by: Gino P. Quintiliani [ ]
M3A3 Bradley CFV History
The Bradley Family of Vehicles (BFVs) grew out of a requirement by the US Army which began as the MICV (Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle) program in the late 1950s. One of the early issues that drove the development of the IFV was the need to have a vehicle which could serve in a high-intensity conflict in Europe which was feared might include the use of Nuclear Biological and Chemical (NBC) weapons. Out of this grew the need for a vehicle that was sealed from the outside environment and that Soldiers could fire from within. By 1976 a new design vehicle with a two-man turret mounting a 25 mm Bushmaster cannon, TOW launcher, and side firing crew machine guns was introduced. The following year, this vehicle was designated the M2 IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle), with its scout version becoming the M3 CFV (Cavalry Fighting Vehicle) and named the Bradley, after Gen. Omar Bradley of WWII fame. The Bradley was approved for production on 1 February 1980. Through its life on the battlefield, the Bradley has undergone armor and engine upgrades resulting in the latest version, the A3. The A3 version includes enhancements intended to improve lethality, mobility, survivability, and sustainability. Additionally, the A3 version has upgraded digital communications and battle tracking systems, along with added armor onto the hull to better protect the crew.
The M3A3 CFV is the latest scout and reconnaissance version of the Bradley. It uses the same chassis as the M2A3 IFV with some minor internal differences; instead of carrying 6 dismounts in the rear crew compartment, it carries a pair of scouts, additional radios, 25mm ammunition, and TOW and Dragon or Javelin missile rounds. They are assigned to heavy cavalry units in the US Army. In the war in Iraq, it was found that Bradleys were vulnerable to Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). To counter this threat, Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks and additional armor were added. The complete set of upgrades is known as the BUSK (Bradley Urban Survival Kit) which includes the BRE, belly armor, an armored glass surround for the Commander and wire mesh over optics so they are not damaged as easily.
Orochi is new to the armor market with their first kit, the M3A3 Bradley CFV. They released two versions of this kit, a Deluxe Edition (IM-001) and a Standard Edition (IM-002). The Deluxe Edition kit includes metal indi-link tracks, a metal barrel, an out of place resin EOD figure (EOD doesn't use Bradleys), and a few pieces of resin personal gear (bags). The Standard Edition kit comes with all plastic parts and contains none of the metal or resin extras. This review will focus on the Standard Edition kit.
The kit comes on six sprues of tan plastic with some minor visible flash, mostly on the ERA blocks. It also includes an upper and lower hull tub, 20 smaller sprues of individual track links in black plastic, a sprue of clear parts, a set of poly caps, a small decal sheet which includes markings for one from 2 Squadron, 3 Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), and two small PE frets (one with very nice engine screens, the other a template for painting the roadwheels and track pads). Also included is a concise, 13 page instruction booklet with line drawings of the kit which are sometimes crowded, but readable. The parts numbers are clearly shown with lines for easy placement. The instructions cover the build in 31 steps. Decal placement of smaller decals and placards are clearly called out through the build sequence as well.
A note on the kit overall: The kit was highly anticipated when released, but has fallen far short of expectations. Overall, it is not a bad kit, but it has some areas that are poorly engineered and has a lot of soft details or molded on details that should have been separate parts. It seems like different teams worked on different parts of the kit and achieved different levels of detail; some really nice, others horrible. It is about on par detail-wise with the older Tamiya M2A2 kits, however, in some areas, it is worse than the original Tamiya M2 kit from the mid-Ď80s (30 years ago). In my opinion, the bad outweighs the good. If you are just looking for a model that looks like an M3A3 CFV, it is fine. If you want a detailed, accurate M3A3 CFV, get the Meng kit and interior. Additionally, it is basically the same price as the Meng kit, yet well short of it on details and accuracy. Not worth it in my opinion.
