November 2016

Product Spotlight: “The Mighty One”

 

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“The F-35 is the fighter plane of the future that will allow Israel to maintain its aerial superiority and its technological advantage in the region… The F-35 will give the IAF better capabilities, both near and far, to help strengthen Israel’s national security.”

– Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak

On December 12th, the Israeli Air Force will take delivery of its first pair of Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, which will then be operated from the Nevatim Airbase, near Beershba, in Israel’s Negev Desert. The Israeli version will be a modified “A” variant and, as customary with the IAF, will carry its own name to distinguish it from the same aircraft flown by other air forces. The “Adir” or “Mighty One” represents a significant departure for the IAF, who will, for the first time, possess a low-observable fighter/attack aircraft that can penetrate enemy air defense networks with little fear of retaliation.

Thus far, 50 aircraft have been ordered by Israel, and perhaps more will be necessary since they are replacing 326 aging F-16 fighters flown by the IAF, as well as several dozen F-15 Eagles.

Unique adaptations have been made to facilitate the integration of Adir with the IAF operational fleet. One of the most critical elements was the introduction of command, control and communications applications necessary to operate the new fighter within the IAF indigenous Command and Control environment. The development of this application has been completed at IAI’s labs and is now in production for the aircraft destined for Israel.

A first batch of 19 aircraft Israel is expected to receive will be the standard model operated by the US Air Force and other partner nations, it is expected to carry a limited weapon’s load comprising of two Boeing GBU-31s (JDAM) and two Lockheed Martin GBU-12s (Paveway laser guided bombs) or two Raytheon AMRAAM beyond visual range (BVR) air/air missiles. All will be carried internally.

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Further adaptations expected to mature for the second batch will include the integration of certain ordnance types operated by the IAF, such as the Rafael Spice 1000 guided weapons. The more complex task is the integration of weapons carried in the internal weapon bay, thus maintaining full stealth capability of the aircraft. Other types can be taken as external stores, must also go through the lengthy integration process.

Hobby Master’s upcoming look at the IAF F-35A “Adir” Joint Strike Fighter (HA4410) is expected in May 2017, and we will post pictures of it just as soon as they are made available.

 
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The Motor Pool’s “Happy Holidays” 15% Off Sale!

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Why fight for parking, stand on long lines or deal with rude store clerks this crazy week when you can just as easily save time, energy, money and your sanity with The Motor Pool’s “Happy Holidays” 15% Off Sale! This discount may only be applied to any in-stock item listed on our web site and may not be applied to the following lines: Hobby Master, Wings of the Great War, Air Force 1, Luft-X and Aviation 72. Please enter discount code ” TMP162” in the coupon box just prior to final checkout. Sale ends midnight, Tuesday, December 20th, 2016. May not be combined with any other sales discount.

 
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The US Marine Corps Keeps on Truckin’

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As Detroit looks towards producing fully-autonomous tractor trailers for the nation’s highways, and the US Navy puts unmanned surface and submersible vessels to sea around the globe, it was perhaps just a matter of time before drones were taken seriously as a means of moving assets from Point A to Point B. The venerable Stars and Stripes reports that the US Marine Corps is looking to field an unmanned tilt-rotor drone which can carry cargo and carry out other vital missions by 2023. Dubbed the V-247 Vigilant, the new Bell Helicopter proposal is slightly smaller than a manned V-22 Osprey, enabling it to take off and land on somewhat smaller sea-based platforms with limited space.

“Through plug-and-play mission packages, the Vigilant will be able to carry a significant payload and execute electronic-warfare, intelligence, surveillance-and-reconnaissance, escort, command-and-control, communications and fire missions,” says Stars and Stripes.

“The advantage that the Bell V-247 Vigilant provides is that it does not need a runway or other airfield resources,” said Vince Tobin, vice president of Advanced Tiltrotor Systems for Bell Helicopter. “It can, therefore, be co-located with the units on a ship or in the field that will make use of the asset. This reduces the issues associated with link-up at the proper place and time for the unit prosecuting military operations and the fixed-wing [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] that may be taking off from a runway hundreds of miles away.”

There are many instances in which a vertical-takeoff-and-landing platform is more advantageous than a fixed-wing, runway-launched platform, Tobin said.

“In those cases, the Bell V-247 Vigilant provides the speed, range, payload and flexibility to meet mission requirements,” he said.

 
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Is There Hope for the Minichamps Military Range?

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Several years ago, Minichamps decided to pull the plug on their highly popular range of 1:35 scale military vehicles, citing rising costs as the principal reason for its end. Since that time, we’ve heard from many collectors world over who were dismayed by the sudden stoppage, both thrilled with their replicas and obviously ecstatic over their rise in value since they were no longer available.

