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Extratech - Afrika Korps radio team (EXB72008) _________(EXT)

 

  

Manufacturer Extratech
Scale 1/72
Set Code EXB72008
Year -
No. of Figures 3
No. of Poses 3
Additional Items 1 sender 5W.S./24b-104, 1 receiver Torn.E.b, 1 table, 2 chairs, 2 Kar98K, insignia&buckles
Size Tall
Material Resin
Colour Cream
Flash Level Low
Glue-ability Excellent (super glue gel)
Convert-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1939 – 1945

 Review  

One of the most serious gaps in the field of 1/72 WWII German figures emerges Signal units, the available tenders by far not covering the intense use of communication systems. Mass-production offers no choice dedicated to the topic, several radios and telephones being spread in different sets, mostly targeting infantry or paratroopers, Esci, Pegasus Hobbies, Imex, Revell, Orion, and Zvezda granting some attention to the matter. With few exceptions, those do not impress at all, the communication equipment arriving quite simplified and with inaccuracies. Perhaps the best choices in terms of radios and operators are available in Pegasus Hobbies’ “German Mortar Teams” and Zvezda’s German Reconnaissance Team 1939-1942”At its turn, even the garage industry does not excel on the subject, practically the one and only committed kit coming from Extratech under the name “Afrika Korps radio team”, below reviewed.

The German Commandment gave enhanced attention to communication, setting up a proper system that was of key importance in the modern warfare and within the combat strategy adopted by the WWII German Army. Regarding ground communication regulations provided for a tactical army one motorized Signal regiment, while at division level, infantry, mountain, paratrooper, armoured and other ground divisions received a Signal battalion. Likewise, smaller units had attached their own Signal company. The main duties of those units were to lay and maintain cable communications, supplemented by radio communications in places where cables were impossible to be laid or where those would have been endangered. Radios were intensively used during operations employing fast movements, though generally it was tried to limit the radio messages only to subjects without secret content. Mostly, the WWII German radios used by land troops might be split in ground station, back-pack, and armoured vehicle radios. 

In a certain manner the present radio team is different than those proposed by various 1/72 producers which almost always target the back-pack radios in service with infantry or paratroopers like Feld Fu, Torn Fu or KlFuSpr.d "Dorette". Usually, a WWII German radio team comprised three soldiers armed with Kar98K although they had to carry the radio and its battery. Proving good knowledge of the market and its innermost needs, Extratech focused on Signal troopers in service at a ground station, the included table and chairs emphasising this fact. Analysing the characteristic features of the radios submitted by Extratech, we get here the five-watt sender "5W.S./24b-104" and its most common receiver, Tornister empfanger b set (Torn.E.b) Both transmitter and receiver were transported in special cases but those are not given here.

The five-watt sender, 5W.S./24b-104 represented a medium frequency transmitter employed either in telegraphic or telephonic operations. The equipment was used in divisional and regimental nets both as a ground and as a mobile station, transported or mounted in a vehicle or carried in a back-pack. In ground station, the power came from a foot-pedal generator while for the other utilisation, power was ensured by the vehicle storage batteries through a dynamotor. The transmitter could be adapted to several standard antennas such as horizontal wire and counterpoise of 15 meters, roof-antenna of the truck, ground antenna or ground cables of over 10 meters in length.

Concerning Tornister empfanger b set, that was one of the most exploited radio within the German Army and consisted in a receiver and battery arranged above each other - with the two battery case below, also housing the headphones and cables. Produced in masses starting with 1935, the receiver was used not only by Signal and Wehrmacht but also by police and other political and civil entities. Transported in two separate cases, one for transmitter and the other for battery housing, Torn.E.b was regularly deployed as a receiver for the 5W.S./24b-104 transmitter, as Extratech precisely exemplifies here.

The kit arrives in an appealing package, composed by a small clear plastic box fixed in a cardboard base in a manner allowing to be clearly seen both sides of the box. It is an important market strategy while the kit is quite expensive, the manufacturer decided to present the whole content, in front being accommodated the resin parts and on reverse the photo-etch sheet. The customer easily remarks the top-notch quality from the first contact and the desire of buying becomes stronger. In order the perspective not to be distracted and the two distinct things to mix, a black sheet was inserted in the box as separator. The cardboard gives various information on the product and company but only after opening the package the assembly guide is revealed, printed on a piece of paper sneaked between the wrapper. On one side the guide repeats data regarding the company and exemplifies the four resin slots while on the other side it grants comprehensive information for assembling the photo-etched items and setting some metal parts on the resin figures and radios. Instructions for putting together the minis miss, but those would have been useless while all necessary parts for each figure are arranged on individual slots and a fourth small slot was specially designed for the two boxes of the radios. More complex is the photo-etch sheet, incorporating components for one table, two chairs, front panels of radios, as well as one pair of headphones, one telegraph key, two Kar98K, three buckles and two breast eagles. Because the drawings are in black and white, there are ensured brief painting guidelines on the original colours of Afrika Korps uniform and gear.

