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DML 1/72 Challenger 2 w/Bar Armour Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review June 2007 Manufacturer DML
Subject Challenger 2 w/Bar Armour Scale 1/72
Kit Number 7287 Primary Media 150 parts (126 parts in grey styrene, 20 etched brass, 4 DS plastic)
Pros Improved version of original kit; modern armor arrays newly done Cons Bar armor array not full convincing
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $13.98

First Look

the latest "fad" among armored vehicle designers – bar armor. All major countries are now looking to it, and the US, UK, Russia and China actually field vehicles carrying it.

Bar armor – also called slat armor, grille armor or the truly unique Chinese name of "boom shields" – is a simple idea whose origins go back to WWII when shaped charge explosive weapons fired at low velocities began to proliferate. The main threat to the Western countries came from the "Panzerfaust" weapons, and those of the Germans were the PIAT, bazooka and other similar weapons. The concept is simple: put lightweight (relatively speaking) steel slats on the sides of the vehicle spaced out to the nominal optimum standoff distance for the shaped charge and either detonate it prematurely or cause its warhead to be crushed and rendered useless between the bars. As such, the bars are 50 to 100 mm wide and spaced about 60-70 mm apart (most weapons of this type are from 73 to 152 mm in diameter.)

The Chinese offer their "boom shields" as options on all tanks from the Type 59D onward; they were first encountered in Iraq during Desert Storm in 1991. The Russians now mount and use them on various vehicles, having tested their original concepts in Afghanistan and fielded them in Chechnya. The US and UK have created sets for use with their vehicles in Iraq, and right now at least the UK Warrior and US Stryker vehicles there mount full sets.

The Challenger 2 is a natural for this sort of protection, for it provides very good protection against RPG and ATGM fire for relatively little weight. (The Stryker kit weighs about 2.5 metric tons.) As a result it is used to protect the most vulnerable parts of the tank, namely the hull and turret rear areas where the armor is thinnest. A very good explanation and show of these items has appeared in recent issues of "Military Modelling" with Dick Taylor covering Warrior and Peter Brown the Challenger 2s.

This again is the reworked DML kit with "slide molded" components and DS plastic tracks. The latter should be appreciated as they are more flexible and since they take normal plastic cements also easier to install and paint; also this particular kit now includes DS plastic tow cables. This is a good idea as they are flexible, highly detailed but easy to paint and attach (more in the other scales, please!)

While the hull still comes with the original screw attachment holes and mounts, the parts now simply cement together. It now comes with modified uparmored skirts less the ground-length dust covers, applique armor for the glacis and the bow, and the TIP armor panels for the sides of the turret. The "4x8 plywood" ones for the turret glacis are not included, but I am not sure if they go on the variant modeled.

The model comes with hatches that can be positioned open or closed, but again the driver's hatch opens onto one of the screw holes. Note that the direction arrows STILL show the cover (part A38) cementing into the screw hole; most modelers will figure that one out in a hurry, but I do wonder why DML didn't correct their original error?

The kit now includes the modified armor panels and arrays for the modifications needed to mount the bar armor. The bar armor array is all etched brass, including its mounts, and requires bending and folding. The main turret and hull armor arrays are single parts and therefore make assembly a bit easier, but they are very thin and very fragile so a great deal of care will be required. (If you don't have a "Hold and Fold," "Etch-Mate," or "Fender Bender" getting good bends in parts this thin and this large will be problematic.)

The one major problem is that the actual bar armor arrays are about 3/16" of an inch thick and about 2" deep; while smaller and thinner than the other countries' arrays, this is a near impossibility to accurately reproduce in 1/72 scale. The bars thus have no depth to them, and it is doubtful many modelers will go through the misery of gluing 0.010" square strip to each bar to give the impression of depth. The result is a pleasing look only when viewed broadside on, as the rest of the views show them to be far too simple and too thin. Having just done a model of a T-72B with "Reshyetka" grille armor arrays, I can sympathize with DML's plight as I had to opt the other direction, using slightly overscale thickness in 1/35 scale to get sufficient durability.

Still, DML should be commended for this, as few other kits with any sort of bar armor have shown up over the years. There are several for the Chinese "boom shields" to fit to T-54 or T-55 type tanks, and at least two have been advertised for the new Stryker kits. All are etched brass as well, and all require soldering skills for clean assembly.

The kit does come with a small decal sheet, but only one recommended paint scheme for the Royal Dragoon Guards Armour Regiment in Poland, 2006. However, the only vehicle known to be fitted with this armor right now is the one photographed by Peter Brown at the ACTU at Bovington, so I cannot verify the accuracy of the claims. (The model does match with Peter's photos, however.)

Overall I think DML has made a game effort of it and that most modelers will be pleased with the kit as provided.

Thanks to DML for the review sample.