Ever since its creation in 1948 the state of Israel has been threatened with extinction by neighbours and faced major security issues internally, which has made the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) one of the most experienced and practical military bodies in the world. With over 60 years of military involvement, and no sign of that changing any time soon, anyone making a set of IDF has a lot of material from which to choose, as Orion illustrated with their releases on this subject in 2010 and 2011. Now this set from Caesar has appeared, and by including the word 'modern' in the title you would be forgiven for thinking that it brings the story of the IDF right up-to-date.
Generally the easiest way to assess the date of a set of 'modern' figures is to look at the weapons, so when we first opened this set we expected to see a lot of the TAR-21 rifle, and perhaps one or two of the new MTAR-21. We were soon disappointed. There seem to be several weapons on show here, but none of them are the currently issued rifle. Indeed detail on the weapons is quite poor, such that we could not be confident in identifying any of them here, although the chances are most are supposed to be M16s. This immediately dates these figures to a few years ago, for while the TAR-21 is not yet universal issue, it is sufficiently plentiful to be badly missed here. The one weapon that was easy to identify of course is the CornerShot handled by the figure at the end of the first row - one of very few weapons designed to fire around corners, and not previously modelled in this hobby.
Looking at the uniform, it pretty much resembles the usual Israeli fatigues, although the trousers all lack the ubiquitous small pocket below the cargo pocket on the left thigh. Some have knee pads on both knees, which is fine, although photos show that sometimes only one knee was thus protected, and sometimes it was not placed on the knee at all! Helmets are mostly OK although that of the sniper looks odd, but we were pleased to see goggles on some. A few have the Mitznefet, the very loose camouflage cover that looks strange but is very effective in breaking up the outline of the head. This could have been modelled even more floppy than it has been here, and one seems attached to the helmet half way up, which is wrong.
There are five different configurations of kit and webbing here, with some at least wearing flak jackets too. We could not find good information on IDF webbing, but photos seem to suggest that this can vary greatly depending on the immediate need and the soldier's preferences, so nothing here looks wrong.
The poses are pretty good, and certainly depart from the standard sort of examples we so often see in sets of 'modern' infantry. The pose in the top row apparently kicking in a door is something of a highlight, with the second figure in the second row making a nice partner. Having a good number of prone and kneeling figures always makes sense for a modern battlefield, although since the IDF is mainly concerned with security at home this is not so true here. The last two figures are also an obvious pairing, since they show an Israeli soldier body-searching a suspect who is simply dressed in trousers and a T-shirt. They illustrate the policing role of the IDF, since the suspect is clearly not in uniform, so again are very appropriate.
We have already bemoaned the lack of good detail on the weapons, but otherwise the sculpting is very nice and all the figures are well proportioned. As usual a sophisticated mould has produced some well-rounded and highly natural poses without any loss of detail, so the general impression is very good. The kneeling woman in the top row has been given a prominent chest and long hair tied at the back, but no helmet, presumably so we can be in no doubt that she is a woman!
Although we found most of the weapons impossible to identify with certainly, most should have some form of sight (or at least a mounting for one), but few do. Overall it depends on your definition of the term 'modern', but ours would mean we would expect figures suitable for soldiers of the past five years or so, and ideally still relevant today. Those in this set have more of a feel of the decade or so from the mid 1990s, so more 'recent' than 'modern', which means it will date even more rapidly than most modern sets, and indeed already has. So we were disappointed in the Caesar definition of 'modern', and particularly in the relatively poor weapons on offer. In other respects however this is a fine set with some very interesting figures.