Media: injection moulded plastic, vinyl, photo-etch
Reviewed by Michael Shackleton
The story of Leopard 2 has been one of continual development over a long period. Since entering service in 1979, it is still the Bundeswehr's front-line tank (and that of many nations) and is still the same basic machine. Outwardly, there have not been a huge number of changes which proves the soundness of the basic design. The main visual differences between the first and latest tanks are, of course, the additional wedge-shaped armour panels around the front quarters of the turret, more effective side skirts, sliding driver's hatch, the gunner's sight moved to the turret roof (all 2A5 mods) and a longer main gun (2A6).
Meng have already released a really good 2A4 kit, the best Leopard 2 kit on the market at the moment. Now we have the latest, the 2A7.
If the differences are not that drastic on the real thing, are these two kits basically the same? No, far from it. Although the real tank may look similar from 2A5 to 2A6 to 2A7, there are a host of smaller differences. These differences are enough for Meng to have produced what is really a completely new kit. Of course, some sprues are common to both 2A4 and 2A7 - the running gear, suspension and tracks - but the rest has newly-designed sprues throughout. Therefore this is not a mix-and-match, let's chuck in some sprues for the sake of it kit. It is a thoroughly-researched, well-thought-out new kit from the ground up.
Here is a preview video from Meng which gives you a great idea of what this kit is about and how it goes together.
How is 2A7 different to its immediate predecessor, 2A6? The Leopard 2A7 was developed from the earlier Leopard 2A5, 2A6 and Leopard 2 Peace Support Operation variants, combined with significant input from the operation of Leopard 2s deployed by Canada and Denmark in Afghanistan.
The German Army has ordered 20 Leopard 2A7s. These are all conversions of ex-Royal Netherlands Army Leopard 2A6NL which were provided by Canada as compensation for the Leopard 2A6M CANs taken from German Army stocks and upgraded for deployment to Afghanistan.
The Leopard 2A7 retains the Rheinmetall 120 mm L/55 smooth bore gun and, in addition to firing the latest generation DM63 Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot Tracer (APFSDS-T) round, it can also fire the latest programmable DM11 high-explosive round.
The 2A7 has a number of survivability enhancements including the latest generation passive armour and belly armour providing protection against mines and improvised explosive devices. It is also fitted for, but not with, additional passive side armour protection. These modules have still not been seen in public.
Other significant changes include an auxiliary power unit allowing all subsystems to be run with the main engine switched off. It also has an air-conditioning system for the crew and turret electronics and all-electric gun-control equipment.
The commander is provided with a new roof-mounted stabilised panoramic sight that includes a third-generation thermal imager, laser rangefinder, and charge-coupled device camera. The gunner also has a third-generation thermal sight.
It is equipped with IFIS, a command and weapon deployment system for command support from group to battalion level. It enables the connection of the vehicle sensors and the vehicle data into a network-based operation.
Inevitably, some of this review might seem familiar if you have read my Meng 2A4 review. The first thing to notice is the box itself which has a nice image of the tank and notes about its features and options. Everything inside is well packed and certainly fills up the box. What is a little strange is that the lid is shallower then the box, almost as if it doesn't fit properly - not something I have come across before.
The sprue breakdown is conventional and exactly what you might expect of any tank model. However, the tracks are not vinyl - there is no option. All you get are individual links in styrene. More on these later. Markings are limited to Bundeswehr only as you might expect.
There are nine sprues, two of which are duplicated (wheels, suspension, etc), and one we have four times (the tracks). One is clear and includes periscopes, headlight and sight lenses. In addition, we have hull top and hull bottom, turret top, and two etch frets, silver foil for the mirrors, vinyl (for the polycaps) and an awful piece of string for the tow cables.
Apart from the last, the quality of the parts is completely top-notch. This model is a vast improvement on ANY other manufacturer's Leopard kit - 1 or 2. It is so good, just like the Meng 2A4.
The instructions are in a 28-page booklet with colour on the covers and for the profiles at the back. The introduction is quite long in several languages before we get into the nitty-gritty of the 28 building stages.
As I said above, there is nothing unconventional about this kit. The suspension has the now-usual torsion bars so the road wheels can be posed on uneven surfaces. The trailing arms have separate faces which have to be slotted over the wheel axles which is slightly unusual.
