Over the past year I have come to appreciate the complexity, design, and significant contribution the USMC M103A2 played while it was in service. During this journey I have completed an inbox review of the Dragon Model Black Label USMC M103A2 Heavy Tank kit, completed a review of the Legend Productions M103A2 Mantlet Set, and also completed a Build Blog Review of the M103A2 kit using the Dragon Model kit along with a number of aftermarket parts and some everyday scratch building.
This build feature is a culmination of this project and a very satisfying way to pass on my opinion of the kit to anyone venturing to open the box and build the kit as well.
Introduction- M103A2 History Lesson
In the haze of the post WWII world the U.S. military was fully aware that the venerable Sherman tank would not stand a chance against the lumbering Soviet tanks in any future conflict. In a Hail Mary attempt to catch up to the fire power fielded by the Soviets, the U.S military produced a number of heavy tank prototypes in order to counter the Soviet threat. The final result was the M103 Heavy Tank entering service in 1957. With pages of production deficiencies the M103 eventually evolved to the M103A1 and served with both the U.S. Army and the USMC. Living a short tenure in the U.S. Army the M103A1 was retired in 1963 and replaced by the 105 mm toting M60 Patton MBT. In USMC service, the M103A1 continued to provide heavy armour support into the 1960s and as the upgraded M103A2 into the early 1970s.
The keen military eyes of the USMC did not believe the new M60 would provide the same capability as the M103 and they kept their M103A1s in the inventory. In an initiative to improve the performance of the tank in USMC service, the M103A2 was born by incorporating a number of power train and suspension components from the M60 tank. This upgrade dramatically improved the operational performance of the tank and took the M103A2 to retirement in the early 1970s. The M103A2, armed with the M58 120 mm cannon, would have easily gone toe to toe with its Soviet rivals on the battlefield. The massive two piece rounds required a unique collaboration of two loaders in the turret and a delicate touch to loading the 50+ pound projectile.
The M103A2 never saw combat, but a Platoon of M103A2s was deployed to Guantanamo Bay on a rotating basis as part of the defence force. My build focuses on a specific M103A2 that deployed to Guantanamo Bay in 1970.
Back In Black
Most AFV modellers have usually thought of heavy tanks as the Tiger I, Tiger II, T-35, Tortoise, and the Soviet IS Series to name a few. These tanks were heavily armoured and packed a big punch with their main guns during their time. But alas, the Cold War was wrought with many mighty metal gigantor-like prototype and production tanks. Few mainstream model companies have gone to the trouble of producing these tanks in plastic… until recently.
Dragon Model first produced the Black Label M103A1 kit and unfortunately it has fallen very short of what current scale model design is capable of. Dragon followed up without hesitation with the release of the updated M103A2 Heavy Tank, but failed to amend and/or fix accuracy and detail issues that were identified by well versed and articulate modellers and historians. The minor saving grace to the M103A2 kit release was the inclusion of parts from the Dragon M48A3 Mod B kit and Dragon M2 Halftrack kit that increases the level of visible detail in this kit.
M103A2 Bits and Pieces
There are a notable number of parts included on the sprues that are not required for the build of the M103A2. These included parts from the M103A1 kit, and parts from the M48A3 Mod B kit.
- 528 parts total
- 508 parts in grey styrene
- 17 parts in clear styrene
- 1 set of DS T97E2 tracks
- 1 metal braided cable (tow cable)
- Instruction booklet (18 steps indicated)
For specific information on the kit parts, the decals, and accuracies I identified prior to starting to build the kit take a read of my In Box Review