Challenger 1 was an evolution of the Chieftain but contained some fairly revolutionary new components for its day. It entered service in 1983 with Chobham Armour, the British rifled 120mm tank gun and a new power pack and suspension units, it was a significant rework of the base line Chieftain design. In 1985 it recieved the Thermal Observation and Gunnery Site and in 1991 sported a set of add on armour units that increased hull protection these units were used on all operational deployments once they were available although it would be interesting to know if there was sufficient to equip the whole fleet. The Challenger 1 served alongside Cheiftain until Cheiftain was phased out around 1995 and was itself replaced by Challenger 2 between 1998 and 2002.
Revell released kits for both the base vehicle and one with a representation of the add on armour packs first seen in the Gulf war. Both kits are the same except for the side skirts and the Kosova Version includes the additional nose armour. The base vehicle is still on the Revell Catelouge whilst the version with the operational armour packs is now OOP. Trumpeter also make models of both versions although I have yet to get a close look at them.
The kit is very straight forward to assemble with no real issues in construction although care should be taken around the assembly of the rear turret bin. Whilst the tracks are link and length the precision of the moulding means these are very straight forward to assemble. The kit possesses some excellent mould detail but falls short in a couple of areas which is a little disappointing:
- the smoke grenade discharger units are poorly represented,
- the vehicles stowage baskets all need filling and or covering to represent a vehicle in the field.
Having said that these are all quite minor problems on what is otherwise an excellent kit.
To my mind what makes a war-games model is getting the stowage right, which largly involves looking at some pictures and quizzing some old soldiers if you can find them. Pictures of the vehicles in Germany generally seem to be quite tidy compared with some of those seen on Op Granby, probably due to additional equipment and consumables water, ammo, food, oils and lubes being carried on operations over exercises when live rounds full NBC scalings etc might not be carried. So whilst I was looking to use my Challengers in central europe I was keen to use the 1st Gulf War images to add some operational context to the look of the vehicles.
Typical stowage seen on Challengers includes Cam Nets in bins which can either be covered or uncovered, In addition the following are fairly common in photographs:
- Call Sign boards on either the turret rear or rear and sides,
- Roll Matts strapped to the outside of the various turret stowage baskets,
- Crew Shelters,
- rolls of Hessian or the issued thermal plasticised equivalent
- Jerry cans in the rack at the back of the turret.
- Cam Nets around barrels, more frequently on exercises than operations.
- Chieftain Bins on the turret sides.
Cam Nets are made from open weave bandage soaked in white glue, the covers are all from green stuff, as are the hessian rolls on the sides of some of the vehicles, roll mats are cut from appropriately sized plastic rod. The Call sign boards are cut from plasticard and the Chieftain bins scratch built from card stock. A number of after market kits exist which can cut down the effort but they cost. Whilst I have seen no images of air Identification panels in use from this period, they would seem sensible and might have been deployed in a conflict especially when operating under conditions of local air superiority.
Crewing british vehicles was proving to be a challenge until I discovered that Wee Friends had taken on a significant component of the CMSC range including the crew figures. The Figures are offered with the Crew Guard Helmet which I believe started to appear from around 1987 but include additional heads sporting the Mk 6 combat helmets worn by Infantry crews from about the same time.
I also bought another three sheets of the TL Modelblau British decals to ensure I had enough C/S to get all 8 of the vehicles done.
In the process of working up this post, I have dived into a bunch of reference material and modeling components which I have listed below. Both of Revell's Challenger 1 offerings are great kits and reward the effort required to stow and crew it
Operation Granby: Desert Rats Armor and Transport in the Gulf War (Firepower Pictorial Specials 2000 Series)
The Kit and Accesories
Wee Friends Crew
CMK Challenger 1 Stowage
General British Stowage BW Models
General British Stowage Kingfisher Miniatures