All wheels have polycaps which is good for Leopard Workshop! The rear faces DO have some detail on them unlike Meng's awful Leopard 1 wheels, but because of the polycap housing, they are somewhat compromised. Accurate wheels are available here. I have checked the fit and the Meng axles are a little thinner than the Leopard Workshop axle holes which were designed for Tamiya/Hobby Boss wheels. However, they do fit, if a little loosely, but this can be solved by wrapping the axles with a little masking tape.
The hull tub is beautifully moulded and has location points inside for a possible future powerpack. Even the bolt holes around the sprocket mounting point are represented in the hull sides. The sides of the hull have been revised as a part of the 2A7 specification calls for added mine protection. This includes add-on panels on the side of the hull to protect the crew. These are faithfully reproduced.
Up to this point, the kit is the same as the 2A4. From here onwards, everything is 2A7-specific. The completely new hull top features the channel for the driver's sliding hatch, the APU moulded into the right-rear corner, and slots in the hull sides for up-armoured modules (on the real thing, not this kit). By the way, for those who might be wondering, this APU has nothing in common with the APUs seen on 2A5DK, 2E, 2HEL or 2A6EX. It is completely different. Everything is very well presented including the weld lines which all have subtle texture on them. The non-slip patches are not as raised as in the 2A4 kit (though they were not that bad). Grab handles are solid but are easily replaced with wire if necessary.
The fit of hull top to hull bottom is perfect. One thing is a traditional problem. Leopard 2 has a large turret and a common complaint - in all Leopard 2 kits - is that the hull top sags when the turret is mounted, meaning the long turret bustle often touches down on the rear deck. My particular hull has no sag, but I would advise gluing in a rectangle of 40 or 60 thou card 95 mm x 5 mm to keep it straight and help support the turret.
The hull rear plate has detail on the inside face but also has large ejector marks. The inside of the grille is not represented, however. I guess this will be a separate drop-in piece - if and when.
One engine deck panel is supplied. This itself is different to the earlier 2A4 kit as it has no non-slip and different tool placement. The rear (cooling/transmission) deck is identical to 2A4.
The rear grille has two small cable clips that need to be added as the tow cables are arranged differently on 2A7. Another difference is an infantry telephone box that fits centrally, displacing the convoy light 'shield' to the left.
Like the 2A4 kit, there are reinforcement strakes under the rear hull. A plastic template is cleverly supplied for positioning these. Also under the belly, a large mine protection plate has ben added.
Meng have treated the tracks in a similar way to the Leopard 1 tracks (SPS-016) except each link is only made from three parts instead of the Leo 1's five parts. In fact, they are very similar to Bronco's tracks, but the pads are more in scale and they have more finesse. There are inside and outside faces on the end connectors and these are noted in the instructions - so make sure you build them the correct way round for left and right tracks. A jig is included to help with the build up and Meng say that glue is not necessary. I have press-fitted some links together and can confirm that this is true. They should not take too long to build either - so don't be put off by individual links. If you read my Leo 1 track review you will see that they do not like white spirit/oils. The same is going to apply to these Leo 2 tracks, so use water-based washes for weathering.
Optional rear-view mirror arms are supplied for either upright or folded down options. Self-adhesive pre-cut silver foil is also supplied for the mirror glass.
All of the hull top tools have very fine attachment loops. These have a thin film inside them which can be cleared if you are very careful for a more 'photo-etch'/accurate appearance. The base mounts for the tools are moulded onto the hull.
The circular forward intake covers have fine mesh to wrap around them. Nice! The two large rear grilles have two layers of etch to add to them - a six-armed support frame and the top mesh screen. The tow cable supplied in the kit should be thrown in the nearest bin. The quality of the whole kit makes you wonder why Meng haven't supplied braided brass cables. Eureka make a much better option. Also, RMG Resin are about to release some new sets.
The convoy lights at the front corners now have plastic guards to go around them and the driver's hatch can be made to slide. No mantlet plugs are provided because 2A7 doesn't have any!
Staying on the glacis plate, the large hatch is bolted and welded which is correct according to Ralph Zwilling's Tankograd book.
The side skirts are more or less the same as the Batch 8 skirts from the 2A4 kit. I say more or less because the brackets are slightly different and they now have separate front sections. These were moulded as one in the 2A4 kit. Maybe Meng do read reviews! The rest of the skirts can be modelled folded down (as they do for rail transport), but this isn't mentioned in the instructions. Their back plate is fixed - bolted to the hull edge (parts B56 and B57). The outer plates (B2, B3, B1, B4) hinge 180° downwards on the bottom edge of the back plate. The front sections fold over the hull top on brackets/arms (B18/19).
