ARM: Review - DML 1/35 scale M103A2 Heavy Tank

Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 scale Black Label Kit No. 3546; M103 A2 Heavy Tank; 528 parts (508 in grey styrene, 17 clear styrene, 2 DS Plast ic track runs, 1 twisted steel wire); pre-order price $69.95 via Dragon USA Online

Advantages: first kit of this vehicle in this scale in styrene

Disadvantages: Gun is way too short; no mantlet cover; no options to mentio n; some shape and detail questions

Rating: Recommended

Recommendation: for all USMC and heavy tank fans

After the US put the massive M103 series heavy tanks into service, changes in ammunition and other events such as the rise of antitank guided missile s soon meant that sheer penetration capability by brute force (e.g. bigger guns) was becoming obsolete. As a result, the US Army soon retired their M1

03/M103A1 tanks when the M60 series began to be fielded.

The Marine Corps, as always on the short end of purchasing and development , was offered the remaining M103 series tanks but with the same upgrades to their drivelines that the US Army was doing with its M48 series tanks; a n ew AVDS-1790 series diesel engine, new rear hull and exhaust system, and ot her internal changes. The Marines accepted the tanks and also added one thi ng they had used faithfully since WWII: an external telephone box at the le ft rear of the tank.

Eventually the Marines converted and received 206 M103A2 tanks, but even b y then they were considered reserve tanks. They served there for a number o f use and were eventually retired for use as either scrap or range targets.

DML released the first 1/35 scale styrene kit of the M103A1 in January 201

4, but it unfortunately was apparently hurried in its development and prese nted modelers with a number of errors and mistakes. It omitted a canvas man tlet cover and the large heat shield which went under the turret bustle to protect the commander from being "slow cooked" by the exhaust. The gun barr el was some 16mm too short, and the engine deck did not fit properly into t he area where it was supposed to fit; this also prevented it from easily be ing swapped to the similar DML M48A3 kits to convert them back to M48/M48A1 configurations.

After measuring the components, the model is not too bad as far as it goes . What you get in the kit is a good model of an M103A2 tank without any in- service modifications they sported. There is no mantlet cover (here with th e use of the M48-style accordion-style shroud and a much tighter fit); howe ver, as the exhaust on the A2 was routed out the rear gratings, the thermal shield that was a mandatory fitting under the turret bustle on the M103 an d M103A1 is not needed so is not provided.

The kit assembles in normal fashion (e.g. starting with the suspension). W hile the drivers (C16) do not have the mud clean-out holes this is an error as by the time of the M103A2 they did have them. The engine deck and hull rear are separate, and in this case they are used with the M48 style fender s with external "side loader" air cleaners on them and new fender braces. T he telephone box (part I3) is also provided for Marine tanks.

While the M103A1 had muddled directions for its massive travel lock, as th e M103A2 used the M48 style travel lock at the rear edge of the engine deck this is no longer a problem. The etched brass parts have been deleted from this kit so are no longer an option. It does come with the same AN/VVS-2 s earchlight used in the M48A3 kit

A good deal of the suspension parts come from the M48A3 Mod B kit (DML #35

44) and provide their more accurate road wheels with the separate tire/rim and backing plate. Tracks are DS Plastic with a good three-link connection section so getting a good fit should be relatively easy.

The kit comes with the machine gun sprue from the M2 Halftrack kit and pro vides for a very nice M2HB installation, which is good as the mount on the M103 series cupola is quite prominent. The travel mounts for the machine gu n (e.g. once removed from the cupola and stowed for movement in order to lo wer the height of the tank) are still missing. And, as many people have ask ed, the gunner's hatch is molded shut; there are no options.

Finishing instructions are provided for two "Unidentified" tanks in USMC g reen: both are from Guantanamo, Cuba, in 1970 (apparently yellow 012 and ye llow D24 with what looks like a 1st Tank Battalion shield on the air cleane rs). A small sheet of Cartograf decals is provided.

Overall this can be built into a reasonably good model of the M103A2 if th e gun barrel is replaced and a mantlet cover added. It is a shame that DML did not pay attention to the negative comments received by the earlier M103 A1 kit and fix them before this release.

Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.

Cookie Sewell

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