This is the third review in a series in which I take a close look at various models of LVTP7/AAVP7 series of USMC Amtracs - amphibious tracked vehicles. In this review I describe Tamiya model of Desert Storm era variant of AAVP7A1. The model is almost identical to the LVTP7A1 kit released by Tamiya several years earlier, with just one parts sprue and new decals added. As almost everything in this kit is the same as in older Tamiya kit, I will not repeat what I wrote before and will only describe new parts added. For this reason you should read the review of the earlier Tamiya kit first (link to Tamiya LVTP7A1 review). The first paragraph of the review below is the same as in other reviews in the series, so you may skip it if you've read it before.
LVTP7 (Landing Vehicle, Tracked, Personnel) was designed in late 1960s, first prototypes were built in 1967 and full scale production begun in 1970. A few of early examples were tested in Vietnam, but their production started too late for those vehicles to replace LVTP5 Amtracs in USMC units in Nam. Early LVTP7 were powered by GM diesel engine. Those earliest versions of LVTP7 are recognizable by large round recesses in front armor plate housing headlights. In early 1980s SLEP - Service Life Extension Program was initiated to upgrade the fleet of Marine Amtracs to LVTP7A1 standard. Most important changes included replacement of diesel engine with Cummins multifuel unit and installation of electric motors for traverse and elevation of the weapon station, instead of hydraulic systems used previously. The suspension was strengthened. Most noticeable external difference between A1 and older variant were new headlight clusters, located in rectangular recesses on top of front armor plate. In 1984 USMC, without changing a single bolt in the design, changed designation of the Amtrac from LVTP7A1 to AAVP7A1 (or just AAV7A1 to describe the whole family of vehicles) - Assault Amphibious Vehicle, Personnel, 7A1. In following years two construction changes were introduced: older weapons station equipped with just one M2 .50 " cal. machine gun, was replaced with Cadillac Gage station equipped with Mk.19 40mm (grenade) machine gun in addition to M2 gun. The new weapons station was sometimes referred to as UWS or UGWS - Upgunned Weapons Station. The other noticeable change was installation of trim vane kit on front of the vehicle - it was necessary to compensate the effect of increased weight of weapons station when operating afloat. Next major upgrade for AAVP7A1 vehicles was installation of EAAK (Enhanced Appliqué Armor Kit). This new armor package consists of a set of removable corrugated steel plates, bolted to the armor. All AAVP7A1 were equipped with EAAK installation brackets (small rectangular metal blocks with holes for bolts in them) welded to side and top armor surfaces, but not all vehicles received the actual armor plate kits. This became a problem during Operation Iraqi Freedom, where some USMC units had to improvise and use flat armor plates instead of EAAK sections. All mentioned changes to the original LVTP7 design caused significant increase in vehicle weight, what put excess strain on suspension system. The ground clearance of the vehicle changed from original 16 inches to less than 12 inches. Power to weight ratio also dropped significantly reducing the mobility of the vehicle. To remedy this problem the Reliability, Availability, Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard (RAMS/RS) program was started in November 1998. Under this program AAVP7A1 vehicles are being rebuilt with Bradley IFV engine, transmission and whole suspension kit. The ground clearance returned to 16 inch and power to weight (horsepower to ton) ratio increased from 13 to 1 to 17 to 1. Not all vehicles were rebuilt to new standard, so during the Operation Iraqi Freedom, the mixture of AAVP7A1 and AAVP7A1 RAMS/RS vehicles was used. Rebuilt vehicles are recognizable by new large exhaust muffler installed on top of the hull and new suspension with return rollers, not present in original LVTP7 design.
