Sunday, March 27, 2016

Team Yankee: Soviet Onslaught

While much of my broadcast focus on painting lately has been fixated upon US forces for Europe, my dalliances in the Soviet sphere have actually been more productive. I'm slowly working towards a 75-100 point motor rifle force for Team Yankee, although this will likely be quite a long slog :)

The first hurdle was getting a green I was happy with. My first attempt at painting some Team Yankee BMPs did not turn out as pleasing as I had intended, so after going back to the drawing board I ended up with a scheme based on Vallejo's Russian Green Primer 4BO with prodigious amounts of highlighting. This still remains difficult to photograph with my current setup, but I'm much happier with the finish produced by this.

As was appropriate, I returned to the BMPs to do another set in the new scheme:

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Painting the exposed crew also gave me an opportunity to try out the new Sun Bunnie camo scheme I intend on doing up all the infantry in, I think this turned out pretty accurate to photos of the suits:

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As some will be aware from previous posts, I have fund the BF T-72 the one weak link in an otherwise excellent range. As a result, I went back to shopping around for a kit to outfit my tank companies with. In my usual full circle logic, I landed back with the Zvezda T-72B M1989, my favorite depiction of this beast in 15mm. This is an extremely late Cold War bit of kit, but I feel its appropriate given I have outfitted my US forces with M1A1s.

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Rather than simply build out of the box, I took some of the components of the BF kit and integrated them into the Zvezda model to plug a couple of the gaps left in the original sculpt. The main issues with the Zvezda kit are the lack of the AAMG, a unopenable hatch, and the lack of smoke dischargers on the left hand side of the turret. The BF kit provided a panacea to the former two issues, while the latter was fixed by a bit of plasticard construction.

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I also mounted a couple mine plows just for fun and 'Orkification.'

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Finally, I also have been working on a 2S1 battery for some God of War support for my mech forces. This represents the first half of the battery done, as I intend to fully fill out the unit with six guns, a spotter and the command BTR.

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The 2S1s are yet another excellent bit of kit by BF. My only niggle was that by default the guns were positioned at way too low and angle. I ended up drilling out a new peg hole and filling the old one with green stuff to give them more of a dynamic firing pose.

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That's all this round, stay tuned for future updates including a the finished Carnation battery, a Shilka battery, a BRM platoon and a metric shedload of infantry

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Stalin's monsters

Continuing on along my early Cold War/late Cold War theme of late, I've done up some Soviet monstrosities for the nuclear battlefields of the 1950s and 60s.

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I have a particular softspot for the IS-3. Apart from hobby, a big time investment of mine is in the game War Thunder, which pits a bunch of WW2 and early Cold War tanks against each other in a delightfully chaotic manner. The IS-3 is a late tier tank which has a particularly large representation of being an utter bastard. Its extremely angled armor tends to shrug off most non-HEAT type projectiles and transforms tanks like the Tiger 2 from a terror into a minor nuisance.

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 The Battlefront kit represents the late development IS-3M, which aimed to correct many of the issues of the earlier models. It also slightly reduced the overall armor of the beast in favor of a more dependable engine and power/weight performance. photo IS33.jpg
For the scheme I went for a late WW2-style Soviet green, which has a great deal more emerald to it than the more olive/teal Cold War schemes. For this I simply employed the AK WW2 soviet modulation set. Apart from this was my usual array of weathering techniques, with lots of rust-based streaks and chipping to give a greater sense of depth and color balance.
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Alongside the Bulldog, the 'Pike' really is one of my favorite tanks of all time, the angles, positioning of the turret and general shape of the thing really make it stand out from both the IS-2 and the IS-4.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Team Yankee: Steel Rain

Some M109A3s for Team Yankee this round. A mobile SPG with a massive howitzer and another great kit by Battlefront.




Love these kits, so mean looking with that huge 155

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Review: Team Yankee M163 VAADs & M901 ITV

Background:

The M163 Vulcan and the M901 Improved TOW Vehicle (ITV) are staples of the late Cold War, the former being aimed at laying down a ridiculous amount of anti-aircraft 20mm against Soviet helos and low flying aircraft and the latter being designed to engage MBTs from afar with a sneaky turret while hidden away behind large amounts of cover.

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Both vehicles were based on the ubiquitous M113 hull with varying amounts of modifications, retaining the general boxy profile of their parent chassis.

Layout:

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Each vehicle is distributed across three sprues with around 50 parts each. Of these, only around 25 are necessary to build any one vehicle.  The kits make are essentially expansions on the Battlefront M113 kit originally designed for Vietnam and employ both the original frames, plus an additional containing both turret types, as well as the new upper hull plate for the M163. In general I would advise anyone intending to buy further M113s to simply purchase this box set, since it contains all the parts to build the basic APC, both mortar variants and the ITV and VAADS for the same price as the original. The only missing components are the APC crew, who are replaced by 4 resin heads for the VAADS turret. Fiddliness is negligible and all parts fit together perfectly
 
The Battlefront box contains enough materials to build four vehicles of either configuration. In this case, I built two of each for my Team Yankee armored battlegroup.

 Quality:
As with the original M113, quality is consistently excellent with both the ITV and the VAADS. Casting is crisp and clear with little-to-no mould lines. Details are fantastic, with lots of nice little elements receptive to painting. The Vulcan cannon looks particularly bad-ass in the semi-heroic scale. The only minor niggle is fitting the floats to the side of the VAADS hull, which have no guides and thus must be judged arbitrarily by the modeler.

