M551 Sheridan US Airborne Tank Display Model
Tamiya 1:16 scale
Reviewed by Brett Green
B a c k g r o u n d
The M551 "Sheridan" AR/AAV (Armoured 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.*
F i r s t L o o k
Tamiya released a brand new 1:35 scale M551 Sheridan last year. They have wasted no time to also bring two 1:16 scale kits to market – one radio controlled and one static display model.
The box is impressively large and it is full to the brim of multimedia armour goodness.
Tamiya’s 1:16 scale M551 Sheridan Display Model comprises 232 parts in dark green plastic; 22 parts in black plastic; 11 parts in grey plastic 20 parts in clear plastic; 41 cast and turned metal parts; bags full of screws, nuts and washers plus tools including a box wrench, screwdriver, wrench and two hex wrenches. Tracks are supplied as fully assembled and articulated loops with pads and pins in place.
This compares to 336 green plastic parts in the 1:35 scale kit. The main reason for the lower plastic parts count on the larger model is due to the 1:16 scale kit’s pre-assembled tracks and metal components.
The tub is made from pressed metal and is pre-drilled with holes for screws and running gear. The road wheels are plastic while the idler wheels and drive sprockets are metal. The suspension is fully sprung. The instructions are clear as to how many bolts, screws, washers etc that you will need for each step, as well as diagrams to show you where they all go.
The legacy of the original Radio Control version is obvious from the many metal screws, washers, bearings, E-rings and more. Tamiya supplies most of the tools that you will need to assemble these – a screwdriver, two Allen keys, a wrench and a box wrench – but you will need to have a few of your own tools such as pliers and a pin vise yourself.
The fully assembled tracks look really good. The instructions direct you to cut off the raised ejector pins on the inside surfaces of the track pads, but otherwise the tracks are ready to go. The track links are moulded in a metallic grey and the track pads are black. I will add some light weathering but I won’t be painting mine. Installation is as simple as pressing down the workable suspension and looping the tracks around the wheels.
The turret race is made up from a toothed ring and ball bearings – just like the real thing. The instructions helpfully suggest that you should be careful not to lose parts!
The upper hull is a plastic part and assembly here is more like a conventional kit. Tools and fittings are plastic too.
Tamiya also supplies a large photo-etched fret with mesh covers for the engine deck vents. The driver’s hatch may be left to rotate open and closed, although a driver figure is not included.
Tamiya also supplies an improvised fence wire front armour with a plastic frame.
The turret is assembled in upper and lower halves. The gun features a nice shiny turned metal barrel. The lower half of the turret saucer must be attached to the upper hull using screws. The upper turret then appears to click into place.
The upper turret has plenty of stowage by way of ammo boxes and jerry cans. The cupola includes clear individual vision blocks and mount and armour for the .50 cal machine gun.
The .50 cal is a nice little model in its own right, being made up from 17 parts. The turret-mounted searchlight is included too. The light and the lens are clear parts.
A Commander figure is provided in 11 grey plastic parts. The facial features and the uniform textures are truly outstanding, and painting should be fun in this large scale.
Markings are supplied for one vehicle.
Overall detail is roughly the same as the 1:35 scale kit. You’re not getting a super-detailed replica here, but there is certainly potential to upgrade some of the surface details and smaller parts such as tool clamps.
C o n c l u s i o n
Tamiya’s 1:16 scale U.S. Airborne Tank M551 Sheridan Display Model is a big and impressive kit. The large multimedia content will make this a different experience from the standard plastic model.
* 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