Russia seems to be having a surge of military development these days, suggesting some expansionist policies which go far beyond the scope of a model review. What this offers for the modeler, however, is a wide range of interesting equipment never seen before. The Kurganets-25 IFV is a good example of this. Heralding back to the BMP-2 and -3 of the previous generation, this new machine seems to be the epitome of both defensive and offensive capabilities, literally festooned with sensors and targeting electronics. The spaced armor enhances survivability on the battlefield, while its armament makes it a worthy opponent for most challenges it might encounter.
I've bumped into Panda only once before with a helicopter kit, and I really didn't know what to expect from an armor model by this manufacturer. What you get, in fact, is a very full box of crisply molded parts in tan plastic, plus a separate bag of hundreds of light brown bits for the separate track links. Clear parts for the lights and periscopes are included, plus some pretty nice photo-etch grills and the like. The instructions come in a slick booklet with color cover, as well as a separate color insert for the coloring guide – very nice. So . . . on to the build.
As with most armor kits, I started with the running gear, which is comparatively simple – wheels and torsion bars and nothing much beyond that. It's the tracks that might set some people off. Each link is composed of three pieces, 89 links per side, all of which have to be clipped from their sprues, cleaned up and assembled. Much as I like separate track links on my models, even I was a bit daunted by this at first. However, on examining the parts I discovered that the third part per link was nothing more than a bolt-on rubber pad. On the real vehicle this is obviously intended to make the machine “street legal” for parades and such. However, each track link itself has a completely detailed bottom surface, so it wasn't actually necessary to install the third bit. As I prefer functional armor models rather than “parade queens” I opted to relegate these pads to the spares box, leaving me just the link and its very nicely molded central tooth to contend with. The teeth, which feature an open loop for the tooth itself, are designed to snap into place on each link, but their tiny size made dealing with them a fumble-fingered process until I started using a flat nosed mini-pliers to hold them steady while snapping each into place. As an added note, although I completed each track run (86 links instead of 89) most of the run is completely obscured by the side skirts, so you can fudge this a bit if you choose. If you DO elect to do the full run be aware that there are not that many extra links. Even with only 86 per side, I was left with only four spares when I was done. The Carpet Monster had to go hungry on this build, even with the tiny parts.
After that point it's a pretty straight-forward build with very few surprises. One thing to watch out for, though, is that the tolerances are extremely fine in a lot of places, making for a more than tight fit. I fractured a drive sprocket getting it onto its support peg, and the rear ramp door had to be filed down gently in order to fit.
The hull assembly is essentially a box with fiddly bits, and went quite smoothly. Some very nice photo-etch grills are provided for the engine vents and really add to the look. Speaking of which, I used the majority of the photo-etch provided as most actually served some function, so that was nice.
One other thing that came up during the build, however, was the occasional encounter with a badly placed mold pillar, such as inside the exhausts or the missile tube halves. Fortunately, none of these mar the surface detail, but can definitely hinder assembly. There are also some really, really tiny parts, such as H27s (lug loops) so be prepared to use tweezers and some patience. The side skirts, on the other hand, are mostly two very large pieces which need to be mated carefully. I had to clamp mine as there was a small bit of warpage in the parts.
I made a major boo-boo on these, as I glued the large triangular boxes to the front of these without checking the part numbers first. Apparently the SMALL triangular boxes were meant for this particular vehicle in order to provide space for the sensor boxes. As I didn't discover this mistake until well after the glue had dried, I simply made other arrangements for the sensor boxes so as not to foul the smoke grenade launchers.
The turret is a strange little beast festooned with sensors and other fragile bits. This was the only area where I had any real problems with the photo-etch. Some parts are meant to be folded around the sensor boxes at the rear, but I found that the pieces was slightly too large. I had to trim these down to fit more properly, so be sure to test these assemblies before committing to glue. Another area of some frustration was the assembly of the rocket tube mounts. The instructions are quite vague on this assembly, and there are few (if any) placement markers, so making sure that everything was straight became something of a challenge. Take your time here. Mounting them onto the turret can also be a little annoying because of the small glue surface. Part E-30, which is a sensor tower at the rear of the turret, may be the single most fragile item I've dealt with in a long time, and tried to suicide numerous times during assembly. I'd leave it off until final painting.
Once done, it's time to paint. The kit supplies two schemes – a multi-colored operational one and a single-color parade model with fancy markings. I opted for a third, simpler option just to show off the basic design. Apparently operational Russian equipment doesn't carry markings, so mine is very bare-bones. I may go back and do a multicolor scheme later on, but in the meantime, what you get is basically a tracked apartment block with a flat turret– a vehicle almost as wide as it is long. Fascinating!
All in all, I had a lot of fun with this build, even with the challenging tracks. In real life, I question the survivability of all those fragile electronics on the battlefield, and if this thing ever took a serious hit, it would likely disintegrate in quite a spectacular fashion, with bits flying everywhere. Perhaps all that paraphernalia was intended for intimidation's sake, I just don' t know. In the meantime, though, it makes for a really interesting addition to my collection.
As always, I want to thank both IPMS/USA for letting me tackle this beastie as well as Panda Models for creating a really unique model. Das vedanya!