Monday, 26 December 2011

Leopard II Family

Revell anounced to release a Leopard II A5NL version. Looking at the picture from the revell webiste it looks more like the Leopard II A6 as used by the Dutch army. Time to bring some order in this 'leochaos' by looking at the leopard II family tree. Added for modellers are the names of manufacturers that produce models of a specific variant in 1/72. Since this is a modeling weblog, the text will concentrate on the difference between the versions that can be seen on the outside.

For all versions upgrades from existing vehicles and factory fresh vehicles are in service. Click on the diagram for a larger version.
Note: I've updated the legenda, I mixed up the colors for 'no longer in use' and 'no MBT version'.

MBT (Main Battle Tank) versions

Leopard II A0 to A3:
The first production batches are called A0 to A3. The changes between the different models are minimal and mainly involve internal upgrades like better fuelfilters and radio's. The difference on the outside are minimal. All A0 versions are upgrated to the A1 version, then to the A2 version, then to the A3 versions and finally to the A4 versions. Hasegawa makes a model with a slighty different attenna as used on the A4 versions. If I remember correctly this antenna was used on the A0 to A2 versions if I remember correctly. (I couldn't find the part where I read it)
A picture of one of the first leopards in use.

Leopard II A4:
The leopard II A4 can be seen as the last version as it was used in the late 80's and early nighties. The difference on the outside with the A0 to A3 version is minimal, actually just a small hatch in the newer production vehicles. As said all leopard tanks are upgraded to this standard. This model of the Leopard II is the most used and exported version. It is used for example by Poland, Turkey, Finland, Austria and Chilli. Dragon and Revell (no. 03103) make of model of this version in 1/72. The Hasegawa Leopard can also be used since the difference is only an antenna.
A leopard II A4 as used by the Finnish army on parade.

Leopard II A5:
The difference between the Leopard II A4 and A5 is big on the outside and thus of interest for modellers. The largest difference is the addition of a wedged shaped piece of armour to the turret. Newer electronics all also added on the inside of the tank. Revell makes at least one model of this version as product no.03105. Maybe the new A5NL model is a A5 version as advertised but I'm not sure.
A german leopard II A5 during an exersize.

Leopard II A6/A6M:
The Leopard II A6 differences from the A5 version by the L55 gun which has a barrel that is 1,3m longer as the L44 gun from the leopard A0 to A5. The A6M version is a version of the leopard with an extra armoured underside to protect the crew against mines. This modification is an addaption to the situation in Afganistan. Revell no.03180 is a model which can be build as both versions.
A dutch Leopard II A6 on exersize in the Caribian.

Leopard II A4 Revolution:
The Leopard II A4 Revolution is an A4 model upgraded to meet the demands of the new century. It features better electronics and a allround armour upgrade changing it's appearence considerably. Singapoure uses this version of the Leopard.
The A4 Revolution on the move, the additional armor can be clearly seen here.

Leopard II A6E:
Leopard II A6E is short for Leopard II 'Espania'. This version of the leopard is not only used by Spain but also by Greece and Sweden where they are called 'HEL' and 'StrV. 122' respectively. The main difference on the outside with the A5 and A6 version is the extra armor and headlights. Unfortunately there is no model of this version in 1/72.
The Leopard II A6E in action.

Non MBT's

Tanks are originally developed as support for the infantry in WWI effectively repleacing the horse based cavalry which had that task for centuries before in European armies. (In other parts of the world cavalry had a more independend role) Horses where not just used in the cavalry but also to support armies by transporting guns and wounded. The tank follows this patern and different versions are made for other purposes as shooting down the enemy. Of the Leopard II there are six different 'support' versions.

Driver training vehicle
The name of this version explains preciesely what it does, training the driver to drive the tank.

Buffalo recovery vehicle
A tank can have engine failure or get stuck in in the mud. A lagere power source is needed to get the compromised vehicle out of trouble. Usually this is done by an other tank especially modified for this purpose known as 'Armored Recovery Vehicle'. The Buffalo is the ARV-version of the Leopard II and features a dozerblade, crane and machinegun for it's defence.
A Buffalo recovery vehicle of the german army.

Kodiak Combat Engineering Vehicle
Sometimes it is needed to dig a large hole, get obstacles out of the way or build a command center in rough terrain far from the civilized world or in a devastaded city. For this pupose Combat Engineering Vehicles (CEV's) are used. The Leopard II CEV is known as Kodiak. A prominent feature of the Kodiak is it's large excavator. The dutch version will also be able to clear minefields.
A Kodiak digging during trials.

