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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Flames of War - Type 97 Te-Ke Platoon Review

The Japanese Type 97 Te-Ke tankette was designed as an improvement to the machine-gun armed Type 94 based on the Imperial Japanese Army's experience in China. While the Type 94 had been useful, especially when deployed en masse against the Chinese, its armor was thin and the vehicle was vulnerable to Chinese anti-tank weapons. While externally the Type 94 and Type 97 tankettes are similar, the Type 97 was truly a completely new vehicle and could be equipped with a 37mm gun or a machine gun as primary armament. In Flames of War, the Type 97 Te-Ke can be fielded as Divisional Support in either a Tank Platoon (three to five vehicles) or a Recon Tankette Platoon (two to three vehicles) in Japanese Lists from Banzai. Battlefront has recently released this tankette as the Type 97 Te-Ke Platoon (JBX05) which contains five vehicles.

The first thing you'll notice when picking up this particular platoon box is that it is very light compared to other Battlefront offerings in the same-sized box. There is good reason for this.  Opening the box you'll see that the Te-Ke hull is molded tracks and all as one piece using Battlefront's new two-part mold process as detailed in their recent factory tour.

The turrets are also cast gun and all as a single piece. You get five hulls, five 37mm gun turrets, and five machine gun turrets. The only white metal pieces in the set are the turret hatches and commanders, making assembly straight forward and quick. Generally the quality of the castings is quite good (see top detail of a hull below). There is some clean-up needed on the front hull where at least one resin sprue was located.

Because the primary armament is cast-in, you'll need to be very careful removing the 37mm turrets from the hulls for priming and painting - mine were jammed in pretty tightly for the most part. There is also the risk of the machine guns getting snapped off in transit (I had one with a broken machine gun). I also had a couple of mis-cast machine gun turrets, and I've emailed Battlefront customer service for replacements.

You'll have to snip away some of the basing on the commander figures to get them to fit properly into the turret hatch opening. Fitting the closed hatches was relatively straightforward, though, and the end result looks really very nice for a minimum of model-building effort. I've been adding rare earth magnets to mine, but they are not included in the box. For small tankettes I use one of the standard-sized rare earth magnets, and one or two smaller ones (one for closed hatch, two for open hatch with commander) as I've found the standard size magnets are often too strong for very small turrets like on the Type 97.

After the construction challenges encountered in the older Type 94 Tankette (JP005) miniature that came out with Rising Sun, I believe Battlefront made the right choice going to a single resin casting for this particular miniature. The end result is cleaner with less fuss than the earlier tankette. At this point I'd give the miniature roughly 4 stars out of five. The casting quality and ease of construction is excellent, but the machine gun turrets are very fragile and will require care in handling and transportation.


Product:  Type 97 Te-Ke Platoon (JBX05)
Manufacturer:  Battlefront
System:  Flames of War
Scale:  1/100 (15mm)
Rating:  4 out of 5

  • High level of detailing for a small miniature
  • Ease of construction and clean up
  • Both 37mm and machine gun turret options available in the box
  • Cast-in armament is fragile - especially the machine-gun turrets
  • Lack of rare earth magnets in the box

Dr. Michael McSwiney has been playing wargames since the early 1980's and Flames of War since 2008. He is an author, contributor, and former playtester for Battlefront and maintains his own wargaming blog Miniature Ordnance Review.


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