Wednesday, 4 April 2018

A not so passive pacific

The United States fought the Third Reich during World War II but also another powerful force of it's day; The Japanese Empire. This foo from the other side the pacific ocean attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor in 1941 destroying a large part is the Pacific Fleet. This was, as far as I could tell, a preemptive strike to make sure the US would not interfere with Japans annexation of territory in Asia. The opposite was the result however, the US declared war on the Japanese Empire and entered WWII. This was already predicted by the Japanese admiral. It took slightly over four years and countless lives to end the war. However, the US and Japan have been close allies ever since. A lot of fighting in the PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations) took place from ships or on Islands. Aircraft carriers played a central roll all throughout the war in the pacific as did there aircraft. Both navies had a fast number of different aircraft operating from their carriers. Among these the A6M2 Zero Fighter (Japan) and FM-2 Wildcat (US).

The Sweet models

The Japanese manufacturer 'Sweet' makes a whole series of these planes in 1/144 scale but issue 11410 and 14109 have a carrier deck included. The Wildcat also includes a crew made out of..... cats! Both aircraft are made out of about 15 parts. The deck that comes with the Zero is very large and a aircraft lift in also placed in it. This lift can be constructed slightly below deck level indicating it is a lift. The deck of the Wildcat is a single piece. Although the pictures on the box are cartonish, the models are accurate representations of the real aircraft. The fit of the parts is perfect and special care is taken you won't get similar parts like the aft wings on in the position. Only the cockpits are lacking detail so I placed a seat in there made from pieces of a tin can myself. They can't be seen on the photo's but not putting them there leaves a noticeable hole in the cockpit.

The photo's:

More photo's, the one the air craft with some of there contemporaries and the second one with there present day successors:

Both models are recommended although it is a but frustrating to make a tiny seat. The addition of carrier deck is a very nice bonus.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A foo from below: The ZSU 23-4 Shilka

The ZSU 23-4 'Shilka'



During the late 1940's and early 1950's more and more aircraft became jet powered enabling them to fly faster. Mechanically aimed anti-aircraft guns started to become ineffective. Missiles are often used for air defense but in the middle of the last century this was mainly for long to mid-ranges. For the short range radar aimed anti-aircraft guns where developed or SPAAG's where developed. The ZSU 23-4 Shilka is the Sovjet variant of such a weapon. The ZSU 23-4 was introduced in 1962 and has been used all over the world. It proved to be effective not only against the low flying aircraft it was designed to shoot down but also in mountain combat. The Wikipedia page contains some information on problems with the targeting computer but that computer is made from axles and vacuum tubes so I'm not sure how relevant that is today since many armies have done upgrades, such as with this Polish version. Given that this weapon has been used all over the world for over half a century a lot of different colors and patterns are available. The radar can be lowered so it is not visible on all pictures. The Tunguska Anti-Aircraft system is it's successor.

The 1/100 Zvezda model



There are no plastic models in 1/72 available of the Shilka, Armo made a resin model. In 1/35 only dragon had a model. In 2017 both Meng and Hong Model released their products in 1/35. Luckily for small scale fans Zvezda released a 1/100 scale variant as part of their modern wargaming series. I build this model and it is really very, very good. It is made in such a way no glue is needed. I did glue all the parts and only on one or two places of the turret I really needed glue to get the parts to fit perfect. A generic sheet with decals is provided but I didn't use these. It is truly amazing how much detail Zvezda crammed in this little model using about 30 parts. Even the unditching log on the back looks like a real piece of wood. On to the pictures since the speak the most.

Like all their 1/100 kits of modern vehicles the ZSU 23-4 Shilka retails for about €7,50 which is well worth it. Highly recommended, for beginners also. If you really want a 1/72 model you need to find the ARMO resin kit or a ready made model for collectors from Fabbri for example.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Communist commercial succes (Revell 03306 T-55 AM / AM2B

The T-55 is the most produced tank in world history with about 85.000 vehicles build until to today. The T-55 is the culmination of tank development between 1945 and 1958. It's a sort of 'cold war T-34'. Reliable, cheap and produced in large numbers. The T-55 is still in use in many countries in the world. It's principal successor is the T-72. The basic design has been updated and modified, the Finish Army even as 6 T-55 with a British Marksman turret installed om to top as an anti-aircraft weapon, that's just totally crazy! Follow the link to tanks-encyclopedia or wikipedia to read more. The T-55AM2B is a modernized East-German design. On prime portal there is a 'Walk around' series of photo's of the T-55AM2B.


A Sri-Lankan T-55AM2B. Image form Wikipedia

Several photo's my by myself of tank with pieces cut away. This particular vehicle was used at a tank school. It usually resides at the Panzer Museum in Munster (not the famous Münster, that is an entirely different place) but these photo's where taken in Soesterberg where it was on display in 2017.

