AML-90 is capable of destroying older main battle tanks. A Libyan T-62 was reported destroyed in the Toyota War (Libyan/Chad border conflict of 1987). The Kit This is a welcome new tool from Takom who seem to be on a mission to bring us less mainstream vehicles. It is an addition to the Takom AML-60 kit as both vehicles use the same AML-245 chassis (the two kits sharing 3 common sprues & the lower hull). The kit arrives on 4 main sprues, a small clear sprue, 5 rubber tyres, a lower hull part, and the turret. All of the parts are up to Takom's usual standard. The kit does not feature an interior. Of note are the instructions (which I dont normally mention), it seems Takom have shrunk their normal A4 instructions down to A5 to fint in the box, and this had made them harder to read. Construction starts with the lower hull. The rear of the car is attached to the hull along with additional side parts the rear frame and the main side door. The rear wheel housing and suspension components and springs are also added. Additional handles and smaller parts are also added at this stage. The front suspension components are then built up and added to the lower hull. Followed by the wheel housing and their suspension components. The wheels can then be built up. These consist of five plastic components for each wheel in addition to the tyres. The upper hull deck can then be added to the lower hull. Tools and periscopes are added at this stage., along with a sand channel and other parts which I suspect a lot of modellers will leave off until the end. Next the turret is built up from the main part with the hatches, tools and other ancillary parts being added. This turret is much larger than the AML-60. The lower and upper parts are put together with the gun mantlet being added between the two. The hatches, other lights and smoke dischargers are added along with the rear turret bin. the 90mm gun is then made up and added. The completed turret can then be added to the hull. Markings There are 5 options included with the kit, and are featured on the coloured artwork. Argentinian Army - Falklands War 1982 (Green/brown camo) French Army - (Green / sand camo) Israeli Defence Forces (overall sand grey) Iraqi Army - Kuwait 1991 (overall sand) Lebanese Army Special Forces - 2012 (4 colour camo) Conclusion This is welcome new tool from Takom of Armoured Car which was used by the Armies of many nations around the world. No doubt the aftermarket producers will do decals and probably a full interior at some point. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  16. Churchill 3" Gun Tank with Snake Launcher (DH96006) 1:35 Ding-Hao Hobby The Churchill tank was named after Winnie, who once he realised it wasn't a particularly good tank, wasn’t very pleased with his namesake. It was a cruiser class tank intended to replace the Matilda, and was designed with the last war in mind, as were many of the British early war designs, so was under-armed and under-armoured. Many changes and variants later it was still having problems, and its terrible performance during the ill-fated and poorly prepared Dieppe landings sealed its reputation as a poor design. The post D-Day variants were at least capable of penetrating enemy armour, but as with the Sherman, it struggled with the more heavily armoured Tiger and Panther tanks unless it was at close range. A variant of the chassis was used to create a gun carriage, with a 3" howitzer ball-mounted horizontally in a casemate and protected by thicker armour. Because of the Sherman Fireflies with their superior gun however, they didn't see action, and some were converted to carry the experimental Snake mine-clearing system, which was a development of the Bangalore Torpedo, and fired a line of rockets across the battlefield, detonating the charges within to clear a path for tanks and troops to advance. Sixteen Snake tubes were carried on each sponson over the tracks and extending their full length. The 3" gun was removed and replaced with a blanking plate to reduce the all-up weight and prevent draughts. It wasn't deployed on the battlefield, although its successor Conger did see some deployment, encountering problems with premature detonation, possibly due to the vulnerability of the explosives in such an exposed position. The Kit Ding-Hao are the specialist arm of well-known model company AFV Club, and this is a retooling of their Churchill kit that was released early this decade, with additional sprues added to create the casemate and rocket tubes. It arrives in a brown cardboard box with black overprinting that gives a little background to the company name, and what its aims are, describing the kit as "Collector Grade". The kit specific details are found on a wrap-around cover that shows printed pictures of a complete model, plus the bonus resin figure that is in the box. The box has a captive lid that hinges back, revealing quite a lot of plastic in the box. The Churchill base kit parts are all double-bagged along with the resin figure, and the variant specific parts are separate in their own bags, so there's going to be a lot of crinkly bags to dispose of once you unwrap the kit. There are seventeen sprues in olive green styrene, a clear sprue, two rubbery tracks, four small frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a length of cord, twenty two short springs used in the suspension, a small decal sheet and of course the instruction booklet. The bonus figure is made from cream resin and is supplied in four parts, which fit together very snugly. Construction begins predictably with the suspension and road wheels, utilising all those real springs to give the suspension functionality. It is a little complicated, so take care and follow the instructions, testing the fit as you go. There are a lot of parts, and the working suspension adds another layer of complexity, as well as increasing the part count. The drive sprockets and idler wheels are added at the ends of the sponsons along with access doors and additional parts, after which the two assemblies are joined by attaching the hull floor and lower section of the rear bulkhead. The bulkhead is then decked out with towing hitches, light clusters and radiator parts, with the aft section of the engine deck added on top in two parts after they are detailed with hatches and grab rails. The glacis consists of a thick front plate, and a sloped plate onto which the headlamps are glued, then fire extinguishers, exhausts and their armoured shrouds are attached, then the fenders are installed on the tops of the sponsons after adding the flexible plastic/rubbery tracks, which show a surprisingly good level of detail for their type and moulding era. You can of course replace them with the usual white-metal tracks to get the correct faceted look and weathering opportunities, but that's your choice! Engine intake boxes are fabricated from styrene and PE, then applied to the slots on the sponson sides, with styrene mudguards front and rear that have PE accessories added for scale fidelity. It seems a little out-of-sequence at this stage, but the rear panel that forms the back of the Snake boxes as attached by two faux-bolts to the towing eyes, gluing only the bolts at this stage. Tiny PE firing harnesses are added to the rear of each of the firing pins, with a photo showing how they should be arranged once complete. A quartet of British style jerry cans are attached to the rear fenders, and attention then turns to the casemate. The crew compartment is made up from flat armour just like the real thing, and has a PE blanking plate for the gun mount on the thick mantlet, which glues in from behind. Hatches, commander's cupola and vents are also added before it is dropped into the long hole in the hull, and this is where you find out whether you've managed to build the assembly square or not. It might be best to test this before the glue is dry however, when it will be a lot easier to check. Large F-shaped brackets are fitted to the sponsons, which support the snake tubes, each of which is built from four sides and a separate front, which has the hollow muzzle and a representation of the rockets moulded-in. They slide in through the brackets and butt up against the rear plate attached earlier, with a number of locating pegs ensuring a good fit. Towing cables are made up from some of the supplied cord glued onto the plastic eyes, and an aerial is stretched out from sprue, and that's the kit done. The figure that is supplied is in cream resin as mentioned earlier, and has separate arms and head, with a single part providing the torso and legs. The detail is excellent and the casting is crisp with sensibly placed pouring blocks, which shows up the detail of the tanker's winter coveralls with integrated hood to great effect. The chap is relaxing with a hot cuppa while leaning against his tank, with a very natural pose, which is accentuated by the incredible fit of the parts. When you offer the arms up to the torso, there is along pin that fits into a corresponding hole, and once you have the correct position, the join between the two parts almost disappears. The head is similarly well done, although to me his neck could do with extending by a fraction, as when it is hard down into the socket he looks a bit lacking in the neck department. A small blob of Milliput in the socket would make that an easy correction, and any excess can be smoothed off with a damp blade before it cures. Markings There is only one option in the box, and for some reason you are incited to paint it Dark Earth, when almost every Churchill I've seen, including the box top photo is an olive drab(ish) colour. It's probably best to go with what you know for the main colour, but the instructions for the figure seem to be more appropriate. The decals on my review sample had merged with the protective paper, but most of it peeled away with a little effort. The rest was removed with a moist cotton bud, by rubbing gently side-to-side over the paper adhering to the decals. A few scraps remain, but these should float away when the decal is dumped in water. Conclusion An unusual variant of a fairly unsuccessful line of tanks that on initial release commanded quite a premium price that possibly scared away many potential purchaser. There should by now however be some more attractive offers available, so if you're a fan of the "funnies" or weird dead-end developments, maybe now is the time to pick one up. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  17. 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
  18. Shar2

    USS Ranger, CV-4. 1:350

