Over the years there have been many sets labelled as modern, and sadly there continue to be many regions where today’s soldiers are called upon to do their duty. For the United States the most obvious recent postings at the time of writing have been Iraq and Afghanistan, although of course there are many other much quieter postings such as South Korea and Germany. This set from Caesar joins several others from them depicting recent combat soldiers, with some of those being rather a mixed bag and unfocused. Is this one any better?
The first thing to say is everyone here is in more or less the same uniform and standard of equipment, so this does not suffer from the scatter-gun approach of some other sets. Beginning with the clothing, we would expect these men to wear Army Combat Uniform (ACU), but from what we can see they do not. The jacket is of course obscured by the body armour and kit, but ACU trousers have thigh pockets tilted forward and smaller calf pockets, whereas these figures all have straight cargo pockets on the thigh and no lower pockets at all. Of course variants are worn, especially by bodies such as the Marines, so these may be perfectly valid trousers in some units, but they are not the standard Army issue of today.
The next question is about body armour. The standard body armour today is IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest) introduced in 2007, but from what is visible here these men seem not to have this. Every man has a slim panel on the front, suggesting this is supposed to be the IBS (Interceptor Body Armor), which is an older form of armour (from the late 1990s) that is now largely replaced. However this panel is not the correct size, and some other elements don't really match this identification either. These men do not have the rather bulky look that the IBS gave its wearer, so to us this looks like something of a composite of recent body armour parts put together by someone without a good knowledge of the systems. Again variants might be worn in the field, and particularly by contractors working on behalf of the military, but these figures do not look like the standard US Army soldier of today. In particular no figure here wears a groin protector of any description, nor for that matter any knee pads, which we would have liked to have seen on at least some. Even more common is eye protection in the form of glasses or goggles, but again none of these figures have this, which is disappointing, particularly if they are meant to be deployed in a hot, sunny zone.
The helmet looks a lot better, and we were particularly pleased to see the night vision device mounting bracket on all of them. Another good feature is the array of separate packs and Camelbaks shown in our third row - the first one pictured is a good match for the regulation assault pack. There are a total of 30 of these in various designs, and they attach to the soldier using a hole in each man’s back. The fit is by no means snug so they will need to be glued, but this does introduce a very welcome choice of equipment and is great to see.
Finally we come to the weapons, which in all cases are rifles. The sculpting is not the best on these items, but they do look a lot like the standard M16 rifle which, as it has a foregrip, is probably the M16A4, so that is as it should be. There is no array of weapons here, but then again with only 10 poses the scope is fairly limited.
Of the poses themselves we have no complaints. All look natural and quite believable, although the man with his hand on a rock is presumably supposed to be scrambling over some rough terrain as he looks a bit odd just as he comes.
The sculpting is very good, with nice proportions and a natural look, and with generally very good detail, although as we have said this does not extend to the rifles. There are some little areas of extra plastic here, so no clever moulds like some we have seen from Caesar in the past, but there is no flash so these are nice and neat. Both the baseless kneeling figures stand by themselves, although regular visitors will know how we prefer bases in such cases.
We have docked this set a couple of accuracy points for the reasons already stated, so while everything is OK at first glance the purist will see a bit more of a mess. The clothing and body armour seems to be a mix of styles from different systems, and lacking items like eyewear helps to give these figures a less than ideal feel. The sculpting is good and the poses quite believable, so this rather small set delivers a generic look of US soldiers from various points in the past decade or so. On the whole then it is better than some that have gone before, but still a bit too vague to be really satisfying in our view.