This offering from Pen and Sword as part of their Tank Craft series and is on this occasion looks at the Challenger 1 British Main Battle Tank of the Gulf War. This book as with all of the titles in this series are I feel an attempt to offer the modeller a combination package covering both reference on the vehicles and a look at the models available to replicate the Challenger 1 as a scale model.
The following portion of the introduction is from the Pen and Sword website:
During the 1980s and early 1990s the Challenger 1 main battle tank played a central role in Britain’s armoured forces and it achieved remarkable success in combat, destroying around 300 Iraqi tanks in the Gulf War. With its advanced Chobham armour and hydro pneumatic suspension system, it was one of the most sophisticated and effective armoured vehicles of the time and, in a modified form, it is still in service with the Jordanian army. It is also a popular subject with tank modellers and enthusiasts, which is why this volume in the TankCraft series is of such value.
Archive photos of the Challenger 1 in service and extensively researched colour profile illustrations depict the tank throughout its operational life. A large part of the book showcases available model kits and aftermarket products, complemented by a gallery of beautifully constructed and painted models in various scales. Technical details as well as modifications introduced during production and in the field are also examined and provide everything the modeller needs to recreate an accurate representation of the Challenger 1.
This offering from Pen and Sword is authored by Robert Griffin who joined the British army in 1967 as a 17-year-old junior leader and served for many years as a crewman in armoured fighting vehicles in the 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards in BAOR, BATUS, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, the UK and Bosnia. A recognized expert on post-war armour, he has written a number of books and articles on the tanks of the Cold War period, including works on the FV-214 Conqueror, Chieftain, Challenger 1 and FV432. This is a soft backed book with a good card cover protecting 64 pages of semi gloss paper. The contents of this title are laid out as follows:
Challenger 1 in Detail
Challenger 1 Main Battle Tank
Challenger 1 Specialist Variants
Camouflage and Markings
In Service and in Action
This book begins the story of British tank design from the end of World War 2 up until the British tank fleet was the Challenger 2. For those that want a condensed history on British tank design and where we got it wrong and right is covered perfectly in short style that keeps the information interesting . The condensed story on how good a tank the Chieftain was in terms of great innovations, but let down terribly by its engine reliability that cost it heavily on the export market. The story of how an Iranian tank requirement became the Challenger 1 with the fall of the Shah of Iran is a great little read for the modeller into the story of this tank. The Challenger 1 did not perform well in gunnery competitions, but it came of age and performed very well in combat during the Gulf War.
The section looking at the Challenger 1 in detail is a mix of good and bad in my opinion as the close ups of the various elements are great visual reference and also provides interior images plus ammunition which many will find of help and interest in their model making efforts. The downside of this area is that there are some overall photographs, but they are too small to be of great help I feel. With that said the image of a Challenger 1 under camouflage netting may spark some ideas. The section looking at the Challenger 1 variants does not really require its own area of the title as externally nothing really changed, but there is a rare photograph of a Challenger 1 fitted with a fuel bladder rather than fuel drums and features something that was happily done away with.
The specialist variants is a section that has been split. I found the text of little interest to me personally as it was not an area that really appealed, but it does provide a full story on the Challenger 1. The images provided here on the other hand are very appealing as it shows not only the variants but also the Challenger 1 in some very interesting positions when it comes to getting stuck and needing help.
The section providing the drawings of the Challenger 1 has been very well tackled due to it showing a good range of finishes. I also appreciate that the tank has been covered from one side, top, front and back which make these drawings of maximum use. One covered here that will really catch the eye is a Challenger 1 in tiger stripes and I was pleased to see the Jordanian tanks covered here. The finished models provided here are great examples of the craft, but could have proved so much more helpful if the aftermarket and scratch work utilised was covered when it comes to the finished item, but I must give credit it that this has been tackled to a degree. The models covered here are:
Challenger 1 Mk 3, British Royal Armoured Corps, IFOR. Kosovo, in 1/35th scale by Paul Crocker
Challenger 1 Mk 3, Queen’s Royal Hussars, SFOR, Bosnia, 1996, In 1/35th scale by Brian Richardson
Challenger 1 Mk 3, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Operation Granby, Gulf War, 1991, in 1/35th scale by Steve Abbey
Challenger 1 MBT, 1st Royal Tank Regiment, Salisbury Plain Mid 90’s, in 1/72nd scale by Timothy Neate. This model is by far the one I liked the most due to a very well done crew in this scale and a lot of the work during the build and painting process being covered.
When comes to models of the Challenger 1 you are not exactly spoilt for choice. This title looks at 1/76, 1/72nd and 1/35th scale offerings with it would seem to me the only kits worth the bother being the Tamiya 1/35th scale offering and the Revell 1/72nd scale offering. With this said these kit offerings also need help in order to achieve a good quality finish.
The section covering the Challenger 1 in service brings a nice closure to this title that the modeller with the intention of showing the Challenger 1 in action in the zones of conflict in which it has operated.
One thing that is common to these titles and an aspect that I wish was stopped is the splitting of sections to add artist’s drawings and the modelling sections into the book. With that said this book is another excellent addition to the range tank craft titles available. The text is well written and a pleasure to read due to it staying on point and not wandering around the houses. The photographs are mostly very well chosen, with me questioning some of the choices in the ‘Challenger 1 in Detail’ section of the title. I also like the effort put into the captions that accompany the images.
Darren Baker takes a look at one of the Tank Craft series of books covering the Challenger 1 British Main Battle Tank of the Gulf War from Pen and Sword.
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About Darren Baker (CMOT) FROM: ENGLAND - SOUTH WEST, UNITED KINGDOM
I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...