HobbyBoss 1/35 IDF Merkava IIID
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
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 Merkava Mark III was introduced in December 1989, and had upgrades to the drivetrain, powertrain, armament, and electronic systems. The most prominent addition was the incorporation of the locally-developed IMI 120 mm gun. This gun and a larger 1,200 horsepower (890 kW) diesel engine increased the total weight of the tank to 65 tonnes (140,000 lb), but the larger engine increased the maximum cruising speed to 60 km/h (37 mph).
The turret was re-engineered for movement independent of the tank chassis, allowing it to track a target regardless of the tank's movement. Many other improvements were made, including:
The 1995 Mark III BAZ (Hebrew Acronym signifying Barak Zoher) had many improved and additional systems including:
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 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.
I guess the vinyl rubber for the road wheels did not go over well on the earlier release as that is not part of this kit. Too bad as I liked that feature for I hate to paint road wheels. 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
As some of you know, the Merkava IV that was released a bit over a year ago had a major glitch, that those of us who are armor ignorant did not notice. Specifically, the suspension attachment points were offset from side to side as in a tank that had torsion bar suspension. This has been corrected in this latest tooling.
Instructions are very nicely drawn with 20 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. It is a color you will need to mix as none of the paints shown in the paint chart have them ready mixed. The small decal sheet provides markings for two tanks that differ only in tactical markings.
It is great to see Hobby Boss fix such a major glitch and to continue to release fine kits like this. 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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