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In-Box Review
135
Flakpanzer 1 Gepard SPAAG
Bundeswehr Flakpanzer 1 Gepard SPAAG A1/A2
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by: Michael Shackleton [ MSHACKLETON ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

Introduction
Following on from Takomís earlier Leopard 1, most people wondered how - or if - they would follow these up. There is interest in engineering vehicles amongst modellers (such as Bergepanzer 2, Dachs or even Biber), but the plastic model companies donít seem very interested unless armoured vehicles have guns. The logical choice to go for was, therefore, the anti-aircraft version of Leopard 1, the Gepard (German for Cheetah following the wild cat tradition of naming their offensive vehicles).

Takom seem to be on a bit of an anti-aircraft kick at the moment, which is good for us Leopard fans. Takom were the first of three companies to announce Gepard. It is a popular subject all of a sudden with both HobbyBoss and Meng Model having also announced their own kits.
A bit of history
The story of Gepard is a little complicated, so I will try to keep it down to a few paragraphs. The only mechanised system available to the Bundeswehr in the 1960s/early 1970s was the fair-weather, daylight only, American M42 armed with a twin 40 mm cannon which dated back to 1953. It was in dire need of replacement with a system that combined surveillance, identification and fire-control using the latest computerised technology.

During the 1960s, the German Ministry of Defence stipulated that the surveillance and identification equipment were to be installed in one vehicle, with fire-control and guns mounted in a second vehicle. The overall concept was seen as a formation of battle groups composed of one command/surveillance tank leading and directing a group of anti-aircraft artillery tanks. This concept was studied by Rheinmetall in conjunction with AEG-Telefunken.

In competition to this battle group concept, a Swiss industrial consortium (Oerlikon-Contraves and Siemens-Albis, headed by Contraves) presented their twin 35 mm anti-aircraft concept. As soon as the Leopard chassis was released for anti-aircraft development, Oerlikon-Contraves investigated the possibilities of a fully autonomous (fully independent and self-dependent) anti-aircraft tank in which search radar, fire-control system, twin externally mounted guns and sufficient ammunition for approximately fifteen engagements, could all be integrated in one vehicle.

In 1967, a Study Group was set up to work out in detail an anti-aircraft tank battle group concept based upon the Rheinmetall/AEG-Telefunken 30 mm system (which became Matador). When completed, this concept was compared with that of the Oerlikon-Contraves 35 mm system (Gepard), both tactically and technically. First results of this phase of the study clearly indicated the advantages of the Oerlikon-Contraves autonomous version, so the Rheinmetall solution was abandoned.

In September 1967, Krauss-Maffei were contracted to convert and deliver two Series-0 (Leopard 1 pre-production) chassis to Oerlikon-Contraves who would install their twin 35 mm gun system. These vehicles were given the designated 5 PFZ-A. A third works prototype, based on another Series-0 chassis, was handed over to Oerlikon-Contraves in April 1968 for private testing and development purposes, and manufacturerís tests on this started the month after.

Advances in radar techniques led to the construction of a second-generation system with new or more advanced radars. The proven technical systems of the first generation anti-aircraft vehicles were retained, however. This modification of the radar installation resulted in improved surveillance and tracking of low-flying aircraft, in addition to a significant reduction in reaction time. The second generation of prototypes were designated 5 PFZ-B and four new chassis were built. Changes included an extension to the rear hull to carry six batteries providing better access for maintenance and freeing interior space for fire system electronics.

A pre-production series of twelve vehicles (5 PFZ-B2) then followed at the end of 1970, which saw the introduction of the infamous wheel spacing (the hull was lengthened by 80 mm with the turret ring moved back 20 mm for installation of sound proofing between the driver and the APU compartment).

The first production vehicle was handed over to the Bundeswehr on 16 December 1976, the last on 29 October 1980. 420 Gepards were delivered in two types. 195 vehicles (known by the factory name Gepard B2), were followed by 225 Gepard B2L with a Siemens laser rangefinder on top of the tracking radar. These were collectively designated by the Bundeswehr as Flakpanzer 1 Gepard. At the time of its introduction into service, the Gepard was said to be the most expensive armoured fighting vehicle then in service.

Further Developments - A radio upgrade changed the designation to Flakpanzer 1A1 Gepard or Gepard A1 (as per the earlier version in this kit).

