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M2A3 Bradley w/BUSK III Infantry Fighting Vehicle


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M2A3 Bradley w/BUSK III
1:35 Meng Models


Named after General Omar Bradley, the M2 replaced the venerable M113 with something of the calibre of the Soviet BMP armed APCs, which caused some shock and awe when they were first fielded. In service since the early 80s, the Bradley has undergone many upgrades to improve its capabilities, including reactive applique armour to protect the crew inside the largely aluminium hull, which was originally intended to stop only small calibre rifle rounds. Systems have been upgraded too, including the addition on the side of the turret of a pair of TOW missile tubes, targeting systems, a more powerful engine, and other tactical systems for navigation and battlefield awareness.

After their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Army added the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK) to the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, and it was decided to develop a similar system for the Bradley, called the Bradley Urban Survival Kit, or BUSK. Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) blocks were added to the hull to combat larger rounds and RPG shoulder launched rockets, crew protection, a more powerful engine (800bhp) and additional suites of sensors to give the crew a 360o view of the battlefield. Because of the increase in weight by three tonnes, and tests of the vehicle establishing that the improvement to survivability was disappointing, the new BUSK III variant was introduced that adds more features to provide a stop-gap until the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle is completed, which is currently scheduled to be off the drawing board in 2015.

The Kit
Meng's armour catalogue in 1:35 has a number of unusual and interesting kits within, and this is probably their most mainstream to date, and likely to be popular due to the fact that it is both American, and a very visible part of the UN operations in the Middle East. Add to that the fact that it includes a FULL interior that will keep most modellers busy for a while, and it should do well at the tills. It arrives in the standard sized satin-finished box, which has been deepened significantly to around 14cm in order to contain the mass of sprues within. The content is such that a bulleted list is probably more appropriate in this case:
  • 13 sprues of sand coloured styrene covering the external structure
  • 2 hull halves in sand coloured styrene
  • 4 sprues of pale green styrene covering the internal fittings
  • 2 sprues of dark grey styrene to build up the power pack
  • 2 sprues of clear parts
  • 1 sprue of tinted clear parts for armoured vision blocks and windows
  • 1 bag of 188 black styrene track links
  • 3 frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass
  • 1 sprue of black poly-caps
  • 6 flexible styrene harnesses, 1 canvas mantlet cover and 1 ammo feed run
  • 8 metal tubes for the suspension struts
  • 1 decal sheet
  • 1 sheet of paper warning placards
  • 1 thick instruction booklet with colour painting and decaling guide at the rear
That's a seriously busy packing list, and only one complaint is that the flexible styrene parts are loose within one pair of bagged sprues, which makes them prone to loss after unbagging, so these have been placed in a small ziplok bag for safe keeping. The rest is very safely packaged in separate bags, with the clear parts wrapped in protective tacky clear film to avoid scratching, and the PE sheets backed with white card to reduce the chance of distortion. Some sprues are bagged in pairs, which isn't a problem due to the close-fit with minimal chance for chaffing damage to the sprues. The differing colours of the parts is an interesting touch, that both makes identifying the parts you need a little easier, and could allow a reasonable model to be made by a novice without going to the trouble of painting everything. Whether a novice would be able to cope with the part count though, is another story, but fit wouldn't be off-putting, as this is Meng, and their kits fit very well in my experience.








First impressions are excellent, and the part count is pretty impressive too. Surface detail on the hull is excellent where it has been added, but as very little of the upper hull will be visible when complete, there are large parts of the upper hull that are blank apart from some location holes or slots. Most "full interior" kits exclude the engine, but as you can see from the packing list, that is most definitely present, so you'll be working on the interior of this model for some time. The instructions are thick, to say the least, with the first 7 pages devoted to a four-language description of the vehicle and General Bradley, and 3 pages to the rear of sprue diagrams. The pages between detail the construction of the model over 61 steps, starting with the roadwheels, which are built up in pairs with a poly-cap trapped between them. The wheels have separate rubber tyres, but as the lip of the rim is built into the edge, you will need to paint them using the supplied PE stencil mask, which work surprisingly well, requiring you to paint the tyres black or rubber colour first, then airbrush the hub through the hole in the PE stencil. You might want to put a piece of tape over the nearby stencil for the track pads to avoid overspray first, but it's a huge time saver. The three-part drive sprocket traps another poly-cap, as does the two-part idler wheel, both of which are built in twos.


