The Merkava Mk.III entered IDF service at the beginning of 1990, with the last one produced on 2 Jan 2003. Except for its engine, the Mk.III was all-designed and built by Israel. A very potent armored fighting vehicle, the Merkava Mk.III displayed a new and improved suspension system, a new transmission coupled to a beefier 1200 horsepower engine (Continental AVDS-1790-9AR – as compared to the 900 hp engines in the Mk.I and Mk.II), improved modular-panel armor protection and a more potent 120mm thermal-jacketed main gun. The Merkava Mk.III retained the 60mm Mortar inside the Turret as introduced on the earlier Mk.II. This tank is equipped with a Laser Warning System, which displays threats to a console at the Commander’s station and has visually distinctive Ball-Chain Armor suspended from the Turret Bustle overhang at the rear – intended to defeat incoming projectiles upon impact, instead of allowing penetration and detonation on the turret ring.
The Merkava Mk.III has an electrical turret control system, replacing the older electro-hydraulic systems in the Mk.I and Mk.II tanks. It is equipped with an advanced fire control system – the Knight Mk.III “Baz” – that allows the Mk.III to engage moving targets, while the tank is on the move itself. It boasts an automatic targeting system and anti-helicopter capability. Additional armored plates were added to the Merkava Mk.IIIB Baz, altering its appearance slightly.
The ultimate development of the Merkava Mk.III is the subject of the Legend Productions set reviewed here. It represents the Merkava Mk.IIID – which is the Mk.III Baz (advanced fire control and automatic targeting system) with fourth-generation modular armor plates on the Hull and Turret creating a somewhat science-fictionesque look. The Merkava Mk.IIID will soon be replaced in service by the Merkava Mk.IV.
Inside the Box
Legend Productions’ Merkava Mk.IIID Turret Set is designed to give the Academy model kit a serious upgrade. Aspiring IDF modelers can take this one step further and purchase Legend Productions’ Merkava Mk.IIID Conversion Set (#LF1084) – which gives you this Turret Set plus a new Upper Hull casting and steel wheels to make modeling this variant more complete. These two sets are based on the actual vehicle at Latrun, and intended to address all the shortcomings of the Academy Merkava Mk.IIID model kit.
Legend Productions provides generous amounts of the detail items the modeler needs to complete this Set; lengths of Nylon String, .3mm and .5mm Brass Wire and sections of Brass Chain (called out as .27mm Brass Wire on the Instruction Sheet) and Ball Neckchain (you get 100 and need 60) with enough extras in the event the modeler loses some while cutting away during assembly. There are 52 photoetched detail parts and 75 resin parts to detail out the one-piece Turret.
Reasons for the Ratings
– All kit contents were bagged and sit tightly inside the cardboard shipping container. As with their latest releases, the exterior of the box is sealed with a nice color photo of the kit and contents therin. I was amazed that the loosely bubble-wrapped Turret piece wasn’t damaged during shipment. All the other resin parts were shipped in a single zip-bag, and none suffered damage during shipment either – though vulnerable to being mashed by the Turret.
– As standard for the latest releases, Legend Productions’ Instruction is full-colored, with photos of the assembled kit marked by part number call-outs for the modeler. As there are a large number of parts, and locations are easy to miss, it serves the modeler well to consult the Instruction Sheet several times before assembly. Take particular care when modeling the Ball-Chain Armor, as Legend Productions’ Instruction Sheet tells you how many links to use per location – but this is easy to miss upon first glance. Helpful additions to their future Instruction Sheets would be found in recommended assembly tips and sequence - considering how complicated making up the Ball-Chain Armor or Turret Basket might prove.
Quality of Parts
– Upon first glance, and many subsequent looks, I am impressed with the quality of the resin castings. There were no warped parts in my kit example. In particular, the large, heavy, single-piece Turret casting was remarkably done. No chipped or damaged edges, air bubbles, no short-shots or gross amounts of flash to remove and a substantial resin pour gate that doesn’t initially appear too challenging to remove successfully for an experienced resin modeler. There were some small parts that call for minor straightening with hot water, but none that would cause a major problem to correct.
Most impressive are the photoetched parts for the Turret Stowage Basket and the Ball-Chain Armor. Conversely, these are the most challenging features the modeler will face in successfully working with this Set.
Legend Productions releases quality scale renditions of modern AFV subjects – this being no exception. Modeling IDF subjects can be challenging due to the wide number of modifications and features seen on these vehicles in service. There is room for the modeler armed with good photos of a particular tank to add their own unigue details. Legend Productions’ effort here is a good one, and provides a solid improvement in quality and detail over the kit it’s designed to supplement. The single-piece Merkava Mk.IIID Turret casting is done well and captures the look of the real IDF vehicle convincingly. The Merkava should be quite popular amongst modern armor fans and has to be one of the meanest looking tanks ever fielded. The Merkava is sleek, sci-fi looking and aggressive all at once. Legend Productions’ efforts in 1:35th scale enhance the appeal of modeling this main battle tank. I recommend this set for the experienced resin modeler due to the challenging Turret Basket and Ball-Chain Armor subassemblies.
A Special thanks to Ian Hanratty of Friendship Models
for the review sample.