M551A-1 / M551A1 TTS Sheridan
Ryfield Models, 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Brett Green
B a c k g r o u n d
The M551 "Sheridan" AR/AAV (Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle) was a light tank developed by the United States and named after Civil War General Philip Sheridan. It was designed to be landed by parachute and to swim across rivers. It was armed with the technically advanced but troublesome M81/M81 Modified/M81E1 152mm gun/launcher, which fired conventional ammunition and the MGM-51 Shillelagh guided anti-tank missile.
The M551 Sheridan entered service with the United States Army in 1967. At the urging of General Creighton Abrams, the U.S. Commander of Military Forces in Vietnam at the time, the M551 was rushed into combat service in Vietnam in January 1969. In April and August 1969, M551s were deployed to units in Europe and Korea, respectively.
Now retired from service, it saw extensive combat in Vietnam, and limited service in Operation Just Cause (Panama), and the Gulf War (Kuwait). The Australian Army also trialled two Sheridans during 1967 and 1968, but judged that the type did not meet its requirements.
During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 51 Sheridans were deployed by the 82nd Airborne Division, and were among the first tanks to be sent. Although photos that were published at the time showed rows of Sheridans ready to defend against Iraqi tanks, they would have a limited effect against the Soviet-designed T-72s which comprised the bulk of the Iraqi Republican Guard. Their role was limited to reconnaissance due to their age and light armor. It is likely that no more than six Shillelagh missiles were fired at Iraqi anti-tank guns or T-55s; this was the only occasion in which Shillelagh missiles were fired in a combat environment, from the inventory of 88,000 missiles produced.
The Sheridan's only air drop in combat occurred during the United States invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause) in 1989, when fourteen M551s were deployed: four were transported by C-5 Galaxy and ten were dropped by air, though two Sheridans were destroyed on landing. The four M551s transported by the C-5 were secretly deployed to Panama in November 1989, where they were attached to TF Bayonet (193rd Infantry Brigade), and attached down further to TF Gator. These Sheridans took part in the attack on the Comandancia, initially supported by fire from Quarry Heights, and later displacing forward into the city. As part of Team Armor, these Sheridans later provided support to JSOC elements as they secured high-value targets throughout Panama City.
The Sheridan was retired without replacement officially in 1996. A large bulk of Sheridans were retained into service at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California and as AOB officer training at Fort Knox Armor Training Center, Kentucky. They worked as simulated Soviet armoured opposition force (OPFOR) to train U.S. military units on simulated tank on tank armoured combat to test on combat effectiveness in a desert environment. They were finally retired from the NTC in 2003.*
S h e r i d a n i n 1 : 3 5 s c a l e
Sheridan fans haven’t really had much to celebrate until recently. Tamiya released a 1:35 scale Sheridan kit in 1972, but unsurprisingly it does not stand up to scrutiny today. This was re-released with some new parts in the 1990s.
In 2005, Academy offered an all-new 1:35 scale M551 Sheridan. Unfortunately, this kit suffered from turret shape problems, issues with the hull length and skinny tracks. A Gulf War version released in 2007 did not address these issues.
Tamiya released an excellent all-new Vietnam-era M551 Sheridan 1/35 scale kit late last year.
Now Ryfield Models has come to the party with a brand new M551A1 / M551A1 TTS Sheridan. This is a more modern variant that saw action in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Kuwait, and in Panama during Operation Just Cause.
F i r s t L o o k
Ryfield Models' M551A1 / M551A1 TTS Sheridan comprises 368 parts in beige plastic, 18 parts in clear, 8 flexible vinyl partsone photo-etched fret, a metal spring and decals for two marking options.
Options include two different turret side parts, alternative headlight guards, optional turret searchlight, smoke dischargers and two styles of .50 cal machine gun cuploa armour.
The revolving driver’s hatch is moveable after assembly. The Commander's .50 cal cupola will be moveable too.
Photo-etched parts are supplied for the turret basket, engine deck mesh and detail parts.
A flexible vinyl sprue includes parts for the turret elevation and more.
Tracks are link and length. There are some ejector pin circles on the inside face of every fourth or fifth link on the long track runs. These will be easy enough to clean up or ignore. Considering their restricted locstion, I'll be ignoring mine.
The turret will rotate after assembly and the main gun can elevate and depress. Recoil will work too thanks to a metal spring fitted between the barrel and the breech.
Stowage is supplied for the turret in the form of jerry cans and .50 cal ammunition boxes.
Clear parts are supplied for vision blocks, cupola vision block ring, headlights, driver's armoured glass and more.
Instructions are presented in a 36 page colour booklet across 55 steps. There are many alternative parts for the two different versions covered in the kit, so you'll need to pay close attention durig assembly. Ryfield's instructions help you keep track with different colours highlighting the optional parts.
Markings are supplied for two vehicles but no details are supplied about their identification or deployment.
Both vehicles are assigned to the 3/73 Armored Cavalry Regiment, 82nd ABN Div. The Euro camo version was deployed for Just Cause in Panama while the desert camo version was used during Desert Storm.
A small errata sheet accompanies the main decal sheet.
C o n c l u s i o n
Ryefield Models' 1990s-era Sheridan will be warmly welcomed by modern armour fans. This looks like a great model with a high level of detail and a manageable parts count. I was pleased to see link and length tracks included too.
* Historical summary courtesy of Wikipedia
Thanks to Ryefield Models for the sample
Text and Images by Brett Green