The suspension arms are moulded into the torsion bars, with a separate front skin with detail, of which you must build a total of ten of four different sub-types. The dampers are then built up from a central ram, the cylindrical metal sleeves, and a stop-end with mounting eye moulded in. The torsion beams slide into the lower hull where the lock into C-shaped recesses, and the swing-arm is linked to the damper without glue, with the other end glued to the hull side. This should allow the suspension to move a little, although knowing the short fatigue life of styrene, it's not advisable to test this over-much. A detail insert is added to the glacis plate on the lower hull along with a pair of towing shackles, with the final drive housings added to the recesses on the side. The large cylindrical armoured fronts of the housing sit forward of the glacis plate, and have plenty of bolt detail moulded on, as well as a couple of small lifting/towing eyes at the top edge. Three return rollers are added to the sides of the hull, and the roadwheels are pushed into place.





Now the fun with the green styrene begins! The first item to be put in place is the floor of the fighting compartment, which extends past the gap left for the power pack to include the driver's seating area. The interior is then festooned with a lot of parts, representing equipment, hosing, armour and electronics, as well as the lower guard around the turret basket. Seating is next, with two for the turret, one for the driver, and a single, a two and three-seat bench seats for the passengers. More equipment is added along with the seats, and then the power pack is built up from the grey sprues. It looks to be pretty complete, although I'm sure there will be small elements and wiring needed to carry out a super-detailed job, and at the end of the task you have an engine block and a transmission block, which sit together in the engine compartment, to which the driver's controls and some small stencil decals are added. A huge air box is added behind the power pack with a cylindrical input to the engine that has a circular PE mesh section at the engine side. Pipes and hoses join it together, and attention switches back to the crew compartment with the installation of the seats and then the turret basket protective bulkhead, which has a shrouded conduit leading around it that attaches to a small equipment bundle on the side. The rear accessway is added, and the upper hull receives a set of interior skin parts, equipment and the flexible passenger harnesses that hang from the roof. A couple of actuator rods are added between the driver controls and the engine before the upper hull is added, sitting snugly on a set of lugs around the edge. At this stage the engine compartment, driver hatch, top passenger hatch and the turret are still open to the elements.


The outer skin of the hull is skinned with version specific sections with a full set of pioneer tools stashed on the side near the turret ring. The applique glacis plate is added to the front, and has moulded in anti-slip coating, as do a number of the other panels. The driver's hatch is built up with four clear (or tinted) vision blocks, plus internal equipment, and then added to the hull, held in place by a large hinge that permits it to remain mobile if you're careful with the glue. A number of PE mesh grilles cover the louvers on the top of the hull, and the large hinged engine cover is added, with no alternative instructions for leaving it open, although you are told not to glue it in place. Bullet-splash screens are added to the turret ring, the exhaust stack on the starboard forward deck, and the large armoured hatch on the roof that gives the passengers an alternative exit if the rear dock is blocked are installed next, the latter hingeing to allow it to be posed open or closed. On the rear bulkhead either side of the door a number of frame parts are added, and the door itself is built up from inner and outer parts, with an optionally open squared-oval door-within-a-door built separately. The main door hinges at the bottom, and in line with the other doors, can be left to swing open or closed at your whim.


The tracks are of the individual link type, and are supplied on spruelets of two links with two sprue-gates on each link for minimal clean-up. Before the haters of individual links get too sad however, these are Meng's click-to-connect links, so no glue is required to build them up, and 80 clicks per side are all that is needed. Paint the tracks your preferred track colours, then apply the PE stencil mask to five links at a time to spray a rubber shade onto the Bigfoot rubber pads. I'd recommend Vallejo's Dark Rubber (70.036), and so do Meng, but any dark grey will do just as well. The tracks are added along with the idler wheel, and the fenders front and rear are added to the underside of the hull.

You can't go to war without some of the home comforts, and for hot climates, air-conditioning is one that you would be very glad of. The Bradley has two of these scabbed onto the rear bulkhead either side of the door on stand-off brackets, and they are built up from a C-shaped back section with separate side faces and a detailed front panel with the two extraction fans moulded in. They are covered by a pair of circular grilles, which are in turn covered by another that extends across the whole front of the appliance. The rear light-cluster sits atop each handed unit, and they are added to the rear of the vehicle with their brackets.

The next section deals with the ERA blocks on the side-skirts and vehicle front, which are supplied in runs that have separate end parts, with the lower row attaching to the thin skirt via a framework of brackets. It is worthy of note that each side has a different block layout, with the left side having a cut-out at the front where the driver's station is, affording him a better view, but leaving him slightly more vulnerable to a side attack. The ERA blocks on the glacis are split to allow easier access to the engine compartment, and consist of a narrow single width set on the right, the larger five block wide engine compartment set, and a three column set on the left, plus the front light clusters mounted on the outermost block of the two smaller sections. In theory, the engine compartment can still be posed open, and the top row of blocks are sloped to improve oversight and to ease the hinge area.

