The Flakpanzer 38(t) was based on the Panzer 38(t) Ausf M chassis developed for Marder III production and mounted the proven Flak 38 to the rear. Folding side plates allowed the gun to be fired at both aerial and ground targets. The Czech manufacturer BMM completed over 140 examples with many being operated against Allied 'Jabo' (jagdbomber) fighters during the 1944 Normandy campaign. Tristar have an excellent track record with the Panzer 38(t) having produced various versions of the original gun tank with full interiors. In addition, they have released three versions of the Flak 38 providing early and late versions. This Flakpanzer is therefore a logical combination with elements taken from these previous releases plus four new sprues providing the superstructure and Ausf M hull. The quality of the new parts is perfectly acceptable, but in a few areas, the definition is not quite as sharp as seen with the original Panzer 38(t) or Flak 38 kits. Construction starts with the hull and interior fittings. Inspection of the inner sidewalls and floor reveals a number of deep ejector-pin marks that will require filling. Accessing these areas to sand away filler while not damaging the raised joint flanges can prove challenging, so I chose to remove all the raised detail, fill and sand the marks then re-instate the flanges with plastic card. Adding the flange detail after assembling the hull has the added advantage of covering any joins in the corners. The 'punch & die' set was used extensively to add the many tiny rivet heads seen on the finished model. The interior parts provided by Tristar are exceptionally well detailed, especially the gearbox and steering levers. The latter are made up of a sandwich of brass levers and spacers that are best threaded onto an appropriate diameter plastic spindle and clamped together before adding a small amount of cyano glue to secure the assembly. This can then be secured to the plastic housing with a little more cyano glue.
Fairly recently, Fujimi and Hasegawa, mainly known for their beautiful aircraft kits, decided to produce motorcycle models too. This was a pleasant surprise as they chose to tackle innovative machines and the level of detail is impressively high. While Hasegawa is interested in the 250cc Japanese World Champions, Fujimi, has taken on the endurance machines of the 1980s. Their catalogue already lists the 1986 Suzuki GSX-R 750, 1987 Yamaha YZF-750, and the topic of this article, the 1985 Yamaha FZR 750R. In the '80s, endurance races had a renewed boost of interest and Yamaha wanted a part of the action. The bike uses a Deltabox framework developed from that of the YZR500 Grand Prix and an engine from the FZ75Ü. Fujimi's kit comes with the colours of Tech21 as ridden by Taira/Roberts but the bike that was sent to France for the '85 Bol d'Or would be ridden by Christian Sarron, Thierry Espié and Jacques Cornu. It was painted in the colours of Sonauto, the French importer of Yamaha plus a well known French tobacco company, a more logical choice for the French market than Tech21. It is this scheme that French artisan-producer 'Blue Stuff (Dexter Models) has chosen as an optional scheme for the kit, and it is produced to a very high quality. For the record, the actual bike was subsequently repainted in the Tech21 colours for the Yamaha museum in Japan, where the company took a hundred photos. These are now posted on Fujimi's website (see Modelspec for web address) providing some excellent photos to aid the modeller in their superdetailing efforts should they desire.
The spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) - now called the Islamic State (IS) - into Iraq has led to the US mounting airstrikes to assist the Iraqi Government and Kurdish forces. As of September 1, US Central Command revealed that 123 airstrikes had taken place. American fighters conducted the first attacks against IS militants on August 8 when a pair of US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets, operating from the aircraft carrier USS George H W Bush (CVN 77), used 500lb (227kg) laser-guided bombs against a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. The US airstrikes helped Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces recapture the strategically critical Mosul Dam in northern Iraq. USAF C-130s and C-17s have also been conducting humanitarian aid air drops to people threatened by IS. Additionally, the Iraqi Air Force has been attacking IS fighters and assisting civilians in need. The RAF is heavily involved in the effort. Seven Tornado GR4s have been deployed to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, to conduct 'humanitarian support' missions and reconnaissance. Four Chinooks were sent to the base on Cyprus to assist in Iraq if required. Missions to gather intelligence have been carried out by the service's first RC-135W Rivet Joint and the UK has also undertaken aid drops using C-130Js. Plus, on August 31 two C-130Js delivered 11 tonnes of equipment to Erbil. The load consisted of 7.62mm ammunition provided by other nations, plus body armour, helmets and sleeping bags provided by the UK. RAF C-17A Globemaster Ills have additionally transported a range of non-lethal support, gifted by the UK, and intended for Kurdish forces.
Much has been written in recent months about the visit of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Lancaster to the UK, and rightly so. As Steve Slater astutely points out in his Hangar Talk column, the aircraft has managed to score some major publicity coups during its time in Britain and has regularly appeared on TV, radio and in newspapers as well as the specialist media. I live in a small village in Derbyshire and regulars in the 'Carpenters Arms' (which I frequent merely to keep up on village gossip, you understand...) have been asking me when and where the Lancasters are appearing, with many locals travelling significant distances to see the two aircraft fly in formation. These are not aviation enthusiasts by any stretch of the imagination, but the media coverage and the desire to be part of history has meant they have been caught up in the Lancaster 'fever' that has gripped the UK. Tony Harmsworth and I were recently among the large crowd at East Kirkby to see the two Lancasters overflying the resident, taxiable, Just Jane. The sight, and more especially the sound, of three Lancasters and 12 Merlin engines will live long in my memory.
