Construction Notes, Modeling project, Product Review

Joycraft F-16D Viper Toon

Last year, Joycraft launched a new series of products: fully 3D-printed aircraft kits. You may recall a review I posted here a while ago of a book from that company, written by master modelers René Joyal and Jarek Rydzyski.

When Joycraft announced its first kit, I jumped on it for a number of reasons. First, it was a fully 3D printed kit, and I wanted to see firsthand how they would go about producing that, Second, well, Joycraft is awesome and I was pretty sure anything it would come up with would be interesting. So I preordered a kit, got it, and built it. Here’s how it went.

What’s in the box?

The kit came in a super neat package, a work of art in itself (which apparently will change a bit in future offerings to make it more efficient). All the parts were neatly glued on a sturdy cardboard plate. Right away I could see that the definition of the print was pretty crisp.

Getting down to work

The first order of business was to clean the parts. Now, let me tell you right away, it looks much worse than it actually is. It took me about an hour to prepare all the parts down to basic cleanup so that I would only have to finish cleaning up each part more precisely once ready to put it into place.

You need to be extra careful, however, to avoid breaking parts. It’s not a huge deal, but this is not like cast resin, and certainly not like injected styrene. 3D printing resin is brittle and fragile. In the course of the project, I broke a number of parts that weren’t too complicated to fix, but it was self-inflicted pain nonetheless.

The Kit

The kit is a pretty cool design of a pretty cool jet fighter. I am not, myself, a huge fan of toon planes, but this one struck a note and grabbed my attention. Contrary to most toon planes I’ve seen, this one keeps the right ‘vibe’ of the F-16, and even though it is a vastly simplified version of the original, it keeps its awesome aerodynamics and signature lines. It comes with a centerline tank and two wing tanks, two AIM-9M, two AIM-120C, and two AGM-88. In other words, it is armed to the teeth.

In the end, I went for a more sleek loadout, but that isn’t exactly a voluntary choice. Rather, I was the victim of my own inexperience.

The kit is pretty well engineered. The cockpit is not only very detailed, but it fits pretty well without any issues to speak of. I didn’t take pictures of all the kit’s details, but the flight stick, the throttles, and a bunch of switches are all fully present. This level of detail and crispness makes it very promising for the future: a kit of this level of quality won’t require additions.

The instructions are pretty clear as well most of the time, and the decals are from Cartograf and are of excellent quality. You get two options in the kit: a Polish and a Greek aircraft. (I decided to add a fictional squadron insignia on mine and cut a Corinthian Helmet I found on the Internet. )

There are two things that aren’t quite awesome, though. The two-parts fuselage and the canopy. The former requires a pretty hefty putty job while the latter implies that your sanding and polishing chops are up there. I guess this had the benefit of forcing me to put those skills to practice. Joycraft told me that their next offering, the F-16I Sufa, will come with a one-piece fuselage.

In addition, I think it is fair to say that while a cute little toon plane, this kit isn’t for beginners. Like I said, parts are fragile to prepare and handle, you need a solid knowledge of CA glue handling, and PLEASE DRY-FIT EVERYTHING.

Yup, this is why you don’t see my ship bristling with missiles. You not only need to clean the wing hardpoints locators, but you need to make absolutely certain they will slip-fit in those slits. I didn’t do that and, right at the end of the project, I started to try and wrestle them in, coming dangerously close to some catastrophic breakage. I deemed it safer to leave those ordnances alone.

Oh well, some more experience.

In the end, this project was a very satisfying change of pace. It wasn’t as simple a build as I had expected. It drilled home some basics that I, as an armor modeler, am not often required to put into practice. It was also an excellent demo of what 3D-printed modeling is likely to look like in the future, and I cannot wait to see what Joycraft will come up with for their next kits. I was so impressed with the quality of their kit that I ordered their Sufa right away.

Project Specs

Joycraft F-16D Toon

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Modeling project, Uncategorized

2K11A/9M8M Krug-A Ganef

My good friend Vladimir Bocanin is a prolific builder. On a good year, he finishes more kits in a month than I build in a year. Lately, he’s been running a massive backlog of unpainted kits. Something like fifty-two. FIFTY-TWO. Let that sink in. He builds mostly weird middle-eastern field-modded armor and technicals as well as Eastern bloc armor and the occasional modern NATO subject.

