One of the problems with kits of modern vehicles still in service is they are continually being updated especially when serving in a hostile environment such as Iraq and that is the case with this kit as well as the Tamiya kit which itself has been overtaken with upgrades.
Details in this Academy kit are more up to date than some in the Tamiya kit but as mentioned Bradleys are now appearing in Iraq with an ERA suit added to the side and front armour and other changes which makes this kit okay for a particular period in time as is the Tamiya kit for a few years ago.
Some of the newer parts are not actually mentioned in the instructions and I initially went through these listing the missing details only to find the parts lurking on the sprues and so I will try and identify these in the review below.
The kit has 348 parts in beige plastic plus a set of vinyl tracks and new decal sheet plus the instructions and has four sprues A, B, C and D from the initial Academy Bradley kit which in turn has a lineage back to the initial Tamiya Bradley kit with two new sprues F and G with the updated ODS parts.
The lower hull tub is from the original kit and still has the large holes and inner mountings for the motorization that came with the kits back then and these holes are partially covered by the final drive plates which are actually positioned at the wrong angle in an attempt to cover more of the holes. The top of the final drive housing should be level with the sponson and this actually exposes more of the holes when you reposition them giving a bit of work to fill. The axles on the hull are not offset as they should be for the torsion bar suspension; an issue inherited from the Tamiya kit and no underside details is included.
The road wheels and idlers are from the previous kits but you get two new drive sprockets with the oval cut-outs but the dish is too shallow which in turn has the ring of securing bolts too large in diameter and there should be a small raised disc in the centre of the hub. But the sprockets are an improvement on the old ones still included with the kit which don’t have any lightening holes but with the shallow dish is a result of compromises for the motorization with the same oversized inner axle stub.
The full length vinyl track is probably the biggest letdown of this kit being the original rubber chevron type track instead of the current square rubber block “big foot” track as included in the Tamiya kit. To remedy this you could use the recently released Friulmodel late type “big foot” tracks (set ATL-79) that also comes with an excellent set of correctly sized drive sprockets to replace both these items in this kit, or the Tamiya kit for that matter.
At the back is the entry ramp with separate crew door which is also from the original Bradley kit with the only alterations being two CIP panels for the rear storage lockers and the ribbed fitting located at the lower left ramp hinge. Take care though as the instructions show to fit this on the right side the wrong way around but it will be the right way around when you fit to the correct left side. There is also a large locating tab on the inside which if removed will make the detail look better, especially if the ramp is lowered but this will also expose the empty interior.
The lower front hull panel is the latest configuration with just a single re-enforcing panel along the bottom and a row of bolts along the top although these are moulded a little too low on the panel. As well as this new style panel there are also two large brackets that fit to the insides of the final drive housings and while they are on the sprues (parts F28, F29) they don’t get a mention in the instructions, so take care to fit them in place. The final drive housings are also a little too narrow but these new brackets will help to disguise this a little more than on the earlier vehicles.
The entire upper hull and side armour panels are moulded in one piece with the use of multi-part moulds and is quite an impressive moulding with well defined details on the top and sides as well as angled hull panels.
Some of the many bolt heads on the front panels are a little less well defined and some are in the incorrect position with the engine bay door as a separate part and again the bolt heads are fairly basic in detail with a few in the wrong position but these may not be noticeable to the casual observer. There is a small (or large depending on your viewpoint) fitting missing from the centre lower edge of the engine door but Academy have made a good effort with the later style exhaust outlet on the right side and fire extinguisher fairing on the left side both of which are separate parts and while they could do with some fine tuning are basically the correct profile for this later version.
The meshing on the two upper hull engine intakes is well done with the side panel having deeply defined grillwork while the upper intake cover has extremely fine (almost smooth) mesh with the correct small securing strips depicted that will come up well with painting.
The new style driver’s hatch is also included with the later revised rear hinge and large bracket that extends out the side of the hull nicely represented with a separate periscope guard but there is no interior detail at all if you were thinking of showing the hatch open.
The upper rear crew hatch has the additional armour panels included as well as additional panels for the rear sides of the hull and upper front hull above the engine compartment and these again have the bolt head details included as well as a couple of spare track links which incidentally are the correct square pad type.
The moulded on side armour panels are quite well detailed with separate foot steps and the wire rope handles on each lower panels but the many small tie down cleats along the top are not depicted. At the front on each side are separate outer panels that correctly depict the space between these and the inner panel but the lower hinged panels are solid while they are actually spaced.
All the tools are separate parts with moulded on tool clips that would benefit from etched items for better definition and these will no doubt be coming shortly from one or more of the etched companies.
Also situated at the front on each side of the side armour is the rubberised “container” used to store items such as water cans while operating in Iraq but being in solid plastic lacks the flexible look of the actual item but at least they are there.
The basic turret shell is from the original kit with added parts to update it to the latest standard but there are number of compromises as a result.
The main issue is with the gun mantlet which is the same solid full width mantlet as in the original kit with just the additional armour panels added to represent to current ODS style mantlet setup.
The correct configuration sees only the centre section with the barrel collar that elevates with the outer mantlet sections being fixed and there should also be a large recess in the upper right of the gun collar with other fittings for the movable sight plus thin metal covers over the top of the outer sections where the old style mantlet would elevate. I have included some images of the reworked gun/mantlet on a little on going project with the 2001 Tamiya M2A2 ODS kit which hopefully illustrates what is required here to correct the assembly as the same alterations apply to this Academy kit.
You do get new doors (two side and one top) for the main sight box and the new junction box on the side of the sight box with new armour panels for the turret front and there is also a fluted barrel to replace the original (with six flutes around the barrel ) which also has the muzzle hollowed out slightly with slide moulds plus a few other small fittings.
The new larger turret basket is included along with the basket bracket between the rear of the turret and basket but there should also be a third lifting eye on the rear turret inside the left of the turret basket, this was also missed on the Tamiya kit.
The original turret hatches and TOW missile box are included and these have scope for a fair bit of extra detailing as they are quite basic but with the main features included for a good starting point.
Also included are a few additional CIP panels for the side armour and a spare road wheel and drive sprocket tooth disc to add as required as a number of photos from Iraq show this spare disc carried on the engine bay door.
The small sheet is quite well printed with markings for two unidentified Bradleys from Iraq in 2003 in overall sand scheme.
Academy have done a reasonable job of including the modifications to represent a later M2A2 ODS serving in Iraq with the later style front hull plate, later square exhaust box, the new style driver’s hatch and the “rubberised” bins on the sides plus the additional armour and mantlet arrangement with fluted barrel on the turret.
Unfortunately the incorrectly represented gun/mantlet leaves a bit of work to correct and as mentioned the tracks are a big letdown meaning you can’t build an accurate kit as presented without shelling out for new tracks, but the Friuls also solve the drive sprocket issue as well so makes a good investment.We could make a comparison with the Tamiya 2001 M2A2 Bradley ODS kit but the two kits represent a vehicle of different time periods with a number of updates on the later Academy kit as well as many similar details and errors for that matter such as the gun mantlet arrangement incorrect on both kits and so both have their own merits.
Given the combination of old and news parts it leaves scope for many other details to be corrected/added and Vodnik’s 2004 article on detailing the Tamiya M2A2 kit will also be of benefit for anyone wanting to go the whole hog with this kit.
Also see the resources page with other reviews applicable to the M2/M3 Bradley
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Page created March 30, 2006