by: Jason Bobrowich [ ]
The use of Saab’s Barracuda Mobile Camouflage System (MCS) on the Canadian Leopard 2A6M CAN tanks in Afghanistan has made the modern armour modeller’s eyes roll back in their heads in an attempt to replicate this very unique surface texture. The Barracuda MCS is designed to provide vehicles with protection against detection, identification, reduce heat penetration in extremely hot climates, and provide a multispectral shading umbrella to reduce both heat and enemy observation of the crew.
Thankfully, it appears the wait for 1:35th scale Barracuda MCS on the Canadian Leopard is finally over. No one should be saying modern armour is without character after seeing the Barracuda camouflage that Perfect Scale Modellbau (PSM) has developed in their newest resin conversion to depict a present day Canadian Leopard 2A6M CAN deployed to Afghanistan. At first look the work that has gone into creating the master and casting the parts is very impressive, but there is always room for improvement.
When the sturdy cardboard box is opened up, there are 26 resin parts, two small photo-etched frets, and one length of styrene rod wrapped in plastic bags and protected by bubble wrap and Styrofoam chips.
This conversion is designed for use with the Hobby Boss Leopard 2A6M kit (# 82458). The main resin parts, such as the upper hull, upper turret, turret rear, the barrel, the turret baskets, the commander’s cupola, the commander’s sight, the rifle stowage box, and the hatch tops are all direct swaps with the original kit parts. That being said, the Hobby Boss kit is not to the same standard of moulding or details as the Tamiya Leopard 2A5/2A6 kits. So as a result, if you are using the Tamiya Leopard, you may find fit and detail issues with the resin parts, as their standard is the Hobby Boss tank.
It’s important to begin with a discussion of the instructions, which consist of a single double-sided piece of paper. They include numbered drawings of all the conversion parts, and state very clearly how important it is to work closely with the Hobby Boss kit’s instructions, especially when attaching the slat armour mounts. They are composed of a combination of text blocks, part drawings, and assembled kit images that show conversion part placement. If modellers work hand-in-hand with the HB kit instructions, placement should not be an issue, since mostly you are simply mounting the same parts as in the kit, only they’re Barracuda-covered now.
Most importantly, the instructions provide contact information for PSM should the modeller have any issues with missing or damaged pieces.
Some may find the assembly of the two turret stowage baskets a challenge. PSM have cast the sides of the baskets with frames and Barracuda. The modeller must then take the kit inner frames and bottoms and adjust them to fit into the PSM castings. This could be a little tricky, and I highly recommend using some good measurements, multiple test fittings, and patience. Again, the issues of the Hobby Boss kit details come into play, as it appears its stowage bins are oversized when compared to the Tamiya stowage bins. This additional size may interfere with correct fitting, and may contribute to clearance issues between the turret and the hull top.
PSM recommends the guides be removed from the bottom of the kit’s lower turret. I suspect this to permit the modeller to easily place and remove the turret from the hull in order to reduce the possibility of damaging parts, again because of the miniscule amount of clearance over the upper hull parts. PSM evidently anticipated a gap being created during the attachment of the solid rear turret stowage bins to the rear of the turret, since it is shown in the instructions. Filler should be used to seal that gap. This could either be the result of production variations on the Hobby Boss kit, or expectations of resin shrinkage.
The instructions include three colour images of the completed and painted conversion. They are also there as reference for the assembly of the two different umbrellas. Overall, the instructions are fine for this conversion. If I were to recommend anything it would be to make them two pages, and include more close-up images of the parts attached to the hull and turret, as the included images tend to make the parts blend-in due to the Barracuda coverings.
Upper Hull Components
The resin upper hull is a hefty piece. The multiple panels of the Barracuda camouflage have been cast on the surface, and a great deal of attention has been paid to the placement of the panels and the distinct edges. The look is realistic, with the Barracuda pattern very random, and just dishevelled enough to replicate wear and tear as seen on real tanks. In addition, Perfect Scale Modellbau has taken the time to improve the base upper hull prior to casting by reducing the overall height of the anti-slip patches, and they now look much more in-scale, a real improvement. The multiple placement holes for grab handles on the upper hull have also been filled and made smooth, so modellers can choose to use the kit grab handles or fashion their own using brass wire.
The upper hull has been cast as one piece that includes the horizontal engine grill (kit part M1), the front fenders (parts E16 and E17), the right rear upper hull (part H2), and the side skirts (parts J1, J7, E8, E9), all cast into one piece. This may have been done to give the section more stability and reduce warping. Disappointingly, the Hobby Boss upper hull does not have the correct late version modifications to the two large circular engine air intakes, and PSM did not add this modification when they cast their hull. They did failed to provide the rectangular covers for the lower rear hull engine access ports on Canadian tanks. Fortunately, the average modeller should be able to scratch-build these parts or source a photo etch version.
PSM did include built-in gaps along the hull sides for the slat armour mounts and on the glacis plate for the spare tracks section, tow hooks, and the headlights. The add-on glacis armour is covered by Barracuda, and as a result the kit part is not required.
The driver’s hatch is left separate like the Hobby Boss kit, but it has a Barracuda cover. Modellers may feel the hatch sits too high, and may come in contact with the lower front edges of the turret when it is attached. Since the conversion is designed to be static, therefore there should not be a great deal of turret traversing going on anyways. If you require more movement on your model, you can always trim down the Barracuda on the hatch, as it is quite common to see panels worn or portions missing on real tanks. Another option is simply to use the Hobby Boss kit’s driver’s hatch without the Barracuda, as many images show it completely removed from these hatches.
