sexta-feira, 19 de maio de 2017

Rapid Fire! 20mm - US Invasion of Iraq, 2003 - M1A2 Abrams Battalion

On the way to Bagdad a US Abrams tank battalion awaits for refuelling in the banks of the Euphrates.

The Abrams MBT showed up  again in the Gulf in its newer M1A2 version during operation Iraqi Freedom, the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The 120mm gun was now standard and a number of panels were trying to avoid the deadly friendly fire which caused most of the casualties in 1990-91. Also an improved  fire control system and the System Enhancement Package (SEP) could be seen.

Another striking characteristic of US armoured units we could see from the TV was the mixture of different camouflage schemes, from the full desert tan to the european schemes. In fact the fight was now much up north in Iraqi cities and lakes and its greener surroundings so the mixture worked quite well.

In spite of being a formidable weapon that had no match in Saddam's tank fleet the Abrams showed its weeknesses in the Iraqi campaign, some particular to all tanks: its vulnerability to rear RPG attacks, the lack of a rear telephone for infantry to communicate with the tank's crew and the impossibility of infantry to be transported on its top or even walking in its rear due to the heat from the gas turbine. This last characteristic is even making the designers to think about a petrol engine in order to prolong the Abrams life. In spite of being one of the best tanks in the world, the Abrams entered the US army in 1980 and thus is almost a middle age guy with 40 years old, and you know that at 40 you cant expect to do the same stuff when you were 20... right?

Another problem of the Abrams is that helped to create the chaos of that region, with never ending civil war, Islamic State,  refugees, and so on.

But that can't be Abram's tanks fault but that fault is more on the US petrol thirsty politicians. 

This M1A2 model is from Hasegawa. It already carries the CITV sight assembly (in front of the 7,62mm Mg). I only placed the thermal identification panels in front, back and sides (these ones called 'Venetian Blind' type), cammo net and the usual stowage in plenty. The camouflage is the NATO type of green, brown and black.  

 This Abrams is the Altaya Die-cast model. Only a little light sand drybrush, antennae and stowage and its done.

The Esci Abrams is the older M1 version so plenty of work had to be done: crew converted from fighter pilots jets, panels, CITV, stowage and such all had to be scratch built. This happened to almost half of the thirteen tanks of this battalion. Some even have the thinner 105mm gun barrel which I hope no one notices in the middle of the other details. Politics, my friends...

The Die-cast  Eaglemoss Abrams, distributed in Portugal by Fabbri, also had the CITV, panels and stowage added. The weathering was rougher on this one making it look more veteran.

 The Forces Of Valor Abrams has everything necessary for the 2003 campaign. I only drybrushed some light sand to go along the basing and added the orange panel.

 The TOW-1 Humvee are Chinese Die-cast. The TOW, top doors and the Fire Control System (the box in the front left) is scratchbuilt in Evergreen and the soldier is an ESCI torso. On the back, you can see the usual stowage, orange aerial panel and antennae.

Other Chinese Die-cast for command and liaison again in NATO colours.

The M-113's with the M 106 mortar is here until I find the newer M1064 model. Meanwhile it can be used in Operation Desert Storm. The crew is Preiser and Revell.

Saddam's airforce dream... may be if he had not buried many of its aircraft under tons of sand.

segunda-feira, 15 de maio de 2017

Rapid Fire! 20mm - 1991, Gulf War USMC

The majority of the US Marines used the AAVP-7A1 as transport during the Gulf War of 1990-91 (the other vehicle was the LAV-25 of the Light Armoured Infantry Battalions) up to the Iraq invasion of 2003. Like the Saudis I've showed you in the last post the Marines were some of the first Coalition forces blooded in the Battle of Khafji.

As each of these machines carried up to 25 troops I think two per battalion of Marines in RF! rules are enough,  making these six vehicles capable of transporting three Assault Amphibian Battalions.

All the AAVP-7A1 are Altaya Die-Cast, the  Humvee's with the TOW-1 are Chinese Die-Casts bought in supermarkets. The infantry are ESCI.

Regarding the AAVP-7A1, besides some dust dry-brushing, I only added the crew member, antennae, the air recognition orange pannel used during this war by the coalition forces and plenty of stowage. I left the camouflage as it was as the Altaya model already represents a vehicle of the 1st USMC division.

The Humvee's were repainted sand a few details added like antennae and stowage.

The ESCI figures were produced in 1987 close to the Gulf War  and they fit that conflict very well. All main weapons are there: the M-16 rifle, the M-60 LMG and the Dragon AT weapon. A few are still missing like the sniper rifle, the Stinger AA or the several mortars used but I will show some conversions of these ones in the future. 

sábado, 6 de maio de 2017

Rapid Fire! 20mm - 1991, Gulf War Royal Saudi Land Forces - 8th Mechanized Brigade

The battle of Khafji in February 1991, caught the world's attention as no one really knew how the attacking Iraqis would perform. The same is true about the Arab coalition forces.

The Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF) were made of armoured and mechanized brigades, some with US equipment (M60A1 and M113's) others with French equipment (AMX-30S and AMX-10P).
The idea of  building the RSLF 8th Mechanized Brigade is to have plenty of M-113 and in due time to find more 1/72nd M60's and being able to move to the more tank heavy 12th Armoured Brigade.

An 'American type' RSLF mechanized brigade has a tank battalion with three companies each with 2 M60A1 tanks (RF! terms) and another as Co.

All seven models are ESCI, realtively easy to build and wıth hard plastic tracks. All allied units in the Gulf War had several  inverted black chevrons on their vehicles for easy recognition on the ground and orange pannels for aerial recognition.

I used Skytrex metal figures to crew these models and the usual homemade stowage and antennae.

I painted this symbol on all M60's. It must be a battalion or brigade symbol, either way the M60's became quite 'Saudi' like this.

The Saudis have plenty of different desert camouflaged uniforms. This one looks much the same as the contemporaneous American desert DPM.

As soon as the tanks move to the brawl  the lighter mechanized battalions arrives. Their 'workhorse' is the M113. All APC's are ESCI, the Vulcans are Altaya and the TOW1 conversion is based on the poor (I think) Eastern Express M113 model.


Some of the crew members got a paper Kefiah. Its easy to do this headdress: you dip thin paper in PVA glue, wait a few minutes and then you can model the Kefiah with a toothpick in a barehead.

Other crew members are made of ESCI Vietnam Marine torsos with seated legs of all possible proveniences.

The M113 from Eastern Express is much taller than the much nicer model from ESCI. So I decided to convert it to a  TOW1 launcher by scratchbuilding in Evergreen the TOW and openings.

The Altaya M163 Vulcans were just primed and sand painted after placing the crew and the usual stowage, etc. The flags are downsized Saudi flags from the internet.

Until now my Saudis only have a Northrop F-5E Tiger II as air support. The model is Airfix. On the cue are F-15's and Tornado's in their striking camouflage.

The famous Khafji arch was made with RoofMate and all openings and remparts are in thick card.

Next: wether more Gulf stuff or a return to the 1940 BEF.

quinta-feira, 27 de abril de 2017

Rapid Fire! 20mm - France 1940 - The A13 MkI arrives (from China...).

Somewhere in Northern French, in the destroyed village of Le Pen, a group of British A13 MkI are searching for the 1st Armoured Division gathering area....

The S-Model is another brand to bring double kits to the market. They are very accurate renderings of the original, the detail is crisp, the construction is easy and the PE parts are nice for those with nerves of steel. On the down side sometimes an important detail of the vehicle is missing. This happens in particular with the A13's.

But with little work you can improve them.

In the turret you can add a headlight, a verticle scope, two side handlers (replacing the PE parts) and a vision slit close to the 2pdr gun all made out of  pieces of Evergreen.

On the left side of the turret you can place the typical double smoke launchers these vehicles had. A small rectangle as its base and two pieces of rod, all plasticard, and it's done. The complicated PE antennae support was also replaced by a piece of plastic roughly of the same shape but more resistant.

PSC made nice rivets on its A9 turrets something S-Models didn't bother. I also skipped doing them as they are time consuming.

With its small faults the A13 MkI from S-Models is a beautifullly designed model and you just need to add a few missing parts in order to have some relatively rare models on the table and the first of its kind to be made in plastic.

Next: More Cold War stuff.

sábado, 22 de abril de 2017

Rapid Fire! 20mm - France 1940 - Vickers MKVIb Light Tanks for the BEF.

Please don't think I'm a complete lunatic. I'm just partially lunatic. The previous series on the US Armoured Division was no recent work. I had the models built for a long time, some probably decades. This time I just based them and took some pictures, that's all. So in the meantime I started to build and paint my 1st British Armoured Division for the 1940 French campaign, with the first post being showned some two days ago. And now here it comes the second.

Close to the French place of Route Tortueuse a group of Vickers MKVIb leaves the road in order to join the British 1st Armoured Division who is gathering close to the village of Merde Pour Le Pen.

 Four of them (red fanions) will go to the 10th Hussars, the only regiment to have the MKVIb in the 2nd Armoured Brigade (all other Regiments being equipped with MKVIc) while the other six will be spread throughout the regiments of the 3rd Armoured Brigade.

The models are the excellent S-Models, two in a box, easy to put together if you exceptuate the PE parts which are really a PITA if beautifully designed.

I only added a crew figure from PSC, some limited stowage, as the campaign is recent,  and an antennae with fanion (two for Regimental companies).

The only PE part I used was the elevator for the Mg's. I replaced both the door holder and the driver's mirror with thicker plastic parts.

Here you can see those changes to advantage. Those PE parts were really fiddly and would get destroyed I presume quite quickly without the need of the 37mm PAK intervention, so some Evergreen tube and plate made more secure parts. They may be uglier but they are strurdier.

