Based in Devon, England, Supacat Ltd is an engineering design company founded in 1981, specialising in high-mobility all-terrain vehicles for both civil and military customers. Using the High Mobility Truck design, Supacat designed the 4x4 HMT 400 series in response to the British Army’s specifications for an agile, well-armed and light patrol vehicle. Known to the British Army as the Jackal, and first deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, the vehicle incorporates armour designed to protect particularly against IEDs, and although the cabin is open in order to maximise visibility, the stand off protection provided by the 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun, coupled with its manoeuvrability and speed, enable it to take advantage of lower risk routes and terrain.
Airfix already had the twin Land Rovers, a Lynx helicopter, and ground troops as part of their 1/48 British Army in Afghanistan Operation Herrick range, and they’ve now released the Supacat Jackal, as well as the heavier 6x6 version, the Coyote, which will be the subject of a separate review. To be more precise this kit is intended to depict the Jackal 2, with its improved main weapon position, strengthened chassis, enhanced armour and increased engine capacity, a design dating from 2009 / 2010.
What you get
Compactly packaged in Airfix’s usual two part carton, the cover art represents a crewless vehicle parked up probably somewhere in Helmand Province, sporting the all-terrain tyres seen in all of the photos of this vehicle on active service. The instruction booklet is big, with 12 sides of A4 covering the construction steps in 60 stages. The back page is a full colour five angled view showing a vehicle of “British Army, Afghanistan, present day” in desert tan. The smallish decal sheet includes dashboard dials, two ready made up number plates, some operational chevrons as well as a couple of spare black strips “provided to make your own markings”; the remainder of the decals are tiny warning and operator type notices.
All 123 kit parts are moulded in pale grey on three identically sized sprues; there’s no clear, metal or vinyl in the box, though there is metal to come later. Connection points are consistently fairly thin and it is noticeable that they are also limited in quantity, with quite a number of parts being attached in only one place and very few in more than two. Despite that, none of the parts in this kit had detached themselves on the postal journey. As we have seen with other new tool Airfix releases, the moulding is crisp and detailed, with only minimal moulding seams and no flash.
Sprue A contains most of the larger chassis body panels; sprue B the wheels, suspension components and crew seats; sprue C has the weapons and mounts and other parts of the fighting compartment. It should be said however that the division of parts across sprues looks as if it has been done more with space efficiency in mind rather than construction sequence so there will no doubt be a fair bit of sprue juggling on the work bench.
So, sixty construction stages sounds like a lot, but I don’t think this is an especially complex kit; that large number of steps is mostly down to the fact that , generally speaking, only two or three, or occasionally four, parts are combined in any one stage. This means that the precise location points of every part are clearly shown, so there’s none of those annoying drawings vaguely indicating that a part attaches somewhere underneath in a place that isn’t marked. With so many stages, I’ll take it page by page to keep it brief.
Starting on page 3 two identical suspension units are built up, with drive shafts, drum brakes, shocks and wishbones, then the one piece wheels / tyres; the front unit is then attached to the armoured front belly plate.
This belly / wheel unit is immediately attached on page 4 to the main front chassis plate. Two bulkheads are added to the fighting compartment, followed by the two main armoured side panels.
In go the front pair of mine blast protected seat mounts, plus the seats, on page 5. The rear wheel unit attaches to the body, with the rear chassis plate locating on top of it, followed by the rear bottom armour plate attaching behind.
Page 6 adds the rear body plates and the base of the rear cargo area, followed by the rear bulkhead, then the rear pair of seat mounts and seats.
The crew rear doors are made up on page 7, tubular steel trapezoids with ballistic armour plates; one has a shrouded spare wheel stowed on it, the other, what appears to be small stowage compartments. These are both shown as being optionally open or closed, and there’s a “do not glue” symbol on the hinges. There’s more moving and / or positionable parts going on here with the two flippable rear cargo hampers, one on each side.
Page 8 continues to add parts to the rear cargo area, then the mounting members for the machine gun ring. The fairly complex construction of the front bulkhead of the driver compartment is started, with details on both the exterior (crash bars, smoke grenade tubes) and interior (control panel) being added.
This continues into page 9 with more bars and the perforated sand channel outside, and steering wheel inside. Prior to this whole unit engaging with the rest of the vehicle the instructions show a plethora of small decals applied around the control panel; it’s an obvious area, among many, where painting will have to be done prior to final assembly. A tubular bar connects the front panel with the bars behind the driver seat, but the instructions also helpfully illustrate the angle that must be attained between the unit and the ground. The page ends with the attachment of the crew front doors, which though shown as optionally open or closed, look like they have to be cemented in the chosen position.
The main weapon installation is on page 10: the ring support attaches to the four members, with the rotating ring sitting on top, to which is added the gunner’s seat and pintle for the 12.7mm HMG.
Now we’re finishing up with the side steps, lowered or stowed, going on, and finally the 7.62mm machine gun sitting on its optionally positioned mount right on the front of the Jackal. A couple of isometric views are provided to show the overall appearance that the model should now have.
Many modellers will be pleased to see Airfix showing some real adventure with this offering, and although Accurate Armour already produce a 1/35 scale kit of the same vehicle in resin and etched brass, that costs £90 within the EU, so at £15.99 this 1/48 offering provides a much cheaper alternative for those who want to add this vehicle to their collection and who aren’t obsessive about 1/35 scale (though there’s a few of those…). Some may recall that there is an Airfix photo-etched parts set for the Jackal and Coyote (item A65002) in the offing, with current information being that this item is scheduled for release in December; on top of that is a set of eight crew figures (item A03702) that are slated for release in 2013.
Not having built the kit I can’t comment on the fit of parts. The tyres illustrated on the box art are those seen in photos of the real thing, but for some reason the tyres provided are not of this pattern. Whether they’re a type used in reality, or whether it is just that they’re easier to mould with no undercuts that might require slide moulds I can’t say, but I’d anticipate aftermarket items appearing to correct this. There’s nothing to represent seat belts, not even moulded on to the seats themselves, which seems a bit odd. No engine parts are included, but I wonder if with a vehicle like this that such a thing would only be of use were you modelling it in a high-tec workshop setting. The two machine guns also show symptoms of the slightly simplified approach, with the 12.7mm gun being moulded in a single piece; again, I suspect that upgrades may already be or will become available for this.
Integrally moulded external stowage nets and moulded on tools are other examples where things have been kept relatively simple, and as stated previously, for an open-topped vehicle, the kit looks to be a fairly easy build, helped by the super-comprehensive instructions and clear location points. This is in keeping with Airfix’s traditional mass market appeal, and it's a notable part of their strategy to engage with the public beyond what might be regarded as the hard core modelling community, yet with this subject matter, and with the metal detail set and figures to come, they are clearly targeting this more specialised modelling sector as well.
This is an appealing kit as it comes, with great scope for extra detailing and stowage, and there are plenty of high quality photos on the web of the Jackal on operations to help with all of that. It also seems like great value when one considers that it is around the same price, or less, than many 1/72 scale armour kits. The resulting model is 125mm x 50mm.