Escalating Tensions Pt.5b – Brewing up a Storm…

Continuing April’s update,  Lee looks at the second half of the month’s work as he brings us up to speed on starting the second project of the year.

Seeming as Battlefront were gracious enough to send me a care package of a box of Challengers and MLRS,  plus two of Warriors, I figured the Operation Granby force should be bumped up the queue!


My previous “quick look” research had found an account of the Royal Scots action in the Gulf and they proved the basis of my Warrior infantry force.  The account mentioned being supported by C squadron Life Guards, the only part of that Cavalry regiment to be deployed in theatre.  That locked in units for most my force.  Additionally, the two page spread in “WWIII:British” listed 12th Air Defence Regiment as providing the tracked rapiers and 39th Heavy Artillery Regiment as fielding the MLRS.

About the only photo I found tagged as being of a Life Guards Challenger

Desert Storm (or Operation Granby as the UK forces participation was codenamed) forces benefit from being in one of the most well documented actions of modern times.  This can be a double edged sword as finding specific information can often be a bit hit and miss.  For example, want pictures and accounts of Challengers in Operation Granby?  No problems!  Want pictures of C squadron, Life Guards Challengers?  Well, that’s a lot trickier as none of the pictures that came up were captioned as belonging to the Life Guard contingent that was attached to 4th Armoured Brigade.  Likewise, there are exceptionally few photos of British MLRS in action; the best I could find was a thumbnail of an artwork print.

As such, the Challengers aren’t strictly following any one photo of actual Life Guards Challenger, but reflect a composite of the marking and stowage aspects of the photos.  Similarly, the MLRS are marked up in line with European based UK MLRS and used US MLRS to make some guesses on marking on stowage.


With the wife using my home office in the evenings to do her own work, I actually got a lot of the build work done on the sofa in the hour or so each day before I could get in and paint Harriers.  Other than a bit of gap filling due to a mess up with the MLRS and some trouble with the rear of the Warriors, the basic assembly of the tanks was quick and painless. 

One thing I did miss was that the stowage bins on the side of the Challenger are angled downwards, betraying their CVR(T) roots.  I had mounted them square and so had to go back and try and lever them down. 

Loading up – modelling the stowage

One of the things I had picked up on was that the Challengers were sporting jerry cans everywhere; including one example with jerry cans mounted on the sideskirts.  These were often mounted on purpose built brackets.  I made a simplified version of this bracket by bending some plastic rod (made by extruding heated sprues) into “[” shapes.  I glued the jerry can, a skytrex model, to the appropriate place, then placed the bracket on the top.  I cut one bracket in half to give the “L” shape for the bottom.  Each Challenger sported one behind the stowage bin below the commander’s hatch, with one more added to the back of the loader side basket on some of them.

The challengers also received additional covers over the stowage bin.  The front ones are a bit featureless so a rectangle of green stuff with some wrinkles carved in gave some texture to it, especially with the top of a jetty can below to add some height.  I also used rectangles of green stuff add high vis panels to the turrets.  Green stuff was also used to add a large tarp to one tank, and the basis of camo nets to the others.  Next I added ammo tins and jerry cans to the uncovered bins, along with camping nets made from cured PVA.  Some scratchbuilt stowage in the form of  compo ration boxes, coolboxes and a crate of Coke (based on my notes from “and the Kitchen Sink…”) completed the picture.

The MLRS aped images of US ones that had stowage piled on the top left of the crew cabin.  This was mostly sculpted from green stuff to make duffel bags, folded tarps and a pile of stowage covered by a tarp.  A cooler carved from styrene rod and a Jerry can finished off the look on the HQ mlrs.


Priming and Light Stone

The MLRS served as a test bed for the rest of the army so went first.  I had in mind to try black and white pre-shading so used the launcher box section to try it out.  I laid down a Vallejo Surface Primer (VSP) Grey base coat (which is so light as to be effectively white), followed by Vallejo Model Air (VMA) Black on the edges of the MLRS launcher.  I then applied a coat of VMA 71,143 UK Light Stone No.51 – listed as being closest in the range to the colour used by the British in the gulf.
Sadly, between being heavy handed and the 4mm needle probably being a bad idea (though forced on me by being the only one not bent), I pretty much overwhelmed the pre-shading.

At this point, I reverted to my normal techniques and finished base coating the model in Light Stone over a Grey primer.  I then drybrushed on Vallejo Model Colour (VMC) Dark Sand followed by VMC Buff.

