Thursday, November 5, 2009

Project: 1/35 Chieftain Mk.11

One of the great things about model building is ripping open the box and lovingly looking at the parts. It's even better when the parts in question are aftermarket, and you dream about how this will dress up a tired old model kit.

The Tamiya Chieftain Mk.5 tank is one of those. Although a decent kit from an assembly standpoint, unfortunately it is not particularly accurate for a Mk.5 Chieftain (I've heard it better represents a Mk.3, but that is academic for this discussion). This is a real shame, as I have serious doubts another company is going to revisit this subject in injected molded styrene, especially for a "modern" tank that is now out of service, and has never seen any high profile conflicts (the only ones that come to mind are Iranian Chieftains, and Kuwaiti Mk.5s during Gulf War I).

I've always loved the Chieftain; it was a real beast of a tank, and mounted a 120mm cannon during a time when most other NATO forces were still using the 105mm (or in some cases the smaller 90mm or 20lber cannon). During the 1970s it was probably, on paper, the most powerful and capable battle tank in the NATO inventory, at a time when the US Army had been gutted by the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Despite this, the British had chosen to use a multi-fuel engine in compliance with new NATO requirements (that would largely not be met again until the introduction of the US M1 Abrams). While the Leyland L60 engine offered a lot of strategic advantages, it had a large number of teething problems that directly affected reliability of the British tank. Later these reliability issues were resolved for the most part, but the bad reputation prevented the tank from getting large scale overseas purchases (mostly from Iran, Jordan, and Kuwait).

While the only game in town is the old Tamiya kit from the early '70s, Accurate Armour comes to the rescue with a number of conversion kits to accurize the Tamiya kit. For my project I chose the Mk.11 set, which is essentially a Mk.5 with improved ammo storage for APFSDS ammunition, "Stillbrew" enhanced armor package and TOGS (Thermal Observation and Gunnery Sight). This was the last variant of this tank, and was used into the '90s. Accurate Armour produces the resin and photo-etch metal kit as CO27K.

One thing is evident in this kit is its sheer size and heft! It includes a complete upper hull and turret with "Stillbrew" armor modifications, as well as a large number of other parts that generally improve the detail over the Tamiya original parts. Casting is near flawless, with only a couple air bubbles, either in areas that will not be seen, or under the surface and just visible through the transparent resin. I test fitted the resin upper hull to the plastic lower and fit was near perfect, requiring only a little filing of the front lower hull.

I can't wait to start slapping this kit together!

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