The Motor Pool: Building a Better Shopping Experience

 

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As you may have noticed, our redesigned web site has gone live and now works in a more robust manner on both mobile devices as well as tablets, scaling in size to fit each system’s dimensions. Our blog has been cosmetically changed as well and offers full integration within our main site, and finally our newsletter mailings have been retrofitted to look like our web site. Essentially, everything you see will now have one unified look and take advantage of several enhancements now available to us. We hope you enjoy your shopping experience.

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Are Diecast Manufacturers Fighting the Last War?

 

Its been said that when training for the next military conflict, generals typically do so by fighting the last war, taking lessons learned from the most recent war and then attempting to apply them to the battlefield of the future. While its certainly important to dissect why a particular campaign succeeded and how it was carried out, military planners must nevertheless keep a wary eye on what’s to come using the latest technological breakthroughs, thinking outside the box to come up with new ways, platforms and doctrine to take on even the most determined of foes.

For some reason, this very same allegory seems to apply to today’s diecast manufacturers. Rather than modelling many of the latest weapons destined to be used by today’s warfighter, the current crop of modelmakers seem more content to offer an array of replicas tied to former conflicts instead of following today’s headlines. Thus far, there have only been a smattering of replicas aimed at today’s air forces, the most notable coming in the form of the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, largely due to their connection to the voracious US/UK markets. However, there are other aircraft types now setting foot on the world stage that are screaming to be modeled too, most notably the Russian PAK-FA as well as the PLAAF’s pair of J-31 and J-20 stealth fighters. Yes, Air Force 1 did a credible job of recreating a prototype PAK-FA several years ago that is no longer available, but with Russia scheduled to deploy upwards of 100 PAK-FAs to its front line aviation units later this year, I would think that collectors would be equally happy to add one or even several updated operational schemes to their collections.

The same holds true for the newest Chinese aircraft nearly ready for operational use, which will likely be sent to defend their interests in the South China Sea. Bear in mind that I’m not advocating for a military conflict to settle geographic disputes, particularly with the change of administration in Washington DC taking place today, however, I do think its important that military enthusiasts, collectors, analysts and even those people that could care less about a regional confrontation have some sort of point of reference to look upon, as we enter, what many believe to be a Second Cold War.

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Product Spotlight: Marine Adversaries

 

Among the many new items we’ve received over the past month or so, are two Northrop F-5 Freedom fighters operated by the USMC under the guise of the VMFT-401 “Snipers”. These aircraft are used to emulate several Russian adversarial aircraft and help teach pilots how to evade, engage and hopefully destroy an agile enemy aircraft under varying conditions.

Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401) is a United States Marine Corps Reserve fighter squadron flying the F-5N Tiger II. Known as the “Snipers”, the squadron is the only adversary squadron in the Marine Corps, also is the first and only reserve squadron in the Marine Corps tasked to act as the opposing force in simulated air combat. They are based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and fall under the command of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Aircraft Group 41. VMFT-401 is a non-deployable unit.

Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401) was activated on March 18, 1986 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. In June 1987 the squadron received a number of Israeli F-21A Kfirs and during that year logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time during 16 major exercises. In 1989, they transitioned to the F-5E Tiger II which they still use.

Following the inactivation of Marine Aircraft Group 46 in June 2009, VMFT-401 transitioned under Marine Aircraft Group 41.

The squadron was recognized by the Commandant of the Marine Corps for flying more than 50,000 mishap-free flight hours. They broke the 50,000 hour mark in early July 2010 having not had a mishap since October 1995. At an average of 45 minutes per flight, 50,000 hours equates to nearly 70,000 mishap free sorties.

Shown here are USMC Northrop F-5F Tiger II Fighter – VMFT-401 “Snipers,” 25th Anniversary, Yuma NAS, Arizona, August 2011 (HA3324) and USMC Northrop F-5F Tiger II Fighter – VMFT-401 “Snipers,” Yuma NAS, Arizona, June 2006 (HA3325).

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The US Army: What Comes Next After the M1 Abrams?

 

For decades, the US Army’s family of M1 Abrams main battle tanks has been viewed as the king of the battlefield, demonstrating a lethal combination of firepower, mobility and armored protection that have come to symbolize the holy grail of armored warfare. Yet even with its track record and continued upgrade cycle to keep it up-to-date, which now comes in the form of the M1A2 SEP V4 scheduled to be fielded by US armored units in the early 2020s, the Defense Department recognizes that the venerable Abrams tank can only be upgraded to a point before it becomes obsolete and untenable as a fighting platform.

That said, the US Army’s TARDEC (Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center) is currently exploring a multitude of concepts for a new built-from-the-ground-up tank that is not only lighter, but more lethal yet survivable against threats from both the ground as well as the air. We Are the Mighty recently published a report on what just such a system might look like when it is scheduled to hit the battlefield in the 2030s. Integrating an Active Protection System (APS), and updated sensor package, more robust power plant, and latest munitions, the as yet unnamed vehicle will still likely feature tracks as opposed to wheels to get around from point-to-point and could potentially employ a laser weapons system as its primary means of taking on the enemy. More information on what lies ahead can be found here: http://www.wearethemighty.com/articles/the-us-army-next-generation-tank-abrams

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Forces of Valor Catches a Wave

 

Perhaps drawing inspiration from the Beach Boys classic, Waltersons showed off the new and improved packaging for their relaunched 1:700 sale warships series. Besides opening differently, making it far more easier to remove from its outer box, the new design features a wave-like blister in which the warship sits, which will differ markedly from ship-to-ship to signify the changes in wakes formed by each warship as it passes through the surf.

