Lee brings us his review of the Battlefront “Leopards” plastic MBT kit – the Leopard 2
It’s July. That means a few things:
- I’m a snotty mess as hayfever season well and truly kicks in.
- We’ve had the one day of British Summer we get in the UK. Winter is coming.
- We are on the verge of the next Team Yankee release!
- (Oh, it’s the wife’s birthday this month. Wait. It was the wife’s birthday. That explains a lot…)
Thankfully, number 3 means I get the joy of finding a box of West Germans on my doorstep with a note written on the back of a discarded NetRunner card from Ben saying “review please – busy with cards”. A quick scan of the contents and my eyes narrow in on the jewel of the crown – the Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank! It’d be rude not to start with that!
As I mentioned in the M1 Abrams review; the West Germans had originally planned to replace the Leopard 1 with a joint project with the US – the MBT-70. However, as with all joint tank projects in the history of the known universe, this ended up with both parties going their separate ways as budget and political realities hit.
So the West Germans set to work on their own tank, aiming to combine the great mobility of the Leopard 1 with a better level of armour protection; the Leopard 1 was poorly armoured as a result of the Germans believing that no amount of armour would stop a HEAT round without impacting mobility. The lethality would also be upgraded as the British L7 105mm was badly outpaced by the latest Russian tank at the time – the T-64 and its smoothbore 125mm gun.
The Leopard 2 combined modern composite armour (similar to Cobham, but of their own creation) and an internal combustion powerplant with enough grunt to move it along at speed. The 105mm made way for a 120mm smoothbore main gun – increased HEAT and APDFS performance compared to a rifled gun being a major advantage (although Germany lacked a DU round which meant the British rifled 120mm could beat it in penetration) whilst a modern FCS mitigated the historical accuracy issues of a smoothbore at range. All of this was combined with multi-axis stabilisation, an advanced (for the time) fire control system and a gunner Thermal sight.
The package was an instant success in the gunnery competitions, gaining an early export customer in the Dutch. The Germans set about mass producing the tank and by 1985 over 700 had been built and sent to forward units; ready to take on the T-64 and -72 that it had been designed to beat.
The Holy Trinity – Mobility, Armour and Lethality
A quick glance at the sprue shows we only have a single variant of the Leopard 2 to content with. Given the modern arrowhead turret is well outside the 1985 timeframe this is probably not much of a surprise and we are left here with what I presume is a late batch (with raised commanders sight and large cover over the NBC pack) Leopard A1 . Despite this, there is little empty space on the sprue and we gain some useful stowage – including some track links which were sorely missing as an option from the M1 kit. The sprue attachment points are more like the BMP/M-1 than the chunky nightmare that were the T-72’s which is good to see and lends credence that the T-72 was an outlier due to its tooling issues.
Not much real estate spare
Track links, Jerry cans and a box make up the stowage options, Open and Closed Cupola options are provided along with a second AA MG – a now common and useful feature in BF kits. The MG-3 looks a little chunky, in turn making the barrel look short, but the extra thickness may prevent too many “Transit case” breaks.
Now on to assembly. One of the realities of doing a pre-release review is that we have to do it without packaging or instructions. It makes a good test of how intuitive the kit is!
The hull is pretty straight forward. Anyone who has assembled a BF plastic tank kit will know the drill – left rack, right track, lower and upper hull and engine back plate. As with the M-1 and T-72, bazooka plates get attached to the upper hull too. Sprue attachment points for all but the engine plate and bazooka plates are hidden so can be clipped off with little fuss. It all goes together quickly with clockwork precision – what you’d expect of German engineering!
Leopard 2 flatbed variant?
Detail on the hull and bazooka skirts is very impressive. I liked the depiction of the spare track pads (marked with the X shaped mounts) and moulding such a small part on is probably sensible. My only real nitpicks would be the absence of the wing mirrors (I said it was minor!), the low detail on the driver vision blocks (but I can just paint on a blue line for the glass) and the infill on the bottom of the driving lights (limitation of plastic moulding presumably). I guarantee most won’t even notice those points!
