New decal set from Echelon Fine Details is not quite typical release for this company for two reasons. First is that unlike all other sets released so far, it is not dedicated to a single vehicle type. The second difference is that in the set we get not usual one, but two decals sheets. On the larger sheet we get markings for Dutch Leopard 2, Leopard 2A5 (2 tanks) and Leopard 2A6 plus markings for three examples from YPR-765 family of vehicles. On the smaller supplemental sheet we get large number of generic Dutch registration numbers, tactical symbols and other stencils - only a few of them are used in seven marking options featured on the main sheet, most can be used for other Dutch vehicles. Some standard tactical symbols can actually be used for other vehicles from other NATO countries.
In a resealable plastic bag we get two decal sheets (approx. 120mm x 190mm and 95mm x 125mm) and A4 size instructions folded in half. Instructions are printed in full color and on one page are photos of all featured vehicles. Decal placement diagrams are detailed and reasonably clear, although dark camouflage colors printed on vehicles make identifying correct decal placement difficult in a few places. Decals are flawlessly printed with all colorful markings in very good register.
Seven vehicles featured on decal sheet are:
1. Leopard 2A4 of C Squadron, 43 (NL) Tank Battalion during Canadian Army Trophy (CAT) 1991
- overall olive green tank with Dutch national colors painted on the rear engine grille.
2. Leopard 2A5 of B Squadron, 11 (NL) Tank Battalion
- NATO camouflage
3. Leopard 2A5 of B Squadron, 11 (NL) Tank Battalion in SFOR operations
- NATO camouflage
4. Leopard 2A6 of A Squadron, 101 (NL) Tank Battalion RHPA (Regiment Huzaren Prins Alexander)
- NATO camouflage
5. YPR-765 of Koninklijke Marechaussee (Royal Military Police)
- overall blue vehicle with olive drab commander's cupola shields
6. YPR-765 in UNPROFOR service in Bosnia
- overall white
7. YPR-765 PRI of 42 (NL) BVE in SFOR operations
- NATO camouflage
We get enough markings in the set to build models of all seven featured vehicles, plus some more as we get a lot of extra markings including unit emblems, vehicle names, registration numbers etc.. We also get a set of red crosses for ambulance version of YPR. The only problem may be finding reference photos of vehicles to which these additional markings can be applied. In case of Dutch flags we get them in two sizes, with smaller designed to fit smaller fenders of Italeri (and Revell) Leopard 2 kits and bigger, more accurate in size fitting Tamiya models.
For all vehicles we get a nice selection stencils and warning labels. Not all of them are however shown in instructions, so again some additional reference materials may be needed to find correct placement of some markings.
On the supplemental sheet we get cleverly designed KFOR / SFOR / IFOR / ISAF markings. These are provided as separate letters "I", "S" and "K" plus two letter groups: "FOR" and "AF" - this way any of markings listed above can be achieved. Clever!
There is no information provided in the decal set instructions about model kits that can be used to build featured vehicles models. The first option is described as Leopard 2A4 in instructions and the best kit to build this vehicle would be Revell of Germany model (updated version of Italeri kit with A4 specific parts added). The only problem is that I'm not quite sure whether the tank which participated in CAT91 was indeed A4 variant. On the photograph on the instruction sheet it looks like the tank did not have the muzzle reference sensor on the main gun muzzle and that would suggest that it was actually earlier pre-A4 variant of Leopard 2 NL. In such case original Italeri Leopard 2 kit could also be a good choice, although some parts in it would require minor changes. None of the mentioned kits however contains Dutch style smoke grenade launchers. As far as I know these can be found in Italeri Leopard 2A5 kits. As those kits also include longer A6 style gun barrel, it can be used to build models of tanks from options 2, 3 and 4. Generally however Tamiya Leopard 2A5 and 2A6 models are much better than Italeri examples and are more recommended - they however don't include Dutch grenade launchers...
To build YPR model we have only one option: AFV Club model. It is available in two versions: Dutch YPR-765 PRI and NATO AIFV. Any of these kits can be used as a base to build vehicles shown in options 5, 6 and 7 - but NATO AIFV kit requires slight modification of side armor panels to remove molded on tie-downs. Still some modifications to any of AFV Club kits are needed to properly represent vehicles from Echelon set. All three vehicles used Diehl type "NATO" tracks, which are not provided in AFV Club kits, but can be obtained from this company as a separate set (both one piece vinyl tracks and individual link tracks are available). Vehicles in options 5 and 7 use standard M113 type cupola and part from some M113 kit has to be used as it is not provided in AFV Club kit. Mounting ring for the cupola would have to be scratch built to fit it in place of PRI variant turret. Vehicles in options 6 and 7 have mesh storage racks added to the sides of the hull. These are not included in AFV Club kit, but ExtraTech company now offer a photoetched parts set, which includes such racks and other details needed to update YPR model to current standards.
Judging only from photos provided on the instruction sheet I can say that decals seem to be very accurate.
Typically for Echelon decals these were printed by Microscale, so I don't expect any problems with applying them. The decal film is very thin and applied sparingly around actual markings, minimizing the risk of silvering. However I strongly suggest using Microscale's own Set and Sol decal setting solutions anyway with these decals for best results.
The new Dutch markings decal set from Echelon is probably the most attractive looking from all released by this company so far. It is very colorful, well researched and excellently printed. This set is significantly more expensive than previous Echelon releases but we get much more markings in it, so it seems to be worth its price. It may not be straightforward to use as building accurate models of Dutch vehicles may require some kitbashing and purchasing of aftermarket accessories, but I'm sure it will not discourage modelers, particularly Dutch ones, and this set will be very popular. Some may be particularly interested in building unusually looking Military Police variant of YPR vehicle - blue AFVs are not a common sight!
Many thanks to Lawrence Goh of Echelon Fine Details for the review sample.
For the list of resellers and distributors visit Echelon web site