Look for the first squadron of warships to set sail later this winter. We are still awaiting pricing and dates of availability for some of the new toolings announced earlier this month.

In related news, the Company also posted several images of the new display stand being developed for each warship. Each ship will sit atop twin diecast metal pillars, that will be finished in chrome rather than gold, and attached to a wood-like display plinth, thereby making them much more attractive as potential conversation pieces on desks and credenzas.

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New Line: Atlas Editions Silver Classics

 

As a retailer, one of our principal roles is to regularly curate our product portfolio, weighing the pros and cons of carrying every range offered to us. At the end of the day, its easy to list everything produced in the diecast space, however, its quite another thing to turn a profit, move product at an acceptable rate (“turn”) and justify why it is taking up room and precious dollars in our inventory. That said, I was hesitant, at first, about carrying a new line of silver plated aircraft produced by Atlas Editions, wondering how they might be viewed by traditional collectors and military enthusiaists. After taking a closer look at the line and scrutinizing some of the online photos, we decided to take the plunge and stock this sleek commemorative series, which are expected in early February. Each of these beautifully cast aircraft are heavy in the hand and come silver plated, attached to handsome wooden display bases and even silver plated risers, making them highly attractive desktop souvenirs and wonderful conversation pieces for anyone even mildly interested in the history of aviation. Priced at just $29.99 apiece, you can even collect the entire series without busting the budget and potentially hand them out to other curiosity seekers looking to gain a foothold in our hobby.

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Product Spotlight: We’re High on Hornets

 

While the aviation community seems to be focusing on 5th generation stealth fighters, both President-elect Trump and Hobby Master seem to be more taken aback with F/A-18 Super Hornets. Admittedly, Super Hornets are no replacement for the more expensive F-35 Joint Strike Fighters now entering service, but they still look cool and will likely carry on for some time until the F-35s completely replace them some time in the 2020s.

This January, Hobby Master released not one but two brand new toolings for the venerable F/A-18 Super Hornets: one and E model operated by VFA-14 “Tophatters” (HA5101) and the other an F variant supplied to VFA-103 “Jolly Rogers” (HA5102). Both versions are now in stock, loaded to bear, and ready to take center stage amidst any diecast aviator’s collection.

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Product Spotlight: Heinkels Over the Arctic

 

 

“The worst journey in the world.”

– British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in his remarks about the lend-lease convoys transiting the Arctic to reach the Russian ports of Archangel and Murmansk

Among its many roles, the He 111 served as a torpedo bomber in the Battle of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. In the Atlantic campaign the Luftwaffe created Fliegerführer Atlantik for this purpose. In the spring 1941, the Luftwaffe had been using conventional bombs to attack shipping more often than not. Such a method resulted in heavy losses to He 111 units in aircraft and crew as the 111s attack point was too close. III./Kampfgeschwader 40 had only eight of 32 crews remaining by April 1941 and had to be withdrawn. Most He 111 units were replaced by the faster Junkers Ju 88 and Dornier Do 217 which also suffered losses, but not to the extent of the He 111.

A proper aerial torpedo could have prevented such losses. The German Navy had purchased Horton naval torpedo patents from Norway in 1933 and the Whitehead Fiume patent from Italy in 1938. But air-launched torpedo development was slow. In 1939 trials with Heinkel He 59 and Heinkel He 115 had revealed a 49 percent failure rate owing to aerodynamic difficulties and depth control and fusing difficulties. Until 1941 the Luftwaffe obtained poor results in this field. When in 1941 the Luftwaffe took an active interest, the Kriegsmarine resisted Luftwaffe involvement and collaboration and direct requests by the Luftwaffe to take over development was refused. With the Atlantic campaign in full swing, the Luftwaffe needed a torpedo bomber to allow its aircraft to avoid increased shipboard anti-aircraft armament. It set up a number of schools devoted to torpedo attack at Gossenbrode, Germany and Athens, Greece. It was found that the He 111 was highly suited to such operations. In December 1941 the Luftwaffe was granted the lead in torpedo development. Trials at Grossenbrode enabled the He 111 to carry two torpedoes, while the Ju 88 could also manage the same number and remain faster in flight. KG 26 was equipped with both the He 111 and Ju 88. Some 42 He 111s served with I./KG 26 flying out of Norway.

