M60A1 w/ERA - First Look
When I asked for this kit for review I did so thinking I could do a pretty good job. I’ve actually built two USMC M60A1 w/ERA, one in 1/72 scale (ACE Models) and another in 1/35 scale (Academy) so it seemed to me that I might have a decent amount of information. But then I thought why would you, the reader, want to hear about the history of this tank from me, a foul mouthed, bad attitude, ape, when I know someone who actually served on them during Desert Shield and Desert Storm?
So, I reached out to my friend Mike Mummey. For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mike, he stands about 6 ft. 5 in. and looks exactly like what you’d imagine a Marine Staff Sergeant to look like (Mike actually retired as a Master Sergeant). If you spend a couple minutes with him you’ll find out he’s a super nice guy who’s more than willing to share his experiences and vast knowledge of armor with you. Oh yeah, he’s a life long modeler and an AMPS member. To quote him ‘(he) has been building models since the age of 5 and has never met a tank he did not like.’
Mike is a career Marine tanker who served as Platoon Sergeant, 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 3rd Tank Battalion, Task Force Ripper, 1st Marine Division from August 1990 to March 1991. As Plt. Sgt he was Tank Commander of C-14 (pronounced Charlie-One-Four) "Bummer", an M60A1(RISE) (Passive) w/ERA. Mike participated in Operation DESERT SHIELD, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the build up of Allied Coalition forces and Operation DESERT STORM, combat operations to destroy Iraqi forces in Kuwait and liberate its citizens.’
Mike’s the tall, handsome guy in the back wearing a helmet just under the search light of the knocked out T-55.
So yeah, he’s the right guy to tell you about the tank. Here’s what he wrote:
‘The M60A1 with its elongated turret began production in 1962, entering service with the US Army. The United States Marine Corps finally began replacing their trusty M48A3 90mm gun tanks with M60A1(RISE) 105mm gun tanks in October 1976. The (RISE) was Reliability Improved Selected Equipment. The RISE improvements, introduced in 1975 addressed mechanical issues with the Continental AVDS-1790-2 V-12 air cooled diesel engine, electrical charging, voltage regulation, associated wiring and Deep Water Fording capability. The air cleaners had already been upgraded a couple years earlier to an unarmored Top Loading type. New T-142 track with replaceable rubber pads rounded out the package.
USMC Logistics Bases and the newly established Marine Corps Detachment Ft Knox, Kentucky aka ‘The School House’ received the first copies. Operational tank units of the FMF (Fleet Marine Force) began accepting their vehicles in early 1977. M60A1(RISE) tanks entering USMC service featured aluminum road wheels/idlers, unarmored aluminum Top Loading Air cleaners, T-142 track, turret/main gun stabilization and a AN/VSS-3 IR (Infra-Red) Xenon Searchlight with white light capability. Additionally, IR capable sighting was added for the Tank Commanders cupola mounted M85 .50 caliber machine gun, Gunners Primary Sight for the 105mm main gun/coaxially mounted machine gun and Drivers night viewer. Replacement tanks arriving at FMF units from Logistics Depots in late 1978 were equipped with Armored Top Loading Air Cleaners. Another USMC unique feature was the M60E2 7.62mm Machine Gun mounted Coaxially with the main gun.
Final production upgrades to USMC vehicles was the addition of Passive night vision in late 1982 to early 1983. The tank now had Passive capabilities for the Tank Commanders MG, Gunners Primary Sight for the main gun/coax and Drivers night viewer. The Passive sight improvement included two M239 Smoke Grenade Launchers, mounted one per side of the turret front side and storage boxes for smoke grenade refills on the rear turret sides. The Searchlight began to be phased out yet could still be seen equipping one tank in each section of the five-tank platoon up until late 1987. The Passive equipped tanks delivered to FMF units did not have the Searchlight storage bracket found on IR tanks located on the turret right rear.’
In addition to sending me that great history of the tank, Mike also wrote up his thoughts on the kit, much of which were also posted on the Missing-Lynx website. Here’s what he wrote:
‘The Takom model represents the final version in USMC service, M60A1(RISE) (Passive) with ERA. The ERA kit was applied in the USA at Marine Corps Logistics Bases and by Contact Teams at unit locations. During Operation Desert Shield M60A1s without ERA arriving in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had their ERA kit applied at the Port of Al Jubail. This was accomplished by a Civilian Contact Team from Anniston Army Depot, Alabama. The ERA was a Survivability measure applied to the USMCs fleet of M60A1 RISE Passive tanks beginning around the 1987-1988-time frame. This allowed the M60A1 to remain in frontline service overseas while awaiting arrival of the ‘Common’ version of the M1A1 Abrams. The Marines Abrams were scheduled to begin fielding October 1990.
From the Ground Up.
The hull and suspension with steel roadwheels/compensating idlers are from the #2090 CM-11Brave Tiger kit and will build up nicely. The Drivers hatch has the correct horizontally rotating small hatch for a Passive tank and includes the Drivers Night Viewer with the exterior objective being a clear part. The headlight assemblies have separate clear parts for the four lenses.