The Revell model


In 1/72 there was not a lot of choice for modelers wanting to build a T-55. PST from Belarus has several models but these can be hard to come by. In 2016 Revell released a model of the 'basic' T-55A (Kit. No. 03304) and last year (2017) a model of the T-55 AM2B (Kit. No. 03306). This is a very, very good model. It is classified as 'skill level 4' and has somewhat fewer parts compared to most other 1/72 tanks from Revell. You can build 2 Russian, a German or a Hungarian version. All country versions are different from each other, the largest differences being the turret roof and infrared camera. There are two points that require some extra attention. The first point is the attachment of the tow cable on the front. You have to bend the tow cable in place. The plastic is quite thin so I hoped I could bend it after the cable was attached to the tank and the glue would hold in place. Unfortunately that doesn't work as the part is to stiff so it snapped. heating the part a bit in hot water and pre-bend it is necessary. The cable is carefully molded and looks and fits perfect otherwise. This is the first plastic cable I used since i can remember. The German/Hungarian style infrared camera is a polygon shaped piece and consists out of a upper and lower half. There is a noticeable gap after gluing which needs to be filled. This gap is in a recess that is a genuine part of the camera so filling in and sanding away extra filler can be difficult. The Russian version doesn't have this issue as it has a different type of camera. The handle bars on the square box in the turret are a bit co thick so the perfectionist might wants to replace these with metal wire.
These are things to take into consideration when building. The kit itself is simple perfect. The rubber side skirts are thinned out, the wheels look fantastic, the tracks fit perfect on this one. (I also build the T-55A version and there I had very minor fit issue which must be due to myself but I'm not sure what went wrong so do pay attention here). The characteristic track sag is beautifully molded as are the fuel tanks, infrared equipment, wind sensor, applique armor and all other parts. The rear fuel drums are molded in two halves and one half is already molded on the rear of the tank. I recommend first building these drums and then attaching the rear of the hull.

The photo's:

This is pretty much a perfect model kit. It just doesn't get much better detail and fit wise in a plastic kit. Only the previously mentioned handle bars are a bit thick but they can't be made thinner in plastic without a big change of breaking when the part is released from the mold. The assembly is easy, the part count not to large so apart from little children everyone should be able to make something nice out of this kit.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

New for 2018

Happy new year all! 2018 has arrived so let's see if their is news about upcomming releases this years. More and more companies are using the strategy of announcing new releases all year round when the models are ready to appear on the market. That prevents disappointment when a release is rescheduled and possibly stops competition from entering the market with a similar item just before you release it. But there are still companies daring to announce up to a year (or two in the case of Trumpeter) what their plans are.

Revell


Revell's releases for the first quarter are already known sometime now but information about the later releases is now also known. Source I QI, soucre II QI Source I rest of 2018, source II rest of 2018.
Just released at the end of 2017 are in 1/72 the M2/M3 Bradley (Kit. No. 03143) this the first version of the Bradley IFV to see service and the model is a re-release. An other re-release is the Challenger I in 1/76 scale (Kit. No. 03308) this is a re-release of an old matchbox kit and includes a simple diorama base and rubber band tracks. The genuine 1/72 version with link & length tracks is also still available (kit. No. 03183) so be sure to get your preferred scale right.

For 2018 the following releases are planned:
1/72 Armour

  • 03265 M109 howitser US version. This is the early short barreled version. Expected in April.
  • 03262 Pz. Kfw. VI Tiger I H (re-release, January)
  • 03263 Sd.Kfz. 7 Late version (re-release plus some new parts, February)
  • 03264 SWS with 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 (probably an ex-MACO kit, March)
  • 03266 Pz. Kfw. II Ausf. L 'Luchs' (probably an ex-MACO kit, June)
  • 03267 Pz. Kfw. IV 'Wirbelwind' (probably an ex-MACO kit, July)
  • 03268 German staff car G4 (upcoming ICM kit in a Revell box, August)
  • 03269 JS-2 (Existing Zvezda kit in a Revell box, August)
Not so much in the planning for modern armor fans this year but the last few years where good with the Leopard II variants, the T-55, M-109 and T-90. Maybe a (re)-release in modern armor will be made in the last quarter of 2018.

Other noticeable releases
Other releases announced that caught my eye are: Kit. No. 06767, 06768, 06769. Undisclosed releases linked to the STAR WARS 'Han Solo' themed film to be released in December of this year. In the new 'Technic series' a few releases of existing models but now with electronics for sounds, motors and light. The 1/32 scale Ju-88, the 1/16 scale VW 'Beetle' and the 1/72 scale Flower Class Corvette. In 1/144 scale the Antonov An-225 Mrija is announced, it must be an massive kit in even 1/144 scale. In 1/16 scale ICM's figures are released in a Revell box and the SWAT team member and SWAT team officer. In 1/72 the OV-10a Bronco is a fun release, this a Academy model in a Revell box. Finally 1/24 scale the Unimog road cleaner with snow plow and slat distribution system is re-released. A nice choice since these can be seen in many parts of Europe during the autumn and winter months.