    USS Ranger, CV-4 Trumpeter 1:350 The USS Ranger (CV-4) was the first aircraft carrier for the US Navy to be specifically designed and built from the keel up. The previous three carriers were converted from existing ship designs and constituted the USS Langley, the USS Lexington and the USS Saratoga - the Langley (CV-1) being a converted collier while the Lexington (CV-2) and Saratoga (CV-3) were built from cancelled battle cruiser keels. In 1922, designs were requested by the United States Navy for an aircraft carrier having more speed and expanded storage for more aircraft than existing carriers in the fleet at the time. The USS Ranger had been planned to have a flat, unobstructed flight deck with no island superstructure and six smoke stacks (funnels) - three to each side - that were hinged to fold horizontally during air operations. An island superstructure was eventually added during construction. A pair of service cranes would facilitate the recovery of seaplanes. Construction was started in 1931 at the Norfolk Navy Yard with work being handled by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company for $2,160,000. The USS Ranger was named for the American colonial fighting men who knew the habits of the enemy and could effectively serve as scouts and combatants behind enemy lines. Ranger was smaller than the USS Saratoga and USS Lexington but, having been constructed from scratch as a dedicated aircraft carrier, she was engineered for maximum aircraft stowage. She displaced about 1/3 the tonnage of the larger ships but was able to carry almost the same complement of planes - 86 against 91 aircraft on the Saratoga and Lexington. She was 769 ft long (234.39m) and, her beam was 109.6ft (33.41m) while her draught was 22.5ft (6.86m). She was slower than the Lexington-class, with a maximum speed of 29.3kts (34mph), and had a range of 12,000 miles (19,312km). For air and sea defence she mounted 8 x 5-inch (130mm)/25 calibre Dual-Purpose (DP) cannons in single mountings and 40 x .50-inch (13mm) anti-aircraft machine guns placed in various positions around the flight deck. Her normal complement was 2,461 officers and men and, fully loaded, she weighed 17,859 tons. Ranger had six oil-fed boilers driving two steam turbines that delivered 53,500 shaft horsepower equating to 39,000kW connected to 2 shafts. The final planning decisions required Ranger's fire control system be cut down, ammunition storage space reduced, and torpedo planes would be eliminated along with their torpedoes due to the lack of room for their storage. Dive bomber aircraft would be used instead and on-deck catapults were to be cancelled as were aircraft booms and safety nets. The arresting gear system was reduced. Ranger was originally planned as a 13,800-ton aircraft carrier under the Washington Naval Treaty but she exceeded this by some 700 tons with her final displacement being 17,500 tons at full load. A major change to the design was made in 1932 that added the island superstructure along the starboard side of the deck forward of the three hinged smoke stacks. The hull was 730 feet in length and her flight deck extended her overall length to 769 feet. On September 26, 1931, Ranger's keel was officially laid. Seventeen months later, the ship was launched and she was subsequently commissioned on June 4th, 1934. The first aircraft landed on her deck - this on June 21st, 1934 - was a SBU-1 Biplane fighter piloted by LtCdr A.C. Davis. The Ranger also received Grumman J2F Duck Bi-Seaplanes. Ranger was more or less an experiment for the debate within the Navy Department as to whether carriers should be small or large based on the limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty. The US Navy saw that the Japanese Navy had produced small carriers and thoughts were that smaller US carriers could be used for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), airborne reconnaissance and destruction of enemy shore strong points. However, during operations throughout the 1930s, the outcome prevailed that the US Navy should focus on larger, faster carriers. USS Ranger left Norfolk on June 21st, 1934 for her "shakedown" training cruise with her new crew and air wings. She cruised off the United States Virginia Capes and conducted standard drills for the crew and flight operations for her new squadrons. She continued south to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo, South America. Here she showed the flag and continued training and drills. On October 4th, 1934, she steamed back to Norfolk for the standard dry dock repairs. On April 1st, 1935 she sailed for the Pacific through the Panama Canal and, six days later, and arrived in port at San Diego, California on 15th. San Diego was her first assigned port and, for the next four years, she patrolled up and down the West Coast as far north as Alaska, as far south as Callao, Peru and as far west as Hawaii. She departed San Diego on January 4th, 1939 for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for fleet operations in the Caribbean. After the exercises were completed, she steamed back to Norfolk, arriving on April 20th, 1939. Ranger was then assigned to cruise the eastern seaboard out of Norfolk and into the Caribbean Sea as her normal patrol station. In the fall of 1939, after total war in Europe had broken out, she commenced Neutrality Patrol operations out of Bermuda along the trade routes of the middle Atlantic and up the eastern seaboard to Newfoundland. She was found to be lacking in sea keeping ability for she could not operate aircraft along her decks in heavy weather conditions. On December 7th, 1941, Ranger was returning to Norfolk from a patrol around Trinidad and Tobago when the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor. Ranger arrived at Norfolk on December 8th where she was resupplied and took on normal scheduled personnel replacements. She sailed on the 21st for patrol in the South Atlantic and re-entered the Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs on March 21th 1942. Ranger was one of fourteen US Navy ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 radar system and also took on the new Grumman Wildcat fighter squadrons to replace her outmoded SBD-1 biplanes. Ranger served as flagship of Rear Admiral A. B. Cook, Commander, Carriers, Atlantic Fleet. She was ordered to Quonset Point, Rhode Island and was loaded with sixty-eight US Army Curtiss P-40 Warhawk pursuit fighters along with their pilots and ground crews of the Army's 33d Pursuit Squadron. Ranger put to sea on April 22nd and made landfall on May 10th at Aeera on the Gold Coast of Africa where she launched the Army P-40 squadron. This was the first time US Army planes were launched from a carrier flight deck. She returned to Quonset Point, Rhode Island on May 28th, 1942, and was loaded with seventy-two more Army P-40 pursuit planes, again destined for Aeera, Africa, finally arriving there and launching aircraft on the 19th. Upon returning to Norfolk, she trained with four escort carriers that had been converted from exiting tankers. The escorts had new crews and Ranger gave valuable training on all phases of carrier operations. The escorts were brought online to help in convoy protection in the Atlantic crossing from German Navy attacks. Ranger was the biggest aircraft carrier in Atlantic waters and was assigned four Sangomon-class escort carriers for defence - each fielding 25 to 34 aircraft. This task force was to provide air cover for the upcoming amphibious invasion of German-controlled French Morocco on November 8th, 1942. Ranger and her task force was 30 miles north of Casablanca and launched her aircraft at 0615 hours, attacking Rabat airfields and destroying 21 enemy aircraft on the ground and strafing the French headquarters without any losses. Additional planes from Ranger's force destroyed another seven enemy planes on the Port Lyautey airfield while others strafed four French destroyers in Casablanca Harbor. The operation lasted three days and Ranger's task force launched a total of 496 sorties in support of the three-pronged landing. The French destroyer Albatros was bombed twice on her forward deck area causing 300 casualties. The French cruiser Primaugut was attacked and damaged as she sorted from Casablanca Harbor. Aircraft dropped depth charges on two submarines and destroyed coastal defences and anti-aircraft batteries. Ranger's pilots reported 21 light enemy tanks were attacked with many destroyed along with 86 military vehicles. Overall, Allied planes destroyed 70+ enemy planes on the ground and shot down 15 in aerial combat. Ranger's task force lost 16 aircraft. Casablanca surrendered to the Allied Forces on November 11th, 1942 to which Ranger departed the Moroccan coast the next day and steamed into Norfolk, Virginia on the 23rd. Ranger stayed in the Norfolk Navy Yard for needed repairs and aircraft replacement from December 16th, 1942 to February 7th, 1943. Returning to her ferrying role, she was loaded with seventy-five P-40-L Army pursuit planes headed to Casablanca, Africa, arriving there on February 23th, 1943. Returning to Norfolk, she patrolled the East Coast of America and steamed with the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, Scotland on August 19th, helping to patrol the sea approaches to the British Isles. The new mission was to attack German shipping in Norwegian waters. On October 2nd, she sailed and attacked a small convoy, sinking two ships and damaging a pair of merchantmen in the process. Further combat sorties destroyed a freighter and damaged another two ships. Air combat shot down two German planes with three Ranger Wildcats lost. Ranger and her squadron returned to Scapa Flow on October 6th, 1943 and she patrolled with the Home Fleet once more before reaching Boston on December 4th, 1943. Soon after her return she began training but soon was ordered to Staten Island, New York to pick up seventy-six P-38 fighter aircraft along with US Army and Navy and French Naval personnel. Casablanca, again, was the destination to which she arrived there on May 4th, 1944. After Ranger unloaded her inventory, damaged US Army aircraft were loaded aboard for stateside repairs. Also, a number of military passengers were taken aboard for their return to New York. Arriving at New York on May 16th, Ranger returned to the Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs and new equipment. The flight deck was strengthened for installation of a new catapult and the radar was upgraded. Arresting gear was installed that provided her with a capacity for night fighter interceptor training. On July 11th, 1944 Ranger departed Norfolk for San Diego, arriving there July 25th. She received the men and aircraft of Night Fighting Squadron 