Before you even get to step 1, the back of the front page of the instruction booklet has you fixing what I consider a shortcoming of the kit. It reads in large, all caps, bold text, ď! READ BEFORE ASSEMBLY !Ē, and has you apply at least 23 ďrivetsĒ (bolt heads) to the kit that were missed or left off in the molding process. There are various sized bolt heads on the sides of sprue A (road wheel parts x 2) that you have to shave off the sprue and add to the spots that are called out for on the left side of the hull and the rear TOW reload hatch. I donít understand what they were thinking because there are small circles where the bolt heads are to be applied. If they could mold the small circles, why not mold the bolt heads? Additionally, if you plan to build it without the ERA blocks as I did, you also have to add a bunch of bolts back to the front glacis plate. Orochi molded all of the bolts where the ERA attaches as holes for pins on the attachment brackets to go into. They could have made it an option to leave the BRE off by molding the bolts in place and having small holes in the attachment brackets that go over the bolt heads instead. Since they didnít, you have to cover the holes with bolt heads; 25 on the front glacis plate, eight for the headlight mounting plates, and another 2 on top of the headlight clusters. So to add back the bolts they left off, you will add a minimum of 23 if building it as it is on the box top (with ERA), and an additional 35 if you want to build it without the ERA; a total of 58 that should already be there.
Step 1 starts the build by attaching the road wheel arms and shock absorbers, and the front lower hull armor. There were no issues here. If you really wanted to, you could add some more of those A sprue bolts to the crescent-shaped shock absorber mounts, three bolts per. I left them as-is since they are mostly hidden behind the side skirts anyways.
Step 2 is the building of the road wheels, front sprockets, and rear idler wheel. The road wheels are nicely done as four separate parts so that the proper undercut of the face is well represented. The face of the sprockets are also nicely done with the correct dished profile and mud release holes in the outside halves (A23). Additionally, the outer sprocket ring is a separate piece for added details and the inner portions have the flat track guide pieces not usually seen. The sprockets are one of the better areas of the kit. They are quite nice.
Step 3 and 4 continue with the suspension and lower hull. You add the sprockets and their final drives, the rear idler, the road wheels, the upper return rollers, along with towing points and shackles to the lower front glacis. The parts go together well and I had no issues with assembly or alignment.
Step 5 is the assembly of the individual link tracks. The track pieces are pretty nice. They are all individual pieces 20 sprues of 8 links for a total of 160 pieces. This should be enough for both sides of track with a few left over as spares. The tracks clean up easily with the removal of three attachment points per piece which clean up easily. Each piece of track clicks together sturdily and stays connected. Once connected, they are movable just like the real tracks. They look the part once assembled as well. Another high point of the kit.
Step 6 begins the upper hull. Here you add a couple small step loops to the bottom of the side skirts. A decal placement is also called out here.
Step 7 mates the upper and lower hulls. Another decal placement is also called out here.
Step 8 moves to the rear of the hull with the building of the rear ramp. You also add the smaller fittings to the rear ramp such as towing points and shackles, the rear towing pintle, and the tow cable.
Note: This is one of the areas that is poorly detailed. The rear troop door handle is molded onto the door as a solid piece. It should have an opening to slide a hand in so you can rotate the handle. I drilled the handle out to replicate this (see pictures). This part should have been molded as a separate part. Even Tamiya molded it as a separate part starting with their original M2 kit in the mid-Ď80s. It is the 21st century Orochi, not 1975. Get with it.
Step 9 attaches the rear plate to the hull and the rear ramp to the plate, along with mud guards on both sides of the rear hull. No issues.
Step 10 continues with the rear hull area by adding the rear stowage boxes, mud flaps, tail lights with separate clear lenses, and the right side skirt ERA. Also added here is one of the PE screens for the engine. The screen is very nice and fits the opening tightly. You could almost just press it into place, but I added a bit of superglue to make sure it will stay put.
