”The Leopard 2A4M CAN is the upgraded Canadian version of the Leopard 2A4 acquired from the Royal Netherlands Army surplus. The Leopard 2A4M CAN is specially designed for the war in Afghanistan based on experience gained by Leopard 2 operators. The first 20 were delivered in October 2010 (with only 5 being deployed to Afghanistan at end of 2010), and operated until July 2011 when combat operations stopped. Though originally planned to be up-gunned to the L55 for consistency with the 2A6M CAN, the longer barrelled guns were found to be less than ideal in Afghanistan, therefore it was decided to retain the L44. In addition, only small areas of slat armour were added, in contrast with the fully caged 2A6M CANs. The protection of the Leopard 2A4M CAN has been further augmented with the addition of appliqué armour resembling that found on the most recent Leopard 2A7 variant, but modified to fit the turret configuration of the 2A4.” - Taken from the Hobby Boss Website
Total Plastic Parts: 390 , Total Sprues: 30 sprues (22 of these are for the workable tracks), upper hull , slide moulded lower hull and turret, polycaps for the wheels, piece of wire to make the tow ropes and two pieces of etch. Decals consist of Canadian markings and 506 individual ‘velcro’ tabs to be added to the tank for the barracuda netting/cooling system.
First thing to say is all the above arrives in a substantial cardboard box, with artwork depicting a tank somewhere in Afghanistan in a configuration which is incorrect - more on that later. The lid lifts of to reveal a packed inner full of lovely plastic, all flash free and full of sharp details.
The other thing to hit you is the 22 sprues which make up the workable individual track links, which at first look seem very daunting being comprised of 4 parts per link; pad, centre connector (tooth) and two end connectors. The build takes place over 13 steps, presented in an A4-size 12 page booklet, and follows the standard tank build practice – wheels, running gear, hull, and turret. So let’s see how this cat shapes up!
BuildingStep 1: Building the wheels
Here you build all the road wheels, drive sprockets and idlers, all very straight forward. Wheels are made from two halves, into which you place a polycap. The fit is very tight so make sure you push the wheels together all the way, once joined I sanded off any excess sprue marks – I find it easier to line up both wheels where they have been cut from the sprue, then just a couple of passes with a sanding stick and they are done. Idler follows the same construction method and it’s only with the drive sprocket where you have to line up a tab and slot to get the wheels to line up.
Step 2: Belly Armour
You now start to add the extra armour to the hull of the tank, consisting of belly armour and side appliqué armour around the road wheels, interestingly not all the way back, so assume it must be just added to protect the internal crew area. Once these are on you add the six built inner and four built outer rollers for the upper track return to the hull side and the mounts for the drive sprockets.
The bump stops for the swing arms are also added to both sides of the hull at this stage.
Step 3: Wheel attachment and Hull
Here you add the swing arms for the road wheels and the rear panel for the hull; I omitted parts E7 and B14 as I will be using the excellent set of towing hooks by Leopard workshop instead, as they have far superior detail to them.
The rear convoy light (PE-A5) is supplied as a nice piece of etch onto which is attached the frame to protect and stabilize the lamp (PE-A11). Now this is the first issue with the instructions as all it shows is a small picture of some bent etch and an arrow pointing to the plate, I assumed incorrectly that it would attach to the actual cross, but after checking references this is incorrect and it should attach at 45 degrees leaving the raised area (to be painted white) clear. Although the diagram does point to it lining up on the cross.
Step 4: Tracks
I started on the track links and I would like to say I found a consistent approach to attaching the ‘links’ to each pad, but I didn’t. I would try one approach and it worked for a few links, then seemed to fail, so tried another and got the same result but got there in the end, nothing as satisfying as a ‘click’ of a successful join. The way I built them and found the most satisfying was to get about 10-12 pads, attach the link to each pad, once they all had links I then attached two pads together and added the end connectors, repeating until all the pads were connected and then restart the process. This does deviate from the kit instructions where they have you attaching the pads together and then lining them up against the sprues and inserting into the end connectors, I found it tricky just getting two pads lined up and manually attaching the end connector, so doing a whole section, I think, would be a nightmare. In the end I built two runs of 56 links, not the 80 as suggested. With the side skirts on you won’t see the top run, so this approach saves some time.
