ARM: Review - DML 1/35 scale M48A3 Model B medium tank

Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Modern AFV Series Kit No. 3544; M48A
3 Mod. B; 306 parts (289 in grey styrene, 12 clear styrene, 4 DS Plastic, 1
length of twisted steel wire); pre-order price US$49.95 via Dragon USA Onl
Advantages: first new kit of this popular tank in over 30 years; kit breakd
own shows that many other variants will probably follow this kit; neatly do
ne wheels
Disadvantages: Vietnam service tanks missing mantlet cover, no searchlight

Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for any Vietnam or Israeli war fan and all US armor fans
When the M60 and M60A1 tanks entered service, the US Army still had a larg
e number of M48 tanks in service and decided to upgrade them to match most
of the capabilities of the newer vehicles. A testbed dubbed the M48A1E1 was
built with the Continental AVDS-1790 diesel engine as well as adding the c
oincidence rangefinder from the M60 series in place of the older stereoscop
ic one. The new tank, other than its lack of the newer 105mm gun, was consi
dered its near equal in most categories. The biggest one was nearly doublin
g the tank?s range to 300 miles on the highway (500 kilometers) from the
older M48/A1/A2 gasoline engine.
When the tanks got to Vietnam they were found to have some serious problem
s. One of the worst was the poor visibility from the commander?s cupola a
nd lack of room due to the use of the big M2HB machine gun in a tight space
. The fenders and headlights also proved no match for jungle growth and wer
e easily damaged. As a result, Bowen-McLaughlin-York modified 578 M48A3 tan
ks to ?Model B? standards with new reinforced fenders and stronger head
light mounts and guards, a bulged commander?s hatch, and a riser block wi
th eight large prisms in it for improved room and visibility. While it did
not solve one endemic problem of the M48 series cupolas ? 50 rounds for t
he M2 and link ejection jams ? it did provide a much better environment f
or the commander. But many commanders preferred to have the .50 caliber gun
mounted outside the cupola on a pintle mount.
About 55 years ago Monogram released a kit of the then-new M48A2 tank with
a set of figures and ?working? features. While a great kit for the tim
e, it was eventually overtaken by its age. Just over 30 years ago Tamiya ca
me out with a kit of the M48A3 Model B tank as used in Vietnam, and it prov
ed a very popular kit. But as modelers gained sophistication ? and great
references like the Hunnicutt book ?Patton: A History of the American Mai
n Battle Tank? ? it was seen to have a lot of flaws. Worst among them w
as the fact that Tamiya had measured down an empty M48, and with more than
9,000 pounds taken off its suspension it sat about 4" too high, which unfor
tunately Tamiya faithfully replicated. It was also ?motorized? so its h
ull was compromised with numerous slots and screw holes for that equipment.
A clone of this kit was also offered for a while by Academy.
In 2013 two new kits were announced, one from AFV Club and one from DML; t
he latter is first to the market. DML?s kit shows a great deal of plannin
g for other variants, and as it sits now it can be produced as an early M48
A3, an M48A2 or M48A2C, or an M48A5 with little changes needed other than a
new sprue or two. Based on the rear engine deck hull side fittings, it als
o appears that an M48 and M48A1 will also follow.
The kit appears to have taken a lot of comments by modelers into account,
and looks to have used some pretty good research. Recent comments about the
height of the turret seem to find the Tamiya turret a bit suspect, and thi
s one measures 25.3 mm from lower edge to flat roof. The shapes compare fav
orably with those in the Hunnicutt book, and all details for the basic Mode
l B tank are present. The riser block is a single clear molding but will ne
ed some tinting to more accurately represent those on the actual tank. Howe
ver, for reasons best known to DML they have left off the VVS-2 searchlight
assembly (but did mold the power feed to the roof of the turret). The basi
c mounts are in place but are missing the ball fittings.
Also an oddity is why, considering their great use of DS Plastic parts wit
h other kits, DML did not provide the mantlet with its canvas cover and gun
tube boot as found on nearly all of the Vietnam era tanks. Of all major ma
nufacturers, DML could have done this and pleased all of the modelers eager
ly awaiting this kit. As it is, either they will have to await a later vers
ion of the kit or go to the after-market boys for a replacement.
The turret comes with the early model T-shaped muzzle brake. This is not w
rong, but later tanks adopted a slightly Y-shaped one due to problems with
?Beehive? flechette rounds tending to cause the muzzle brake to shatter
The bustle rack is the basic model and comes in five parts, all of which a
re suitably thin and scale. Ditto for the hand rails on the sides of the tu
The hull comes in two halves with all other components having to be attach
ed to them such as the engine deck, stern plate, and fenders. The fenders h
ave part of the edge of the turret race molded to them; the M48A5 will need
holes in them so it will be interesting to see what DML does when it gets
to that tank. Due to the breakdown of parts an A2 will be easy for them to
accomplish as the replacement side louvers without air cleaner feed should
be a drop-fit from a new sprue. The kit comes with the correct ?side load
? air cleaners for this variant.

The suspension is by far the most involved part of the kit. The road wheel
s each consist of a tire/rim and a center section, so they git a much bette
r ?lip? at the outer edge of the wheel. Surprisingly the drivers are so
lid and do not come with the cleanout holes found in nearly all of the tank
s built. The suspension units consist of a hull mount, jounce stop, two-pie
ce shock absorber and road wheel arm. The arms appear a bit fragile.
The tracks are neatly done in DS Plastic and happily include three links o
f overlap for connection, which makes it easier to shorten them for attachm
ent if too long or too loose.
No technical assistance credit is provided.
Oddly again, four finishing options are given but none are given any color
! The only color cited is FS34102 green which is wrong for Vietnam era tank
s, as most of them were in FS24087 semigloss or FS14087 gloss olive drab. M
arkings are provided for: Unidentified Unit, 1965 (tiger mouth, USA 9B8215,
?Wild One 4"); Unidentified Unit, 1965 (USA 09A38468); Unidentified Unit
, 1965 (USA 9A 9997, weight marking, white stars); B Company, 3rd Tank Batt
alion, USMC, Vietnam 1965 (B33, but a number jungle is provided for A, B or
C Company tanks). A sheet of Cartograf decals provides the markings. Consi
dering the fact this was the most common US tank in Vietnam (other than the
early M48A2 deployment with the Marines) this is something of a disappoint
ing selection.
Overall, however, there is far more to cheer about this kit than to carp u
pon, and the fact that a series are apparently in planning bodes well for m
odern armor fans.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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I found the picture I was looking for of M48A3 ?Wild One 4" ? its bumpe r markings are 11ACR -X 919ENG49 so it was assigned to the headquarters 11t h ACR as part of the 919th Engineer Battalion in support of the regiment. S urprised DML couldn?t find that in its research.
Cookie Sewell
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