Media: cast resin, photo-etch, brass wire, brass rod
Reviewed by Michael Shackleton
Leopard Club has once again worked together with Legend to produce this latest Leopard 1A5BE conversion. Belgium was the first customer for Leopard 1 outside Germany. The first Belgian Leopard came off the assembly lines in February 1968. Belgium's original 318 Leopard 1BEs were from production Batch 4 (plus 16 from Batch 3). Initially, the only difference from the German Leopard 1 was the use of Belgian 7.62 mm FN MAG machine guns.
From 1974 onwards, they received tool stowage boxes on the hull sides and an American Cadillac-Gage stabilisation system. A second upgrade replaced the original optical rangefinder and mechanical ballistic computer with an integrated fire-control system conceived by SABCA.
132 of the Leopard 1BEs were converted to Leopard 1A5BE standard (February 1994 to mid-1997) with the addition of new side skirts (different to German ones) and a Belgian SABCA fire control system with a distinctive armoured head - not to be confused with the German 1A5. One vehicle was modified with MEXAS armour on the turret and glacis plate.
Leopard 1A5BE saw service in Kosovo under KFOR during 2000 and 2001, based in the northern salient of Kosovo on a strategic hill code-named -Notting Hill-. The unit was Regiment Gidsen, 17th Mechanised Brigade, which combined the home-based 1st and 2nd Gidsen Regiments into a single unit.
Belgium has recently retired (2015) the last of its 1A5BEs, so the Belgian Army now only has a handful of tanks in its inventory. Don't forget that Leopard Workshop has a set of decals specifically for this kit.
This is what you get in the box. I will let the photos do the talking.
I can see three difficulties with this conversion, some of which are not clearly mentioned in the instructions.
First, it is based on the Meng 1A5, therefore the armour mounts moulded onto the turret have to be carefully removed by whatever means you see fit.
Second, Legend supply brass rod to replace the turret basket (and hand rails on the turret side). This is because Meng supply their basket parts with add-on armour brackets moulded on. If you are careful, these could be removed which would make the job simpler. If you use the brass rod, use the kit parts as templates.
Third, the sight needs to have a square hole cut into the turret roof. Cast onto the bottom of the new sight is a rectangular block. After the casting pours have been removed, you will have to remove the EMES base and the rangefinder head from the kit turret and carefully measure and cut the rectangular hole to match the casting block. Unlike their Danish conversion where dimensions were given, there are none this time. However, to be fair, this does not have a flat turret roof like the Danish 1A5 which is easily measured, and there IS a photo of the hole in the instructions to guide you. It might be possible to use the Italeri or Takom alternatives I guess (which also means you will not have to remove the armour mounts), but I doubt that the contours of the two other turrets will fit as nicely.
Apart from these points, the build looks straight-forward as most of the parts are simply added to the kit.
The standard of casting is up to Legend's normal high quality. Thankfully, the production parts are grey and not pink as in Legend's build-up photos.
All the parts necessary are here including spare ammo boxes to hang around the basket as extra crew stowage and a nice FN machine gun and sensors.
Even the collimator is the specific Belgian version.