The next stage was to pick out the road wheels and stowage in Black.  I was worried that the VMC Black Grey would come off as too light straight onto the Light Stone but in the end it wasn’t an issue so I skipped this step on the Challenger’s road wheels.

The Challengers had a bit of a panic moment.  Rushing to try and do some work on them during an otherwise dull conference call, I put the VSP “Deck tank” “primer” in the airbrush and set to work but instantly thought that it looked odd on the bare plastic, like it was pooling.  I kept going, adding more primer to the brush as needed, but growing completely concerned as the finish.  When I finished all three tanks, I was not happy with the finish at all and started blaming the plastic.  

It was then that I noticed that what was on my painting desk was not VSP “Deck Tan” but instead VMA “Sand (Ivory)”.  Cue much berating of myself for not stopping and investigating the minute it didn’t look right.  I had a small bottle of “Deck tan” primer to use up so the bottle was the same as a normal pipper bottle.

You can see here how the paint pulled back from the unprimed raised detail

I thought for sure I was going to have to strip and restart but, once dry, I applied a coat of VMP Deck Tan over the Sand (Ivory) and the primer was able to take hold on the pooled paint and largely correct the surface.  Phew!  from there, I applied VMA Light Stone and got back on track.

Post Light Stone and all is well


Painting tracks is the tedious part of tank modelling and one of the things I noticed in the research stage was how the metal links of the tracks of the tanks looked sand coloured.  It struck me that I could save some time by leaving the tracks sand coloured and just heavily washing them.

I applied VMC Black Grey to the roadwheel and visible tracks pads.  I left the ones out of sight on the base unpainted.

Next I applied an all over wash of Citadel’s Agrax Earthshade, followed once dry by Nuln Oil.

Finally I drybrushed the tracks with Iraqi Sand and Buff.  On the Challengers I did the track washing before applying the drybrush to the light stone parts to make it one big dry brushing sessions, rather than two separate ones.  Saves some time!

I think the technique gets the right look and is very quick to do.

Detailing – No chips

With the drybrush done, I’d normally set about chipping the tanks but one of the things that became apparent from my research was how, well, unchipped the vehicles looked.  It’s probably down to how short the deployment was, combined was the marvel that is modern high wear paints.  A few comments on modelling forums have seen those who fought in the tanks decry modellers for making them look more worn than they actually ever were.

So, I put aside my sponge and set about picking out the roadlights, tools, vision blocks and stowage, all pretty much as I had done on the 80s army.  
A new feature was the high viz panel but I copied what I had done on my Israeli Magachs.  I applied Citadel “Averland Sunset”, then a wash of Citadel “Fuegan Orange” to give a suitable high viz look.

Markings wise, I painted up the MLRS per a 1980s BAOR example – circular company markings in the the three series.  Gulf wars chevrons were hand panted in VMC Black Grey to the door and the launcher side, copying US examples.

Can’t say I miss painting Green and Black

The Challengers were based on the Kings Hussars that the Life Guards were attacked to, they had chevrons on the sideplates, a small “black rat” division icon on the TOGS housing and used a two digit numbering system; where first digit is troop number, second digit is the tank number with troop lead as zero.  Very different to the three digit system on the 80s RTR Chieftains.  As the Royal Scots mentioned being paired with C Squadron, I used a circular squadron marking, much like the MLRS.

No doubt at this point a wargamer who was in the Life Guards or the 39th will tell me how wrong I am in my assumptions!

I finished off by applying a gloss coat and applying a pin wash of Citadel Seraphim Sepia.  Sadly the sepia isn’t available in a gloss version so it spreads a bit more over the gloss varnish than the Gloss Nuln Oil I normally use for pin washing.  I used Nuln Oil on the mesh stowage bins and grills to add extra depth.

The Challenger is probably the best Battlefront MBT model to date and the engine deck detail really lends itself to a good wash.

I then applied a coat of Vallejo Mecha matt varnish and a final drybrush of Buff, focusing on the flat horizontal surfaces and rear of the hull.

M270 MLRS, 39th Heavy Regiment

Grid Square Removal System  standing by to harass massed Iraqi T-72/T-55.

Challenger 1 Mk.2, 11th Troop, C Squadron, Life Guards

39 points of nigh invincible heavy metal – just hope you can kill the enemy before they flank…

It was surprising how quickly these all painted.  I was able to do both units in about a week each in the last couple weeks of April, leaving May free to do the ten Warriors of the Royal Scots.  Join me next month to see how those went!