Warfare has been an ever changing pursuit of Man, and throughout the ages soldiers have sought ways to increase their ability to both assail their opponents, and resist their opponents' attacks. This has never been an easy task, as these different requirements are seldom mutually compatible. A fighting man wants the heaviest protection that is possible, but he still has to be able to move, and engage his opponent in battle. New technologies and different battle theatres require new solutions, from the discovery of flint and iron to make arrowheads and swords, via the invention of gunpowder, right up to today's laser guided missiles and smart bombs.
Movement to and from, and on, the battle field is a deciding factor in the outcome of many battles. To get troops to the battle field, ready to fight, and move them around in relative safety, is an integral part of warfare. To stop your opponent from moving his troops around, is therefore a prime objective of any opposing force. There are many ways to achieve this, from Air Superiority, to road side ambushes. Traditionally the movement of troops around the battle field has been via a tracked AFV's, such as the Warrior, Bradley, YPR-765, and the daddy of them all, the M113 'Bucket'. But the changing nature of warfare has seen once again the need to re-think how to move around new theatres, and counter new threats. Whilst tracked vehicles are vulnerable to even relatively small devices (blow the track, and the AFV is crippled and the crew stuck) and are not very good at covering large distances at speed, without the need for frequent track maintenance, wheeled AFV's on the other hand can cover larger distances at speed, don't need the massive maintenance and logistic support, and IF a wheel is damaged by a mine or shell, the vehicle can usually continue to at least get back to relative safety, often even on flat tires. Recent years have seen a large shift from tracked AFV's to wheeled AFV's, the M1127 Stryker and the LAV probably amongst the most well known ones.
Amongst the numerous Countries and Companies joining in this development race, was a British, French and German consortium that sought to produce an Eight Wheeled AFV, and this resulted in the Boxer MRAV (Multi Role Armoured Vehicle). The French pulled out early to concentrate on their own VBCI vehicle, and the Dutch joined in. Eventually the British also decided to withdraw from the project, leaving the Dutch and German partners to design, and manufacture the Boxer. The Boxer is unique in that it has a removable rear module, which can be exchanged for a mission required module, such as a Command Vehicle, an Ambulance, an Armoured Personnel Carrier etc. The first Deliveries to the German Army are expected in 2009, with delivery to the Dutch Army starting in 2011. Test vehicles are in services with both Armies at this moment.
At an all up weight of some 33 tonnes it is by far the heaviest wheeled AFV both in production and in development at this moment, and in its current configuration it provides the highest level of protection of all wheeled AFV's on the market.
The kit is packaged in a top opening cardboard box, and is well protected with plenty of bubble wrap. Inside the box are three smaller zip lock bags containing the smaller parts and the wheels, as well as the single piece bottom hull, and the two piece upper hull. The kit includes no photo etch, nor any decals or such for markings. Also included is a one page instruction sheet, and a sheet with some colour images to aid in painting.
The kit scales out well, the overall length of 7.88 meters equating to 22.51cm and the width of 2.99 meters equating to 8.54 cm. My measurements are with the parts dry fitted, and show the length and the width absolutely spot on. The height I cannot check until I have built the model.
The kit consists of some 95 parts, moulded in a pleasant light grey resin. Also included should be some clear parts, for the headlight, but these are missing in this review sample. All parts are attached to substantial pour plugs, which will require the use of a saw and sharp knife to remove. Apart from a small miss-cast on the hull, all parts are cleanly cast, with no air bubbles or excessive flash. The detail is sharp throughout.
In this 'in box' review I will examine the main parts of the kit, and give some general comments on accuracy and quality of the parts. I will give more detailed comments in my build log, as inevitably the good and bad issues only become apparent when you build the model.
The lower hull is a single cast item. There is a very slight lateral twist towards the rear, but this was easily remedied by holding the area concerned over some steam, and gently bending the part to the correct attitude. It incorporates detail such as the modular armour plate, side marker lights, locker boxes and rear lights and number plate. There is a small miss-cast at the third right hand side wheel suspension point, which makes it impossible to mount the spring properly. This will need some surgery to fix.
Upper Hull Front
The front of the upper hull, incorporating the drivers hatch and engine compartment, is part of the actual vehicle. All detail is moulded very cleanly into this part, apart from the driver's hatch. The front edge of this part sticks out by about a millimeter, which is a problem that I will explain in detail in the build review.
Upper Hull Rear
This part needs some clean up of the mating edges, and the large pour stub at the rear of the part. Care must be taken, as the edges are of necessity very thin, and can easily be damaged. There is a minor fit issue, in that the hull is slightly too long at the rear, if you allow for the required gap between the front and rear upper hull. Otherwise no real issues. The hatches on the roof are moulded solid and closed.