Bridge layers
Tanks are able to wade through deep water. With the right equipment a leopard can even 'dive' dissapearing completely under water. The tanks have to be specially prepared for this however, other vehicles can't do this and it can be done to cross rivers with steep edges. Laying a potoon bridge is an alternative way to cross a river but a third option is using a 'fast bridge'. There are two versions of the leopard II capable of laying a bridge in recordtime: The 'Leopard II Fast bridge' made by MAN and the 'Leopard II LEGUAN' made by Patria for the Finnish army.
The 'Pänzerschnellbrücke' or 'Leopard II Fast bridge' by MAN.

The LEGUAN in action.

Leopard IIR
A classical task of the tank is clearing mines. The leopard IIR is a minesweeper made by Patria for the Finnish army and is the version of the Leopard II dedicated to sweeping mines. The Dutch version of the Kodiak can also be used for this task but is capable of performing other duties as well.
A Leopard IIR during an exercise of the Finnish army.

Prototypes

Leopard II A4 140mm
During the armsrace of the cold war militairy equipment was continually improved. For the Leopard II this was no difference and she was tested with a 140mm gun. Tests where succesfull but it was decided to keep the 120mm gun since it was sufficient at the time.
The Leopard II A4 - 140mm in a workshop. Also note the gun and mound of the A5 version on the right which is dwarved by the 140mm gun.

Leopard II A5PSO:
The leopard II A5PSO (Peace Support Operations) is a prototype of a leopard version optimized for urban warfare. It features allround protection, a short barrel, secondiary weapon system, dozerblade and better sensors.
The prototype on eurosatory 2006.

Leopard II A7+
The Leopard II A7+ is the newest version of the Leopard II designed as an allround battle tank. The most prominent changes with it's predecesors are the improved armour and a machinegun that van be controled from the inside of the turret.
The Leopard II A7+ on eurosatory 2010.


Concluding remarks
With 10 MBT versions, 6 support versions and 3 prototypes the leopard II family is quite extended. Some versions in the family tree are almost identical on the outside. Fact is that this family tree is not complete yet. Every country has it's own 'style' of Leopard II. The differences between smoke granate launchers are largre for example and there is also a large variantion in side skirts. These differences or minor however. A somewhat lager difference will be formed by the Leopard II A4's of the Chilean army because these will be fitted whit the L55 long barreled gun as used in the A6 version. The leopard II's used in Afganistan by Canada and Denmark are also fitted with bararmor to protect them against hollowpoint charges. The result is that the Leopard II complete family three looks like the family tree of the real leopard (the animal). This is a reflection that, just like in nature, weapon development is a proces of small steps improving to addapt to the latest challenges put up by the environment.
The original version in winter camouflage.

The basic A4, A5 and A6 version are made as a 1/72 model. To make other versions one has to modify these models or maybe buy a resin version. More about a few models of Leopard II's van be read on this weblog, more on the Leopard II tank itself on here wikipedia.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Amourfast Firefly

I'm in the middle of moving from one house to an other but found some time to update this weblog. This time some pictures of a models I've made a few months ago. It are two armourfast fireflies.

The Firefly was essentially an American Sherman modified to carry a British 17-pounder AT gun. The 17pdr was hastily developed to counter the Tiger tank which was pretty much invunrable to virtually any allied AT gun at the time of it's introduction. The 17-pdr fired a 76,2 mm shell with a muzzle velocity of 884 m/s and was able to knock out heavy german tanks. When the weapon was ready there was no tank developed to carry the gun. About 200 'Challengers', an extended version of the Cromwell, where made but finally the Sherman was chosen to house the gun. The turret was too small for this gun however so the radio was moved to a separate basket at the back end of the turret. Apart from this and the gun itself there are no real differences between these and other Shermans. The gunbarrel was longer and was painted in a special way to hide this fact. This was necesserry because the Firefly was a prime target for german tankers since it was the most dangerous tank from there point of view.

Armourfast is a company based in the the UK and produces 'fast build tanks'. These are tanks with 10 to 15 parts for wargamers. Italeri also has a few models after this concept. The models of Armourfast are quite sparese; The have no tools molded on for example. I like the tanks from Armourfast better though since Italeri's details are a bit soft. The tracks are also better.

The basic model is very good and in true 1/72 scale. The only other model in 1/72 scale is from Dragon and quite expensive and hard to find. Revell has a 1/76 Firefly which is quite good but really to small compared with 1/72 models. Sometims 1/76 models can be mixed with 1/72 ones but not this one. For my armourfast models I've made extra parts, most notably the headlights, rearend and tools. The modifications can be seen here:


The finished models:

Boxart for TPz 1 Fuchs A4

I've found a picture of TPz 1 Fuchs A4 here at the www.modeluniversum.de :