I’ve been bugging him for years now to let me paint at least one of his numerous unpainted-yet builds. In January he finally agreed to let me paint this humongous SAM launcher.

I’ve opted for a museum vehicle, inspired partly by a picture taken by Massimo Foti, though I made it slightly less distressed and weathered than I would have liked and kept it a bit cleaner. I also somewhat limited the weathering passes to get it done asap.

An interesting project on many counts, my thanks to Vlad for letting me have a go at one of his kits!

Project Specs

  • Trumpeter Soviet 2K11A TEL with 9M8M Missile Krug-A (SA-4 Ganef) (Ref #09523) built by Vladimir Bocanin.
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Modeling project

Tamiya M3 Stuart

This is Tamiya’s 2018 iteration of the M3 Stuart. A very nice kit, with some PE additions. I made it a ‘semi-fictional’ tank of the 1st Armored Division in North Africa. Tamiya’s kit depicts El Diablo, I chose to portray fictional albeit, dare I say, quite plausible, Hercules.

I had some trouble deciding exactly what vehicle to represent. My initial intention was to portray a vehicle States bound in the massive manoeuvers prior to America’s baptism of fire in Africa, but I unexpectedly discovered that a Late production M3 is a rather elusive variety since it’s got most characteristics of the M3A1 but not quite. It was not easy to get references on this specific sub-variant. Steven Zaloga’s Osprey book on the Stuart deals with El Diablo but I, unfortunately, do not possess this book, so I had to make do without it.

When I realized that most, if not all the references I had of North African Stuarts showed them with the fuel tanks add-on, and I had omitted to mount what appears to be the braces to secure them in place on the sponsons, I decided to go for an undocumented callsign 🙂 .

If you look carefully, you’ll also note that the last digit of Hercules‘ serial isn’t perfectly aligned *innocently whistling*.

References

Doyle, David. Stuart Tank Vol. 1 – The M3, M3A1, and M3A3 Versions in World War II, Legends of Warfare: Ground series, Schiffer Publishing, 2019, 112 pages, 9780764356605.

Collier, Richard, The War in the Desert, Time-Life World War II collection, 1977, p.177.

Prime Portal Armor

Project Specs

  • Tamiya M3 Stuart Late Production (35360)
  • E.T. Model PE set (E35-280)
  • Master US 37mm M6 gun barrel (GM 35-029)
  • The New TMD .30 cal. MG Barrels (AR 0378)
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Modeling project

Tiger Model AMX-10RCR

The AMX-10RC is an armored reconnaissance vehicle designed and produced since the early 1970 by GIAT industries (now Nexter Systems), replacing the EBR within the ranks of France’s ArmĂ©e de terre. “RC” means “Roue-Canon”, literally “Wheel-cannon”, meaning that the platform is wheel-based but packs enough punch to take care of itself in case of contact with the enemy. The French call this “reconnaissance-feu”, literally “reconnaissance-fire”. Contrary to what is written on the box, the AMX-10 RCR is not employed in a “Tank Destroyer” role per se, although it can certainly destroy tanks.

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Modeling project

Dragon T54E1

Like many armor fans out there, I’ve been playing World of Tanks, and like many modeling companies, Dragon took notice of the WoT craze and tried to cash in some of that enthusiasm by creating a couple of kits aimed specifically at the player/modeler. The T54E1 is one of those kits. It has this badass vibe to it that I find quite appealing, so I decided on a hunch to get one and build it as a quick side project.

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Modeling project

441 Squadron Mustang III

I wanted to do a plane for some time now, and I had this Tamiya Mustang III in the stash since forever. I’ve always found this particular box art to be totally appealing and it played no small part in finally pushing me toward the dark side.

It’s one of those projects that I started with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do. This is generally not a good way to start a project for me. I need to feel inspired in some way. I knew I wanted to create a Mustang with the Malcolm canopy, which gives it a super cool profile (even more than a D if you ask me!)

