ARM: Review - Bronco 1/35 scale YW-531C APC

Kit Review: Bronco 1/35 scale Kit No. CB35082; YW-531C Armored
Personnel Carrier; 610 parts (538 in tan styrene, 48 etched brass, 23
clear styrene, 1 nylon string); retail price US$54.95
Advantages: first kit of this vehicle in this scale in styrene; wealth
of detail provided as well as numerous options for hatches
Disadvantages: no interior, itsy-bitsy parts not going to be
appreciated by all modelers
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Gulf War (=93Mother of All Battles=94) fans
Some vehicles, like Rodney Dangerfield, get no respect. The
indigenous Chinese YW-531 series armored personnel carriers, alas, are
among them.
Designed by the Chinese at Factory No. 618 in the early 1960s on
their own initiative, the YW-531 (the factory designator) was loosely
based on Western designs of the time rather than the Soviet BTR-50 and
BTR-60 APCs which were then in service with the Red Army. It was
designed to carry a crew of two and 13 infantry dismounts, with
hatches on the roof of the hull for 11 of the 15 personnel. It was
provided with a rotating cupola for a 12.7mm Type 54 (Chinese version
of the famous Russian =93Dushka=94 machine gun) but, like the later Soviet
BMP-1, the commander was seated right behind the driver and did not
operate the machine gun. The vehicle was adopted for service with the
Peoples Liberation Army as the Type 63 and entered production in
1964.
The first vehicles were mechanically unreliable, and while a few were
fobbed off on the North Vietnamese for test and evaluation it was not
a truly combat capable system. While the YW-531A model was designed in
1968 and did enter service with the PLA, it was in point of fact not
until the export-oriented YW-531C was produced with a German-designed
Deutz V-8 diesel in 1981 that it became at least functional. This
vehicle was sold to several foreign customers, most specifically the
Iraqis.
The Iraqis were at that time locked up with Iran and needed armored
vehicles badly, but as a =93pariah=94 state who started the war - even
though nobody in the West had a bit of sympathy for Khomeni=92s Iran =96
none of the usual countries would sell them weapons. As such, with
only minor purchases from the USSR for most of the war, Saddam Hussein
was forced to buy from China, North Korea, and other lesser provider
nations. The Iraqis bought thousands of Chinese vehicles, including
the Type 69-II (WZ-121C) tank and the YW-531C APC. But with the fact
that Saddam had been buying - as with all Arab countries - as a Soviet
client state, they redesignated the Type 69-II tanks as T-55 Chinese
and the YW-531C as the BTR-63. The later command vehicles (YW-701) and
ambulances (YW-750) were placed in service as BTR-63-1 vehicles.
All of this was well and good when fighting the Iranians, who were
just as incompetent as the Iraqis overall when it came to using
armored vehicles. But after the end of the war and what would turn out
to be the disastrous invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the BTR-63 was
quickly shown to be a deathtrap.
One case in point occurred early in Operation Desert Storm, when
Coalition forces went to take back the city of Khafji in late January-
early February 1991. One of the company commanders from a mechanized
infantry battalion of the 5th Mechanized Division was in his BTR-63
when they encountered a Qatari AMX-30 tank. The commander ordered the
gunner to engage the tank with the Type 54. The gunner basically said,
=93Are you nuts?=94 at which point the commander shot him, took the
machine gun and opened fire on the Qataris. The result was too
obvious: the Qatari tank commander dropped down, slewed the turret,
and put a 105mm round into the troop compartment of the BTR-63,
killing all but the driver (who told the tale when interrogated).
Hundreds of these vehicles were knocked out during Desert Storm as
they were poorly armored and essentially only =93battle taxis=94 that were
misused by the Iraqis. The 203rd MI Battalion has one at APG which was
brought back from Iraq, as well as the 24th Infantry Division at Fort
Stewart, Georgia.
Several attempts had been made over the years to offer a kit of the
Type 63 series APCs in resin, but few were worth mentioning and as a
relatively obscure vehicle until Desert Storm it was mostly ignored.
Now Bronco has released a lovely kit of this beast, which for some
reason has been harder to find that I would have expected (it has been
out for more than six months and I only now found one in a US hobby
shop).
Considering the YW-531C is a relatively small vehicle (smaller than
an M113) the kit has a surprisingly large number of parts. Some are
incredibly tiny (e.g. the individual bolts used to attach the spare
track links to the hull) and are going to be very frustrating to deal
with when installing them. But the biggest surprise is that while all
of the hatches are all designed to operate with scale hinges, other
than a single jump seat on the rear hatch there is not one whit of an
interior.
Assembly is pretty straightforward and the directions =96 while point
and stick =96 are clearer than some. As with all armored kits, assembly
begins with the suspension and lower hull. Wheels are two-piece with
thick backs to give the right look and all are designed with styrene
keepers to rotate, even though the directions indicate they are to be
cemented in place.
The tracks need a magnifying glass to sort out =96 they are handed left
and right, assembling hinges upward when viewed from the front and
with the bolt heads towards the outside of the vehicle. 96 links are
provided for each side but there is nothing to say how many are needed
per side (from the directions there will be extras). Bronco shows them
as snapping together but I am not sure if the nubs are sufficient to
hold the links together without cement.
The fenders require etched brass brackets to be added to mount the
side skirts. The finished assembly mounts as a single piece in Steps 7
(left) and 8 (right).
The directions note many parts are not supposed to be cemented in
place, such as the engine deck (B24), engine access hatch (B7), and
wave breaker (B8), but as noted all they do is permit you to lift off
the hatches to show the lovely empty hull! Ditto the hatches which are
each installed with very petite hinges and are suggested to be left
loose to open to again show empty space.
The Type 54 machine gun consists of 18 parts and is nicely done. But
then Bronco has you attach it to the cupola which has a fixed two-
piece hatch cover so you cannot display it open, but Bronco suggests
you don=92t cement the fixed hatch in place. Go figure.
The rear hatch consists of 13 parts and also permits the jump seat to
move, but then they show the hatch being cemented to the hull. I give
up trying to figure out their rationale on this one!
The last step shows a stretched sprue antenna being added - but their
term for it is =93make the antenna by plastic frame channel with heat of
fire=94. Close enough, I suppose...
The only name listed for reference is Phil Greenwood, but he doesn=92t
seem to have a very good idea about the actual history of the vehicle
and its problems. One thing it was not was =93very successful=94 (unless
sales to pariah states who can=92t buy anything else is considered
successful...)
Two finishing options are provided, both for Iraqi vehicles: one is
sand with license plate =93Al-Jaish 266-H=94 of an unknown probable
Republican Guards unit, which was captured by the 24th Infantry
Division and taken home as a war trophy; and one which the directions
simply claim is =93Iraqi Army, Gulf War 1991". The markings are
patterned on those of the 3rd =93Saladin=94 Armored Division but match
none of the actual vehicles as they are a royal blue-red-royal blue.
Actual Iraqi markings for their artillery units used medium blue-red-
medium blue with the artillery regiment number painted in the red band
(20 or 21 in white for 2S1 units, 110 for the 2S3 regiment). Infantry
units would have been green outer bands with white, black and yellow
center bands or a green center band with white, black or yellow outer
bands for the mechanized infantry battalion in armored brigades.
Overall this is a really nice kit and perfect for Desert Storm fans,
as it now allows them to =93complete the record=94 with a numerically
important participant in that war.
Cookie Sewell
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AMPSOne
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