Empress Miniatures โ€“ T90A conversion wip15 and Navy Combat Divers

A little more …

Small steps closer to finishing. Base weathering started and crews greenstuffed and base painted.

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And a bit of fun. As a change from basic black I decided to paint the Empress Navy Divers up as French Commandos from Operation Pork Pie. So officially they are French Commandos, disguised as Navy Seals, disguised as retro French Oceanographers, and all to try and fool the NZ Police Force (which they failed at by the way). Now I need a few 28mm Zodiacs ….

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Empress Miniatures – T90A conversion DV wheels and OKB tracks wip14

Wheels and tracks fitted …

I finished base painting the new wheels and tracks and they’re now fitted permanently. Started making the unditching log and mountings to go on the rear hull plate but will leave the final shading and weathering until the crew are done. Have to greenstuff some lower bodies for them and do a little scribing work to sharpen them up, apart from that it’s just trying to match the Russian camouflage pattern.

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Empress Miniatures – T90A conversion DV wheels and OKB tracks wip12

Quicky update …..

Finished the second track run today and fitted them to the T90A conversion. Had to do a little more relief grinding due to the rear sprocket being wider and a tad higher but it’s all looking pretty good I think. Should be able to get some paint on them tomorrow and then start thinking about finishing the crew …… it’s nice to see this bad boy on the home stretch finally.

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Empress Miniatures – T90A conversion DV wheels and OKB tracks wip11

More track action ….

Got one suspension unit fully upgraded today with replacement T72 wheels from Djani Vrsalovic (contact via Track48 forum) and recently released resin T72 tracks from OKB.

So the steps to get to this stage were to first grind off the outer roadwheels. While nice looking and sharply cast they don’t really look like the Russian 8 hole wheels. Not much else to say, much grinding with a full face HEPA filtered mask.

Next the track was removed, ground down tight against the front idler sprocket and the rear drive sprocket was cut off as a fab looking replacement, complete with PE mud scraper ring comes with the OKB track set. I also cut a recess into the remaining Empress resin wheels to ensure that the track centre guide teeth had clearance as I wasn’t entirely sure where they’d end up sitting.

The rear sprocket was fitted by trimming a section of the inside sprocket teeth off so it could fit recessed and spaced correctly onto the rear mounting plate.

The OKB tracks are a superb piece of work and the first time I have handled a set (ohhh I’d love some for my German tankie projects). They are cast from a flexible resin and are close to the sharpest resin casts I’ve ever seen and I’ve handled a lot of resin. You get 6 single length runs and 10 individual links (plus 2 PE mud scraper rings) so you can either bend the long lengths or use the individual links around the drive and idler sprockets and there’s plenty of spare left over. I used a bit of heat from a hair dryer to carefully work them into shape, dipping them into cold water to help set the shape. I also trimmed down the guide teeth on the links that were shaped around the front idler. Overall it was a very easy process taking around 10-15mins to do both although I recommend not rushing, using the heat on low and in small bursts, continually checking the fit and being careful not to overheat them and soften the detail.

I should point out that yes they are a little overscale, being 1/48th vrs the smaller 1/50th Empress kit. And the wheels are late 6 spoke T72 and the tracks are the T72 RMSh type and quite a bit different from the T90 tracks which can be fitted with rubber insert blocks.

But I don’t care. They are such a vast improvement over the stock gaming running gear (not dissing those, just one is designed for gaming and these are kit AM parts) that even my OCD can cope with the size and technical differences …. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Empress Miniatures – T90A conversion wip10

A little xmas progress …

My new replacement wheels for the T90A conversions arrived from Croatia yesterday care of Djani Vrsalovic (via Track48 forum or FB 1/48 Armour Forum). As it was either mix and converse with the family, gouge out an eye or sneak in a little work on my project, the project was a clear winner.

Basically the process is to grind off the outer roadwheels and fit the new ones. The new wheels, actually late T72 6 spokes, are 1/48th and the spacing is a little cramped but I’m pretty sure the much improved look hides the slight increase in diameter. If I really want to I could always reduce the size a touch if it bugs me but at the moment I think it looks pretty good.

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Empress Miniatures – M1A2 Abrams TUSK CROWS Ref pics and wip9

CROWS finished ….

