Crusader Mk.III AA Mk.III
Italeri Kit No. 6444
1:35th Scale

Review by Terry Ashley


(Notes by Peter Brown)
In all there were three versions, the Mk I with single 40mm Bofors used by some Royal Artillery Light Anti Aircraft Regiments, the Mk II with two 20mm Oerlikons and the improved Mk III with a different turret and relocated radio equipment intended for tank units. Despite the note in the instructions which says few were produced, production of 20mm AA tanks was around 300 and the War Establishments for the late-war period had six vehicles in the Headquarters of Armoured and Tank (ie Churchill-equipped) Brigades, two in each Tank and Armoured Brigade HQ and two in an Armoured Division's HQ giving 28 in an Armoured Division and 18 in each Tank or Armoured Brigade. They were used in the early stages of the North-West Europe campaign, most were withdrawn around August 1944 when the AA Troops were disbanded as their were few Luftwaffe attacks and crews were reassigned to regular tanks. However, one Canadian regiment kept theirs and even ended the campaign with an extra vehicle! No longer needed in their main role, many were issued as Observation Post vehicles with Artillery units equipped with M10 series tank destroyers.

The Kit:

Italeri have released a number of versions of the Crusader over the years much to the appreciation of Allied modellers as this is the only plastic kit of this vehicle available (the Airfix was 1:32 remember) and while the Mk.I/II had some detail crossovers the original Mk.III was an excellent kit for its time and will still build into a nice model today with the model available under the Revell label at a slightly higher price than the original.

This latest version is of the Crusader III AA Mk.III and is based on the MK.III chassis with the new armoured turret housing twin 20mm Oerlikon cannon and differed from the Mk.II which also used the twin Oerlikons by the No.19 radio set being moved from the turret to the beside the driver giving more room in the turret for the crew.

Italeri have done well here in incorporating the features of the AA MK.III such as the additional 14mm appliqué armour panels added to the glacis and lower hull plate, to the front of the upper hull and the sides of the driver’s hood (also fitted to later Mk.IIIs). The extra storage box on the front left fender is there as is the aerial mounts on the glacis.

The kit has 241 parts in dark green plastic, a set of vinyl tracks as well as the decal and instruction sheet for what is a “traditional” kit amongst the plethora of etched and metal parts in contemporary kits these days.

Sprue A with the suspension is from the original Mk.III kit (well all the Crusader kits really) with sprues B and C being based on the originals with modifications to incorporate the AA parts.

The standard of moulding is quite good overall but there is some minor flash on many parts to be removed as well as some fairly prominent mould lines especially on the newer parts which strangely aren’t as clean as the original parts. There are also some pin marks in noticeable places and a few sink marks to contend with but these issues have always been with Italeri kits to some degree or other.

Detail on the parts is very good overall with the weld seams on the AA turret being well done as they are on the front appliqué armour panels and overall the level of detail is perfectly adequate and includes some small separate parts such as the engine deck door handles and the wire rope attachments with these fine detail parts something else Italeri has always been known for.

The lower hull has the separate outer panels with the axles and shock absorbers trapped between the two with detail on the road wheels, drive sprockets and idlers being well done overall and build into a nicely detailed suspension setup. The only issue was some minor ‘flash’ in a few of the drive sprocket holes and both idlers having a sink mark right in the middle of the hub cap, but this can be easily dealt with.

The rear hull panel has the three intake louvers with open gaps between them for good definition but the fishtail exhaust which exits through these louvers is not included as it wasn't on the Mk.III kit either. Basically all the other details being separate parts including all the fender storage boxes, a six part driver’s hood where you can show the doors open if you wish, head lights with separate guards, front and rear tow shackles and the multi-part oil-bath air cleaners with piping on the rear fenders. The large rear mounted fuel tank is also included but the AA Mk.III vehicles don’t have this fitted so it's best to leave this off.

AA Turret:

This is all new and has the main turret as a single moulding with the open top hatch, recesses for the guns and periscopes and a separate lower turret ring that includes inside ring details moulded on as well as the lower turret basket attachment ‘legs’. The lower turret ring tub has tread plate pattern on the floor as well as the gun controls and there are additional crew seats added around the turret ring. Unfortunately there are four large pin marks that mar the turret ring detail and these are basically impossible to remove without destroying the surrounding fine details and there is also a bit of cleanup needed on the basket legs.

Detail on the AA turret as mentioned is very good with nicely rendered weld seams on the panel joins and around the periscope apertures with separate periscopes, right side searchlight and the four lifting ‘eyes’ at each corner of the turret. The front turret plate is also a separate part with the correct contours and the six large bolts and washers which are set at random angles as they are on the surviving AA example at the Saumur Museum of Armor and also includes the characteristic overhand of the front plate. The round bolted plate on the rear panel is also a separate part for good definition and the dimensions and angles of the turret match the 1:35 plans in the Armor PhotoGallery book to within acceptable tolerances.

There are a few interior details such as small boxes, and gear packs added to the turret walls to add a bit of life when viewed through the open top.

The 20mm Oerlikons have the breech section separate from the barrels with each fitting into the main gun mounting which allow the guns to elevate when trapped to the turret by the fitting added to the back of the front plate.

Detail on the guns is quite basic and there are a couple of large pin marks on the sides of the breech section and quite large mould seams on the barrel sections. The cooling jackets on the barrels lack the inner spring detail that is a feature of the Oerlikon and you will have to drill out the cannon muzzles for a better look and overall the impression is one of simplicity but with the basics there.

The two large ammo drums on the other hand are nicely detailed being in two parts each to allow good detail definition on both ends of the drums and these help to add a bit more detail to the assembly.

On the outside is the upper A frame sight mounting with the ring sight being quite well done for injected plastic but is still over scale and will probably be replaced with the inevitably etched detail set from one or more of the major players. 

The sight mounting frame is also commendably thin and is designed to be movable with the connecting arm attached to the sight frame and inside gun mount also designed to move so the sight will elevate in line with the guns which is a nice feature.

The tracks are the same vinyl track from the original kit that has quite nice details on both sides of the track although the guide teeth lack the small lightening hole which would be all but impossible to incorporate on this type track or any for that matter as they are quite small and the opposite direction from most guide tooth lightening holes.


The small decal sheet is well printed with good colour register and thin carrier film with markings provided for the vehicles.


Overall another basically sound kit from Italeri which incorporates all major features of the variant although there is a bit of cleanup required and some annoying pin marks but will build easily into a nice replica of the Crusader AA with scope for any amount of additional detail to be added.

It’s nice to see another Allied vehicle of a lesser known type and should appeal not only to Allied modellers but anyone wanting something different form the usual “gun tank” and maybe well will see more, even a Crusader Gun Tractor.


The Sprues:

The Sprues

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book Crusader and Covenanter Cruiser Tanks 1939–45
New Vanguard 14
Osprey Publishing
David Fletcher.
ISBN 1 85532 512 8

Ground Power Magazine
No.059 4/1999


Extensive coverage of the Crusader and variants.


Classic AFV's No.1
An Airfix Book
By John Milsom, John Sanders and Gerald Scarborough.
Patrick Stephens Ltd.
ISBN 0 85059 194 5

First published in 1976 and may be hard to find these days.

Thanks to Italeri for the review kit.

Page created December 19, 2005