Tamiya’s Leclerc has Vanished

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It has always been my intent to build Tamiya’s well reviewed Leclerc kit, so much so I’ve been stocking up on after market parts to enhance the build. I have a lovely Eduard photo-etch set, an individual link track set from Bronco, and a Barrel Depot metal replacement gun barrel. The only thing I still lack is the kit itself.

I never imagined finding a Tamiya kit would prove challenging, but this particular kit has virtually disappeared. Only introduced in 2005, and still fairly representative of the version currently in use by the French military, why would Tamiya suddenly yank the Leclerc from their product line-up?

After searching dozens of North American dealer sites, as well as ebay and Amazon, I found the kit listed as a back ordered item at HobbyLink Japan. They say it should only take three or four weeks for them to get one out to me. I hope they can do it. I’m too heavily invested in after market items to give up on this vehicle, and it fits perfectly into a group build coming up in 2018 on the Flory Models forum.

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My New Channel on Vidme

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Just today, I learned of a new video platform called vidme. It looks quite promising, so I wasted no time setting up a channel there: https://vid.me/RobBye

I hope readers of this blog will take a moment to visit my channel, and watch some of my video offerings. A remarkable number of scale modellers have also begun establishing themselves on this new platform – many names you’ll surely recognize.

Of course, I still have my channel on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXa9J1EI3Uqvu19quq5CkkQ , but I can’t rule out a day when all my new content will go straight to Vidme.

I’ll see you there!

My Little Tank Factory

As modellers, we enjoy sharing photos of kits throughout their construction. Many modellers, however, don’t take any special care displaying their craftsmanship to its best advantage. Usually, we only see photos taken on someone’s workbench, or inside a spray booth. If the modeller thinks of it, to eliminate a cluttered background, he may use a blank piece of paper to form a small seamless backdrop. I sought a better solution, and came up with this:

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This factory scene was created using nothing more than a couple of pieces of foam board, a single piece of ceramic floor tile, and some odds and ends from a junk drawer. As shown, the scene is still very much in the early stages of development. As I work on more kits, and develop better modelling techniques, I can apply them to my factory scene as well.

The following images, from contemporary Ukrainian or Russian tank factories show the look I’m aiming for:

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So far, I think I’ve made a decent start on recreating the grimy conditions and the awful paint schemes. I used a home brewed oil wash, left over from a recently completed model, to add the initial layers of grubbiness. Both the foam board and the floor tile accepted the wash beautifully.

I’ve fashioned together a few scaled down pallets, shipping crates, I-beam stands, and other items you’d likely encounter in such an environment. I hope to also add things like parts racking, workbenches, shop machines, and even propaganda posters.

As the following image shows, there’s absolutely no concern about getting too heavy-handed with the weathering:

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I think of my scene as a sort of diorama that can be reused for any kit I build. I only build armour, but something like this could benefit an aircraft modeller just as easily. As time goes by, my factory scene will grow and evolve, never looking quite the same way twice.

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I’ve never seen anyone else use a backdrop like this, but I hope this sort of thing catches on, and the idea spreads.

Brazil’s Osorio Tank

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Almost forgotten today, the Osorio was a prototype main battle tank developed by Brazilian arms manufacturer Engesa during the 1980s. The Osorio was named in honour of Manuel Luis Osório, founder of the Brazilian Army’s cavalry branch.

The vehicle was developed as a private venture, with little government investment. Only two prototypes were ever constructed. The first being completed in 1985, with the second following in 1986.

Brazil was just beginning to emerge as an industrial democracy at the time of the Osorio’s development, so the vehicle was designed to accommodate that nation’s limited transportation infrastructure. Weight was held to no more than 43 tonnes, the maximum load capacity of most road bridges and overpasses in Brazil. Similarly, the vehicle was sized with Brazil’s existing road and rail tunnels, tank transporters, and rail cars in mind. As this infrastructure was comparable to that of much of the Developing World in the 1980s, it was thought that the Osorio would be ideal for export to these nations.

oX1Miz1The Osorio tank was fitted with composite armour at the front of the hull and turret. This composite was broadly similar to Britain’s Chobham armour. It comprised steel, aluminium, carbon fibres and ceramics. Though the Osorio’s armour was kept light, it was also strong, rated to defeat any anti-tank projectile in service at that time.

