Anyone that follows the modelling world will notice how often a particular subject becomes flavour of the month, and how, once that happens, a large number of kits from a variety of different manufacturers, will appear at the same time. The Leopard is a great example of how this can result in lots of new kits being released, seemingly, out of the blue. Though there have always been kits of this vehicle from the likes of Tamiya, Italeri and Revell, many of these are based on older moulds and though the second-generation Leopard 2 family sought favour thanks to Tamiya's attentions and latterly, those of HobbyBoss, the earlier Leopard 1 in its many incarnations has been rather less popular. Enter MENG and their 1 A4. Released in a flurry of excitement, this new kit was hoped to be the last word on the subject, so when it appeared with odd accuracy issues many still felt that the opportunity had been missed and no more first-generation kits would appear. Not so. Takom then released a MEXAS and are due to look at other versions including the 1A5/ C2. MENG have also taken another look at their more problematic issues in their kit and have reworked them - much to the delight of the enthusiastic modeller - and so we may finally have a kit to match the hopes and expectations of the market.
Hearing the news that the 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis AFB is to disband in September came as little surprise. The US Air Force is struggling to fund its "big ticket" programs, so something has to give. However, the figure quoted in terms of savings afforded by culling the 19 aggressor F-15s is $35 million annually. Compare that with the reductions we are told will come in the F-35 Lightning II program. The F-35 Joint Program Office says that an F-35A currently costs $112 million, but that it will come down to $80 million by 2019 (others say the current figure is an awful lot higher). Ignoring this fact, the JPO figure still suggests a reduction of $32 million per aircraft by 2019. So, to fund and save the aggressors would require just one F-35 to be deferred each year until 2019. Not fewer jets, just deferring them! Of course, that doesn't work. If everyone just waited for F-35 costs to come down as promised, the price cut wouldn't happen. Production needs to ramp up now in order to yield the cost reductions. Pile them high, sell them cheap(er). So, why can't customers just sit it out and play the waiting game — wait for an F-35 that has come down the cost curve, wait for an F-35 that doesn't have all the concurrency issues; a more mature jet that has completed testing and doesn't require modifications? Some argue that the expensive jets coming out in the initial LRIP batches will have little combat capability and will require the sort of costly mid-life upgrade that the F-16s needed in the 1990s. With the high cost of concurrency (bringing these jets up to full capability standards), will these early F-35s be rendered obsolete? Are they going to have any useful combat capability? In the longer term, they surely will, but many less complex fighter aircraft programs have taken a decade to be brought up to a meaningful standard after entering service. The question is whether air forces will be forced to sacrifice useful fighter fleets in order to pay for a new jet with little real immediate combat capability.
Farley Mowat was born in Ontario on 12 May 1921. Despite being encouraged by his father, Angus, a veteran of the Great War, to join the Army, Farley was set on joining the Royal Canadian Air Force and learning to fly. Unfortunately for him (but perhaps fortunately for us) the RCAF was not as keen on him as he was on them. Therefore, falling back on his father's advice, young Farley enlisted with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, known as the Hasty P and by 10 July 1943, he was a subaltern in command of a rifle platoon and found himself participating in the initial landings of Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily. In his book, 'My Father's Son', Mowat remarks that in its initial stages the campaign in Sicily was an "exhilarating if exhausting experience for those that escaped death or mutilation". But as the action moved into Italy and there began a long and bitter struggle, the experience became more exhausting that anything else. Following a particularly stressful period during the Moro River campaign at the tail end of 1943, Mowat departed the front line and was appointed to the staff at Brigade HQ. Although the aforementioned My Father's Son provides a very good account of Mowat's service in Italy, we must fast-forward to April 1945 when the now Captain Mowat, based at Eindhoven in the Netherlands was serving as a Technical Intelligence Officer. His task was, as he puts it: "to scour the battlefields and beyond for examples of new military horrors being deployed by the Jerries against our lads."
One of the most important ways in which the US Air Force has been upgrading its fleet of KC-135Rs and KC-135Ts, as well as its other models, is to make their flight decks compatible with the modern, highly digital, air traffic management environment. By default, this has meant the US Air Force doing away with the navigator's and flight engineer's positions on every C-135 flight deck, in order to make the aircraft fully navigable and controllable by just a two-pilot crew. It has also meant the Air Force replacing all of the fleet's 1950s-vintage analogue instruments and navigational systems with digital avionics and displays, which make it easier for the two pilots to absorb all the aircraft systems, air traffic management and navigational information required to fly the aircraft efficiently and safely while satisfying today's complex airspace and traffic requirements. The cockpit upgrade process, which began in 1997 and includes three distinct phases, will be finished within a few years. By the time the process is completed, every major KC-135R and KC-135T flight deck component, except the pilot's seats and a few other minor parts, will have been replaced by a new digital electronic component, says Col Martin O'Grady, KC-135R system programme manager for the US Air Force. By then, all of the 400-plus C-135s remaining in US service should be able to continue performing their missions efficiently and reliably in the highly digital 21st century operating environment until either the US Department of Defense mandates their replacement or until they reach the limit of their currently specified 39,000 flight-hour lives. At current annual rates of operation, most US Air Force KC-135s are expected to reach that 39,000-flight-hour figure between 2040 and 2050.
The T-64 is a Soviet main battle tank introduced in the early 1960s. It was a more advanced counterpart to the T-62: the T-64 served tank divisions, while the T-62 supported infantry in motor rifle divisions. Although the T-62 and the famous T-72 would see much wider use and generally more development, it was the T-64 that formed the basis of more modern Soviet tank designs, such as the T-80. The T-64 was conceived in Kharkiv, Ukraine as the next-generation main battle tank by Alexander A. Morozov, the designer of the T-54 which, in the meantime, would be incrementally improved by Leonid N. Kartsev's Nizhny Tagil bureau, by the models T-54A, T-54B, T-55, and T-55A. A revolutionary feature of the T-64 is the incorporation of an automatic loader for its 125-mm gun, allowing one crew member's position to be omitted and helping to keep the size and weight of the tank down. Tank troopers would joke that the designers had finally caught up with their unofficial hymn, Three Tankers - the song had been written to commemorate the crewmen fighting in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, in 3-man BT-5 tanks in 1939. The T-64 also pioneered other Soviet tank technology: the T-64A model of 1967 introduced the 125-mm smooth-bore gun, and the T-64B of 1976 would be able to fire a guided anti-tank missile through its gun barrel. The T-64 design was further developed as the gas turbine-powered T-80 main battle tank. The turret of the T-64B would be used in the improved T-80U and T-80UD, and an advanced version of its diesel engine would power the T-80UD and T-84 tanks built in the Ukraine.
Keen-eyed readers will notice that on page 22 of this issue, we have a new feature entitled 'Your Airfix'. Having worked in publishing for more than 20 years (and a long-time avid magazine reader), I've always considered that the better publications in their relevant markets always offer some form of reader participation. It then struck me recently that this sort of avenue was missing from Airfix Model World, in terms of model builds. Of course, anyone can get in touch if they are interested in becoming a contributor, but not everyone has the means or time to do this. Our new page, though, allows any AMW reader the opportunity to show off a particular Airfix build of which they're particularly proud; it can be any subject as long as it's an Airfix model, photographed to a good standard against a clean white background, along with a 300 word description of what was involved in the build. I was certainly impressed with the ingenuity of our first submission from Steve Fitzpatrick who, despite having only recently returned to modelling since childhood, portrayed Duxford's de Havilland Vampire in a realistic and well-rendered museum setting. The gauntlet is thrown... let's see those Airfix models so we can all enjoy them.