In 1997 Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) began development of a new high mobility light armored transportation vehicle. Designed to be effective in combat against guerilla and terrorist forces, the LAV was deployed to JGSDF units from 2002. It can accommodate 4 personnel and is fitted with 160hp liquid cooled 4-cycle 4-cylinder diesel engine, allowing it to reach speed of 100km/h. Weighting 4.5 tons it can be carried by CH-47J helicopter or C-130H transport plane for emergency air drops. The gun mount on the roof can be fitted with 5.56mm MINIMI machine gun or Type 01 Light Anti-tank Guided Missile. In 2004 LAV vehicles were deployed to Iraqi town of Samawa as part of Japanese Iraq Humanitarian Assistance Unit. They were fitted with bulletproof windshields and additional equipment such as wire cutters. Many vehicles also featured an armored shield around the gun mount for extra protection.
The kit comes in typical top opening box with usual for Tamiya kits high quality box art illustration. One thing that immediately draws attention is a small picture of chassis part and "DIE-CAST CHASSIS" inscription. Inside the box are two sprues of olive green plastic, one transparent plastic sprue, one part plastic vehicle body, four vinyl tires, small bags with screws and poly caps, decals, instructions and finally nicely packed in small paper and plastic box is the die-cast metal chassis. Each parts sprue is individually packed in plastic bag, so there is no risk that parts would get damaged before you even open the box. Folded instructions are printed in usual Tamiya style. There are 17 very clearly presented assembly steps. The kit allows construction of vehicle in three different configurations of weapons station shields and grenade launchers, and you are advised to choose one at the very beginning, but in reality differences appear only after 14th assembly step. Decal sheet contains markings for four vehicles serving in Iraq in 2004 - all painted overall olive drab. Tamiya released a new paint for this purpose: JGSDF Olive Drab XF-74 and TS-70 (spray). Except for vehicle numbers and national markings, decals include some labels and placards both for the inside and the outside of the vehicle. Small Japanese flags for the driver's uniform are also included.
Close examination of parts didn't reveal any sink holes, but there are quite a few ejector pin marks. Majority of them are in places where they won't be visible on finished model, but there are some that would need attention - on the inside of all doors and gun shield, on the back of crew seats and on some detail parts, like machine gun, wire cutters etc.. Fortunately they are small and very shallow. Flash is almost absent, with exception of seat headrests, which show small amount of excess plastic around edges. One piece plastic body is particularly nicely molded without any flaws whatsoever. In this kit Tamiya remembered about non-slip surfaces! They are very subtle, and may disappear after painting, but they are there. Details on all parts are very crisp and well defined. Headlight and taillight lenses are provided as clear parts.
All doors and hatches can be attached either open or closed, but hinges are not workable. One sitting driver figure is included.
DETAILS & ACCURACY
Suspension is very nicely detailed with quite a lot separately molded parts. Wheels are attached to the vehicle using poly caps, which are hidden inside brake chambers on axles, not in the wheels. You get a metal "rivet" to put inside each wheel and those parts are then inserted into poly caps in axles. Quite complex design, but there was probably a good reason to make suspension this way to make sure it will withstand the weight of metal chassis. I can't comment on accuracy of the suspension as I don't have any reference pictures of it.
Vinyl tires are of similar kind to those known from Tamiya Humvee kits and have very nice and accurate tread pattern on them.
There is complete crew compartment interior included, but no engine.
General shape and major details of the model seem to be accurate, although a lot of small details is missing, particularly from the front of the vehicle. On the real vehicle there is quite a lot of various handles in front of the windshield on various engine access hatches, but there are completely none in the kit. One detail missing are cage headlight guards, but in real vehicle they are made of rather thin metal rod and are impossible to reproduce in plastic without being out of scale. See pictures for some interesting details.
This is a really very good kit. It is not perfect, as there could be a bit less ejector pin marks on parts, but it is up to the latest Tamiya standards. The model seems to be very accurate and those small details missing from its armor can be easily added using brass rod or copper wire and some scrap pieces of photoetched brass. And I'm sure Eduard will release a comprehensive PE set for this kit soon - let's just hope it will be well researched. I dry fitted some of the kit parts only to discover that they fit perfectly! There is quite a lot of small parts included, but I don't think this kit would be difficult to assemble even for beginners.
Many thanks to RAINBOW TEN online store
for their excellent service, which allowed me to write this review less then a week after kit's release in Japan!
Another review of this kit, written by Terry Ashley, is available at Perth Military Modeling Site.
For those of you looking for reference pictures of JGSDF LAV I suggest those two links: