Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale Black Label Series Kit No. 3550; MBT-70 (Kpz. 70); 286 parts (277 in grey styrene, 5 clear styrene, 4 DS Plastic track runs); pre-order price US $69.95
Advantages: first styrene kit of this tank in this scale; numerous options for open/closed hatches, viewers and 2 cm cannon mounting
Disadvantages: missing some details such as power cable to the searchlight and fittings on the turret and hull
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Cold War German armor fans
At the end of the 1960s the US Army entered into a joint program with the Federal Republic of Germany to create a universal main battle tank for comb at in Europe against the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact. It was felt that a qu antum leap forward was needed over the tanks then in service (the M60 and L eopard 1 series tanks) as the Soviets were fielding newer and more powerful tanks such as the T-62 and the "M-1967" (which turned out to be the T-64 s eries tanks).
The new tank was to be ahead of the Soviets on every scale - better armor, variable suspension height, missile firing capability, a heavy machine gun or light cannon for engaging light vehicles or helicopters, night vision s ights, and a new and more powerful engine. It was also to have all crew mem bers in the turret (three) and an autoloader to replace the human one in al l Western medium tanks up to that time.
Both countries would work together on the new tank design, and as a result would pool their efforts in the areas where they were best suited. The Ger mans offered the suspension and running gear, and the Americans offered the ir 152mm gun/launcher and the Shillelagh missile system then being fielded in the M551 Sheridan and M60A2 tanks. The US authorized the construction of eight prototypes, most of which were to be made of mild steel as proof-of- concept demonstrators.
Testing began at the end of 1967 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and there wer e immediately problems with the technology overreach of the systems. The dr iver was located in a gyro stabilized module at the front left of the turre t, with the gyro keeping him facing front no matter which way the turret wa s pointed. But the constant jerking of the module made him nauseous and as a result was seen to be a failure. (Similar positions in older vehicles suc h as the M52 105mm SP howitzer and M53/M55 series field artillery SP vehicl es relied on the turret being locked facing forward when he was operating t he vehicle, so no problems were encountered with them.)
The fire controls left something to be desired, and many changes were made to the missile fire control system. An NBC filter/overpressure purge syste m was added during testing, and as a result the bore evacuator was discarde d as unnecessary. The remote control 20mm automatic cannon proffered by the Germans was another headache and found to be unnecessarily heavy and awkwa rd.
Finally, in late 1970 the MBT-70 project was cancelled. The Germans withdr ew and began working on the Leopard 2 series tanks which emerged about a de cade later. The Americans tried to come up with an austere version of the M BT-70, now dubbed the XM803, but it too failed and was terminated in June 1972.
A total of 14 prototypes were built - eight US and six German. Of the US o nes, only five were completed as MBT-70s and only two of them exist today ( one was finished as an XM803 and another set of parts was assembled as a "g ate guard" dubbed the "Pigg Tank" at Fort Knox). Only two of the German pro totypes survive, but one at Koblenz in the Deutsches Panzermuseum is intact and nearly complete as built.
I recently built the Commander Models MBT-70, a resin kit, but this is a t otally new effort from DML and not a copy of that kit as alleged in some we bsites. It is based solely on the Kpz. 70 at Koblenz and a four-page color flyer is included with the kit to demonstrate that point.
And this time DML appears to have hit all marks. There are a few minor bit s missing such as the power cable from the turret to the searchlight (albei t the connector is visible on the model and in the photos) and a curious ob ject on the turret (which I suspected was a sensor for the gyroscopic devic e that controlled the position of the driver's station) is missing. But the rest seems to be here and all other items one would expect to find are pre sent.
The MBT-70 concept used a hydro-pneumatic suspension system and DML has do ne a very nice job of replicating it, including the hoses and fittings. Whi le no jigs or guides are provided, DML does demonstrate that the modeler ma y adjust the "sit" of the model to match any of the positions that the orig inal could take - nose down, nose up, high or low, or even tilted to one si de. An alignment bar (part A45) is provided to get the suspension units in line. A small key used to set the suspension units for normal travel must b e removed and an inset shows how and where to remove it from each suspensio n arm; ditto for the adjustable idler which must be rotated forward to take up the slack in the tracks.
It must be pointed out that this kit will ONLY build the German version, a nd as such only comes with suitable parts for that tank. As noted I did a g ood deal of research on the MBT-70 with the resin one and this kit has the German lights, exhaust grille, convoy alignment marker, smoke grenade launc hers, and other detail fittings. They are very nicely done but as noted are just for the German variant. Ditto for the upper hull which has twin fans not found on the US version.
All three crew hatches may be posed open or closed, and a number of other items may also receive optional settings. The missile tracker may be set fo r open or closed, as well as the gunner's sight and the commander's night p eriscopic sight (assembly M, which is missing in the directions!) is provid ed in the "up" position; the German one may be fixed in the "up" position b ut the US one retracted into the turret when not in use. The searchlight is only provided as "closed".
The 2 cm Rheinmetall automatic cannon (which was a stick-on barrel on the resin kit) is presented here in its entirety; there are 16 parts to it and it may be left moveable in both traverse and elevation. It may be shown ele vated or retracted, but DML does not provide any information on how to inst all it in the retracted position in the directions.
As noted the model comes with two armored covers over the matching units f or the twin antenna, which are totally different from the US VRC types used with the American tank. The bustle rack is neatly done and even though com plex comes down to only three parts.
While the trunnion mounts for this tank look toylike, after long study of the prototypes they are correct. Remember these were prototype tanks and th e final design - which may well have looked more like the M1 Abrams or Leop ard 2 - were not completed.
The kit comes with the proper Diehl tracks but each run is in two sections ; as always with DML DS Plastic you will have to fiddle with them to get a taught fit. However, each section comes with three attachment links (six in total) so you should be able to get both a good fit and a good joint (I cl amp the tracks for 24 hours after using Testors Liquid Cement and have had excellent results).
Two options are provided, both for test tanks; one with crosses on the tur ret and one with an unreadable registration plate and "48" bridge classific ation plate. The flyer shows the one in Koblenz with a simple German flag a nd "Y-" on the plate so this appears to be correct. A small sheet of Cartog raf decals with a number jungle is provided for those who find more precise information.
Overall, while some may be disappointed that DML did the German version fi rst this is a great kit and one which should be popular with Bundeswehr and Leo fans.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.