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

Saturday, 28 January 2017

News for end of 2016 and start of 2017

These days not every manufacturer announces what they will release for the coming year (Revell) or releases a catalog with products but release very different ones (Trumpeter) which is really surprising. But what is announced for 2017 and released so far is once again a very interesting bunch.

Revell

Revell traditionally does re-releases in the first four months of a new year and new releases after that. As an armor re-release a Leopard I A5 and Leopard I Bridelayer (kit No. 03307) will be released in March of this year. For October a variant on T-55 is scheduled, the T-55AM/AM2B (kit No. 03305). As a complete new release rumors about a M-109G Howitzer (kit No. 03306) are rampant on the internet. This model might be released in September.

In addition to this, Revell asks for ideas. Via this page you can send one idea once per month. If you send an idea more often your previous idea will be overwritten.

Trumpeter

I have understood Trumpeter has already released a few models that are not listed in their catalog. So let's take a look at the surprise releases none of which have ever been available in 1/72 plastic before! They are all Russian vehicles, first we have a SAM-6 launcher (07109). Then 4 sovjet tractors from WWII: The Voroshilovets (0711), The Komitern (07120), the ChTZ S-65 Tractor with Cab (07111) or without Cab (07112). To be released any moment are the JS-4 (07143) and JS-7 (07136). All models are easy to builds with 20 to 30 parts. Also to be released are a few versions of the T-62 and T-84.

Ace

Sceduled are a plethora of variants of the FV-6** such as the FV-603B Saracen mkII armored car (kit No. 72433), the FV-622 Stalward mkII 6x6 truck (Kit No. 72432) and FV-651 Salamander Fire Truck (kit No. 72434). Two versions of the Russian 'tiger' light utility vehicle (kit No.'s 72177, 72184) are also planned as well of a kit of it's French counterpart, the VBL (kit No. 72420) which really looks like a vehicle from a Sci-Fy movie. For fans of the more heavy vehicles variants of the Russian BTR-70, the Anerican V100 and variants of the in 2016 released European Centurion mk. III are also on the release list. Not released in 2016 but still in development are models of the Centauro 8x8 light tank. Ace is well known for the many AT gun releases they did in the past. This heritage is not forgotten in 2017 with two versions of the 6 pounder gun (kit. No. 72652, 72563) and the 37 mm Flak 36 (kit No. 72570). Also planned are the Sd.Kfz. 6 and T-28 Tank. This is a very ambitious list with many vehicles released that where not available in 1/72 scale. No doubt they won't be able to release all of it in 2017 but it is a very fine line up of products with something for everyone. So keep your eye on this company in the coming years. They planned releases can be seen in this pdf catalog.

Other interesting releases

In 1/16 scale Trumpeter just Released a T-72. A few variants are to be released as well. It's American counterpart in the form of the M1A2 AIM Abrams and M1A2 SEP v2 Abrams are also to be expected.
Model collect is in the process of releasing a number of variants of the MAZ truck and Oshkosh 8x8 Trucks, also previously unavailible in 1/72 scale.

Not an armored vehicle but still interesting is the 1/35 Hitachi ZAXIS 135 US Excavator from Hasegawa.

A large range of Star Wars models is available from Revell in Europe and the US. These include new vehicles from 'The Force Awakens' and 'Rogue One' as well from the classic Star Wars IV, V, and VI movies. Before buying a kit take a good look at the level and part count. Some kits are 'level 1 kits' with a few parts but with lights and sound effects. These are easy to put together and marketed at kids and smaller children who want to play with the models as well. Other kits are also easy kits but have more parts and are simple but real models. A number of easy kit pocket's released first 10 years ago seem to be produced as normal models in November and December of 2016. These include the Naboo Fighter, Snowspeeder, Tie Fighter, X-wing Fighter, Darth Vader's Tie Fighter and Tie Interceptor. Kit numbers on the boxes I have are 03601 to 03605 and 03611 but I'm not sure if these numbers are identical to there prepainted easykit variants. All these kit's are at about the same scale so they have great diorama potential. This year it is also 40 years ago that Star Wars debuted so more releases are on the way including a large scale Star Destroyer, a Sith Infiltrator en Clone Trooper Transport seen on Jedi news.
Bandai also released a number of Star Wars kits but these are only available for whole sale in Japan. The ranges of Revell and Bandai have largely similar vehicles but the Revell range has an AT-AT while Bandai has an AT-ST. Bandai also have a lot of figure kits molded in the right color's which Revell doesn't have. Revell is not allowed to sell in Japan and Bandai in the US and Europe directly. Smaller internet shops can sell the products to consumers however.