The CROWS is pretty much finished and ready for painting I think. Very hard to photograph due to the bits being mostly white so I had to faff around with the colour to show some of the detail. The pics are still not the best and it does look somewhat better IRL …..

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Some CROWS (XM153) reference pics from the interwebs (and included for discussion only). As you can see the are several detail differences (and more in the pics in my stash) in both gun shield and overall fitting between various installations. I took some liberties with my version partly because of scale and my ability to scratchbuild and partly as it’s for wargaming use, not for diorama or competition entry.

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Empress Miniatures – M1A2 Abrams TUSK and M2A3 Bradley BUSK wip8

Bradley and CROWS wip ….

Made some mesh grills for the Bradley air-conditioning units from thin wire, superglue and lots of “bleep” words.

Then while the iron was hot I cranked out the base shape of the XM153 CROWS remote weapons station. Still got a fair bit of detailing to do on it (apart from tidying that is) such as adding the cartridge collection shopping baskets, various rivets, gun cradle mounting gubbins, remote firing adaptor, ammo feed chute – lid and latches and the rain covers for the optics.

The base shape is pretty repeatable now I have dimensions I’m happy with so I should be able to make a few more, some for the other Abrams and one “swappable” for the MATVs.

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Empress Miniatures – T90A & M2A3 Bradley BUSK wip6

Shading and lining …..

Base lining and shading done on the T90A and Bradley. There are some details now to add as some were left off during the handling/painting process then it’s decals and final weathering.

The next lot of ERA blocks were shipped so late next week I can start on the Abrams and second Bradley.

And so what’s left to do on these guys ….

T90A
Periscopes for the TCs hatch
Covers for the Shitora system laser detectors
Aerial
Cross wind sensor
Unditching log (mandatory on all Russian AFVs)
Tow cables
IR lamp (on top of the LH turret top smoke dischargers)
Front mudguard springs
Crew
Left hand turret bin footrest
Side plate footloops
MG ammo belt
Replacement wheels (and maybe tracks)

Bradley
Armoured TC glass
Mesh over gunners primary sight
Crosswind sensor
Pioneer tools
Clamps for tow cable
Headrest for TC hatch
Mesh for air conditioning units
IFF panels (maybe as I haven’t seen any fitted on BUSK Bradleys)
Crew
Towing shackles

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Empress Miniatures – M2A3 Bradley BUSK wip5

Base camo on the Bradley ….

I know, I know …. I said the BMPs would be the last of the Modern vehicles for a bit however I couldn’t stop without completing the base paint on the Bradley. So the NATO camo (or my version of it) is laid on and ready to weather/tone down ….

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Empress Miniatures – Modern Vehicles T90A, M2A3 Bradley, BMP3 wips

Current vehicle batch primed …..

Well decided that these guys are ready for paint and so gave them an enamel primer undercoat. Pretty pleased with how much more “tank” like they look with a uniform base paint on. Next step is to decide on the correct shade and then lay on the basecoats with acrylic. The primer has shown up a few areas that need some tidying up and smoothing of some of the file marks so after fixing those it’s painting action …. at least until my next lot of parts shows up ๐Ÿ™‚

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Group goodness

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M2A3 Bradley …

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BMP3s …

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T90A …

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And a couple of on table shots …..

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Empress Miniatures – BMP3 wip

BMP3 progress ….

Fortunately not much to do to these boys compared to the Bradley and T90 although I may add some side ERA to the third vehicle when that arrives later to make the numbers up to a platoon. Add ons are just really cosmetic goodness, front MG brush guards, a few grab handles, wiring for the turret laser and searchlight and thickening up the hatches which are quite a bit more prominent on the real vehicle.

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And some final detailing on the T90 and Bradley which are now pretty much ready to undercoat. The remaining final detailing will be added after most of the painting is completed …

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Empress Miniatures – T90A conversion wip2

T90 conversion progress ….

The T90A (welded turret) conversion is almost ready for paint. A raft of small changes have been made in addition to the major part of the job the welded turret itself. The welded turret sides were built up using 2mm styrene. Gaps were filled with Milliput and smoothed off before adding the Kontakt ERA blocks from 1.5mm sheet.

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Some useful T90A reference pics from the internets (from open web sources) and included for discussion purposes only.

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And the latest progress. Almost finished and ready for paint. Still a few very minor things to add (springs for the front mudflaps, port for the loaders hatch, unditching log and inner ring / second breather hose and cover flap for the fuel tanks …. I might still try and correct the road wheel spokes too but I’m not so sure about that yet.