Before I move from the upper hull it is important to revisit issues with the Hobby Boss kit. In several other builds, I have seen modellers using styrene, brass blocks or tubes as shims inside the kit between the bottom of the lower hull and the top of the upper hull to prevent sagging once the upper and lower hull pieces are assembled. The sagging will cause issues in two ways: first, it will interfere with the front of the turret and the driver’s hatch. Second, it will dramatically interfere with the clearance between the upper hull, and in particular, the circular engine air intakes and the bottom of the slat armour on the turret rear. Take the time to test fit the parts, and use shims to slightly raise the sag in the upper hull.
PSM took a similar approach with the upper turret as they did with the upper hull, combining the basic upper turret with the four front armour modules (kit parts D1-3, B49, and D19). The Barracuda here is of the same high quality as on the hull. The panels look great as they conform to the turret shapes and overlap each other. In the center of the turret is the umbrella mount, cast in-place and attached to the turret lifting eye. The mount itself looks very nicely-detailed. The mounting post is simply a post, and will need to be further detailed with a retaining pin and chain. In looking at reference images and measuring the umbrella mount, it appears that the post should be moved forward about 3mm to make for an accurate placement. This is simple to do.
The length of the mount appears to be about 3 mm too short, though, and will need to be lengthened. This will be a bit trickier, as the circular end point will need to be removed, additional length added and then the end point added again. Modellers should note that the umbrella can be seen mounted on the traditional center post between the turret hatches, or on the end point, moving it forward about two scale feet.
The casting for the most part is very crisp, but there are details, such as in front of the commander’s vision block, that look like a blob of resin. This is luckily covered by the vision block once the kit is assembled. On the turret sides, PSM has chosen to remove the moulded-on components, including the grenade dischargers mounted on the top. I am not entirely sure of their reasoning, other than PSM does produce an upgrade set for the Hobby Boss Leopard 2A6M CAN kit that includes replacement resin grenade launchers and mounts.
The other parts that are Barracuda-covered that will replace kits parts are the PERI-17 sight, the carbine rifle box, the commander’s hatch ring, the tops of the commander’s and loader’s hatches, the loader’s periscope guard, the top of the main gun mount, and the folding turret side armour modules. The main gun sight is moulded in-place on the Barracuda turret, so it will be difficult to use the Hobby Boss photo etched parts. There is also some small photo etched detailing on the PERI-17 sight.
Some trimming and sanding will be required to fit the upper main gun mount (replacement for kit parts D23 and D24). This is indicated in the instructions.
As much as the Barracuda looks very impressive, there is one issue that pops out to me when looking at my reference images: the front turret sections of the PSM Barracuda panels look like they hang down too far, as if they are approximately 3 -4mm too long. In reference images, there is a distinct gap visible between the bottom of the Barracuda and the front hull, while the PSM part would only leave a very minute gap. The solution is therefore to do lots of test fittings, and reduce the length of each panel by trimming or sanding.
Take note in the instructions that PSM advises builders to fill in the gap on the turret created by attaching the two front panels.
The barrel is a single piece, and combines kit parts D10 and D11. Kit part D6 will still be required for the muzzle. The Barracuda around the barrel and fume extractor looks great, and there are securing straps and panel overlap visible. Also moulded-on to the Barracuda over the fume extractor are three bands. These are Troop recognition stripes, and are simply white tape applied by the crews. This was a great detail for PSM to add, but it limits the modeller to building vehicles belonging to 3rd Troop. The resin bands would have to be sanded off if the modeller wanted to depict a tank from a different Troop.
The rear of the turret is another one-piece resin casting that combines kit parts E2, E10, E14, E15, E18, E19, J4, P8, and P9. The piece is a nice-sized chunk of resin, and will need some test fitting and filler to get it to fit properly on the back of the turret. The replacement part again has great Barracuda detail, which easily shows each panel.
There are two umbrellas included in the kit. One is an open, six-sided variant, and the other is closed and stowed. The open umbrella was originally incorrect when the kit was first released because it was four-sided. Upon receiving feedback, PSM immediately corrected this issue and released the kit with a six-sided umbrella. As I can tell from looking at reference images, the umbrellas should be equilateral hexagons: this means all six sides of the hexagon should be dimensionally even. This is not the case here, as the umbrella sides are slightly different in measurement, resulting in a bit of a lop-sided shape when viewed from the top. The umbrella included in my kit was slightly warped, thereby magnifying the unevenness. But this is an easy fix after a dip into hot water and some reforming.
PSM created the umbrella with the canvas surface on the outside and the Barracuda surface on the inside, a correct configuration. Umbrellas with Barracuda on the inside or the outside of the solid surface, or simply a Barracuda covering by itself can be seen on the tanks in Afghanistan, though Barracuda on the outside is more common. There is visible tube framing on the underside of the open umbrella, and the closed umbrella is a clever inclusion in the kit, as closed umbrellas on the tanks can be seen in a variety of sizes, ranging from tightly wrapped and secured versions to loose folds, which greatly widen at the end. PSM’s closed umbrella appears to be a take on a wider version, with deep open folds in the canvas. In looking at reference images, I think the umbrella should have been made thinner towards the pivots and mounting post, as it looks a bit too chunky, and should have more of a taper and a downward angle on the wider end. The pivots and tube frames are not as well-cast as other parts in the kit, and most of the detail is lost due to casting flash.
The Perfect Scale Modellbau Leopard 2A6M CAN “Barracuda” conversion joins Cromwell Models Leopard 2A6M CAN “Barracuda” conversion as one of the only two currently available for modellers looking to build a Barracuda-covered Leopard 2A6M CAN. The PSM conversion is not for beginners, and you will need experience, both to deal with the resin conversion, as well as the imperfect Hobby Boss kit, to create an accurate, well-fitting model. Perfect Scale Modellbau’s conversion is a great example of what time and effort can create to provide modern armour modellers with a very unique-looking vehicle currently involved in combat operations.