Extratech’s photo-etch set astonishes through its top-quality, the material being also not fragile and flexible even without previous heating, able to support repeated bending. This propensity is quite important while the table should be bent in order to assemble it. No glue is necessary for it, but the three parts of each chair involve an adhesive, super glue gel permanently sticking those in places. However, hobbyists receive guidelines to glue on the table the telegraph key, a pair of headphones of the Torn.E.b receiver as well as a piece of paper that could be cut in various sizes, not mandatory the suggested one. Nevertheless, good it would be adding either via scratch-building or painting some wires, both for the headphones and the telegraph key. In terms of details, all parts are marvellous and in good light there are visible even micron details such as the Swastika on breast eagles and buckles while on the table the handles of the drawers and in-scale wooden ditches are clearly noticed. Special care has to be given when removing the parts from the sheet, due to their thin sizes some could be forever grabbed by the “carpet monster”. That would be a real pity, especially if he catches important ones like the telegraph key.

Definitely the thin details of a radio raise a provocation for any manufacturer and in order to depict as close as possible most characteristics, the Czech manufacturer adopted an interesting solution, unique in the field, respectively resin radio boxes with photo-etch panels. In fact, combining resin parts with photo-etched ones is a specific feature of Extratech and CMK, regardless if aimed personal gear, weapons or accessories. For both radios, the producer succeeded to catch on the photo-etch panels plenty of extremely small characteristics of the 5W.S./24b-104 such as the large operational ring, dials, ammeter, plugs, keys, tuning knobs, and switches while the Torn.E.b panel shows various plugs, keys, knobs, switches, dials as well as the frequency tables.

As any resin kit, some attention has to be paid while removing the pieces from the slots even if the exploited material is qualitative and not easy breakable. While the figures are given with separate arms and heads, proper would be putting the parts in different corners of the modelling table for avoiding accidental mix. Assembly of the radio team members raises no problem and takes only few minutes, the pieces fitting in position quite fine with super glue gel which can also fill eventual small gaps. In addition, the same adhesive should be placed for fixing the photo-etch breast eagles and buckles. Nevertheless, these items are not mandatory, the belts having already sculptured buckles while breast eagles could miss from shirts, regularly such items of clothing not featuring the famous German insignia.

Serving in Afrika Korps, at present these signal army-men are not dressing the battle attire, all wearing shirts and only one having long trousers, his colleagues preferring the more comfortable shorts which were forbidden in combat, at least in theory. As footwear they received ankle boots and two have got M34 overseas caps, the other being bare-headed. Except belts, no item of gear or accessories are available but as previously stressed, two Kar98K are supplied on the photo-etch sprue. In spite highly detailed, photo-etch weapons have something strange, without consistence due to an extremely slim appearance. The guidelines advices the modeller to arrange a rifle in the hands of one sitting soldier, but the pose works fine even without. If the photo-etch firearms form does not satisfy, various weapons and gear might be imported from Preiser, Dragon, and Caesar figure sets that offer such stuff on a large scale. The suitable place for a photo-etch rifle is one where is hard to spot its thickness but in hands of a toy-soldier those often look odd. 

The poses are excellent and might be arranged in different ways for revealing a radio team fulfilling its job, the whole attitude of the three members being in complete accordance with reality. The radio operator appears as the most intricate but surely the most interesting to achieve, sitting in his chair with headphones in position and with the right hand on the telegraph key while the left rests on the table or dealing with the piece of paper the hobbyists were told to adjoin. Because he must take a sit and hold the telegraph key, the best would be assembling the table and chair first and then the figure in order to check how hands reach the table before permanently gluing the limbs. Superglue gel is the most advocated adhesive, granting few seconds for further readjustments before powerfully fixing the parts. After deciding everything goes well, the telegraph key and eventually the paper can be also stuck in the correct locations for appropriately matching the palms. In spite having headphones, the related wires are neither provided nor suggested by the guidelines to be scratch-built as it was done with the paper. However, for a depiction in accordance with the highly detailed radio, it would be a pity not fitting those, as made of thin metal wire, cut longer, and glued to the headphones. Obviously, the other end would be arranged in a place close to where the socket was set on the original model, gluing being possible only if the table, chair, and operator will occupy a permanent space in a diorama or vignette. Furthermore, in the last stage, after setting the kit on the diorama/vignette, various cables and antennas might be deployed for bringing a plus of realism to the scene. 

With reference to the crouched trooper taking a break on the ground, this might embody both the operator for the second radio on the table or the third member of the team. The instructions inform to put in his hands a Kar98K, but the miniature looks fine holding nothing and set not only on the ground, but also in the other chair, starting performing his duty on the second radio or simply relaxing.

