Saturday, 6 May 2017

A samurai army

Zvezda always had several sets of samurai in there catalog. In the last years they released new sets of samurai figures in hard plastic made from several parts. These figures are of a stunning quality and sold in (very) small boxes with about 5 figures on foot or 2 when it is a set of mounted figures. The following sets are available: 6401 Ashigaru-Yari, 6402 Ashigaru-Arquebus, 6404 Samurai Archers, 6405 Samurai No Dati, 6406 Ninja, 6411 Samurai Commanders, 6414 Ashigaru Archers, 6415 Peasants with Ammo supply, 6416 Mounted Samurai Archers. Like the previous sets these are samurai from the Sengoku or 'warring states' period 1500/1600. The samurai had reached the top of the societal ladder. There armies increasingly included a large number of warriors of lower status or 'foot warriors' these are the Ashigaru. There armor was mass produced, an army could include no less then 100.000 Ashigaru. I made a 'symbolic' army with a command unit (6411), cavalry, foot warriors (6401), archers (6414), logistics support (6415). One of the commanders is the 'hero unit' or special forces. I found buying a set of ninja's gave a relative to large section of special forces. There is one thing to take in consideration when building these figures: They can be assembled without glue, in order to get a tight fit between the parts the pegs are slighty larger then the holes. The plastic can split when you assemble the figur, especially when yu use glue aswell because the glue softens the plastic before evaporating. I trimmed the pegs down and glued the figures. The pictures, the fact that every unit has an individual flag on it's back give the army a very busy look:

The army:

The ashigaru with bow, yari and logistic support forming the backbone of the army:

The command unit:

In red the hero/special forces (This figure is from the commander set):

The cavalry:

I think it is great Zvezda makes these sets of hard plastic figures. They are easy to assemble and have great detail because the whole figure doesn't have to be releasable by a mold at once. Releasing multiple, very cheap sets with very specific figures is a interesting concept too. It makes it easy to build large army with specific ratio's of units (relatively lot of infantry just to name an example) when you play to Zvezda wargame but doesn't leave you with a lot of unused figures. I especially like many different kinds of 'special units' such as ninja and peasant support, there equivalents from other armies are hard if not impossible to find. Every set comes with a tactical cards, flags, individual bases and an extra base for the whole unit. At just €3,50 the sets are very cheap. Building an army as I did is slightly more expensive then buying two sets (cavalry and infantry) of 'normal' figures. the fact that you have a proper command unit and a support unit make it worth while however. Zvezda makes these smaller sets also with Napoloanic, WII and modern soldiers. The WII range is by far the most elaborated.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Trumpeter AS-90

The AS-90

The AS-90 is build as a replacement of the M109 howitzer (also) used by the British army until the 90's. With it's 45 tons it is much heavier then the 23-ton M109 but considerably lighter then the 60 ton PZH2000. The gun has many automatic features to get the shells on target but is less advanced as the PZH2000. Almost 180 vehicles have been build for the British army and 120 turrets are being build for the Polish Army. These will be mated to a K9 Thunder chassis ad hull build in Korea.

The Trumpeter model

In cooperation with Pit Road Trumpeter produced a model of the AS-90 (Kit. No. 07221)and it is the only one available in 1/72. It is a model with a medium part count and is one of Trumpeters earlier releases. There are some impressive large slide molded parts in the box such as the turret, upper and lower hull. These parts do have mold seams running over the in 'unconventional' places due the to way the slide mold is build up. The mold seams are not very prominent so take a good look when sanding the turret clean. The towing cables are provided as lengths of wire. The tracks are link 7 length but they are slightly to wide to fit in the drive sprocket and hull so I ended up bending the long upper and lower parts around all wheels like the tracks of Revell's Leopard II A6 are intended to be used. A part you might want to a just is the rack on the top of the turret which has a solid engraved filling where there is mesh in reality. This can't be molded in plastic and I covered it up with a piece of cloth on my model. All hatches can be made open but the crewmen featured on the box are not included. The AS-90 has been painted in a ocker-green, all ocker, all green and black-green camouflage so there is quite some choice for colors. On to the photo's, the inside of the AS-90 is large and the plastic inside can't be seen usually but it is see-able on the photo due to the camera flash.

This model is nice to build but the difficulty with the tracks don't make it a model you should build as a first model.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A small preview of the FV-4005 Stage II 183mm JS tank killer

Here a small preview of one of ACE newest releases, the FV-4005 Stage II 183mm JS tank killer. This is the model of an experimental British tank destroyer developed during the 1950's. It was developed to counter the heavy JS-series tanks developed by the Soviet union. It consisted out of a massive 183 mm AT canon mounted in basically a pillbox on a centurion tank hull with earthspade added to the back, probably to withstand the recoil.

Ace released a model of this experiment. The hull is equal to the hull of the Centrurion Mk. III released in 2016 but the turret parts are new. As with all new ACE releases this model comes on sprues with parts numbers on them, greatly simplifying the task of finding the parts on the sprues. A small fret of photo-etched parts is also included, mainly for the structural ribs which are externally mounted on this vehicle. The detail on the parts is a bit soft compared to other brands. There is a lot less flash on the parts compared to earlier releases. The model has about 150 parts so it is not really suited for beginners. The tracks are a two piece vinyl affair which is not my favorite but they will do.

Photo's of the new parts

The instructions with the new parts:

The first sprue with new parts:

The second sprue and photo etched parts:

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Pride of the Rising Sun

HTV is short for 'H2 Transfer Vehicle' and is a cargo ship developed by the Japanese Aerospace eXploration Agency (JAXA). This 'Transfer Vehicle' is made as part of the Japanese contribution to the mission of the International Space Station (SS). This is the first ship of it's kind that docks by being picked up by the space stations robotic arm. This allowed for a less complicated docking mechanism leaving room for a lager 'front door' of the vehicle and enabling the transfer of lager items.