Improvements in firepower come from a new muzzle velocity-measuring device and the introduction of a new FAPDS (Frangible Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot) with a very high muzzle velocity of 1,400 metres per second. New testing equipment was also part of the package and a cooling system for the crew compartment and electronics was carried across the bottom of the turret rear. Following this later upgrade, the vehicle was called Flakpanzer 1A2 Gepard or Gepard A2 (as per the later version in this kit) and the programme involved 147 vehicles. GPS is also part of the new equipment fit with a small receiver embedded in the front turret roof.

Foreign Interest Ė The kit options include decals for German, Belgian, Brazilian and Romanian Gepards, so these are the only ones mentioned here.

Belgium selected the B2 version and deliveries took place between 1977 and 1980 and fifty-five were ordered, one was left unassembled and used for training purposes and twenty-seven were configured as B2LV in readiness for the addition of a laser rangefinder which was never fitted. All have now been withdrawn from service.

At the beginning of 2000, the Romanian Army took delivery of the first of forty-three Gepard B2s from ex-German stocks. They will replace the obsolete Russian-supplied ZSU-57-2. These were not upgraded to the latest standard German standard of that time.

The Brazilian Army acquired 36 Flakpanzer 1A2 Gepard from German stocks with final deliveries in 2015. These fully-modernised Gepards include new C3 (command, control and communications) capabilities, improvement of target engagement with extended combat range, a new fire-control unit, shorter reaction time, and better hit to kill probability.

In the meantime, all Gepards have now been withdrawn from service with a two-year phase-out that ended in 2012. The entire Bundeswehr air defence force was disbanded. I have not included any mention of Dutch Gepards in this review as it is a significantly different machine and a whole story by itself, and it is not covered in this kit.

That took more than a few paragraphs but I hope it gave you a basic background.
What is in the box?
The box top itself carries a striking artwork of a striking vehicle. A Gepard A2 is illustrated in cheetah spots and even wears sideskirts which they never did in normal Bundeswehr service. This one-off vehicle was painted up to celebrate the end of Bundeswehr service in 2012. Striking but non-representative.

What we have in the box itself has little in common with their previous Leopard kits, apart from the tracks, which is good. Parts count is fairly low which means a simple build (apart from individual link tracks from Orochi http://leopardclub.ca/reviews/Orochi/Leopard_1_tracks/). Detail on the parts is very good - sharp and crisp. There are no horrible polycaps so the wheels have detail on both sides - unfortunately for Leopard Workshop! Etch is kept to a minimum which means the APU exhaust grilles on the left-hull side are moulded, for example. Even the tool boxes are moulded on, but with separate lids. Having said that, the moulding is beautiful. No torsion bars thank goodness - a toy-like feature I personally donít like, though many do. Overall, this looks like a very nice kit.

The Hull
The most-often asked question - since this release was announced - is about the wheel spacing. The old Tamiya kit (Heller too) was incorrect in this respect with even spacing between wheels stations, just like Leopard 1. Gepard had an extended hull (80 mm extra between the third and fourth wheel stations) and Takom have got it spot on.
As mentioned, Gepard generally did not wear sideskirts in Bundeswehr service, so the suspension was on full view. Takom tackled the suspension on their previous Leopard 1s by moulding some of the components directly on the hull side. This is OK for tanks wearing skirts where it is mostly hidden away, but not here. Thankfully, Takom have taken a different route and all of the swing arms (no torsion bars), return roller mounts, bump stops and shock absorbers are all separate parts. The swing arms have better detail than their Leopard kits which had none, but could still be better. The swing arms are about 2 mm too short as well. The same can said about the shock absorbers. Some of these have little vertical arrows moulded on, but some donít. This is fair enough as the same could have happened in reality.

Unfortunately, Takom seem to have copied the design over from their Leopard1s for the road wheel outer faces which are still not right. The tyres are also still too thick and the spacer between outer and inner wheel is too wide. The wheels do not have any polycaps so there are no mis-shapened rear faces this time. In fact, there is even some bolt detail, but it is still not completely correct. The return rollers have the same depth tyres which they donít in reality. The first and third rollers have the same depth tyres, but much less depth to the metal rims. The sprockets have 8-bolt hubs which is correct for Gepard. Many Leopard 1s were upgraded with 15-bolt hubs but this didnít seem to happen with Gepard Ė unless someone knows differently.