Trumpeter


Trumpeter certainly wasn't disappointing in 2017 with releases such as the Js-7, SAM 6, the CHTZS-65 and Komintern artillery tracktors, Js-4 and M1117 ASV. Also two versions of the T-72 in 1/16th scale and a M1A1 AIM Abrams in the same scale. Trumpeter also introduced rolled out their new technique to make tracks with a minimum of parts and a maximum of detail in big a fashion. New in 2017 where also the World Of Tanks themed releases with prototypes or planned but never build tanks. Planning to keep up the pace in 2018 Trumpeter announced a series of T-62 variants, T-80 variants, SU-152 variants but also a riveted and welded version of the interbellum T-28. In the World of Tanks series mainly german WWII with bigger guns are planned. The whole catalogue can be viewed here.

All in all I have the idea there are fewer releases announced for modern armor fans then in 2017 and 2017, but that finally gives a change to catch up on the stuff and build i because I feel I pilled under the spectacular releases from the last few years.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

To the Skies! With the S-300 Air Defense System

The S-300 Air Defence System (NATO code name SA-10 Grumble)


The S-300 or SA-10 Grumble is a Russian Air Defense System. What the system is precisely made out of depends on the operator but usually there is an acquisition radar, antenna, communications station, missile launch system and of course the missile itself. In case of the S-300 it a very successful system not only against aircraft but also against cruise and ballistic missiles. The big question/challenge these days is can it work against stealth aircraft? Shooting down a fighter or bomber aircraft is very difficult because they are fast, agile and in case of stealth aircraft also difficult to track down. All parts of the S-300 system are made in a mobile version, so it doesn't require large radars in fixed positions that can easily be taken out. In the video below the deployment of the system. The missile's are first popped out of there transport and launch tube's and then ignited. Igniting them in the tube itself will melt the tube. Note the different radars and launch vehicles used.

A small film on how to attack an Air Defense System. It clearly shows that just having the best system, aircraft, radar or whatever in it self doesn't count. All parts have to cooperate in a very good manor to make an air strike or the defense against it succeed.

The PST kits


Several parts of the system have been recreated in 1/72 scale by PST and recently by Modelcollect also. PST created the following kits, all based on the MAZ truck:
  • 72050: 5P85S, the 'smart' or 'master' launcher system (TEL). The construction behind the driver cabin houses a receiver for signals from the command center and a broadcaster to pass these signals on to other launchers and missiles.
  • 72055: 5P85D, the 'dum' or 'slave' launcher system (TEL). This is the same vehicle as the 5P85S but it doesn't have a receiver and electronics to communicate with the command center. It receives signals from the smart launcher and passes them on the the missile.
  • 72060: The radar, mounted on the MAZ truck as well.
  • 72070: 15V148 commandpost
I build the 5P85S 'Smart Tel'. PST is a Belarussian company and I don't know when these kits are originally released but the parts don't look very impressive at first sight. The chassis of the truck is somewhat simplified, much to my relief since putting together 100 parts which won't be seen is not really my cup of tea. The construction used to hold the four launch tubes is somewhat bulky compared to the real thing but only the underside will be seen when the model is constructed in launch mode. In transport mode only the back of it is visible which has the right detail. The piston used to push up the launch tubes doesn't completely fit in it's housing but this is easily resolved by drilling the housing out a bit more. The part van also be omitted when making the model in transport mode since it is invisible then. The most difficult thing to correct is the fact that the launch tubes are all split into two halves but they don't match up at the 2nd and 3trd rim as counted from above. I decided to leave it as it was. An other issue easily resolved is the fact that the fenders have a recess for the stabilizers which don't match up precisely. The fenders are molded with a 'horizontal' surface as well. It isn't there in reality but probably added to make the model stronger. It is strong enough without these surfaces so I removed these. It also gives the model a more realistic look. It is the shaded area in the picture below that can be removed:

Strong points of this model kit are the inclusion of a sprue with clear parts, not only for the windows but also headlights, a full in complement of missiles and a good fit of parts. On my model the drivers cabin doesn't sit quite right but I think it because I misaligned the right side of the cabin. The model has 100 parts for the truck, an additional 40 for the wheels and 60 for the launch tubes and missiles so that is quite an impressive part count. The wheels appear to be a bit bulbous and seem to have a simplified thread pattern but this is mostly authentic actually.
This specific launcher is used by a myriad of countries around the world for 3 decades so there is a large variety of colors to choose from. Here are some examples:

I chose a elaborate scheme from a Slovakian vehicle for my model:


This kit is priced at the same price as the recent Modelcollect offerings so I think most modelers will go for that kit. For it's time it is probably a good kit and it still looks quite good for today's standards. I had a lot of fun building it, several things of what I thought where simplifications turned out to be right when I saw the video of the S-300 launch.