Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Castle of steel and Dorchester, part 2: Building a better Telic 1 Challenger

While I think there are issues with the QRF Challenger 2's turret (see Castle of steel and Dorchester, part 1: QRF Challenger 2A1 review), it is a nice model which can make a relatively convincing rendition of an Op Telic tank.

Now just to put this statement in context, there was a time when I would whip out my ruler to check that a model was scaled correctly and refer to scale drawings to check that important detail wasn't omitted. And then bitch about it if there were errors. The trouble is that, unless they are drawn by very committed people who spend their time clambering all over museum exhibits, scale drawings are mostly one person's interpretation of what some piece of machinery looks like.

In light of this, I've converted to the philosphy of TLAR. I'm happy to fiddle with toys until I reach the point of This Looks About Right (though I will refer to as many photographs as possible to determine what looks right to me). Now if the US Army could get away with fiberglass VISMOD to make a Sheridan look somewhat like a T-72, I can surely get by with plasticard, filler and a file.

The hull was mostly left alone although I did trim some of the camouflage netting so it didn't get in the way of the rotating turret. The main addition was a couple of dust skirts cut from 10 thou plasticard as I think this really sets the Telic 1 Challengers apart from other uparmoured Challys such as the KFOR ones. This was simply cut to fit the model's armoured side skirts by trial and error and will attached once the model is painted. Part of the original side skirt was cut to expose the drive sprocket.

The turret was the one item which required the most work and although the result is far from satisfactory I reckon it looks somewhat more like a Challenger 2 turret than it did out-of-the-bag.

For starters, I filed off the undersize thermal imaging ID panels. I then added 1 mm plasticard under the turret and 2 mm under the stowage bins to beef up the height of the turret. This was simply superglued to the turret and then trimmed flush and filed smooth. Should you do the same thing, take care to leave some excess plastic in the front as you'll need to file it to the same angle as the front faces. I worked too quickly and didn't, which made it a bit of a pain to reshape later.

The very rear of the turret where the stowage bins are located was filed to a slight downward angle and the bins re-scribed approximately while the front of the roof was also filed to reproduce that downward shallow angle. This was only partly successful because a faithful rendition of the roof would entail a complete rebuild of the turret forward of the cuppolas. Instead, I settled for something with angles that aren't sharp enough, giving a generally rounded outline rather than a sharp one, and front faces whose top is angled rather than horizontal because an accurate rendition would mean rebuilding the whole of the turret in front of the cuppolas. I also added a ring of 10 thou plasticard where the turret basket is located so the bottom of the turret just clears the raised details sculpted on the hull giving a smoother rotation. 

New thermal imaging ID panels were glued on the turret's sides and rear. These were reproduced from 1/144 Dragon models of the M-113 and Challenger 2 respectively. The frontal ones were simply cut from 10 thou plasticard, a tad too thick but easier to paint. A short piece of brass rod was used to represent the meteorological sensor and the roof was drilled for three antennas. Finally, the smoke grenade dischargers were moved slightly closer to the gun mantlet.

The tank is now primed and ready for a coat of paint. Is it more accurate than the one the postie brought ? Probably not since I simply substituted one set of errors and compromises for another. But it does look a lot closer to what I think a 15mm Challenger 2 should look like and I quite enjoyed the build.

One caveat: I like 15mm as a scale for modern infantry-heavy skirmish gaming and usually limit myself to one MBT on the table. As a result I don't mind spending time on what will usually be the one tank on the table but I'm not sure I'd do this for a whole troop. If I wanted to game the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards raids into Basra, I'd  probably move down a scale and go with 10mm anyway (and use the very nice Dragon Challys).

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