February 2019

Anatomy of War: When is an Aircraft Too Old to Fight?

By now, most of us have heard that fighting has erupted between India and Pakistan near the embattled Kashmir region. What is surprising is that the Indian Air Force employed aircraft that are decades old, famous for last seeing combat in the 60s and 70s during the Vietnam War.

According to sources, India has steadily been upgrading its fleet of 110 MiG 21 fighters, so that it no longer resembles the MiG 21 of old. The MiG 21 “Bison”, as it is now called, was radically upgraded in 2006, and have been equipped with powerful multi-mode radar, better avionics and communications systems. The pilots have even been given helmet-mounted sights capable of providing all-aspect acquisition and targeting of enemy aircraft. That said, it is now plausible that an upgraded MiG 21 could have indeed shot down a Pakistani F-16 in air-to-air combat, which, on the surface, is infinitely more capable than the MiG 21. For more information on the engagement and background information on the MiG 21 “Bison”, we recommend you visit NDTV.

Update: Indian military authorities, responding to questions regarding the employment of the MiG 21 in this week’s engagement between the Indian and Pakistani Air Force, have cited the need to press the MiG 21s into service despite their age. Earlier that day a pair of Indian Air Force MiG 29s were rotated off of combat air patrol along the contested border to rest the pilots as well as refuel the aircraft. As a result, the MiG 21s were used to temporarily spell the MiG 29s but were nevertheless caught up in the ensuing conflict.

 
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Exasperated, Eaglemoss Exhorts, “Well, then Go Build Your Own ‘D’amned Enterprise”

Its a wonderful thing to own the license to one of the most successful sci-fi brands of all times. So much so, that Eaglemoss, the maker of the Star Trek Starships range and other sub brands within the Star Trek universe, now plans on releasing a build-it-yourself version of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D. Released bi-weekly, each installment will include a separate section of the Enterprise, which will have to be fitted together to previous installments if you hope to get it right. Composed of diecast metal with some plastic parts, the finished ship will light up and measure some 70 centimeters in length and represents an amalgam of different studio-inspired ships rather than one particular version of the NCC-1701-D. Thus far, the line will be exclusive to the UK, but you can bet that if it takes off, the build-it-yourself line will be made available elsewhere around the world and likely encompass other starships. For more information on the newest sub brand in the Eaglemoss stable, head on over to Memory Alpha.

Rumor has it that there will be 100 installments priced at around $15.00 apiece bringing the total to around $1500. That’s a lot of Latinum so if you plan on headed down this road, its important you consider the cost before taking the plunge.

 
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Anatomy of War: Introducing the “Loyal Wingman”

No longer the stuff of drawing boards and conjecture, today’s military is placing greater emphasis on integrating unmanned combat systems into their front line units. Interestingly, Australia seems to be taking the first step forward by now wedding unmanned aircraft together with manned aircraft to create the ultimate airborne weapons system.

According to The Drive, Boeing will today unveil the “Loyal Wingman” UCAV, an unmanned combat air vehicle that will fly alongside such aircraft as the F-15 and newly delivered F-35 to beef up the capabilities of the combined strike package. The UCAV will carry improved sensor suites and other electronics along with a full array of ordnance, although its not clear if the weapons will be carried internally, like the F-35, or be slung under the wings, which defeat’s the aircraft’s stealthy characteristics.

It isn’t certain if other air forces plan on employing unmanned combat air vehicles alongside their front line aircraft, so its a good bet that the Australian Air Force will be used as a test bed for further technological development. For more information on the aircraft, visit The Drive.

Boeing, working in conjunction with the Australian military, released this short video showing a computer rendered image of the “Loyal Wingman” flying alongside a F-15 and then again with an Early Warning aircraft. The video is relatively short and intentionally sidesteps some of the onboard capabilities the unmanned aircraft will sport. It would appear though, that the aircraft can and will likely be flown in swarms, intended to overwhelm its target from multiple vantage points and with multiple threats. Moreover, it would seem as if the manned aircraft will serve as a command and control aircraft for the UCAV package, perhaps controlling the UCAVs from a safer stand-off position outside the range of enemy targets while the UCAVs carry out their intended mission.

