This review was originally published on Track-Link in 2015.
Trackpad Publishing recently released “Leopard AS1 – Leopard in Australian Service” (ISBN 978-0-9928425-3-6) by Australian military historian and author Michael K. Cecil, who already visited the AS1 subject in the past in Battlegroup Leopard, among other publications. He also previously collaborated with Trackpad Publishing’s Michael Shackleton, for he wrote the better part of the chapter dealing with the Australian Leopard 1 in the later’s excellent third volume of the Leopard 1 Trilogy.
The book’s a hefty 288 pages A4, full color, hardcover work. It comprises fifteen chapters and seven appendices, as well as endnotes and full references. Chapters are arranged as follow:
- Choosing a New Tank – Before Leopard
- Leopard AS1 – Build Standard
- A New Era Begins – the First Year
- AS1 into Service – A Pictorial View
- AS1 Attachments – Dozer and Mine Clearing
- Special Purpose Vehicles – Recovery and Bridging
- The AS1 Era – The Next Twenty-Five Years
- Camouflage – Colourful Variations
- Leopard Markings – Identification
- Ammunition – Delivery ot the Target
- Crew Dress – Changing Fashions
- Maintenance … Repair and refit
- Modifications – Continual Refinements
- Training Equipment – Teaching the Crews
- Transportation – Getting Around
- Appendices 1 Technical Data
- Appendices 2 Approved Modifications
- Appendices 3 MBT CES Stowage
- Appendices 4 MBT Life Cycles
- Appendices 5 Refit Schedule
- Appendices 6 Unit Issues
- Appendices 7 Army Registration Numbers and Fates
This is a massive work, a definitive technical and operational history, intended at recounting the full story of Australians acquiring, adapting, deploying, maintaining and refitting Leopard 1 family of vehicles (FoV). It goes from the early days of considering a replacement for the venerable -and highly regarded- Centurion up to the replacement of the equally highly regarded Leos, some 30+ years later (the last Leos were withdrawn in 2007). It does so by separating matters clearly and quite thoroughly, as indicated by the chapters titles shown above. I don’t see how anything more could possibly be added, apart maybe some editorial comments about what Aussie tankers think of the Abrams, but that’s just because I’m pretty curious to know :).
From a modeler’s perspective, this book is gold for many reasons. You get many pictures of pretty much all aspects of the AS1 family of vehicles. You get 1/35 drawings (of excellent quality, from author Michael Shackleton); a 5-sides view color plan to showcase the AUSCAM pattern (this is important, as it shows the proper pattern after which AUSCAM was applied. There could be variation in shapes and exact application, but always from the same basic template); manufacturer’s plans of various special equipment attachments; close up pictures of a myriad of details; an extensive explanation of all markings seen on AS1s; crew uniform & gear evolution pictures; an entire chapter devoted to color picture of AS1 in use in the field; a very important chapter for us modelers dealing with most modifications Australians made on their Leopards; A chapter devoted to training facilities, another to transporting the tanks, another for maintenance and refitting of them. You see where this is going. All of this, and more, with details captions and explanations. Understandably, pictures are not very large because in the end this not a photo study (Here’s to hoping for a complete Foto Focus on the subject! *wink wink*) . They are sufficiently clear to be entirely usable by modelers, anyway, and certainly are über inspiring. I know I’m currently reviewing my stack of projects to include an Australian Leo sooner than later!
A word, too, about appendices. Cecil provides a host of information that finishes putting the book in the higher spectrum of technical AFV literature. You first get a full list of technical data for both the tank and corollary equipment; a precise list of approved modifications; a detailed run down of stowage layout; a detailed account of the life cycle of three Leos; Detailed refit schedule; and finally unit issue and registration numbers. Very complete.
There is no question in my mind that any Leopard 1 enthusiast should acquire this book. It’s pricey, but this level of knowledge and completeness does not come cheap. It’s thorough, well made, highly informative about all aspects of the service life of the Leopard AS1 and very useful as well from a modeler’s perspective. If you already own Michael Shackleton’s excellent Leopard 1 Trilogy, this book will be an excellent addition to your collection of references. Highest possible recommendation.
PDF version of the book provided by Trackpad publishing for review purpose. Hard copy version lent by my friend Karl Ratté.
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