by: Jason Bobrowich [ ]
For those modellers who appreciate the appeal of the Leopard 1 we have been blessed with a wide variety of Leopard 1 based conversions and kits over the past few years. These kits and conversions have filled major gaps in Leopard 1 modelling projects and have covered nearly all of the German and Foreign Leopard user versions.
The German Leopard 1 was developed to provide the German army with a fast moving, well armed main battle tank that would face a Soviet threat and hold its own during tank battles. However, the tank was also developed with a foreign market in mind and many European nation armies had their eyes and wallets on the Leopard 1 from the onset. The first foreign nation to receive the Leopard 1 was Belgium in the late 1960s. Over the years the tanks were modified and upgraded in order to provide crews with better stowage, improved fire control systems, and increased protection.
The final version for Belgium is the Leopard 1A5BE and it is easily recognizable by a large gunner’s sight housing, late version side skirts, and an extended turret bustle.
The Belgian Leopards deployed operationally to Kosovo in 2000 and 2001 as part of the NATO led force. As with many Leopard 1 nations across the world the Leopard 1 legacy is quickly coming to an end. Belgium’s Leopard 1A5BE tanks fired their last shots in Bergen-Hohne and were retired in late 2014. 56 of the tanks were offered for sale. Of particular interest is that Lebanon may be the potential buyer of 43 the Leopard 1A5BEs. This opens up potential excellent opportunities to model the tank in a unique Middle Eastern battlefield setting.
24 tanks were going to be turned into monuments, and the rest slated for scrap or range targets. Only the support versions of the Leopards were retained in service.
Legend Productions has come to the rescue for Leopard 1 modellers with a detailed multi-media conversion of the Leopard 1A5BE for the Meng Leopard 1A5 kit. With the Leopard Workshop providing technical assistance on the conversion Legend Productions has been able to produce the Leopard 1A5BE conversion with accuracy and the usual stellar quality resin casting we have come to expect.
This is not a beginner conversion and it will require the removal and replacement of key parts moulded on to the Meng kit turret. Be prepared for cutting, sanding, and test fitting.
The conversion consists of 57 resin parts, 90 PE parts, as well as two lengths of brass rod and two lengths of brass wire.
All of the resin parts require removal and clean up from the resin pouring plugs. Take your time with both the big and small parts to ensure you remove the resin and clean up the parts without breaking them. The detail on grey resin parts is really top notch and surface details whether raised or recess pop out in the crisp castings. The PE parts are provided on two small frets with the parts numbered for your reference.
The brass rods (45 cm x 0.7 mm) are provided as replacement parts for the turret basket frame, the turret rails, and for the crosswind sensor stalk. The 20 x cm of 0.3 mm brass wire is provided to create attachment points for the padlocks on the hull bins and for the fording plug chains. The 40 cm of 0.5 mm brass wire is provided for the smaller turret basket frames. One colour double sided page is provided instructional purposes. Study the instructions carefully so that you understand well in advance what needs to be done to prepare the hull and turret.
The hull conversion is fairly straight forward with the following taking place:
1. Replacement resin late version side skirts with foot holds.
2. External resin stowage bins. This will likely require some minor filling in of the visible mounts for the pioneer tools on the Meng hull.
3. PE rear mud flaps.
4. PE back deck tool brackets and clamps.
5. Resin tow cable mounts and PE tow cable brackets. On the Leopard 1A5BE the tow cables were moved to a new stowed location requiring revised mounts.
6. Resin crew heater exhaust shroud.
7. Resin hull fording plugs and PE retaining chains.
8. PE NBCW housing intake mesh.
9. A plethora of PE padlocks.
One modification that is not mentioned or provided in the conversion is that the hull mirrors were moved forward on the fenders to new mounts on the rear edge of the front fenders on later versions of the 1A5BE. This would have been an easy addition to have included in the conversion and I am surprised it was missed.
The turret conversion gets more involved and requires much more hands on:
1. The Leopard 1A5 add-on armour mounts on the turret sides must all be removed. Get settled in for some prolonged sanding to remove all those great moulded on mounts.
2. The EME 15 sight housing is to be cut out and the hole enlarged to fit the new sight housing. A single image is provided as reference. Measure, measure, and measure again before you start cutting. I would recommend cutting small and then enlarging it until the resin sight housing fits in place. Weld marks will have to be added around the edge of the sight housing once it is mounted in place for further accuracy. You can position the sight doors open or closed.
3. PE chains are provided for the grenade dischargers.
4. A resin muzzle collimator is provided for the kit barrel.
5. A very nicely detailed resin MAG 58 with mount and PE parts for the ammunition cradle/box is provided for the loader’s hatch ring.
6. A resin blanking plate is provided for the left turret side.
7. Brass wire and PE brackets are provided for the turret rails.
8. Resin turret fording plugs and PE retaining chains.
9. A resin air density sensor and cross wind sensor are provided with wire for the stalk and a PE bracket. You get the option of mounting it straight up or in the bent stowed position.
10. The conversion provides wire, rod, and PE parts to create the main stowage bin. The Meng parts are designed to use the add-on armour and as such have multiple mounts moulded on. Removing these would be a delicate and very time consuming task. The tricky part now is that you have no template to re-create the new turret basket out of the conversion parts. Several images are provided in the instructions. This will be a very sensitive part of the build for many modellers and lots of comparison to the Meng kit parts should be done in order to get the angles correct.
11. Added on the rear of the main stowage bins is an additional open stowage bin extension. This is comprised of PE parts to form the unique looking bin that clamps on to the main bin frame.
12. PE machine gun mount locking bracket.
13. To top of the turret, more PE padlocks!
Make sure you study the conversion images, the Meng instructions, and good reference images as you may miss additional details not mentioned in the instructions. For example…the grenade dischargers require brush guards. They are not shown in the conversion images or images of the painted conversion on the Legend Productions site but reference images clearly shown them in place. You will have to use the Meng brush guards and further detail them to fit the modified turret.
There are no decals or painting guide provided in the conversion. Leopard Workshop has created a decal set specifically for this conversion. The decal set is LW016 Belgian Leopard 1A5BE. The set provides marking for tanks on exercise and deployed to Kosovo.
This conversion fills another void in the ability to accurately model versions of the Leopard 1 series. Legend Productions has provided you as the modeller all the parts required to build a great looking Leopard 1A5BE. Caution though should be taken when using this conversion as it does require preparation of the Meng kit parts. This is not a “shake and bake” conversion. The conversion definitely requires at least moderate scratch building skills and a level of comfort when working with brass rod and wire in order to build the turret stowage bin.
Slowly but surely the Leopard 1 conversion and kit bucket list is being checked off and much to the hard work that Legend Productions is putting into their various Leopard 1 conversion and detail sets.
I am excited to start building this conversion as it will not only create a unique Leopard 1 version but it also steps back to the origin of the Leopard 1 user nations.