The EE-T1 version of the Osorio, intended for the Brazilian Army, was armed with a British Ordnance L7A3 105mm rifled gun, and carried a total of 45 rounds. The EE-T2 was intended for export customers and was armed with a more powerful French GIAT G1 120mm smoothbore gun, though ammunition stowage had to be reduced to 38 rounds. Both guns were fully-stabilized and manually loaded. The EE-T2 variant was claimed to have a first round hit probability of 80%, at 2 km range, against moving targets.

Secondary armament of the EE-T1 consisted of two 7.62mm machine guns. One was mounted coaxially, the other placed on the turret roof. The EE-T2 was also fitted with a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, but a 12.7mm machine gun was placed atop the turret.

Crew consisted of a commander, gunner, loader and driver, the conventional four-man configuration.

Mindful of their tight development budget, Engesa’s buyers shopped the world for proven tank technologies. From Netherlands came the MWM TBD 234 diesel engine, which developed 1040 horsepower, and enjoyed a solid reputation for reliability in demanding industrial applications. Germany supplied the ZF LSG300 automatic transmission, also used in the Korean K1, Italy’s C-1 Ariete, and the Leopard 2. Together, the engine and transmission formed a single power pack, which could be replaced within 30 minutes under field conditions. The Osorio’s Diehl 570 tracks, the same type found on many other western AFVs, also came from Germany. From Britain came the Dunlop hydro-pneumatic suspension system, also used in the Challenger series of tanks, the 105mm L7A3 cannon, and Vickers designed and built turrets.

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Once the two Osorio prototypes had been assembled and tested, Engesa began seeking international orders. In a competition held by Saudi Arabia, the Osorio bested such heavyweights as the M1A1 Abrams, AMX-40, and Challenger I. An order never came, however, as, for political reasons, the Saudis ordered the American M1 Abrams tank instead. No other country showed interest in the $3.8 million U.S. dollar Osorio, and the project began to unravel. Ultimately, after investing the equivalent of $100 million dollars into the Osorio project, Engesa filed for bankruptcy.

The only two completed prototypes an EE-T1 and an EE-T2 were handed over to the Brazilian army, which displays them in public only on rare occasions.

The Kit Bunker

I recently received my first order from a new Canadian on-line seller called The Kit Bunker. I say “first order”, because I intend to place several more orders in the coming weeks and months.

The Kit Bunker is located in Edmonton, Alberta, and run by a guy named Ron Dumouchel. He specializes in selling pre-owned kits, priced at about half their regular retail cost. Currently, he has about 700 kits of all types listed, and he’ll list more, as existing inventory moves along. Ron offers international shipping, so no matter where you live, he may have a bargain for you.

Tiger 75 Group Build – Here’s My Entry

YouTube modeller Adam Mann recently launched a group build commemorating 75 years since the Tiger tank’s induction into service. This is the kit I’ll be entering:

artDragon’s Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausf. E Tiger I

Several firsts are involved here. I don’t normally build WW II armour, and I don’t normally build models at all during the summer months. Nowadays, I mainly focus on modern armour, but during my youth, I did enjoy WW II subjects, especially German, yet I’ve never before constructed a Tiger 1 tank.

My participation comes largely as a result of this build being conceived by Adam Mann. I love his kit reviews, and truly enjoy following his channel. Many of my other favourite YouTube modellers are also taking part, so this is a good means of  introducing myself.

All these new experiences – this should be fun!

YouTube video introducing my Tiger 75 group build entry

My unboxing of Dragon’s Tiger 1 initial production version

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Is It Now Time to Rethink AFV Camouflage?

I enjoy following developments within the Canadian military. One particularly interesting development has been the subtle transformation of camouflage within the Canadian Army. Since the adoption of the CADPAT digital camouflage pattern in the early 2000s, Canada has been thrust toward the leading edge of military camouflage theory. As part of this newfound enlightenment, the Canadian Army undertook a break from their long-held tradition of issuing black combat boots, going instead with brown, a more natural and organic colour. They didn’t stopped there, adopting coyote brown as the base colour for much of their individual kit items, such as load bearing vests, pouches, gloves, even t-shirts.

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Coyote brown makes perfect sense as the base colour for a Canadian soldier’s personal kit. It’s as equally effective with the temperate green version of CADPAT, as it is with the arid version.

