China’s New Light Tank: ZTQ

While global tank designs have gotten progressively larger and heavier, China has bucked that trend with a new light tank, called the ZTQ.

The ZTQ was first spotted in late 2011, but few details about it were known, and the Chinese went to great lengths to keep the most sensitive information from being discovered. Prototype vehicles were photographed being transported by rail or truck, but the turret was always covered, keeping its precise configuration from being determined.

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One detail that does appear to be known is that the main gun is chambered in 105mm. That’s noteworthy for a couple of reasons: first, it suggests the Chinese are moving away from compatibility with Russian calibres, and second, it suggests the Chinese intend to offer this vehicle for sale internationally. The Chinese likely couldn’t purchase 105mm ammunition from western countries, but they’re obviously capable of producing their own. Potential purchasers of this tank may not be constrained from buying ammunition from the west, so this calibre would be more appealing to them.

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It has been reported that China’s People’s Liberation Army evaluated a number of ZTQ prototype vehicles throughout 2014. Presumably, any changes which needed to be made were attended to, and series production then got underway. The ZTQ has begun appearing along China’s borders, in more remote areas, where the terrain precludes any use of main battle tanks. The ZTQ would surely be no match for a full-size MTB, but it could dominate those battlefields a heavier vehicle couldn’t reach.

As Chinese requirements get fulfilled, we may see the ZTQs appearing at international arms exhibitions. Once that happens, we’ll get a clearer indication of what this unique vehicle can offer.

Olympos Airbrush Update

I’m still very much enjoying my Olympos Micron MP-200C airbrush, and my fine line skills are developing – sloowly. I bought my Olympos from Frank Artale, and I see that Pacific Airbrush in the United States is also selling several Olympos models, as well as replacement parts and accessories. Here’s what Pacific Airbrush has to say about Olympos:

“Olympos was perhaps the world’s most advanced airbrush manufacturer before it went into hiatus in the last couple of decades. During that time, the company licensed its proven and popular airbrush designs to Iwata. Now revitalized by Toshiya Takeshima, Olympos is back manufacturing its classic designs at the same factories that produce parts for Japan’s other top end airbrush manufacturers. 

While some older designs are no longer available in production (although previously manufactured stock may be in existence), Toshiya has stated that parts and service will be available for all of Olympos’ products.”

Pacific Airbrush also put this extremely informative graphic on their website:

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For his part, Toshiya Takeshima, of Olympos, recently had this to say on Facebook:

“Regarding the compatibility of each airbrush made in Japan,

There is a company secret part.

Please enjoy your compatibility on your own.
Thank you.”

My interpretation of his meaning (without him acknowledging all premium Japanese airbrushes come from the same manufacturer) is there are subtle differences in the way each airbrush brand specifies their models be produced. As Pacific Airbrush’s chart shows, the majority of parts on my MP-200C are interchangeable with Iwata parts. Olympos, however, specifies a proprietary grind on their needles. An Olympos needle differs in length, with a unique taper.

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I’ve seen this photo on-line, and pondered its significance. That’s Toshiya Takeshima on the right, and I wonder if the gentleman on the left might have been the original founder of Olympos? I gather the building behind them was Olympos’ headquarters. If so, that shows Olympos maintained a corporate presence, even through the many years when they weren’t particularly active in the airbrush market.

Badger Airbrush – As Real as it Gets

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The Badger Air-Brush Company announced they are sending out, by email, the first issue of their Overspray newsletter in over 10 years. They promise lots of great product info, tips, techniques, global dealer info, artist work, employee info, and more in each issue.

If you’d like to subscribe, send an email to customerservice@badgerairbrush.com and put “send OVERSPRAY newsletter” in the subject box, and they’ll add you to the email list.

badger-airbrushBadger is very open to showing behind the scenes views of their operations. When an airbrush brand actually assembles their own products, they can do this sort of thing. Ever wonder why none of the Japanese airbrush brands ever show images of their workshops?

Choosing the Right Airbrush Spray Booth

I need to buy an airbrush spray booth for my hobby room, so it’s time to take a look at the best available choices, and see which one is right for me.

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eBay portable spray booth: sold under various brand names, there’s plenty to like about these units, beginning with their affordable price points. Even delivered into Canada, the cost would be no more than $200.

From its remarkably compact folded size, it quickly expands out into a usable spray booth for smaller model kits. Need something bigger? You can place two units side-by-side, and mate them together.

The portable spray booth can be purchased from a vast array of on-line sellers, and can be purchased with or without a telescoping length of outlet hose. I already have a better quality exhaust hose and a custom-built exhaust port, but I would still need one of their exhaust outlet flanges, so I’d order this spray booth with the optional exhaust system.

