ARM: Review - Academy 1/35 scale Merkava Mk. IV

Kit Review: Academy 1/35 Scale Kit No. 13213; Merkava Mk. IV; 620 parts (586 in tan styrene, 18 vinyl, 15 etched brass, 1 nylon string);
retail price US$44.00
Advantages: very accurate and nicely done kit misses few details; link and length tracks a smart idea
Disadvantages: “motoritis” of the hull; assembly of chain armor weight balls will be tedious
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all fans of modern armor or the IDF
    The armor used by the Israeli Defense Forces has always been popular, as it generally has shown brilliant local reuse of either cast-off or obsolete vehicles or native genius in creating highly effective vehicles; many other countries have actually based some of their new armor concepts (such as heavy armored combat vehicles or HACVs) on Israeli designs.
    The Merkava (Chariot) tank began as a product improved design based on parts from the British Centurion and L7 105mm gun combined with the American AVDS-1790 diesel engine on a totally new chassis, which moved to an engine-front design with the smallest possible turret to protect the crew at all costs. The vehicle also had a rear access hatch and jump seats for recovery of personnel or wounded in combat while providing maximum protection. It made its combat debut in Lebanon in 1982.
    Since then the tank has evolved through three more evolutions, each more heavily armed and protected than the last. Today we now have the Merkava Mark IV, armed with the US M256 120mm gun, a .50 caliber M2HB machine gun for coaxial work or “pest control” of light armored vehicles, and a 7.62mm machine gun for the commander’s use. The tank has state-of-the-art sights and communications equipment, massive turret armor protection (weight is indicated as heavier than 62 metric tons) and other protective measures. The tanks have been in service for several years now but were first sent into combat in the disastrous raids on Hizbollah in Lebanon.
    Academy has now released a new kit of the Merkava Mark IV; since they also had a Mark III (which I have not seen) I cannot comment on whether or not this kit is based on the earlier one. But from what I can tell this appears to be a “ground-up” new mold kit using slide molding and other state of the air techniques.
    The kit is very conventional in general layout, but shows its motorized origins with the now standard three holes in the belly of the hull for the motor mounts and remote control wire access. A plug is provided for the central cable hole, but not for the two motor mount holes up front. Also, while many of the smaller details are provided for the lower hull, the access hatch at the rear is a “false front” and cannot be displayed open without a lot of work in creating a interior and an inner face to the hatch.
    Given that, the rest of the kit is nicely done and very straightforward. The road wheel bogies are one massive unit with a rocker assembly that is attached but as they are springs will need careful cleanup. The road wheel pairs consist of four parts: rear wheel, vinyl keeper, front wheel, and separate rim with tire for definition; happily, the rims and tires are styrene and not vinyl so painting is not a problem.
    Modelers will be happy that Academy includes “link and length” tracks with the kit (curiously referred to as “semi-connecting tracks” on the box ends!) The main runs have no ejection pin marks but the “wrap” sections do, so a bit of cleanup or filling (modeler’s choice) will be needed on those. The track runs therefore comprise but 27 parts each.
    The turret is approximately 60% the size of the hull, and most of the detailing parts are used on it. The commander’s hatch may be positioned opened or closed, as can the gunner’s primary day/night sight doors. There are several antennas (parts B31) which I assume from what I know of the vehicle to be part of its battlefield control system interface (these are something new many countries are using such as the US system for brigade and below automated command and control). There are also several regular antennas plus a meteorological sensor mast and the turret basket. The coaxial .50 caliber has a slide molded bore and comes in a total of 14 parts including its mount, 17 if you count the ammo feed.
    The main gun comes with a number of add-on bits for lifting eyes and other fittings. The side skirts come with separate top-mounted hinges and edges so this is a nice bit of detail usually left to the modeler. The engine exhaust grille is formed from separate “V” shaped parts, but the large mesh cover is not provided as part of the etched brass fret. (This was the only major part that I noted missing when compared with photos of current Merkavas in service.)
    The etched brass includes the vehicle serial number plates (so in theory only one tank can be built from the kit) as well as end pates for the hull stowage bins, the floor of the bustle basket and most importantly, the chain armor around the lower edge of the rear of the turret. This protection, which received the somewhat flippant nicknames “Dingle Balls” or “Chi-Chi Balls” after their appearance being similar to “Low Riders” favorite fringe window trim for their cars, has been a royal pain ever since the IDF added to their tanks some years ago.
