Moustafa El-Assad continues his pictorial coverage of the conflict in his homeland through his Blue Steel Books publications. In this new book titled White Thunder Centauro Inside Out, he presents a detailed look at the Centauro variants deployed by Italy to war-torn Lebanon with the United Nations Interim Forces In Lebanon (UNIFIL). The B1 Centauro wheeled tank destroyer has been in service with Italian forces since the early 1990s. It has been involved in deployments to Somalia with UNOSOM, Bosnia with IFOR and SFOR, Kosovo with KFOR, Iraq with NATO, and now to Lebanon with UNIFIL. Spain also uses the Centauro under the designation VRC-105. Surprisingly there has not been a lot of photographic coverage on the Centauro deployments, until now. Italy has a force in excess of 2000 troops in Lebanon and the Centauro's proven success in previous operations provides the UN forces with a significant addition in firepower and mobility in patrolling the unstable “blue line” between Israel and Lebanon.
The book is produced in a high quality soft cover format comprising of 64 pages with over 120 images included in the main body, the front and back covers, and inside the front and rear covers. A full page stylized cartoon illustration of a Centauro patrolling the “blue line” between Lebanon and Israel is also included. Readers of Blue Steel Books will begin to find these cartoons common place as included content.
White Thunder focuses on the two variants of the Italian Centauro deployed with UNIFIL, the short hull and extended hull versions. The images appear to have been taken shortly after their arrival in Lebanon and the full effect of the red earth weathering that occurs while patrolling is not evident. This is by no means a fault of the book as it provides the reader the ability to see lightly weathered Centauros showing some effects of light weathering, wear and tear, and excellent details. A brief synopsis of the Centauro is included at the beginning of the book but I found it odd that no mention of the Centauros in Iraq was included until later in the photo captions.
The English text that accompanies the images provides both an explanation of the image details and additional historical or data facts about the vehicle. This keeps the content interesting and fresh as the reader progresses through the book. Images vary from full vehicle shots to detail shots of the varying unique pieces of equipment festooning the hull and turret of the Centauro. The book does a good job of differentiating the short and long hull versions despite no distinct sections in the book. Pages 1-28 essentially show details of the short hull version while later pages show the long hull version and comparison images between the two versions.
Some of the Centauros arrived in Lebanon still in their standard single colour dark green paint. I believe that these vehicles were repainted white while in Lebanon but it offers readers and modellers a unique opportunity to see the differences in paint shades on chassis and add-on armour panels, the interim UN markings, and areas of the vehicles where markings had been removed from previous deployments. Remnants of white lettering from IFOR and KFOR deployments are clearly visible in some images. One must remember that IFOR took place in 1995 so those markings have been lingering for well over a decade. It appears that some unit level markings, such as square Company coloured markings, were still present on a few of the vehicles upon deployment while others have areas that look like they were painted over in green.
Modelling a white vehicle, in particular a UN mission deployed AFV, is not an easy task. However, with the images provided modellers will be able to make note of the weathering that quickly accumulates from everyday use on a white painted vehicle. The photos are very good and show the small paint scratches, and dirt build ups on the heavy traffic areas. An interesting feature of the white painted Centauros is the details that were left unpainted and in the original green. From my experiences on AFVs during UN missions this makes complete sense to me. Areas such as the hatch rings, the inside of the hatches, the commander’s main gun sight, armoured doors for the gunner’s sight, the machine gun shields, on board fire extinguisher handles, and the recoil sleeves on the barrel would be exposed to extra wear and/or maintenance and therefore they are not painted white.
Coverage of the markings applied to both the white and green Centauros is very well done. The markings look distinct on both types of vehicles and provide a modeller with different options as to how to finish a potential UNIFIL Centauro project.
White Thunder also includes a look into the interior of the Centauro. Images include views of the driver’s station, the turret details, and the rear hull area. This will be very useful for the modeller who decides to take on building an interior. What readers should also note in the book are the images of the Centauro crewman. There are good images of the blue berets, crew helmets, and the digital camouflage uniforms worn by Italian troops in Lebanon.
Also included in the book are a couple of good detail side images of the two Italian Bergepanzer 2 ARVs deployed with UNIFIL. The ARVS are in solid green and showing a great deal of surface rust on a variety of fittings and the hull. The markings are limited to temporary white background black UN lettering stickers. I am not sure if the ARVs were painted white after arrival in Lebanon.
In my opinion this is a great walk around book of the Centauro and for modellers interested in trying a UN white vehicle. The details provided in the images of both the short and long hull versions will assist modellers interested in the current Model Victoria Centauro kits or the upcoming Trumpeter Centauro kits. It is invaluable for modellers to have good reference material and Blue Steel Books does not disappoint with White Thunder.
For modellers who are wanting examples of what a UN white AFV looks like and how it weathers from the ground up and examples of paint chipping then this is the book for you. Even freshly painted vehicles weather and chip and it is excellent to see accurate coverage of this in real life. I highly recommend this book and I look forward to future releases by Blue Steel Books of other UNIFIL vehicles. The current UNIFIL mandate expires on August 31, 2009 so seeing these and other vehicles in UN white in Lebanon may be limited.
Highs: Excellent detail images of both short and long hull variants along with well photographed examples of the markings and weathering.Lows: It would be nice to have distinct book sections for the short and long hull versions for those readers not totally familiar with the Centauro.Verdict: Highly recommended book. Great to see coverage of deployed Centauros.