AFV Club 35023 M113A1 FSV
Australia took delivery of the first of 790 M113A1s (all variants) in 1964. This resulted from an extensive series of trials between two M113s and two British FV432 Trojans during 1962/63. The M113A1 differed from the M113 in having a diesel engine as opposed to the gasoline engine of the M113.
Australias involvement in Vietnam included the commitment of a large number of M113s. Along with the US M113s the lack of firepower quickly became apparent. Initially the only armament was a pintle-mounted .50cal Machine gun on the commanders cupola. Armoured shields were quickly fitted to give a degree of protection from enemy fire.
A small number of vehicles were fitted with the US M74C turrets fitted with twin .30cals. Following this, T50 turrets which could carry either two .30cal MGs or one .30cal and one .50cal MG were then fitted and are still standard equipment on all Australian M113A1 APC/LRVs (Armoured Personnel Carrier/Light Reconnaissance Vehicle).
In order to increase firepower and provide infantry fire support, the turret from the British Saladin Armoured Car with a low velocity 76mm gun was fitted to 16 M113A1s. The resulting vehicle, the M113A1 FSV (Fire Support Vehicle) had a high center of gravity, but otherwise provided the additional firepower desired. It was decided to adopt the British Scorpion CVR(T) turret, which used the same gun but had a much better fire control system and ballistic shape as the standard. This also lowered the center of gravity somewhat.
Between 1975 and 1980, an additional 46 M113A1s were converted to the FSV/MRV configuration with the Scorpion turret. These vehicles were called M113A1 MRV (Medium Reconnaissance Vehicle). Additional modification involved the fitting of large flotation tanks on the front and both sides of the vehicle to compensate for the extra weight of the turret while swimming. This also provided a degree of stand-off protection against anti-tank ordnance (ie RPG-7 type). All Australian Army MRVs have now been withdrawn from service and placed in reserve.
For the purposes of this review, the kit is built basically out of the box. This is to show what is in the kit and explain any problems with construction.
I have already started a second kit making all the alterations and adding the detail for an up to date Aussie MRV. Most of these alterations relate to small details, there arent any major errors, AFV Club has done well in providing the larger parts required, although there are a couple of bits missed as described below.
The kit is a co-operative effort between AFV Club and Academy and like the Dragon Shermans comes with its own spares box. The kit comprises 8 sprues and a lower hull "bathtub". 6 sprues of individual track links and a turned aluminum barrel. Three of the sprues come straight from the Academy M113 kits, the road wheels plus two others from which only a few small parts are used here. The main hull tub is also from Academy. Four sprues are from AFV Club's Scorpion kit, two for the turret and the two road wheel sprues. These are only included for the periscopes and other small turret bits on the same sprue.
One new sprue from AFV Club contains all the parts to make the Aussie MRV.
The decal sheet has markings for two vehicles, one in overall desert sand and the other in the great looking three colour cam scheme currently used on Australian Army vehicles.
One noticeable thing is the difference in quality of the Academy and AFV Club parts in the kit. While the AFV Club parts are up to todays standards the Academy bits look dated. There is excessive flash on some parts, especially the smaller bits (eg. Headlights) and the fit leaves a bit to be desired in places. Had AFV Club done the whole kit themselves the overall quality would have been better, but due to economics chose the co-operative route.
Steps 1 to 4:
As you would expect this starts with the lower hull and suspension. In the Academy M113s the wheels are attached using ploy caps, but these are omitted here and the wheels are glued directly to the axles. The fit of the separate axles is very precise and gives good alignment of the wheels. I left the wheels off until after painting for easier handling.
The rear hull plate has the first of the new bits added. These are the two traffic indicators with wire guards (these are well moulded) and the field telephone container. I removed the mounded on tiedowns from the rear of the hull either side of the door, as they arent on the MRV. Take care with the placement of the field telephone container, it is not fitted in the center of right rear, but toward the center of the vehicle. The instructions give a good plan view of the rear hull, which shows the correct placement.
This is the upper hull parts. The top hull plate is a new part with good detail definition. There are some small imperfections around the turret ring due to the thickness of the plastic, but these are hidden when the turret is fitted.
As mentioned the fit and quality of some of the Academy bits here are a worry. I had to use masking tape to hold the engine intake covers in place while the glue dried to get a snug fit. The headlight parts and front lifting eyes had excessive flash and I had to trim the lifting eyes as these clashed with the light assemblies.
To the upper hull is fitted the new square exhaust outlet and fire extinguisher cover (both correct for the MRV). The drivers hatch is very well done in representing the Aussie style hatch. This is a spring-loaded hatch that lifts up and swings to the left. Also present is the hatch-securing latch on the left side of the hull, used to clamp the hatch when open.
The drivers periscopes have separate guards, which look good. At the rear are the two prominent lifting shackles at each corner and the storage box behind the turret.
On the front plate is the travel lock for the barrel. All these parts are well moulded and fit with no problems.
One part missing is the rear jerry can holder (left rear of hull). The kit provides US style cans on the Academy sprues, but without holder. The MRV uses distinctive Aussie style jerry cans.
The turret is all AFV Club Scorpion with a number of new bits for the MRV.
The turret fitted together well, the only alterations were to fill the locating holes on the two upper rearmost turret plates (next to the storage bins). These are clean on the MRVs apart from the lifting eyes and the new arial mount on the lower sections.