Tamiya kit reviewed here was manufactured in 1992, shortly after the Operation Desert Storm. It represents AAVP7A1 vehicle with new upgunned weapons station (UGWS) and trim vane kit installed. During ODS only a limited number of such modified Amtracs was available, so there was still a mixture of older and new upgunned vehicles used. Trim vanes were also installed just to some vehicles, both to those with new and old turrets (there were also some vehicles used with new weapons stations but still without bow planes - actually all possible combinations of those two systems were in use). There were several variants of appliqué armor packages tested on both newer and older Amtracs during ODS, but most vehicles were still used without any extra armor. The kit comes in Tamiya standard top opening box with a box art illustration of Amtrac painted in desert sand landing on a beach. On box lid side there are pictures showing a 3-color NATO camouflage pattern in four views - be sure to keep this part of the box, as the right-side view shown here is not included in instructions. The most noticeable difference between this kit and older Tamiya Amtrac is the color of the plastic. It was dark green in older kit and is tan in newer kit. Three of the sprues inside the box, plus hull parts, tracks and small accessories like twine, metal rod and poly caps are identical to those in LVTP7A1 kit. All new parts are contained on sprue C. Decal sheet contains markings for three vehicles, two in desert sand color and third described as "U.S. Mainland / Far East Area" in 3-color NATO camouflage. One of sand colored Amtracs uses old style weapons station, the other has UGWS installed. In my kit decal sheet shows some cracks on the decal film - some old Tamiya decals do not age well, and this is unfortunately a good example. Very clear and easy to follow 13-step instructions are provided with most steps copied from LVTP7A1 kit instructions.
Mold quality of old parts is exactly the same as it was in LVTP7A1 kit and all sink holes and ejector pin marks are present in the same places as before. New parts are very cleanly molded without any noticeable flaws.
Hull parts. As you can see the only difference from the older LVTP7A1 kit is
the color of the plastic.
Click on picture to enlarge it.
Click on picture to enlarge it.
Click on picture to enlarge it.
The UGWS hatch can be attached open or closed, but hinges are not workable. Bow plane / trim vane parts however remain operable if installed correctly.
The old crewmember figure from LVTP7A1 model is still used in this kit, but you get new set of arms, to let him stand in open turret hatch. Additionally you get one new half-figure of driver. Here I must mention that upper hull part is actually not 100% identical to the part from older kit, as the provision was added on the underside of this part to attach a "shelf" (part C11) on which the driver figure can be placed.
DETAILS & ACCURACY
I will only mention new parts here, as no changes were made to parts used in older LVTP7A1 kit. Bow plane consists of seven well detailed parts. They are rather accurate, although the large flat surface of bow plane is completely featureless, while in reality the is a raised lip running around the edge of it. There are ejector pin marks visible on the bottom side of bow plane, but they are shallow and shouldn't be too hard to remove.
New weapons station is composed of as much as 26 parts (plus a connector ring attached between UGWS and the hull) and is really well detailed. This time Tamiya didn't forget about lifting eyes. Grenade launchers are a bit simplified, but general shapes are correct. Vision blocks are molded solid. If you wish you can add clear styrene "glass" to those blocks, just remember that glass plates should be sloped and flush with the walls of the cupola, not vertical. On the side and rear edges of the turret of newer AAVP7A1 vehicles there is a row of tie-downs welded on - they are not present on Tamiya kit parts, but it is actually accurate. Those tie-downs were not present on early versions of Cadillac Gage turrets used during Desert Storm (see page 5 in Verlinden's Warmachines No.13 book "On the Road to Kuwait, Marines in the Gulf"), but later were added to all vehicles. Currently used vehicles have a signal flag mount (three short metal tubes) on the back of the turret, but it is also later addition, not present on early UGWS.
The conclusion of this review must be the same is it was in case of older Tamiya LVTP7A1 model: it's a decent but not outstanding kit. New parts updated the model to the standard used during Desert Storm and made it look a bit more interesting, but for more current vehicles many modification are still needed (at least EAAK mounting brackets have to be added, what is simple but time consuming task). No changes were made to old kit parts, so all accuracy problems are still present (some are avoided if you use UGWS instead of older weapons station). We still don't get any interior parts in the kit. But it is a big model, very easy to put together and looks a bit sci-fi, so it's a good proposition for beginning modelers.
Review of Tamiya's LVTP7A1 kit is >here<.
Review of Academy's LVTP7 kit is >here<.
Review of Mini Hobby Models' AAVP7A1 w/EAAK kit is >here<.
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