102 and a thousand US Marines. Ranger trained in Hawaiian waters for the next three months, conducting night carrier training operations. On October 18th, Ranger departed Pearl Harbor for San Diego to train air groups and squadrons along the California coast until the end of the war. On September 30th, 1945 she steamed for New Orleans for Navy Day scheduled for October 19th to which she then headed for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on November 18th for an overhaul. She was decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on October 18th, 1946, struck from the Navy Register on October 29th, 1946 and sold for scrapping to Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania on January 28th, 1947. During World War 2, US Ranger served mostly in escort carrier roles for convoy escort, aircraft transport and amphibious support for she lacked sufficient speed or capacity to operate as a fleet carrier during her tenure. Of the eight pre-war U.S. aircraft carriers, these being CV-1 through CV-8, USS Ranger was one of only three to survive all of World War 2. The others became the USS Enterprise and the USS Saratoga. The USS Ranger received two battle stars for her service in the conflict and most of her operations were centred in the Atlantic. Departing San Diego on 30 September 1945, she embarked civilian and military passengers at Balboa and then steamed for New Orleans, Louisiana, arriving on 18 October. Following Navy Day celebrations there, she sailed on 30 October for brief operations at Pensacola, Florida as a training carrier, later relieved in that role by Saipan. After calling at Norfolk, she entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 19 November for overhaul. She remained on the eastern seaboard until decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 18 October 1946. Struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 29 October, she was sold for scrap to Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Chester, Pennsylvania on 31 January 1947 The Model It’s great to see Trumpeter continuing to release new ships, and aircraft carriers in particular. Whilst not one of the most famous ships in the US Navy, USS Ranger was still important in her own right, not only being the first US carrier built from the ground up, but also showing that restricting the build to such a relatively small size didn’t really work, especially in the Pacific where the Fleet carriers really came into their own. The kit comes in an attractive top opening box with an artist’s rendition of the ship at sea. In the box there is a protected area which contains the single piece hull moulding, the hanger deck and flight deck. These and ten other sprues are all in a light grey plastic. There are fifteen sprues for the aircraft in a combination of black, grey and clear plastic, along with three etched brass sheets, a large decal sheet and a length of chain. All the plastic parts are beautifully moulded with no sign of flash of other imperfections, but there are quite a few moulding pips. Considering the size of some of the mouldings it’s surprising there aren’t any sink marks, and is a testament to Trumpeters designers and mould makers. From the research I’ve been able to do, online and reference books, the shape of the hull is pretty accurate, as is the bridge structure and flight deck. Construction begins with the hull upside down and the fitting of the propeller shafts, A frame shaft supports, propellers and the single rudder. The hull is then turned upright and the hanger deck glued into place, with three bulkheads glued to the deck around the aft lift well. The side bulkheads are then glued into place around the aft hull, with optionally opened/closed shutters. There are three large intakes either side aft as well as three flight deck supports. Two more bulkheads are fitted around the aft lift well. The six funnels are each assembled from ten plastic and a PE funnel cap. They have been designed to be movable but you could also glue them in the position you want to keep them. Three of the funnel assemblies are then glued into their respective positions on the port side. The foredeck is also fitted at this point and another of the side bulkheads. More sub-assemblies are built up, these include 47 two piece 20mm Oerlikons, six, five piece quad 40mm Bofors, and eight, nine piece 5” mountings. The side bulkheads around the port side forward hull are now glued into position, again with optionally open/closed shutters, but being two and three bay shutters you will have cut them apart if you don’t want them all open. Fifteen, four piece carley float ramps are then assembled, as well as the beautiful PE floatplane handling cranes. These are then glued into position, along with more flightdeck supports bulkhead mounted structures and the railings. The Oerlikon galleries for the port side are then attached amidships and aft, along with the internal lift support columns on the inside of the bulkhead. The starboard side bulkhead is fitted with several platforms and supports before being glued into place. The two main battery directors are each made from four plastic and seven PE parts. The radars array of each needs to be carefully rolled and bent to shape, so pay close attention to the instructions diagram. The bridge is made up from only nine main parts, but is then detailed with two saluting guns, vertical and inclined ladders, the two director assemblies, eight piece mast assembly, two more radars, two PE wind deflectors, and the various railings. The completed assembly is then put to one side. The starboard side funnel position is assembled a fitted to the deck, along with three intakes and the three remaining funnels. These are then followed by the starboard side aft bulkheads being glued into position, along with the flightdeck supports, railings, crane, and Oerlikon galleries. Two, two piece ships boats are then assembled and fitted to their cradles, before being glued into position in the open bays either side of the ship. Two boat booms are then attached; two per side aft, while two bulkhead are glued to the forward hanger area. The Oerlikon galleries are then fitted with the Oerlikon assemblies, along with more railings, the 5” gun platforms and the two accommodation ladders. The stern and quarterdeck is detailed with platform, ventilators, railings, gas bottles, inclined ladders, two Oerlikons and a quad 40mm, while the aft 5” mounts are fitted to their platforms, two per side. Right forward, the 5” mounting platforms are attached, while the complex lattice of the flightdeck support beams are assembled and glued to the centre section of the hanger. The fo’c’sle is fitted with cleats, bollards, capstans, anchor chains, and railings. The anchors are glued into place, as are the 40mm mounting platforms just aft of the 5” platforms. The four flight deck supports are also fitted to the fo’c’sle, as is a Quad 40mm mount, 40mm director platform and a large deck house. The 5” mounts are fitted to their platforms, as are the side mounted quad 40’s and yet more railing. Before the flightdeck is fitted, the lattice structure fore and aft needs to be glued into position as are the foreward Oerlikon galleries. With the deck in place, the Oerlikons are fitted, as are the PE arrester wires, lifts and folding deck flaps for the funnels. Two more quad 40mm mountings are assembled and fitted with the guns, before being fitted fore and aft of the island, which is also glued into place, as is a 40mm director tower, just foreward of the island, completing the ship build. There are however, fifteen aircraft to assemble, five SBD-3 Dauntless, five TBF-1 Avenger, and five F6F-3 Hellcats. Each aircraft is built up much like a larger scale aircraft, with separate fuselage sides, horizontal tailplanes, canopies, cowlings propellers and undercarriage. The F6F and TBF both have the option of folding wings. Note however, that you should research the period for which you are building the Ranger, as early in her career, she didn’t carry torpedo bombers, only dive bombers and fighters. Decals The very large decal sheet, is very well printed. There are a full range of markings for the flightdeck, including the lift surrounds and three dotted lines that extend the full length of the deck. The large flightdeck id numbers are at least the correct colour for the period, being black, whereas in other carrier kits they were white. There are also examples of the Stars and Stripes in wave or straight forms. Each of the aircraft is provided with a full set of national insignia, but no individual squadron codes are provided. The decals look suitably thin, so great care will be needed when laying the flightdeck stripes down, they appear in good register and nicely opaque. Conclusion Well, what can I say, being ex-FAA, I naturally love aircraft carriers, no matter what nation or era, so it’s great to see another one released. Ok, it’s not eh biggest, or the most well known, but this doesn’t make it any less important, particularly for the US fleet. To see the USS Ranger being released in this scale is a joy to see, and something I wouldn’t have thought ever happening in my modelling life. Having pretty much everything in the box, It would be difficult to imagine how the aftermarket companies can improve on the kit, other than some nice detail for the hanger and perhaps some deck handling vehicles. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  19. M31 US Tank Recovery Vehicle 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond by Bachmann The Tank Recovery vehicle, or ARV has been around nearly as long as the Tank has. Ever since WWI when British Mark IV tanks were fitted with jibs to produce salvage tanks the ability to recover and move inoperable tanks has been needed. In WWII the Germans become very adept at ths. WWII was the beginning of the true ARV, these were most often converted tanks which were obsolete. Many would get cranes or jibs to enable lifting operations as well. In more modern times the ARV is a version of the countires Main Battle Tank in order that another vehicle is not used to simplify logistics and repair needs. The M31 was based on the M3 Medium Tank. This was selected as it was still in production, but soon to replaced as the US Main tank by the M4 Sherman. The Tank Recovery Vehicle would be known as the T2. In order to save weight both the main 75mm gun, and the turret mounted 37mm gun were removed, however they were replaced by dummy units, and the front of the 75mm modified to provide a crew access door. The forward 30cal machine gun in the hull was retained, and the turret received a second 30cal on a British designed copula. A Garwood crane would be mounted in the gap left by the 37mm gun on the turret. This could carry 5 tons if countered by the weight of the vehicle alone, or 15 tons of the vehicle was stabilised. For whinching operations a 60,000lbs winch was installed in the crew compartment which could be used from the front or back of the vehicle. In addition it could go out through the turret to the crane. The M31 would make its combat debut with the 1st Armoured Division in Tunisia in 1943. Just over 800 M31s were produced and they would service throughout WWII never managing to get replaced by the later M32 (Based on the M4 Sherman). As well as the crane the M31 was distinguished by the numerous tool boxes on the exterior to carry all of the crews equipment, quite how successful re-tainment of the dummy guns were in obscuring the true identity of the vehicle were is open to question! The Kit There have been two kits released initially, one being the Lee, the other the British specification Grant. Both kits share a core of common parts, which have come over into the M31. This boxing has all the additional parts for the crane and exterior boxes. Inside the box are 11 sprues and two parts in grey styrene, a small clear sprue with headlights, a PE sheet, decal sheet and instruction booklet as mentioned above. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has a rear bulkhead and final drive housing attached at the front. Rollers are fitted into the floor which was where the winch cable comes out. Three stations on each side for the VVSS (vertical volute-sprung suspension) units are added, which each hold a pair of wheels. The drive sprockets are fitted to the front, and idlers at the rear on a trailing arm that is where tension is adjusted on the rear thing. A number of large bolt heads are added to the suspension units, which can be found on the sprue runners and are cut free with a sharp blade to be glued in the noted position on each arm. The tracks are link and length, with a jig supplied for the top run, which has an upward curve at the front as it rides over the drive sprocket. The highly curved areas have individual links supplied, with the diagonals under the drive and idler wheels fitted in short lengths. The tracks fit under the sponson floors, with separate sides added, which have crew hatches cut into the sides for later fitting. The complex angles of the glacis plate and casemate of the dummy 75mm gun is formed over a number of steps, with the roof having a cut-out for the turret. The engine deck is fitted last, and has a choice of pioneer tools and towing cables, which require some holes to be drilled from the inside before fitting. The exhausts and mudflaps are fitted to the rear bulkhead along with a number of panels and towing eyes to the rear, while the bolted glacis flanges are fitted to the front, with the driver's hatch and caged light cluster on the wings. A number of large tool boxes are then constructed and added to the main hull. Rear mounted winch rollers are added along with the surrounds for the associated equipment. Conctruction then moves onto the turret and attached crane. The dummy 37mm gun is attached to the rear of the turret and then the crane made up. As you may expect the crane comes with a fair number of parts all on a new sprue from the original release of the tank. Care is needed to get the myriad of parts in the correct place here. Cable is provided for the crane. The modeller will need to decide if they want the crane in front of the vehicle, or behind as there are 2 different mounting options. Markings There are five markings options spread over the inner cover pages of the instructions. From the box you can build one of the following: 1st Armoured Regiment Service Company, El Guettar, Tunisia, Aprli 1943. 2nd Armoured Division, 2/66th Armour Regiment "Gerogia on my mind", SV38 Operation Huskey, July 1943. Unknown Unit, Theater Issue Depot, Oran Algeria, May 1943. 2nd Armoured Division, 2/66th Armour Regiment "Invader", SV38, France, July 1944. 5th Army, 756th Tank Battalion, SV39, Mt Lungo, Italy, Jan 1944. The decals are printed anonymously, and have generally good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion It is good to see this variant now being issued following the original release from Takom, and that these support vehicles are not being forgotten. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  20. M4A3 Sherman W/T24 “Calliope” Academy 1:35 History The American Sherman tank has to be one of the most famous tanks from World War 2. What a lot of people may not know is that it was once adapted to carry 60 rocket tubes above the turret, a conversion nicknamed the Calliope, after a musical instrument which had similarly arranged pipes. The launcher was developed in 1943 and could fire a barrage of 4.5” M8 rockets. Only small numbers were produced and were used by various US armoured units in 1944-45. The Model The kit comes in a top opening box with an interesting picture of the vehicle firing its rockets, although the effects aren’t particularly well rendered, not that it’s that important. What is important is what’s in the box. There are eleven sprues of bluey grey styrene, a small sheet of etched brass, a pair of vinyl tracks, a piece of string and a small decal sheet. The parts are all well moulded, although the detail is a little soft and perhaps not as effective as some other kits of the Sherman. The provenance of the kit is a little uncertain, but it looks like Academy’s own tool Sherman M4A3 with the rocket launcher parts possibly coming from Italeri. There is no sign of flash or other imperfections on any of the moulded parts and only a few moulding pips. Construction begins with the assembly of the sprocket wheels, each provided as two halves, two piece idler wheels, plus the road wheels, with two piece wheels and two part axle units. The road wheel assemblies are then fitted into the five piece suspension units. The escape hatch and rear track guard sections are fitted to the lower hull, followed by the rear bulkhead, which has been fitted with the exhausts, an access hatch with handle, three piece towing hitch and two small stowage boxes. The idlers and road wheel assemblies are attached to the lower hull, along with the front hull extensions on which the sprocket wheels and their gearbox covers are attached. The drive cover is fitted to the front of the lower hull whilst on the upper hull the bow machine gun, its ball sockets, front headlamps, two lifting eyes and the engine deck hatch with two grille piece are all glued on. The drivers and machine gunners seven part hatches are next, along with the four fuel caps, rear lights and ventilation mushroom. The upper hull is kitted out with the various pioneer tools, front and rear lights, their respective cage guards, the guards being made of either styrene or PE depending on what you prefer, and grab handles. At the rear of the tank the exhaust grille is attached, with the rear mounted covers mounted behind where the idler wheels would be. Above the exhaust shield a four piece storage rack is attached, and another two grab handles fitted to the top of the engine deck. The build then moves onto the main gun and the turret. The main gun is a nicely produced item, moulded as a single piece, with a similarly moulded muzzle attached. The trunnion mount consist of three parts and is fitted to the inside of the inner mantlet, with the outer mantlet covering that. The barrel is then slid into position, being glued to the trunnion mount. The main gun assembly is then attached to the front of the turret, which does as least have some casting texture on it, from the outside, whilst the 30 cal co-axial machine gun is mounted from the inside, with the turret ring glued to the turret base. For the fitting of the rocket launcher legs, you will need to open up the oblong holes on either side of the turret. The commanders cupola hatches are assembled, with the left hand hatch having a periscope fitted from the inside and with a cage guard fitted on the outside. The two hatches are then glued to the cupola which is then glued to the top of the turret. The gunners hatch is also attached, along with the aerial base, which has the option of either a straight or bent version, turret lifting eyes, plus the gunners periscope and guard. The gunners hatch also has a couple of spring like objects fitted and there is a second aerial base fitted to the rear of the turret. The commanders sighting arm is attached in front of his hatch, whilst a searchlight is attached via a PE plate to the base of the main gun. To accommodate the rocket launcher elevation support the gun is fitted with a ring attachment point. The rocket launcher consists of two full width cluster of tubes and four smaller widths. Each sections is made up from two halves with single piece end caps to the rear. Having built the Revel version of this vehicle I found that getting the seams all cleaned up in the bores of each tube was quite difficult. But you can always cover the fronts with a sheet of tarpaulin made form tissue paper and watered down PVA glue. The large rocket tube sections are joined together, as are two pairs of the narrower width tube sections. The launcher frame is made up from four parts, with the front cross member being fitted with the elevation support rod and its attachment block. The launcher side arms are each made up from three parts which are then glued to the side of the turret. The moving gas struts are then slid into position and the attachment plate holds them in place on the side of the rocket tubes. Strangely the is a very nicely detailed M2 50 cal machine gun and mount consisting of fifteen parts included, but this wasn’t normally fitted to a rocket carrying tank, but it can be fitted to one of the options which is carrying the rocket pack. The build is finished off with the vinyl tracks fitted to the lower hull assembly, the upper hull assembly then glued to the lower hull and the slotting into position of the turret/rocket launcher assembly. Decals The small decal sheet is quite well printed, and not as thick as Academy decals used to be. They’re in register and nicely opaque, particularly useful as the stars and other markings are printed in white. There are four stars that have been over-painted in olive drab, although I’m not sure the reason why, they do make for an interesting look. There are markings for three vehicles. Sherman M4A3 Calliope of the US 12th Armoured Division, Fletrange, France, March 1945 Sherman M4A3 Calliope of the 14th Armoured Division, Germany, Early 1945 Sherman M4A3 of the US 95th Infantry Division, Germany, January 