Step 5: Hull
You now build the up armoured side skirts, and I must admit to having a senior moment here, step 5 has a caption of "A-A" on the left and "B-B" on the right, I spent a good 10 minutes trying to see where the two build options were later in the instructions and on the single paint guide! Looking ahead to step 8 where the skirts are attached it became apparent that A-A and B-B refer to the two sides of the tank, “Left” and “Right” would have made more sense, also B16 isn’t the right part, it should be B15. With that cleared up it was on with the build. The side steps are created from 3 pieces of etch, two inner step holes and the outside of the step. Hobby Boss have even added minute ‘maple leaf’ cut outs on the side of the inner holds as per the full size tank.
Step 6: Hull
Part B7 is up next and this has a few heavy sprue attachment points, and as the plastic is quite soft, cutting close to the part is not a good idea, as I found out on the first couple of snips. Found it better to cut higher on the sprue and sand back to the part. A couple of points may need a swipe of filler later. Unfortunately the cooling grill supplied is incorrect in that on the real Leopard there are 11 cooling slats, but on this model there are 12. Onto the mud flaps and here are added 4 microscopic hooks, supplied in etch, which need to bent at right angles and then attached, my first approach was to glue the part to the flap, let it set and then bend the etch with a scalpel blade, which worked okay’ish but in the end I went with the old method of using a pair of pliers to bend the part and then attach to the flaps.
Step 7: Hull deck and armour
This deals with the addition to the upper hull (which is full of sharply cast detail and subtle anti slip coating on various areas) of the various tools and the front extra armour plate. I decided at this point to leave the tools off and add them once the tank has been painted. I also left the indicators (parts GP6) off as well, having checked they can be retrofitted once the ‘guards’ (parts E2) have been added and painted. The driver’s front thermal camera, along with its associated power wash unit, is built from parts B4 and B2 and then added to the front armour.
The driver’s hatch has two vision blocks added and then this part is fixed in a closed position onto the hull. Part C32 is added to the front but the instructions are not very precise on its position or what it attaches to, a quick check in “TrackPads Canadian leopard 2A4m Can” book soon clears up where it goes.
A quick point on the book, it’s a fantastic collection of photos of Leopard 2A4M CANs in Afghanistan, on the ranges in Canada, in the workshop, and a fantastic selection of walk around photos. I would whole heartedly recommend a copy of this book whilst building this kit – Armorama review can be seen here
The headlights are built up from 3 parts, the headlight unit, clear glass, and the fixing blocks. They were built up and then attached to the hull; the units are different so make sure you attach them correctly.
The rear Thermal camera is then constructed from 4 parts (D19 & D18 plus PE-A7 and PE-A6), the instructions are a bit confusing as it shows the build-up of the plastic parts and then attaching the etch, what it does not explain is that the second image shows the previous built up camera inverted for the etch to be attached, a bit confusing to start, again I referred back to the book as to where the camera actually goes and attached it to the hull.
The Engine air intakes have some lovely crafted etch screens to attach, I found the easiest way was to dab a bit of super glue onto the plastic and attach one end of the etch screen, wait for it to set and then start bending the remainder of the etch around the rest of the intake, adding small dabs of super glue as you go round the air intake. Incidentally I started by adding the etch to the rear of each air intake, so the join would not be visible once complete, but either way you won’t see much once the turret is on and left facing forward, as the turret has a massive overhang at the rear.
Step 8 – Hull
Time to fit the armoured side skirts created in Step 5; they attach to the sides of the tank, matching up the brackets on the skirts to mounting points on the hull, the gap at the forward section between hull and skirt is supposed to be there, so don’t try to get them to fit without a gap. For the rear pair of side skirts, I left them off after checking wheel clearance till the wheels have been painted and then added after the tank has been painted, but before any weathering
Step 9 – Slat Armour
I completely bypassed this step as operational leopards do not have these slats fitted, they were fitted during operations in Afghanistan but that was only for a very short period of time, before Canadian forces withdrew in July 2011. Even with these slats fitted in Afghanistan, the tanks were also fitted with the Barracuda MCS (M
obile, multi spectral
ystem _ this system reduces the thermal/heat signature of the tank, also keeps the crew a bit cooler) netting all over the hull and turret. On return to Canada the slats and Barracuda netting were removed and this is how they operate today, so with no barracuda netting supplied in the kit, the 'fit out' is totally inaccurate, and as I wanted to build an accurate 2A4M I have left it off, shame really.
Step 10 – Turret
I tinted the cupola periscopes (part G4) with Tamiya clear green and then painted over the back with black, to give a bit of depth and colour shift, these are a great fit and just need a very firm push and they won’t come out of the openings any time soon, I did fix them with some white glue to be 100% sure. The armoured cable conduit is added (part D6) along with a turret clasp (E28).
The gun mantel is constructed from 7 parts in two separate sub-assemblies, the first sub assembly deals with the actual mechanism for the gun to attach to (parts C23, C26 and C17). Note C23 will only fit correctly to part C26 if the smaller offset is at the base, the actual gun mount is not vertically central; I glued C23 to C27 with superglue to ensure there would be no droop. This sub assembly is then added to parts C27, C5 and C6 - this then allows the barrel to traverse. The whole assembly is then added to the base of the turret; I fixed this with some super glue to make sure the bond would be as strong as possible. With all this done it is time to attach the turret base to the turret top - this took some major pressure to get the two pieces aligned, once they joined together superglue was ran round the join to create a strong bond and keep everything true. It’s not until you place the turret onto the hull that you get an idea of how large the turret actually is, it must cover a good 90% of the tank hull.
Step 11 – Turret armour and baskets
All was going very well till this point and then it was time to construct the baskets; these I have to say were a bit of a nightmare for me, first off why split the vertical supports between two pieces, surely its better to have all the supporting posts moulded onto, say, the top part of the basket which then attach to mounting points on the lower part of the basket, this would result in a firmer bond. The method Hobby Boss have used results in four weak joints which all need aligning at the same time on the smallest points of plastic possible. To compound the issue, the etched brass side screens are quite rigid and there are no real points to fix the etch onto the plastic, which you then need to bend to the shape of the whole basket. No bend guides are on the etch parts so it’s difficult to keep a good shape. During the bending process a large part of the etch actually snapped off, which in the end may be a blessing in disguise. I think some tarpaulin may be needed to cover some of the joints. For the second bustle I decided to ‘anneal’ the etch to see if that would make bending this mesh into shape easier, and it certainly did. Part B20 needs the uprights trimming by about 2mm to get them to fit into the bustle frame.
The additional side armour on the turret is made up from 2/3 main pieces onto which smaller items are added. Parts D11, D41, D42 and D43 are access hatches for the space between the turret sides and the turret armour, so I left these off until the armour was added and then glued them into place, this way making sure they were horizontal. Parts E20 will still need to be added to the baskets if you are building the model without the slat armour. Again Hobby Boss’s vagueness in part attachment reared its head during this step, in particular part D38 which is shown with an arrow pointing vaguely at the side armour, at first it looks like it fits into one of the recesses on the side, but after attaching the armour it becomes apparent it’s a hinge and fits, under the armour (see image – vg3). The side armour was attached with superglue to create a strong bond.
There are a pair of ugly attachment points on parts C2 and C21, the parts attach to the sprue where parts C1 and C4 attach to the side panels (see image – vg4), so you need to carry out some major sanding on the inside to ensure the parts join up without leaving a nasty gap.
Once sanded, this sub assembly was also attached to the turret (left side) with super glue to get a good bond, and the hatches were installed.
Step 12 Turret additions
This step is for the creation of the turret hatches, ancillary devices and the daytime scope. The hatches build into nice little replicas of the full size version. One intriguing point though is why provide the internal hatch mechanism (part E18) when there is no option or alternative parts to show the hatches in an open position. Once built these are then attached to the turret along with the hatch guard rails. The Optical day sight (parts C12 C13) needs some fine filler running around the join as once matted there is quite a large gap between the two parts. I have used Vallejo fine putty for any such issues with this build. Parts C22 and C28 (carbine storage) are added as well. If you wanted to leave these off, as seen on some examples, you would need to perform some surgery and remove the mounting bracket and then add an ‘H’
-shaped bracket for the attachment point as per the real item. The machine gun does give you the option of an “H” grip or a standard butt grip, I went for the standard butt grip. Attaching part B30 to the main gun proved interesting as there is no real guidance in the instructions - just a vague arrow; real reference images proved difficult to find, so I fell back on Hobby Boss’ own promotion photos, which sort of helped. Not sure its 100% accurate but it looks okay where it sits - I matched up the notch with a point on the main barrel and then made sure it was straight.
