Again, a major conversion of an Aoshima (ex Gunze Sangyo) stock PA-36
kit. This one has no OAV paradigm (much like the former
"Guntos" conversion), it is rather the interpretation of an
idea on the basis of a Dorvack Powered Armor.
This time, the idea was “Russian battle tank”, with both modern and historic elements. Another, separate idea was to apply a brown color scheme to a PA – and finally, both came together in this kit.
The inspiration for a Russian version came originally when I saw MiG Production’s KV-X2 resin kit of a fictional 4-legged tank which carries a modified KV-2 tank turret on top. This thing looked steampunk, but blunt. And “ground pressure” of “ballistic window” obviously had not been anything the designer(s) had ever heard of. But… what if a Dorvack PA would accompany it?
Additionally, I was reading a very interesting book about modern battle tanks, 'Kampfpanzer - heute und morgen', written by Rolf Hilmes in 2007 – it will probably never be published in any other language than German... It offered lots of state-of-the art picture material and also technical information, as well as insights into design philosophies of modern military combat vehicles around the world.
The final inspirational spark lured finally in my bathroom! One morning, while pondering about these ideas, I used my deo, and... saw the lines and forms of the can’s spray head! *BINGO*! This form would be a perfect addition to a basic PA-36 kit, changing its helmet lines into a much bulkier design. Consequently, the 'PA-36S' (the 'S' suffix was inspired by the famous Russian WWII shtormovik ground attack planes) project was born. And its name would also fit: “Nove горбун”, or “gorbach”, which means “hunchback” in Russian language – also a reminiscence, to the Ilyushin Il-20 ground attack aircraft prototype.
Work started quickly. The spray head from the can was surprisingly easy to transplant, even though major putty work was necessary to make the lines flush. The spray head's plastic was also a bit waxy (I suppose it is PVC), but with super glue and the help of Tamiya putty, everything held together. Surprisingly, the parts fitted well, and the result looks really COOL and pretty different from the round standard PA design – but still consistent.
From there, I incorporated many Russian tank design elements. Since
Russian battle tanks are primarily designed for assault/charge
attacks, I decided that the front would need extra protection. The new
bulky head already suggests this, but as an additional measure I
applied reactive armour plating on the upper body and the front areas,
wherever possible/plausible and where it would not hamper mobility –
keeping the look in line with the Russian KONTAKT system.
The necessary explosive plates were cut from 1mm polystyrol plates, glued onto the hull, sanded with a brass brush on a mini drill in order to achieve a softer and irregular look, and finally the bolts were manually added with small tips of casein glue.
Further modifications include custom knee caps/protectors. These are parts from a plundered Gundam Endless Waltz “Serpent Custom” kit in 1:144 scale, adapted to their new position and embedded with putty. From the same kit also come the shoulder shields – also modified, dented and put on extenders on the upper arms, so that there is room between them and the arm. The idea behind them is to offer additional protection from hollow explosive charges for the hull, esp. the shoulder and air intake area. These new shields actually had to be added, because the original horizontal shoulder shields in front of the jet pack’s air intakes could not be fitted anymore – the air intakes were replaced by scrap parts from an Airfix Kamov Ka-25 helicopter in 1:72. This helicopter kit also donated two searchlights, which were added on the PA’s front hull.
Furthermore, many small details were changed or added. First of all, a
new visor unit with 3 lenses was implanted in the front with a
protective frame. These parts come from a PAM-74AM’s hand weapon, and
they give the PA-36S quite a grunty retro look. On the PA’s top, the
typical hump on the left side was replaced by a bigger/longer piece (a
1:48 scale WWII bomb half). On the back, a heat exchanger (for those
cold Russian nights…) was placed and surrounded by reactive armour
plates. If I remember correctly, this part comes from the horrible
1:72 'Aliens' Dropship kit from Halcyon and was modified. The PA-36's
typical pipelines on the right shoulder were replaced with more
rustic, self-made pieces. These hoses are actually made from Christmas
tree decoration: fine metal coils, which were fitted onto a steel
thread and then cut and bent into shape.
The feet also received some tuning, making them broader in order to improve the PA’s weight distribution in the field and offer improved hold. These parts come from an ESCI 1:72 Jagdpanzer IV kit (track and side skirt parts).