Note: If you are building it without the ERA, fill the two holes in the front most armor plate (part C25). Also, the attachment bars for the ERA block are molded on the ERA parts, unlike Mengís M2A3 and M3A3 which molds the attachment bars onto the side skirts. This allows you to build the vehicles without the ERA blocks pretty easily, with the only hard part being the addition of all the bolts previously mentioned and the filling of a few holes. This is a nice feature. However, the side skirts do have one area that is inferior. The 14 step loops (7 per side) on the lower portion are all molded on. Again, these should be separate. Academy (M2A2 OIF) and Meng (both M2A3 and M3A3) does them as separate pieces. Why did Orochi keep taking steps back on the smaller details?
Step 11 and 12 continue the hull details by adding tools, lift rings, a handle on the gas filler cover (molded separately this time??), and the exhaust assembly. The exhaust assembly includes the inner exhaust pipe as well as the outer thermal cover. The small lift rings on the engine cover are also very nice additions. Also added are a couple armor pieces on top, the front mud flaps, the radiator grill and rear ventilation grill PE, and the left side ERA parts. The PE radiator grill is again nice and tight, but I glued it in place just to be sure. It is very nice and has the welded on strengthening bars.
Note: Again, if you are building it without the ERA, fill the two holes in the front most armor plate (part C20).
Step 13 adds the attachment bars for the front glacis plate ERA blocks. Also, four decal placements on the front glacis area are called out here as well.
Note: If you are building it without the ERA, leave the attachment bars off. This is where you have to add the majority of the blot heads. You will need to add 25 bolt heads to cover the holes on the front glacis plate and engine cover.
Step 14 attaches the front right lift ring, opening handle and lower bolt strip for the engine cover, a couple more armor plates for the turret ring and rear hatch area, and the front glacis ERA blocks.
Note: Again, if building without the ERA blocks, a small modification is needed here. On the ERA blocks are molded the mounting plates for the headlight clusters (on C32 and B2, lower outer corners). These mounting plates will need to be removed, thinned, and added to the hull, along with four bolt heads added to each mounting plate. Separate the block with the mounting plate from the larger groups of blocks by using a razor saw and cut along the joint line between blocks. Then remove the side wall sections on them. Lastly, sand them down to about 0.030 thickness. Attach them in the area where there are four small dimples on the outside lower corners of the front glacis plate. The four mounting plates will be slightly smaller than the dimples. Fill the dimples with putty. Add the four bolt heads as indicated in my picture, and you are done.
Step 15 adds two small towing/tie-down plates to the lower rear hull.
Step 16 builds subassemblies for the hull; the rear TOW loading hatch, headlight clusters, and Drivers Vision Enhancer (DVE) camera cover.
Note: The headlight clusters need some work. They are molded with holes or depressions on the rear side where the lights are. The holes should not be there. The back side should be a solid plate with only the rectangular piece running down the center from the top to about the midway point. I filled the holes with putty. Also, the rectangular part should extend forward on the top to about halfway. I added a section of sheet styrene to extend them and added a bolt to the top center of this part as well. The headlights and turn signals do have separate lenses though, so there is some good to them.
Step 17 and 18 continue to add parts to the hull top. These parts include the light clusters, rear TOW loading hatch, more tools, spare track blocks, the DVE camera, anti-fouling guides for the TOW wires (C52 & C53), lift rings, and the outside front pull handle cover for the HALON suppression system (C8).
Note: C8 should have two T-shaped handles inside of it. I added these with a few pieced of thin plastic rod glued into Ts and then glued into the inside opening. These are the pull handles to activate the internal fire suppression system and should be painted red (just the Ts) when done.
Step 19 begins the turret construction. Here you build the 25mm and coaxial MG mounts. A nice coaxial M240 is included. You also assemble the two smoke grenade launchers here. The smoke grenade launch tubes are depicted loaded with grenades in them. If you want empty tubes, you will either need to replace them, or drill them out.
Step 20 continues with the turret construction adding the clear periscopes from the inside. You also add the 25mm and coax mount assembly and mate the two turret halves together. There were no issues with this step of construction.
Step 21 has you add more detail pieces to the turret. Here you add the previously constructed smoke grenade launchers, a grenade stowage box, a couple armor plates, and the turret ring. This step is also straight forward with no issues or problems.
