The LAV III in the service of the Canadian Forces marked a proposed change in doctrine and tactics in the 1990s. At the time of development and procurement of the LAV III the APCs used by the Canadian Forces were the Bison, Grizzly AVGP, and the M113A2. One of the focuses of the LAV III purchase was to move the Canadian Mechanized Forces to a wheeled fighting vehicle family that could be modified with add-on armour packages and be air transportable. The LAV III would also greatly expand on the limited firepower previously available on the Grizzly AVGP and M113A2 with the addition of a two man turret mounting a 25 mm chain gun and machine guns.
I won’t go into vehicle specifications or technical information on the LAV III as this can easily be obtained with simple internet searches and already available publications. What I will tell you is that this kit is the first out of the box production modern Canadian AFV and Trumpeter
must be applauded for that accomplishment.
Is the kit perfect with accuracy? No.
Is the kit buildable out of the box and include some nice details? Yes, and that will be the focus of this review.
In this day and age of fiscal responsibility and economic cut backs Trumpeter has made a valiant effort to bring the everyday modeller a kit that looks like a LAV III and they have included extras such as photo etched parts, vinyl tires, and printed extras that only a few years ago were only available as aftermarket items.
If you are looking for a good overall kit that represents a Canadian LAV III then this is the kit for you. You can wait for aftermarket parts and conversions that will add to the level of detail and accuracy or you can enjoy building this kit for what it is…the first full production muli-media (vinyl, plastic, photo etch, and paper print) kit of the LAV III. For years, fans of modern Canadian armour having been screaming for out of the box kits and now we have them and they should be enjoyed.
OK, here is what you get when your smiling face sees the box for the first time. The box is a standard Trumpeter cardboard box with box art depicting a Canadian LAV III deployed to Afghanistan. Is the box art accurate? Yes and No, the LAV III on the box art depicted is in the original configuration with add-on armour mounted. This is perfectly fine for the LAV III deployment to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2007. I will explain more on the vehicle and kit option accuracy as the review progresses.
The details pertaining to the kit parts and sprues can be read in the review of the kit done by Seb Viale. Seb does a very good job on explaining the parts breakdown.
Seb's Lav III Review
I will add that the instructions come in the form of a sixteen page booklet style. There is no historical information on the vehicle and the instructions jump directly into the twenty one stages of the hull assembly, the two stages of the turret assembly, and the one stage of adding accessories. In each stage there are multiple steps and subassemblies required for the hull and the turret builds. I think overall the instructions are easy to understand with the diagrams, the symbols, and the wording. Some of the wording of the vehicle parts has been lost in translation but easy enough to understand.
The painting guide includes a full double sided colour page, both with five sided views of two different Canadian LAV IIIs. One side includes a CARC green painted LAV III and shows the various decal locations for the markings and vehicle stenciling. On the other side an all white LAV III is depicted also showing the decal locations for the vehicle markings, call signs, and stenciling. Before you discard the painting and decaling guide be aware that it also includes Canadian Forces Registration licence plates for the LAV IIIs. Three sets of plates are provided for CARC green LAV IIIs and two sets for the white LAV IIIs. Having checked my reference images in detail I can confirm that the plates for the UN LAV IIIs are correct. These are from LAV IIIs that deployed to Eritrea. The plates must be carefully cut out to be used on the completed model.
What is the average modeller looking for in a kit? Are they concerned that every dimension and bolt detail and angle is 100% correct or can they accept that the trade off for reasonable cost is that the kit builds into something less than an exact 1/35 shrunken down version of the real vehicle? The answer is of course subjective and only each individual modeller can answer that.
So, what do the LAV III hull parts have to offer the modeller to accomplish the task?
The hull top and bottom are very nicely moulded and details such as the multi-layered bolts for the add-on armour panels really pop out. There has been much debate about the accuracy of dimensions of the Trumpeter LAV III hull and the angles. It shouldn’t really be a debate, the angles at the top of the upper hull are more than on a real LAV III when compared to actual images. Does the average modeller get out a protractor or are they going to conduct major plastic surgery to the kit or are they going to spend at least double the cost of the kit for aftermarket parts to correct the kit? Probably not and Trumpeter was likely aware of the differences, but had to create and adapt the upper hull to fit their existing lower hulls and similar parts from their Stryker kits in order to reduce creating brand new moulds. How will this affect the average modeller looking to build the LAV III kit? It won’t. During the assembly process be aware that the front lower hull tie down loops are actually horizontal on the hull and not vertical as depicted on the kit. Again, this is because Trumpeter used the lower hull from their Stryker kits. The tie down is an easy fix for a modeller with some filler and a quick look at reference images.