The are a few deficiencies to contend with here. The exhaust fan is not especially powerful, resulting in airflow that’s adequate, at best. The filters are comparatively small, but, at five for only about $25, quite inexpensive. This spray booth seems built well enough to get the job done, but clearly will not withstand rough handling or hard impacts.

Overall, I consider this spray booth the “budget oriented” contender.

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The Paasche HSSB-22-16: an all-metal spray booth. Compared to the folding portable style booths, this is bigger, heavier-duty, and features higher airflow and potentially better filtration. It also costs a lot more, with a selling price just under $400 USD. Adding in shipping and duty, it would cost me $600, landed in Canada. That’s more than I’d be willing to pay for a no-frills, no extras, spray booth. I see this unit as being priced at double what it’s truly worth.

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BenchVent A300S-D: This spray booth is immensely popular in Great Britain and throughout parts of Europe. Popular YouTube modellers like Paul Bretland and Phil Flory can frequently be seen using them in their videos. In fact, Phil Flory now uses a pair of them, side by side!

The GraphicAir sell for about £220, which currently equals about $360 CDN. That’s not too bad! I do like everything about this spray booth. It’s simple, effective, ergonomic, and affordable, so why isn’t this my automatic choice?

The one sticking point is the incredibly high shipping costs from the UK. To get one of these booths shipped to Canada would cost a whopping £100, or $160 CDN. Another issue is the high costs of air filters, when purchased from BenchVent. A simple work-around for the filters is to buy the material in a bulk roll, cutting off what you need, as you need it. It wouldn’t take long for that little scheme to pay off.

If a North American company marketed a spray booth, like this, I’d buy it in a heartbeat! And I’m sure many other hobbyists would too. As good as the A300S-D is, a total cost of $520 to have one shipped over from Britain just doesn’t sit well with me.

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Artograph 1530: this is probably one of the more popular spray booths in North America, mostly because it enjoys good availability through graphic supply distributers. Scale modelling is probably not the Artograph’s intended use, but it can surely do the job.

What, right away, stops me from giving the Artograph any serious consideration is its downdraft design, meaning the plenum chamber and exhaust fan motors are underneath the work surface. This results in the spray area being elevated about 20cm, so I’d have to stand and spray downwards while using my airbrushes. Every other design I’ve looked at would permit me to remain comfortably seated while spraying.

Another knock on this booth is the exhaust outlets exiting out the side. I would have to gently curve my exhaust hoses (there would be two, in this case) toward the outlet above where I work. That’s not just inconvenient, it also hogs valuable working space.

If all that wasn’t enough, the Artograph spray booths are absurdly overpriced. One dealer in Canada is charging $755 for this unit. I could get one shipped from the U.S., but even then, it would still come in at well over $600 CDN.

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Pace Peace Keeper 24″ Super Mini: if I must spend anywhere near $600 to get an effective spray booth, this is the one I’ll get!

This Pace spray booth is loaded with serious features, like polished galvanized steel construction, an industrial fan motor, built-in lighting, separate front-mounted switches for the lights and fan, and as a practical touch, it can even use common household air conditioner filters, which are available at most local hardware stores. The blatant “Rah-Rah, Made in the U.S. of A.” Peace Keeper graphics which come on this spray booth are a bit off-putting, but those can always be removed.

 

So those are the contenders I have to choose from. Right now, I think the Pace 24″ Super Mini may have the inside track, but we’ll see what happens in the next couple of months, when I actually have to commit hard-earned dollars. Stay tuned…

India May Buy Israel’s Merkava Tank

News has come that India is considering the purchase of Merkava main battle tanks from Israel. Though I personally doubt this will ever happen, the prospect of such a deal is somewhat plausible, due to the extensive defence ties which have developed between these two countries.
  
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Until now, India has been heavily reliant on Russia for their MBTs, using a locally adapted version of the T-72, and producing the T-90 under license. India is, in fact, a far greater user of the T-90 than Russia itself.
 
The sight of destroyed Russian-built tanks, scattered across the world’s battlefields, can’t have been lost on the Indian army. Wisely they’ve contracted with Israeli companies to provide major upgrades to their fleet. It’s only logical they’d consider taking this process one step further, and actually buy main battle tanks from Israel, who’s Merkava series has an enviable record in combat.

BAE Terrier Combat Engineer Vehicle

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Britain’s Royal Engineers are fielding what could be the world’s ultimate combat engineer vehicle, the Terrier from BAE Systems.

“Representing a step change in vehicle design, Terrier demonstrates a new generation of multifunctional combat engineer vehicles, delivering uncompromising performance from a medium weight chassis.

A drive-by-wire armoured fighting vehicle, its combination of functions meet the breadth of manoeuvre support activities required of a combat engineer.

Its capabilities range from providing mobility assistance for supported units to delivering counter-mobility, survivability and general engineering tasks.