This part needs also some very careful cleaning of the edges, and whilst the top half fits quite well to the upper hull, there is a gap where it meets the lower hull. I found that using an elastic band whilst gluing forced the parts into the right position, and any remaining gaps can either be filled with CA glue, or will need a small amount of filler. The detail on the rear wall is correct,
The suspension is quite a complicated little challenge, and the springs are quite fragile, and need some major clean-up after the pour stub is removed. The springs are moulded quite well, but suffer from the seam that results from the pour stub. To clean these up takes some serious effort with a sharp scalpel, but as the springs all but disappear behind the wheels, you may decide to save some work here. The other parts of the suspension are pretty good. Curiously, the steering rods are there, but the steering rams and linkages are not.
The wheels are very good, and the only thing missing is the 'Michelin X' logo on the sidewall. The tyre thread is spot on, the correct number of bolts are present, and the plain hub cover (which does not have the prominent oil plug normally visible on the hub) which is correct for this particular vehicle. The very large pour stub leaves a rather large area of the thread without detail, but if you sand this area flat, it serves as the 'flat spot' where the vehicle sits on. The shape of the wheel is spot on, but the outer edge of the wheel rim (where tyre meets rim) looks a little bit too pronounced when compared to reference photos.
This is a one piece affair (well, in this kit at least..), which drops simply into its space on the upper front hull. No fit or clean-up issues here.
The cupola is another one piece casting, with the mountings for the MG3 moulded on. No issues.
In addition to the standard rear view mirrors, the Boxer has a 'kerb mirror' on either side of the vehicle, which allows the driver to see the blind spot along the front side of the vehicle. All these parts are very finely moulded.
The smoke launchers are well detailed, and any flash is easily removed. The four launchers are positioned wrongly however, with all four pointing straight ahead, when they should be fanning outwards, with only the front launcher pointing forward. This is easily enough corrected, by cutting the mounts at the mounting plate, and repositioning the launchers correctly.
Anti Slip Panels
The Boxer is covered in anti-slip panels, and a quick look at some photos of different vehicles shows that each one uses a different lay-out of the panels. The Dutch Ambulance version actually covers the whole panels, whilst all the other vehicles I found pictures of use the smaller, rectangular panels. The panels on this model are spot on for positioning, and size (they match with the Command version as shown in a walk around on Prime Portal, as do the other details), but unfortunately they are too thick.
I don't think that there is yet a printed reference dealing with the Boxer, other than small articles in various (trade) magazines. There are two images of the Dutch Army ambulance version in the Tankograd title "Koninklijke Landmacht" (Missions & Manoeuvres no. 7013), and I found some info in a Jane's Defence Special supplement. There is quite a bit of info available on the Internet, and for modellers the best by far has to be the walk around on Prime Portal ( http://www.primeportal.net/apc/moritz_schulze/boxer/ ), which shows the vehicle in great detail, both inside and out.
Vajra Miniatures are pulling out the stops, when they could have played it relatively save, and produced a more 'popular' set of better known vehicles. Instead, they release a vehicle that is not even yet in Service, and is likely to be only used by the Dutch and German Armies, at least for the foreseeable future. The other two releases ( a BUFFALO MP/CV and a F150 pick-up truck) are equally esoteric, but should find a niche market of dedicated modelers of Modern Equipment.
The Boxer MRAV which is reviewed here is a relatively simple kit, in that there is no Photo-etch or anything else involved. The overall quality of the casting and detail is very high, and the separate panels and their mounting bolts have been replicated very well. The undercuts under the plates on the nose are particularly convincing. The wheels, and tires also stand out through their excellent detail. Apart from the nose, the parts fit good too.
As you would expect with a resin kit, there are some relative minor problems. Some of these problems are possibly due to the hand casting process of kits like these (I recently have build six AA Land Rovers, and every
one was different quality wise..), and easy enough to fix, but others, like the smoke candle launchers, are plain wrong, and need to be corrected.
The instructions in my kit are poor, even by Resin Kit standards, but as the kit is relatively simple, that should not be a hurdle that the moderately experienced modeller can't overcome. Indeed, this kit is ideal for modellers who have some experience with resin, and want to tackle a bigger project, but don't want to add lots of Photo-etch to a kit. I understand that the instructions for the Buffalo kit are much better, so perhaps the instructions for the Boxer can be improved in future releases.
The company indicates a projected price tag of $190 - 200, which is a lot of money, and positions the kit firmly at the higher end of the market. If it belongs there is hard to judge from just a single kit, but early indications are very favourable. For the money you get an all resin kit that will build into a large and very accurate model of the Command version of the Boxer MRAV as used by the German Army. I highly recommend the kit, and certainly look forward to future releases by this company.
A Build Log
has been started on the Forums to evaluate the kit construction.