Bronco Models 1/35 YW-531C Armored Personnel Carrier Kit First Look
|Date of Review||June 2011||Manufacturer||Bronco Models|
|Subject||YW-531C Armored Personnel Carrier||Scale||1/35|
|Kit Number||35082||Primary Media||610 parts (538 in tan styrene, 48 etched brass, 23 clear styrene, 1 nylon string)|
|Pros||First kit of this vehicle in this scale in styrene; wealth of detail provided as well as numerous options for hatches||Cons||No interior, itsy-bitsy parts not going to be appreciated by all modelers|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$54.95|
Designed by the Chinese at Factory No. 618 in the early 1960s on their own initiative, the YW-531 (the factory designator) was loosely based on Western designs of the time rather than the Soviet BTR-50 and BTR-60 APCs which were then in service with the Red Army. It was designed to carry a crew of two and 13 infantry dismounts, with hatches on the roof of the hull for 11 of the 15 personnel. It was provided with a rotating cupola for a 12.7mm Type 54 (Chinese version of the famous Russian “Dushka” machine gun) but, like the later Soviet BMP-1, the commander was seated right behind the driver and did not operate the machine gun. The vehicle was adopted for service with the Peoples Liberation Army as the Type 63 and entered production in 1964.
The first vehicles were mechanically unreliable, and while a few were fobbed off on the North Vietnamese for test and evaluation it was not a truly combat capable system. While the YW-531A model was designed in 1968 and did enter service with the PLA, it was in point of fact not until the export-oriented YW-531C was produced with a German-designed Deutz V-8 diesel in 1981 that it became at least functional. This vehicle was sold to several foreign customers, most specifically the Iraqis.
The Iraqis were at that time locked up with Iran and needed armored vehicles badly, but as a “pariah” state who started the war - even though nobody in the West had a bit of sympathy for Khomeni’s Iran – none of the usual countries would sell them weapons. As such, with only minor purchases from the USSR for most of the war, Saddam Hussein was forced to buy from China, North Korea, and other lesser provider nations. The Iraqis bought thousands of Chinese vehicles, including the Type 69-II (WZ-121C) tank and the YW-531C APC. But with the fact that Saddam had been buying - as with all Arab countries - as a Soviet client state, they redesignated the Type 69-II tanks as T-55 Chinese and the YW-531C as the BTR-63. The later command vehicles (YW-701) and ambulances (YW-750) were placed in service as BTR-63-1 vehicles.
All of this was well and good when fighting the Iranians, who were just as incompetent as the Iraqis overall when it came to using armored vehicles. But after the end of the war and what would turn out to be the disastrous invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the BTR-63 was quickly shown to be a deathtrap.
One case in point occurred early in Operation Desert Storm, when Coalition forces went to take back the city of Khafji in late January-early February 1991. One of the company commanders from a mechanized infantry battalion of the 5th Mechanized Division was in his BTR-63 when they encountered a Qatari AMX-30 tank. The commander ordered the gunner to engage the tank with the Type 54. The gunner basically said, “Are you nuts?” at which point the commander shot him, took the machine gun and opened fire on the Qataris. The result was too obvious: the Qatari tank commander dropped down, slewed the turret, and put a 105mm round into the troop compartment of the BTR-63, killing all but the driver (who told the tale when interrogated). Hundreds of these vehicles were knocked out during Desert Storm as they were poorly armored and essentially only “battle taxis” that were misused by the Iraqis. The 203rd MI Battalion has one at APG which was brought back from Iraq, as well as the 24th Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Several attempts had been made over the years to offer a kit of the Type 63 series APCs in resin, but few were worth mentioning and as a relatively obscure vehicle until Desert Storm it was mostly ignored. Now Bronco has released a lovely kit of this beast, which for some reason has been harder to find that I would have expected (it has been out for more than six months and I only now found one in a US hobby shop).
Considering the YW-531C is a relatively small vehicle (smaller than an M113) the kit has a surprisingly large number of parts. Some are incredibly tiny (e.g. the individual bolts used to attach the spare track links to the hull) and are going to be very frustrating to deal with when installing them. But the biggest surprise is that while all of the hatches are all designed to operate with scale hinges, other than a single jump seat on the rear hatch there is not one whit of an interior.
Assembly is pretty straightforward and the directions – while point and stick – are clearer than some. As with all armored kits, assembly begins with the suspension and lower hull. Wheels are two-piece with thick backs to give the right look and all are designed with styrene keepers to rotate, even though the directions indicate they are to be cemented in place.
The tracks need a magnifying glass to sort out – they are handed left and right, assembling hinges upward when viewed from the front and with the bolt heads towards the outside of the vehicle. 96 links are provided for each side but there is nothing to say how many are needed per side (from the directions there will be extras). Bronco shows them as snapping together but I am not sure if the nubs are sufficient to hold the links together without cement.
The fenders require etched brass brackets to be added to mount the side skirts. The finished assembly mounts as a single piece in Steps 7 (left) and 8 (right).
The directions note many parts are not supposed to be cemented in place, such as the engine deck (B24), engine access hatch (B7), and wave breaker (B8), but as noted all they do is permit you to lift off the hatches to show the lovely empty hull! Ditto the hatches which are each installed with very petite hinges and are suggested to be left loose to open to again show empty space.
The Type 54 machine gun consists of 18 parts and is nicely done. But then Bronco has you attach it to the cupola which has a fixed two-piece hatch cover so you cannot display it open, but Bronco suggests you don’t cement the fixed hatch in place. Go figure.
The rear hatch consists of 13 parts and also permits the jump seat to move, but then they show the hatch being cemented to the hull. I give up trying to figure out their rationale on this one!
The last step shows a stretched sprue antenna being added - but their term for it is “make the antenna by plastic frame channel with heat of fire”. Close enough, I suppose...
The only name listed for reference is Phil Greenwood, but he doesn’t seem to have a very good idea about the actual history of the vehicle and its problems. One thing it was not was “very successful” (unless sales to pariah states who can’t buy anything else is considered successful...)
Two finishing options are provided, both for Iraqi vehicles: one is sand with license plate “Al-Jaish 266-H” of an unknown probable Republican Guards unit, which was captured by the 24th Infantry Division and taken home as a war trophy; and one which the directions simply claim is “Iraqi Army, Gulf War 1991". The markings are patterned on those of the 3rd “Saladin” Armored Division but match none of the actual vehicles as they are a royal blue-red-royal blue. Actual Iraqi markings for their artillery units used medium blue-red-medium blue with the artillery regiment number painted in the red band (20 or 21 in white for 2S1 units, 110 for the 2S3 regiment). Infantry units would have been green outer bands with white, black and yellow center bands or a green center band with white, black or yellow outer bands for the mechanized infantry battalion in armored brigades.
Overall this is a really nice kit and perfect for Desert Storm fans, as it now allows them to “complete the record” with a numerically important participant in that war.
- A 128x2 Wheels, suspension, details
- B 58 Fenders, hatches, trim strips
- D 7 Hull stern plate and hatch
- G 5 OVM
- H 18 Type 54 machine gun and mount
- J 23 Clear styrene
- L 12x8 Left side track
- M 1 Lower hull pan
- N 1 Upper hull
- P 48 Etched brass
- R 12x8 Right side track
- ‒ 1 Nylon string