The suspension parts look overall nicely produced and are sequenced adequately in the instructions to connect and overlap as they are assembled and attached. There is some minor flash and mould seams visible on the suspension components and this can easily be sanded or scraped off. Unless you are depicting your LAV III inverted or rolled in a diorama the suspension will do for a completed model.
I did not expect to see this kit with the ability to create a turned wheel effect as this would take more parts and increase the “breakability” factor for parts. Modellers wanting to turn the wheels will have to modify suspension parts for the first four wheels and correctly angle both sets of wheels correctly. While the effect adds to a finished model it does require additional time, effort and research.
The vinyl tires for the eight wheels and the spare are nicely moulded. There is a visible seam running around the tread pattern of each tire but the smart modeller will simply ensure that the seam is positioned on the inside of each wheel when attaching them. This is easy to do as the tires do not have a directional tread pattern. The wheels themselves build up from three pieces…a back, a front, and a bolted on hub cover plate with step ring. Are the bolt patterns and the planetary gear cover on each wheel hub correct? No, but you are provided the option to use the bolted on hub cover plate and this covers all of the wheel bolts. The cover plate looks totally accurate and a reminder that the cover plate is not totally round and does include three small straight sections around the circumference. Included but not used in the kit are the individual hub step rings from the Stryker kit. Some may argue that the step rings are too thick but when you look are real LAV III wheels the step rings are a solid piece of metal and not flimsy so an average modeller can live with the kit part or simply thin it down at their discretion. If you do thin it down do it from the outside so as to not create a larger space around the planetary gears on the wheel hub.
Looking at the hull rear I was most impressed with first the amount of photo etched parts that are included in the kit to detail the jerry can racks and the spare tire rack mounts. Fourteen photo etched parts are used on the rear hull. The second thing I was very happy to see was the injection moulded spare tire rack. This is a great feature to include and prior to this kit it was not included in any aftermarket conversion and had to essentially be scratch built. Modeller’s should note the small piece of copper rod that is included in the package with the tow cable. This is needed for attachment of the spare tire rack to the rear door mounts.
It will be the modeller’s choice whether to use the rectangular stowage bin that mounts on the upper rear hull. Photos taken in Afghanistan show them mounted on LAV IIIs in storage, but they are far and few between on mission deployed vehicles. The tie down loops are moulded on to the bin making them solid and, while they aren’t as flashy as photo etched parts, Trumpeter has done a good job of making them very fine. If you don’t attach the bin then don’t worry about the tie down loops. The same type of tie down loops are moulded on the various tool and equipment racks for the hull sides.
The hull top includes most of the add-on armour moulded on but there are sections that need to be attached. This will add to the 3D effect of the add-on armour. This also applies to multiple add-on armour sections that are attached to the lower front hull during assembly.
All of the external hull stowage racks, handles, latches, hatches, mirrors, bush guards, lights, and other fine bits are provided in the kit and added during the assembly steps. For a kit that has taken some flak about accuracy these are the kinds of things that make this a good buildable kit for an everyday modeller. At a quick comparison looks without a protractor or scale ruler between images of actual LAV IIIs and the kit parts everything looks pretty much where it should be. There are some inconsistencies for some sizes of the add-on armour panels and the placement of the add-on armour mounting bolts, but unless you stick a photo of a LAV III beside the assembled kit you won’t be able to tell.
Five photo etched parts are used to detail the engine grills. Again, this is a great feature to have included and it adds to the look of the kit. Another nice addition is the length of braided metal tow cable. Hopefully gone are the days of string tow cables. Trumpeter even includes the little tow cable hangers as photo etch parts.
Should there be anti-slip surfacing on the upper hull add-on armour? Yes, but it is not included in the kit. In fact I think only an extremely small amount of kits ever include it. The anti-slip surface on the real LAV IIIs is visible but is fairly fine and factory applied. It does not look like the rough surface on a Merkava or Leclerc and again this comes down to how much time and effort a modeller is willing to invest into updating and upgrading a kit to make it more accurate. Can it be done, sure, with some fine masking and an overspray of a commercially available surfacing spray paint from a craft or home improvement store.