For active defensive measures, I added an IR decoy device on a pole on the PA's back. This thing looks similar to the current Russian ARENA radar defence system's sensor boom. Additionally, on the PA’s helmet sides and on the back, small laser detectors were added, inspired by the similar real Russian SCHTORA (russ. Штора, “curtain”) system. In case of enemy detection and laser designation, the system will trigger IR smoke dischargers (on the PA, four smoke mortars are placed on the left shoulder – parts from an Arii 1:100 Super Valkyrie) for emergency defence.
For armament, I settled for the standard R6 gun which comes with the
stock kit, but also modified it for a beefier look. While the basis
was kept, a short barrel extension was added and a nozzle brake (from
a PAM-74C “Dunc” kit) put in the front. The idea was to create a gun
with a smaller calibre, which would not only fire “slow” HE ammunition
(which I suppose the R6 cannon uses – it looks like a mortar or
howitzer), but faster AP shells. The impressive nozzle break is
supposed to catch the stronger recoil of this different weapon
concept, and it looks good ;)
On the blank (an ugly!) back of the gun, some technical parts were added which “simulate” recoil and gas pressure compensators. The huge, basically empty box on top of the gun (A visor unit? A camera? A bread basket?) received 3 lenses which double the PA’s new 3-lobed visor unit. Finally, a set of flexible, fabric-covered cables connects the gun with an adapter box on the PA’s breast (the original PA-36 has a small flap under its visor for this purpose). This gun then received my personal designation R6M, “M” for modified , an authentic Russian suffix.
From the beginning, this PA conversion was to be painted in a single colour. Since all-green PA’s frequently appear in the TV series (see e. g. episode 14 & 16) and will definitively show up in my collection, I settled on brown. Another factor was the background picture (see above), which had much influence on the kit's finish. And finally, since I have seen several pictures of all-brown/dark sand Russian WWII tanks, the single brown colour seemed to be plausible. Mmm… brown. Or better: коричневый цвет!
The basic overall tone is Tamiya’s XF-64 “Red Brown”, everywhere. Some details like the inside of the visor unit were painted with Testor’s 2002 “Burnt Umber” from the figure colour series for extra contrast. The joints received a mix of Gold (Testors 1144), a bit gun metal (Humbrol 53) and Burnt Umber.
After a first turn of dry painting with Humbrol 186 and 118, decals
were applied. Numbers and unit markings come from a 1:35 scale WWII
Russian tank sheet from German decal specialist Peddinghaus. The many
light grey Russian labels come from the vast decal sheet of
Italieri/Testor’s MiG-37 “Ferret B” kit in 1:72 scale, and typical
Dorvack markings come from the original PA-36 and a PAM-74 decal
sheet. Sadly,. Most of them disappeared under the final coat of
“Nose art” on the HD-R6M gun consists of a hand-written “плохая новость”, which simply means “Bad news”. What else to expect from this tank on legs? But this, too, unfortunately disappeared under the snow.
After a matte varnish coat the kit received a thorough black ink wash in order to point out the reactive armour plating. Then, several turns with dry paint, including hemp, gulf war sand, light grey, sand and chocolate (Humbrol 168, 187, 64, 63 and 98, respectively) were applied to point out the many surface details. Some dents and blank edges were added with dry-brushed silver, but sparsely. Also, some smoke was simulated with black and dark grey paint (Humbrol 33 and 32), and as a final step some rust and oil was simulated with water-based acrylic paint in burnt umbra and sienna.
In order to enhance the heavy duty impression (and remind of harsh
conditions this piece might encounter), the PA finally received a mud
treatment around its legs. Plaster, mixed with grass filament, fine
sand and water-based mixing colour, was prepared in a shallow bowl and
the kit’s feet simply stumped into this artificial sludge – leaving
the mud and splashes wherever they might end up.
From above, the kit then received a coat or light snow, made from coloured joint mortar (white, plaster is too grayish!), rinsed through a fine mesh onto the kit which was sprayed with water.
Finally, I must say that this kit was an interesting experience. On one side, it surely was plain fun to convert such a kit into somethingvery different, seeing a vague idea taking shape. But on the other side, this project also has the more or less serious claim to incorporate realistic defence technology – and while building the kit, I became aware how tricky it actually is to construct and protect something like a tank from various battlefield dangers, and how naïve mecha can come along.