The periscopes had small sink marks in the lenses, but apart from that there were no other problems with the parts. The turret has excellent detail with the large weld seams well represented along with the front mounted search light boxes and hatch detail. The new MRV parts include the second searchlight mount and box on the mantlet, the two machine gun mounts fitted over the commanders and loaders main periscope sights. The two rear arial mounts are also provided. Omitted again are the prominent jerry can holders which should be fitted to both sides of the rear storage box. The gun barrel is in turned aluminum and this is fitted to the mantlet with super glue I had to enlarge the locating hole in the mantlet slightly to fit the gun. The gun usually has a canvas dust cover fitted, but this is not included in the kit.
Fitted to the front plate is the full length floatation tank along with the two side mounted tanks. The side tanks fit snugly above the side skirts and level with the front hull. The side skirts must be fitted before the side tanks.
The tracks are all separate links and have quite good detail. They have the bolthead on the inside that holds the rubber pad in place. There is some sink holes in the centre of the pad on some links. A direct comparison with ModelKasten Set K-17 shows the AFV Club tracks up well, with the Kasten tracks having larger sinkholes in most pads. The sinkholes on Academys original M113 track links could see you fall in never to be seen again.
There are enough links without sink holes to use around the drive sprocket and idler wheels while the links with sink holes can be used along the top and bottom runs. As the top length of track cant be seen due to the side skirts, I didnt bother to fit them, this made fitting the tracks easier as well. The links themselves fit snugly together.
To fit them to the vehicle I held the length of assembled links together with a strip of masking tape and after bending around the drive and idler wheels applied liquid cement to hold them in place. After the glue had dried I removed the tracks from around the wheels and painted them separately, reattaching them after painting but before final weathering.
I had fitted the side skirts during construction and inserted the assembled tracks after painting. In hindsight it would have been easier to leave the skirts off until the tracks had been fitted. The skirts could be temporarily attached for painting to get the cam scheme flow right and then permanently attached after the tracks. This would leave more room to fit the tracks.
The instructions are a little vague for the camouflaged paint scheme. You get a four-view plan showing the scheme, but not an overhead view. The colours are given as Light Khaki, Dark Green and Flat Black. No paint numbers are given.
The actual colours used on the MRV are Light Tan (FS 30219), Flat Black (FS 37038) and Dark Green. This Green doesnt have an FS equivalent, being an exclusive Australian colour. Its official number is 7650/ADE(M)-146-1/1, quite a mouthful.
I painted the model using Humbrol enamels and probably the best match is the old Humbrol Authentic colour MC21 French Artillery Green. Im not sure if theres an equivalent in the current Humbrol range? Most other paint brands have FS equivalents in their paints for the Tan and Black, but you may have to match the green by eye. Another solution would be to use Medium Green (FS 34102) with a few drops of white added.
It should also be noted that the scheme has an official layout, but as its applied by hand with a spray gun some variations are inevitable.
All the road wheels and undersides of the lower hull are painted the Dark Green.
I firstly sprayed an overall coat of green followed by the Tan and Black sections. One thing with an intricate paint scheme is the inevitably overspray. For this reason dont worry if the paint scheme isnt spot on first time. As a rule, I go back over some spots two or three times covering bits of overspray and correcting other small disasters.
Once the cam scheme is finished and allowed to dry overnight, I applied a coat of gloss for the decals.
Unfortunately the decals are not up to todays standards. They are overly thick and dont react well with decal setting solutions. They dont stick well to the model either and easily came away from the surface after drying. Fortunately, the majority of decals go on flat surfaces, except for the rear of the turret storage box. The kit details here are very prominent and no matter how much decal setting solution or other coaxing I used the decal refused to adhere over the raised detail. I ended up discarding this decal and even after it had set for a day, peeled off without any objection.
If these decals arent applied to a gloss surface you can forget about eliminating air bubble "silvering".
The decal sheet also gives you the small reflective strips attached to each corner of the hull sides. You get red for the rear and black for the front. This is fine for the desert cam but the three colour scheme has white strips on the front. This is shown on the box top illustration, but not on the decal sheet. I replaced these strips with Letraset rub on lines of red and white.
After the decals had dried, I applied a final coat the Matt varnish to flatten the paint and hold the decals in place.
I kept weathering to a minimum here to show off the actual model and can scheme. The vehicles are regularly washed and kept fairly clean by their units. If you are modelling an MRV on exercise out in the bush then they would be covered with heavy layers of dust, even more so when trundling around the North of Australia. Here they get really covered in the red dust this region is "famous" for. This dust gets in everywhere and almost eliminates the cam scheme after a while.
I firstly applied a light wash of thinned black oil paint to highlight the details and then added the weathering from light drybrushing and a fine overspray of dust.
The model scrubs up into a nice replica of the MRV. Aside from the small problems outlined above with the older Academy bits and some omissions of new bits, the finished model "looks" like an MRV.
As with any model there is room for improvement and additional detailing and this model is no exception. The box top illustration shows the main areas needing attention. The rear turret storage box Jerry can holders, the canvas cover to the main gun and a small storage box added to the left turret side and the correct colour reflective strips.
I would recommend the kit for any fan of the M113 family, this will be a good addition to the collection. It is an excellent basis for a highly detailed model.
For more great AFV, figure, diorama and aircraft articles, please visit Terry's Website: Perth Military Modelling Society.
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