Before I finish the hull I want to address the issue of Trumpeter including the driver’s windscreen on the box art image and as sub-assembly in the kit. The windscreen consists of nine parts both clear and solid plastic and a set of peel and stick painting masks. This is a nice little addition and it is listed as an “option” in the instructions on page 9. It fits in the driver’s hatch opening and the driver’s hatch assembly hinges over top.
I can tell you 100% the driver’s windscreen was used on operationally deployed Canadian LAV IIIs in Afghanistan. Having done a bunch of digging and research I have found an image to back this up. Back in 2003 when the Canadian troops were deployed in the Kabul area they were using the driver’s windscreen on the LAV III during patrols. How long were they used I don’t know, but they were and Trumpeter including it in the kit is correct.
What is old is new again. This is what Trumpeter must have thought when designing the turret for the LAV III. They smartly used most of the turret parts from their ASLAV 25 kit.
I really like how nearly all the add-on armour parts are added during assembly. Having them like this allows for better finishing during the painting process versus having them moulded on the upper and lower turret parts.
The side stowage racks are moulded as three pieces with the addition of photo etch side supports and mesh. Hurray! This is a great time saver for the average modeller compared to bending wire and using a jig or having them moulded solid with stowage in place.
There are a few weak details that Trumpeter should have been able to sort out on the turret. For all the nice moulding they did on the turret the laser warning receiver is a bit chunky, no canvas mantlet cover, the antenna springs do look oversized, and the C6 machine gun and mount is somewhat basic. Could you live with this or fix it, sure you can.
I must applaud Trumpeter for including photo etch retaining chains for the eight grenade dischargers, well done!
I found it odd, however, with all these small details that Trumpeter did not include a barrel for the coaxial machine gun. The 25 mm barrel is overall acceptable with the taper and fluting. The muzzle brake is too small and should have been bigger in diameter.
The turret windscreens included in the kit are 100% correct for an Afghanistan deployed LAV III. Again, this would have been a LAV III in the 2003 era of the ISAF mission in and around Kabul. I have found images showing turret windscreens mounted during patrols.
It was nice of Trumpeter to include paper extras to help with detailing the vehicle and supply the basics for a modeller to build a diorama or vignette.
The following is included as paper cut outs:
• 13 x “stay back” vehicle warning placards
• 2 x banana boxes
• 2 x Mountain Dew boxes
• 2 x Coca Cola boxes
• 2 x Gulfa water bottle boxes
• 2 x Masafi water bottle boxes
• 2 x Mozn water bottle boxes
• 6 x U.S. “First Strike” ration boxes
• 3 x Canadian IMP Breakfast boxes
• 3 x Canadian IMP Lunch boxes
• 3 x Canadian IMP Dinner boxes
• 2 x Restricted area signs
• Mutla’a range sign…pretty sure this is in Iraq
• “Welcome to Baghdad" sign…not sure why this in included
• No photography sign
• 2 x Casualty Collection Point signs
• “No Tracks on Main Road” sign
• 2 x checkpoint signs
• 3 x Arabic warning signs
The various signs can simply be cut out and used or glued to the backing of your choice. The ration and drink boxes need to be cut out and then finer cuts made to fold the edges and assemble the boxes.
The signs are printed in colour but they are not the greatest in detail and appear a bit fuzzy.
This is the first full production kit of the Canadian LAV III. This kit will build into a very nice out of the box uparmoured version of the LAV III as deployed in Afghanistan between 2003 and into 2007. Given the timeline for accuracy of the kit it would have been nice for Trumpeter to have included ISAF markings for the hull sides. They did attempt to do their research, but just not enough of it.
The kit has lots of nice details, photo etch parts, and some printed extras that the everyday modeller will be very happy with.
The kit is not totally accurate dimensionally and that affects the layout of some parts when compared to the real LAV III. Some details are a bit soft and there are some minor incorrect part placements. For a modeller who feels comfortable with a bit of photo etch and some scratch building you should be able to correct the errors and add aftermarket parts as they become available down the road.
I think it is fantastic that model producers are taking an interest in modern Canadian armoured vehicles. The LAV III kit is overall acceptably produced and will look like a LAV III once it is built.
People should not be comparing this kit with aftermarket conversions based on a different base kit that costs three times the amount. This is a nice kit and will make many modellers of various skill levels happy.