Merkava Mk I Hybrid - First Look
The Merkava ("Chariot") is Israel’s first indigenously designed main battle tank. It was developed in the late 1970’s after Israel was unable to procure the British Chieftain and incorporated the extensive lessons learned by the IDF during their past wars.
The original Mk.I was used during the 1982 war in Lebanon. Based on those results, an improved version of the Merkava, the Mk.II, was developed. The Mk.I tanks were retrofitted with some of the Mk.II features to improve their capabilities and the results became known as the Mk.I Hybrid, the subject of this model.
The kit is mostly plastic and of a layout that will be familiar to most modelers. The non-plastic parts are a small photoetch sheet consisting mainly of the turret basket floor and the screens for the rear stowage bins, a piece of braided wire for the tow cables, and a piece of metal foil that’s used for the identification panels hung on the turret basket.
Overall the moldings are crisp with no flash and the details look very good. Of course, when talking about a Merkava one of the big questions is how are the balls and chains that hang from the turret basket handled? In this case they are nicely molded right onto the basket sides and have excellent detail so they should be very simple to use.
The roadwheels have separate rims for greater detail and the link and length tracks come with a forming jig to ease assembly. Another really nice feature is that the side skirts are molded as individual panels with the spring and support details as separate parts. This allows the modeler to leave off a panel or two and still show all of the components behind them.
The turret too has nice details with many of them being separate parts for greater accuracy. The barrel is split in half length wise with a separate pair for the exhaust. This will require a little clean up but there isn’t much choice in how to make the barrel since the real one is quite complex with the thermal sleeve and straps.
The FN MAG machine guns are nicely represented but you will need to drill out the barrels. The .50 cal machine guns is also done pretty well though the cooling jacket is molded around the barrel so there’s a little loss of detail there and the modeler will need to drill out the end as well. But the big problem with the .50 cal is that it doesn’t have the actuation mechanism that is fitted to the back end to allow it to be fired remotely. The modeler will either have to buy an aftermarket set or try to scratch build it. Of course, an easier answer is to simply not use the .50 cal since there are many photos (perhaps most?) of this variant of the Merkava without it.
So in general, this kit looks great. The one item of significant note is that the very visible anti-slip texture (the IDF version has small pebbles mixed in a slurry) is not molded on the kit so the modeler with have to put this on themselves, a very laborious process. I checked my references, mainly the new book on the Merkava Mk.I from Desert Eagle Publishing, and didn’t see a single photo without the anti-slip.
Finally, the kit comes with a nice pair of markings. Of course the vehicle is in the IDF overall Sinai Grey color and the instructions have a nice color page showing the painting call outs in AMMO by Mig paints.
So here’s a look at the sprues:
Overall this kit looks great. The overall design of the model is well thought out with key items like the balls and chains represented in a very straight forward and easy to use manner. Not having the anti-slip texture is a hassle but also a pretty straight forward modelling job.
Highly Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Takom for this review kit.
Reviewed by James Wechsler
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