1945. Conclusion Ok, this isn’t an uber kit of the Sherman. But it is a great little kit with some nice details, nothing too taxing, which could make for a pleasant break from more complex builds. If it’s anything like the Revell kit, which this does bear a marked similarity to, it will build into a nice looking kit, just right for some heavy weathering. Perhaps one for the weekend? Recommended Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  21. HMS Roberts Trumpeter 1/350 History HMS Roberts was the first of a two ship class of 15” Monitors. Her keel was laid on April 30th 1940 at John Browns shipyard on the Clyde, and was launched on the 1st of February 1941. HMS Roberts was commissioned, six months late, (due mainly to have repairs made good on damage caused during an air raid), on 6th October 1941, she left Clydebank three days later for the Gareloch where she was dry docked in a floating dock brought up specifically for the job, as no other dock was able to accommodate the Roberts extreme beam. Once trials and final adjustments had been completed, it wasn’t until 13th November that she sailed for work up and to prepare for the long voyage out to the Mediterranean via the Cape of Good Hope. She did not arrive at Suez until the 26th February 1942. She remained at Suez, acting as AA guardship, and was anchored about three miles south of the canal entrance. Her radars and AA directors, added to her design during construction, proving particularly useful, although no action was actually seen during this time. In July 1942 she moved down the Red Sea for a few weeks , before she was ordered to sail for an unspecified operation. This operation turned out to be Operation Torch, the landings in North Africa. Throughout the landings she was anchored seven miles off the coast, but didn’t fire a shot as the French fort Sidi Ferruch did not resist the allied troops. The day after the landings she acted as radar guardship, warning of the approach of any German aircraft from the direction of Tunisia. Her AA guns were used against sustained air attacks, particularly from Ju-88s. She continued in this role until the 11th, when she was hit by two 500kg bombs, one hitting the port side sloping armour on the bulge and the other just aft of the funnel. She was immobilised for two days, before repairs were completed to allow her to sail, all the time still under constant air attack. During the operation she had fired off some 30,000 rounds of AA ammunition in less than a week. With the worst of the bomb damage repaired she went back to her duties and AA guardship until finally relieved, sailing for Gibraltar and home, arriving in Liverpool on the 6th January. The rest of 1943 saw the Roberts providing both AA and 15” cover for operations around the Mediterranean including the landings at Salerno, where she bombarded enemy positions from the 9th to the 19th of September on which she sailed back to Malta to replenish her ammunition as she had fired almost her entire complement of 15” shells during the actions off the beaches. April 1944 HMS Roberts found herself back in home waters to work up for Operation Neptune and to carry out practice bombardments on the Kintyre range in company with the other ships of the bombardment fleet. Owing to her slow speed, she had to sail several days in advance of the rest of Force D, arriving at Spithead on the 28th May to await orders for the invasion fleet to sail to France. On the 5th June she sailed as part of convoy S.6, joining up with the other bombardment ships and minesweepers coming from the Clyde. The Roberts anchored in her firing position eleven miles west of LeHavre at 05.20 on the 6th of June 1944, three minutes later she opened fire from about 20,000 yards range on the Houlgate battery, which had four ex-French 155mm guns, ten miles east of Sword beach. A heavy fire was kept up on the enemy batteries until H hour. Roberts fired some twenty seven rounds during this period, but had difficulty in spotting the fall of shot due to enemy smokescreens and the failure of some armoured piercing rounds to explode in the marshy ground. Periodic fire was required throughout the day to silence any batteries that showed signs of interfering with the build up of troops, vehicles and stores on the beachhead. Most batteries though concentrated their fire on the bombardment ships rather than the flimsy landing craft. During the afternoon of D-Day Roberts made a particularly successful shoot on Houlgate, after sixteen rounds, the spotting fighter reported several direct hits and two large explosions. At 21.30 she had just started to fire on a troop concentration inland from Sword beach, when a crash was heard and a large chunk of metal was seen to fly up in front of the bridge. On ceasing fire it was found that the right 15in had burst its jacket. The jacket had split into several pieces without the whole gun bursting, so further damage was prevented by strapping it with wire rope. It wasn’t until after further action off the Seine and on targets around Caen, using only the one good barrel that she finally was sent back to Portsmouth on the 14th June with only 37 of her compliment of 235 15in rounds left and to replace her guns as the remaining barrel was also out of life. One of the replacement guns was No102, which is now to be found outside the Imperial War Museum, London. By the 21st of June Roberts was back on station on the Eastern flank of the beachhead. Up until the final day of the bombardment operation on the 18th July she continued to give covering fire throughout her operational area. To increase the range out to 30,000 yards the monitor was flooded on one side to give a three degree list to give the guns greater elevation. Roberts returned to Portsmouth on the 23rd July for the next ten weeks, to change her guns, again, give leave and repair the wear and tear of six weeks almost continuous bombardment in which she had fired 692 rounds of 15in, of which only about sixty being armoured piercing. Having completed her duties off the French coast, Roberts took part in the commando landings at Flushing and bombarded the gun emplacements around Zeebrugge. This turned out to be the last action HMS Roberts would take part in, as although she was primed at four hours notice to bombard forts on Heligoland, the operations were called off as the German defence of the Reich collapsed, and the ship’s crew celebrated VE day in Portsmouth. Allocated to the Far East Fleet, she sailed to the Mersey for a quick refit before setting sail on the 27th July 1945 bound for the Indian Ocean where she was ordered arrive before the 1st September to acclimatise before operations against Singapore. Fortunately, the dropping of the two atomic bombs precluded they use, yet she and her sister Abercrombie continued to sail Eastwards until the formal Japanese surrender. The order for the two ships to return and reduce to reserve came on the 11th September, by which time the Roberts had reached Kilindini. The Roberts finally arrived at Plymouth on the 22nd November. Whilst her sister didn’t survive long after the war, being reduced to an accommodation ship and turret drill ship in 1946 before being laid up in Fareham Creek in 1953 and scrapped in 1954/55, HMS Roberts survived quite a bit longer. After arriving in Devonport, she stayed there until 1965, being used as a turret drill ship, accommodation ship and even the headquarters of a sailing club. On the 3rd of August 1965 she arrived at the Wards berth in Inverkeithing to be scrapped. This was the end of the Big Gun Monitors in the Royal Navy after nearly 50 years of service. The Model It was a very pleasant surprise to hear of Trumpeter releasing this 1:350 kit as it would be the first time it has been done in this scale as an injection moulding. The only other option has been the fantastic, but rather expensive resin offering from White Ensign Models. Due to one thing and another we didn’t receive the kit for review until very recently, so I was eager to get the box open and see what it was like. The box lid has a nice painting of the Roberts on the gun line of one of its operations. On opening the box the modeller is confronted with seven sprues of light grey styrene, with separate hull halves and main deck. There are also three frets of etched brass, a small stand and an even smaller decal sheet. The mouldings are really nicely done with some fine detail evident throughout the sprues. There are no signs of defects and not that many moulding pips, being only seen on some of the smaller parts. Unfortunately there is quite a big fly in the ointment as, once again, Trumpeter seem to have mucked up the hull, particularly the foreward end of the bulge, which runs to far foreward on each side, to almost underneath the anchors. The whole hull doesn’t appear deep enough either, although the general shape isn’t too bad. The foreward bulge really needs to sanded away, but due to the way it’s indented this would leave a whole that will require sheeting over with plasticard and filler, probably something only the most fastidious modeller would try. Moving on to the build, construction starts with the two hull halves being joined together. Now, there are several large spurs on both hull joints and gunwhales where they have been cut away from the sprues, which have to be carefully removed before joining. Even though the hull is pretty stiff already due to the shape, Trumpeter have provided three bulkheads and two joining pins to give extra strength and also for giving the main deck somewhere to be affixed to. That said, the next step is to fix the main deck to the hull, before being turned over to have the bilge keels attached, followed by the two propeller shafts, a frames, propellers and rudders fitted into their respective positions. With the hull complete, it’s on with a raft of sub-assemblies, including windlasses, air vents, lookout binoculars, and two Type 282 directors. The weapons assemblies are then built up, the octuple and quad pom pom mounts, (the instructions appear to be wrong, in that it tells you to build two octuple mounts and one quad, whereas it should be the other way round), single 40mm mounts, (which weren’t fitted to the Roberts until 1945), include both styrene and etched parts, whereas the four twin 4” turrets and twin 20mm mounts, (only fitted to the Roberts in 1945), are purely styrene in construction. The next batch of sub-assemblies include the Type 284 directors, fitted with etched Yagi aerials, and three different styles of liferafts, stacked in twos and fours. The main 15” turret is made up of the main turret, turret base and a choice of either moveable barrels, without