VBCI Afghanistan
Ref: Heller # 81147

The VBCI (véhicule blindé de combat de l'infanterie- armored infantry fighting vehicle) entered service with the French army in 2008 and replaces the AMX10P in the mechanised infantry regiments.
Built by Nexter and Renault Trucks Defense, it carries a section of 9 soldiers and has a crew of 2, the driver and the gunner. The section leader is also the vehicle commander (VC).
It is fitted with a one-man turret armed with a 25mm automatic cannon and a coaxial 7.62 MG and is able of engaging targets by day as well as at night. The VC who sits behind the driver has an independent 360° sight.

The VBCI has already seen action in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Mali. For its deployment to Afghanistan, the vehicle protection has been increased with a belly anti-mines plate, a Qinetiq anti-RPG nets set and a IR jammer system, LIRE. Anti-IED jammers have also been fitted on the turret as well as Minimi mounts on the roof above the rear ramp.

The kit

It is the version deployed to Afghanistan that Heller has represented. To build a vehicle deployed elsewhere, you need to make some modifications in addition to not gluing the Afghanistan specific parts.

The content comprises 261 parts, 8 vinyl tires, a piece of net, a small decals sheet and a 20-page instruction booklet.

The plastic parts come with 6 sand sprues and 2 clear sprues for the vision blocks and the rear door. The carving is up to the modern standard with an overall very good level of detail. The molding is generally good but suffers from some flash or some holes due to a lack of plastic on a limited number of parts.

The inner faces of the hatches and the rear ramp present injection marks. Such marks are also present although in a less visible way on the FAMAS and the Minimi. Heller provides an interior which enables to let the hatches open. However, the visible compartments should be detailed.

Some parts like the RPG-net supports are very fine and require some attention during the cutting from the sprue.

The instructions come in a 20-page booklet and comprise 51 steps for the build and 2 for the decoration. Nearly no text is provided. Some easy to understand pictorial symbols (a drill, a cutter, a paintbrush, a tube of glue) show what you have to do at each step. A caption is printed in the box. The paint references are in the Heller range.

Heller give you 3 decoration options for 2 different regiments as deployed in Afghanistan.

The build

This is a strictly out of the box build

To build the version with the nets, you must start by drilling the 69 holes on the sides of the hull and the turret. The rest of the build is very easy thanks to an excellent fit.

The turret

The upper part is very well molded. The LIRE IR jammer is wrongly shaped, the sides should present a chamfer. The IED jammers antennas are fragile so it is advised to glue them only at the end of the build.
Before gluing the lower part, you must not forget to put the vision blocks after having painted them.
If you intend to let the hatch open, you must add the parts for the interior. The inner face of the hatch is too thin.
The rear Galix brackets shows a lack of plastic which is filled with putty.

The roof

It is made of two parts which could mean that Heller will also release the command version. The engine grille is not true to reality and a number of details are simplified like the mirrors supports #C23 which should be hollow. Heller has just suggested the anti-slip coat.
Just like with the turret, the vision blocks must be painted before being set in place.
The Minimi mounts are very fragile and it is better not to glue them at this step.

The chassis and the lower hull

The assembly of the chassis is very easy. The upper hull sides are directly glued to the lower hull before completing the suspension.
Unlike what recommend the instructions, the wheels will be set after the painting stage. The tires present a molding line that needs to be removed.

On the rear panel, Heller has badly represented the Galix brackets. The face close to the ramp should not be angled. I advise you not to put the nets at this stage.

The front panel presents a little error at the headlights level. The armor plate should be slightly angled. The headlights must be put in place before gluing the plate.

The interior

To have an idea of the fit, I built the whole interior without a single problem. If you don't intend to build it, I advise you to build at least the inner walls of the engine compartment and of the turret which will help supporting the roof.

The nets

The various frames are quite fragile. Care is required when they are cut from the sprues.
For the nets cutting, Heller does not provide a template. I roughly cut the parts in the piece of mesh provided in the box. After they were glued with CA glue, I trimmed the nets as close as possible to the frames. Around the articulations of the side nets, I used a new knife blade to get a neat cut.
All the nets are installed after the painting of the vehicle followed by a basic weathering.

The decoration

Heller gives three options, tow for a VBCI of the 92nd infantry regiment and the third one for a VBCI of the 35th infantry regiment. I opted for the one of the 92nd InfRgt presenting the Gaul's head, symbol of this unit.

For the colors, I used some XF-5 Flat Green, XF-10 Flat Brown and XF-1 Flat Black. For the accessories added for the mission in Afghanistan, I used a mix of XF-5 and X-26 Park Green to get the lighter green shade.
The nets have been painted in XF-67 NATO Green to create a variation in the shades.

An initial dust effect has been depicted with multiple very diluted coats of XF-57 Buff and XF-52 Flat Earth. To complete the dust effect, Gulf War Sand and Europe Dust pigments in the MIG range has been applied.


Even if the kit is simplified in some areas and Heller made some mistakes, I recommend it with a great pleasure and hope the other versions will follow soon.