The Merkava Mk4 was unveiled in 2002. It
is the latest version of the Merkava which introduces a new hull and a new
turret with an improved roof protection. It utilizes the same suspension and
120mm main gun as the Merkava Mk3.
It is the first fully digitized main battle tank in the Israeli army.
Like all the other versions in the Merkava family, the new 1500 hp MTU MT883 engine is located at the front in order to provide an additional protection. At the rear of the tank, an armored door allows direct access to the inside of the tank.
The driver has a camera at the back of the tank to reverse. The tank commander has an independent panoramic sight which gives the tank a hunter-killer capacity.
The main armament is a 120 mm smoothbore gun. The secondary armament consists of a coaxial 7.62 mm MG, a 0.50 cal MG mounted above the gun mantlet and a 7.62 mm MG on a circular rail at the tank commander station.
Initially, the loader didn't have a hatch. The current tanks have now a loader hatch.
During the low intensity conflicts, the Israeli army felt the need to enhance the protection of the tanks against mines and improvised explosive devices with a belly armor. The side skirts were modified too, the rear section is now solid. Finally, the headlights and the various sights have been protected against stone throwing by grilles.
The kit issued by Academy comes in a
cardboard box which includes 8 beige plastic sprues, one being dedicated to the
specific parts for the LIC version, 2 hull halves, 1 sheet of photoetched parts,
polycaps, a bit of thread, 1 sheet of decals and the instructions.
The molding is correct without major marks except on the suspension springs and the belly armor fasteners. The detail level is generally good but let to be desired in some parts like the MGs. We must notice that Academy have represented the antislip coating.
Academy made some mistakes which will be further detailed.
The instructions come in a large fanfold sheet with an additional sheet for the decoration and the parts diagram. The instructions generally are clear but the location of some parts is close to a guessing game.
The lower hull
The build starts with the lower hull and
the running gear. The hull was slightly warped. I had to add a spacer to
straighten the sides out.
At the step 1, it is necessary to clean the mold lines on the belly armor fasteners. The foot-step C54 in the step 2 is too wide. It must be carefully bent to adapt to its support.
The following step deals with the assembly of the suspension arms and requires again to clean up the big mold lines. There is no marks on the suspension arms to install the stops D6.
The wheels are set in place. The sprockets feature the mud relief holes unlike the idlers.
Unlike what state the instructions, the tracks are settled at this step. Academy provide lengths for the long portions and separate links. The number of links to be used is right. The individual links and the lengths have ejection marks which need to be filled. To get a realistic look, the link on the lower length close to the idler must be slightly bent upward.
The last step concerning the lower hull deals with the rear baskets. The perforated metal plates are too thick. They are thinned down from the inside. Once the frames are assembled, the interior is filled with putty to represent the stowage bag and the flap is made from Miliput.
The turret is dealt
with during the steps 6 to 11. We start by gluing the both turret halves and the
rear panel. Then, a great number of parts some of which are very small are
glued. From the step 6, there are a number of inaccuracies in the instructions
like the positioning of the part #F13. On reference pictures it is rarely seen.
It can thus be omitted.
At step 7, the tank commander M4 rifle bracket suffers from the same inaccuracy problem. We need to rely on documentation to glue it at the right place. The tank commander hatch can be installed open. To do so it is advised not to glue the sub-assemblies J. It is necessary to first glue the four supports #B31 and when the hatch rests on on those supports, the sub-assemblies J can be glued.
The PE protection of the main sight must be glued prior to fitting the doors. Academy has provided no kind of help to position them so we should be careful during the process.
The panoramic sight base is wrong. Academy molded the protection plate at the wrong place. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to fix this mistake.
The tank commander MG skate mount #B18 does not fit the circular rail. Its inner face must be hollowed.
At step 9, Academy inverted the numbers of the sides of the mantlet. The MGs provided in the kit are not nice at all. They look oversized. The 0.50 MG barrel is useless, the charging handle is too large and the electric firing device hardly resembles the actual one. The support for the cradle is not parallel to the 120 mm main gun, so the front part must be shortened.
The loader 7.62 mm MG bracket is also far from resembling the actual one. It should ideally be replaced.
The step 10 concerns the turret basket. The frame is way too thick and should be sanded down. The sides fit is a bit loose. The chains provided by Academy are made of PE parts so they are flat. Moreover, the balls are molded in two parts on the sprues. Those parts are replaced by the set released by ET Model which is designed for the both kits of Merkava IV (Academy and Hobby Boss). The assembly takes time but is rather simple. What could be reproach to this set is the simplified representation of the shackles which attach the chains to the basket. The baskets are filled with tarps made from Miliput.
The turret assembly ends with the gun at step 11. Once again Academy made some mistakes. First of all the flat side to install the gun in the mantlet has a 90° angle so the bore evacuator is crooked. The back of the gun must be sanded to create a new flat face. Then Academy did not design any marks to glue the four eyes in front of the evacuator.
The upper hull
The build goes on
with the upper hull in steps 12 and 13. The headlights #C11 are too wide, they
must be thinned so they can go into their location. The PE protection grille
must be bent on the sides to represent the holders. The part does not have any
bending line. So you must be careful to make two symmetrical folds.
The rear mudguards are glued once the hull sides are straightened out.
The cable support hooks must not be glued as per the instructions. For real, they are U shaped hooks open upward.
The cables are replaced by a reference from Eureka.
The side skirts assembly is spot on. At the front, we just need to add a bit of plastic rod onto the hull width clearance springs.
The hull build ends with the assembly of the both hull halves. Unfortunately even this last step requires some work. We need to sand down at the same time the front of the upper hull and the bins of the lower hull.
Academy provides us
with decals for two different units without giving any indication of the units
The sand grey is a mix of 2 parts of Lifecolor Israeli Sand Grey UA35 and 1 part of Tamiya Khaki XF49.
The weathering starts with the oil dots method. A wash of Umber is brushed to enhance the recesses. The dust effect is made with pigments which are then sprayed with some very diluted XF57 Buff.