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Bergepanzer BPz3A1 Buffalo ARV (84565) 1:35


Mike

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Bergepanzer BPz3A1 Buffalo ARV (84565)

1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd

 

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The Büffel as it is known as in its native Germany, is an Armoured Recovery Vehicle based upon the chassis and lower hull of the well-liked Leopard 2E Main Battle Tank, which itself is a variant of the 2A6.  Most of the lower hull is identical or similar to its progenitor, but the turret is missing, replaced by a casemate and crane, a winch and a bulldozer blade that allows it to retrieve damaged or immobilised tanks from the battlefield even if the fighting is still ongoing thanks to its armour.  It is also equipped with an MG3 machine gun for self-defence purposes, a set of smoke grenade launchers to hide itself and its charge from those that wish it harm.  It is powered by a large 12-cylinder diesel engine from MTU Friedrichshafen, a division of Rolls-Royce, that outputs almost 1,500bhp that allows it to travel at good speed across all sorts of terrain, but also to pull its immobilised compatriots, whether they were retrieving Leopards or PzH2000 SPGs, or anything up to a similar tonnage.

 

The BPz3 was a joint project between Rheinmetall Landsysteme of Germany who produced an initial 75 for the Bundeswehr and a further 25 for the Netherlands, where its name lost its umlaut over the U in translation.  It was also sold to other countries including Canada where it is known as the L2-ARV, and Spain where it is known as the Leopard 2ER Búfalo, with Switzerland a surprisingly large 25 export, and Sweden taking a number on charge after adapting them to their specific needs to improve armour and customise their electronic systems.  For service in Afghanistan, the German vehicles and some Canadian machines were upgraded with new high quality vision systems by Karl Zeiss for the drivers that would give them 24/7 visibility, no matter what the conditions.  The crane is electrically driven, and can operate independent of the power-pack, so even the unusual sight of a Buffalo replacing its own broken engine isn’t outside the bounds of possibility, presuming they have enough electrical charge in the vehicle.  At time of writing, the type is in the middle of another extensive upgrade programme to give it more capability on the interconnected battlefield.  The Bpz3A1 is up-armoured to work under enemy fire, and included the addition of mine protection equipment, and slat armour that is intended to reduce the effectiveness of shaped charge weapons in key areas.  The MG has been changed to a remote mount, and the driver’s vision is enhanced by a thermal imager and low-light TV system that are combined as a single picture in front of the driver, improving their situational awareness.

 

 

The Kit

This is a partial retool of a retool of the 2015 release from Hobby Boss, adding yet more new parts to depict the differences between the early Buffalo and the improved variant that is depicted here.  The kit arrives in a typically sturdy top-opening box with a painting of a Buffalo at work on another tank, and inside are fourteen sprues and two hull halves in sand-coloured styrene, a small sprue in black, a clear sprue, two trees of poly-caps, a length of braided wire, two Photo-Etch (PE) brass sheets of parts, two flexible black lengths of track, decal sheet and black and white instruction booklet that has the colour painting guide sheet inserted between the centre pages.  Detail is good throughout, as we’ve come to expect from Hobby Boss’s armour models for the most part, although there is some thought that the hull is around 4mm narrower than it should be, but that’s a question for your micrometre, not mine.

 

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Construction begins with the lower hull, which has the suspension and return roller details added after cutting small sections from some suspension units, while the road wheels are prepared, consisting of fourteen pairs of main wheels, two drive sprockets and two idler wheels, all of which have a poly-cap sandwiched between the two wheels.  Once the swingarms with stub-axles plus return rollers are glued in place, the road wheels can be pushed into place for removal during painting if required, thanks to the friction-fit of the flexible polythene sleeves.  Quickly, the bulldozer blade is built from large, bulky parts, adding supports and pivots, plus an oversized towing eye at the front of the blade.  It is joined to the hull by a pair of large pins that you should leave unglued if you wish to move or remove it later.  The track runs are of the “rubber-band” style, but have good detail throughout, and you are advised that they will accept standard plastic glue and paints during construction, however a test with Tamiya Extra Thin glue reveals that this isn’t the case, so test your preferred glue on the short length of sprue at one end of the tracks before proceeding.  There is an overlap of two links per run, and once the glue is dry they are slipped over the running gear so that attention can turn to the highly detailed crew interior that is included.

 

