For over a century the tank has been a feature of the battlefield, and for most of that it has been the mainstay of land operations, a position it retains to this day. Although current operations are of an anti-insurgent type, the US has approximately 1600 tanks in service at present, and a large reserve should the need arise. Such machines are a far cry from the relatively unsophisticated vehicles that first saw action in the First World War, and today they bristle with technology to maximise every aspect of the tank’s performance.
Caesar have divided this set between tank crew and ordinary infantry, with the former shown on our top row, so we will take a look at those five figures first. One man is seated as if inside a vehicle, but the rest stand, either outside the vehicle or in the turret. They all look pretty relaxed, since they are not in combat, and this ‘away from harm’ attitude seems confirmed by the fact that none of them have even a holstered pistol, which would be unusual even if well away from any battlefield. The poses are nice and natural, and should do nicely for a diorama of a suitable modern tank.
All the tank crew wear the same thing, which is Battle Dress Uniform (BDU), a uniform that was adopted in the early 1980s and replaced around 2008, so these figures are ‘modern’, but not entirely up to date. As far as we can see their boots do not seem to be the distinctive tankers version which we would have expected. All wear the OTV or IBAS, which was the flak jacket in use from the late 1990s to the late 2000s, but as with the BDU has now been superseded by the IOTV, again dating these figures to a decade or so ago. Although they have been nicely done, they give the impression of not having the armour plates inserted as they seem too snug and not bulky. This could and did happen, but was not encouraged officially for obvious reasons, although some wearers were concerned about them snagging on parts of the tank during a hurried escape. All have the MOLLE system on them, which is fine, although no one has attached any pouches or other kit. Again the risk of snagging in a confined environment was a concern, which helps to explain this. The helmets look like the current ACH model, although it would have been good to see them with the more bulky CVC helmet instead, as tank crew would be more likely to wear the CVC - the helmets here make these look more like crew of other vehicles. Goggles and communications equipment on these helmets is nicely done. The seated man is wearing knee protectors, which is strange since he is clearly inside a vehicle, and the man with binoculars wears one on his right knee and the other round his ankle. While this makes sense for an infantryman, who might only wear one on the knee he would rest on the ground, and have the other tucked somewhere more comfortable like the ankle, we were surprised to find them here on a tank commander. Finally, since at least one man looks like he might be standing in the turret, it would have been nice to see him with DAPS or Deltoid armour.
Moving on to the infantry, we find similar figures to those produced by Caesar in the past. They too seem by the arrangement of pockets to be wearing the slightly old BDU clothing, but unlike them they appear to have the current IOTV flack vest. To this is attached a number of pouches, as would be expected, which look good here, and every man has a CamelBak on his back. The helmet looks like the correct ACH, and this time they have a good array of night vision goggles, some with a rhino mount and some with just the plate, which is good. There is a small lump at the back of each helmet which Caesar have included before, and now as then we could not identify this at all. One suggestion is this is part of the MILES system, which if so is a dreadful mistrake as MILES is a training device and never used in actual operations. Another problem is that no one has any form of eye protection, which would be very unusual, and even Caesar’s own artist has shown this on all the figures on the box.
Some of the infantry are quite liberally provided with pouches, which is reasonable, but is down to personal choice to a degree as the more of such impedimenta a man carries, the less nimble he will be, which could have serious consequences in a crisis. We were pleased however to see all of them wearing their knee protectors.
The weapon that stands out in this set is held by the second man in the second row, for he seems to hold the old M14 rifle. While this was a venerable weapon by around 2005, it was still favoured for sniping and as an anti-sniper weapon, and to give extra punch to a squad with its 7.62mm calibre round as opposed to the 5.56mm bullet of the rest, so it is not out of place here. The last man in both rows two and three each carry the M249 light machine gun (SAW), while the rest carry either the M16A4 rifle or the M4 carbine. All of these are appropriate weapons for these figures, and nicely done too, although one has been given a perfectly straight magazine, which is wrong.
Taking all the figures now, the sculpting is up to the usual high standard we would expect from Caesar. These are highly detailed subjects, and the sculpting is up to the job with great detail everywhere, natural folds in the clothing and good faces. The weapons are also well done, and there is no flash. The third figure in the bottom row has extra plastic between his weapon and his body, but the rest have none as they are made up of more than one part. For most this means the figure is missing arms and the weapon, which come as a separate single piece. It sounds difficult to assemble, but in fact it is very easy, and such a good fit that it does not even need gluing unless it is to be handled a great deal. The exception is the man with the M14, who is complete apart from his head, a characteristic he shares with the tanker holding up binoculars. For both, the separate head fits into a deep hole in the neck and is a nice firm fit, again meaning no glue is necessary. The result, of course, is better poses, and well worth the minimal effort necessary to put them together.
We have already said we liked the static and relaxed tanker poses, and the infantry poses are also very good. Everyone is holding their weapon at chest height and either standing or moving. We thought all of them were natural and appealing, although we were not sure about the last figure in the bottom row, who would be difficult to fix to a base. Talking of bases, you will see that the figures have none, but Caesar include a number of clear thin plastic bases should you wish your figures to stand. Although the separate arms and heads help to make some great poses, there is also evidence of a clever mould making more realistic and deep poses such as the driver, who is a single piece despite the position of his arms. No detail has been lost, even at the sides of each figure, so these are great to look at.
You can define the word ‘modern’ as being of the present or recent time, and this set is definitely recent but not present. These figures are suitable for the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (the latter not good tank country) of a decade or more ago, and to our eye they look very good. There will always be some debate over how typical any particular look might be, since much was down to each individual, but on the whole these are accurate for the period, very impressively produced, and should look great alongside an Abrams or similar.