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S35

Heller 1/35 VBCI ‘Afghanistan’ Kit First Look

By Sundiata Cowels

Date of Review September 2013 Manufacturer Heller
Subject VBCI ‘Afghanistan’ Scale 1/35
Kit Number 81147 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Very detailed and interior troop compartment Cons Many fragile parts
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $46.98

First Look

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According to Heller, the VBCI (Infantry Combat Vehicle) is an all terrain, all wheel drive, 8x8 armored troop transport that was designed by Giat and Renault VI industries in 2000. Boasting a composite armor of steel and welded aluminum, the VBCI has a 550 Hp turbo diesel engine which allows it to obtain a top speed of 100 Km/h with a maximum range of 750 km highway. It carries of crew of two and can transport a nine person combat squad. Armed with a 25mm cannon and one 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, the VBCI is also equipped with advanced communications and data transmission equipment. It is also equipped to detect NBC threats. The VBCI was introduced into the French Army to replace the AMX-10P in certain units and as of April 2010 it has been operating in Afghanistan where it has been modified to "wear" anti-RPG and anti-IED/mine armor.

Coming in at 261 parts spread over nine trees and molded in the now familiar tan plastic styrene, the VBCI is a large kit by anyone's standards. It looks like Heller went all out in modeling this kit; I was thrilled to see that it has an interior troop compartment included, complete with soldier weapons.

A word of caution- the suspension, which is a model kit unto itself (comprised of over sixty-eight parts- including tires) contains some very fragile and thin parts which will require a steady hand and a very sharp knife or saw to remove them from the parts trees without breaking them. I'm not sure how Heller could have made them more substantial in this scale but it is what it is.

Assembly begins the drilling of several well placed holes around the exterior hull of the VBCI for the mounting of the anti-RPG screen that happens later on in assembly. Next the turret and primary weapon (Steps 1-13) are put together, before moving to the top driver and engine deck detail and troop compartment deck assemblies respectively (Steps 14-19).

The aforementioned suspension sub-assembly (Steps 20-24) combines with the building of the lower hull (Steps 25-28) and building the wheels (Steps 29-31).

Steps 32 through 34 require the modeler to attach detail to the rear ramp door.

Interior troop and driver sections begin in Step 36 and finish in Step 46 with the attachment of the vehicle roof to the lower hull.

After adding the turret in Step 47, Steps 48 through 51 shows the modeler how to attach the frame work and plastic mesh for the anti-RPG screens.

Features:

  • Interior troop compartment
  • FAMAS rifles, FNMAG machine guns and assorted troop gear
  • Vinyl tires
  • Rotatable turret with elevating primary and secondary weapon
  • Clear styrene plastic for all vision blocks
  • Highly detailed suspension
  • Rear ramp can be positioned open or closed
  • Separate plastic mesh to represent anti-RPG screen

A single sheet of decals are included, representing the 4`eme Compagnie, 92`eme Regiment d'infanterie, Afghanistan, based in Hiver during 2011.

The back/bottom of the kit box illustrates the VBCI in color with callout numbers for the recommended Heller series of paints, twelve in all.

This kit is a pleasant surprise with plenty of detail to intrigue even a modeler with AMS. As I did mention above, many of the parts are extremely fragile so it will require great patience and care to put this model together but it should build into a nice subject straight out of the box. Now I just need to track down some 1/35 scale modern French troops… Kudos to Heller!

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