Academy 1/35 Rok Army K2
The Republic of Korea's (South Korea) Army faces one of the largest concentrations of armor on the planet, in the form of 4,000+ tanks of the hostile North Korean Army. Opposing the North Korean juggernaut until recently have been M48 Patton tanks together with the newer domestically produced K1 tank.
The M48 Patton tanks were upgraded to field 105mm main guns, while the domestically produced K1 also fields a 105mm main gun. The design is based on the US M1 Abrams, though the K1 is a noticeably smaller tank.
The South Koreans decided that while the K1 is suitable to meet current combat requirements, gearing up for future requirements might be a great idea. They also wanted to produce a locally designed tank that was capable of being exported, without facing potential deal blocking restrictions from the USA (80% of the K1's components are sourced from overseas, principally the USA). Thus was born the K2 "Black Panther" program, which was launched in 1995, with production vehicles starting to roll off the assembly lines in 2014 and into the fighting inventory of the R.O.K. Army.
The K2 tank fields a much improved 120mm main gun, with an L55 caliber, and thus a substantially higher muzzle velocity compared to the upgraded M48 or the K1, let alone anything in the North Korean arsenal. The 120mm gun is mated to a much-improved ammunition auto loader, together with a state of the art fire control system second to none. The tank is also capable of fording water obstacles up to 14 feet deep, through the use of a snorkel system. The K2 sports an innovative hydro-pneumatic suspension system, allowing it to change the suspension's ride height. The suspension is mated to a German inspired 1,500hp diesel engine (same displacement as the German 2A6 Leopard), all in a tank weighing 10 tons less than either the Leopard 2A6 or the M1A2 Abrams.
What's in the Academy Box
6 sprues of injection molded tan plastic parts, plus 3 larger tan plastic parts
11 sprues of injection molded black plastic parts (individual link tracks)
1 sprue of vinyl poly caps
1 sheet of water slide decals
1 small photo etched nickel fret
1 small sheet of die-cut translucent colored plastic film
A two-part instruction manual, with 13 pages of black and white assembly instructions covering 29 assembly steps plus a two-page sprue layout diagram. There is a very large full color two-page painting and decal placement sheet.
It is clear from the moment you pick up the box that a lot of love and attention to detail have been poured into this model's production. The box top has a dramatic and very nicely rendered painting of the K2 to catch your eye. Upon opening the box, the modeler is greeted with a wealth of parts with tremendous detail, down to a sheet of die-cut translucent film, for the kit's optical parts. The painting and marking guide is HUGE, full color, and the diagrams are 1/1 scale with the model itself. Clearly the folks at Academy have imbued this kit with a lot of national pride. And I can say without a doubt, this is one of Academy's finest armor kits to date.
Unlike any other tank model I have ever seen, Academy launches the instructions not with the lower hull and road wheels, but with the construction of the turret. The turret parts, like all the parts in this kit, are crisply detailed, flash free and without sink marks or visible ejection pin marks once the kit is assembled.
The turret basket is very finely rendered, and comes with photo etched screens. Academy provides optional parts to build the turret and hull with, or without, ERA (explosive reactive armor) bricks. The 120mm main gun comes molded in three parts, but the tubes are whole, not split into halves, making for much easier parts clean up. And those translucent self-adhesive parts for the optical sights: very cool.
The lower hull is molded as multiple parts, rather than as a one piece tub unit, but there are internal bulkheads to allow for good strength and alignment. The two-piece road wheels are very nicely rendered with excellent bolt and rib detail. The K2 utilizes T158 tracks, like the M1A1/A2 Abrams, and those included in the kit are beauties. They are link by link, workable tracks, each with separate track pads.
This allows the modeler to paint the metal tracks separately from the rubber track pads. The instructions indicate that the tracks can be assembled without glue, thus making them fully workable. These tracks, by the way, bear an uncanny resemblance to the aftermarket tracks put out by the Korean firm DEF Model, and I wonder if they have gone into partnership on these with Academy? A smart move by Academy, if they have.
The one small issue I have with this kit are the decals. Or more to the point, a complete lack of information on the decal placement instructions as to which units the decals represent. Other than placement information, there is nothing at all listing which units the kit markings represent. Nor, for that matter, whether they represent any particular units at all, but rather perhaps are simply fictitious? Or markings from an arms expo? What I can say is that the decals are thinly printed and in good register. I just wish I knew what they represented!
The one small criticism of the decals aside, this kit from Academy of the ROK Army K2 "Black Panther" is a gem. If it builds as up as well as other recent Academy kits I have had the pleasure to build, such as their T-34/85, then with a little modeling magic and skill, it will produce a lovely model for your display case. My sincere thanks to Model Rectifier Corporation for supplying Internet Modeler with the review sample.