Next: the A13's MKII.

sexta-feira, 21 de abril de 2017

Rapid Fire! 20mm - France 1940 - First units for the BEF: HQ tanks and Anti-tank company for the 1st AD and a few Bren Carriers

I'll present you now the beggining of my 1st British Armoured Division that has been making me busy in the past few weeks.
The BEF for the short campaign in France in 1940 is a place were all WWII wargamers want to go. You can play with the tanks of the 'Tank Scandal', have tanks with multiple turrets and have plenty of markings on them: division markings, bridge weight markings, company markings, individual markings, markings, markings everywhere... for sure its different than Normandy! But for a Rapid firer! the imminent release of the new Blitzkrieg supplement also increases its interest. 
All this talk wouldn't be possible without the favours of PSC, Zvezda, S-Models and even Airfix specially PSC with the realease of its fantastic A9 which opened the possibility for us of finally having British tank regiments for early war.     

Until now I completed  the guns of Anti-Tank company only missing two of the towing vehicles; several HQ companies of both Brigade and Regiment are also made as well as a few Carriers for the loaned infantry of the division.

A A10 of the 9th lancers, based on the A9 of PSC,  drives down the road with the company of the Vickers Mk.VIc of the 2nd Armoured Brigade HQ. This one is Airfix with a PSC figüre.

 I scratchbuilt the front part of the A10 on three A9 models. I used two-component paste, the one you buy at super-markets, to make the general shape of the new front part. You can start to use the X-Acto a few minutes later as this material dries very quickly. Then all details were made in Evergreen Plastics. I left the gun mantlet as for the A9 as Chamberlain and Ellis in their book on Allied armour states that there were 13 A10 ( the MkI model) with A9 turrets.

To the right you have the full Regimental HQ of the 10th Hussars with a A9 and a A10. On the road you have  the A9's of the Regimental HQ of both 2nd RTR and 3rd RTR, the last one probably looking for the Calais road.

The 2 pounder A/T are Zvezda with the addition of a third crew member taken from the crew of the 6 pounder by PSC. Be careful about the helmets as the British seemed to have used them mostly without foliage.

The Morris tow was taken from an old and half broken Matchbox model. I just built a new Evergreen structure for the canvas cover which I made of toilet paper hardened wıth wood glue.

The final result for the Morris C8. Also for early brits you need a gas mask bag hanging in the chest easily made of GreenStuff, Milliput or similar.


The PSC Bren Carriers also had some changes. Two of them had Boys A/T rifles instead of Bren MG's, a new position for the Bren and the figures received new heads from ESCI because of the 'foliage problem' I mentioned before and the gas mask bags.
For the colours of the BEF vehicles, and after many trials, I settled on GW Loren Forest as the lighter green and Art Deco Black Green for the camouflage colour.

The view of the Stuka...

As main references I'm using H/C Tank Zone magazine no 11(the article 'La Charge du Rhinocéros'); Batailles No 72 ( article Abbeville 1940) and a very good help from Simon Ford on the organization of the 1st AD.

Next: plenty of incredible menacing...Vickers Light tanks!

terça-feira, 18 de abril de 2017

Rapid Fire! 20mm 1944 US Armoured Division - The Shermans 76mm and AA unit.

Still in time for the Division's offensive a group of brand new Shermans with 76mm gun arrives in mid July. Now the Kraut Panthers will have to be much more careful

This Sherman group is made of Revell and Armourfast models. The idea is obviously to place one in each Sherman 75mm company from mid July 1944 battles or two in each when the year is coming to an end.

This is the Revell model. As it comes the kit is quite simple so I built it without side protections, with extra figures and the usual stowage and other details.


The model to the left is Armourfast, built straight from the box with the usual additions. The one to the right is more tricky as it has a Italeri turret and the HVSS suspension and hull from a Nitto model.


The 105mm Sherman is Armourfast with Hasegawa and metal Skytrex crew. The Sherman to the right is the standard Sherman M4A1 from Revell with a large metal plate to the front from a picture I saw once.

Before Revell made its 76mm model I relied on the much older (and too big) model from Hasegawa. It is still useful for late battles and Korea as it has the HVSS suspension.

I built the two last HT M4 81mm mortar in order to field five tank battalions, with one M4 81mm per battalion.

Finally an AA company made with Browning quad M16 HT's. It fields two Matchbox and two Altaya models. One company is probably more than enough in any scenario for the Western front. Even so I want to have at least one M15 which probably will be a conversion from the next Matchbox M16 I can find.

The Altaya models are just great! They were very careful about the design of the models which in many aspects are superior to many resin, metal or plastic competitors. The 3/4 truck is offered in the very rare six wheeled version with HMG pulpit and trailer. The M16 also comes with plenty of stowage, Jerrycans and trailer making them hard to resist. Ten posts later I can say:


Next: France 1940 with British accent...