Looking around a bit, the project quickly evolved toward a Canadian aircraft. I sourced IPMS Canada’s excellent Mustang IIIs decal sheet along with their pretty interesting and well-made reference guide and I decided to do that weird D-Day stripes-sporting 9GS ship (The 441 got hold of their Mustangs right at the end of the war. D-Day markings were out of fashion by that time).

You’ll notice I’m not providing close-up shots of that build. Some things are better left seen from afar, hehe. More seriously, this project was a learning experience, and a good one, but it really ain’t perfect, to say the least, and I post it here merely as a milestone on the path of getting better.

No matter how this project ended up, I’m super stoked for more aircraft modeling and I’ve grabbed Trumpeter’s 1/32 Mustang III to quite possibly create a larger and, hopefully, better version of this very same aircraft.

Honest Assessment

Things I’m happy with

  • Painting. Still not perfect but I did obtain a pretty okay finish. I made my own mix since I didn’t have the exact colors on hand and it looks the part. Did a bunch of masking which worked out pretty well, too. Oh, and I masked and hand-painted the D-Day stripes to give them a rougher look.
  • Weathering. Could go muuuuch further but in this case it remained restrained but still somewhat meaningful.
  • Getting to the finish line. There were moments of discouragements on that one after I screwed the propeller,
  • I used foil for the landing gear’s hydraulic arm and I managed to pull it off not too badly.

Things I’m okay with

  • Decaling went well, despite the fact that the kit’s sheet went bad and I ended up with decal shredding all over the place. I managed to pull through using careful placement as well as falling back to stenciling the roundel using my portrait 2 cutting machine. I still have more silvering I care to admit but overall this is a good step in the right direction.

Things I could do better

Boy, where to begin?

  • Modeling aircrafts is pretty different than modeling AFVs. Duh! But hear me out. In broad terms, an AFV is a big chunk of styrene on which you slap a bunch of smaller parts. An aircraft is more like two halves of a shell that you prepare meticulously for the moment you’ll pair them. This means a lot of dry-fitting and a lot of small incremental adjustments to get that perfect fit. It can be tedious. I think I don’t dislike that but I do realize I need to approach this differently. More deliberately I’d say.
  • The cockpit was a humbling experience in that regard. Test fitting everything, then getting creative not only to make sure it would fit properly but that I’d be able to handle it while closing the fuselage was worrying (in a good way!).
  • Canopy masking, handling, gluing. All of that I need to refine quite a bit. It’s not easy to make a perfect canopy that sits where it should, remain clean, and has a sharp cut.
  • Wheels and landing gear. It was surprisingly tough to get a perfectly straight, sturdy and properly aligned set of wheels. I epoxied the wheels but I did the cardinal mistake of not having sufficient time to properly monitor the bond and ended up with a slight misalignment. Booo. And this is an absolutely basic thing to nail, just like tracks on an AFV. Nothing worse than an aircraft that doesn’t sit properly on its legs.

Projet Specs

  • Tamiya Mustang III (Kit ref #61047)
  • 3D-printed unshrouded exhaust stack (my own sculpt and print).
  • IPMS Canada Mustang IIIs decal sheet.
  • Eduard Propeller (for Eduard kit but easy to adapt to Tamiya’s; Kit ref #648487)
  • Aires P-51B/C Cockpit (Kit ref #4223)
  • Ultracast P-51 Radial thread (Kit ref #48134)
  • Scratchbuilt dorsal fin

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Modeling project

Takom Merkava 1

This is a model that was initially semi-completed somewhere in 2018, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the finish for some reason. I still am not, hehe, but it has reached a much more acceptable level so I’m leaving it here to move on to some other projects.

I find it pretty hard to not spend eternity on a model, especially when I photograph it thoroughly and spot many things that could be enhanced. I rarely have the heart to get back on it to bring is to its full potential. Hopefully as time goes on I’ll keep on getting better on the first pass.

The one main takeaway from this particular project is that weathering can go muuuch further than this. It can be more precise, more detailed and every corner of the vehicle can tell its own little story. Here I think references can play a key role in establishing what kind of point of interest every angle of a build can yield.

The kit is the truly excellent Takom one (ref # 2078) mostly out of the box, with just a few additions (Friul spare links, metal Tow shackles and some tweaks here and there). I wrote a short article about that kit over here. Best kit I’ve ever had the pleasure building.