When asked by Tsar Nicholas II to develop a vehicle that could travel at all speeds over deep snow, ice or roads covered with lightly packed snow - a vehicle that could leave the road without slowing down - French engineer Adolphe Kégresse came up with a novel solution. He would go on to replace the rear wheels with an endless track system, using a flexible rubber belt. That was in 1906, and he was the tender age of 27 at the time; seven years later Kégresse, believing that he had perfected the system, applied for a patent in his native France, but then the Bolshevik revolution spoiled his plans when he had to flee Russia. The concept of the half-track, however, wasn't exactly new. The Holt Manufacturing Company (later to become Caterpillar) had toyed with the idea in 1913, and the likes of Lombard and others had produced half-track machines from 1916. However, the Frenchman's way of doing things was altogether more refined and sophisticated and offered a unique combination of performance, ride and reliability. Moreover, unlike caterpillar tracks, his rubber band didn't tear up the surface of the road - and this would inevitably add to its versatility and usefulness. What's so clever about the Kégresse set-up is that it used a unique flexible track design with a proper suspension system to support the vehicle's weight. The bogie itself consisted of three subassemblies, namely the rubber track including the four road wheels, the suspension with its adjustable idler wheel, and the driving axle with its drive pulleys or sprockets.
The Dutch-manufactured Fokker D.XXI was a low-wing monoplane that saw action during the defence of Holland in May 1940. The type had a much longer and very successful operational career with the Finnish Air Force against its Soviet counterparts, during both the Winter War and Continuation War. Its rugged design with a radial engine and fixed undercarriage made it very suitable for the harsh Northern conditions, especially as the wheels could be replaced with skis for winter use. Initially I was going to build this 1:48 scale Special Hobby kit more or less out of the box with some additional details like opening the landing flaps, cockpit canopy and gun bays in the wings. However the resin Bristol Mercury radial engine from Vector supplied with the kit was so finely detailed that it seemed a waste to hide it away inside the closed cowling. With the cowling now removed, the model looked slightly odd with the engine protruding from the front of the fuselage. So I decided to remove the panels in front of the cockpit as well, exposing the area directly behind the engine and uncovering the internal fuel tank. After that the model construction was straightforward.
THIS YEAR'S Exercise Pitch Black 2014 (PB14), was the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF's) largest and most complex air exercise, involved up to 110 aircraft and more than 2,300 personnel. The exercise ran from August 1 to 22. Held in the Northern Territory every two years, PB14 included offensive counter air and defensive counter air missions, which were launched from RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal. The Delamere Range Facility and Bradshaw Field Training Area were also used. Mission scenarios became progressively larger and more complicated through the course of the exercise, requiring mission commanders to factor in a variety of air combat roles. Those practised during Exercise Pitch Black included air-to-air combat, air-to-ground attack, airborne early warning and control, air-to-air refuelling and tactical air transport. In addition, many other ground-borne roles - such as combat support, joint battlefield airspace control, employment of combat controllers (including joint terminal attack control) and exercise co-ordination - were also practised. The exercise areas used for Exercise Pitch Black are some of the largest in the world and feature realistic, simulated and re-created threats and targets.
The war on the Western Front in 1914 confounded most predictions. The Germans did not capture Paris. The French did not storm across the Rhine. The 'spirit of the offensive' was shown to be suicidal. No-one had enough artillery, machine-guns, or munitions. Cavalry was virtually redundant. More aircraft were desperately needed. The fronts rapidly went into lockdown. The war of manoeuvre turned into a war of attrition. On the Eastern Front, on the other hand, the broad pattern of the war was closer to that of 19th-century conflicts. For sure, there were too many cavalry and not enough guns, telephones, and radio operators. Hardly anyone suspected that the eight armoured cars of Russia's 1st Automobile Machine Gun Company represented the future of warfare. Nonetheless, the war proved far less 'sticky' here than in the West. Within the six weeks it was supposed to have taken the Germans to lake Paris, true trench-warfare had begun on the Western Front. This became apparent to the BEF when it was hurled back from the freshly cut German trenches on the Aisne in September. In the East, however, the balance between mass and space was different, and the war of movement continued - not just into 1915, but, to a significant degree, throughout the three years that the war lasted. This did not make the Eastern Front any less murderous: if anything, the contrary was true, for trenches provided protection, whereas a war of movement exposed men more frequently to danger on the surface. In our special feature this month, David Porter explores the great battles between German and Russian in East Prussia, and between Austro-Hungarian and Russian in Galicia, during the opening months of the First World War: this was a clash of three empires in the marshes and thickets of the Masurian Lakes, and in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.