Tracks are the correct T-142 done rubber band style made of a soft black material. The center guides are in the correct location, however there is a slight seam along the end connectors with minor sink holes on the roadwheel running surface. In a novel approach the track ends are held together with a steel pin that joins the track block of one end with two end connectors of the other end. The joint looks pretty good dry fitted.
The hull bottom is a one-piece tub with good texture and the majority of the roadwheel arm housing pieces are molded in place helping to keep the parts count down. The modeler shall still apply the shock absorbers/mounts, idler links, roadwheel arm stops, volute bumper springs, tie downs, tow eyes/hooks and transmission access plates. The drain valve for the crew compartment is rendered near the drivers hatch but the provision for the engine compartment is represented by a flat plate. A minor oversight and unless you are modeling the tank upside down not a deal breaker. The drive sprocket hubs have three debris relief holes per outboard portion just like the real thing. This detail is often over looked by other manufacturers. The roadwheels/idlers are correctly represented as the prevalent steel version with the inner wheel of each pair being one piece while the outer are two pieces with a separate running surface.
The upper hull builds up with separate fenders and braces. The fender mounted sponson boxes are hollow with separate lids and handles. The rear armor deck covering the engine/transmission has good texture with subtle welds representing its multi-part construction. The ‘D” handles for the upper grille doors and armor deck lift rings are molded in place. The fuel filler cap is applied as a separate part. A multi-piece TI (Tank Infantry) Phone has the cable shield with the mount support a separate part. The openings for the Drivers vision block hole covers are applied as separate parts with the vision blocks being a clear material. The rear grille doors are two pieces with the fins on the lower outboard corners being shorter so that they clear the rear fenders when opened. There is an additional right grille door with mount for a DFWK (Deep Water Fording Kit) exhaust stack that is included as an option. The exhaust stack is included as two pieces. These were not used crossing the Line of Departure in Desert Storm yet will allow the modeler to show the tank in an Amphibious mode.
There are 5 sprues marked 2113 specific to this version of the M60A1(RISE) (Passive) w/ERA in USMC service. There will have to be many holes opened on the turret and hull to fasten the ERA mounting brackets. The ERA tiles are molded as panels of individual tiles, having an oval on the back side representing hollow Dummy tiles. The slot will need to be filled to represent Service ERA that goes boom. However, only those tile backs visible along the edges might require the treatment as those in the center will not be visible. Looking at tanks in DESERT SHIELD/STORM most had some additional storage or sand bags along the top edge of the turret side tiles, so this could help the modeler if they apply the same to their build. Part N3 which is a radio antenna base does not have an antenna mount provided.
Additional ERA mounting brackets parts K8, K9, K10 and K11 were not normally available or applied to the outside of the turret ERA. The kit’s researchers found pictures of a tank that had the ERA applied in Saudi Arabia and included them in the CAD drawings. The enterprising crew of that tank managed to acquire some “extras”, applying them for additional storage mounting points and making it easier to get on and off the now slab-sided turret. Individual mounting brackets could be seen mounted in random places on tanks returning from the port after having ERA applied. The four parts L1 were the standard steps/grab holds applied to the outside of the ERA kit.
Extra ERA Brackets K8-11
Two Step Brackets as Issued.
A solid styrene jig to assist assembly of the parts that make up the Bustle Rack frame is included as well as PE for the expanded mesh of the bottom and rear. There is also a PE frame with bolt heads for the metal strip that secures the mantlet cover to the turret. Other PE parts detail up the TCs periscope housing and the two clips for the tow cables on the rear armor deck. The mantlet cover for both the main gun and cupola M85 are molded in styrene.
The TC and Gunners optics can be modeled in the open or closed position and is a nice touch. The Loaders periscope is present and molded in clear material. The Main Gun Bore Evacuator or "fume extractor" is in two parts and assembles to a one-piece barrel. The cupola mounted M85 .50 caliber MG barrel has a nice rendition of the triangular fluted flash hider. The correct COAX mantlet muzzle mount for the M60E2 7.62mm MG part L5 is provided. However, no flash hider or gas tube that are visible with the MG in place are provided. This feature is one of the ‘Unicorns’ associated with the USMC version as there are no good pictures of the mount/muzzle that do not have the canvas cover in place. So, the modeler will have some research to do if he wants to fill up the hole.
M60E2 COAX MG Muzzle Support
The changes to the base tank required to mount the ERA kit have been addressed. The M259 Smoke Grenade Launchers have risers, Water/Oil can racks moved to the rear of the turret bustle rack, spare smoke grenade boxes mounted to the sides of the air cleaners, tow cables mounted across the engine armor deck and additional interrupter bars on the turret top for the M85 MG so as not to shoot the top of the turret ERA. The interior of the TC and Loaders hatches have the separate Locking Levers with the release lever molded in place.’