The figure is from Black Dog, “Israel army tank crew N°2”, Ref # F35066.

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Modeling project

Takom T-55AM

This is Takom’s T-55AM made as a Romania’s 81st Mechanized Brigade vehicle, straight out of the box, and started a couple of years ago.

It’s one of those project where I saw a picture of the real vehicle in maneuver (see below) and decided I wanted to represent one. Full disclosure: Technically, callsign 45526 is a command tank with a bunch of little differences and additions compared to a straight AM but I did not let that stand in the way of completion :).

The Takom kit is, generally speaking, a great kit, although it’s not to the level of their Merkava 1. The roadwheel are – somewhat surprisingly – not easy to get perfectly even (I didn’t managed to get that on mine, but there was an errata in the kit about this and I don’t recall whether I used it or not), the IR spot arm assembly is a little fiddly, and so is the DSHK. These points, however, are the only ones worth mentioning. The rest of the kit is very, very good.

The T-55 is a wonderful modeling subject. There are tons of variants, it’s been in service all over the world and it’s just a bad ass looking tank. Especially the AM version with the cheek armor. This ain’t the last one I build for sure.

Honest Assessment

Objectively, I am happy with the end result, but at the same time, I see many, many things I’d like to to better. Not all of that is obvious from the photographs, but here’s a list.

Things I’m happy with

  • The global vibe of the tank is more or less what I was after: an operational, relatively well-maintained (if aged) vehicle on maneuver.
  • The Silouette Portrait 2 cutting machine is just so cool. Super easy to use, great results. The observant will note my turret number and roundels are smaller than their real life counterpart.
  • I’m getting better at the pin wash game now. I managed to get a more controlled application.
  • The unditching log. Doesn’t it look like a wonderful unditching log?

Things I’m okay with

  • Weathering dosage is about right compared to my reference vehicle.
  • Track finish. Not perfect, but not bad at all. They lacks a bit in character, and the photograph lighting is not ideal.

Things I could do better

  • Paint finish. Cleaner, smoother base coat. This one was much closer to what I am after. For once I moved away from the rugged Tamiya XF flat finish. I need to invest more time into this stuff. It’s like super basic chop for modelers and I still don’t quite grasp the whole painting game.
  • Paint finish. Corollary, but keeping the paintjob clean and free of lint is still a major challenge. I did work around this a bit with smooth sanding but I’d rather keep it clean and tidy than having to fix it.
  • Paint finish. Romanian T-55s are of a much bluer green than the good ol’ Russian Green. I landed way too close to the later. I’m having great difficulties is guesstimating the proper color of uncommon tanks. I had the same issue with the AMX-30B.
  • Photographing and, specifically, lighting. I still haven’t nailed a proper lighting setup for both the work area and for taking pictures of the projects. I need some secondary light source. As it stands I have a much too big gap between zenithal lighting and side light. I’m using foamcore panels to bounce some of that light but it isn’t enough.
  • Suspension and track work. This is truly crucial for a tank, seriously. As soon as you get a roadwheel not sitting properly or a track not behaving likes is made of links of solid, heavy metal, it looks odd. Mine here isn’t bad but the left track and roadwheels of the tank do have some issues.
  • Still getting a case of rushing things a little at the end.

Project Specs

  • Takom T-55AM (Kit ref #2041)
  • Voyager PKT mg barrel (kit ref #VBS0209)

Started: Sometimes , dunno, in 2018 maybe?
Finished: Early January 2021.

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Modeling project

C887 HMAS Kodiak

In early 2006, the fine personnel of A battery, 1 RCHA went into action with their trusty M777 during the battle of Panjwaii. Firing a surprisingly shot burst, two guns managed to exact substantial casualties to the retreating Talibans. Three weeks later, during a post-action briefing held at NDHQ Ottawa, a civilian analyst, marveling at this particularly shining result obtained with conventional arty, casually wondered if it wouldn’t be worth looking into providing the gunners with a little more operational mobility so that they could throw punches like that further away. The notion was promptly dismissed as “another civilian-who-never-ever-got-shot-at nonsense”.

