by: Jason Bobrowich [ ]
Excellent mobility and fantastic firepower are two descriptors that brought the Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank and all its improved variants from the design table to the dust and grit of a modern battlefield over a span of four decades. As the Leopard 1 rolled track for the first time in the service of the Bundeswehr improvements to the tank came swift and often as modifications and enhancements were made to improve performance and crew survivability.
The Leopard 1A1 was upgraded between 1975 and 1977 in an improvement phase by adding Blohm & Voss produced add-on steel-reinforced rubber armour plates to the turret sides and rear as well as spaced steel mantlet armour. The turret itself received multiple circular shock absorber type attachment points for the add-on armour to be securely mounted. This also gave a degree of flexibility to absorb hits. In its basic form this was an early type of modular armour designed to defeat lower powered shaped charges. The add-on armour panels could be attached or removed as sections in order to conduct maintenance on the turret or to pull the power pack. Cut outs in the add-on armour were provided for the grenade dischargers and a hinged panel attached to the ammunition loading port on the left side of the turret. The new designation of the tank became Leopard 1A1A1.
Further improvements to the tank included the addition of the PZB 200 Low-Light-Level TV System on the right upper side of the mantlet. An additional electrical socket with a small guard was added to the turret top for the PZB200 power cable. This PZB 200 upgrade changed the designation to the Leopard 1A1A2. Additional modifications to the communications system (visible by shorter antennas) led to the Leopard 1A1A3 and 1A1A4 designation. The Leopard 1A1A1 served in Germany well into the early 1990s. They could be seen in the both the standard single colour Gelboliv RAL 6014 and the later three colour NATO camouflage.
The Leopard 1A1A1s were the most important version of the Leopard 1 in the Bundeswehr as they represented the largest part of their Leopard 1 fleet with over 1800 tanks serving over the longest period of time between the 1970s to 1990s.
What happened to the Leopard 1A1A1s you may be asking yourself right about now? They were destined to be converted into the Leopard 1A5. Over 1200 Leopard 1A1A1s and sub-versions from Batches 1 to 4 were converted into the Leopard 1A5 as the final upgrade to the Leopard 1 in the Bundeswehr Panzer units. Some of the original Leopard 1s served from the mid 1960s until the Leopard 1A5s were retired from Bundeswehr service in December 2003. Quite impressive and a testament to the reliability of the Leopard 1!
To start off with it is important to understand this turret conversion can be used with the following Italeri and Revell-Germany (R-G) Leopard 1 kits:
Italeri #374 Leopard 1A2 (It is really a Leopard 1A1). My recommendation would be to use the conversion on the Italeri Leopard 1A2 kit as the kit is readily available and less expensive than the 1A5 kit.
Italeri #6481 / Revell- Germany #3028 Leopard 1A5. This would actually be a backdating of the 1A5 kit if the PSM turret was used.
Revell-Germany #3017 Leopard 1 A1A1-A1A4 (Out of Production). This would essentially be a turret swap with the PSM parts.
I purposely left off the Italeri Leopard 1A4 as the parts required for the rear stowage bin on the Leopard 1A1A1 are not included in the Italeri Leopard 1A4 kit.
The Tamiya Leopard 1A4 kit is not recommended as per the same issues as mentioned above.
IMPROVING THE LEOPARD
As I stated the conversion will allow you to build a Leopard 1A1A1 to 1A1A4 version. If you want a high degree of accuracy you will need to do your research to figure out the details that were present in Batches 1 to 4. These details go beyond the scope of the review as they include a number of changes to the hull.
The PSM kit provides you with a total of 45 resin parts and a PE fret with 35 parts.
The instructions are provided on two colour pages with small images showing the assembled parts combined with the base kit parts. The images are of a good quality but not great. Careful study will be required to ensure you know how the parts are to be properly placed and attached. Some parts will have to be trimmed and test fitted during the assembly process.
The solid cast turret truly stands out in this conversion. The cast texture is very nice as is the canvas mantlet cover details. The hatches are hollow for about a ½ inch. This will create some issues if you plan to put figures in the hatches.
It is obvious that the turret looks different from a standard Leopard 1A1 turret with the addition of the 46 add-on armour mounts. On the face value the mounts look good and most of the detail will actually be hidden when the add-on is attached. That being said a quick comparison with images of actual turrets show two distinct sizes of mounts. There 10 large mounts and 36 smaller mounts. Each of these mounts serve as a bolt attachment point connecting the add-on armour to the turret. Looking at real turrets it is clear that the large mounts are considerably undersized on the PSM turret. To my eye they could be up to 50% too small. The smaller mounts do appear to be the correct size but as the large mounts are too small the positioning of all of the mounts looks off compared to a real turret.