The interior is begun by taking a floor panel with a lip around most of the edge, and detailing it with three crew stations, their equipment and comfortable-looking seats.  The completed lower half (there is more to come) is glued into the bottom of the hull along with an insert against the lower glacis plate, and at the same time the rear bulkhead with towing eyes and shackles are put in place along with the convoy-light shield that has a PE lighting bracket over it.  The next stage of the interior begins with the upper hull half, which first receives an insert over the front that has two holes in it, creating the roof of the casemate in which the crew sit, opening a few small slots in the front of the hull, and drilling out six holes in the short section of roof that is moulded into the upper hull part.  A very detailed insert is made up into a four-sided assembly with a lot of equipment placed inside over the next five steps, including tools, some PE parts and stencil decals.  That is glued into the casemate and backed up with a box and some brackets, then more equipment and wall panels are dotted around the left side of the casemate after being detailed in rather busy steps around the main diagrams.  Similarly, the right side is built around a long insert with five steps that increase the level of detail substantially, and includes PE and styrene parts as well as some more decals for stencils and dials.  The driver’s console with D-shaped steering wheel is inserted into the glacis plate, then the assembly is turned over to detail the exterior, first cutting right-angled notches in three of the six triangular supports at the rear of the casemate, using the accompanying diagrams to measure them before cutting.  The upper hull’s rear is boxed in with a wide bulkhead that includes rear mudguards, adding another small box on the rear deck, removing a few tiny raised areas and filling depressions nearby.  Front mud guards, a front hatch and two side crew hatches are installed with handles, adding an armoured cover over the new rear view vision block.  The two hull halves are joined, and a gaggle of small parts are scattered around the engine deck and the casemate, then the side doors are shown being installed again – oops!  This time the rear door is fitted with styrene and PE parts inside, while in the front of the engine deck, two PE strips are bent around a pair of raised cylinders on the deck surface.

 

The driver’s almond-shaped hatch is given clear vision blocks before it is inserted into the hole, and at the rear bulkhead several detail parts are fitted.  A frame is fitted over the two circular vents, adding three PE mesh sections to the rear, and fitting a foldable panel to the left side, plus more detail parts on the visible part of the deck.  The next few steps are incredibly busy due to the upgrading of the type requiring many more parts, creating an L-shaped box that is covered in PE mesh before it is located on the rear right corner of the deck.  The top hatch with remote MG3 machine gun station is first fitted with six vision blocks in the toroidal lip, making the hatch from three layers for installation along with another vision block, then adding two bracket-like armoured covers over the top, and fixing the five-part gun and its mount onto the rear edge of the cupola.  This is mounted in the socket in the roof, then a huge stowage box is built from styrene parts and PE mesh, installing it on the rear deck over the mesh cover, and fixing smoke discharger packs around the left rear corner and on the back edge of the deck.  A lifting brace is detailed with eyes and a large shackle at the top of its sloped upper edge, connecting it to the right side of the engine deck via a pair of pins that mate with supports at each end.  Two spare wheels are made and mounted on bobbin-like fittings, attaching it to a shallow tray with brackets around the edge, inverting it and fitting a four-part sled over it and fixing it to the dwindling open area in the centre of the engine deck.  A stack of stowage boxes that bear a resemblance to coolers are made with separate lids, mounting two of them on the left side of the engine deck, adding two appliqué armour panels over the glacis above the dozer blade.

 

The main crane is built around a single three-sided jib, the hydraulic lift cylinder is mounted at one end within the three sided part, then closed over by fitting the fourth panel, with a V-shaped cut-out to allow the movement of it and its ram, which is attached to a two-part base and ram with the turntable beneath it, mating them by inserting the ram into the cylinder and positioning the pivot-points at the bottom of the jib with those on the base so that pins can be inserted without glue.  Even the crane doesn’t escape the application of pioneer tools, with several items on one side and slat armour at the aft end on the other, plus more details and of course the block and tackle that performs the heavy lifting.  The pulleys are assembled with the supplied wire linking them, so some care will be needed, gluing the outer parts and the lifting hook in position, then locating the top pulley into the end of the jib, securing it with a pin from each side, again without glue.  Another two towing rods are built in a V-shape with eyes glued to the ends and located on the rear bulkhead by a pair of clamps.

 

The side skirts of the original vehicle have been replaced by new boxy assemblies that are fitted over the forward wheel stations, and have narrow slat armour panels at the bottom, spaced away from the skirts by triangular brackets, using two or three depending on the length of the section.  The left skirts have a sloped top-section, while the right are box-shaped, but have the same slat sections on the lower sides.  The next two pages are again incredibly busy, adding dozens of additional slat armour panels above the skirts, around the deck and casemate roof, and behind the built-out skirts toward the rear.  Additional smoke grenade launchers are mounted on stations in the front corners of the glacis, adding more equipment and towing eyes to the rear of the vehicle, and a pair of antennae on the casemate, one with a flasher unit at the top that should be painted clear orange and used only when the vehicle isn’t on active duty.  The quantity of small parts requires concentration and careful study of the instruction steps, as they aren’t always totally obvious, and could easily be missed by anyone skimming the steps.

 

 

Markings

There are two options available from the sheet, one wearing a two-tone green/sand camouflage, the other in all over sand.  There are further decals on the main jib that can be found on the instruction booklet, which you will want to refer to during painting.  From the sheet you can build one of the following:

 

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As usual with Hobby Boss, there’s no information on the vehicle’s location, date or user, so a bit of Googling will be in order if you’d like to know a little more about your model.  The decals are well-printed, in good register and sharpness, and are suitable to the task in hand.  The instrument decals for the interior equipment with dials has a grey background, although much of the interior is painted white or NATO green.  Here, Google is your friend.

 

 

Conclusion

It’s a well-detailed model of a low-profile, but extremely important vehicle in the Bundeswehr and other operators, with a lot of attention paid to the interior, as well as a huge level of detail to the exterior.  You don’t get the engine, but that’s not a big deal, and could be a relief, given the already high part count.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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