 
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Tales of Transparency: Why We Do What We Do

From time to time, we get asked an uncomfortable question or two where the answer we provide never seems to sit well with the customer. Two of the most pervasive issues have to do with holding merchandise for the customer and refusing to ship to an alternate address. To get everyone on the same page, here’s the reason we do what we do.

To answer the first question we have roughly 15,000 customers in our database. Now if every customer asked us to hold an item or two for them so they could save on shipping costs we would literally have to open a separate warehouse containing held merchandise potentially for indefinite periods of time. Not only is this problematic for any number of reasons, the simplest answer is that we have invoices to pay and cannot do so with held merchandise. Our cash flow would be crimped and, from a logistical standpoint, it simply would not work for us as we continue to stack and dodge piles of unpaid merchandise that could have been sold off.

Now. to answer the second question. We did at one time ship to an alternate address, oftentimes because the item was meant to be given as a gift or no one was going to be home to receive the package. Lo and behold, a few years ago we shipped two radio controlled vehicles to an alternate address as stipulated on the order. A few weeks later, we received a charge back notification in the mail from our credit card processor. It turns out that even though we provided proof of delivery, the credit card company would only protect the merchant if he or she ships to the billing address. It doesn’t matter that we got a legitimate authorization code when the sale was entered, did our due diligence by going over all of the order’s details, or shipped the package where it was intended to go and provided proof of delivery. As a result, we got stung and lost the case, leaving us little else but to lose out on a couple of hundred dollars as well as a charge back fee to boot. Now I know that by publicizing this, other merchants might get a bit nervous, but have hopefully taken similar steps to protect their business from fraudulent transactions. I cannot speak for them and they are certainly free to do as they please. But for me, that one bad transaction left a sour taste in my mouth that I never quite got over.

Ebay offers one solution to this quandary. If the mailing address is different than the billing address, the customer must stipulate where the package is to be sent in their closed messaging system where the merchant, customer and eBay representative can see the back-and-forth communiques. At that point, eBay will protect the merchant should the customer still decide to open a case for non-receipt of goods or claim they never ordered the merchandise to begin with. Its not the best solution for everyone concerned, but one that seems to work given the vagaries of e-commerce and the risk the merchant is willing to undertake to help a customer and complete a sale.

 
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Air Commander Adds Another Phantom to the Pattern

Air Commander’s 1:72 scale USAF McDonnell F-4D Phantom II Fighter-Bomber – 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon RTAB, Thailand, 1967

While not necessarily big on offering a multitude of different aircraft types to choose from, Air Commander has certainly made it up by having built a huge following of F-4 Phantom II devotees. That said, news out of the Air Commander camp has it that another Phantom is waiting in the wings, likely due out this Spring and already making a name for itself.

Clad in a tri-color southeast Asian camouflage scheme, their latest fighter-bomber is based on an aircraft that served with the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, then engaged in the Vietnam War during 1967 (AC1010). Looking back, a detachment of the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron operated under the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, which was deployed to Ubon RTAFB, Thailand, from June 5th until July 2nd, 1966. It conducted air defense in Southeast Asia from October 12th to December 20th, 1965, and combat sorties from July 1966 to August 15th, 1973.

Typically, Air Commander F-4s sell out very quickly, largely because they offer the best detail and one of the greatest returns on the dollar if you approach it purely from a speculative investment. Of course, no one likes to think about parting with their models, but its always nice to know they tend to increase in value as collectors search for them in vain.

Thus far, all we have is this line art drawing to go by but a word-for-the-wise, if you wait until actual photos are posted it may be too late to pre-order this beauty.