I know that some will say that Iím trying to sell my own parts, but they were measured up first-hand by the CAD designer. For the accuracy buffs, Leopard Workshop has LW001-1 road wheels and LW010 suspension upgrade corrects these faults if you feel that way inclined. Sorry, this is the worst part of an otherwise good kit.

The hull parts are very nicely moulded in conventional upper and lower parts. They fit together perfectly. The lower hull has the Gepardís representative reinforcement strakes under the left front hull (where the APU is housed). The upper hull has the full-width glacis plate and the extended rear end that gives it a completely different appearance to the Leopard 1 hull. Non-slip patches are represented quite nicely. Another difference are the circular inlet rings on the rear decking which were only ever used Ė apart from on all Gepardís Ė on Australian AS1, Greek GR1 and Turkish T1 Leopards. As already mentioned, the tool boxes are moulded in place (but with separate lids), as are the front mudguards. Even the grille that covers the APU exhaust pipe down the left side, and the hull grating around the rear of the turret, is moulded in rather than using photo-etch. All of this may lead you to think that this is over-simplification, but it has been so well done that I applaud Takom.

Photo-etch in this kit is kept to a minimum, which is good as far as a lot of modellers are concerned. The etch we do have here is used to top off the aforementioned inlet grille, rear grille on the APU intake, the protective cover over the driverís hatch, deflector plates and grille covers on the turret, and some edging grilles on the rear face of the hull grating. Just the bare necessities, which is fine in this case. Unfortunately, chains are not supplied for the smoke launchers (see LW026).

The grilles are slide moulded, so they have nice depth to them, unlike their fairly awful, previous Leopard 1 grilles. Takom seen to have learned from Leopard Workshop here!! If deciding to build the more modern Gepard A2, look out for the call outs to drill two holes from the underside of the hull specifically to mount the rear storage boxes. Gepard has no external tools mounted apart from the sprocket T-bar across the hull rear, so building up the hull top is remarkably simple. Headlights have separate clear lenses, but the T-hooks and eyes at both ends of the hull are still single piece (see LW025).

The tracks are the nice Orochi ones, twisted cable is supplied for the tow cable (string in the Leopard kits) with separate plastic eyes. A better choice might be to use the Eureka Leopard 1-2 tow cables with resin eyes that fit more neatly than undercut plastic eyes. Also, RMG Resin are about to release some new sets.

The Turret
Watch out for Gepard A1 and A2 options when you start work on the turret shell. Gepard A2 has a GPS dome on the front turret roof and some mounting points on the rear roof. These details have to be removed if you are building the A1 version. You will also need to drill three holes from the inside of the shell for the A2. This is all clearly called out in the instructions.

One problem with the choice of decals is the Belgian version. Belgium used the B2 version (refer to the introduction above) that did not have a laser rangefinder (parts D76//11/14) on top of the forward tracking radar. Just leaving this off means an incorrect mounting block shape is left behind on top of parts B2/C1. Shame, as Belgium was the first export customer.

The tracking radar has polycaps to keep it mobile vertically and a split peg in the bottom of the turret on which it rotates 360 degrees horizontally. The radar rotates backwards when it is in travel position. I am not sure if you will be able to remove it once it is in place though. Strange they didnít use a polycap for this, too. There are two options for a flashing convoy light on the roof on long or short poles. Check your references. The light itself is clear plastic.

There are some photo-etch plates on the turret sides which look quite complicated to fold. The largest part is a protector over the smoke launchers. When these two guns start spitting out fire, there are a lot of empty cases flying about. Another etch part goes under the gun pods which is designed to deflect spent shells from under the guns, deflecting them rearwards. The gun pods are built simply from just five major parts each plus a few smaller detail parts.

Next we start to get into the real options for the two different versions. The instructions donít really make it clear, but it soon becomes obvious that steps 26-1, 27-1, etc. are for the A1 version and steps 26-2, 27-2, etc. are for the A2 version.