In order to get the HTV to the ISS JAXA had to develop a new rocket since the H-II A was to small to carry the transfer vehicle. Building on the experience of working with the H-II A the JAXA started developing the more capable H-II B. This rocket has a wider body and cargo hold and two main engines in the fuselage. To aid in the launch 4 solid rocket boosters are also fitted.

Launch of the H-II B

The Aoshima model

Aoshima makes a model of the H-II B and HTV launch vehicle in 1/350. One is the Spacecraft Series 4 model of the named vehicles with a plethora of special display parts the other release is Space Series 8 the H-II B and it's launchpad. The Spacecraft series 4 contains clear parts to show the interior of the second stage, falcion and payload, a stand to put the rocket on in a upright position, a 'blast smoke' stand to show the rocket lifting off and a third stand to show the rocket in an in flight position. There are actually more optional parts then parts for the rocket itself.

The parts are molded in clear or white plastic and fit together well. I did had to use filler for the solid rocket boosters which required me to repaint those parts. The typical orange color was a mixture of revells Clear Orange (36130) and brown (36185). The More yellowish like tint was made from sandy yellow (36116) which turned out to be a very close match. The photo's (I have to model now standing on it's own 6 engines rather than on this specific base which doesn't hold it straight in my case):

This is quite a nice model to build and at 20 cm tall and 4 cm wide it won't take a lot of space but the interior parts and lively colors do make it a very nice addition to any collection.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

TOW & Javelin

History of AT weapons

Since the end of WWI armored vehicles have been an important part of warfare. Defending against enemy tanks and (armored) vehicles doesn't have to be done by (the same type) of armored vehicles. For this purpose AT or Anti-Tank weapons have been developed like the anti-tank rifle and anti-tank gun. During WWII tanks and other armored vehicles had better protections and AT weapons became heavier and heavier to keep up with the trend. The heaviest AT-gun ever produced are variants of the German 128 mm gun and the British 17-pounder AT gun. These weapons where so heavy that they are at the limit of what can be operated by a crew. Any heavier weapons have to be mounted on a vehicle due to their weight. During WWII missile technology was wildly experimented with and used on ground attack aircraft like the Typhoon but also in handheld weapons like the panzerfaust and bazooka. Modern day descendants of these weapons are the TOW wire-guided missile system and Javelin missle both build by Raytheon and use solid rocket fueled engine.

The TOW and Javelin AT weapons

The TOW missile system has a part to be kept and an expendable missile. The durable part is basically a partial launch tube on a tripod with an optical lenses and electronics. The expendable part is the missile which is stored in the other part of the launch tube. When fired the missile is connected to the launcher with two wires. The operator has to keep the cross hairs of the targeting system on the target and the electronics send corrections for the path of flight to the missile. The missile system is not just developed for the sole use by crews, it is also mounted on helicopters, humvees, Wiesel minitank and used in the hammerhead turret among others. The missile is made in about 6 variants with different charges optimal for use against different types of (armoured) vehicles. The maximum range of the missile is 4,5 km. Smoke discharges can be used as an countermeasure. The most vunrable part of the systems is of course it's crew which, in case of the handheld version, sole protection is their camouflage.

Unlike the TOW missile the Javelin is a 'fire and forget weapon'. It locks on to a infrared source and follows that source until impact. The great advantage of such a system is the ability for the crew to take cover after firing the missile. The javelin missile is also 'popped' out of it's launch tube and the engine of the missile ignites shortly after launch so you don't have a massive back blast area at the launch site. It has two modes of attack, a 'top down' and 'straight line' mode. The first is intended to hit ground targets in the lightly armored top. The maximum height to missile fly's at is 160 m so it might be used to shoot down low flying helicopters. The second mode can be used against fortifications. The weapon is intended for use by ground crews but it is quite heavy with it's 20+ kilo's of weight. The minimum start time for the missile's targeting system to be operational is 30 seconds. Flares can be used as counter measures and not every launch is a successful hit on the target, but with a cost of ca. €80.000 per missile you are sure to blow a hole in your wallet. The Javelin is probably most famous for it's use against tripod's in the 'War of the World's' in the 2005 made movie version:

A TOW missile fired during an exercise, note the control wires.

The scene with the Javelin missile as seen in War of the Worlds

The figures

Dragon produces a set of 3 US marines with a TOW and Javelin missile 'Dragon 3012 U.S. MARINE TANK KILLERS'. The set is originally released in the early nineties and re-released a year and a half ago. The uniform colors on the box are of the desert type used in the nineties featuring large 'patches' in 4 different colors and over this with spots with a black spot placed over it at a small offset. The set is not as good as Dragon's later 'Generation 2' releases but it can be made into a very fine set of figures. The figures are made from the styrene plastic normally used in model kits and not poly ethylene as is often the case with 1/72 figures. So the parts can be sanded clean of their mold seems (which is really necessary) and glued. A few compromises have been made in this set in order not to make it to fragile. First the underside of the central 'column' of the TOW tripod. In reality this a structure made from metal slats. On the model is a solid piece because plastic is to fragile to make these parts true to the original. The lunch tube of the javelin is also solid. The support stand for the Javelin is made as a pen in hole connection and drilling out the launch tube would make this part very weak and leave two holes in the side not there in reality. Finally there is a part on top of the TOW missile targeting system which is a camera. This includes a lens cap which I glued on but is best left off. I had some trouble getting the binocular in the hand of the commander but the TOW and Javelin operators fit precisely with their equipment. But sure to place the position of their arms right before gluing.

The photo's of the completed set