 
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Panzerkampf 2.0


Panzerkampf’s 1:72 scale US Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Air Defense System with M901 Launching Station – Desert Camouflage

I’ve been told by one informed source that we never gave newcomer Panzerkampf a fair shake when it came to adding their products to our online catalog. Frankly, I wasn’t all that impressed when the range first appeared since many of the 1:72 scale vehicles looked to be rehashes of already available product. We’re not in business to offer redundant lines that gather dust on the shelves and leave us wondering why we stocked them in the first place.


Panzerkampf’s 1:72 scale Soviet Object 279 Special Purpose Tank

But, with 2019 already in full swing, and several existing lines withering on the vine, we thought we’d give them a second chance and add a few products to our site. Moreover, we noticed several interesting new items due out later this year that are already appearing on some European retail sites. So, rather than shunt them to the side a second time, we’re looking to give them another chance and hopefully see some stellar results. New blood is always welcome to our site, however, there has to be a reason to carry more plasma, not simply because they are the latest flavor in the candy store with nothing else to show for it.

Panzerkampf’s 1:72 scale US Ground Self-Defense Forces M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) (1:72 Scale)
 
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Dissecting Diecast: Industry Standards

Occasionally, I feel as if I’m the self-appointed elder statesman of our little hobby. I’ve been in the business for more years than I care to remember, getting my start in the early 80s as a store manager for a local toy chain. I’ve since worn the hat of buyer, salesman, merchandise manager, and, yes, owner, and have witnessed all sorts of comings and goings in the business, some good and some, well, not so good.

Lately there seems to be a disturbing trend of manufacturers not supplying distributors and retailers with the proper information to help sell their merchandise. Now I fully recognize that in many instances there are all sorts of reasons for this issue to occur, from differences in time zones between the US and Asian shores to language barriers. However, its 2019 folks. This isn’t the early 80s where US-based companies went over to China to open a new factory only to discover a litany of hurdles they first had to overcome before they could hit the ground running.

Let’s look at some of the latest irritations I currently see. For some strange reason, one manufacturer likes to show their latest wares on a day-glow green background instead of the traditional white, transparent background. Not only is this the preferred means of showing a new item but companies such as Amazon now frown on any images uploaded that do not meet this criteria. Taking a photo is a relatively simple endeavor. Facebook typically runs a number of ads for inexpensive light boxes, complete with turn tables and tear down instructions. Couple that with a smart phone and voila, you become a photographic tyro overnight. Then, of course, there are the companies that refuse to provide photographs at all, even when the product is finished, all boxed up and ready for transport for all the world to see. That, I simply do not understand. It literally takes just a few minutes to take a handful of winning photographs, which, after spending months developing and producing an item, should be a snap to pull off.

Second, there is the issue of the International Article Number, which are supposed to be included below the vertical bar code to help identify the product. For the uninformed, the International Article Number is a standard describing a barcode symbology and numbering system used in global trade to identify a specific retail product type, in a specific packaging configuration, from a specific manufacturer.

You do not place an SKU here, toss in some baby photos or post a recipe for cream puffs — it is meant for the 12-digit International Article Number, which is designed to identify both the manufacturer and the product code on standardized global terms, so that it can then be properly added to the product portfolio of several leading marketplace venues.

Folks. Chinese New Year is over and I certainly hope this little soapbox rant doesn’t fall on deaf ears now that everyone is back to work and busy working on their 2019 line up. Work with your supply chain to provide the best possible product you can, not only in terms of physical appearance but in terms of background information too. It will help everyone concerned and you may find that it will even lead to greatly increased sales

 
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Eaglemoss Super-Sizes the Star Trek Discovery Universe


Eaglemoss’ Star Trek Klingon Ship of the Dead – The Sarcophagus [With Collector Magazine]

Having only seen the first episode of CBS’ cable series, Star Trek Discovery, I fully admit I don’t know all that much about the ongoing story or its place within the Star Trek timeline. What I can say though is that the Klingons have certainly evolved since the original television series of the 1960s, something I used to watch religiously as a kid some fifty years ago.

