ARM: Review - Trumpeter 1/35 scale BMP-1 IFV

Kit Review: Trumpeter 1/35 scale Kit No. 5555; Soviet BMP-1 IFV; 479 parts
(238 parts in grey styrene, 190 parts in brown styrene, 26 etched brass, 24
clear styrene, 1 turned aluminum barrel); retail price US$45.99
Advantages: new production tooling kit vast improvement over previous three
attempts; single link tracks and etched brass included; correct lower hull
profile and drivers
Disadvantages: skimpy markings and finishing options; no interior
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all modern Soviet and client state fans
In the late 1950s the Soviets conducted a number of tests using live troop
s and tactical yield nuclear weapons in Uzbekistan, and they soon came to t
he conclusion that unprotected troops, motorized or not, would not survive
travel over a nuclear blast contaminated battlefield. While their first rea
ction was to put roofs and hatches over their two primary personnel carrier
s, the BTR-50 and BTR-152, they realized a dedicated vehicle would be requi
red that could protect its occupants for short periods of time.
Their first major effort resulted in the BTR-60P series of vehicles, mostl
y the PA with a roof and the later PB which also mounted a turret. But a be
tter designed and more powerful vehicle was needed, and so requests for can
didates to meet the requirements went out. A total of 11 different vehicles
were offered, both wheeled and tracked (and a couple which were wheel-and-
track vehicles), but in the end the best candidate was found to be Article
765 from the Chelyabinsk Tractor Factory (ChTZ) which was designed by a tea
m led by P. P. Isakov. The first model appeared in 1962 and could carry nin
e men (eight infantry and a squad leader) and had a crew of two, a driver-m
echanic and a gunner-operator. It was fitted with a turret that mounted a 7
.62mm machine gun and a 73mm ?low pressure? gun which was essentially a
modified rocket grenade launcher with a closed breech. For additional anti
tank capability, the turret also had a mount for a 9M111 ?Malyutka? (AT
-3 SAGGER) missile above the main gun.
The vehicle was made mostly from lightweight steel and aluminum and was de
signed to swim water obstacles at up to 10 kph and also be sealed against N
BC contamination. Vehicles had seals for the squad?s weapons so they coul
d be fired from within the vehicle without breaking the hermetic seal that
kept radioactive dust and chemical vapors outside.
The early model had some seakeeping problems due to a shorter, bluff bow,
but in 1964 a redesigned and longer hull resulted in success, and as a resu
lt it was accepted for service in 1966 as the BMP-1 - Boyevaya Mashina Pekh
oty or Fighting Vehicle for Infantry. Later, one of its competitors and the
vehicle finishing second in the competition, Article 911 from the Volgogra
d Tractor Factory (VgTZ), was resigned as the Article 915 which was accepte
d as the BMD-1 for the Airborne Forces.
Thousands of BMP-1 vehicles were built before the vastly improved BMP-2 va
riant appeared in 1981. One of the main problems with the BMP-1 was that th
e squad (and vehicle) commander sat behind the driver and could not see all
around the vehicle, nor could he easily direct the gunner to engage target
s. The 73mm weapon also was not able to conduct high altitude fire against
enemy forces in buildings or mountains (Afghanistan) nor could it engage th
e new threat ? attack helicopters. But the BMP-1 soldiers on in many armi
es today and was widely exported and sold to nearly all of the Soviet clien
t states.
Twenty years ago three kits of the BMP-1 came out nearly at the same time
from DML, ESCI and Lindberg. The less said about the Lindberg kit the bette
r, but the other two had a rather odd history. Both kits suffered from the
exact same major errors ? the wrong profile to the hull and erroneous dri
vers with six spokes vice the five of the actual vehicle. While they also h
ad a lot of other problems with dimensions and details that were wrong, the
se two features prompted DML and ESCI to prepare to sue each other over des
ign infringement. When the lawyers were preparing their cases, they found o
ut that both companies had used the identical tooling manufacturer in South
Korea and they simply used the same features for both sets of molds
Trumpeter has now released a new mold kit of the BMP-1 and it is an excell
ent effort. As the Chinese make their own version ? the WZ-501 ? the de
signers apparently had more than enough access to accurate information and
details on this vehicle. Also, as there are tons of good references availab
le today from Russia and other countries on the vehicle, it is easy to chec
k on its accuracy.
The lower hull pan has the correct profile to the bow to include the weld
bead that joints the front plate to the pressed steel belly pan (which both
DML and ESCI took to be a change in angle and put in their kits). Trumpete
r packs this separately in the box with foam padding around the rear plate/
door frame section; they also wrap foam around the front section where the
hull curves down to join the wheel wells. Both parts fit together nearly se
amlessly on my example, but I have heard others say there is a gap at the r
ear of the hull which sounds like some warpage in shipment. The turret is a
lso just about right and sits in the proper position.
The bump stops and road wheel arms are separate parts as are the final dri
ve covers, and etched brass details are provided for the bump stops. Shocks
are included as well as travel guards and other elements. The rear doors (
which contain fuel tanks on the original are nicely detailed with the right
door having 11 parts and the left door having 12. But as there is no inter
ior it?s kind of a shame.
Each road wheel consists of two sections to give the proper profile but co
me with the odd rubber ridges seen on only a few Soviet vehicles. The idler
s come in two halves but need five etched brass stiffeners to complete them
. Tracks are the single track links snap-together ones offered separately,
but here they are provided with the kit (unlike the T-64 kit). As they are
snap-together ones preparation and installation are not as grim as the ones
on the BMP-3 kit. Each run takes 85 links so there are about 20 extras in
the kit.
The crew hatches come with liners but as noted with the rear hatches there
is no interior under them if left open. The commander?s cupola is molded
to the upper hull so cannot be positioned. The engine deck is a single pie
ce but without an engine it also goes begging. The wave breaker may be posi
tioned as closed or open.
There are etched brass screens for the radiator vents as well as deflector
blades and a screen for the engine exhaust.
The turret is one piece ? no race or interior is provided - and comes wi
th a choice of slide-molded plastic or turned aluminum barrels. The Malyutk
a is a gem, consisting of five parts for the missile and four more for the
launcher. But here the missile loading hatch is molded shut.
Four finishing options are shown on the directions: Soviet BMP-1 in dark g
reen with bort number 542 and a tactical marking of an inverted triangle wi
th 175-2 inside it (theoretically that would be the 175th Motorized Rifle R
egiment, 2nd Battalion); one NVA (East German National Peoples Army) BMP-1
with roundels; and two Czech BVP-1 (their designator for BMP-1) vehicles, e
ither bort number 104u or 093 u. A small sheet of decals is provided for th
ese markings.
Overall, this is an excellent kit and one which is finally worthy of repre
senting its well-known prototype. Trumpeter now has the basis for many of i
ts variants, such as the BMP-2, BMP-1KShM or MP-31 command and control vehi
cles, PRP-3 or PRP-4 mobile artillery reconnaissance posts, or the BRM-1 re
connaissance vehicle.
Cookie Sewell
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