Friday, January 26, 2018

Painting Challenge Submission Seven - Leopard C1s for "Team Yankee"

Canadian Leopard C1s in 1/100 scale for "Team Yankee"

My pent-up interest in Cold War armour has been well and truly unleashed in this edition of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. I haven't painted this many 15mm tanks in several years, and it has been a lot of fun so far. I love tanks! After a couple of weeks of working up my West German Bundeswehr forces, we turn today to another NATO member - my home team, the Canadians!

In this I follow the trail blazed by Conscript Mike F.  A search through dusty old posts at the side of this blog will reveal his exhaustive efforts to put together a force of 1980s-era Canadian Forces in 15mm.  He started with Leopard 1s, and then did head swaps for infantry! Now THAT is commitment :)  Mike completed this project back in 2013, but it is still awesome, and as Battlefront's "Team Yankee" game arrived, these efforts were often in the back of my mind - I really wanted to get some Canadians into a game of "Team Yankee".

During most of the Cold War, and particularly the mid-80s period envisioned by the game "Team Yankee",  Canada's contribution to the forward-deployed land defences of West Germany was the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. They were based in the Central Front zone and were intended to act as a reserve for the US VII Corps or German II Corps. While the 4th CMBG was mostly a mechanized formation, with stoutinfantry of the Royal Canadian Regiment and the "Vandoos" trooping around in M113 APCs, the cutting edge were the Leopard C1s of the Royal Canadian Dragoons.

The Canadian contingent was not a large force overall compared to the other NATO elements in 1980s Western Europe, but it was well-trained and would have given a solid performance if called on, I have no doubt.  As I have mentioned in other Cold-War-Gone-Hot postings, thank goodness (at so many levels) that this is all fictional, as several friends, including a few Fawcett Avenue Conscripts, served in and around these formations...

Leopard C1 troop - 1/100 models from "Armies Army"
In NATO reserve, the Canadians could expect to be waiting for a Soviet breakthrough, and be sent to block it. NATO commanders would count on them them to stop and hold these Warsaw Pact elements for 24, 48 hours or longer, while other NATO formations rallied and counter-attacked.  The Leopard C1s of the Royal Canadian Dragoons would have been key to these operational expectations. So for me any "Team Yankee" games with Canadians would start with getting models to represent the Leopard C1s.

Armies Army models - showing the lovely casting of the low-light TV system over the mantlet, and the FN MAG on the cupola
The Leopard 1 was a widely exported tank, and trying to make sense of all the countless small variations that seem to emerge on the different versions used by different nations (Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Brazil, and more) gives one a headache. And while I'm not much of a rivet-counter (or so I like to believe, at least), I still get bugged by little details, small things here and there that still stand out on even small model.  Get them right, and bang, it all "looks" right!  Get them wrong and it's...well, it's OK...but it just bugs me...

Leopard C1 in 1/100 scale from Plastic Soldier Company - the FN MAG on the cupola is from Peter Pig; the decals on this tank are 1/87 - and the Canadian flag on the front plate is my own useful identifier for tabletop purposes...I don't think they actually had a big marking on the front of the tanks like that...
In the case of the Leopard C1s, two such "little details" nagged at me.  One was the targeting system mounting on the main gun mantlet - a container for a low-light TV and other gadgetry designed to help the gunners engage targets in darkness. On the Bundeswehr Leopard 1s this is a box-shaped gadget, but on the Canadian C1s it is a sort-of rounded cage. Why? Well, the Canadians had a different camera/targeting system. The other "little detail" is the cupola MG.  On the Bundeswehr tanks this is an MG3 (a.k.a. MG42), but the Canadian Forces had a 7.62mm MG, I think it was the FN MAG, mounted up there.  Even in a very small scale like 1/100, the MG3 has such an iconic silhouette that the vehicle looks German.

Should either of these things really matter on a 1/100 scale model of a tank? Well, no...but...yes! What is wrong with me?  I'm such a DORK.