Without a doubt, this a big step up from previous releases of this type of M60. I saw no flash or molding issues with the parts, the layout is straight forward and the assembly instructions are logical.
A big improvement is that the entire lower hull is one piece and of course has no legacy motorization holes. Also, the fenders are separate parts and solid on the bottom, also a big step up from previous releases. While assembly of the ERA is notably more complex and involves a number of small parts and drilling out holes in the turret, the part design is logical and assembly looks to be straight forward.
The kit does have a small amount of photoetch with the turret basket mesh being the big items. As Mike noted’ the kit does have a styrene jig to help with the curved part of the mesh and realistically, this is the best, and probably only way to do this. Again as Mike noted, the barrel is one piece with slide molded end detail. But it’s a bit shallow so drilling it out further might be a good idea. There are three sprue attachment points and a faint mold seam to clean up but in general it looks to be a pretty straight forward part to use and a metal replacement doesn’t seem necessary.
The kit does have a very nice set of one piece flexible tracks. I know a lot of people don’t like these but personally I’ve had great results on other models, especially those tanks with high track tension like the M60. The use of a metal rod to attach the two ends of the track is both good and bad based on my experiences with other manufacturers using this method. It gives a strong attachment that is all but invisible once assembled. However, there is no opportunity to adjust the track length to get the right tension. On this kit it’s not easy to adjust the position of the idler to compensate so let’s hope the tension is good.
The kit doesn’t have much for stowage. There’s a nicely done spare roadwheel with a separated guidehorn that was used to attach it to the rear basket. There are also two jerry cans with the rack and strap molded in place. So, you’ll probably want to look for a lot of extra stowage since most of the vehicles in Desert Storm were pretty loaded up.
Finally, the kit has a couple other details worth noting. All of the visors are molded in clear and tow cables are made using a nice piece of braided copper wire.
Here’s a look at the sprues:
The kit comes with marking for 4 tanks that served in Desert Storm. Here again Mike was nice enough to offer some excellent details on these tanks:
‘"Beirut Payback" 3rd Plt, Alpha Company, 8th Tank Battalion (Reserve) and the subject of the box art. This tank is painted overall CARC (Chemical Agent Resistant Coating) Sand with sand ERA. It has three vertical bars denoting 3rd Plt applied to the right front and right rear fenders, a nice visual aid to keep track of other tanks in the Platoon. The decals include “Kill” markings applied to the main gun, probably post Operation DESERT STORM after the shooting stopped. Detailed pictures of this tank can be found in Verlinden Publications WARMACHINES No 13. This photo study is about to be reprinted by Sabot Publications very soon.
"Wicked Bitch" C-12, 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 3rd Tank Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment aka TF Ripper, 1st Marine Division. This tank came off an MPS (Maritime Preposition Squadron) ship in early September 1990 sporting four color Gray Desert MERDC without the ERA kit. After application of the kit, green service ERA tiles were painted a sandy/brown color around December 1990. This is the Wing Tank of the 1st Platoon Sergeant.
"Bummer" C-14, 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 3rd Tank Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment aka TF Ripper, 1st Marine Division. This tank came off an MPS (Maritime Preposition Squadron) ship in mid-August 1990 painted CARC Sand with dummy sand ERA tiles. The green service ERA was painted a sand/tan/brown color around December 1990. This is the 1st Platoon Sergeants tank. (Yeah that’s Mike’s tank!)
"Genesis II" C-51, HQ Platoon, Charlie Company, 3rd Tank Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment aka TF Ripper, 1st Marine Division. This tank came off an MPS (Maritime Preposition Squadron) ship in mid-August 1990 in CARC Sand with dummy ERA tiles. The green service ERA was painted a sand/tan/brown color around December 1990. This is the mount of the Charlie Company Commander. This tank has been refurbished at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, GA and should be on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA late 2018.
With appropriate markings and colors this kit could also be used to model an Italian tank participating in the US led UNITAF (Unified Task Force) in Mogadishu, Somalia circa 1993. The kit could also be depicted as a USMC tank assigned to Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune, on Exercise at 29 Palms or several overseas locations from Sardinia to South Korea.’
In general, I would add that while the illustrations are clear, they are also small. Obviously, this is no big deal for the three overall tan colored tanks but for the one in the MERDC scheme, it is a bit of a challenge. This is especially true since the photos show it with the ERA already in place. I found an illustration of the MERDC pattern online that I think will help.
I’ve built a number of Takom’s kits and my personal assessment is that they seem to have found a way to have excellent detail without a high part count or excessive complexity. This kit continues that approach, and coupled with clear instructions, makes it very motivating to build.
Highly Recommended (pending full build).
My sincere thanks to Takom for the review sample.
Plus, a special ‘tanks’ to Mike Mummey for his help on this review. I owe you a tall one or two or..
Reviewed by Jim Wechsler, SoCal AMPS (a little) and (mostly) by Mike Mummey, AMPS NM
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