Academy 1/35 Merkava Mk.IV LIC Kit First Look
|Date of Review||February 2011||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Subject||Merkava Mk.IV LIC||Scale||1/35|
|Kit Number||13227||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Easy build, nice details||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$49.00|
Ever since its establishment in 1948, the State of Israel was dependent upon other countries to provide the weapons it needed to defend itself from neighboring nations that didn't want them there. These sources would come and go depending upon the changes in international political climate. After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israel aggressively sought the capability to develop its own defense industry to produce the weapons it needs to continue its survival. One of those weapons was a tank that can counter the variety of Soviet-produced tanks equipping Israel's neighbors. In the Yom Kippur War, the newest tank available was the American-made M60 which fared well in the north against Syrian forces, but was not effective against the Egyptians.
Based upon the lessons learned from 1973 and previous armor battles, Israel developed the Merkava (Hebrew for Chariot) tank which has many design features not found in other main battle tanks. The Merkava has sharply sloped frontal armor on its main hull and turret to provide a difficult target to hit and penetrate. The engine and transmission were located in the front of the hull to provide additional protection should the frontal armor be breached. The rear of the Merkava is set up as an armored personnel carrier that can carry a squad of soldiers who can enter/egress through a large armored rear door. Like the US-made M1 Abrams, the main gun on the first Merkavas was the 105mm cannon and subsequent versions are armed with the 120mm smooth bore gun. While the Merkava is much slower on paved roads than the M1 Abrams, it is equipped with very effective off-road suspension system which not only allows the Merkava to negotiate areas that would hang up other tanks, it can do so faster than the Abrams.
The Merkava Mk.I first saw combat during the 1982 Lebanon War where one of the vehicle's design weaknesses were uncovered - its brakes. Once the Israeli Army pushed off to the north, they couldn't get the Merkavas stopped before they reached the outskirts of Beirut. With each subsequent version of the Merkava, new capabilities and design improvements are added to the tank to incorporate combat lessons learned.
Operational Merkavas have been updated with a Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) capability which provides better asymmetrical combat capabilities. In urban combat where the main gun is ineffective (and usually overkill), a remotely operated machine gun has been added to allow the weapon to be used without exposing the crew. Optics are protected from sniper and other fires that would otherwise blind the crew. A boat-hull fairing is added to the underside of the hull to deflect the blast effects of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). LED marker lights and other devices are also added to allow for the Merkava's crews to negotiate through urban streets while maintaining sight of one another.
Academy has produced a number of Merkava variants over the years, with the first Merkava Mk.IV kit released about two years ago (look here). Academy has tooled a new tree and new photo-etch fret to bring the LIC configured Mk.IV.
This kit is molded in tan styrene and presented on six parts trees, plus separately provided upper and lower hull halves. A fret of photo-etched details rounds out this kit.
The detailing on this kit is right up to Academy's current (excellent) standards, and they've captured the structures of the applique armor around the front and sides of the turret. By the way, that turret is huge - look at the side of the turret ring on the bottom of the turret in relation to the ring on the upper hull. You won't be seeing any tank riders on the rear hull of this tank!
In the last release of the Merkava kit, we pointed out the holes in the bottom of the hull where the kit might have had motorization at one time. While they partially plugged up the bottom in the last release, this new boat hull bottom overlay completely covers the holes - problem solved!
Assembly of the lower hull is the usual task of suspension arms, road wheels and return rollers. What is different is the track. Rather than the usual vinyl (rubber band) track, the kit has styrene track sections that span the upper and lower runs of flat sections, and individual track links to connect up the upper and lower sections over the drive sprockets and return rollers. This approach reminds me of the similar approach ESCI used in its line of 1/72 tanks.
The turret is also straightforward in its assembly though there are lots of sensors and grab irons on this machine. The rear turret basket is a combination of styrene and photo-etch, which will look really nice after assembly and paint. The rear of the turret features the unique Merkava ball and chain shield to protect the rear of the turret from an RPG rear attack. This ball and chain armor is provided as photo-etch, with styrene ball halves to be superglued on either side of the photo-etch 'ball'.
The photo-etch set has ID plates for one vehicle as do the corresponding decals.
This release provides the latest main battle tank in service with the Israeli Army and it is a nice installment indeed. The layout is straightforward and the kit can be built with or without the photo-etched details (though you'll want these details). If you've collected Academy's previous Merkava release as well as the various IDF armor from DML, AFV Club, and others, you'll have the newest chapter in advanced armor here to add to your collection.
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!