The last member of the group stands very tranquil and can exchange the roles inside the team with the comrade sitting on the ground/chair. The attitude matches the one adopted by his mates and the position of the right hand allows putting the figure as laying that hand on the table in a natural manner. 

Although details on the resin figs are great but similar often seen nowadays, the radios with photo-etched parts make a pleasant impression from the first look. Except the wonderful front panels and outstanding items of furniture, the photo-etch sheet also ensures perfect detailed breast eagles and buckles. If not used here, these accessories should be kept for “embellishing” some even more detailed miniatures. The clothes show nicely sculptured buttons, creases, pockets, and flaps, while anatomy registers fine overall proportions but some palms seem quite big, though having proper fingers. Facial expressions are gorgeous, with extraordinarily carved eyes, eye-brows, noses, mouths, ears, and beautifully modelled hair.

While the whole product is quite costly, the manufacturer selected a top resin, not breakable and ensuring a superb cast, without flash and excess of material. Likewise, the film carrier is fast removable and the specific air-bubbles do not existent or are extremely hard to spot. Both resin and photo-etched parts are extremely glue-able with super glue gel, the adhesive joining the materials in a strong bond, capable to resist at quite powerful shocks. Enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils ideally adhere not only on the resin but also on the photo-etch parts and will remain there despite numerous touches. Clearly addressed to diorama builders and collectors, occasionally this radio team might occupy a position on the wargaming table, too.

The enhanced attention granted by mass-production and cottage industry representatives to the famous Afrika Korpsy has as direct result  the apparition of a large number of offers, in the 1/72 scale being available both front and second line troopers. Because the present reviewed figures are issued in the tall side of the scale, corroborated with the carried out activity, they best match with figures in non-combat stances put forward by Wee Friends in “WWII German Africa Corps Refuelling set”, “WWII Axis North Africa”, and “WWII Axis Saharina Crew” or Retrokit FR in “Afrika Korps tank crew, relaxed”. In addition, Matchbox in “SdKfz. 124 Wespe” and Esci in “Sd.kfz11” included a couple of figures appropriate for second line uses, most of them wearing shorts while another excellent soldier dressed in shorts is incorporated by Revell in “Africa Corps”. Moreover, the soldiers from Italeri’s “German Motorcycles” represent a good match in terms of poses and an excellent one in terms of sizes. Doubtless, the best accompanying miniatures are forwarded by Extratech in “Rommel and staff”, practically the two sets being inter-linked for depicting the “Desert Fox” in a command center, a place where the here included radios would have been of foremost importance for broadcasting the orders and keep well-informed the illustrious general.   

If the figure with long trousers may find his place in any area the WWII German army fought, due to their attire, the two radio team-members in shorts can belong only to Afrika Korps or to a unit quartered in a Mediterranean country. Still, especially taking into consideration the huge utility of the set, the hobbyist wishing to move these soldiers inside the continent must scratch-build long trousers from the shorts, various materials and methods being at hand. With long trousers, the figures will fit not only as radio operators, but also as mechanics, infantry, Panzer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine crews etc, plenty of reference images attesting German soldiers serving in different branches wearing shirts and trousers in summer. For this reason the compatibility of the present minis with related tenders is huge, but a brilliant one is achieved with various CMK sets. It is a normal thing while most of the CMK and Extratech figure sets share the same designer, Milos Antfeist, and obviously the same fine details.

The radio kit from Extratech not only pleases the hobbyist’s eye with its top-notch quality, but also represents the one and only 1/72 set covering a key topic in the field of WWII German Army. Signal troops brought a major contribution to the performances of the German war-machine and a kit dedicated to them would have been mandatory, particularly bearing in mind the impressive number of sets portraying various WWII German units. Taking profit by the photo-etch approach, Extratech has succeeded to transpose in the 1/72 scale one of the best, or even the best, depiction of two famous radios. Though aiming at Afrika Korps units, the modellers that are not interested on that army and do not one to convert the troopers into continental ones, might extract the radios and the accompanying furniture and to use it in conjunction with other figures, plenty of other sets ensuring toy-soldiers with a great potential for being converted into operators for these brilliant communication devices. Due to all these factors as well as others not highlighted inside the present review, despite its price, Extratech’s “Afrika Korps radio team” comes out as one of the most useful kits in the 1/72 scale, highly recommended for vignettes or dioramas and an ideal add for the large range of radio vehicles issued by various manufacturers but without personnel. Hopefully, in the close future companies will grant more attention to Signal trooperss and new sets will give proper answers to this serious need.            

Historical Accuracy 10
Anatomy 9
Poses Quality 9
Details Quality 10
Mould Quality 9
Sculpture 9
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s Opinion 10