    Academy’s solution has been to make them as etched brass frets with the round portion attached from separately provided half sections (molded on the D sprue edges in what is now Academy’s standard style for small supplemental parts) for the modeler to attach with super glue. They provide 184 sections for 66 balls; as each ball takes two sections, they provide at least 50 extras as “sacrifices to the carpet monster!” I suggest added them BEFORE removing the ball sections (five to eight in a group) for attachment to the turret.
    A small section of decals is included, but as Academy notes you will have to add the canvas removal tactical panels from tissue with a soaking in either white glue or “soup” made of glue and plastic.
    Overall this is an outstanding effort and one which should be well received by IDF fans.
    Thanks to Ed Sexton of MRC for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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The kit shares no parts with their previous Merkava III kit. It's 100% new tool. In fact, the III kit that I have from them is labeled :static model" and has a (different) hull devoid of the motor holes. I felt basically the same about the kit and did a min-review about a week ago for another forum that I'm on.
At first glance it looks pretty good. The distinct saucer shaped turret is molded in two large upper and lower halves. Track is link and length. They include a small PE sheet with the perforated plates for the rear stowage baskets and the bottom of the stowage basket, metal license plates, and an interesting way to make the ball and chain armor for the turret rear. This consists of rack sections of chains with a flat disk on the end. One of the sprues (two actually, since the sprue is duplicated) has a number of round domes molded on the sprue runner. You are expected to slice off the the domes and stick one to each side of the disk at the end of the chain, resulting in a 3D ball. Since there seem to be around 70 chains, this should lead to a lot of fun cutting out and attaching about 140 half balls. Overall, it looks generally accurate, but I'll let the expert weigh in on the exact details. Decals for one vehicle. As a final note, there appear to be at least two actual versions of the Merkava IV, an early version (Baz?) without a loader's hatch in the turret and thin side skirts with a rubber bottom and large openings in the two rear skirts, and a newer version (LIC?) with a loader's hatch and thicker solid skirts. This kit is of the early version. The area of the turret where the loader's hatch would be is a separate part, so it's possible that Academy could later release the other version.
There are a few nits with the kit. First, no non-skid texture on the turret or upper hull, which is disappointing. Adding it will be a challenge since there is a ton of fine detail in the form of bolt heads and rings that you have to avoid covering up. Second, the lower hull has the dreaded motorization holes to deal with. It's somewhat surprising to see this in a modern kit, but perhaps motorized kits are bigger in Korea than elsewhere. In the same "old school" vein, the upper hull has open sponsons on the underside. Although the skirts hide this for most of the length, the rear part of the skirts have large openings in them and also stop at the rear idler so there is a section of hull at the rear where this is completely uncovered. My feeling is that you'll need to block off the rear 1/3 of the upper hull. The forward part will be hidden by the skirts.
Perhaps there is room for improvement, but not a bad kit for under $40.
Dave
Kit Review: Academy 1/35 Scale Kit No. 13213; Merkava Mk. IV; 620 parts (586 in tan styrene, 18 vinyl, 15 etched brass, 1 nylon string); retail price US$44.00
Advantages: very accurate and nicely done kit misses few details; link and length tracks a smart idea
Disadvantages: “motoritis” of the hull; assembly of chain armor weight balls will be tedious
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all fans of modern armor or the IDF
The armor used by the Israeli Defense Forces has always been popular, as it generally has shown brilliant local reuse of either cast-off or obsolete vehicles or native genius in creating highly effective vehicles; many other countries have actually based some of their new armor concepts (such as heavy armored combat vehicles or HACVs) on Israeli designs.
The Merkava (Chariot) tank began as a product improved design based on parts from the British Centurion and L7 105mm gun combined with the American AVDS-1790 diesel engine on a totally new chassis, which moved to an engine-front design with the smallest possible turret to protect the crew at all costs. The vehicle also had a rear access hatch and jump seats for recovery of personnel or wounded in combat while providing maximum protection. It made its combat debut in Lebanon in 1982.
Since then the tank has evolved through three more evolutions, each more heavily armed and protected than the last. Today we now have the Merkava Mark IV, armed with the US M256 120mm gun, a .50 caliber M2HB machine gun for coaxial work or “pest control” of light armored vehicles, and a 7.62mm machine gun for the commander’s use. The tank has state-of-the-art sights and communications equipment, massive turret armor protection (weight is indicated as heavier than 62 metric tons) and other protective measures. The tanks have been in service for several years now but were first sent into combat in the disastrous raids on Hizbollah in Lebanon.
Academy has now released a new kit of the Merkava Mark IV; since they also had a Mark III (which I have not seen) I cannot comment on whether or not this kit is based on the earlier one. But from what I can tell this appears to be a “ground-up” new mold kit using slide molding and other state of the air techniques.
