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.

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.

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 Québec 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.