by: Darren Baker [ ]
The Leopard tank family has been an incredible success since it first showed its fangs back in the 1960ís. The introduction of the Leopard 2 has extended the Leopard name to the current day and while other than the name the first and current Leopard have very little in common beyond being Germanyís current Main Battle Tank. This version of the Leopard is the latest in the line as far as I am aware and there are changes that the modeller can see as urban warfare has become a bigger consideration in the role that the tank has to tackle and survive. So letís take a look.
The model is packed in a card tray with a separate card lid and this container is solidly packed with plastic. The box is up to normal expected handling but will need further protection in the mail system. The plastic sprues are individually packed in bags except where supplicate sprues are packaged together; I do not believe the risk of damage to be high as there is not a lot of empty space inside. With this said the photo etch frets did take some bends at some point in the life and this occurred after packing as they are identical bends that I have tried to remove with smooth pliers.
The model builds up in the typical manner we are all familiar with, but it offers some nice touches as well. The lower hull is a single piece with some nice thought gone into keeping it square; the rear panel is a separate part and will help to further stiffen the tub. The suspension is workable and while not a new feature it is something I feel most approve of. I also like that the suspension arms have a separate front face to provide a high level of detail. The wheels have a poly cap sandwiched between them meaning the wheels remain workable and can also be removed for detail painting; my only concern here is that it may mean some sacrifice of accuracy has been used to accommodate the poly caps. The detail is to a good standard on the faces and each wheel has a separate hub. There is an armoured floor panel supplied separately for mine protection. There is also some kind of protection at the rear for the engine, I suspect that this is limited in scope due to the added weight on the vehicle.
The tracks of the model are fully workable with care using the method I first saw from Bronco. This means the tracks pads are in two halves and a part with 2 pins is trapped between the pads. It does require care with the glue to retain the workability of the tracks, but Meng has put some extra thought into this. Meng has supplied a jig on every one of the track sprues that enables the production of five links at a time per jig, I particularly like that the track pins parts can be applied while attached to the sprue which makes life just so much easier when applying them to the track for securing. One other thing I like is that the number of sprue connections has been kept down.
The upper hull is supplied in three main parts with an additional armour plate protecting the sloped area from the front of the turret to the nose. The air intakes for the engine are also separate mouldings; the result of all this are some very clean and detailed mouldings that really gives the model some pizzazz. The tools have moulded on clamps with a good level of detail; those that want photo etched tool clamps will need to go down the aftermarket route. The photo etch air intake covers are well done and being such a large size means they look the part. The tow cables for this have been supplied with separate hitches and a wire; sorry Meng not a fan of that wire and so will go down the route of my favourite aftermarket provider, but with that said it is not the worst wire I have seen provided.
The mantlet for the main gun I really like in how it has been approached being both easy while having a high degree of detail. The main gun on the other hand does not make me so happy as it has been done in two halves with a separate muzzle end; no real issue you may think but the bulbous portion of the barrel is textured and so will be difficult to match up well.
The turret of the Leopard 2A7 has even more armour than before and a new remote gun on the turret. The original shape of the turret from the Leopard 2 seems to be the original design onto which everything attaches. There are a number of panels that need to be attached to the turret roof and I think the aspect that will please the modeller most is the very well replicated anti-slip coating that as far as I can tell is correctly patterned. I like that the clear elements have been supplied as clear parts rather than instructions to paint silver. One aspect of the Leopard I have always struggled to get just right are the smoke grenade launchers that have been tackled in a way that even a ham fisted modeller like me should manage relatively easily, but those adding the chain link between cap and launcher will need the aftermarket for them.
The hatches can be left open or closed, but there is no turret interior detail and so you will need to source suitable figures to the openings. The panoramic sight for the commander is correctly positioned and nicely detailed. To the rear of the turret is the air conditioner unit and storage bin; the air con unit is very nicely detailed and something I could have done with a few weeks back. The turret side armour along with the cheek armour looks the part and gives the turret of the Leopard 2 the look we have become accustomed too. The automated weapons station on the turret is well replicated and looks the part. This station has been equipped with a 50cal but it could be replaced by the modeller with a automatic grenade launcher if preferred but this will need to be sourced.
I have found an issue that bothers me with this kit and you can decide which side you fall on. There are a few images listed as showing a Leopard 2A7 that show a vehicle with no smoke grenade launchers mounted where they can be seen on the outside of the turret armour and instead has what I believe are CCTV cameras mounted as the model depicts. There seems to be more images identified as the Leopard 2A7 that do show grenade launchers in place more akin to the Leopard 2A7 and A6. I think that Meng has got it right with what is offered and the images showing the alternate setup are mislabelled.
A very nice model of the latest Leopard out of the stable which I believe is a relatively easy kit to build. Photo etch is usually the area that bothers many when it comes to small parts rather than the large sized elements and there are not many small pieces of photo etch to add. I would rather the main gun had been tackled differently, but that is not the end of the world.