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Empress Miniatures – M2A3 Bradley BUSKIII conversion wip 2

Empress Bradley update/conversion …

Just a small update showing off the new 3D printed air-con units (courtesy of Jason) and a little more detailing (various lift handles and the re-positioned rear M2 variant periscopes). Only really the fans to install plus a couple of lift points I missed then it’s ready for paint.

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And managed to delete a the post before this while posting the above above update …. because of “reasons” … ie incompetence.
So here’s most of it reposted, hopefully.

Bradley M2A3 BuskIII wargaming conversion using the Empress (ex Imprint) Bradley M3A2 ODS as a base. Settled on using Laser cut acrylic for the ERA blocks (6mm) so as to get them more repeatable and consistent and pretty pleased with how the worked out to be honest.

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And some useful Bradley ref pics of various M2 and M3 A2s and 3s with BUSK kits. Also included are a couple of non Busk tracks (one a nice BFIST) in Nato with Tan accessories . Pics are from open web sources and included for discussion purposes only.

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Bradley Fighting Vehicle drives off range. CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq โ€“ Infantrymen from 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, drive their M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle off of Memorial Range after zeroing the 25mm main gun and M240B machine gun during a live fire exercise in support of Operation New Dawn near Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, July 29, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Quentin Johnson, 2nd AAB PAO, 1st Cav. Div., USD โ€“ N)

Bradley Fighting Vehicle drives off range.
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq โ€“ Infantrymen from 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, drive their M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle off of Memorial Range after zeroing the 25mm main gun and M240B machine gun during a live fire exercise in support of Operation New Dawn near Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, July 29, 2011.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Quentin Johnson, 2nd AAB PAO, 1st Cav. Div., USD โ€“ N)

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Iraqi Freedom

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And intermediate detailing progress ….

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Empress Miniatures – M1A2 SEP TUSK conversion wip2

A little carpentry ….

Hunting for something to make the ERA (explosive reactive armour) blocks from proved tricky for a while. Sounds easy doesn’t it, after all it’s just some plastic blocks/strips. However none of the plastic sheet on hand including some acrylic was thick enough and would prove difficult to cut accurately anyway.

After much searching I went alternative and looked at the wood strip supply. I finally found something that looked close and after some measurements decided it looked almost perfect to get both the required hull length and side rail depth. I cut a test piece and decided it worked well enough to crack on with.

The wood strip is bass wood used in picture framing (1/4″ x 3/16″) and should be readily available at hardware outlets, which is handy as I’ll need more including a thicker depth for the Bradley tiles. Ideally this should be done by creating a strip of tiles with it’s mounting backing plates and then casting it in resin for the multiple copies required. I may …. still try this if I can fund some resin but as finding that amount of spare cash is unlikely I’ll probably have to carry on manually.

Either way the strip was marked to the length required for the double stacked block (13mm as the Abrams side skirt is 14mm), cut to size with the diamond saw and then cleaned up by a gentle sanding. A half way line to simulate the 2 separate blocks was marked and then an impression cut into the block with the saw. I painted it with some Vallejo Sand to seal it and check that the grain didn’t show. Being a denser wood required for picture framing all was good as so the test block was ticked off.

The Abrams has 32x ARAT XM19 ERA Blocks (31 plus a spacer block) fitted to mounting rails attached to the side skirts and so I cut 16 (to be cut to simulate doubles) blocks. I’m not sure yet how detailed the backing mounts will be yet, there’s a line to be drawn in the detail somewhere ….. ๐Ÿ™‚

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ABRAMs TUSK ERA – ARAT-1 XM19 and ARAT-2 XM32

The Abrams can be currently retrofitted with ERA bocks as part of the TUSK (Tank Urban Survivability Kit) upgrade. Amongst other upgrades which are modular and it is possible to see some tanks with mixed equipment fits, the ERA system is fitted to mounting rails attached to the tanks side rails. This can be done with a field install kit and by troops on deployment.

The block part of the system is called ARAT-1 (Abrams Reactive Armour Tile) and the blocks are designated XM-19. The mounting package also includes brush guards fitted to the front and rear side rails. Note the front side rail on each side of the vehicle is replaced by a specialised and thinner plate although I won’t be modelling this.