The kit is very conventional in general layout, but shows its motorized origins with the now standard three holes in the belly of the hull for the motor mounts and remote control wire access. A plug is provided for the central cable hole, but not for the two motor mount holes up front. Also, while many of the smaller details are provided for the lower hull, the access hatch at the rear is a “false front” and cannot be displayed open without a lot of work in creating a interior and an inner face to the hatch.
Given that, the rest of the kit is nicely done and very straightforward. The road wheel bogies are one massive unit with a rocker assembly that is attached but as they are springs will need careful cleanup. The road wheel pairs consist of four parts: rear wheel, vinyl keeper, front wheel, and separate rim with tire for definition; happily, the rims and tires are styrene and not vinyl so painting is not a problem.
Modelers will be happy that Academy includes “link and length” tracks with the kit (curiously referred to as “semi-connecting tracks” on the box ends!) The main runs have no ejection pin marks but the “wrap” sections do, so a bit of cleanup or filling (modeler’s choice) will be needed on those. The track runs therefore comprise but 27 parts each.
The turret is approximately 60% the size of the hull, and most of the detailing parts are used on it. The commander’s hatch may be positioned opened or closed, as can the gunner’s primary day/night sight doors. There are several antennas (parts B31) which I assume from what I know of the vehicle to be part of its battlefield control system interface (these are something new many countries are using such as the US system for brigade and below automated command and control). There are also several regular antennas plus a meteorological sensor mast and the turret basket. The coaxial .50 caliber has a slide molded bore and comes in a total of 14 parts including its mount, 17 if you count the ammo feed.
The main gun comes with a number of add-on bits for lifting eyes and other fittings. The side skirts come with separate top-mounted hinges and edges so this is a nice bit of detail usually left to the modeler. The engine exhaust grille is formed from separate “V” shaped parts, but the large mesh cover is not provided as part of the etched brass fret. (This was the only major part that I noted missing when compared with photos of current Merkavas in service.)
The etched brass includes the vehicle serial number plates (so in theory only one tank can be built from the kit) as well as end pates for the hull stowage bins, the floor of the bustle basket and most importantly, the chain armor around the lower edge of the rear of the turret. This protection, which received the somewhat flippant nicknames “Dingle Balls” or “Chi-Chi Balls” after their appearance being similar to “Low Riders” favorite fringe window trim for their cars, has been a royal pain ever since the IDF added to their tanks some years ago.
Academy’s solution has been to make them as etched brass frets with the round portion attached from separately provided half sections (molded on the D sprue edges in what is now Academy’s standard style for small supplemental parts) for the modeler to attach with super glue. They provide 184 sections for 66 balls; as each ball takes two sections, they provide at least 50 extras as “sacrifices to the carpet monster!” I suggest added them BEFORE removing the ball sections (five to eight in a group) for attachment to the turret.
A small section of decals is included, but as Academy notes you will have to add the canvas removal tactical panels from tissue with a soaking in either white glue or “soup” made of glue and plastic.
Overall this is an outstanding effort and one which should be well received by IDF fans.
Thanks to Ed Sexton of MRC for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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Dave Williams wrote:

Just a thought here...
One *could* take the little PE part, and with a drop of superglue, or white glue, put a drop on each side of the PE part, and with some practice you can get the little balls. And it would be a whole lot easier to do this than screw around with all those little plastic half domes I think.
Just my 2 cents.
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I forgot to mention that the PE is included as the photos on the box art do not show the PE or chain armor installed. It IS there in the release version!
No mention of "static model" with this kit, just what I mentioned above.
Agreed that drops of epoxy or white glue could be used for the chain armor balls, but their method does seem to offer an advantage once you get them off the sprues!
Cookie Sewell
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I agree that I wish there was a better day to do it, but I'd be concerned about the ability to create a proper half dome shape and then replicate it 130 or 140 times.
Dave
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Shalom Dave.
I heard that .22 cal long rifle snake/rat shot is an ideal size for the balls. I have the 1/35 scale Academy Merkava II and am going to try CA gluing cake decorating balls (you can get really tiny ones) to the end of very fine model railroad chain. I'll cut the chain to length for the turret basket *AFTER* the balls set up.
Cheers from Peter
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: : "JESUS IS THE ANSWER!" :     Hmmm. Everybody knows the answer is actually "42".
                            Bruce
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"I like bad!" Bruce Burden Austin, TX.
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wrote:

elebenty seben if you're high.
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