Terrier is a compact, 32 tonne armoured platform with exceptional mobility. It provides speed of up to 70 km/h alongside outstanding off road performance, wading capability and air transportability in A400m.”

YouTube: British Army receives first Terrier Combat Engineer Vehicle

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Latvia Gets a Great Deal on Used AFVs

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The Latvian Land Forces are in the midst of accepting 123 used CRV(T) vehicles from the United Kingdom. These forty year old, lightweight, tracked armoured vehicles have been retired from the British army for a number of years. Each will be extensively overhauled before being transferred to Latvian use.

YouTube: Latvian Army Accepts First CVR(T)

Variants being purchased include the Scimitar, Sultan, Spartan, Samson, and Samaritan. The Scimitar is the most formidable type, mounting a 30mm Rarden auto cannon. There’s no indication Latvia will be getting Scorpions, which are similar to the Scimitar, but mount a 76mm main gun.

The entire purchase came at the bargain price of only 65 million (U.S.) dollars. A substantial savings for tiny Latvia, which can now field some quasi-modern AFVs, and could prove money well spent for Britain, if these vehicles can help persuade Russia to keep her forces on their side of the border.

Marder 1A2

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The Marder 1 (“marten”) is a German Schutzenpanzer (infantry fighting vehicle) operated by the Bundeswehr as the main vehicle of the Panzergrenadiere (mechanized infantry) from the 1970s through to the present day. Developed as part of West Germany’s reestablished armoured fighting vehicle industry, the Marder has proven to be a successful and solid infantry fighting vehicle design, well suited to partnering with the Leopard 1 tank.

While the original Marder 1 did include a few unique features, such as the fully remote machine gun on the rear deck, it was overall a simple and conventional machine, with rear exit hatch, and side gun ports for mounted infantry to fire through. The Marder is currently being replaced by its successor, the Puma.

The first production Marder 1 was handed to the Bundeswehr on 7 May 1971. Production of the vehicle continued until 1975, with 2,136 vehicles being completed.

In 1975, the Milan missile was first adapted to be fired by commander from his open hatch, and between 1977 and 1979 Milan missiles were fitted to most vehicles, resulting in the Marder 1A2.

A number of upgrade programs were carried out, that included fitting night vision equipment and a thermal imager, as well as an upgraded ammunition feed to the 20 mm cannon. At this time, the rear mounted remote machine gun was removed.

The hull of the Marder 1 is all welded steel, giving protection from small-arms fire and shell fragments with the front of the hull providing protection from up to 20 mm APDS rounds.

The Marder is a relatively conventional design, with the driver sitting at the front left side of the hull with the engine to his right. The driver has three day periscopes mounted in a hatch. The centre periscope can be replaced by a passive night vision device. Behind the driver is a seat for a single infantry man. This man had a hatch and a periscope that could be rotated through 360 degrees.

In the centre of the hull is the two-man turret, which holds the commander on the right and the gunner on the left. Only the commander is provided with a hatch. The commander has eight day periscopes for all round observation and the gunner has an additional three. In version 1A2, there was an additional thermal sight. To the rear of the turret is the troop compartment, which can hold six infantry men, sitting back to back facing outwards along the centre of the hull.

The Marder is capable of fording in up to 1.5 meters of water unprepared, and can be fitted with a kit allowing it to ford water up to 2.5 meters deep.

The Marder is powered by an MTU six-cylinder, liquid-cooled, diesel engine which delivers approximately 591 hp. The cooling radiators are mounted at the rear of hull, either side of the exit ramp. The vehicle carries 652 litres of fuel, giving it a road range of around 500 kilometres. The Marder 1A2 could achieve a road speed of 75 km/h.

The Marder is propelled by a Diehl track, which can be fitted with rubber road pads. The drive mechanism consists of six rubber tired road wheels with a drive sprocket at the front of the hull and an idler at the rear. Three return rollers are also fitted. The suspension is a torsion bar system, with additional hydrostatic shock absorbers fitted to the front two and last two road wheels.

Primary armament is the 20 mm Rheinmetall MK 20 Rh202 autocannon, which is mounted in the small two-man turret and can fire either armour-piercing or HE rounds. Mounted coaxially to the left of the cannon is a 7.62 mm MG3 machine gun. The turret has 360 degree traverse, and can elevate from −17 degrees to +65 degrees at a rate of 40 degrees per second while traversing at a rate of 60 degrees a second. Typically, 1,250 rounds are carried for the 20 mm cannon, along with a further 5,000 rounds for the MG3. Six Milan missiles could be carried inside the vehicle.

There are four (two per side) gun ports, which can be used by mounted infantry to provide additional fire against attacking infantry targets. Six 76 mm diameter smoke grenade dischargers can create a visual and infra-red blocking smoke screen.

YouTube: Schützenpanzer Marder (1969)

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