Russian BM-21 Grad Multiple Rocket Launcher
This was another item that had been on the review list for some time before I volunteered for it. As this vehicle comes with almost no external markings, Steve said I could do it as a Middle East Vehicle. I am thinking Syrian Militia based on a picture I came cross surfing the web. However, I do need to include some information about this particular kit as it might actually be a “What If”.
Trumpeter touts this as a BM-21 Grad. According to the information I have been able to figure out this is not quite correct. The BM-21 was a 122mm 40 shot rocket launcher mounted on a URAL-375D 6x6 truck designed in 1963. The vehicle included in this kit is what I believe to be a URAL-4320 6x6 which was designed in 1976. This makes the actual designator BM-21-1. Most of the Middle East pictures I have show the 375D chassis mounting the rockets. Along with a new tractor chassis, I understand that the Pod launcher was also updated. To confuse matters more, Trumpeter’s decal sheet is listed as BM-21 Hail early. For those not in the “know”, Grad and Hail are the same thing. Either way, this is a most impressive vehicle in real life. Go to YouTube and see some of the firing sequences. I’ll bet you’ll want to build one for sure.
The kit is well packed inside a typical Trumpeter sturdy box with several parts wrapped in Styrofoam for additional protection. It has approximately 490 parts, seven vinyl wheels, a clear sprue, small decal sheet, and a photo etch sheet. Markings are for one vehicle only. The kit sprues are well cast and clean of any apparent faults or excess flash. Some of the parts were definitely slide-molded and these are well defined as well. This kit has MANY very small parts which the builder will need to be cautious of.
I started building numerious sub-assemblies. This allowed me to build and then assemble the kit quicker. This truck is quite large for a truck. It is almost as long as an Academy M60 tank. The basic assemblies were spot on and well detailed with pictures and parts call outs. I ran into my first issue while assembling the engine. Once again, PE was the culprit. They have you use two small pre-shaped PE belts. They have you assemble these after you have attached the water pump and generator. The instructions SHOULD have you put the belts and THEN attach the generator. Neddless to say, my belts ended up getting bent out of shape. Luckily, these won’t be noticed as the engine will not be displayed. The frame is a multi-part affair and several of the mid supports were wider than the frames. This created a bulging effect in several spots down the frame and I am nervous as to how this will affect build progress. Before setting all the axles, I attached the tires and made sure everything touched the ground. Liquid cement was added to all axle joints and sway bars and allowed to dry. I hope this allows all the tires to sit on the ground when finished. Several other smaller items were added to the frame and then came the ultimate in PE stupidity! Trumpeter has you make, from two rectangle pieces of brass, two multi-curved rear bumpers. They give you a diagram of how it should look. THAT IS ALL. So, with no form, no prescribed lines they expect you to make three rounded curves. You cannot use a PE bending tool because these are rounded bends, not sharp bends. These parts could have EASILY been made out of styrene and then they would have looked exactly the same. After careful marking and bending, I had two rear bumpers that looked OK but not even close to identical. One is definitely wider than the other and it is noticeable! People wonder why I hate PE.
The launcher was assembled and I must have messed up. Near the end of the assembly, you attach three pieces to create the rear heat shield. These parts did not line up and after carefully playing with them, I got it as close as possible. This area is going to need some putty. Also, while doing research, I noticed a difference in the rocket ends. The kit comes with convex rear rocket covers and all the pictures I have seen on the internet have flat covers. The pictures also show a large variation in coloring of these end caps. They appear to run from Dark Tan to Dark Green. This may be due to age or they may be colored plastic depending on the region they are being sold to.
I attached and assembled a few more items in preparation of pre-painting. I planned on painting assemblies to ease assembly. The cab is the main reason. I need to paint and then assemble this area as one of the five decals is applied here. This is basically the decal that covers the whole instrument panel. Hopefully they did a better job of making decals that they did deciding where and what to use Photo etch on.
The exhaust really got my blood boiling. While assembling the two different parts, I asked myself, “What do these attach to”? The answer…..nothing!!! There are no headers on the engine and no plumbing from the headers to the exhaust, mainly because there are no headers. So to surmise….The year is 2013, Trumpeter has released a new kit that you HAVE to use PE to basically scratch-build two rear bumpers but decided to not have a completely plumbed exhaust system. Again, I know I am only the builder and not the designer of kits but….ohhh baby, things that make you go…..hhhmmm!
With the assembled pieces ready, I did the pre-painting using Humbrol 117 (light green). OK, it covered in one coat but it is definitely not LIGHT green. It will make a great contrast to the sand camouflage I going to apply but it looks very dark to me. After laying down a coat of future, I let it all dry. The, following the instructions, applied the dashboard decal. It reacted well with SolvaSet and Sol and manufacturers still irk me. The decal is a large one piece affair. On the sheet is the dashboard AND decals for the knobs below the dashboard. These knobs are pieces that have been glued to the dash in prior steps. Did the manufacturer really think this would work? I am going to go back and cut the clear film away and fix the mistake. I knew this would happen but wanted to follow the instructions to show you what happens when you do! Also in the cockpit area there are three parts that make up a control box of some kind that attaches to the dash. The box appears to open as there are dials and controls on the face. However, the instructions state that you seal it all closed. Sad in a way as if it were opened, I think it would add to the overall appearance of the kit. The cab was finished with painting the knobs and dials black as well as the seats. Then the rest of the cab was completed.
I had to add 5 pieces of PE to the nose of the cab as grab handles. This is just another example of manufacturers using it because they feel they need to. Most handles are made of round bar and PE cannot replicate this. The worst part is that these handles are so small; they could have easily been molded to the hood and looked a lot better and more in scale. The glass pieces were taped over and attached to the cab. A final Green base was added and this was set to dry. I chose Model Master Dark Tan as the camouflage color. Pictures show either one of two types of camo applied. There is the wavy line version and splotchy cloud version. Since I was going to be applying Dark Blue in the wavy pattern, I decided to apply the splotchy cloud pattern of camouflage. This would add more visual variety to the finished model. I practiced several times with the blue. I still need more practice! I think it was because I was afraid to bring the model airbrush closer to the model for fear of breaking it. The blue camouflage lines are way too fat. However, it will stay for now.
The vehicle was given a coat of future to allow decal application and wash. The decals are from the spares box and then the vehicle was given a coat of Model Master flat clear. The tape was removed from the glass and all the lights were painted their respective colors. The clear parts over the lights were all attached using MicroScale Kristal Klear.
No weathering was done as the one picture I had to do this shows a very pristine vehicle. I am sure it will not remain this way for long as most militias have no idea of the required upkeep needed to maintain Military vehicles.
I would like to thank Trumpeter for adding this neat wheeled vehicle to their lineup. With so many different countries using this vehicle, there are tons of building opportunities. Thanks also go to Stevens International for being kind enough to donate this kit to the reviewer Corps. Finally thanks to IPMS/USA for allowing me to review it. Get out there and pick one of these kits and let your imagination go wild!