Developed in the late 1960s, the M60A2 was an ambitious attempt to create a multi-tasking battle tank to accompany the M60A1, one capable of firing both conventional 152mm rounds or the new Shillelagh anti-tank missile. It featured a rotating command cupola with integral machine gun and a distinctive low-silhouette turret. Because of its technologically advanced design it was nicknamed “The Starship” by operators. It went into service in 1972, and all told, 526 were manufactured.
Despite the hype, the vehicle proved to be a major disappointment, as the new anti-tank missile lacked both range and armor penetration capability. Consequently, it was phased out of service rapidly, the hulls being converted to M60A3 standards or being used as the basis for bridgelayers. The gun system, however, was incorporated into the M551 Sheridan air-droppable tank after revision due to its light weight.
The last time I built this particular tank was the old Tamiya version which was based on the prototype, with distinctly different details, especially the gun and the tracks. The Dragon release is the first in this scale of the operational version of this interesting vehicle. Naturally, I wanted to try it out.
The kit comes in Dragon’s “E-Z Build” format, which means rubberoid tracks (instead of separate links) and only the most necessary photoetch parts. However, Dragon doesn’t stint on detail, as the kit uses slide mold technology effectively to create a single-piece gun barrel and the complicated turret itself, among other fancy bits. No crew or additional stowage is included, which is fine as these are certainly obtainable from other sources. All crew hatches open, although this means that the side hatches on the turret open onto the turret floor, which is a little peculiar-looking unless you stick a figure into them. Sprues are included from Dragon’s standard M60 kit as well as from their M-48, so you will wind up with a few extra parts. The M-48 clear sprue provides the periscope blocks, headlights and spotlight, although they didn’t cast the commander’s cupola vision blocks in clear plastic for this new kit.
As with most armor, I began the build with the running gear. DML presents the tires and wheels as separate items, which might be useful if you have trouble painting wheels. Alas, for me, it simply meant one more stage of cleanup. However, they fit together well and ultimately looked quite good. The running gear overall is nicely detailed, as is the under-chassis. The tracks provided are made of Dragon’s new, very rubbery glueable plastic. Be sure to use a low-grade solvent doing this, as the MEK I typically use simply makes them disintegrate. They also go together easily with superglue, for that matter. Although nicely detailed inside and out, I did find them to be a bit long, so removed a link on each side for a better fit. Even so, they still proved to be a bit slack but nothing serious. My only real beef with this type of track is that paint doesn’t adhere well, and with that glaring orange day-glo color . . . . well. Mine kept flaking bits of paint off with handling, which required numerous touch-ups to cover that awful base color.
Assembling the rest of the chassis was straightforward, although the construction of the engine cover seemed a bit odd, as it certainly precludes installing any after-market engine. Nonetheless the final look is right on target. Be sure and take your time adding the fenders as their placement is key to the rest of the assembly.
The turret, of course, is the star of this kit, and Dragon did a commendable job of it. The original is very subtly off-center, and Dragon captures this to a “T”. Photo-etch is supplied to create the complex cargo nets at the rear of the turret, and they fit remarkably well and certainly look the part better than the old Tamiya hairnet approach. Use caution at this assembly stage as the baskets are quite delicate until they dry. The spotlight supplied from their M-48 was the only place where I felt obliged to use a little filler. However, on attaching it to the rather flimsy mounting bracket, I found I needed to shave the mounting pins off its back, as there is no accommodation for them on the new kit.
Several features displayed on the cover art are not included on the turret, including the cable for the spotlight, a mantlet rain shroud and the tow cable which wraps around both sides. However, the mounting hooks for the tow cable are supplied, so it would be easy to drum this up if you choose. The mantlet cover might prove a bit more challenging, but there is now an aftermarket product for this available, apparently. You may also find the commander’s cupola to be a rather loose fit, but this doesn’t detract whatsoever from the appearance. Just to finish things up well, I went ahead and added a spotlight cable from thin solder and a new radio aerial from an acupuncture needle -- the only modifications I felt necessary to make.
All told, this is a relatively simple kit build with very few traps. The fun part, of course, is painting the MERDC camouflage, which I’ve always enjoyed more than the usual drab US schemes. In my case, I chose a simple alternative, making the “spring” version of the European MERDC rather than the “fall” version featured on the box top. A couple of choices of markings are supplied, and I opted for the most colorful of the two – “colorful” being a relative term, of course. As I intend to work further on this model with the addition of stores and a crew, I left all hatches loose for this shoot and kept the weathering to a minimum. These vehicles weren’t in service that long, after all.
Dragon’s rendition of this fascinating vehicle is “light years” ahead of the venerable Tamiya offering and really does capture the distinctive look of this peculiar beast. It was a far easier build than Dragon sometimes offers and yet still captured every detail with finesse and fidelity. I am immensely pleased to be able to add this creature to my stable, and give Dragon an A+ for their work.
My thanks, of course, to Dragon Models USA for creating this little charmer and to IPMS/USA for a chance to whack it together. Live long and prosper!