The shape of the small mounts looks overall correct. They are cast solid since the add-on armour is to be attached but if a modeller decides to remove and of the add-on armour panels the mount bolt holes will need to be drilled out.
As mentioned the large mounts are too small. The shape of the mounts on the PSM turret is also not correct and should have a tapered appearance. There is a triple bolt pattern on each of the large mounts bases and while this is correct on the PSM turret the bolts appears crunched as the base is too small.
The mantlet is cast solid integral to the turret so there is no possibility of having the main gun anything other than slightly above level. Most of the turret details are cast in place including the antenna pots, rangefinder hubs, lifting mounts, and hatch periscopes.
On the left side of the turret the ammunition loading port is distinctly raised. From my references this is not correct and when closed the hatch should sit flush with the outline recessed. Missing on the turret sides are some additional small mounts that are visible when the panel are not attached. These mounts will likely not be seen when the panels are attached.
The thin rain gutter running along the bottom edge of the turret is included in the casting. This is a nice detail that was not included in the PSM Leopard 1A2 turret.
The add-on armour panels show some very nice cast details and really show that the panels are not smooth. The texture and the recessed and raised bolt detail should really pop when paint is applied.
The panels are provided in left and right pieces. What I found interesting is that the rear turret stowage rails are cast into the panel pieces. This is an interesting approach and eliminates the need to attempt to fit the base kit parts to the turret and the armour panels.
I took an opportunity to dry test fit the add-on armour panels to the turret. Some additional test fitting and possibly some hot water immersion will be required to have the add-on armour panels fitting properly against the turret mounts during assembly. The mounts on the turret must contact the add-on armour panels especially along the top row in order to look correct. There are two pins on the panels that line up on two of the large turret mounts to aid with proper alignment and positioning.
The remaining details to be added to the turret from the base kit parts, resin parts, or PE parts are identified in the instructions. Again, this will take a bit of pre-planning to combine parts and properly place them. These parts will include the grenade dischargers, antenna mounts, rear turret bin, hatches, rangefinder covers, searchlight mounts, periscope guards, and the PZB 200.
The PZB 200 and associated protective cage is a nice addition that will create a Leopard 1A1A2. The PZB 200 is provided as a single piece of resin with the “Staurohr” attached to the front. This device is manually screwed on the PZB 200 and is essentially a day light filter for the PZB 200. I like the inclusion of the Staurohr but it seems too narrow in diameter compared to the real device. It should be the same diameter as the widest part of the PZB 200 but it is cast as slightly narrower creating a bit of a tapered effect. The fins in the Staurohr are very thick compared to the real filter and it may have been a much better option to provide the fins as PE parts. The filter in the PSM kit has eight fins while the real filter has twelve fins. No circular cover is provided for the PZB 200 and this should be very visible and stowed on the cage when the filter is attached. The rear of the PZB 200 is void of the electrical connection detail as this is the casting plug point on the part. The protective cage is produced as a multi-piece resin component. It is nicely shaped and will add some great detail to the turret.
I was impressed to see that PSM included the T-shaped bracket that is attached to the bottom left side of the rear turret bin. This bracket is used to hold the deep water fording shaft. This part was not included in the now out of production Revell-Germany Leopard 1A1A1 kit.
PSM included the hooked mantlet mounts for the XSW-30-U infra-red/white light searchlight to the left of the PZB 200. PSM does not show the searchlight mounted but it can be if the modeller so desires. If the base kit part is used the hook mounts should not be attached. If the searchlight is attached you will also have to add the electrical cable from the base kit to the port behind the left rangefinder head.
There is no barrel included in the conversion so you will have to use the base kit barrel or an aftermarket version. A PSM resin barrel is included in the new PSM Leopard 1A5 turret set and with only a 1.50 Euro difference in price between the two kits the increase in retail price would have been worth including the resin barrel in my opinion.
With no other kit presently on the market to create a Leopard 1A1A1 Perfect Scale Modellbau fills a very important gap for modellers wishing to create this version. The detail overall is very good but a bit disappointing with respect to the undersized add-on armour mounts on the turret. PSM could have really had a top notch conversion if the mounts had been done properly. Most of these mounts will not be visible when the add-on armour is attached but if a modeller wishes to portray the turret without all panels attached the small size and shapes of the mounts will be identifiable to the “educated eye”.
PSM has gone the extra mile with other details such as the hatch ring supports in PE and the fine PE chains for the grenade dischargers.
My review sample had a few minor broken details and parts off of the trees but you really can’t knock it since it travelled from Germany to the UK and finally to me in Canada. Overall the parts were packaged very well in plastic bags and bubble wrap in the sturdy box.
For those looking to build the most important version of the Bundeswehr Leopard 1s this conversion is the one to select.
The assembled images of the turret are from the Perfect Scale Modellbau website.