While doing a routine search on the Internet this weekend, we noticed one UK retailer had four of the Minichamps vehicles listed as “relaunches” (Tiger I heavy tank, Panther medium tank, Jagdpanther tank destroyer and 251/1 halftrack), although no further information regarding their dates of availability and other pertinent data were listed. We’re not sure if Minichamps does indeed plan to bring out these vehicles going forward, however, we wouldn’t be surprised. The February Toy Fair at Nuremberg, Germany, where most new products are announced, is just a couple of months away and, just a few months ago, Waltersons picked up the entire Forces of Valor range with plans to rebrand and relaunch the entire series.

If this is true, this is obviously terrific news for the collecting community, and we’ll post further details as we learn them. Keep your fingers crossed.

 
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The Motor Pool’s Black Friday to Cyber Monday 20% Off Sale!

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Why fight for parking, stand on long lines or deal with rude store clerks this crazy week when you can just as easily save time, energy, money and your sanity with The Motor Pool’s “Black Friday to Cyber Monday” 20% Off Sale! This discount may only be applied to any in-stock item listed on our web site and may not be applied to the following lines: Hobby Master, Wings of the Great War, Air Force 1, Luft-X and Aviation 72. Please enter discount code “TMP161” in the coupon box just prior to final checkout. Sale ends midnight, Monday, November 28th, 2016. May not be combined with any other sales discount.

 
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Huge Price Hikes a Possibility in 2017

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“I would do a tax [on China]. And the tax, let me tell you what the tax should be … the tax should be 45%.”

  • Donald Trump, January 7th, 2016

When Donald Trump won the general election for the US presidency last week, one of his central and recurring promises was the tearing up of existing trade treaties between the US and a number of countries to seek a more equitable trade balance and possibly bring manufacturing jobs home to American soil. Trump also labeled the Peoples Republic of China as a currency manipulator, regularly adjusting the value of their currency to fit its economic goals and spur growth at home, oftentimes at the expense of other nations. Since the bulk of diecast manufacturing is done in China, and the GOP now controls both houses of Congress as well as the executive branch, there’s a good chance that one of Trump’s first acts when he takes office will be revisiting each ratified trade treaty, and, perhaps as a means of leverage, walking away from each deal, and imposing tariffs as high as 45% on foreign made goods. How this will affect new products being imported into the US going forward is anyone’s guess, no doubt increasing the cost of bringing in finished goods in an effort to bring about trade parity. Trump has likewise threatened to impose heavy tariffs on Mexico, the next most likely choice for relocating production capacity from Asia to the Americas, so anyone thinking that a Mexican gambit closer to home might be in for a rude awakening when NAFTA is reexamined.

Our guess is that many diecast manufacturers will seek to hasten the import of goods into the US ahead of his taking office and prior to Chinese New Year, in an effort to bring in as much product before any tariffs are imposed. Its unclear how the balance of 2017 will shake out, particularly if the price hikes remain in effect for an extended period of time or if the economy takes a turn for the worse, as some economists predict. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/donald-trump-trade-war-china-would-hurt-america-experts-n685886

 
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Product Spotlight: The German Ehrhardt Strassenpanzerwagen E-V/4 Armored Car

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“You will be home before the leaves fall from the trees.”

– German Emperor Wilhelm II, addressing German soldiers departing for the front in WWI, August 1914

Every so often, a new product crosses our desk that seems to come out of nowhere yet has a dramatic impact. Earlier today, one such item came to light: a WWI-era German Ehrhardt Strassenpanzerwagen E-V/4 Armored Car (ATL7210001). Produced by Atlas Editions and offered in 1:43 scale, this interesting little oddity seems to be the first Great War military vehicle made by this prolific publisher, and could signal the start of a brand new series if sales meet or exceed expectations.

The E-V/4 Panzerkraftwagen Ehrhardt was one of the first examples of a type of high and flatsided armoured car design that the Germans used almost until the start of the Second World War for internal policing duties. It weighed nearly 9 tons, had a crew of eight or nine, and carried an armament of up to three machine-guns.

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The very first German armoured cars were special large car or truck chassis adapted to carry a skyward-looking artillery piece for use against observation balloons. These vehicles were collectively known as Ballon Abwehr Kanonen (BAK), though none were taken into large-scale use.

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The Daimler and Ehrhardt armored car prototypes were both reliant on the use of double wheels on each side of the rear, and had flanges on the single wheels at the front of the vehicle, in an effort to reduce ground pressure and so enhance the cross-country mobility of the vehicle to a useful degree. All three cars had a crew of eight or nine men, carried an armament of at least three machine guns, and possessed a maximum armour thickness of 9 mm.

Only a handful of pieces are being made available to us some time in December, so this is going to be one of those first come first served listings that could get gobbled up even before the product hits the shelves.

 
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Product Spotlight: Fly Softly and Carry a Big Stick

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“They have retreated, our troops reached the outskirts of Port Stanley. A large number of Argentinian soldiers have lain down their arms. White flags are flying over Port Stanley. Our troops have issued the command to shoot only in self-defence. Discussions among the commanders on the capitulation of the Argentinian troops in the Falklands have begun.”