The turret is slightly more complex. Bottom plate and top plate form the key structure but the top part has a number of panels that get attached to add additional detail to the rear and sides.
One upshot of this is that the smoke launchers are not a separate part. After 18 T-72 and 20 BMP-2 that is heartening! The downside of that is that the cylindrical tube of the launchers gets distorted with an ugly infill to bring it level with the side plate it is part of. It’s a compromise that some will agree and disagree with. Normally I’d be in the “disagree” camp and want a separate part for max visual appeal but the experience with the Russians has made me more inclined to the pre-moulded approach. The panels leave a small gap either side which technically isn’t present in real life but there is a welded seam in that area in reality so a vertical line either side of the dischargers doesn’t leap out.
I found that neither the rear or side panels seemed to have a positive location, compare to how the rest of the model seems to almost click together, and had to be just pushed into position until they looked right. I wish I had cleaned the clip marks better on the side panel as it complicated the fit. Like I said, I’m doing this in the blind and the first model built has to be a guinea pig!
Once the panels are on, the rest of the turret bits largely drop in. The muzzle reference system being on the side rather than top of the barrel threw me, but the barrel is keyed so it can only be fitted correctly. There is no scope for elevation of the gun, but that is no different to the other two TY kits (and most 1:100 kits in general).
All in all the build was relatively easy with no real fiddly bits. The only thing to note is the need to take care when removing the AA MG (same as ever) as the muzzle break can be a weak point.
Ignore the gap on the cupola. I hadn’t glued it in when I took the photo and its slightly out of position
The turret in general is pretty good with decent panel detail and major features all present. What detracts from it, along with the ugly infill on the smoke launchers already mentioned, is a rather prominent mould line that runs around the turret side. It aligns with the grab handles so I suspect this is a moulding necessity to incorporate the handles , which are depicted a little chunky and filled in – much like the similar handles on the BF T-34 plastic kit. It’s a bugger to remove due to its location (although on the following four Leopards I now knew it was there and cleaned it as soon as it was off the sprue) and I had to go at it with a sharp knife, file and poly cement (to melt it) and its still just about visible after priming.
Mould line and infill on the dischargers are the only detriments to the turret’s otherwise good looks
Infill on the base of the driver lights is a small annoyance that most won’t care about, no doubt
Lots of good detail on the model
The turret obscures even more engine deck detail – the Leopard 2 feels like a much busier and detailed model than the clean but boring M-1. Can’t wait to paint this kitty up!
(as noted, the cupola is out of position as it wasn’t glued. The hatch is more at the 0200 position than the 1200 shown here)
The tank commanders are all beret wearing bad-asses in the white resin that the US Tank commanders came in. Transfers include the registration numbers and bridge weight numbers. I guess the other German vehicles will use the same sheet given the “46” and “30” options are included along with the “60” needed by the heavy weight Leopard 2.
Sadly, there is no head to head this time. The only 1:100 Leopard 2 I could find was a metal offering that didn’t seem much worth bothering with. Various manufacturers are revisiting their cold war ranges with the up-tick in interest so we may see this change in the future. It’ll be a tough one to beat but stay tuned!
On the table
As Ben and Mark have already covered in the unit cards and book review, the Leopard 2 is a beast. 11 points gets a tank that is as mobile and armoured as an M1, can see in the dark and near auto-kill two T-72 a turn. It really is the “Tiger tank” of Team Yankee and sets a high bar. The real issue is its cost and the cost of its excellent support options driving a small army size. A German player could find himself overwhelmed by numbers and the armour 7 side armour is going to be a priority target for the BMP-2 and T-72 main guns.
All in all, I can pick a few minor detail gripes (make the loader hatches have an open option!), and one major gripe in the mould line on the turret, but I want to make it clear; I *really* like this kit. Its got some great detail, crisp lines and a very pain free assembly other than the clean up work. Given its stat-line, I think I can say that this model will not disappoint a German player. I plan to have this one painted up as soon as the reviews are done, but I couldn’t resist getting some Vallejo “NATO GREEN” surface primer through the airbrush to close the article.
It’s not easy being green – but at least the mould line is all but gone.
Stay tuned for more “Leopards” product reviews!