Step 13 Final Additions
So here we add the aerial arrays (made from 4 parts), whilst they are okay, they are not entirely accurate (see image of real thing – pic R1_Aerial)
, so equipped with my reference guide I set out to create a more accurate representation of the real arrays. The 1st step was to drill out the holes from the centre of the moulded mounts, once that was done, sand down the moulded mounts, leaving a very thin lip. Once sanded and polished, it was time to drill 4 mounting holes and then add the resin replacement base unit (from Leopard Workshop
) to one of the mounting points (image ae1). Next was to add the brass junction plate and fix a small piece of wire from inside the rear of the mounting plate to one point on the brass junction plate (image ae2)
. Once this was done the actual aerial was attached (very nice turned brass rod with the teardrop ball at the top) with superglue (image ae3)
, this process was then carried out for the second aerial array.
I removed the two lugs for mounting the turret to the model, as they seemed very stiff to line up and it proved difficult to get the turret to turn, plus it will be glued down anyway so not really an issue: with this the build is complete.
The model was washed in some mild soapy water and left to air dry overnight. Once dry the whole model received a coat of Vallejo black primer and left to dry (image pa1)
, the next layer was a misted coating of Vallejo’s new NATO green primer and again left to dry, finally a misted coat of Vallejo olive drab was sprayed onto various areas of the tank (image pa2)
. The carbine and crew lockers were masked (image pa3)
and sprayed with Vallejo buff yellow. With the masking on it looked like the turret was off for a major operation! Masking was removed once this colour had dried (image pa4)
and the whole model was then given a coat of Vallejo satin gloss. The tracks were painted with AK track colour and then over sprayed with black, the tank received some dot filtering and the panel lines, bolts, recesses, etc. were picked out in Vallejo’s Brown wash for dark green vehicles, with these two techniques combined it added subtle colour shifts on the base coat.
The most daunting of decal sheets I have seen for a while is the sheet with the 506 ‘velcro’ patches for the Barracuda camouflage netting system! Seeing the built-up model by hobby boss, you can see a bit of silvering around each minute patch, so I decided to upgrade this area and went for the LeopardClub
self-adhesive ‘Velcro’ patches, for two reasons – 1) they are thicker so more in scale and 2) appear to be easier to attach to the model. So with the guide in hand I spent 2 hours affixing them to the whole tank.
The other decals were added as per the colour guide and the whole model received another semi gloss coat of varnish. Aerials, tow ropes, tools and the machine gun were added and the model was complete.
I wanted to depict my tank as being on one of the ranges in Canada (Image Rl_Range1 & Rl_Range2)
, un-surprisingly they look very muddy , so the first step was to get some dust / mud onto the tracks ; A new product to me, although I have used it before but with a brush, was Ultimate Products mud, light and dark dirt washes. So tentatively I poured some of the mud wash into the airbrush, and it sprayed just fine, and gave the tracks a nice dusty, muddy appearance. The next step was to add a dusty appearance to the tank, and for this I used Vallejo’s dust wash, I added an amount of the wash to a panel area, and using a flat brush, manipulated the pool of liquid in a stabbing/ swirling motion, this has given the effect of the dust having moved around whilst the tank is out and about. With this first layer added it was time to add the mud, for the running gear, tracks , side skirts and lower hull I used Tamiya’s diorama soil Effect dark earth texture paint and liberally applied it to these areas. Also adding some to the hull and turret, for wet mud I used Vallejo’s ‘Wet mud’ and stippled this around the lower hull, rear and tracks. Tree branch scratches were added to the hull and turret sides with the help of a sharp No.12 blade. (Image Rl_Scratch)
This is an excellent kit of a very formidable-looking tank. I had a great time building it, it’s not a complex build, and if you take your time you will be rewarded with a great looking model.
A big thank you to Armorama for allowing me to review this model, and also to Hobby Boss for the sample kit.
Additional parts used
(From Leopard Club
1:35 scale Leopard 1 and 2 tow eyes and T-hooks plus MG travel lock
- 1:35 scale Canadian Leopard 2 'Velcro' patches
- Canadian Aerials for Leopard 2A4M and 2A6M CAN
Eureka #ER-3507 Leopard 1 & 2 Tow Cables
All images of actual Canadian leopards used with the kind permission of Trackpad Publishing / Michael Shackleton