ARM: Review - Trumpeter 1/35 scale Russian BTR-60PU

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Kit Review: Trumpeter 1/35 scale Kit No. 01576; Russian BTR-60PU; 580 parts
 (473 in grey styrene, 67 etched brass, 23 clear styrene, 8 black vinyl, 8  
clear vinyl, 1 length of copper wire); retail price US$53.99

Advantages: first kit of this vehicle in styrene; nicely done driveline, fu
ll interior in the control and fighting compartments

Disadvantages: model is NOT a BTR-60PU! (See Text)

Rating: (See Text)  

Recommendation: for Soviet and ?Third World? armored vehicle and wheele
d armor fans

    During WWII the Soviets realized how backward both their doctrine and thei
r electronics industry really were when they began to examine both captured
 German vehicles and their Lend-Lease equipment from the US.  

    In the case of the former they found that the Germans succeeded more often
 as not in spite of having poorer armored vehicles and artillery compared t
o the Soviets as they were able to control it better via combination radio  
sets in command vehicles. A good commander could coordinate his attacks wit
h infantry, artillery and often close air support; the Soviet commander fac
ing him for the first half of the war was stuck to a few short-range radio  
sets, flags, whistles and bugles.  

    In the case of the latter they found the US had excellent VHF FM radio set
s which had clear reception and good range, plus the armored vehicles had a
 slight overlap at each end of their radio spectrum to speak to either infa
ntry or artillery when needed. US command vehicles also had compact high-po
wer HF AM radio sets for longer range communications with rear headquarters
 and occasionally ground-to-air liaison sets for controlling close air supp
ort as well.     
    In the 1950s the Soviets completely redid their radio industry and switche
d over to VHF FM radio sets for most tactical communications, leaving HF AM
 for long range command and control. A standard combination of command vehi
cle radios such as the R-125 series had a pair of dedicated arm of service  
VHF FM sets, a single VHF FM maneuver radio sets, an HF AM command set, and
 an HF AM receiver to monitor the weather or nuclear warning net.  

    Their first dedicated armored command vehicles, the BTR-152K and BTR-50PU,
 were bigger and bulkier than the line vehicles they supported, so in the l
ate 1960s they switched over to the new BTR-60P chassis for a dedicated ser
ies of armored command vehicles. There were two basic vehicles used: the R-
145B ?Chayka? which was the maid-of-all-work command vehicle for combin
ed arms and artillery, and the PU-12 air defense command and control vehicl
e for air defense units. Both were dubbed ?BTR-60PU? as a general term.
  

    The R-145BM model ? many of which are still in service ? was fitted wi
th two R-111 high-power VHF radios, one R-123M VHF set for maneuver (e.g. c
onvoy control), one R-130M HF AM long range radio, one R-323 HF AM receiver
, and in some cases a T-217 cryptologic device and T-012 automated calling  
device. This was the primary command and control vehicle at battalion and a
bove in support units and regiment and above in motorized rifle and tank un
its.  

    The PU-12 was fitted with a large number of input devices for direct radar
 feeds from various types of radars, all of which were processed and presen
ted on a scope for the controller to see where the air threats were develop
ing. He used a mouse-like device to track them and send data out to his sub
ordinate units such as SA-8 or SA-13 batteries, but any other units had to  
receive data by voice as they lacked the data feed devices. This vehicle us
ed an R-111 radio for command, an R-407 simplex/duplex VHF radio for data f
eeds, and an R-123 for maneuver.  

    Visually the difference between an R-145BM and a PU-12 was the presence of
 a large rail antenna (not too subtly called CLOTHES RAIL by NATO) for the  
R-130M radio. The Soviets preferred a method of communications called near  
vertical incidence skywave or NVIS and that would give them a communication
s range of 50-350 kilometers from a fixed position. The R-145BM had it, the
 PU-12 did not.  

    Trumpeter has released another variant in its excellent BTR-60P family and
 this was designated the BTR-60PU by them. A total of 230 new parts are add
ed to this kit over the PB version. But I say that while it comes with a fu
ll interior including all of the radios and racks found in the original, it
 is NOT quite accurate. By examining the parts, what Trumpeter has provided
 is a complete kit of the PU-12 air defense vehicle, not the R-145BM. Havin
g actually had the chance to ?operate? a PU-12 which was captured in Ir
aq, this is the interior with one R-111, the R-407, and the radar tracking  
position for the controller in the rigth rear of the troop compartment.  

    Externally as noted the R-145BM has the big CLOTHES RAIL antenna and the P
U-12 does not; ergo Trumpeter got it exactly backwards.  

    Other than that, this kit matches its predecessors for quality. Many parts
 are well protected (delicate ones are wrapped in foam inside the poly bag)
 and it also comes with two frets of etched brass. The kit also provides fo
r a complete interior to the ?control compartment? - the Russian term f
or the driver?s and commander?s seat area ? with all of the PU-12 ite
ms in the troop compartment.

    Its construction is more akin to recent kits like the AFV or Trumpeter Str
yker vehicles than the old DML BTRs. The first four steps cover just attach
ing the bump stops and suspension A frame brackets to the lower hull. You a
lso have an option for the early (winch in the front of the hull plate) or  
late (absent) hull front plates. Also, the hull pan needs to be modified to
 correct it for the PB by removing bits from the P kit.  

    It takes nine full steps before the lower hull pan is flipped over to star
t on the interior. Given the details on these kits it is odd they do not pr
ovide an etched grating for the water jet intake on the rear of the hull fl
oor.

    Step 10 covers the fixed parts of the interior; note that holes must be dr
illed for some options in this kit.

    Step 12 begins interior assembly with the racks and mounts for the electro
nics being installed; note that some are styrene and some are etched brass  
requiring bending to shape. This version has two seats at the front for the
 driver and commander and the rear seat for the radio operator/radio mechan
ic, the commander/controller and another crew member. (Interior is white wi
th grey floor, but the boxes are either silver or black based on era of con
struction; radios tend to be silver and the rest black.)  

    Oddly enough in Step 19 the R-123 radio (R-15/R-22) is shown being install
ed backwards ? the control panel faces the driver/commander, NOT the side
wall! Also a decal is provided for the driver?s instrument panel, but as  
it is embossed many may simply want to paint and drybrush it.  

    Step 21 starts the upper hull assembly but as noted ?Estate One? is th
e R-145BM version and ?Estate Two? is the PU-12. Note that if installed
 at this point parts J11 ? the clear glass windscreens - will need to be  
masked. If building the PU-12 fill in the attachment points for the mast in
 Steps 30 and 31 for the supports and leave off the antenna itself in Step  
32. Both versions do have the extendable mast (provided in retracted mode o
nly).  

    Decals and finishing directions are only provided for two Czech vehicles,  
but as they have reversed the PU-12 and R-145BM I suggest swapping markings
.  

    Soviet era vehicles are usually given numbers in the 00x range within a re
giment or higher, and as there are usually two or three around you can numb
er them from 001 upward. The PU-12 today would be in the air defense elemen
t (regiment or battalion) and be given a 60x number. Some today sport the c
urrent camouflages of their parent units, so some research on the Internet  
should give some good options.

    Overall, both these vehicles are in wide use and very handy, but my assess
ment of the kit is this: for a PU-12, Highly Recommended; for an R-145BM wi
th the hatches closed, Highly Recommended; but for an R-145BM with hatches  
open, Recommended with Reservations. Hopefully someone will do a proper res
in interior for an R-145BM.  

Cookie Sewell

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