by: Jason Bobrowich [ ]
There are always lessons learned in combat. In particular there have been many lessons learned by the Canadian tank crews in Afghanistan who have fought hard on the Leopard C2 and Leopard 2A6M CAN. Those lessons have not fell on deaf ears and have been transferred directly to the development of Canada’s newest Main Battle Tank, the Leopard 2A4M CAN.
The Leopard 2A4M CANs are upgraded ex-Dutch Leopard 2A4s purchased by Canada. Five Leopard 2A4M CAN were re-built and immediately crews began training on the tanks in Germany during 2010. The tanks were upgraded by KMW with new armour packages, Canadian communications equipment, IED countermeasures, slat armour components, enhancements for driver viewing during day and night, and the ever so popular Barracuda MCS.
In October 2010 the official reveal of the tanks was conducted in Germany and between December 2010 and January 2011 the five tanks were sent to Afghanistan and immediately into combat operations.
As Canadian tank crews were busily preparing to deploy these tanks to Afghanistan so too was German model producer Y-Modelle as they were creating first a 1/72 scale kit and now a 1/35 conversion for the Leopard 2A4M CAN. The fast production of this 1/35 conversion is nearly unprecedented with the tank being deployed and a conversion for this ultra-modern Canadian tank being released literally simultaneously.
To begin, the conversion depicts the Canadian Leopard 2A4M CAN without the Barracuda MCS. Yes, the five tanks in Afghanistan are deployed with the Barracuda MCS. One must remember that the Canadian combat mission ends in July 2011 and more than likely we will see these tanks in the future as they are brought home without the Barracuda MCS and probably without the slat armour sections mounted as well.
The Y-Modelle conversion is designed for the Hobby Boss Leopard 2A4 #82401 kit.
The conversion consists of a grand total of 103 parts. This consists of resin parts and two photo etched parts.
Included are the following parts:
• Hull side armour left and right sections
• Belly armour x 2 sections
• Glacis plate armour section
• Armoured side skirts left and right
• Front fenders left and right
• Skirt steps left and right
• Rear hull access cover plates x 2
• Driver’s rear driving camera
• Turret side armour left and right
• Armoured mantlet
• Turret frontal armour left and right
• Turret rear stowage baskets left and right
• Turret rear stowage bustle
• “T” antenna mounts left and right
• ECM boxes x 2
• ECM box conduit
• C8A2 carbine rifle box
• Turret hull armour cover plates left and right (PE)
• Rear hull slat sections and mounts
• Hull side slat sections and mounts left and right
• Turret side slat sections and mounts left and right
• Turret rear slate sections and mounts left and right
PARTS QUALITY & PACKAGING
The parts are packaged well in multiple heat sealed small plastic bag sections and packed neatly and firmly into a sturdy cardboard box. The resin parts in my conversion are cast in a creamy tan. The two photo etch parts are self contained on a small fret.
The overall appearance of the parts is very good. The main hull and turret parts and cast flawlessly and I could not detect any air bubbles.
The slat sections are cast in resin. This creates a couple of issues in that they are nice and thin but they may be fragile when handled. The other issue is that there is a significant amount of resin flash inside each section. With a sharp knife and taking it a bit at a time they should clean up nicely. For any warping a quick dip in hot water then placing the parts on a flat surface to ensure a good solid 90 degree angle in the slat sections should do the trick.
The slat section support arms are also cast in resin and will likely be a welcome addition to those modellers who have taken on the Eduard photo etched slat support arms.
There are ten pages of instruction provided in a small booklet form. The instructions are solely written in German. I have spoken with Y-Modelle and due to the increased interest of international sales they do intend to release the instructions in English in the future.
The instructions pages provide a breakdown of the parts and move through a systematic assembly process for the addition of the conversion parts. Colour images of each step are provided with particular attention paid to how the Hobby Boss kit must be modified in order for the conversion parts to fit properly.
Even without an English translation of the instructions a modeler who takes the time to study the conversion parts, the instruction images, and the Hobby Boss kit should be able to successfully assemble the conversion.
There are five colour images of the completed and painted conversion provided. There are no marking details as none are visible on the tanks at the time of deployment. The tank in the conversion is painted green with the slat armour sections and mounts in sand/tan.
Overall the instructions are acceptable but it would have been good to have had larger images to show the blending of the conversion parts with the Hobby Boss kit. The difficulty that will likely be encountered in differentiating the multitude of slat armour mounts and where they fit.
I want to thank fellow modeler Mr. Hans-Hermann Buehling for assisting me with a translation of the instructions and for test fitting his conversion parts.
The assembly of the hull parts starts with the removal of the escape hatch. The belly armour is then attached to the bottom of the hull. On the front upper hull the front fenders are removed and replaced by conversion parts. The grouser and spare track mounts are also removed from the front hull. One part that does appear to be missing from the top of the right headlight mount is a small square object seen in available reference images. This is a heads up warning light display for the driver. There should also be electrical connections for use with a dozer blade or mine plow on the back side of this headlight mount.
On the front upper hull there are several raised portions that must be removed in order for the add-on armour to properly fit. The upper front hull armour includes a very nice rendition of the driver’s thermal viewer. All of the parts to be removed from the Hobby Boss kit are indicated in red in the instructions.
The rear hull uses the conversion rectangular access hatch covers on Hobby Boss part N16 as well as a replacement driver’s rear camera. One part not included to go along with the driver’s rear camera is the cable conduit that runs along the top of the rear hull from the camera to the upper left corner of the engine deck. This will have to be sourced from a Leopard 2A5/A6 kit or scratch built.
