The M1134 Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) vehicle is the primary weapon system of the Anti-Armor Company within the Stryker Brigade Combat Team. The Elevated TOW System (ETS) allows the crew to engage both enemy armor and fortifications under all weather conditions, and during the day or night. The M1134 has seen combat in Iraq and will likely be seen in the future in Afghanistan continuing to provide vital support for soldiers on the ground.
As an important part of the SBCT in the real world, AFV Club has seen that the M1134 is as equally important to be produced in 1/35.
The AFV Club M1134 Stryker ATGM has evolved since the release of the other AFV Club Stryker variants. It is very encouraging to see AFV Club making improvements to the details on kits in the same series. The M1134 Stryker ATGM kit consists of over 500 injection molded parts, with additional photo-etched details, vinyl tires, clear parts, nylon string, and decals. The kit parts are packaged well in individual or shared sealed plastic bags. There were no parts damaged or broken off the sprues in the review kit.
There have been several other excellent reviews of the AFV Club M1134 Stryker ATGM: Armorama, Perth Military Modelling
and Cybermodeler Online
, and I encourage modellers to read all of them, as each review has a different perspective. Having read all the reviews, I concur with each authorís findings. The kit is good but not perfect, and my review will speak to some details not mentioned elsewhere.
My approach to this inbox review will be to highlight the details of the kit, describe several visible improvements that make the AFV Club M1134 ATGM stand out, and provide a brief comparison with the Trumpeter M1134 Stryker ATGM (kit #00399)
The instructions are provided in a 16 page booklet with very good diagrams. There are a few B&W images of the real M1134 showing the placement of the pioneer tools and the fuel filler caps. Studying the instructions before assembly will pay off, as there are several steps that include optional part placement such as the wire cutters, fuel filler caps, TOW missile end caps, grenade launchers, tow pintle, jerry can racks, hull-mounted horn, and very important options for the Elevated TOW System construction and positioning.
The parts are very nicely-detailed with crisp molding and very limited flash. There are some sink marks visible on the wire cutters, the inside of the multiple hatches, and the inside of the hull-stowage racks. If the modeller chooses to pose open any of the hatches and add figures, then there will be a bit of work needed to fill the sink holes. As you will see in the comparison images with the Trumpeter M1134 Stryker ATGM there is a visible higher level of quality in the AFV Club parts.
The tires are produced in vinyl with a subtle, yet uniform sidewall bulge. The tread pattern is well-defined and accurate. The sidewall also includes ďMICHELIN XĒ raised lettering on each tire. On the real tires there is further raised lettering and numbers for the XML, tire size, and other user information. The wheel hubs look the part, and also include a full compliment of hub rings and valve stem covers.
The suspension is produced as sturdy components and should allow the modeller to complete the suspension build with ease and with the confidence of aligned parts. AFV Club produced the main suspension differentials with the linkage arms attached, ensuring no gaps would be created with individual part placement. The four shock absorber covers for the rear four wheels are very impressive in plastic especially, with the multitude of perforated holes. Parts of this quality were previously only produced in photo etch as aftermarket additions.
The rear fuel tanks have excellent details with the fuel tank caps and covers included as separate parts, allowing the modeller to position them open or closed. The main hull is chock full of details that really make this M1134 a well-produced kit. The winch guide consist six parts alone, and eleven parts are used for the Commanderís hatch ring and machine gun. The machine gun has terrific details, and its mount permits pivoting left and right and up and down. The three antenna mounts are nicely molded but there is one detail missing: on the real M1134, the antenna mounts are designed to fold down 90 degrees when the TOW launcher is firing. This would have been an easy detail for AFV Club to include, considering the effort put into the fuel tank caps and covers.
The winch consists of the drum assembly, the winch cable, and a variety of guides on the hull. The winch cable is supplied as black nylon thread, and care should be taken to ensure the cable ends are attached well and that the diagram showing the run of the cable is studied to wind it through properly. The wire cutters for the Driver and Commander are well thought out and actually include options for posing them upright or folded down.
Other details on the upper hull include the Driverís Vision Enhancer, headlight mounts, the long hull-mounted horn, and the orange warning light on the left rear hull. These parts are well-produced, but lacking the necessary cabling to replicate the real thing. The modeller will have to source both reference material and sufficient wiring to make the parts look totally realistic. The big Driverís hatch also needs some additional detailing in the form of cable and wiring if it is to be posed open and made totally accurate.
The upper hull is tackled in a unique approach, with the majority of the add-on armour panels separate and attached to the hull during the assembly steps. This provides a further level of detail that shows the add-on armour panel gaps, and allows the modeller to work in multiple sub-assemblies during construction. Photo etch grills are supplied for the two different intakes and exhaust. AFV Club also chose wisely to include the exhaust grill (now standard on many Stryker variants) as a photo etched part. Photo etched straps are provided for the jerry cans at the hull rear. There are additional straps that can be used for the pioneer tools on the hull side, but these are not mentioned in the instructions. Two different styles of jerry can racks are provided at the rear with obvious changes to the rack supports. This is a plus, since both types of rack supports can be seen on available M1134 images.
The only shortcoming with the upper hull is the lack of anti-slip surfacing. This is becoming a standard gap in many modern kits, and a model producer paying attention to so many small details really should invest some time and effort into mastering injection moulded anti-slip surfaces if they are going to continue making modern subjects.
