M551 Sheridan US Airborne Tank Vietnam War
Tamiya 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Brett Green
B a c k g r o u n d
The M551 "Sheridan" AR/AAV (Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle) was a light tank developed by the United States and named after Civil War General Philip Sheridan. It was designed to be landed by parachute and to swim across rivers. It was armed with the technically advanced but troublesome M81/M81 Modified/M81E1 152mm gun/launcher, which fired conventional ammunition and the MGM-51 Shillelagh guided anti-tank missile.
The M551 Sheridan entered service with the United States Army in 1967. At the urging of General Creighton Abrams, the U.S. Commander of Military Forces in Vietnam at the time, the M551 was rushed into combat service in Vietnam in January 1969. In April and August 1969, M551s were deployed to units in Europe and Korea, respectively.
Now retired from service, it saw extensive combat in Vietnam, and limited service in Operation Just Cause (Panama), and the Gulf War (Kuwait). The Australian Army also trialled two Sheridans during 1967 and 1968, but judged that the type did not meet its requirements.
The Sheridan was retired without replacement officially in 1996. A large bulk of Sheridans were retained into service at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California and as AOB officer training at Fort Knox Armor Training Center, Kentucky. They worked as simulated Soviet armoured opposition force (OPFOR) to train U.S. military units on simulated tank on tank armoured combat to test on combat effectiveness in a desert environment. They were finally retired from the NTC in 2003.*
S h e r i d a n i n 1 : 3 5 s c a l e
Sheridan fans haven’t really had much to celebrate. Tamiya released a 1:35 scale Sheridan kit in 1972, but unsurprisingly it does not stand up to scrutiny today. This was re-released with some new parts in the 1990s.
In 2005, Academy offered an all-new 1:35 scale M551 Sheridan. Unfortunately, this kit suffered from turret shape problems, issues with the hull length and skinny tracks. A Gulf War version released in 2007 did not address these issues.
F i r s t L o o k
I was fortunate to receive a test shot of sprues from Tamiya’s forthcoming 1:35 scale M551 Sheridan. This kit has nothing whatsoever in common with the 1972 kit or the 1996 re-issue.
The test shot is supplied in beige coloured plastic but the production version will probably be in dark green.
The kit comprises 336 parts in beige plastic, 20 parts in clear, a sheet of vinyl mesh, 14 polythene caps, copper wire, vinyl tube and decals for two Vietnam War marking options.
Options include the turret searchlight, which may be depicted with a cover in place or bare with its clear lens, .50 cal machine gun shields and improvised chain fence armour for the front of the hull. The revolving driver’s hatch is moveable after assembly, although it will be fixed open if the driver figure is glued in place.
The vinyl mesh is also used for the engine deck grilles. There are five separate sections. Templates for cutting these to size are provided in the instruction booklet.
Tracks are link and length. If recent experience with Tamiya’s tracks are anything to go by, these should be fast and easy to assemble. There are some very faint ejector pin circles on the inside face of every fourth link or so on the long track runs. These will be easy enough to clean up or ignore (I’ll probably take the second option).
The turret will rotate after assembly and the main gun can elevate and depress thanks to the use of polythene caps. Stowage is supplied for the turret in the form of jerry cans and .50 cal ammunition boxes.
The three crew figures look terrific. Optional headwear is provided – tanker helmets or infantry helmets with camouflage covers.
Clear parts are supplied for vision blocks, headlights, goggles and more.
Tamiya will be offering a separate Detail-Up set with photo-etched chain fence armour and engine deck grilles, plus a turned metal gun barrel. This will be available by the time the production kit is released.
Markings are supplied for two Vietnam War vehicles.
C o n c l u s i o n
This looks like another winner from Tamiya. Fans of Vietnam War armour will be very grateful that Tamiya has once again dipped into their back catalogue for a total replacement of an older kit.
I will also be building this one for a future issue of MMI, but I may wait until we have something closer to the production kit.
* Historical summary courtesy of Wikipedia
Thanks to Tamiya Japan for the sample
Tamiya kits are distributed in the UK by The Hobby Company Limited
Text and Images by Brett Green