by: Sean Langley [ ]
The BMP-3 is Russiaís latest Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) Ė or, in old money and to Trumpeter, Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle or MICV. Despite the name it shares very little with the older BMP-1 and BMP-2 and itís actually based on an aborted light tank design from the 1970s. Superficially, it resembles an old BMD scaled up and given a drainpipe for a gun.
The BMP-3 is a curious beast. It follows through the established Russian practice of mounting heavy armament on an IFV and squeezing in the infantry squad where thereís room. However, the armament is way beyond even its well-armed predecessors, consisting of a 100mm main gun that can fire conventional HE ammunition or 9M117 (AT-10) anti-tank missiles, plus a 30mm cannon attached to it and a 7.62mm machine gun. Compare this with the 73mm gun and rail-mounted AT-3 of the BMP-1, and the 30mm gun and tube-launched AT-5 of the BMP-2.
Another odd feature is that the engine is at the back, removing some valuable protection and requiring the crew to leave by much smaller doors than usual, or by the roof hatches. Three crew sit side-by-side at the front with two of them manning the squad machine guns, which poke out through the corners of the superstructure. All in all it seems not to have been very successful, as the interior is cramped and impractical, and relatively few have been built for the home market. Nonetheless, there has been some export success, most notably to the United Arab Emirates and to Greece. The UAE version will be the subject of a later release, as will the late-production version; meanwhile, kit 00364 is the early-production version.
Trumpeterís kit provides 294 parts in sandy brown plastic plus a further 336 in darker brown for the tracks, 4 clear, and 16 in photo-etched brass. There are in fact more, but you donít use them. Many of the specifically early parts are on Sprue K and replace parts that are provided on other sprues: bow and stern plates, boarding steps, idlers, and a few smaller details. From whatís missing, though, I doubt you could also assemble a later version from whatís in the box. Another peculiarity is that, while this is the firmís first BMP-3 kit and has only just been released, the PE fret is dated 2008. What has been going on?
Moulding is generally high-quality and very crisp. Although you wonít use it, see the close-up of the outer sprocket for how good it is. Thereís already some minor flash, particularly on the track links, so some of the parts have a slightly ragged look to them. However, there appear to be few mould seams to sort out, and those very light. I can find no significant sink marks. Limited use is made of slide-moulding. The 30mm gun is in one piece with a slide-moulded muzzle; the 100mm gun comes in the traditional two parts. Who knows why? The smaller gun is noticeably bowed on the sprue and remains slightly curved on removal; attaching it to the main gun should, hopefully, sort this out. There are numerous knock-out pin marks Ė only a few on extensions Ė but many, if not most, seem to be placed so that theyíll be hidden. Some also have collars of flash, which may interfere with fit.
Assembly is fairly conventional, in 13 stages. Thereís only so much you can do with armour, of course, so itís running gear, lower hull, upper hull, turret, final assembly. The individual-link tracks come in two parts per link: the main shoe and (not illustrated) a half-loop guide horn. You need 168 in all (84 per side) but thereís plenty of redundancy, as there are 180 shoes and (for some reason) 222 guide horns. The PE fret covers the engine grille, armoured covers for the sights, caps for the smoke launchers, and mounts for the unditching beam. This sits very high on the hull and will foul the turret in the left-hand arc, although it does appear to be correct for at least some users. The clear parts are mainly lenses for the lights Ė as usual with Russian armour, the BMP-3 is festooned with searchlights, so these are very nice to have.
The turret is provided with an interesting interior. It has a floor suspended from the turret ring, on which are mounted the magazines for the lighter armament and three ready-to-use AT-10s. It must be an absolute bugger loading those in the space available. The main gun is fed from a rotary magazine under the floor, which is provided too, albeit with no ammunition. This is a strange part to include, as itís almost completely hidden under the floor and should never be visible. If you do somehow contrive to show it, itís riddled with very awkward pin marks. I suspect from its position behind the crewís seats that it should also have a device for lifting rounds to the breech, although I canít identify the necessary parts. Talking of which, the breech area seems to represent only the main gun (in a rudimentary fashion) and thereís no ammunition feed from the magazines for the other two.
The hull too has some interior parts, though theyíre a bit haphazard. The insides of the rear doors are represented quite well, as is the passage to the main compartment over the fuel tank, but thereís really only token detail further forward. For instance, there are seats but no belts; and while the hull machine guns have barrels, there are no breeches inside, and no alternative parts if you donít want them mounted. Also, none of the other hatches has an inside, so they canít be posed open, which is a bit of a waste of the very nice commanderís sight. There are also some odd omissions from the exterior: no tow cable, for example, and the machine guns in the hull have no brush-guards. It might be possible with enough skill and patience, and copious references, to knock up more detail, but for nearly thirty quid it would be nice to have it all done properly.
Test-fitting a few parts reveals a bit of a mixed bag. The main hull parts sit together well. Inside them are four long panels that line the fighting compartment, which are the sort that most need clean fit. Two fit well, one fits OK, and the fourth, well, itís not even all that clear where it should fit, let alone whether it does. The front mudguards (E9 and E10) are mislabeled in the instructions and Iíd be inclined to attach the fenders behind them (E29 and E30) after hull assembly, not before as is recommended, for a sounder fit.
There are two colour options, both in Russian service. One has an attractive sand, green and dark grey camouflage scheme, which is among the attached photos (although the colours donít match from one view to the next). The other Iíve not bothered with because you can probably imagine what overall green looks like. There are precisely four decals: two tactical numbers for each of the options. Iím fairly sure there ought to be more.
There arenít that many BMP kits around, and only Skif offers a BMP-3. Trumpeterís is much better than that one was. Unfortunately, itís a bit of a missed opportunity. What you get is very good; what you donít get is a shame.