Another view of the PSC models...the targeting camera is not as detail as it is on the Armies Army model, but still great and well done to PSC for thinking of those sorts of "little things"...
The popularity of the period and scale sparked by the entry of a large player like Battlefront has inspired the creativity of some of the smaller figure companies to step up and offer more models. Plastic Soldier Company issued a box of plastic Leopard 1s that could be built as the "C1" variant used by the Canadian Forces. "Armies Army", another fringe-ish producer of cool 15mm figures did even more, producing, in late 2017, a full range of Canadian infantry, Leopard C1s, M113s, M150s (APCs with a TOW launcher) and even the Lynx recon tracks. WOW. So of course I ordered a bunch of here we go...naturally the Leopards were first under the brush...

There are nine tanks in the photos here - three are from the Plastic Soldier Company, and the balance are from Armies Army.  The Plastic Soldier Company models are a treat to assemble, and they have options for the little targeting camera on the mantlet to suit the Canadian variant, which is just great for a nutter like me! Only downside if the cupola MG is still the German MG3, and that is the only option on the sprue.  I worked around that by swapping in some FN MAGs from a pack of Peter Pig 1/100 IDF Centurion Shots that I haven't painted yet (long-abandoned Lebanon project - don't ask).

The Armies Army vehicles are a mix of resin and metal parts. I love that the Armies Army variant comes with all of the proper accessories - the FN MAG for the cupola, a well-sculpted thermal jacket on the main gun barrel, etc.  PLUS he sells you tons of stowage, something I will add more on later. But they are slightly trickier to assemble - you don't get the razor-sharp precision you do with the plastic kits from PSC. With the treads in particular there were a few challenges...but in all, the Armies Army effort is just so cool because it is so utterly complete - EVERYTHING you could want - well aligned to the mind of a wargaming nutter like me!

AND, major bonus, you can get DECALS! Yes, the little things that really finish off the models! The downside is that, other than the maple leaf on the turret, the decals are hard to see, as they are small and the black stencils don't show well on the green.  Or, they might show in the photos if I ever purchase a light box - but, if you ever see me buying one of those, you'll know I have finally painted every single figure and model I ever want to paint and have moved on to less important things...but anyway...

Ready to roll out against the Warsaw Pact, eh?
It's just as good that most of the symbols don't show up too much...the Canadian forces used a series of call signs, numbers, letters and symbols on their vehicles that would leave ancient Byzantine commanders asking "Are you sure? Seems a touch complicated..." Mostly I just wanted to be sure the Maple Leaf showed up on the tabletop - and it does!  One of the tanks you see here does have larger decals than the others - these are from a 1/87 scale decal sheet, while the rest are from Armies Army 1/100 decals.  I reason the one with the larger decals is just an extreme patriot of some sort, and I'll use it as a Squadron commander or something.

Keen to try any of these models yourself? I would say "go nuts" with either provider, but to further confuse things (so appropriate for a post about Leopard 1s and Canadians), Plastic Soldier Company appears to have acquired Armies Army...all involved are excellent folks to deal with, and it looks like PSC will sell the Armies Army range.  Should be good news long term, and you can take your pick of Leopard 1 models!

Furthermore, Battlefront itself has hinted at providing figures for Canadians later this year, part of a rules expansion to be called "Free Nations" or something similar...but if you are like me, and you don't like waiting, go visit PSC right now!

Anyway, these tanks joined Mike's established collection to receive a baptism of fire on the gaming table last night...and as newly-painted models...well, you know how that goes...stay tuned for a separate blog post about that...

Big thanks to Mike F for the inspiration, assistance with decals and sources of information on the 4th CMBG. Also want to give a shout-out to Stanley Martens and his similar efforts (check them out here) - very inspiring stuff Stanley, and your posts were very, very helpful! I have a few more models to finish to round out the Squadron, and from there it will be on to some Canadian infantry...stay tuned!


MFraser said...

Was glad to get the Canadians on the table again. The game was a lot of fun and made me glad I wasn’t sitting in one of those tanks!

Phil said...

Impressive job, lovely tanks!

Stan M. said...

Thank you for the shout-out, very glad to have helped Greg, anytime.

Great looking models and painting to match...I recently discovered a couple of packs of c6's that I had ordered years ago...apparently my planning process anticipated issues I'd have with G3's instead of proper GPMG's, lol. Well done on your force!!