Tuesday, February 25

Read n' Reviewed: Their Last Path – IDF Tank Wrecks Merkava Mk.1 & 2 from Abt 502 / AK Interactive

A specialist book on the  Merkava Mk.1 and 2 has just been released from Publishers Abt. 502 & AK Interactive. Penned by Michael Mass & Kristof Pulinckx, the book has good pedigree. See what Paul Lee thought about the book after he read it in his review...

Their Last Path – IDF Tank Wrecks Merkava Mk. 1 and 2
By Michael Mass & Kristof Pulinckx
Published by Abteilung 502 / AK Interactive Publishing
English Language
Hardcover 155 pages A4 Landscape
Price: 36,95€
After reading Abteilung 502’s publication on how the T54/55 came into Israeli service, Abteilung continues their studies on Israeli armour, and this is a gorgeous hardcover book on the famous indigenous Israeli tank, the Merkava, in particular the Mk 1 and 2. Although, if you’re looking for a good read, then maybe this is not a book for you because this is more of an up-market walk-around, with over 250 pictures of various Merkava hulls in different states of repair since the vehicles are no longer in service. 
Israeli combat experiences showed that while the Western tanks they were using fared well in combat, one aspect they were not so strong was in crew protection, and while a destroyed tank could be replaced, killed and injured tank crew were not so easily replaced. So the Israeli’s decided to design their own tank with crew protection as the main requirement, and the distinctive Merkava was born. 
Being introduced before the age of the mass of cameras we see today, and the age of the internet, picture of the Merkava 1 and 2 are not as common as later versions. The book starts with a useful spread on identifying the differences between the Mk1 and 2, although bear in mind that the tanks did not necessarily stay the same during their service life.
Obviously, the book starts with the hull of Merkava Mk 1, and as stated above, is a walkaround so don’t expect to be bogged down by text, although there are text boxes which describe the detail you are looking at, such as the hull side here which is usually hidden by the side skirts. 
You get a very comprehensive set of photos of the various features of the tank, but you occasionally also get some computer renders like this gun travel lock, for that extra bit of detail that a fully assembled component doesn’t necessarily illustrate. 
The distinctive turret of the Merkava gets the same treatment with another comprehensive set of photos from pretty much every angle, and every little bit and bob that you see on the turret such as the grenade launchers, mantlet cover and hatches etc. One interesting feature in some of the pictures is the flaking paint on the tank which would be a very interesting effect to try and produce on a wreck, but just don’t ask me how you’d do that. 
Maybe I was a bit hasty in describing this book as a walk around as the book moves back to the hull, but now you get some pictures of the engine compartment. Not that there is a Merkava kit that gives you a full interior yet, but it probably is just around the corner, and details like that exhaust stain across the side of the engine, and the chipping on the inside of the cover is the exact kind of detail that we modellers love. 
Continuing our walk around the vehicle, we now get to explore the interior of the vehicle starting with the unique rear access hatch, and go inside to the various positions and details on the inside of this vehicle. One thing you do notice is that there is a fair amount of chipping on the inside of the vehicle, but considering these are wrecks, you have to decide whether they would have been in this state while in service. But there is no doubt that they would be very eye catching feature if you decided to detail the interior in such a way. 
As I stated earlier, these vehicles did not stay in their original state while in service and received upgrades resulting in so called hybrid vehicles. Here we have some shots of the test vehicle for the Merkava Mk1 with Mk3 features, of note the weights sitting on top of the turret to simulate a heavier turret. 
This bring us to the end of Pt1 of this book, and predictably, Pt 2 deals with the Merkava Mk2. Following the same layout as Pt 1, I’m not going to bore you by describing it blow by blow again, and will just let the pictures do the talking and show you some interesting shots. 
Here we have some interesting chipping/ hand painted segments  on the white barrel stripe in contrast to the masked line on the fume extractor, and also the imperfectly aligned side skirts. 
The tank is a wreck, but the flaking paint would be an interesting effect to replicate if you wanted to do a wreck.
The build up of shot from the co-axial machine gun in the slit next to the main gun, 
The hatches on top of the turret. The anti-slip coating on top of the commander’s hatch is an interesting feature, and makes me ask whether people really do step on top of the hatch?
This is a beautifully presented book and is the perfect companion for anyone wanting to super detail their insert brand name Merkava kit. My only doubt is the hardcover format which will add to the cost of the book, but you cannot deny the quality of the shots inside, so even as a hardcover walkaround, it is worth the investment. The hardcover probably makes it sturdier than the soft-covers anyway. 

Highly recommended

Paul Lee

Thanks to Abteilung 502 for sending this book to read and review