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Soviet BMP-1 IFV

Trumpeter 1/35 Soviet BMP-1 IFV Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Images by Dave Manter

Date of Review December 2012 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject Soviet BMP-1 IFV Scale 1/35
Kit Number 5555 Primary Media 479 parts (238 parts in grey styrene, 190 parts in brown styrene, 26 etched brass, 24 clear styrene, 1 turned aluminum barrel)
Pros New production tooling kit vast improvement over previous three attempts; single link tracks and etched brass included; correct lower hull profile and drivers Cons Skimpy markings and finishing options; no interior
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $45.99

First Look

Soviet BMP-1 IFV
Soviet BMP-1 IFV
Soviet BMP-1 IFV

In the late 1950s the Soviets conducted a number of tests using live troops and tactical yield nuclear weapons in Uzbekistan, and they soon came to the conclusion that unprotected troops, motorized or not, would not survive travel over a nuclear blast contaminated battlefield. While their first reaction was to put roofs and hatches over their two primary personnel carriers, the BTR-50 and BTR-152, they realized a dedicated vehicle would be required that could protect its occupants for short periods of time.

Their first major effort resulted in the BTR-60P series of vehicles, mostly the PA with a roof and the later PB which also mounted a turret. But a better designed and more powerful vehicle was needed, and so requests for candidates to meet the requirements went out. A total of 11 different vehicles were offered, both wheeled and tracked (and a couple which were wheel-and-track vehicles), but in the end the best candidate was found to be Article 765 from the Chelyabinsk Tractor Factory (ChTZ) which was designed by a team led by P. P. Isakov. The first model appeared in 1962 and could carry nine men (eight infantry and a squad leader) and had a crew of two, a driver-mechanic and a gunner-operator. It was fitted with a turret that mounted a 7.62mm machine gun and a 73mm "low pressure" gun which was essentially a modified rocket grenade launcher with a closed breech. For additional antitank capability, the turret also had a mount for a 9M111 "Malyutka" (AT-3 SAGGER) missile above the main gun.

The vehicle was made mostly from lightweight steel and aluminum and was designed to swim water obstacles at up to 10 kph and also be sealed against NBC contamination. Vehicles had seals for the squad's weapons so they could be fired from within the vehicle without breaking the hermetic seal that kept radioactive dust and chemical vapors outside.

The early model had some sea-keeping problems due to a shorter, bluff bow, but in 1964 a redesigned and longer hull resulted in success, and as a result it was accepted for service in 1966 as the BMP-1 - Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty or Fighting Vehicle for Infantry. Later, one of its competitors and the vehicle finishing second in the competition, Article 911 from the Volgograd Tractor Factory (VgTZ), was resigned as the Article 915 which was accepted as the BMD-1 for the Airborne Forces.

Thousands of BMP-1 vehicles were built before the vastly improved BMP-2 variant appeared in 1981. One of the main problems with the BMP-1 was that the squad (and vehicle) commander sat behind the driver and could not see all around the vehicle, nor could he easily direct the gunner to engage targets. The 73mm weapon also was not able to conduct high altitude fire against enemy forces in buildings or mountains (Afghanistan) nor could it engage the new threat – attack helicopters. But the BMP-1 soldiers on in many armies today and was widely exported and sold to nearly all of the Soviet client states.

Twenty years ago three kits of the BMP-1 came out nearly at the same time from DML, ESCI and Lindberg. The less said about the Lindberg kit the better, but the other two had a rather odd history. Both kits suffered from the exact same major errors – the wrong profile to the hull and erroneous drivers with six spokes vice the five of the actual vehicle. While they also had a lot of other problems with dimensions and details that were wrong, these two features prompted DML and ESCI to prepare to sue each other over design infringement. When the lawyers were preparing their cases, they found out that both companies had used the identical tooling manufacturer in South Korea and they simply used the same features for both sets of molds

Trumpeter has now released a new mold kit of the BMP-1 and it is an excellent effort. As the Chinese make their own version – the WZ-501 – the designers apparently had more than enough access to accurate information and details on this vehicle. Also, as there are tons of good references available today from Russia and other countries on the vehicle, it is easy to check on its accuracy.

The lower hull pan has the correct profile to the bow to include the weld bead that joints the front plate to the pressed steel belly pan (which both DML and ESCI took to be a change in angle and put in their kits). Trumpeter packs this separately in the box with foam padding around the rear plate/door frame section; they also wrap foam around the front section where the hull curves down to join the wheel wells. Both parts fit together nearly seamlessly on my example, but I have heard others say there is a gap at the rear of the hull which sounds like some warpage in shipment. The turret is also just about right and sits in the proper position.

The bump stops and road wheel arms are separate parts as are the final drive covers, and etched brass details are provided for the bump stops. Shocks are included as well as travel guards and other elements. The rear doors (which contain fuel tanks on the original are nicely detailed with the right door having 11 parts and the left door having 12. But as there is no interior it's kind of a shame.

Each road wheel consists of two sections to give the proper profile but come with the odd rubber ridges seen on only a few Soviet vehicles. The idlers come in two halves but need five etched brass stiffeners to complete them. Tracks are the single track links snap-together ones offered separately, but here they are provided with the kit (unlike the T-64 kit). As they are snap-together ones preparation and installation are not as grim as the ones on the BMP-3 kit. Each run takes 85 links so there are about 20 extras in the kit.

The crew hatches come with liners but as noted with the rear hatches there is no interior under them if left open. The commander's cupola is molded to the upper hull so cannot be positioned. The engine deck is a single piece but without an engine it also goes begging. The wave breaker may be positioned as closed or open.

There are etched brass screens for the radiator vents as well as deflector blades and a screen for the engine exhaust.

The turret is one piece – no race or interior is provided - and comes with a choice of slide-molded plastic or turned aluminum barrels. The Malyutka is a gem, consisting of five parts for the missile and four more for the launcher. But here the missile loading hatch is molded shut.

Four finishing options are shown on the directions: Soviet BMP-1 in dark green with bort number 542 and a tactical marking of an inverted triangle with 175-2 inside it (theoretically that would be the 175th Motorized Rifle Regiment, 2nd Battalion); one NVA (East German National Peoples Army) BMP-1 with roundels; and two Czech BVP-1 (their designator for BMP-1) vehicles, either bort number 104u or 093 u. A small sheet of decals is provided for these markings.

Overall, this is an excellent kit and one which is finally worthy of representing its well-known prototype. Trumpeter now has the basis for many of its variants, such as the BMP-2, BMP-1KShM or MP-31 command and control vehicles, PRP-3 or PRP-4 mobile artillery reconnaissance posts, or the BRM-1 reconnaissance vehicle.

Sprue Layout:

  • A 11x6 Road wheels, smoke grenade launchers, details
  • B 49x2 Idlers, drivers, upper hatches, road wheel arms
  • C 50 Skirts, rear hatches, engine deck, details
  • D 21 Malyutka missile, launcher, Grom gun, turret details
  • L 24 Clear styrene
  • PE-A 26 Etched brass
  • ‒ 1 Turned aluminum barrel
  • ‒ 2x95 Individual track links
  • ‒ 1 Turret shell
  • ‒ 1 Upper hull
  • ‒ 1 Lower hull pan

My sincere thanks to Squadron Mail Order for this review copy!