A few minutes later during the same meeting, the officer in charge was struck by an epiphany. What if we could provide our guys with more mobility to support liaison convoys, security patrols? We could likely mount longer-range offensive without relying on those lousy A-10s that kept firing on our guys. That would be brilliant. Thus was launched what was to become a sluggishly long procurement program. Yet it was off to a good start, for it took only a year to get the necessary approval to proceed with cost and capabilities requirements analysis, and another year to greenlight a procurement commission to shop around.

In typical Canadian fashion. the privileged approach was to try and buy an off-the-shelf platform. A stealthy lobbyist managed to slip a spec sheet of the South African G6 wheeled artillery vehicle to people that mattered and a few months later, an evaluation mission was – quite surprisingly – sent to Thaba Tshwane in Pretoria, then off to Johannesburg to witness a live demonstration from the Transvaal Horse Artillery (now known as the Sandfontein Artillery Regiment). That demonstration went well apparently, with the South African gunners of 8 battery hitting targets more than 40 kilometers away with great accuracy and after successively moving from five different firing positions.

A mere five weeks later, 16 guns were ordered, but for a variety of reasons, these guns weren’t delivered until 2020, a whopping twelve years later, long after they could be of use in Canada’s longest deployment. The system went through a number of modifications and is now operational in the Canadian Forces under the name of Kodiak (the official designation being the C887, High Mobility Artillery System (or “H-Mass” among gunners), but most army personnel now refers to the system as simply the Kodiak (not to be mistaken with the Leopard 2-based gen3 AEV).

Externally, the most immediate difference with the original G6 is the M284 gun in lieu of the quite excellent G5 (itself based on a Canadian gun, the GC-45). This is considered by most analysis to be a step back in pure ballistic envelope. Canada chose this barrel for interoperability reasons with the US Army, and the change is the main culprit for the system taking so long to reach operational status.

Other differences include:

  • Different light clusters on the vehicle’s front, along with an anti-slip pathway and grab handle on the glacis left, as well as a hand guard added on the upper left of the driver’s compartment.
  • A FLW 200 remote weapon station on the turret top, very slightly offset to the right. This made it possible to drop the bulky turret smoke dischargers. The station is not entirely satisfactory due to the limitations on the field of fired on the forward arc. It is unclear whether this arrangement will be kept as formal dotation.
  • Enormous all-terrain, non-directional tread 630/75R34 Michelin battle tires produced under licence by Boisso. Canada retained the original tires for arid deployment (God forbid!) but it was deemed necessary to get more polyvalent shoes for temperate climate.
  • A different, wider design for the turret front steps for better access in winter gear.
  • Complete redesign of the anti-slip patterns on the hull and the turret.
  • A ramp on the turret’s rear right accessway. Contrary to UAE’s massive rail that goes all the way to the turret’s wall, this one is much smaller and only offers an alternate holding point.
  • The antenna point has been moved back the upper rear of the turret. (An anchor point for a T-antenna mount remains available slightly behind the station’s base when the RWS is not mounted.)
  • The absence of any tie-down on the turret sides.
  • The addition of a rear-looking camera.

All in all, the Kodiak is said to be on par with the M109A7 in firepower and protection, with which it shares many FCS and operation management features. It is slightly behind in pure off-road capabilities, but has a much greater operational mobility.

In 2020, four vehicles went from Gagetown to Valcartier using almost exclusively New-Brunswick and QuĂ©bec country roads, a telling testimony of the system’s robust mobility.

Project Specs

  • Takom G6 Rhino (2052). A great kit. Its only main drawback is the fiddly front wheel assembly that requires somewhat of a long range leap of faith.
  • Live Resin FLW 200 Low Profile (LRE-35240). Wasn’t impressed with this one.
  • 3D Printed Custom Made Wheels. My eternal gratitude goes to Étienne Boisseau for sculpting these sweet sweet piece of modeling.
  • Other 3D printed parts include: rear camera, lights on the front, a small cap over the original antenna location and the steps in front of the turret and a repair part for the FLW 200.
  • Custom made maple leaf and callsign templates, and a few decals from the Trumpeter’s AVGP Grizzly and Echelon’s Canadian Leopard 2A6M sheets.
  • Various custom bits here and there.

Started: Sometimes in the first half of 2020.
Finished: December 2020.

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