blast bags, or fixed, with blast bags. Putting the sub-assemblies aside, and with the hull the right way up, the breakwater and storage locker are fitted to the foredeck, along with two 40mm gun tubs. Either side of the main barbette the two quad pom pom splinter shields are fitted, whilst further back on each side the splinter shields for the 4” turrets are attached. The many and various ready use lockers, complete with etched doors are fitted in their appropriate positions, followed by the liferaft stacks. The four paravanes, windlasses, fore and aft anchors, plus their anchor chains and more ready use lockers are fitted. The build then moves onto the aft superstructure with the structures of 01 deck being glued onto the bottom structure. The etched vertical ladders are fitted, along with yet more ready use lockers, followed by the Type 284 mounts, octuple pom pom, three 40mm mounts, the emergency steering position and the twin 20mm mounts. The railings around the 02 deck structures are also attached, thoughtfully provided in the kit. Moving foreward the single piece bridge structure, (like a smaller Queen Annes Mansions seen on the likes of HMS Warspite), which is fitted out with the rear upper bridge surround, rear bridge detail plate, ready use lockers, vertical and inclined ladders, chart and wireless offices, lookout binoculars, aldis lamps, main rangefinder and bridge screen. The structure between the bridge and turret barbette is fitted out with two twin 20mm mounts, their ready use lockers and another stack of liferafts. The funnel is moulded in two halves, which, once joined together is topped out with a two piece etched funnel cap and fitted out with a number of steam pipes on the forward face. These assemblies are then attached to the main deck and at last it’s beginning to look like a warship. Before the assembly of the two masts the midships 40mm mounts are fitted in their elevated tubs, whilst either side of the turret barbette, in similar elevated mounts the two Type 282 directors are fitted. More railings around the upper decks can be fitted now, or the modeller may wish to wait till the end of the main build. The mainmast is assembled from a single pole foreward and double pole moulding aft, connected by two Y shaped struts. To the front pole a long vertical etched ladder is affixed. The top of the mast is fitted out with an oblong star platform on which the mast for the aft Type 281aerial is attached, followed by the yardarm, vertical ladder and etched radar aerial which will need some careful folding to keep everything square. The supporting rear poles of the tripod for the foremast are slid into position to the rear of the bridge structure. The fore pole fitted on top of the bridge, with the large starfish platform, (made entirely of etched parts), fixed to the top of the three poles. The spotting top is fitted onto the starfish platform along with the mast and Type 281 aerial as per the mainmast assembly. With the masts fitted into place, the 4”, 15” turrets can be fitted, as are the forward quad pom pom mounts and foredeck mounted 40mm units. Sundry items, such as the foredeck derricks, Jack Staff and Ensign Staff, ships boats, boat booms, accommodation ladders and quarterdeck derricks are attached. Finally the boat davits, acoustic hammer, (actually removed in 1945), hammer derrick and ships railings are fitted, thus completing the build. Decals The small decal sheet provides just two types of White Ensign, one wavy and one straight. Conclusion I really am quite disappointed with this kit. It had so much promise on opening the box, but Trumpeter has once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The hull, especially the extended bulge seems to have been made by the same team that made, and mucked up the same area, that designed their HMS Warspite. That flaw and the fact that the hull appears to be too shallow overall, but mostly under the waterline makes the whole ship look wrong in its proportions. The twin 20mm mounts and single 40mm Bofors, according to my references, were only fitted to the Roberts in 1945, yet the acoustic hammer was removed, (although the derrick was retained), in the refit before sailing to the Far East. If you want to build HMS Roberts as per her time at Salerno or on D-Day, at the very least you will also need to find some single 20mm mounts to replace the 40mm, another Type 282 director and pair of searchlights, which is a shame really, as the boxart shows her during her bombardment of France during D-Day. Recommended with the above caveats. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  22. M3 Lee Early/Grant Medium Tanks 1:35 Takom via Pocketbond The US Army had been remarkably complacent with regard to tank development in the lead-up to WWII, and approached war with precious few that were hopelessly outclassed. This realisation resulted in a frantic clamour to produce a modern tank that could hold its own in combat, with the M3 Lee coming into service as a stop-gap measure within a year of its first design while the M4 Sherman was in development. As a consequence of its rather rushed introduction, it was known to have a number of fairly serious flaws, but it also had some strengths that (at least in part) made up for them. Its high profile and sponson mounted main gun gave the enemy a large target, but when the 75mm main gun was brought to bear on a target, it was surprisingly powerful and effective, gaining a reputation in North Africa. A great many examples were exported to the British and Russian forces in the early stages of WWII, and after the majority of British armour was left on the beaches of Dunkerque, the need became even greater. The British required some changes to improve the vehicle's performance, which most visibly included a new larger turret with a bustle to accommodate radio gear, and a cupola instead of the sub-turret with machine gun mount, which was named the Grant after general Lee's opponent. Due to the pressing need for suitable numbers however, the British did take a number of Lees, and the Soviet Union also took delivery of a substantial number of Lee variants, although some ended up at the bottom of the sea thanks to U-Boat action. The Soviets disliked the Lee intensely and gave it a wide berth wherever they could in favour of the more modern and capable T-34, the production of which ramped up substantially after the initial shock of Barbarossa, which led to its retirement from front-line service by 1943, while the other Allied continued to use them (mainly in Africa) until the end of the war. The Kits There have been two kits released initially, one being the Lee, the other the British specification Grant. Both kits share a core of common parts, which is why I'm reviewing them together. Like the real thing, I'll deal with the Lee first, then note the differences between it and the Grant, with pictures of the common sprues and the individual Grant sprues, as the Lee sprues are effectively a subset of the Grant boxing with one exception in the tracks, but more on that later. Both kits arrive in the same box that shares the tank's feature of having a modest size but higher profile. Sprues are bagged individually, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, decal sheet and a landscape A5 instruction booklet in each box. The box art shows one of the decal options, however some of the glue on the box corners appears to be failing already, so you might want to put a precautionary staple in yours when it arrives to save scattering sprues everywhere at some later point. M3 Lee Medium Tank - Early (2085) Inside the box are ten sprues and two parts in grey styrene, a small clear sprue with headlights, a PE sheet, decal sheet and instruction booklet as mentioned above. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has a rear bulkhead and final drive housing attached at the front, with three stations on each side for the VVSS (vertical volute-sprung suspension) units, which held a pair of wheels each. The drive sprockets are fitted to the front, and idlers at the rear on a trailing arm that is where tension is adjusted on the rear thing. A number of large bolt heads are added to the suspension units, which can be found on the sprue runners and are cut free with a sharp blade to be glued in the noted position on each arm. The tracks are link and length, with a jig supplied for the top run, which has an upward curve at the front as it rides over the drive sprocket. The highly curved areas have individual links supplied, with the diagonals under the drive and idler wheels fitted in short lengths. The tracks fit under the sponson floors, with separate sides added, which have crew hatches cut into the sides for later fitting. The complex angles of the glacis plate and casemate of the 75mm gun are formed over a number of steps, with the roof having a cut-out for the turret and the limited-traverse mantlet of the main gun attached before it is flipped over and fitted to the rest of the hull. The engine deck is fitted last, and has a choice of pioneer tools and towing cables, which require some holes to be drilled from the inside before fitting. The exhausts and mudflaps are fitted to the rear bulkhead along with a number of panels and towing eyes to the rear, while the bolted glacis flanges are fitted to the front, with the driver's hatch and caged light cluster on the wings. The turret has a simple two-part construction, with the mantlet inserted into the lower half, allowing the gun to elevate, while the top machine gun turret actually has more parts, including vision ports, a split hatch, lifting eyes and machine gun barrel. The 37mm gun and coax machine gun are fitted last before the mantlet cover is installed, which makes one wonder what the purpose of the additional machine gun on the top of the turret was when there was already one mounted coaxially. Markings There are four markings options spread over the inner cover pages of the instructions, All of which are in Olive Drab expect for the Soviet option, which is in Russian Green. From the box you can build one of the following: Soviet Union, unknown unit, unknown date, with red star on the turret, and patriotic slogan on the glacis. US 2nd Armoured Division, 1942 with colourful red/white/blue star roundel on the sides, glacis and turret top. Unknown training unit, Desert Warfare Centre USA, 1942 – white star and 16 on turret with yellow band at the bustle. Unknown training unit, Desert Warfare Centre USA, 1942 – White star and yellow band on turret. The decals are printed anonymously, and have generally good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. On my sample the