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This got me thinking about camouflage for AFVs. What colour works best for today’s diverse battlefield terrain, which can range from sandy deserts to lush green forests?

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As a counter to threatened aggression from Russia, the United States has begun stationing armoured units in Northern Europe. As recent American conflicts have taken place in more arid environments, many of their vehicles are still sporting desert tan as the base camouflage colour. The above image demonstrates how completely ineffective this is for deployments in forest environments like Poland or Estonia.

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Canada did the complete opposite, deploying vehicles painted NATO green into Afghanistan’s arid wastelands. In that case, the out of place contrast of green was muted by desert dust settling over each vehicle’s surfaces, helping them blend with their natural surroundings.

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Israel is one country experienced with combat over a diversity of environments. The Israeli Defense Forces have adopted a hybrid camouflage colour, often called Sinai Grey. Its appearance can vary, depending on light conditions, from vehicle to vehicle, sometimes appearing greenish, sometimes brownish. It’s the perfect colour for Israel’s wide-ranging combat environment.

I would argue coyote brown could be equally effective for much of NATO’s armour fleet. Vehicle’s transported from one area of NATO territory to another would more easily blend into their surroundings. Even if a coyote brown vehicle were deployed to a desert battlefield, it wouldn’t clash with the background.

There’s a deep historical attachment to green for AFVs, but perhaps it’s time to rethink that, and accept the reality that today’s militaries find themselves fighting in areas well beyond the central forests of Europe.

Looking Through Tank Armour

With these CAD images, model kit manufacturer MiniArt gives us a unique glimpse at the inner layout of a tank:37029_Tiran4ed.342

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37029_Tiran4ed.345I’ve never seen computer generated images so effectively simulate transparent material. Fascinating stuff, really. This is MiniArt’s soon to be released Tiran 4 (late type)

Not overlooked, the tank’s hull:37029_Tiran4ed.357With kits this exquisite, MiniArt will definitely be a top brand, and very soon. Look at how impressive their box art is:37003_BOX_DESIGN_CS6

Reading Glasses – A Vital Aid for this Scale Modeller!

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My vision simply isn’t what it once was. I wear prescription glasses for a very minor amount of long distance correction. For things closer to me, I can happily get by, just fine, without my glasses.

Building models has proved to be that singular exception. I just cannot focus well enough, in close, to see the more intricate little pieces, and working with photo etch is the worst!

The solution for me, like so many others, is to use reading glasses.

I bought my first pair of readers at a local pharmacy, trying on various strengths until I found what seemed to work best, a pair rated at +1.50. That’s a fairly mild amount of correction, but I still found them a bit too strong, and a couple of hours of wear lead to eye strain. For my second pair, I cut back to a strength of only +1.25. These seem better matched to my personal needs, but I might try +1.00 in the future.

I don’t know if any one brand is better than another. I use InFokus brand glasses, and appreciate how well they’re made.

If you’re struggling to see tiny details, may I suggest you consider giving reading glasses a try?

Social Media for the Modern Scale Modeller

ost effectivesocial_mediaThese days, I believe the most effective way for scale modellers to reach out to others in the hobby is through social media. We used to have local modelling clubs, but those didn’t adapt with the times, and many have simply faded away.

I’m a big fan of web-based forums, and I’m fairly active on two, Flory Models, and ISM (International Scale Modeller). Though they’re polar opposites in their approaches, I enjoy both. There are many others, as well, but those are my regular haunts.

I also participate in numerous Facebook groups. Canadian B/S/T Scale Models, Canadian Military Modellers Association, and AMPS ISRAEL (Armour Modelling and Preservation Society Israel) are three of my favourites. Just search for your subject of interest, and Facebook will offer numerous groups for you – or you could even start your own!

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a YouTube channel devoted to my own scale modelling efforts. It’s still early days, but I’m adding a new video pretty much every month, people are subscribing to see more, and several of my videos have reached view counts in the thousands. I’ll never be considered an oracle of scale modelling, but I’m quite pleased with the rate at which my channel is growing.

Finally, there’s my blog here. I’m happy to report that view counts have increased every month for the past year. My sincere thanks to everyone who visits. I try to keep the subject matter diverse, and it seems to have caught on with readers.

No matter what social media you prefer, be sure to join the conversation. I can’t imagine anything sadder than a scale modeller sitting all alone in their space, with absolutely no contact with the outside world. Reach out!