Step 22 builds more turret subassemblies with the auxiliary sight support rods, side armor plates, and ERA blocks and attachment racks for them. There is one issue here. Orochi gives you a PE part (PE3) for the auxiliary sight glass. The part is actually clear plexi-glass with a sighting reticle printed on it in black. I corrected it by using a tear-drop shaped piece of clear styrene and a home-made reticle decal. Again, even Tamiya provided this part in clear plastic on their original M2 kit over 30 years ago.
Note: If building it without the ERA blocks, leave all the ERA off the turret. Here, these are parts E60, D12, E24, and E63.
Step 23 adds armor plates to the mantlet, another grenade storage box, and an ERA block to the mantlet. Also, the auxiliary sight rod assembly and a mantlet dust cover are added. This dust cover is made out of a rubbery plastic and does not represent the real thing well. It would look better replaced with two-part epoxy putty or lead foil.
Note: If building it without the ERA blocks, leave all the ERA off the mantlet, parts E30 and E64.
Step 24 adds the turret front and side armor, gunnerís secondary sight, the TOW lock-down point, and the gunnerís hatch lock-down handle and release.
Step 25 builds more turret subassemblies. These include the Bradley Commanderís (BC) hatch, BCís armored glass surround, and more side armor plates with ERA blocks.
Note: If building it without the ERA blocks, leave all the ERA off the turret armor. Here, these are parts E7, E62, E5, and E59.
Step 26 adds the subassemblies you just built and a couple other armored plates on the turret rear. There is also a decal placement called out on the BCís armored surround.
Step 27 builds and adds the turret basket and the Commanderís Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV). There are a couple issues here. The rear turret basket should have a sidewall on the right side. Orochi molded it open on that side. It is close to the CITV when built, but the side is still open. I closed it off with a sheet of styrene. Also, there should be a center support inside the basket. Again, I added a piece of sheet styrene to replicate it. Also, you add the 7.62 ammo boxes to the turret basket rear. They look a little small to me, too narrow maybe, but should be usable once painted. Lastly, you also add the two FM antenna mounts here.
Step 28 builds more subassemblies. This time, they include the Gunnerís Primary Sight (GPS) housing, Gunnerís Hatch, and TOW launcher assembly. The TOW launcher assembly is another area where Orochi skimped on details. The TOW box is only made out of four pieces with the front and rear plates as single pieces. This approach omits a lot of details that would be better represented out of multiple parts. Also, the handle on it is molded on as a solid piece. It should be an open handle. I replaced it with thin wire. Also, the Orochi TOW box has the large boxy opening on the underside open, but nothing to show on the inside. It should have two TOW support tubes inside it. As a side note, Meng uses 8 parts for the box and another two multi-part TOW rounds to fill it with. On an up note though, the TOW launcher can be built in either the firing (up) or stowed (down) position and has the front cover correctly depicted as fixed with a hold-down bar on the front. There are also decal placements called out for the GPS covers.
Step 29 has you attaching the assemblies you just built, the 25mm barrel, and a couple more antennas.
Step 30 builds the driverís hatch/forward vent assembly with a nice PE vent cover.
Step 31 completes the build by attaching the driverís hatch assembly and the turret to the hull. Also, a small picture is inset showing the placement of one small alphanumeric decal for the 2 Squadron, 3 ACR marking on the side of the turret (incorrectly assigning it to 2nd Infantry Division ?). Some other marking options and more options shown on colors would have been appreciated. This vehicle has been in service in both sand and 3-tone NATO camo and is assigned to units within every heavy division and cavalry unit in the US Army. That gives lots of options that could have been offered.
Overall this is a descent kit that goes together well. There are no major issues with it and only a few minor ones that are relatively easy to overcome. It does look like an M3A3 CFV when done. I do wish Orochi had done some more research and better details on it. Anyone with average modeling skills will find this an easy build. I recommend this kit to anyone who wants a vehicle that looks like an M3A3, but if you want a highly detailed, accurate M3A3, go with the Meng kit.