In-Box Review
BMP-3 armour upgrades
BMP-3 armour upgrades (ERA and slats) and general details
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by: Sean Langley [ PIGSTY ]


Like many Russian AFVs, the BMP-3 has been upgraded recently with extensive Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) and slat armour. As a result it looks as though itís carrying all its worldly goods around in boxes while it looks for somewhere new to live. Apparently the full kit was ordered by the United Arab Emirates, who then decided not to use it because it compromised their BMP-3sí amphibious capability. Exactly who were they expecting to use them against, I wonder ... ?

Trumpeter have released a number of BMP-3 kits lately, starting with the early version reviewed here. That range includes an up-armoured version, kit no. 00365, although it seems to have Russian markings rather than UAE Ė possibly a prototype. Voyagerís two PE sets are intended for that kit.


Letís deal first with what youíre meant to do with them. The Trumpeter kit offers a full set of armour enhancements: ERA boxes for the hull, slats for the engines areas and the rear of the turret, and ERA with rubber flaps for the turret front. To achieve this with the Voyager sets you must get both of them. Set 53403 covers the engine areas and the turret; set 35404 covers the rest of the hull. If you buy only one set, youíll have only a partial upgrade. However, both offer much more than just the extra armour. Set 35403 also contains an extensive exterior detail set, which is available separately as set 35371; Set 35404 includes parts for a different trim vane, available as 35372. So that makes them pretty comprehensive, and possibly a bargain (itís hard to know for sure). And it does mean that you donít have to buy these sets if all you want is the exterior improvements.

Voyager does some other upgrades for the BMP-3 too. I mention this now for two reasons. One, the frets in 35403 and 35404 clearly form part of a larger series; and two, because one of them matters for the turret section.

set 35403

So, what do you get? Letís start with 35403. It contains six relatively small brass frets, four resin cable ends, two resin tow hooks, two turned brass antenna mounts, two lengths of copper cable, a lengths of steel wire, and two lengths of round-section plastic rod. The PE comes to a total of something like 1021 parts. I think Ė counting them became a little eye-watering, since 130 of them are absolutely minuscule bolt-heads and another 52 are tiny retaining hooks. In most cases you get just enough parts for the job, only a few having one or two spares. This excludes those bolt-heads Ė so far as I can tell, you need only 32 of them, and even if Iíve miscounted from the instructions, there must be an awful lot on there that are redundant. At the same time there seem to be a number of parts that donít appear on the instructions at all.

These parts apply to just about every part of the BMPís upper hull and turret. Just a few examples: a new liner for the commanderís hatch, vision blocks for most crew positions, fully pivoting mounts for the numerous searchlights, any number of hinges for hatches, hugely improved intake and exhaust grilles, mirrors, and even a whole new head for the spade. The slat armour is, of course, fantastically complicated. Trumpeter gives you five parts for each engine section; those in the Voyager set comprise 45 parts on one side and 47 on the other. On the turret, the rear slats are similar: nine kit parts are replaced by 54 brass ones. And, of course, the finesse is much greater. The downside of this you can probably predict: a great deal of fiddly folding, with the permanent risk of something getting out of alignment, although the slats themselves are at least completely flat. At the front of the turret, a few Trumpeter parts are retained: the armour blocks from the kit are used to mount nine-part rubber sections that each replace a single kit part. You have to bend the brass to shape. While it will be finer than the kit parts, I suspect it may be too fine; and, even under paint, thereís something too stiff about brass to allow it to pass for rubber.

Now the tricky bits. A lot of hinges and pivots need you to slice bits off the wire or plastic rod. No lengths are given. Essentially, you have to measure the brass parts by eye or micrometer and cut off just enough to fit. Well, good luck with that, and with finding enough wire or rod to work with. For instance, I estimate you need to get 23 hinges plus 22 longer parts out of two inches of 0.5mm rod. Luckily, 0.5mm rod is fairly easy to come by. But it does make you wonder why they bothered including any at all Ė or why, for the price, they couldnít have included more. A further problem is that at two points youíre expected to scratch-build small parts. One is a part-round hinge pivot, which should be reasonably straightforward. But the other is a new co-axial machine-gun barrel, for which Voyager gives no help whatever with dimensions. They do say you can use another of their upgrades, but the trick then is to find it Ė even their own website doesnít appear to list it. And of course you need to pay for it as well.

A common feature of the hinge parts is, perhaps, inevitable. Tabs on the plates need to be curled up to form the loops through which hinge-pins pass. If you can bend brass into a neat circle 0.3mm across, youíll love this set.

The instructions are an ergonomic slum. It took me two hours just to read through them and work out where everything went and how many parts each assembly would need. Even now Iím not sure about some of them. But, once youíve deciphered it all, they are at least mostly good at placing parts where they need to go on the kit.

set 35404

Now for set 35404. The first thing you notice is how heavy it is. This is because itís made up of 17 brass frets, plus another couple of lengths of rod and wire. The ERA blocks come in three sizes: large ones for the sides, medium ones for the bow, and small ones that hang beneath most of the large ones. One pattern of fret (six supplied) is mostly taken up with the larger blocks; another (ten supplied) carries the other two sizes. Both also carry a number of other details. The 17th fret is the trim vane parts mentioned earlier.

