Home > Reviews > Modern > Academy's 1/35-scale Optional Parts Series No.1374: U.S. M9 Dozer Blade Set


Academy's 1/35-scale Optional Parts Series No.1374: U.S. M9 Dozer Blade Set

by Cookie Sewell

Contains: 57 parts in olive drab styrene.

Price: US $2.49

Advantages: well-done accessory for any M60 series tank; clean, neat moldings include the new headlights required by this modification.

Disadvantages: no information or parts provided for hooking the mechanism up to the tank (operating mechanisms, not mounting hardware).

Rating: Highly recommended for all US armor fans, M60 fans, and "picks and shovels" fans.

Engineer equipment is something that doesn't get the coverage it probably deserves in the modeling world. Anyone who has ever worked around combat arms units knows that without engineer support most units would have a hard time of getting around – either crossing water obstacles, negotiating narrow roads (if there are any at all) or clearing the debris of war that often clogs up the way ahead.

In World War II, after experimenting with armored bulldozers, the US Army found the easiest solution to its problems was to simply mount a bulldozer blade on a standard M4 Medium Tank and use it where needed. This had several advantages. One, the bulldozer operator was no longer at the mercy of the enemy and was protected from any snipers or infantry in the vicinity. Two, the tank had sufficient gearing and power to ensure most obstacles could be cleared away or filled in; firing scrapes for tanks in the defense or artillery pits could also be dug in short order. And three, if the bulldozer found the enemy, a big gun gave the bulldozer the chance to carry out the modern mantra: "Fight crime – shoot back!"

The first blade assembly, the M1, was designed in mid 1943 for use on the M4 series tanks fitted with the vertical volute (VVSS) suspension system. Later, a slightly broader one, the M1A1, was created for use with either the expanded VVSS suspension ("E9") or the wider horizontal volute (HVSS or "E8") suspension. While few tanks were dedicated as engineer assets, many units used them as normal route clearing vehicles. A total of 1.957 M1 kits were made during WWII.

In Korea, the USMC fitted the M1A1 blade or the more compact M2 blade to M4A3 (105) howitzer tanks and used them as multipurpose machines on the battlefield.

Others followed after the war. The M3 blade was designed for the M47, the M8 series for the M48 family of tanks, and the M9 for the M60 series tanks. The M9 was identical to the M8 series except for the mounting fittings that connected the blade and its associated control hardware to the front of the tank. The M8s differed in where the hydraulic lines for operating the blades attached to the hull; early models attached to the top right rear of the tank, and later models ran their lines down an armored cover to a connector at the left bottom rear of the hull. The M9 used the same system as the late M8 series blades.

Academy released a kit of what it originally dubbed an "M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle" but later redesignated as an M60A1 RISE with M9 Dozer Blade. That was correct, and now they have released the blade assembly separately for use on any M60 kit. The parts are very neatly done, with all ejection pin markings either concealed or "standing proud" to allow for easy removal. If the modeler is careful, the finished product will even operate correctly as its prototype.

The kit also includes the "stalk" mounted headlight assemblies necessary to "see" over the top of the blade in travel position.

While the parts included are very well done and accurate, there are some omissions which are sure to bug modelers. One is the travel lock assembly, which is a glacis-width bar that carries safety hooks that the driver can engage to ensure the blade remains in its travel position while moving. The other is the hydraulic takeoff from the rear of the hull for operating the blade, and all of those parts – armored fitting box, armored cover run, and any flexible lines to hook up to the blade assembly – are missing. Also missing is the control cable that goes into the driver's compartment via one of his viewers (in order to operate the system from his position.)

Alas, references are scarce on the specifics so anyone who wants to super-detail the blade assembly will have to do some running around. But what the modeler gets is better than most resin kits, and one cannot argue about the price.

Cookie Sewell