Mach 2

Vietnam Patrol Boat PBR 31 Mk. II “Pibber”

Kit #: AR 06 Preview by Will Alcott - will_alcott(at)yahoo(dot)com
Edited by Al Magnus

The name Mach 2 may not be familiar to most Braille scale armour modellers, but they are infamous amongst aircraft modellers for their limited-run injection moulded kits (Mach 2 also have released some armour and ship kits under the Armageddon brand). The contents of this kit will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen one of their aircraft kits.

The thin box is topped with a dramatic colour painting of a PBR in action (familiar as the cover artwork of Squadron Signal's Riverine [1]). Inside, you'll find a single sprue of light grey injection moulded parts, a double-sided A4 instruction sheet, and three small sheets of decals. The injection moulded parts are typical of Mach 2 - a pebbly surface finish, lots of flash, large raised knockout pin marks, and a few short-shot areas. Just about all the parts will require a lot of cleanup and sanding to be usable. The instructions provide basic exploded views of the construction process, along with a few colour callouts.

The hull is moulded as a single piece, with a separate gunwale/floor, and a plate at the rear for mounting the water jet drives. The hull moulding is a bit crude - there are random raised bumps and a hole in my sample. The angles of the hull bottom seem a bit soft, and the waterline is depicted as a faintly scribed line. I don't have any detailed drawings for the PBR, but the hull length (137 mm) scales up to 32 feet 4 inches, just over 4 scale inches too long. The beam (width) measures out at 50 mm, which scales to within inch of the correct 11 foot 8 inch dimension. The overall dimensional accuracy of the hull looks pretty good. Though the instructions do not mention it, a small one-piece stand is included to balance the model on during construction or after completion.

Coxswain's Position
The Coxswain's (boat commander) position features a bulkhead with basic instruments and a throttle, a separate control wheel, a fire extinguisher (one of the nicer parts in the kit), and crew seats. Not much of this will be seen once the overhead canopy is installed. The representation of the fabric canopy is OK, but all the framing is heavy and uneven.

The standard armament of a PBR 31 Mk II included two M2 50 calibre machine guns mounted on a rotating tub in the bow, a pintle mounted M2 at the stern, and mounts amidships for either M60 machine guns or the Mk 18 40 mm grenade launcher. In addition, the 4-man crew would have their personal weapons (typically M16 assault rifles). Mach 2 provides a reasonably complete set of armament, though the weapons are let down by poor detail.

The 50 calibre MGs are recognisable as such, but replacement with better detailed examples (such as those from Dragon's Shermans) would make a huge improvement. The single stern gun lacks any spade grips, and part of the pintle mount was incompletely moulded in my kit. The bow gun tub is very basic, and the ceramic armour plates protecting the gunner are thickly moulded. Four M60s are provided (only 2 are needed). They are a little better than the 50 cals, but could easily be replaced with parts from an ESCI/Italeri or Trumpeter M113 ACAV. The four M16s would look OK if installed out of sight in their stowage racks on the bridge, but again suffer from soft moulding.

Surprisingly, the kit provides a complete crew of 4 to man the PBR. Actually it's more like 3 and a half, as the bow gunner is only moulded from the waist up. To me, the figures look to have been modified from the old ESCI/Italeri US Elite Forces set. The resulting figures are a bit of a mixed bag: some areas show nice detail, while others are very soft and indistinct. All are heavily embedded in flash.

Three small sheets are provided - two black bow numbers (105), two white stars and a 50 star US flag. The font for the numbers doesn't look quite right to me, but these could easily be replaced. I'm not 100% sure the US flag is a decal - it could just be printed on paper.

Hopefully anyone buying this kit knows what they are getting into. The kit is complete, but needs a fair amount of work just to build out of the box. My intention is to use the basic hull and bridge parts, and scratchbuild just about all the details. The Squadron Signal Riverine book referenced on the instruction sheet is a good starting point for those wishing to improve or replace kit details.

Reference: [1] Riverine A Pictorial History Of The Brown Water War In Vietnam, Jim Mesko, Squadron Signal Publications No. 6041, 1984, ISBN: 0-89747-163-6

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Article Last Updated: 07 January 2012