The Dutch army procured the Leopard 2 to replace their old Centurions. The first tank was issued in September 1981 and the last one en 1986. A total amount of 445 tanks were procured. In addition, 25 Büffel ARVs were also procured.
The Dutch army implemented the same standards as those in the Bundeswehr and upgraded their tanks similarly. However, a number of modifications were applied to the Dutch tanks. The radios, the secondary armament and the smoke-dischargers are different. At the rear of the turret, the antennas sockets are protected thanks to a lowered housing.
330 Leopard 2A4NL were planned to be upgraded to A5 standard but only a first batch of 180 were really modified. The Dutch army sold or mothballed the remaining tanks.
Italeri Leopard 2 represents a Bundeswehr A2 or A3 tank, it thus is necessary to bring it to the A4 standard and simultaneously to the Dutch standard.
The kit comes in 3 dark green sprues and 4 vinyl semi tracks. The set of instructions is clear enough. A little sheet of decals is issued that enabled 3 decorations for a German, a Dutch and a Swiss tank. However, no specific parts for the Swiss and Dutch variants are present.
The plastic is quite brittle and sometime very thick. The level of detail is average and standard for the 80s. The folding system for the front skirts for example is really simplified and I took the opportunity of the release of the Perfect Scale Modellbau skirts set to replace the skirts. Italeri made some stunning choices like the side bins hatches being molded with the skirts which oblige to some extra puttying work. However, the assembly is easy.
To depict a Dutch variant, I chose the conversion set originally issued by Legend for the Tamiya Leopard2A5.
The running gear is easy to build from the box. The roadwheels are
moveable which is useless. They won't be glued until the lower chassis is painted.
The vinyl tracks are replaced by the AFV Club ones. Better detailed, they are assembled like the real ones thanks to 3 connectors for each link. The outer connectors are fragile and several have broken during the assembly. The fit around the sprockets is perfect. In contrast, the tracks are either too long creating an undesired sag or too short making the connectors snap away. I finally removed the upper part (hidden by the skirts) and glue the track ends on the idlers and sprockets.
On the lower chassis, only the rear mud flaps are thinned and the towing hooks made moveable by sacrificing the front hooks, these being in turn replaced by some Tamiya ones.
The front upper hull is improved with some parts being replaced by Tamiya (headlights, hooks) or AFV Club ones (spare track links) and some parts being modified (folded down mirrors, ice cleats brackets).
On the rear deck, the tools brackets and latches are changed. All the molded handles are removed and replaced by new ones made of brass wire. The cables are replaced by those of Eureka XXL. However, the latter are too long and some dry fitting is necessary to find the correct length (I noticed this too late for the left one). The cables brackets which were omitted by Italeri are made from plastic card.
On the sides, the protective plate of the NBC system has two tiny holes drilled in it and a anti-sliping surface added with some terra cotta paint. The skirts folding systems are installed after some trials and the sanding of the skirts to lightly shorten them. On each "hinge", two bolted plates must be added. The rear sections of the PSM set are not used as they are too long by about 5mm. The steps in the Italeri skirts are drilled out.
Here concentrate the major modifications. I began with the Legend smoke-dischargers which proved to be a mistake due to the fragility of the parts. As usual, the Korean brand do not give clear instructions and you need to study the pictures and a good documentation to figure out how to put the various parts together. The shaping of the first protection is made by chance. Then a jig is made to help shaping the 5 others. The instructions do not help placing the different clusters at the right spacing and angle. The power cables are added.
On the turret roof, we need to improve both vision blocks in front of the tank commander (TC) and the loader station. The former lays on a recess which is not accurate. It is cut and glued back on a plate of plastic card. 8 bolts are glued around the vision block. For the loader's one, it is just necessary to sand its rear face beveled and to add a protection from a bit of PE fret.
Between both hatches and slightly in front of them, a small vertical plastic rod must be glued. The hatches are replaced by those in the Tamiya kit which are more detailed. However on the A4 variant the MG ring has been deleted and you need to make the new protection for the vision blocks. Its asymmetrical shape is reproduced from a print into modeling putty or more simply (for those who have it) from the scale drawing of the volume 2 of the Tankograd book dedicated to the Leopard 2. At the back of the hatch, the two support rods for the open hatch need to be added. Italeri loader's MG ring does not feature the correct support legs amount. To use the Tamiya one, it is first necessary to cut the bolt heads and make the ten or so missing bolt heads. Then after gluing the MG ring, a pair of bolt heads is glued between the support legs. Finally the hatch will be put in its place.
In front of the TC station, the Peri17
periscope must be enhanced. The solid sides in front of the visor are removed
and replaced by two protective rods. On top of the sight, a round plate with 6
bolt heads is added. At the bottom of the sight, 12 bolt heads must be added (3
per each face). On its base, 8 bolt heads are added. To finish with, the wiper
is redone from a bit of styrene strip.
The main sight doors are very simplified. They are redone from plastic card and their hinges are added too.
At the back of the turret, the round plate is removed. The blocks with the antennas are removed and replaced by those in resin coming in the Legend set. In the same time, we can add the hinges on the right side of the bustle. The tarp in the bin molded solid with its straps. They are cut away and the whole bin interior is created with plastic card. Only the upper hinges are done as a tarp will fill the bin. It is made with some metal foil. On the turret bustle, 2 hinges and 2 locks are added. The latches of the small bin are made from metal foil and very thin metal wire.
On the right side of the turret, the flags bracket is added while on the left side, the weld seam of the ammunition hatch is reproduced.
All the modifications being done, the loader's MG build can start. It is advised to find clear pictures of it to figure out how to assemble the parts as the instructions again are not enough clear. The parts are very fragile and must be cleaned prior to building the bracket then the MAG itself.
To give a final touch, a bin is put just behind the loader station. It is in reality a 25mm ammunition box for the YPR-765 cannon. It comes from the Legend set and must positioned at an angle.
The base shade is Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab. Once dry, it gets a coat of gloss varnish to help the application of the decals. The NL markings on a black background (convoy number marking) come from an Echelon set.
A black wash is applied all over the tank then some oil dots are used to break the uniformity of the base shade.
The weathering is done with various shades of Dark Earth, Dark Yellow and Buff (Tamiya and Lifecolor).
Kampfpanzer Leopard 2 MBT International service and Variants par Frank Lobitz
(Editions Tankograd) ISBN 978-3-936519-09-9
Prime Portal full walkaround
Prime Portal MAG mount (on a Canadian Leopard C2)