Dragon, 1/35 scale
|by Steve Zaloga
Dragon’s announcement of a new kit of the M48A3 was a surprise, but also very welcome news for modelers interested in Vietnam War subjects.
The US Army re-built two batches of assorted M48 types into the new M48A3 using elements of the new M60 tank. This kit depicts the later conversion batch done by BMY which had reinforced fenders, improvements to the stowage rack and numerous other features. This batch was sometimes called the “Mod. B” in internal documents, but most Army documents including the tech manuals refer to this batch as “late production”.
One of the issues for modelers wishing to depict tanks from this batch is to find photos of units that were re-equipped with this variant. The 1-77th Armor (5th Infantry Division) converted from the M48A2 to the M48As in 1968-69 period and so had this version.
The DML kit is excellent and addresses a lot of the issues found in the old Tamiya kit. The detail is much superior in all respects. The kit comes with the cupola riser and cupola visors in clear plastic which makes painting much easier. I built the kit pretty much out-of-the-box, and the parts’ fit was generally excellent. The track fit is too loose, but it was easy to remove a single link and this did the job. The rear stowage rack takes some attention, and the late production batch was screened in. I tried using the old Eduard PE set (intended for the Tamiya kit) but it does not fit well. So I mainly used aluminum mesh. I wasn’t overly fussy with this, knowing that I planned to add a lot of stowage.
The main problem with the kit is that it comes without the mantlet cover or the searchlight, both of which were standard features on this version. It’s possible to find photos of tanks in Vietnam with these features removed, but most vehicles had both. I discussed my approach to replacing the mantlet cover on Missing-Lynx a while ago. Basically, I created a frame from brass stock and then used Apoxie Sculpt putty. The accordion section at the base of the gun came from the Barrel Depot after-market metal barrel. I expect that after-market firms will probably address this issue. I used the Barrel Depot Barrel as well, but substituted the Dragon muzzle brake which is more accurate in shape.
I had already acquired the Legend’s M48A3 Vietnam Stowage set (LF1074) and this includes a searchlight. Unfortunately, it is based on one of the old plastic kits and the detail at the rear is very poor. So I rebuilt the detail. I retrospect, I should have hollowed out the searchlight, because it is quite heavy and rests and meager supports.
Aside from various bits and pieces from the Legend resin accessory set, I used AFV Club T97E2 track for the tracks stowed on the turret and I used the AFV Club Cal.30/Cal.50/40mm Modern US Ammunition Box set (AF35035) for most of the .50 cal and 40mm boxes. The cardboard boxes come from various Plus Models and Hudson & Allen sets. Most M48A3 in Vietnam had the cupola machine gun replaced with an externally mounted. .50 cal, and I used the Tasca example. The decals were partly from the kit, and partly cobbled together from my decal stash. Good Vietnam-era crew figures are thin on the ground and I used a resin Coree figure.
Overall, this is an excellent kit aside from the aggravating omission of the mantlet cover and searchlight.
Model, Images and Text
by Steve Zaloga
Page Created 14 July, 2013
Page Last Updated
14 July, 2013