HobbyBoss 1/35 IDF Merkava IV
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||New tool kit|
The Merkava series of tanks dates to the 1960s, when Israel drew up plans to remove its military-industrial complex from reliance on foreign factories. Israel's economy and national reserves, backed by U.S. military grant aid, allowed it to purchase nearly any land, sea, or air platform and weapon from friendly nations, but Israel's infrastructure was not capable of producing those items domestically.
In 1965, Israel's military establishment began research and development on a domestically-produced tank, the "Sabra" (Hebrew slang for a Jew born in Israel, not to be confused with the modern Sabra tank). Initially, Britain and Israel collaborated to develop the United Kingdom's Chieftain tank that had entered British Army service in 1966. However, in 1969, Britain decided not to sell the tank to Israel for political reasons.
Israel Tal, who was serving as a brigade commander after the Suez Crisis, restarted plans to produce an Israeli-made tank, drawing on lessons from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Israeli forces were outnumbered by those of the Middle East's Arab nations. Realizing that they could not win wars of attrition, the Israelis set stringent requirements of crew survivability and safety for the new tank platform.
By 1974, initial designs were completed and prototypes were built. After a brief set of trials, work began to retool the Tel HaShomer ordnance depot for full-time development and construction. After the new facilities were completed, the Merkava was announced to the public in theInternational Defense Review periodical. The first official images of the tank were then released to the American periodical Armed Forces Journal on May 14, 1977. The IDF did not officially adopt the tank until December 1978, when the first full battalion of 30 tanks was delivered for initial unit training.
The Mark IV is the most recent generation of the Merkava and has been in development since 1999. Its development was announced in an October 1999 edition of the Bamachaneh (At the Camp) military publication. However, new Merkava Mark IIIs continued to be produced until 2003. The first Merkava IVs were in production in limited numbers by the end of 2004.
As with all tanks, there are a number of other vehicles based on the Merkava chassis. For a lot more information on the tank and variants, visit the reference link.
In line with other new Hobby Boss armor kits, this one is superbly molded in tan plastic with some parts in other materials. There are two frets of etched brass as well as a long section of chain and some metal chain beads as the Merkava has chain sections dangling from the rear of the turret. Were this a horse it would be used to keep flies away, but it is probably RPG protection.
Another very nice part of the kit is that the road wheels are a flexible black vinyl. One thing I've always come to dread on tracked vehicles has been painting road wheels. No need to now as that has already been done. The kit also provides separate track links. While more work to assemble, they really do look very good when one is done.
The kit also provides a wide range of options in terms of having various hatches and doors and covers open or closed. There is a quite complete set of photo etch provided and this is used for a variety of fittings and pieces. For instance, the exhaust diffusers are p.e. parts as are covers for radios, small handles, latches, straps for the muzzle blanket, and other bits and pieces. These are not replacements for kit parts but an integrated part of the build. The kit also includes the very prominent side skirts one finds when looking at Merkava photos
Late note: It has been pointed out to me that the left and right side suspension attachment points on the hull are not symmetrical with each side. This is shown in the parts layout diagram and is the way the part is molded. I don't know if this is accurate or not, but you should be aware of it.
Instructions are very nicely drawn with 16 somewhat busy construction steps. Any optional parts are shown and there are small detail sections to show how some of the pieces are properly aligned. The nicely done decal sheet provides markings for two unidentified tanks. Both are in the new Sinai Grey color that looks very much like RLM 02. A variety of paint company references are provided so you are sure to find something appropriate in your area.
It is great to see Hobby Boss coming up with these new armor kits. The Merkava has always been a pretty cool looking tank and Israeli armor has always been popular. Won't be a fast build, but will be one that will look great when it is finished.
Thanks to Squadron Products for the preview kit. Get yours at your local retailer.
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