ARM: Orochi Model 1/35 scale M3A3 Bradley CFV

Kit Review: Orochi Model 1/35 scale Kit No. IM002; M3A3 Bradley CFV - Stand ard Edition; 498 (678) parts (299 in tan styrene, 160 snap-together track l
inks, 29 clear styrene, 9 etched brass, 1 vinyl flap plus 180 rivet and bol t heads); retail price US$52.99
Advantages: current version of the Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle with al l basic add-ons, most of the Bradley Urban Survival Kit (BUSK) included; in expensive way to get a current version of the BFV
Disadvantages: no interior (builder preference item), simplified tracks fro m original "Deluxe" kit
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all modern US Armor fans
    By now most modern American modelers are aware of the history of the Brad ley Fighting Vehicle and its evolution. Beginning in Vietnam the US Army was looking at having the ability to fight from "under armor" and made a number of experim ental variants of the M113 family with gun ports in the rear of the hull. B ut all of that came to a sharp change in direction with the advent of the S oviet BMP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) in 1967.
    The Army then tried to create its own version and basically focused on a l arger and heavier vehicle in 1972, the XM723, which was fitted with a small turret and machine guns. But once again the Soviets surprised them with th e introduction of the BMP-2 IFV in 1981. This vehicle had a powerful 2A42 3 0mm automatic cannon which could defeat any US APC in service at the time o f its introduction, and due to its high angle of elevation could also engag e helicopters and strike aircraft (read A-10). Thankfully a 25mm upgrade wi th a two man turret had been proposed in 1976, and it was now offered.
    Since the Soviets also had ATGM capability with both vehicles (AT-3 with t he -1, AT-4/5 with the -2) the Army finally decided to upgrade to match. Th e new vehicles, the XM2 IFV and a companion XM3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle, w ere similar with different internal arrangements: the IFV carried a crew of 3 and 6 man dismount team; the CFV a crew of 3 and 2 dismount scouts. Both were armed with a 25mm Bushmaster chain-driven automatic cannon, a 7.62mm M240 machine gun, and a two-round launcher for the TOW ATGM missile. Five g un ports were provided, each mounting a modified M16 (Firing Port Weapon).
    But the initial fielding of the BFV did not go well, beginning with the fa ct it weighed over 25 tons and was the same size as a WWII Sherman tank. Fi ghts took place inside and outside the Pentagon with some testing putting t he poor Bradley (light armor at the end of the day) against main gun tank r ounds and ATGMs which all destroyed the target vehicles. Happily somebody n oted that BFVs were unlikely to operate away from tanks in European combat, and in the early 1980s the initial models were fielded.
    Over the years the vehicles evolved, and by 1991 when the US Army went off to Desert Storm they were now using the A2 versions. These added heavier a rmor protection against 30mm cannon rounds, blanked off the FPW ports and m ade a number of electronic changes to the vehicles. The BFV family distingu ished itself well, destroying slightly more enemy vehicles than the Abrams tanks due to the 25mm against anything up to and including T-55 class tanks and the TOW missiles against other targets.
    But with the 2003 Iraqi war and city combat once again survivability becam e an issue, and the A3 models were introduced with the Bradley Urban Surviv al Kit or BUSK fitted. This included an armor-glass station for the command er, explosive reactive armor kits fitted (the fittings for this had been de signed into the vehicle with the A2 upgrades) and blast-reduction seating f or crew members and internal protection. The latest versions (BUSK III) inc ludes more changes, a bigger engine, and other electronic upgrades. But as noted the BFVs now weigh around 32 metric tons - or more than a WWII Sherma n. Over 6,700 were built for the US Army and various versions are in servic e with the goal being to upgrade many of them to at least A3 level and BUSK III where needed.
    Tamiya came out with a pair of BFV kits in the early 1980s - the M2 had an interior in the dismount compartment, the M3 did not. Later they upgraded it to M2A2 standards, and Academy offered competing kits. But in the last t wo years two new kits of the vehicles have been offered: Meng offers both a n M2A3 and an M3A3, both with full interiors but at high prices (retail is $100 for the M2A3, $75 for the M3A3, and the M3A3 interior is offered separ ately as well for $39.99). The kits are excellent with full marks for detai ls.
    Now this kit is offered by Orochi Model, a subsidiary of Takom. It provide s a no-nonsense simplified kit of the M3A3 and is available in two classes, "Deluxe" (Kit IM001) for $65 and "Standard" (this one - IM002) for only $5 3. The differences between the two kits are that the Deluxe one comes with four resin parts (bustle stowage), a two-piece brass gun barrel, and single link white metal tracks held together by steel pins. That kit has 722 part s to this kit's 488, almost all with the track sets.
    What you get with this kit is a solid kit of the basic Bradley with the mo difications for the CFV such as the vision blocks on the dismount compartme nt roof/reloading hatch and other detail changes. It has a one-piece styren e gun barrel and 180 links of snap-together styrene track (similar to the M eng tracks). All hatches may be posed open and the wheels and tracks may be left moveable thanks to the vinyl wheel keepers.
    Some corners have been cut - the lower skirts on the A2 and later Bradleys actually consist of two thin sheets of armor steel spaced about 25mm apart but here, as with most of the other kits, they are molded in one section. This is not too bad though, as the ERA arrays block most of the views of th e skirts when installed. 180 rivets and bolt heads are provided on the edge of the A sprues and these all have to be cut off and attached by the model er per a location map on the first page of the nice direction book.
    Assembly is very straightforward with the lower hull and running gear comi ng first and the tracks in Step 5. However, you only have either/or mountin g options for the rear hatch and the ramp - unlike the Tamiya kits the latt er is not a working part.
    The ERA comes in segments and all of the bow sections are attached to repl ica brackets rather than just stuck on the surface of the engine access hat ch. A separate turret race guard is also provided. (Note that a broken hear t - for whatever reason! - is an indicator to use ACC cement.)
    All of the vehicle periscopes are provided as clear styrene parts, as are all headlight lenses. As this is the A3 version with BUSK kit, it comes wit h the armor glass "birdcage" for the commander as well as the commander's i ndependent thermal viewer that mounts at the right rear of the turret. Spar e 7.62mm ammo cans are provided for the rear of the bustle, but unlike the Deluxe kit there is no stowage.
    Like the Tamiya kits, the TOW launcher may be shown stowed (flat against t he side of the turret) or deployed (swung parallel to the ground and elevat ed). Both the gun mount and TOW mount are fitted with vinyl keepers to hold them in the desired position. However, note that the AA gun sight (parts E 10/55/39, C48 and PE3) must be left loose as shown in the directions if the gun mount is to elevate.
    Marking and finishing data is minimal; colors are flagged during assembly but overall the vehicle is basic sand. Small G33 markings are provided for 2-3 Cavalry Squadron, 2nd ID. I suggest seeking out more accurate and compl ete markings via after-market offerings.
    Overall these kits are a relative bargain in a day and age when the averag e armor kit is now well over $70. The main difference here is if you want t he white metal tracks or the snap-together styrene ones.
Cookie Sewell
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On Saturday, February 6, 2016 at 10:29:39 PM UTC-5, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

ndard Edition; 498 (678) parts (299 in tan styrene, 160 snap-together track links, 29 clear styrene, 9 etched brass, 1 vinyl flap plus 180 rivet and b olt heads); retail price US$52.99

I've got the Deluxe version, and agree it is a nice kit. Although, the M3A3 Cavalry version is a much rarer version than the Infantry M2A3 version. On ly regular army heavy cavalry formations use it where as all mechanized inf antry battalions use the M2A3.
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