The hull sides get a full treatment with the modular armour sections, the footsteps, and the rear armoured side skirt sections. There does appear to be a series of three recessed bolt holes missing from the top front angle of each of the side hull armour modules. This should be easy to add with a pin vise drill. Prior to attaching the side skirts a portion of the Hobby Boss side skirt attachment points must be sanded down. This is indicated in red in the instructions. Indicated in the instructions is the possibility of the thinner armoured side skirts needing a bit of trimming to fit properly. Test fitting would be a must do in this case to ensure a proper fit.
The hull slat assembly is covered later in the instructions and consists of the single piece slat sections for the left and ride side of the hull and the rear hull slat which consists of five sections attached together. Add to this the various support arms and the hull slat sections assemble into three distinct subassemblies that the modeller will be able to mount on the hull as the build proceeds. The slat sections differ from the Leopard 2A6M CAN and this is yet another example of the lessons learned in Afghanistan. On the rear hull slat two of the sections have reinforcing and integrated flip down ladders so the crews can climb up the rear of the tank. These sections are noticeably different looking in the conversion.
The images in the instructions are not totally clear as to the exact location of the support arms on the slat sections and this will require some close studying of the images to get it all correct. The key is to study the slat sections before they are cleaned up. Each slat section has visible very small bolt heads where the support arms will attach. Take care not to remove the bolt heads while you are cleaning up the slat sections.
One thing I have noticed that modellers will have to take into consideration and will likely want to add is that the slat support arms do not simply attach directly to the hull sides and rear. As on the Leopard 2A6M there are corresponding welded on mounts for the support arms with bolt holes. These mounts will not be difficult to add to the Hobby Boss hull but the key will be to take your time and figure out exactly where they should be placed and use the slat support arms to ensure everything lines up evenly. The support arms should have a hollowed out slit running down each support. This is shown molded over on the kit parts.
The use on the conversion parts with the Hobby Boss turret starts with some modifications to the Hobby Boss barrel and mantlet in order for the new add-on armoured mantlet to fit properly. I noted on the mantlet that the coaxial machine gun port (left upper oval hole) and the gunner’s secondary sight port (right lower oval hole) are molded over and these in fact will need to be carefully drilled out. Moving on to the upper turret two portions of the Hobby Boss upper turret need to be removed in order to attach the rear turret bustle part. The angular frontal armour is attached to the kit turret. This will create overhangs on the right and left turret sides until the side turret armour is attached.
Bear in mind that you will need to consult the Hobby Boss instructions to figure out the assembly process to ensure attaching the conversion parts does not interfere with the assembly of the remainder of the turret. Essentially you need to come up with a logical hybrid assembly sequence to assemble the turret. Other conversion parts attached to the Hobby Boss turret include the antenna mounts, the carbine rifle box that now mounts behind the loader’s hatch, the two ECM boxes, the ECM conduit, and the turret side open stowage bins. Note that the grousers from the Hobby Boss kit attach to the rear of the open stowage bins and the rear turret bustle. I have noted from limited reference images that the grousers attach to the open stowage bins with small brackets for each grouser. These are not included in the conversion. There should be two grouser and also two end connectors on each open stowage bin rear side.
On the turret bustle there are mounting points for the slat support arms and this will greatly aid in getting everything lined up. Also included on the rear of the turret bustle are the brackets for a total of six grousers from the Hobby Boss kit. The look of the brackets should aid in adding the brackets to the open bins. A big note for modellers is that the Hobby Boss Leopard 2A4 includes both the standard 4 x 4 set up for the grenade dischargers and this is what is shown in the Hobby Boss instructions. Do not use these grenade dischargers or mounts. The Leopard 2A4M CAN uses a set of six grenade dischargers on each side of the turret. These parts are included in the Hobby Boss kit on sprue ‘B’ as a result of the other Leopard 2 versions they produce and these are the grenade dischargers to use with the conversion.
For the final assembly of the turret conversion parts the two photo etched parts are attached to the turret top to fill in the gap created by the turret side armour modules. The parts are numbered and the instructions indicate where each part goes. There are bend lines on the two photo etched parts that will assist in fitting the parts properly.
It is a bit unclear due to a lack of reference images but there do appear to be details missing from the rear side of the turret armour where it is exposed to the grenade dischargers. It appears that there should be a series of recessed notches or attachment points instead of the smooth backside included in the conversion part.
The turret slat sections comprise of a rear section, a left and right section and mounts for each side. The rear sections use four support arms that attach to the rear turret bustle. These locations are easily visible on the turret bustle. The side sections use a large angled support arm that attaches to the open stowage bins. Each side also has a smaller angled support that attaches to the end of each of the turret add-on armour modules. Take your time with these parts and ensure everything is test fitted and lined up properly before the final gluing. The same issue I previously mentioned with the mounts for the slat support arms for the hull will arise with the turret. The mounts are provided on the rear of the turret but they will need to be added to the turret sides.
The Leopard 2A4M CAN conversion by Y-Modelle is a very nice piece of work. Y-Modelle has tried to make this conversion accurate with the reference material they had available. The conversion parts are very well cast and will contribute to an overall very modern and very unique conversion of a brand new Canadian tank. Modellers just need to be patient and wait for further reference material to be made available to add further details.
The conversion cannot be criticized for using the Hobby Boss kit as the base. It makes the Hobby Boss Leopard 2A4 kit shine and look amazing.
While Y-Modelle is primarily known in Germany with this conversion they will likely be getting a boost in international orders for their kits.