Construction of the turret begins with the lower half being fitted out with equipment and the poly-cap mounted breech of the Bushmaster 25mm auto-cannon, which is surprisingly bereft of much detail. The coaxial 7.62mm M240 sits on a pivot to the right with a flexible ammo feed leading to the ammo storage out of sight. More equipment and turret controls are added around the front and rear, with decals for stencils, screens and keyboards spread liberally amongst them to improve the detail. The turret roof is covered with vision blocks, a periscope and the gunner's Integrated Sight Unit (ISU), after which the turret basket is built up from sections that attach to the circular base, plus the realistic mesh inserts in the sides, which are made from PE that is pre-formed by the modeller around a compound curved disposable part, to ensure it matches the shape of the frame into which you will fit it. The lower turret is attached to the turret ring and basket, and the upper turret is added to the top, feeding the barrel of the M240 through its firing slit first. A separate facet of the turret is added to close it up, and this has a poly-cap held in place by a cylindrical cup on the inside of the turret, and will later receive the Tow missile mount. Additional armour is added to the lower half of the turret, plus smoke dischargers on each side of the main gun, with more armour added to the turret roof, front sloping panel around the guns, and on one rear facet of the of the turret sides. The two crew hatches are built up and added to the roof, an again can be left to move freely.


The ERA blocks on the turret are customised to the faceted shape of the turret, and build up onto mounting plates with PE brackets and styrene ERA blocks. These must be placed on their correct facet, so take care with building them up, and take careful note of the placement instructions, as if you rush it, you may live to regret it. The external portion of the gunner's ISU is a box that fits on the roof to the left of the main gun, and it is built up from separate sides with a PE mesh covering the screen, and doors to protect it from small arms fire that can be posed open or closed. The commander's protection extends to a four-sided set of bullet-resistant glass screens, three of which are inserted into a single part that you must then bend to the correct angle to fit the base plate. The forth panel is raised above the rest and gives the commander extra protection above the gunner's ISU box to the left. The commander's own Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV), not to be confused with Children's ITV here in the UK, is another large box that is attached to a hefty pintle-mount on a circular base to permit 360o rotation, plus elevation. This is attached to a bracket and sits on the rear-right facet of the turret side, and provides reasonable protection for the commander's hatch from the rear.

The TOW system is designed for taking out heavier armour than the Bushmaster can handle, and the Bradley's installation has two tubes on a box mounted on the side of the turret, giving it full rotation and elevation. The box is built up first, after which the TOW tubes are slotted in through the rear, in much the same way as they would be reloaded in the field. The mount and protective door for the firing tubes are added, with the door able to be posed open or closed for transport. This is attached to the poly-cap equipped hole on the left side of the turret, and can be posed at any sensible inclination. The rear turret bustle supports a pair of large sensor aerials with cylindrical enclosures, as well as other comms aerials, and space for personal equipment, as well as the provided ammo boxes that sit on the outside wall of the basket. To finish the build, the whole assembly is dropped into the hull and twisted to lock it in place with the usual bayonet turret retention mechanism.

Three markings options are provided with the kit, and as the BUSK III has (so far) deployed to the Middle East, all options are of a desert painted vehicle. A substantial portion of the decal sheet is devoted to decals for the interior of the vehicle, and the majority of the external decals are stencils too. The decals are printed by Cartograf and of course the quality is up to their usual standards of registration, colour density and sharpness. From the box you can build one of the following vehicles:
  • 1st Battalion, 68th Armour Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, US Army, Kuwait, 2003 – small black star on the front and rear of the vehicle.
  • 3rd Infantry Division, US Army, Iraq, 2005 – small black star on the glacis, crudely painted out unit markings on the front and rear of the vehicle, provided as dirty yellow decals.
  • 2nd Squadron, 2rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, US Army, Phase III of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Baghdad, Iraq, 2005 – small black star on the front and rear of the vehicle.


The small sheet of caution placards that are often found on the back of coalition vehicles isn't mentioned in the instructions, but it is there for you to personalise your Bradley a little. Check your references to see which type and where they were typically placed.

Comprehensive is a good word to describe this kit, and as they say in the US, it's the full meal deal. It contains a lot of highly detailed plastic and metal, all of which should build into a well detailed replica of the famous Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Add some crew personalisation, a few bits of stowage and maybe a few figures, and you'll have a stunning centrepiece to any diorama. I really can't wait to see some built up and painted.

Very highly recommended.


Review sample courtesy of

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Wouldn't be at all surprised, but there's no part-count on the box that I could see anyway :nerd: If there's an average of 30 parts per sprue, that's 18 sprues with 540 parts, plus 188 for the tracks, and PE, clear parts, etc., so yeah - 700+ sounds reasonable :)

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