– British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, reporting on the British victory over Argentine forces, June 14th, 1982

Back in 1982, Argentina attempted to wrest control of a group of islands in the South Atlantic, known as the Falkland Islands (a.k.a. The Maldives), from the clutches of Great Britain, citing their proximity as the principal reason why it should become Argentinian soil. In response, the British sent the bulk of their fleet and Royal Marines to retake the islands from the Argentinians, and supported the attack with Avro Vulcan strategic bombers carrying conventional ordnance. On May 1st, British operations on the Falklands opened with the first in a series of “Black Buck 1” attacks (of which there were five) on the airfield at Stanley. A Vulcan bomber from Ascension flew on an 8,000-nautical-mile (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) round trip dropping conventional bombs across the runway at Stanley and back to Ascension.

As the final RAF Avro Vulcan squadrons were contemplating their impending withdrawal from service in early 1982, developments in the South Atlantic would see this mighty bomber go to war for the first time in its 26-year service history. Operation “Black Buck” would require a Vulcan to drop 21 conventional 1,000 lb bombs on the runway at Port Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, preventing Argentine forces from using their most capable strike and support aircraft. It would also send a strong message to Argentina’s political leaders that Britain would stop at nothing in re-taking the Islands.

The raid would be launched from RAF Ascension Island, which was some 6,300 km from the Falklands and presented something of a logistical nightmare for military planners. Flown almost entirely over the sea, the Black Buck raids would require the support of twelve Victor tankers on the outbound leg, with a further two for the return flight and all the associated contingency plans.

Taking off from Ascension Island at midnight on April 30th, 1982, Avro Vulcan B.2 XM607 piloted by Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers was to fly as reserve aircraft to the primary bomber XM598 on this highly complex raid, but was quickly promoted to lead aircraft on “Black Buck 1” following technical difficulties encountered by XM598. Embarking on what was the longest bombing raid attempt in history, XM607 was refuelled seven times on its way to the Falkland Islands, before successfully releasing its payload of bombs across the Port Stanley runway.

Following a further rendezvous with a Victor tanker on the way home, XM607 returned to its base on Ascension Island and a place in the history books – if nothing else, this raid illustrated Britain’s determination to take back the Falkland Islands and that they had the capability to do it. Of the seven Black Buck raids planned against Argentine forces on the Falkland Islands, five actually took place and proved to be the only time that Britain’s Mighty Avro Vulcan went to war.

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Corgi’s RAF Avro Vulcan B.2 Strategic Bomber – XM607, RAF No. 44 Squadron, “Operation Black Buck”, Falklands Conflict, South Atlantic, 1982 (AA27203) is expected later this holiday season.

 
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The First Wave of Forces of Valor Gets Set to Hit the Beach

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Earlier this year, when Waltersons announced they had purchased the entire product portfolio comprising the Forces of Valor brand, it was unclear which items would be offered first and when. Well, we now have an answer. The first four vehicles in their 1:24 scale radio controlled military vehicle range have been shipped out to their distributor network and, barring any unforeseen issues, could conceivably make it under the Christmas tree this holiday season.

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The quarter includes a Tiger I heavy tank, PzKpfw IV Ausf. H medium tank, US M4A3 Sherman medium tank and even a Soviet T-34/85 medium tank. The remaining vehicles in the original range have been given the green light for a 2017 release, although that could occur further down the road.

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Since no information was disseminated concerning their static model range, and pictures have yet to be shown, we are assuming that the first wave won’t arrive until early 2017, at the earliest. New items will likely be discussed at the upcoming Nuremberg Toy Fair, held in German in early February, although the manufacturer has already hinted at quite a few new vehicles for release next year.

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Films in Focus: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

There seems to be no shortage of war films coming to market, the vast majority of which seemed to be based upon real-life events in WWII. This week, a new military-themed movie hits theaters, this time around examining the fictional exploits of a US Army squad caught up in the War to liberate Iraq in 2003. Directed by Ang Lee, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a novel written by Ben Fountain, which was published in early May 2012 by Ecco Press, a publishing imprint of HaperCollins. The novel chronicles the experience of a group of Iraq War Veterans who are hailed as heroes and sent on a victory tour following their engagement in an intense firefight that happened to be caught on camera. Set during a single day, the story primarily focuses on Specialist Billy Lynn’s perspective as he struggles to reconnect with his family and come to grips with the huge disconnect between the realities of the war at home and the war overseas as Bravo Squad is sent to participate in the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving halftime show. The novel’s primary themes include brotherhood, the commercialization of war, and what it really means to support the war when the real costs are barely felt by the majority of U.S. citizens at home.

A sharp satire, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is Fountain’s first novel and received highly positive reviews from critics and won several year-end awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Fountain also won the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Awards. The novel was especially praised for its dialogue and “pitch-perfect ear for American talk.” A film adaptation of the novel directed by Ang Lee is scheduled for release in November 2016.

 
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