blue centre to the early roundel is slightly offset, but not all that noticeably. M3 Grant Medium Tank (2086) With two addition sprues and one replacement, the build is essentially the same except for the replacement of the smooth track links with treaded plates, with a set of side-skirts and additional stowage on the engine deck setting the hull apart from the earlier Lee. The mudflaps on the Grant are boxed in to reduce dust kick-up in conjunction with the side-skirts, after which the turret is a totally new assembly. Using the same turret ring size as the Lee, the Grant's turret is appreciably larger, although it mounts the same 37mm gun in the same manner as the other, but omits the machine gun turret in favour of a folding hatch in a cupola. It retains the coaxial machine gun and mantlet plate, but goes at least some way toward reducing the profile of the tank in the enemy's sights. it appears on closer inspection that the moulding insert on the cheeks of the turret has not lined up completely, and has left an infinitesmal mark around the port. This should be pretty easy to clean up, just by mimicking the texture with a round burr in your motor tool, and a little judicious sanding. cast armour was never all that cleanly done. Look at the sharpness of the bolt heads below, and the casting numbers on the Lee turret. Crisp! Markings Because the Grant saw service with the British and Commonwealth forces in the deserts of North Africa, the base colour of the tanks were a sandy yellow, with camouflage patches of various shades applied over the top. From the box you can build one of the following: 2/10 Armoured Regiment, 1st Australian Armoured Division – Khaki green camouflage and yellow triangle on the turret. British 7th Armoured Division, 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars, Squadron C, battle of Al-Gazala, 1942 – black camouflage pattern and yellow circle on the turret. 3 RTR north Africa, 1942 – Brown camouflage patches, and Khaki green horizontal surfaces. Montgomery's personal command tank, 8th Army HQ, 1942-3 – Khaki green camouflage. Decals are again anonymously printed, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The denim colour of the Porky Pig emblem is slightly offset on my sample, but as it looks like a highlight, it shouldn't pose much of an issue. Conclusion Whilst the old Academy offering isn't a bad kit and includes a basic interior, it is beginning to look dated to the modern modeller's more demanding eyes, so these new releases should be welcomed, especially as the cast texture on the turrets and various other parts is provided in-box without any messy dabbling on the modeller's part with noxious solvents and tools. The lack of interior will hardly bother many, as a lot of models are built with their hatches closed up, or with crew figures to give the vehicle a sense of scale. Detail is excellent, and with a number of other variants including a recovery vehicle forthcoming, Grant/Lee aficionados will be pleased. The Priest also shares the same basic chassis, so perhaps we might see a new tooling of this in due course? Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  23. Ukraine KRAZ-6446 Tractor 1:35 Takom The KrAZ 6446 is a Ukrainian designed and built heavy-duty semi-tractor with three axles used locally as well as other Eastern European countries in both military and civilian form. In military guise it is used in conjunction with the catchily named ChMZAP-5247G semi-trailer, allowing it to carry heavy vehicles with a towing load weight of 11.4 tonnes. It is powered by a turbocharged diesel engine that outputs a surprisingly low 330hp, but thanks to its gearing is still able to cope with off-road travel thanks in part to the 6-wheels on the tractor, and a further eight in pairs on the trailer, all of which are shod with an aggressive tread patterned balloon tyre. The trailer is also used with other vehicles, and has substantial loading ramps at the rear to cope with the weight of armoured vehicles clambering aboard over the rear axles and onto the dropped load area, which helps to reduce overall height. The Kit This is possibly Takom's largest issue to date, and was released along with the very similar KrAZ 260 (reviewed here). The box is substantially bigger however due to the inclusion of its trailer, and everything is moulded in the by now usual Takom style with plenty of detail, judicious use of slide moulding, and their useful punched-out sprue marker tags (I do love them so!). The box is pretty full, sporting nine large sand coloured sprues, plus two trailer chassis pieces in the same colour, seventeen soft styrene wheels in black, a clear sprue, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, decal sheet, instruction manual and two pages of separately printed full colour painting and decaling instructions. There is a length of copper wire noted in the instructions, but my review sample didn't seem to have one in, or I lost it before I noticed it. Not to worry – I'll find some from somewhere else. The first thing of note is that this kit shares five sprues with the KrAZ 260 that we reviewed here, plus the clear sprue, one of the PE frets, and eight of the wheels. It seems that there are more variants afoot, so expect to see some more big Ukrainian trucks with commonality of parts in the near future. At the front of the instruction booklet, a Mr Ernest Beck gets some sincere thanks from the designers at Takom for his assistance with the project, which is nice to see. Construction begins with the ladder chassis of the trailer, which is just over 12" long even before you add the A-frame and fold-down ramps at the rear. The underside part has the vertical sides moulded-in, and after some smaller constructional parts are added, the top deck is installed along with some of the copper wire that you cut and bend to a template. PE upstands that prevent the load from slipping sideways are added to the inside edge of each runway, with strengthening plates added from more PE. The two sturdy ramps have four verticals each for strength, with a single top-section, and a small flat panel as the "foot", back plate, control box and grab handles for manual handling. A pair of decals are supplied for the ends with chevrons, and their hinges are made up in such a way that they should remain mobile if you're careful with the glue. They fit to the rear of the deck on the round-down behind the back axles, as you'd expect. The A-frame that carries the fifth-wheel is made up next with a top panel that has supports added to the underside, and two huge curved girders attaching to the sides, the front of which is boxed in to accept the articulation gear later. First the frame is finished off with small parts, mud-guards, and support legs to prop the nose up when uncoupled. The finished article is fitted to the main bed later in the build, held in place by substantial slots and tabs, plus two large diagonal webs that should prevent any problems once it is loaded with your choice of AFV. The rear axles are paired up one each side, with a wheel either side of the large suspension unit. The back hubs of the wheels are attached first with a locking pin, with one of the rubber tyres (type B – to avoid confusion) slipped over the axle body, and trapped in place with the front of the hub, which is made from three parts for extra detail. Moulding of the tyres is nicely done with plenty of tread detail, and they have a quite realistic drab grey/black colour that could pass muster as a new tyre without any paint. The completed axles are added to their attachment points under the rear of the load bed at the same time as the lower halves of the front props, which are large as you could imagine. Two spares tyres are supplied with hubs and clamps, both of which are added to the top of the A-frame near the fifth-wheel. Moving to the tractor part of the kit, the engine is built up from a substantial number of parts that results in a fine basis for painting & detailing with wires & so forth, and it is soon installed between the two main chassis members, which have to be cut down slightly to fit this variant. A scrap diagram shows the correct cut-point, which coincides with a vertical flange, so clean-up will be a doddle. The two-part radiator core sits right at the front on a couple of mounting pegs, while the engine has two extra cylindrical pegs added to suspend it from the chassis. At the rear of the chassis a linking girder is added, which has a cut-out in the top to allow the drive-shafts top pass through. The front axle is then made up, has its leaf-springs pinned in place by a pair of long C-shaped clamps just like the real thing, and the hubs are added to the ends, which consist of a surprising six parts each, two of which remain unglued (you hope!) to allow the wheels to turn. This assembly is then added to the bottom of the chassis below the engine with some control linkages and a towing beam installed under the radiator. A transmission box is placed on mounts within the chassis behind the engine, with a drive-shaft into the rear of the engine, and another providing drive to the front axle. Turning the chassis over you're tasked with filling in a quartet of cut-outs that are only used for another variant, after which a large curved beam is added aft of the engine block. The rear axles are large, and their bodies are split horizontally, due to them having a large flat riveted section on the top to which the transmission boxes and drive-shafts attach. The assembly begins on a large bogie to which deep leaf-springs are pinned, plus various additional small parts and damper rods that link the bogie to the tops of the axles by large mounts. Simpler three-part hubs are added to each axle end, and the whole assembly is added to the rear of the chassis with a long drive-shaft that enters the back of the first transmission box, plus another pair of dampers linking the axles to the chassis cross-member. Another cross-member is added at the back to take the rear towing hook, and this is first reduced in height by a third to fit into the shortened chassis. Fuel tanks, stowage and tool boxes, plus a large frame for a spare wheel are added, along with a number of smaller boxes and tanks, after which the fifth-wheel assembly is mounted to the chassis, and mud-guards with their tubular mounting frames are installed over the rear wheels. The cab starts with the front firewall and windscreen frame, to which are added the two panes of the screen and separate windscreen wipers. The simple dash with instrument panel (with decals) and steering wheel slot inside, and a simple pedal box is added to a groove in the footwell. The rear