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The kits also leave the savvy modeler with a fecundity of extra parts when finished, including lots of extra GPMGs and HMGs for future projects. I used the plastic 50s for my M109 battery, as I feel these generally look and last better than their metal compatriots. I've also employed the M60s to replace the SAWs in my US infantry squads, as they just seem more 'right' for the period.

Conclusion:

Battlefront is back on form with this offering. The quality and cost are both unrivaled, making this a definitive must have for those interested in the period.  I know I'll feel a bit safer from all those Hinds and Frogfoots :)

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Early Cold War, Late Cold War

A few odds and sods this week from across the span of the Cold War.

First up I've reapproached my take on Soviet green. I wasn't entirely happy with the BMPs so I tried a new recipe, much happier with the outcome. First of these was a BTR command vehicle for my upcoming 2S1 artillery battery.

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I also took on a small commission of T-72B 1989s as a battalion command element for an old client. Zvezda continues to have the dominant T-72 on the market.

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10 more of these bad boys on the table for my own collection :)

I also had a hankering to do some early Cold War gear, so did a platoon of one of my favorite tanks of all time - the M41 Bulldog, a lovely little light tank with paper thin armor and a nasty little 76mm gun.

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Until next time!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hind Killers

This week in Team Yankee news we paint up some SPAAs and ATGM vehicles.

M163s built from the new box set, ready to riddle some MI-24s with 20mm depleted uranium: 










M901s from the same set:








Group shot

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Review: Battlefront Team Yankee T-72A

This round we take a squiz at the Team Yankee T-72 boxset, another critical addition to the Soviets offered by Battlefront.

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Background:

The T-72 is quite possibly the most iconic vehicle of the late Cold War, with its extremely low profile, spherical turret and huge 125mm gun, the tank is one of the most globally exported of its kind in history. In Central Europe the T-72 served with many of the WARPAC states, including East Germany and Czechoslovakia. While it did also serve with the main Soviet army, it was never issued to frontline units in East Germany, so the choice of as the mainstay of the initial Soviet line by BF is a little odd, although I am told this decision was made to maintain fidelity with the original Team Yankee book, itself based on some faulty intelligence from the period concerning deployment of enemy armor.

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The T-72 was doctrinally considered a numbers tank - a AFV that would overwhelm the enemy through numerical superiority, as opposed to its more advanced bigger brother the T-80, which was designed to be more on direct par with its NATO enemies. The vehicle presented in the Battlefront kit is specifically the T-72A - a second generation iteration of the vehicle with numerous innovations over its predecessor, the T-72 Ural.

Layout:

Each vehicle is distributed across two sprues in 24 separate pieces, of which around 20 are necessary for a finished product. 'Fiddliness' is generally minimal, apart from the smoke launchers. Once again the kit includes two NSV anti-aircraft machine guns, which are very much appreciated. Each vehicle comes with an optional mine roller set, as well as commander hatches both closed and open. There is also a crew sprue and a set of numerical decals.

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The box contains five vehicles, requiring two boxes to do an entire company.

Quality:

I must say that after reviewing previous products in the Team Yankee line, the T-72 is a somewhat disappointing kit, both in terms of sculpt quality and cleanup issues. The sculpts themselves feel fairly minimalist and occasionally give off a sense of corner cutting on the part of the artist. The turret, while adequate, is missing some fairly important details, such as connector leads for the IR lamp and the smoke launcher. This leaves it extremely spartan, especially when compared with the M1 and BMP kits, which were choc full of tasty flair. The positioning of the AA MG is quite odd, too, as these were traditionally stored to the rear of the hatch, rather than to the side. As someone who has built countless T-72s, this comes off as quite visually odd. Of course, it is easily correctable, as shown above, but it was a strange choice, nonetheless.

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A fairly prominent example of the corner cutting can be found on the rear tracks. While all the other sections of the tracks display the connector pins (essentially metal rods that hold the tracks together), these mysteriously disappear at the back. I'm not sure if the sculptor thought we wouldn't notice, but I found their absence immediately noticeable. The cast quality on the rear of the tracks also deprecates noticeably over that of the front.

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Another issue I found was the amount of flash and warping in the casts of these tanks. The tracks themselves were inundated with excess plastic, which took quite a large amount of cleanup. The worst offender, however, was the consistent warping of the stowage bins on the rear of the turret. While these will be fixable with some green stuff filling, it also means they lose all their details.

Not all was so negative, however. the AA MGs in particular were very nicely detailed and the hull and suspension details were generally good. External fuel barrels suffered from the classic join line syndrome that pretty much every model of the T-72 is afflicted with, I wonder when someone will come up with a casting solution to this?

The general style of the kit was the usual 'semi heroic' style, which really suits this Soviet brawler.

Conclusion:

Overall, the Team Yankee T-72 kits are  solid, but they are noticeably inferior to every other product I've come across in this line. Even now as I sit looking at the impressive M163 VADs kit (to be reviewed next) I can tell that the T-72 is an outlier to the rest of the range in its quality. I hope that as BF progresses and brings out other Cold War Soviet tanks such as the T-80 and the T-72B it tries to avoid similar mishaps. While I wouldn't be too bothered by any one of the individual flaws encountered here, collectively they seem to speak of a rushed job and I know BF can do a lot better than this. As it stands, I feel that the Zvezda T-72s, although a different iteration, are superior in quality to the Battlefront offering at this point.