The first option is different guns with different muzzles. The A2 had a velocity-measuring device and this is a lot more complex than the A1 version. The A2 muzzles have three parts each! The pods connect with each other inside the turret to keep them both together when they elevate. The biggest turret differences come at the rear of the turret. The A1 rear is very simple, but with the A2 a couple of large boxes (cooling systems for the crew compartment and electronics) on a kind of shelf have to be added which makes it look very busy. Thankfully, the large search radar is common to both versions and again this is completely rotatable and can be folded flat into the travel position. Most Gepards (A1 and certainly all A2) would have used SEM 80/90 aerials (LW024).

Once the back of the turret is finished, so is the A1 version. The A2 version continues with the addition of a stowage box on the turret roof and another large stow box at the rear of the hull. The final option is the sideskirts, but this is only applicable to the cheetah-spotted vehicle on the box top.
Painting and Finishing
Decal options are:
A1 Bundeswehr, gelbolive
A1 Romanian Army, 3-tone NATO green/black/brown
A1 Bundeswehr, 3-tone NATO green/black/brown
A2 Bundeswehr, 3-tone NATO green/black/brown
A2 Bundeswehr, 3-tone desert sand brown/sand beige/grey beige. I think this just a one-off trial machine tested in Cyprus.
A2 Bundeswehr, cheetah scheme, though the rear hull markings should read KMW, not the KMM on the decal sheet with Krauss Waffei Megmann underneath and both Kís back-to-front!!)
Brazilian Army A2, 3-tone NATO green/black/brown
Belgian Army A1, gelbolive (but not accurate as noted above)

There are no unit details or timescale noted for any of these options.
Conclusion
A new Gepard has taken a long time to come around. We had the same situation with Leopard 1 until Meng Model and then Takom released different versions. These Leopards were a little below par, so what about this Gepard?

This is a very good model. Takom have realised the differences between two of the versions, A1 and A2, but have not included the first version which would have been so easy (although Belgian decals are included for this). Parts count is low which means it looks easy to build, but this does not mean that quality has been compromised. It is very crisply moulded with a lot of superb detail. It is a quantum leap over the old Tamiya kit, though that was actually pretty good for its age despite the wheel spacing problem.

The biggest problem is the suspension/running gear which still has problems, though most might think I am being too picky.

I was hoping for great things from this kit Ė and it is a great kit. It will build into an impressive, well-detailed model. It is what Gepard fans have been waiting for, for a long time now. I certainly give it a good thumbs up.
References
Books
Tankograd Publishing, Self-propelled Anti-aircraft Gun/Missile tanks of the Modern German Army - 1956 to Today (Militšrfahrzeug Special No. 5021), Peter Blume
Walkarounds
Gepard A2 Prime Portal Live links
Gepard A1 Leopard Club Live links
Gepard A2 Leopard Club Live links
Gepard A1/A2 Panzer Modell Live links
Videos
YouTube 1Video 1 Live links
YouTube2Video 2 Live links
SUMMARY
Highs: An up to date Gepard crisp mouldings
Lows: A few issues with the suspension and running gear
Verdict: A great model and en easy to build kit
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 2044
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jun 23, 2016
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 91.92%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 87.76%

Our Thanks to Takom!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Michael Shackleton (mshackleton)
FROM: ENGLAND - SOUTH EAST, UNITED KINGDOM

Graphic designer by trade, military vehicle enthusiast by choice. Wrote Leopard 1 Trilogy and Tilly Colours and now runs the Tilly Register - opposite ends of the MV spectrum! Also runs Leopard Club, Scorpion Miniature Models and Trackpad Publishing

Copyright ©2019 text by Michael Shackleton [ MSHACKLETON ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.



Comments

A note from Jason Bobrowich after the review was submitted to Armorama: The incorrectly spelled KMW on the decal sheet is likely due to copyright issues with the logo and company name. Cut out the incorrect letters, spin them 180 degress, apply them in the correct position. Done.
JUN 23, 2016 - 01:33 PM
Thank you for the excellent review Michael! The decal "fix" is an ingenious one, I must admit
JUN 23, 2016 - 02:46 PM
takom great model. but you coming late. the was tamiya1/35th.several years ago.kit-mun.35099.
JUN 24, 2016 - 02:29 AM
Most of us here are well aware of the old Tamiya kit and it's problems. It is a baby of the 1970s, a typical motorised model that shared common parts with their Leopard 1 which meant the wheel spacing was incorrect - this kits Achilles heal. At least it was nothing like as bad as Heller's kit.
JUN 24, 2016 - 03:23 AM
   

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