|KIT:||Revell 1/72 Leclerc MBT|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
At the start of the 1970s, the AMX-30 was ageing and, in 1977, the French Army drafted a requirement for a new main battle tank, called "EPC" (Engin Principal de Combat). Importation of foreign equipment, like the M1 Abrams, the Leopard 2, or the Merkava was studied and rejected; a joint programme with Germany, based upon the Leopard 2, went astray in 1979 and studies for a national project started then.
In contrast with most Western programmes, the stress was put on active, rather than passive protection, to limit the overall mass of the vehicle. Mobility for evading incoming fire and firing control were for particular attention.
Partnership with a foreign State was sought to limit the cost per unit, and this was found when the United Arab Emirates ordered 436 vehicles, adding to the 426 units already planned for the French Army.
In 1986, the project was started under the name of "Leclerc", six prototypes being built swiftly. Mass production started in 1990 with the four-unit first batch, used mainly for comparative tests in foreign countries. The 17 units of batches 2 and 3 were shipped, with improvements in the turret and in the hull armour. These units were diagnosed with problems in the engine and suspension, and were quickly retired.
Batches 4 and 5 were better finished, eliminating the recurrent problems in the powerplant, and are still in service, after having been refitted at the end of the 1990s. The second series started with batch 6, with an added climate control system in the right rear of the turret. Batch 7 introduced a transmission system to the command vehicle, and a data system giving instantaneous vision of the state of all battle tanks and acquired targets. It also incorporated minor improvements in the visor. Batch 8 was a modernisation of the electronic system, and batch 9 replaced the visor with a SAGEM Iris system with thermal imaging, which allows acquisition of targets at a greater range.
All previous batches will be modernised up to the standards of batch 9 from 2005. In 2004, batch 10 was presented, incorporating new information systems which could share the disposition of enemy and friendly units to all vehicles and new armour. This is the beginning of the 96-unit third series. By 2007, 355 tanks should be operational, 320 of them incorporated in 4 regiments each of 80 Leclerc vehicles.
Very nicely molded in a dark green plastic, the four spures show no mold defects at all, though there are a few ejector pin marks that could be visible when the kit is built. The crisply molded parts have quite a high level of detailing on them, but one expects that from a circa 2002 kit.
As is the norm with newer kits, this one has plastic track that comes in sections with individual links to wrap around the drive sprocket and main idler. The tank has a main hull section onto which a suspension assembly as well as upper, forward and rear hull sections are attached. There are actually quite a few bits and pieces to attach to the upper hull and the turret, though nothing as you'd find in a larger scale kit. with the large side skirts of this tank, the builder can be forgiven for not putting a lot of effort into the upper suspension and track area as that will not be seen.
Instructions are typical of Revell AG kits of this period as they are on a semi-newsprint paper and hinged at the top. Naturally, only Revell paints are referenced in any of the superbly drawn construction sequences so some mixing is required to get all the proper shades. Markings are for two tanks, both in the camo scheme shown on the box art. One is a KFOR vehicle in Kosovo during 1999 and the other is a generic tank from one of the four battalions serving at home in France. Both tanks are named. The small decal sheet is well printed and should provide no problems with application.
For those of you working in small scales who like modern armor, then this is a kit for you. It is well molded and should provide a trouble-free build. What's more, it is something a bit different from the norm in this area, and that is always a plus.
You can thank me for providing the preview kit.
Scott Van Aken
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