of the cab has an oval-cornered rectangular window added before the two ends are joined with the doors, which can't be posed open because of their structural nature. They do however have nicely detailed door cards and window panes added to them before they are closed up forever. The roof and a small searchlight should firm up the shape, and a pair of tiny bumps are cut off a portion of the sprue and added the valance in front of the windscreen to portray cleaning water jets, which were perhaps an omission noticed on the original parts at the last minute. The inside of the cab is built up on the floor panel, which also projects into the engine compartment to form its curved lower sides. You might want to paint it the same colour as the engine bay in that case, and give it a dose of weathering. The passengers get a simple bench seat on a raised platform, but the driver gets a very fancy mount that consists of eight parts (plus seat) to keep him insulated from the movement of the chassis over rough ground. Each seat is made from two parts, and have horizontal lines moulded in that will scream "vinyl seats" to anyone over a certain age. This is then covered over by the cab body, and has handles and wing-mirrors added. Thinking of which, there doesn't seem to be a rear view mirror in the cab, but I can't see one in any of the photos I've seen. The engine compartment is shown built up separately from the cab, and there doesn't seem to be much chance of avoiding this, so placing it on the chassis with the cab before the glue cures would be wise. The grille has a small PE centre strut added inside, and the two side panels fit on lugs, with another layer (the opening part) added above. The bonnet/hood is then added to the top, and the two fenders for the front wheel fit on lugs at the bottom. Indicators/blinkers are added to the fenders, and a pull-handle is added to the bonnet just under the company logo at the front, which reads KPA3 to a non-Russian speaker like me. A pair of PE mudguards are installed to the rear of each fender, and this and the cab body are added to the model. The front bumper has a PE treadplate section folded and added atop it, plus clear repeaters on the sides, and headlamp lenses at the front. The final act involves making up seven wheels from type A tyres and two hub-halves, installing six of them on the axles, and adding the last one to the cage on the right hand behind the cab. Clip the two assemblies together, and you have your finished model that is now crying out for some cargo. Markings The painting and decaling instructions are on separate sheets, as previously mentioned, with the profiles provided by Mig Jiminez's new company AMMO. There are three schemes for the tractor, but only one for the trailer, which is Russian Green. Colour call-outs are in AMMO paint codes, as expected, although some mixing is requires on one scheme. Decals are few, consisting of number plates for the three colour choices, plus the aforementioned instrument decals and chevron warning patches for the ramps. They are well-printed with close-fitting satin carrier film, good register and colour density. Conclusion If you're a fan of Soviet armour, or just like tank transporters, this will probably appeal to you. It's a really nicely done kit, and once finished will take up an impressive amount of space in your cabinet, but with the addition of an AFV on board, it will look great. Good work from Takom. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  24. Mike

    FV432 Mk.3 Bulldog 1:35

    FV432 Mk.3 Bulldog 1:35 Takom Dating back to the 1960, the design for this British front-line "battle taxi" has undergone many changes over the years, and many British Army soldiers will be hugely familiar with this robust, quirky little vehicle. Originally to have been declared obsolete and sent to the scrapyard or into private hands, the eruption of hostilities in the Middle East saw renewed use for the 432, and in light of experience gained in that theatre, a thousand chassis were upgraded and zero-houred to the new Mark 3 standard, including new steering, braking and propulsion systems, as well as reactive armour and even air-conditioning units for those bound for the sandbox were fitted. In addition, new systems were employed to protect the crew and passengers from the perils of asymmetric combat, in the shape of IEDs and RPGs. Along with a number of other vehicles in theatre, perhaps in a psy-ops style attempt to give the 432 some "fear factor", the upgraded vehicles were christened "Bulldog" to represent their pugnacious character and their by-now broad beam. A heavily modified 432 (probably one of those sold off before the need arose) was seen performing duties as a Hover Tank in the new Star Wars film, Rogue One. The Kit Lots of British AFV fans were very pleased about Takom's announcement of a new series of models of this iconic and popular vehicle, which allowed them to push their ancient and iffy Academy kits to the back of the shelf, or offload them to a well-known auction site. This is the second issue from Takom, the first being the 2/1 that came with a full interior, which we sadly missed due to unforeseen circumstances. The Bulldog boxing is a substantially new issue due to the massive differences between the kits, and as we've not yet reviewed its stablemate, we'll start at the very beginning. The box is the now traditional Takom style with separate lid, and individually bagged sprues (with the exception of the multiple sprues) inside, which are resealable if you're one of those folks that like to rebag your sprues after fondling them (you wierdos!). In addition to the ten grey sprues and two hull halves, there is a sprue of clear parts, a small Photo-Etch (PE) fret, a decal sheet, a track jig, and the instructions with integrated painting and markings guide. Not unusually, construction begins with the lower hull and the many suspension parts being added, lined up using the holes in the track jig mentioned above. This is repeated both sides, and the twelve road wheels and two drive sprockets are made up in readiness. The sprocket and one road wheel are placed in the jig and are dressed with the link and length tracks, with two being needed, so a bit of a delay will be necessary to allow the first run to set up before you can start the second. Scrap diagrams show how the finished article should look from both sides, and above the sponson floor the sidewalls are fitted, with a number of mounts moulded-in to accept the stand-off reactive armour. The exhaust is directed along the left side and exits at deck height toward the rear of the vehicle, which is also added at this time. Large stowage boxes fit either side of the wide rear door, and a number of small holes are drilled out in preparation for the fitting of detailing parts. The separate sponson rear ends have long mudflaps added from PE, and the door is made up with ammo boxes fitted to the inside, plus handle and number plate on the outside. The glacis plate has a change of angle around half way up, and is built from two sections to accommodate this (the upper section moulded into the deck), with ERA blocks fitted to the fixed section and slat armour added over the hatch on the lower section. More slat armour panels are fitted below the nose, with light clusters and sensor boxes for good measure. The deck is full of holes at this point, but has pioneer tools and copious smoke grenade launchers installed before attachment to the model, which first needs the outer shell constructing before fitting. Engine ventilation covers are added to the right side of the hull, and are immediately covered by the outer hull panel and its appliqué armour, which has a separate top panel for preservation of detail. This is repeated on the other side, allowing the fitment of the glacis and deck panels, which are detailed with the hatches and grilles to fill all those holes bar the main "turret ring" at the rear, and the commander's cupola, which is added later with clear vision blocks. Additional slat-armour corner parts are inserted in the gaps to protect those areas, and this is repeated at the rear, with the air conditioning box perched on the very back of the deck, overhanging the rear door and decked with aerials and jammer antennae. The rear of the vehicle has a complicated set of slat armour panels that allow the rear door to operate, with bracing struts preventing strumming over rough ground. More sensors, antennae, the rear clamshell top hatch, and the large crew station are built and added, the latter made from a substantial number of parts, which provides more than adequate protection for the top cover man, with shields and armoured glazing all around his GPMG station, which can also be operated remotely from inside thanks to the TV box on the opposite side of the mount to the ammo can. Markings Takom and Ammo hooked up to do the colour and markings options fairly early on, and this carries on in the back pages of the instruction booklet. There are three decal options, all of which are applied over a sand yellow base, with little to differentiate other than the weapons fit and unit markings. From the box you can build one of the following: 1st Battalion Scots Guards Reconnaissance Platoon, Operation Telic, Southern Iraq, January 2008 – Yellow 12 marking on rear and unshrouded GPMG on the upper deck. 1st Battalion Scots Guards Reconnaissance Platoon, Operation Telic, Southern Iraq, January 2008 – Rob Roy on sides, shrouded GPMG on the cupola. 1st Battalion Scots Guards Reconnaissance Platoon, Operation Telic, Southern Iraq, January 2008 – Robert Bruce on sides, and unshrouded GPMG on the upper deck. The decals are printed anonymously, and due to their simplicity there is little need for register (which seems good anyway), with the lighter colours appearing suitably dense. There is a tiny amount of over-printing of the yellow around the white backing, but that should disappear on a sand coloured backdrop. A little variation in units would have been nice to see, but as there's not much in the way of decals anyway, it wouldn't be too hard to build your own choice of subject, taking note of the personalisations to the vehicles. Conclusion The FV432 is long overdue in 1:35, and this seems to hit the spot. If you've spent a lot of time around these vehicles as some of my friends have, you'll be bound to pick up some things that might need attention, but for the majority of us (self included), this is a welcome addition to Takom's increasing armour range. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  25. Shar2

    IDF Tiran 4. 1:35

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