Many modelers, particularly Swedish ones, waited a long time for the release of Echelon's decals for Strv.122 tank. It was rumored and then announced long time ago and early catalogue number T35003 was assigned to this release, but for some reasons it took quite long before the sheet finally appeared on the market. To make things more interesting however now we simultaneously received two decals sets for Strv.122 tanks: mentioned set T35003 and also T35007.
Swedish Armoured Corps:
Wartofta Kompani, Skaraborgs Regemente, P4, Skövde (T35003) &
Pansarbataljonen, Norrbottens Regemente, I19, Boden (T35007)
Stridsvagn 122 Main Battle Tanks
"Spearhead of the modern Swedish Army"
For modelers not familiar with Swedish armor, here is a few words of explanation what Strv.122 actually is and how to build a model of it. Stridsvagn 122 is a Swedish version of German Leopard 2 tank. It was based on Leopard 2A5 variant, but has a lot of features of later 2A6EX and also some unique to Swedish tanks. The tank has standard 44 cal. long main gun barrel of Leopard 2A5, but has additional armor package applied to the hull and turret, similar to that installed in 2A6EX tanks. The Swedish army, unlike most other users of Leopard 2 family tanks, don't use 3 color NATO green/brown/black camouflage, but their own attractive looking 3 color green & black camouflage, what makes them particularly interesting modeling subjects. The only problem is that there is no plastic model of Strv.122 currently available in 1/35 scale (or possibly in any scale at all). At the moment the only option to build the model of this tank, which according to some is "the sexiest" tank in the world, is to use Hong Kong Creation Workshop (HKCW) resin conversion set for Tamiya Leopard 2A5 kit. This means that it is quite expensive model to build, but thanks to a very good quality of both resin and plastic parts, it can easily become a centerpiece of any collection. Until now however modelers had to paint or print their own markings for the model, as there were none available on the market (that I know of). Now we received two sets from Echelon, so the lack of markings will no longer be a problem.
Both sets are packed it the same way: in a resealable plastic zip-bag we get one decal sheet (approx. 120mm x 190mm) and A4 size instructions folded in half. Instructions are printed in full color and on one page are photos of some of featured vehicles. Decal placement diagrams are detailed and very clear. In instructions we also find camouflage diagrams and paint colors suggestions from Humbrol and Tamiya brands. Decals are flawlessly printed with all markings are in perfect register, what is particularly important for all the tiny yellow stencils, which are printed with underlying white backing for a good color definition on dark camouflage.
In the set T35003 we get markings for tanks from Skaraborgs Regemente, P4 from Skövde. Markings for ten tanks from Warlofta Kompani are provided plus three options from other P4 unit. All tanks are painted in the same 3 tone green & black camouflage. Warlofta Company tanks have large white letter tactical markings on the turret sides, which look like made with thin white self-adhesive tape. Names of tank crew members are painted on the hull of each P4 Regiment tank and these are also provided as decals for all 13 featured tanks and additionally we get a number of "generic" Swedish names. These decals are tiny (letters are about 0.3 mm high) and I was able to read the names only with magnifying glass (yellow paint on light blue backing paper is hardly visible), but print quality is excellent and each name is legible! Each of ten Warlofta Company tanks carries a tank name on the hull sides and on gun barrel fume extractor, but while they are printed in slightly larger fonts than crew names (about 0.5 mm high), they are still very hard to read from the decal sheet - I'm sure they will be much easier to see once applied on dark camouflage paint. I spent a few minutes with magnifying glass and managed to make a list of all featured tank names: "Green Devil", "Jaegermeister", "Bloody Mary", "Harvey Wallhanger", "Angel's Kiss", "Red Eye", "Black Russian", "El Diablo", "Vargtass" and "Maiden's Prayer". Yellow decal stripes are provided for platoon markings and to save space they are given as separate stripes with a gauge printed on the bottom of decal sheet to establish proper distance between stripes.
On the bottom of the T35003 sheet we get a number of generic letters and numbers to be used to make registration numbers and tank names. Letters for vehicle names are so small, that assembling words from them can be quite a challenge - but it all depends on modeler's skills. With some patience and steady hand I'm sure almost any name can be created. Next to the platoon stripes we get several tiny stencils, which are not mentioned in instructions and it is a bit of a mystery where are there supposed to be used. They are letter pairs VC, FD, SK and LA printed one under another in a column. We get four larger and eight smaller sets of such stencils on the sheet.
In the set T35007 we get markings for eleven tanks from Norrbottens Regemente, I19 from Boden. Tanks are shown in instructions in winter camouflage in which lighter of green colors in Swedish camo is partially covered with temporary white paint. But all tanks can also be painted in standard camouflage used for most of the year. Each tank carries tactical callsign on turret sides composed of two yellow letters (or in one case two letters and digit "2") on a black square attached to the armor with green duct tape. Each tank also has a name painted with white paint on the hull sides. Featured tanks are: "Lucifer", "Leviathan", "Azazael", "Astaroth", Asmodeus", "Behemoth", "Belial", "Beelzebub", "Cthulhu", "Caasimolar" and "Cerberus". No extra letters are provided to create any other tank names, but we get a set of decals to make additional tactical signs (callsign boards). Provided are also additional numbers to make new tank registration numbers.
On each of decal sheets we get enough generic Strv.122 stencils and warning labels for six vehicles. This means that only six models can be fully equipped with markings from each sheet. This is unusual for Echelon, as usually we get enough markings from them for all featured marking options on each sheet, but it is fully understandable considering the number of options provided in Strv.122 sets. Also, how many modelers would build more than six Strv.122 models?... Not many I guess and those few can simply get more Echelon decal sheets to get additional stencils.
Judging from photos provided on the instruction sheet and several more I found on the Internet I can say that decals seem to be very accurate. Participation of Erik Gustavsson, well known Swedish modeler, in creation of both decal sets is a guarantee of high accuracy of provided markings.
Typically for Echelon decals both sets were printed by Microscale, so I don't expect any problems with applying them. The decal film is very thin and applied sparingly around actual markings, minimizing the risk of silvering. As usual I suggest using Microscale's own Set and Sol decal setting solutions with these decals for best results and this time this suggestion is also included in T35003 set instructions, as applying platoon stripes to engine grille louvers can be impossible without the help of decal solvents.
Two new decal sets from Echelon are extremely well researched, designed and flawlessly printed. They are "must have" items for each modeler considering building of Swedish Stridsvagn 122 tank model. I expect that now the demand for HKCW conversion sets will dramatically increase, so I suggest you try and grab one while you can. I'm afraid that supplies of them may be limited and it is unknown whether HKCW are still making them, or sets already on the market are the only ones available. I already ordered mine a few days ago :-)
Many thanks to Lawrence Goh of Echelon Fine Details for the review samples.
For the list of resellers and distributors visit Echelon web site