For a quite complete list on what is to be released take a look here. All in all there have been quite a few very interesting releases in the last months and there is no sign of stopping this trend for 2017. The number of vehicles never available in 1/72 before is huge compared with just a few years ago.

Friday, 23 December 2016

C2 MEXAS

The Leopard I was developed in the early sixties as a tank with an emphasis on good mobility. The Canadian Army deployed 127 of these tanks. 6 of them where modernized in the eighties receiving additional 'MEXAS' armor. MEXAS is short for Modular EXpandable ARmor. A total of 66 of these tanks where given this upgrade and are known as 'C2 Leopard MEXAS'. The difference between a standard leopard and a C2 MEXAS is huge. These upgraded models have been deployed on the Balkans and Afghanistan. The latter experience made the canadian army rethink it's decision to scrap all it's tracked tanks in favor of the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System which is basically a tank on wheels. The C2 is being phased out but replaced by the Leopard II.

There are no plastic models of the C2 MEXAS but Silesian Models makes a resin conversion for the Revell Leopard I kit. This is a very good conversion kit. There are a few little holes caused by air bubbles in the box on the back of the turret but these are barely visible and easily filled. The resin parts fit very well to the plastic parts of the Revell kit. The conversion kit is missing two dust slaps for the front of the tracks although these tent to fall off in reality as I have seen photo's of these slaps missing from one or two of the tracks. Also missing from my kit was the lower front armor plate but this one easily replaced by a rectangular plastic plate. The gun barrel seems to be a copy of the Revell item I used the original plastic part for my kit. In the photo below the green parts are the Revell kit, the grey ones are from the conversion set. I added two protection bars from styrene rod in front of the smoke dischargers as these are to fragile to be made from resin:

After I painted the model for a first time I added an extra course layer on the places where there is an anti-slip coating on the real vehicle, 3 jerrycans on the back of the turret and some stowage as I've seen these on many photo's. The anti-slip coating is a bit over scale, it would fit better on a 1/35 vehicle or a Merkava but it looks good non the less:

Finally the photo's of the finished model:

And the model with the Leopard I A4 and A5:

The conversion kit certainly en changes the appearance of the model. The detail is good and the fit of the parts as well. It is well suited if you have no experience with resin. At a price of €21,00 it is well worth the money since you almost get a completely new tank. One final remark, resin needs to be glued with superglue, simply the one available in Do It Yourself stores.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

A bumby ride!

MiniArt released a model of the WLA motorcycle in a few different varieties. The motorcycle is the same but the figures are different. The real motorcycle was produced by Harley and Davidson during WWII and the Korean War and was basically the civilian version painted olive drab. The headlight received a blackout light and the fenders where smaller preventing the buildup of mud.

The model from MiniArt is really a complicated affair with plastic, photo etched and clear parts topped off with a decal sheet. A total of 130 parts make up the model although the box it states 160 parts are included I consider the 130 more then enough. The photo etched parts include the spokes, metal rods holding the bags and rifle holder on the bike and other small details. A range of jigs if included to bend the parts in shape. In general the parts fit well but it was a difficult model to assemble due to the fact that a motorcycle is still small in 1/35 scale and many parts making up the frame have to be aliened perfectly. I noted the following when building the model:

  1. The photo etched spokes are not completely right when the come from the folding jigs included. I think the best thing to do before gluing them is to pull then through the wheels. Be careful though, they are extremely fragile.
  2. The spokes are made out of three identical photo etched parts and one that has a slightly larger hole for the inner axes to accommodate the front brake system.
  3. The parts making up the fore fork don't seem to align up in such a way that the fender is placed so the photo etched fender supports actually support to fender. I like to stress "don't seem to" because the alignments of these parts seems to require a precision far smaller then a tenth of a millimeter (0.004 inch) and I could have very well misaligned them. So be careful when assembling these parts.
  4. One side of the rifle holder must be hollowed out before the halves are glued together when it is to be build not holding a rifle.
  5. There is wire provided for the handbrake cables so you have to add your own.
I had trouble keeping the parts of the luggage carrier (top aft of the frame) together. The whole frame is made out of parts that though each other at the end points only they are misaligned easily and don't have a large surface for glue to stick on so the frame tents to tear itself apart quite fast making construction difficult. Also I lost quite some of the smaller parts. The engine is also made out of quite a large number of parts but they fit together well. As said the motorcycle is released in a few boxes including different figures. I made the version with a soldier lying on the ground hiding behind the cycle. As said I lost some of the smaller parts, where there where two of them I left the of the side laying on the ground. Unfortunately I also lost the rifle, I only had a German one as a replacement. Not a very likely scenario as I painted the figure as wearing a uniform only seen on the Pacific front.

The available sets are:

Recommended for experienced modelers only because the large number of very small parts having to fit perfectly together.