The He 111’s ordnance was the Italian Whitehead Fiume 850 kg (1,870 lb) torpedo and the German F5 50 kg (110 lb) light torpedo. Both functioned over a distance of 3 km (1.9 mi) at a speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) The Whitedhead armament weighed over 200 kg (440 lb). To make an attack the He 111 pilot had to drop to 40 m (130 ft) and reduce air speed to 190 km/h (120 mph). The water depth had to a minimum of 15 m (49 ft). In comparison to the Italian and German-designed ordnance, the Imperial Japanese Navy‘s Type 91 torpedo — the ordnance which proved so devastating to the U.S. Navy‘s warships during the Attack on Pearl Harbor — would end up being considered for German production as the Luftorpedo LT 850, after its plans were taken to Germany nine months later by IJN submarine I-30 on August 2, 1942.

The He 111 was committed to operations in the Arctic Ocean against the Arctic convoys traveling to the Soviet Union from North America and the United Kingdom. One notable action involved I./KG 26 attacking Convoy PQ 17 in June 1942. I./KG 26 and its He 111s sank three ships and damaged three more. Later, III./KG 26 helped Ju 88s of III./KG 30 based at Banak sink several more ships. Some 25 out of 35 merchant ships were sunk altogether. Convoy PQ 16 was also successfully intercepted by KG 26, who claimed four vessels, but lost six crews in return. Convoy PQ 18 was also intercepted during 13 15 September 1942. In total some 13 out of 40 ships were sunk. However it cost the Luftwaffe 40 aircraft, of which 20 were KG 26 He 111s. Of the 20 crews, 14 were missing.[42]

He 111 torpedo units continued to operate with success elsewhere. Anti-shipping operations in the Black Sea against the Soviet Navy were also carried out. The Soviets mainly sailed at night and singly, making interception very difficult. The Soviets also heavily protected their shipping at sea and in port. Anti-aircraft defensive fire was severe in daylight and at night was supported by searchlights, though these measures did not stop the He 111 completely. Geschwader continued to press home their attacks with some success.

In the Mediterranean theatre the Allies had won air superiority by 1943 but the torpedo Geschwader, KG 26, continued to operate He 111s in shipping attack units. The He 111s attacked Allied shipping along the African coast flying from bases in Sicily and Sardinia both in daylight and darkness. In spite of nightfighers and anti-aircraft defences the He 111s continued to get through to their targets. Losses meant a gradual decline in experienced crews and standards of attack methods. Such missions were largely abandoned in the spring owing to shortages in aircraft and crews. By April, KG 26 could only scrape together some 13 Ju 88 and He 111 torpedo bombers. With the exception of I./KG 26 all other groups converted onto the Ju 88.

Look for Corgi’s recently announced Heinkel He-111H-6 torpedo bomber some time this summer (AA33715).

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Hobby Master Proves Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

 

It never ceases to amaze me how collectors can’t have enough of a particular warbird. I’m not talking F-4 Phantom IIs or even the venerable F-14 Tomcat, both of which have their own unique critics, fans, and well wishers. Friends, I’m talking the Fairchild A-10 Warthog ground attack aircraft, a much maligned aircraft that the Air Force has been trying to shed and re-embrace for several years. First introduced into the Hobby Master lineup back in 2007, and priced at just $39.99, the latest incarnation (HA1322) sold out in a matter of mere weeks this holiday season, even though it was offered at nearly three times the price of the inaugural tank buster.

The next version (HA1323) is currently poised to hit the streets in February and, in many respects, looks very similar to the most recent one that quickly sold out, meaning there’s still hope for those of you looking to pick up a “Warthog” even at current market prices. Goes to show beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

 

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Solido Takes a Curtain Call

 

When I entered this hobby some twenty years ago, french modelmaker, Solido, was one of the dominant players in the diecast military space. Producing a wide range of 1:43-1:50 scale military vehicles, and a smattering of 1:18 scale jeeps, Solido was a perennial favorite, even if they used and reused several molds ad infinitum to come up with new variations on a popular theme. In time, however, they withdrew from the military scene for any number of reasons, although always loitering in the background, like a back up actor, as if to one day make a return engagement.

In 2017, it appears as if they are finally ready to take a curtain call, thanks in large part to a wide array of previously released War Master 1:72 scale vehicles and aircraft that have been re-purposed and re-packaged for the Solido.market  There were rumors that the Company would also be offering an even larger range of 1:43 scale military vehicles previously produced by Eaglemoss, which looks to be the case as evinced by several images posted on their Facebook page. If so, then Solido looks to be well poised to re-enter the military market, offering a steady diet of multi-ranged vehicles and aircraft that should delight the average collector for years to come.

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Waltersons Calls Out Their 2017 Cadence

 

We’re just a few days into 2017 and several weeks away from the opening of the all-important Nuremberg Toy Fair, yet already several companies are looking to get the ball rolling early and announce their 2017 line ups ahead of their competition. Earlier today, Waltersons posted a Forces of Valor brochure to their Facebook page which showcases their first and second quarter 1:32 scale diecast military vehicles as well as their 1:700 warships series. Currently, we are in the midst of adding all of the new introductions to our product portfolio, and will address pricing for several of the new warships once they are made official. For now though, you can ogle some of their soon-to-be-released products, and place pre-orders, where appropriate for items that show a retail price. We hope to add any new imagery, where applicable, once they are unveiled by the manufacturer.

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