The meat of the M1134 is the Elevated TOW System. AFV Club has included excellent details in the parts produced and the options provided. The level of detailing extends from the outside of the twin missile launchers to the Modified Improved Target Acquisition System (MITAS), as well as the multiple banks of grenade dischargers. The missile launchers can be assembled empty or loaded, with AFV Club providing complete TOW tubes to load into the launchers. If the launchers are left empty, then the details of the tubes and the loading/unloading mechanism is visible.
I presume that when AFV Club designed the kit, they used an M1134 fitted with the MILES gear, as the end caps for the TOW tubes reflect this. The modeller is provided with an option for two different types of front tube caps, one being an operational missile and the other being a dummy missile fitted with MILES optics. The end caps are only provided in the training version used to attach the MILES gear cables, which run from the launcher tubes to the connection at the rear of the MITAS. That being said AFV Club did do their research, and provides the modeller with a separate access door to the rear of the MITAS where the connections are provided for the MILES cables. The modeller will of course have to add the cables to the proper connection points.
If modellers want to build the M1134 to a vehicle that is ready to fire live TOW missiles, the front and end caps on the missile tubes will have to be changed, and the MITAS access cover attached in the closed position. The four banks of 66 millimetre grenade dischargers are assembled with all of the launchers loaded. Of note: the grenade dischargers appear to be loaded with two different types of smoke grenades. Three of the grenade discharger banks are fitted with a shorter grenade that is to be painted flat black, and the other grenade bank is fitted with an additional length of grenade and painted ďDuck Egg Green.Ē This colour is also known as Eau de Nil. While this is pure speculation on my behalf, I suggest that the shorter grenades are the M90 smoke grenades and the longer ones are the M82 version. The instructions would lead you to believe that there are eight longer grenades, but after triple checking that is not the case. It would have been wise of AFV Club to include the option of fitting all the grenade launchers with the longer type of grenade, as it looks very odd to just have four of the longer version. Donít be discouraged, as I have found images of the grenade dischargers fully-loaded with the shorter grenades, though it does appear the longer versions are much more common.
The launcher comes with an optional vinyl shroud for the elevation mechanism. This is well-cast, and has a faint seam running from top to bottom on one side. The seam appears to be accurate, as I believe the real cover attaches together by a Velcro strip, and modellers may chose to make the seam even more apparent. The limitation to mounting the shroud is that the launcher cannot to lowered or raised after assembly. There are many images of the M1134 showing the shroud fitted or removed, so the modeller has a choice.
The one drawback to the design of the launcher assembly is that, once assembled, it cannot rotate. It may be possible to modify it by removing the pins during initial assembly of the launcher mast. It is unknown whether this will compromise the ability for the launcher to raise and lower properly, but it may allow for an alternate, one time only rotated position. Although the launcher cannot be rotated, the MITAS and the two launcher tubes can be pivoted up and down. This will allow for alternate firing angles and for a modeller to position the TOW launcher in the loading/unloading position with the top rear hatch open and a figure added. Again, this will probably require the entire launcher to be turned somewhat to the left to reach the proper position.
I thought the inclusion of the BGM-71C and the BGM-71F TOW missiles were a bit gimmicky at first. They serve no realistic purpose, as the missiles would never be exposed unless being fired out of the tube. The missiles are provided as plastic with multiple photo etched fins. They are well-detailed when compared to reference images of the real missiles, but will need some additional attention to painting and marking details if they are used for display (or for some imaginative modeller posing them flying down-range in a smoke and flame plume from the launcher tube).
Accessories are included in the form of four jerry cans with warning decals and a single A-frame type tow bar fitted to the right side of the hull. Keep in mind any extra straps for attaching the tow bar during assembly.
The decals in the kit are very nicely-produced and include a variety of vehicle registration numbers, unit bumper codes, stylized vehicle markings, and jerry can warning placards. Reference material is a must if the modeller is to decipher the origin of the four vehicle markings and the exact placement of each decal. One particular aspect of the instructions that could use improvement is page 15 dealing with the placement of the decals. The multi-view drawings of the four M1134s are very small and exact decal placement will be difficult for modellers not equipped with the latest reference material. There is also no mention at all of what unit each decal option pertains to. The placement of the skull and wolf head unit markings is not shown at all on the decal marking page.
The higher level of detail in the AFV Club kit is very evident in the shots of the upper hull surrounding the turret mount. The M240B machine gun is also far more-detailed in the AFV Club kit. In addition, the dimensions in the AFV Club and the Trumpeter hulls are still not the same. This has been consistent with all the Stryker variants from AFV Club and Trumpeter and it appears that AFV Club still comes out on top in regards to being closer in accurate measurements.
(Thanks to Miloslav Hraban for supplying the images of the Trumpeter M1134 parts)
As AFV Club continues with their Stryker series they are truly improving on each kit. The level of detail in the M1134 ATGM is very high, and this should be a very easy yet very-detailed kit to build. As with any kit, there is a level of detail missing, and it is apparent with the lack of anti-slip surfaces. The assembly instructions are clear and well-designed, but the decal guide looks like it was crammed-in due to a lack of space. Overall the kit is top notch and it provides the modeller with an accurate version of the M1134. With some extra detailing and good reference material, modellers will be able to add any missing details and build the kit as a vehicle in-training or one deployed operationally. While there is no interior, I did not expect one, as none of the other AFV Club Stryker kits have one included. Since the hatches can be posed open, it would have been a nice option for AFV Club to allow the launcher to be moved laterally after assembly for alternate poses.