by: Keith Forsyth [ ]
IntroductionThe M113A3, a full-tracked armoured personnel carrier provides protected transportation and cross country mobility for personnel and cargo. A light armoured vehicle weighing 27,200 pounds, it can carry 11 infantry personnel in addition to the vehicle driver and track commander, and is capable of sustained speeds of 41 mph on level roads and accelerates from 0 to 35 mph in 27 seconds. The M113A3 is a product improved version of the M113A2 with improved transmission and engine. The U.S. Army first identified the need to up-power the M113A2 carrier in the mid-1970s. This need was driven by increases in vehicle weight and a requirement to increase the mobility and survivability of the system. As a result, the "RISE" power train was developed and tested at Yuma and Aberdeen Proving Grounds. However, application of the new power train was deferred due to a lack of funds. In 1984 a decision was made to incorporate the RISE package, improved driver controls, spall liners, external fuel tanks and provisions for installation of an external Armour kit on an M chassis. Additionally, a bolt-on Armour kit providing 14.5 mm ballistic protection was developed and tested. Except for the mounting provisions the external Armour appliqué was not incorporated for production. The new X200-4/4A hydrostatic steer transmission permits use of a more powerful engine, the 275 HP turbocharged Detroit Diesel 6V53T, and eliminates the transfer case and controlled differential. The RISE power pack increases fuel economy, acceleration, hill climbing speed and braking capabilities and allows the vehicle to maintain speed through corners by accelerating the outer track rather than braking the inner track as on the A2. The increase in horsepower also allows installation of an external Armour kit (which increases the gross vehicle weight to 31,000 pounds) and provides mobility comparable to currently fielded vehicles such as the M1 tank and M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Steering is improved with an automotive-type steering yoke and foot brake arrangement which improves driver control, lessens fatigue and simplifies driver training from that of the A1/A2 steering/braking laterals. Due to load matching ability and increased steering capability, cross country performance is also improved. Crew survivability is increased by the addition of spall suppression liners and locating the fuel tanks externally, on the rear of the vehicle. The inside of the vehicle (sides, roof and rear) are covered with spall suppression liners which limit troop injuries from the effect of overmatching weapons by restricting the spread of spall when a round penetrates the hull. External fuel tanks free up 16 cubic feet of usable space inside the vehicle and reduce the fire hazard inside the crew compartment. Two tanks and independent valving provide redundancy in the fuel system allowing continued operation when one tank is damaged. External differences between M113A2 and M113A3 include external fuel tanks and provisions for the installation of an add-on-Armour kit.
The KitThe kit comes in the now standard Academy model box, with a full colour picture on the front and colour pictures of the built model on the side. On opening the box you are presented with clear plastic bags of the sand coloured sprue's (a total of 10 in all) as well as the printed instructions, individual tracks, rubber tracks, the main kit carcass and a small tube of glue. A look over the sprue's shows that most still have the 1993 time stamp on them so are from Academy's other M113 model kits, so this is not a brand new molding but as the Academy M113 is the preferred base kit by many modellers, not such a problem. There is a brand new sprue in the box marked "a" and "b" (well its 2 sprue's joined together). It is these sprue's that contain all the new parts to upgrade the kit into the A variant. All the sprue's show no sign of flash, so clean up should be quite straight forward, there are quite a few small parts meaning a bit of care and a sharp knife will be required to remove them.
The decal sheet has a few options including an ambulance version, which does differ on the inside from the standard one a little bit (check your references.) There are a couple of crew figures included but are really just junk as are not show wearing the any form of body armour seen on those serving in war zones. If you have built any of academy's older M113 kits you will know what to expect here. The build looks straight forward and should be no real problem for most skill levels. The instructions are well layed out in both English and Korean, there are no major choice options to worry about that need marking before you start other than if your going to use the individual links or the rubber tracks. It is in all honesty a quite straight forward build apart from a couple of glaring mistakes I will now cover.
The Good A look over the parts and the instructions show that most of the parts to create a M113A3 are in the box. The rear loading door is a new part and has the new rear door hinges on it. The rear door can be show in the open or closed postion (unlike the Tamiya M113). There is also a new engine cover part, all in one piece (the original 2 part piece is also included). The correct exhaust outputs are also produced as are the new smoke discharger's. A set of side baskets come in the kit but I think they may be a little tall, so I would check your references, not really a problem as they can be cut down to a more correct shape. The baskets do appear to be of the correct length. The rear fuel tanks of the A3 are here, again well moulded. The interior is the standard one from there older kits but has included the spall liners although the roof runners for them are missing, but in honesty can not be seen unless the rear door is show in the open postion. The ACAV turret is in the kit with a choice of a .50cal or a 30mm Mark 19 grenade launcher both nicely molded with no flash.
The Bad OK not every cloud has a silver lining and this is the same, there are a couple of items missing when producing the A3 version from this kit. I'll start with the drivers postion, the kit still has the old style stick's a major mistake as the A uses a "W" shaped steering wheel, yes this can be hidden by closing up the hatches but thats not the point. This means that a little bit of scratch building is required, but its not major. There is also missing the correct radio stack which sits just after the spall liners on the right hand side again a little bit of work required to correct it. If you show the rear loading door open you will need to add the cable and pulley that open and close the door as well as the door catches. The front has some updated detail but it is not quite right, the A has additional armour on the front which stands up from the level of the slope, again the kit seem to have missed these and a little extra work will be required. There is no new engine with the kit so the one supplied is the older engine from the 1993 kits, a good set of reference will be required if you are going to have it on show.
ConclusionAll in all there is a lot of positive with this kit for anybody wishing to build a up to date version of the M113 used in current conflicts. There are a couple of items that need to be addressed but it nothing drastic that can not be rectified with a little plastic card and time, no doubt the aftermarket will provide some detail updates for the kit (equipment straps, roof tie downs, light brackets etc). Having built a M113 from the Tamiya kit, this one will save quite a lot of time and is in the most part correct. I will be adding a few of these to the stash Highly recommended