The ERA is made by folding flat etch into boxes, which may take you all the way back to primary school. The cunning bit is that each box has tiny slots let into it, into which you insert PE hinge plates, so that all the parts are accurately articulated to each other. This will be another test of your precision folding ability, but luckily there are plenty of spares. Talking of which, this set goes absolutely bananas for redundancy. There are (I think!) 1459 parts, but 480 are more bolt-heads, and if you manage to lose none of those as you go, youíll have well over 300 left over. Compare that with the other size of bolt-head, of which you get 320 but precisely no spares.

The finesse of the ERA blocks isnít really the point here, although the hinges are very neat. The real advantage over the kit is that each one is separate. Trumpeter have done a pretty good job and with suitable painting, their parts will come out well. But they supply only 34 parts. Every one of the parts in this set is dedicated to replacing them and will give you 74 separate blocks. Even the frames the blocks hang on are improved: one PE part each in the kit, up to 15 in the Voyager set. You may be thinking, what ever is the point of that? Well, a nice touch is that you can lift the ERA blocks up individually and brace them, allowing the frames to be seen up against the sides of the hull. Yíknow, if you like that sort of thing.

Of course, this too will put a premium on your skills with PE. Few photos of the BMP-3 show the ERA blocks looking untidy and they are, of course, much more solid than little bits of brass. Fold one up wrong, or get the hinges off a little, and it will show up horribly. And you get very few spare blocks.

The problems over the supplied wire and rod are even more acute here. My count is 114 sections of 0.5mm plastic out of a total of four inches, and 90 sections of 0.3mm wire out of four inches. Plus, again, you have to measure against the PE parts. The instructions are better, and although there is one glaring error, itís an easy one to spot and put right. But these are relatively minor points.


These are brilliantly detailed sets that will hugely enhance your BMP-3. I can think of very little thatís missed out (new covers for the hydro-jets might have been nice, though). If youíre reading this, thereís a good chance that you already know how to deal with photo-etch and have the skill and the patience to deal with the literally hundreds of diminutive parts. If you can do that, the scrappy instructions should be a doddle. Iím a little unhappy that the full armour upgrade is presented as two sets, with the false implication that adding only one would be correct. And itís a little deflating to realise that, even if you spend months painstakingly adding all this detail to your kit, thereís yet more that could be added. But thatís only because Voyager have really gone to town on the BMP-3 and done it proud.

One small note of caution. If you have the original BMP-3 (00364) or the UAE version (01531), and possibly if you get the forthcoming production version (01528), you wonít be able to use these sets to give them the armour upgrade. This is because you need Sprue F from the Trumpeter range, even though you throw most of it away. Only 00365 has it, I believe.
Highs: Immense amount of detail; great improvement over the kit parts.
Lows: Poor instructions; not enough rod or wire included; random approach to spares; splitting one armour upgrade over two sets.
Verdict: An excellent upgrade for those with the skills of a watchmaker and the patience of a rock.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 35403 and 35404
  Suggested Retail: £11.53 and £28.41
  PUBLISHED: Jul 18, 2011

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About Sean Langley (pigsty)

Copyright ©2021 text by Sean Langley [ PIGSTY ]. All rights reserved.


that was a very thorough review, thanks for that! It seems to me that these Voyager sets are getting more and more replacement parts with every new release. This might be great for the modelers who like to super detail their kits, but I wonder if the average modeler will like it. If I speak for myself I can say that I am happy when PE replaces some missing, inaccurate or thick parts, not half the kit. Having used some Voyager sets myself I found out that the enormous amount of fiddly parts kind of took away the fun of modelling. I stopped buying them Cheers, Matthijs
JUL 19, 2011 - 04:29 AM
I know I am not a well man, and lord knows I loves me some photoetchedy craziness, but dayumm! It's time to step away from the workbench if THAT starts to seem like a good idea, or worse yet look like fun! When is Voyager going to get the message that we builders do not like our updates spread over 4-5 sets and all pictured at once in the new release info? When will they get the clue that there cannot be more than a hundred people world-wide who want/need/will buy something like that or some of their other stuff? wow.. back to tube glue and white testors brushes for me.. Mike
JUL 19, 2011 - 11:21 AM
Doesn't seem too dificult. But, if I want reactive armor, I'll buy the kit that comes with it.
JUL 19, 2011 - 07:23 PM
Great review James but smegging hell is it possible that Voyager forgot to put some PE into that kit .. kinda makes me glad i got the Trumpeter BMP 3 with the add on armour already there
JUL 19, 2011 - 09:28 PM
I really don't see what the issue is...if you look at the photos, they give multiple part numbers for the PE/Accessories showing what has been used and if you go onto their Website or Hobby Easy or Lucky Model, they normally have a photo of whats included in what set. Using the BMP for example, they have 6-7 different sets out for it, including an all-in-one set for the BMP-3 Early. I'd personally like the approach they are taking, since I really don't need the BMP-3 Interior set (since I'm not opening up the hatches) and I pick and choose what I need...which was the BMP-3 Basic set and BMP-3 Armament set for the turret..which set me back $30 bucks together. I also don't need a fiddly PE bow plane either... so I save a couple bucks
JUL 21, 2011 - 07:23 AM
It seems some companies love PE, and some only do resin. All those boxes to fold, and solder - no thanks. Why not a mixed set of resin and PE?
AUG 02, 2011 - 01:21 PM
I'm with Illini; it would seem more logical to create this set as a combination of PE and resin.
AUG 03, 2011 - 02:25 AM

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