To create a TUSKII level package, ARAT-2 curved tiles, XM-32, are further mounted to the side XM-19 blocks and to the sides of the turret.

REF Pics included from web sources and for discussion only. I believe some are from the excellent looking Tankograd publication M1A2 SEPv2 which is highly recommended as a modelling resource.

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And a couple of general Abrams ref pics from exercises held in Eastern Europe and showing the look I’m hoping to achieve as well as the CROWs remote weapons systems fitted to the turret roof.

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Empress Miniatures – Vehicle conversion project

Assembly wips ….

Decided to post all the various wips from the project into one series but give them each a separate “feature” once final painting is finished.

T90A Welded Turret conversion

First step was to prepare some scale plans for the base T90, the T90A welded turret and the prototype T90MS Tagil. I reduced some reference plans until hull width matched a scale 1/50th. The Empress T90 was within a mm or so width wise but a little short in overall length. Not much I can do about that but I’m planning to fit extra fuel tanks on the rear so the length wont be an issue, not that it is, just covering it off from a completeness point of view.

Tracks

The tracks fit inside the upper hull track guard and against a chamfered edge and with a lip to provide fore/aft location. I had to file off the upper outer edge to get them to sit down properly. I also relieved the inside of the front idlers to simulate the bearing housing because the wheel sits so far forward of the front plate and is visible.

Turret

The first step was to remove the turret bins, ERA blocks and fittings using a razor saw. I then ground the turret into the basic welded shape using a bench grinder, the dremel and files. Next the shape will be tuned then flat plates made from plasticard attached. Any gaps will be filled and the whole thing sanded and filed into the final profile. Last steps will be to add back in all the removed details …..

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Abrams TUSK conversion

The only work so far was to grind out the tank commanders hatch so a crewman can be fitted to one of the tanks.

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Bradley BUSK conversion

One vehicle is going to have the twin air-conditioning units fitted and so I removed the rear stowage bins with the trusty razor saw. Both vehicles had their front headlights removed so that the front BUSK ERA plate can be fitted. The headlights will be put back in place on top of the new block. I also started grinding down the inside of the hull turret ring. I’m planning to build up the base of the turret so that it fits better/more securely. In the past I’ve just drilled and pinned the turret on but as the ring is so shallow it was difficult to seat properly. I’ll probably grind this down about the same distance again and if the experiment works all vehicles except the BMPs will get the same treatment.

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cheers
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Empress Miniatures – Modern Vehicles

Modern battlegroup project ….

The start of what will probably an on-going period or project for us, large scale moderns. We have the troops (gee almost 200 or so Empress Modern Infantry from various nations), we have the rules (almost anyway, the set is currently being worked on in collaboration with the Empress Ladz) and now we have the tanks, or at least some of them!

We put together what is basically a “starter” set of vehicles for both the Russians and Americans to fight out some “what-if” conflicts on the table. We’ll probably push the numbers up to correct platoon establishments as both time and more importantly funds, allow. For now though we have 2x M1A2 Abrams and 2x Bradley IFVs for the Americans, and 3x T90s and 2x BMP3 IFVs for the Russians.

The bulk of these will be modified in some way as you should now expect ๐Ÿ™‚ For the Russians I’m toying with updating a T90 into a T90A with the later welded turret and maybe even taking another a step further to try a T90MS, although I’m not sure about that one. The BMP3s will pretty much be a straight paint although they will probably get a few small details added such as added grab handles etc.

The American vehicles will both be updated to the present armour and equipment standard with the Abrams getting a TUSK II or III outfit including side ERA blocks and probably a CROWs remote weapon station and the Bradleys will get the same, ERA, CITV etc. I’d like to do one with the rear air conditioning units but they wouldn’t be on Europeans Bradleys, although maybe one could have been “transferred” from hotter climes and the units not removed …..

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Airfix Jackals – take 2 …. or more

More Airfix modern goodness …..

We have some more Airfix Moderns on the bench (including a Coyote, Warrior and hopefully withย a couple of WMIKs thrown in later). Got a few resin and PE goodies for them soย they are getting the royal treatmentย for a change vrs just some nice paint ๐Ÿ™‚

Not too much to see as basic assembly is underway. Lower hulls are in place, replacement resin wheels on and the side PE screens attached, enough to allow the next steps which pretty much need the crew positions to be sorted out first.

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