The hull has some things in common to the 2A4 kit then, but the turret is largely new. There is no attempt to try and adapt the existing 2A4 turret other than common parts like periscopes, turret hatch parts (with one exception) and MG.
The new and longer gun is the usual split in half affair with a separate muzzle. No rifling as this is a smoothbore gun. This is possibly the most disappointing aspect of the kit as the fume extractor is distinctly short and skinny (same problem with their 2A4 kit), though they have made an attempt at the fibre-glass texture that is apparent on the real thing. Leopard Workshop will soon have replacement guns available (LW018M). The gun is mounted in poly caps so it remains mobile.
The periscopes are all clear as are the sight windows for the PERI R17A3 and the EMES 15. The EMES window even has an impression of the sight inside it - nice! Both sights are multiple parts and not the usual blobs of plastic. The painting call out for the EMES window suggests blue for both windows. In fact, the outer window is tinted black and the inner window is clear. The PERI even rotates on its own polycap and the EMES doors are double-hinged like the real thing! Periscopes have to be fitted from inside the turret top before the bottom is added.
The two cupola rings are nicely thin and periscope covers are bent from etch. Alternate MG3s are provided both with and without butts. Both are nicely rendered. A gunfire simulator is included which even has a curly plastic lead which has to be lead through the loader's periscope opening - so leave out the periscope if you do this.
The upper turret shell has a nice anti-slip texture covering the whole top surface. Brackets for the smoke launcher rails are moulded on the sides and the ammo hatch is depicted as welded shut. Remember that these are converted Dutch tanks and not new build without the hatches. The turret base plate has an extended rear section with perforations moulded into the bottom. The fit of top to bottom is perfect.
The front faces of the original 2A4 turret are reproduced with the frames that accept the wedge armour which is a nice touch.
Bags are provided for the inner faces of the side armour, just like the real thing. This kit is so nice!
The smoke launchers are all new. However, the launch tubes are still too skinny. A notable omission from the etch fret are chains for the launchers, but LW027B comes to the rescue with both problems.
A notable new addition on the turret roof is a computer touch-screen monitor (with a hefty grab rail around it) next to the commander's hatch. This is part of the IFIS system mentioned above. Decals are included of a map for the screen and even the tiny yellow buttons on two edges. I said it was a nice kit. One difference on the inside face of the commander's cupola is a second bracket for carrying the same monitor. I am not sure about this, but two photos in Ralph Zwilling's book show a keyboard mounted in both positions, but this is not included in the kit as the monitor can be used without the keyboard.
As part of the new electronics fit in the 2A7, the old SEM radio antennae have given way to new Comrod aerials. The sprung bases only are included in the kit with the usual mould lines. Leopard Workshop already has detailed brass Comrods for this kit LW034.
One other roof-top change from previous Leopard 2s is the panel behind the commander's cupola. This Ultra-cap, as it is called, is on top of the main electrical gizmo compartment in the turret. The circular device is an electronic pressure release valve for temporary high energy usage. Difficult to explain as I don't fully understand it myself. From a modelling point of view, this hatch now has a separate plate with a gap beneath it and the circular valve is a prominent feature within it.
With thanks to Ralph Zwilling for the photo.
Possibly the most interesting parts of this kit, and the most distinctive recognition feature of 2A7 (along with the APU in the hull) is the rear of the turret. Here we have an air-conditioning unit and numerous different stowage boxes and baskets, plus a gun cleaning rack. It all makes for a busy turret bustle. The stowage baskets, both different, have perforated photo-etch mesh sides/bottoms. Plastic formers are include to shape the mesh before adding them to the baskets. The air-con unit also has a double layer PE grille with perforations on the bottom and a slated grille on top. The gun cleaning rack is fairly complex too with plastic rods inside a 2-part PE frame that needs careful folding in several places.
Y-Modelle have done a resin conversion for the 2A7, but this model renders it obsolete I'm afraid.
Like I said in my 2A4 review, this is a bloody marvellous kit. As with any kit, there are one or two quibbles, but these are very minor.
The only problem I can foresee is that, because this kit is based on very early in-service vehicles - as depicted in the Zwilling book - a few small service mods will be added as the months and years go by. But that is true for any tank.
As great as the Tamiya 2A5 and 2A6 are, this 2A7 edges them into second place with its options, separate engine deck plates, individual track links, clear parts, photo-etch and attention to detail!
Once again, well done Meng!! This kit is thoroughly and very highly recommended.
Thanks to my debit card and Hobby Easy for supplying the review model so quickly.