Take this upcoming model from Eaglemoss, for example. Known as The Sarcophagus, a so-called Ship of the Dead starship, it looks about as out-of-place in the original Star Trek series as a Tribble laying siege to the Vulcan home world. According to Star Trek lore, “The Sarcophagus, or Ship of the Dead, was a starship that originally served as the flagship of the House of T’Kuvma. The ship, which was considered holy, belonged to T’Kuvma’s father. Upon his death, when T’Kuvma was a child, it lay abandoned for children to play in until T’Kuvma rediscovered it and vowed to restore the honor of his House.

In 2256, the Sarcophagus was encountered by the USS Shenzhou at the edge of Federation space, six light years from Gamma Hydra. The vessel later instigated the Battle of the Binary Stars by firing on the Shenzhou, but was disabled by a bomb afterward and T’Kuvma was killed by a Starfleet boarding party.

Colorful yet undoubtedly ominous, the Sarcophagus is the first model in Eaglemoss’ newly minted Discovery XL range, meaning its a lot bigger than the average Star Trek Discovery model which began warping across the galaxy last year. Slated to enter Federation space some time this spring, we have begun accepting pre-orders for it and await news concerning other ships in the XL range.

 
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Anatomy of War: Down to the Sea in Drones?

For years, submarine warfare has remained one of the most dangerous forms of warfare, claiming man and machine at an alarming rate even when a conflict has ended and everyone else has gone home to lick their wounds. Grappling with the many perils faced with the conduct of undersea warfare has long been a contentious issue for all the world’s navies, even when the potential rewards of lurking in the ocean’s depths seem to far outweigh their incredible risk.

The US Navy, obviously looking to reduce costs and lessen the risk associated with underwater combat yet still carry out undersea operations, recently decided to purchase a fleet of four Extra-Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (XLUUVs) from Boeing. So valuable are these undersea drones that, according to Popular Mechanics, “(they) will be capable of crossing entire oceans and fulfilling a variety of missions, from hunting mines to sinking submarines.”

“The Orca is based on the Echo Voyager technology demonstration sub. That boat is an unmanned diesel electric submarine launched and recovered from a pier. It has a range of 6,500 nautical miles and can run completely alone for months at a time. It measures 51 by 8.5 by 8.5 feet and has a weight “in the air” of 50 tons.”

Designed in part to deal with a myriad of underwater threats, “the unmanned submarines will be able to undertake missions from scouting to sinking ships at very long ranges. Drone ships like the Orca will revolutionize war at sea, providing inexpensive, semi-disposable weapon systems that can fill the gaps in the front line—or simply go where it’s too dangerous for manned ships to go.”

For more information on the Orcas, and the likely impact they will have on naval combat in the 21st Century, visit the Popular Mechanics web site.

 
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Oxford Hauls Out Things that Go Boom


Oxford’s 1:76 scale British BL 18-inch Railway Howitzer – “Gladiator” (1:76 Scale)

Every so often it takes the nudging of a customer to point out a new item that catches us completely unaware. Such is the case with Oxford’s upcoming British BL 18-inch Railway Howitzer, a beast if ever there was one, even if its being offered in a somewhat diminitive 1:76 scale (that’s OO Gauge for you railroad buffs). Apparently two versions are being offered: one in a monochrome green motif and dubbed “Gladiator”. The second is a more robust version, since its wedded to a two-piece locomotive set and painted in a multi-colored camouflage scheme.


Oxford’s 1:76 scale British BL 18-inch Railway Howitzer and Rod 2330 Locomotive Set – “Boche Buster” (1:76 Scale)

I guess the manufacturer is demonstrating a bit of a sense of humor since both products come with a “BOOM” prefix in their SKU. Be that as it may, we’re hoping to nab actual photos of both guns soon, since it was reported online that one has already arrived at the Oxford warehouse in Jolly Old England. Incidentally, a third variant of the railway gun is listed on the manufacturer’s site: “Boche Buster”, complete with digitally-enhanced sound effects. A nice feature to be sure, but one we think collectors might sidestep due to its ear-splitting asking price of $349.

 
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