1:35 Desert War Kit Review And Build Tamiya

A SATISFYING ‘WHAT IF’?

A terrible replica, but a wonderfully enaging kit, Tamiya's M247 is a fun canvas on which to work...

 It might not be accurate, but man, does it look cool!

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The M247 Sgt. York is one of those projects that will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. Produced as the result of a need for a anti-aircraft platform that could keep up with the new Bradley and M1 Abrams vehicles that were being fielded at the start of the 80s by the US Army, it would end its very short life as an example of how not to rush a project, cut the cost to the bone and then hope for the best.

Screenshot 2020-07-16 at 10.23.20

The problems with the Sgt. York were manifest. In essence, they centred around the use of old M48 chassis’ that were not sufficiently powerful to haul the heavy new turrets around the battlefield at anywhere near the speeds needed to keep up with the M1 and M3. But worse than that, they carried a weapons system that simply couldn’t hit anything! The radars became confused by clutter and in almost every trial offered to the manufacturer to iron out the problems, performed more and more erratically. It was a disaster that left the US Department Of Defence with no choice but to terminate the project after 57 vehicles had been completed. Though a number of them ended up in museums, the majority found their way onto ranges as targets, an ignominious end to a doomed project.

In Miniature…

Screenshot 2020-07-16 at 10.28.28

Though the real M247 never saw the light of day as a viable weapons system, Tamiya concluded that it would form the basis of an interesting 1/35 kit, so in 1985 set about reworking their base M48 Patton with a new turret to create an interesting addition to their then, burgeoning range of modern vehicles. Designed from information gleaned from an early wooden mock-up, the kit would be far from accurate, but even so, it has remained a favourite amongst modellers who have enjoyed its low cost, ease of construction and imposing size once complete. It might not be accurate, but man, does it look cool!

Having considered a rebuild and dismissed the idea, I elected to reimagine the vehicle. What if the M247 had become a viable system without a major rework and had entered service?

Should you wish to build an accurate replica from this kit, you are in for a lot of work. Tamiya for instance chose to carry out limited work around the hull, offering only superficial changes to create the illusion of a new vehicle. In so doing, they completely ignored the fact that almost all of the engine deck and surrounding fittings are completely different, with a large box-like structure replacing the lower, smaller engine deck and rear grills of the M48. Though the turret looks like the ones seen on the box, that used on the prototypes was different in many of its details and fittings. The basics are certainly there, but you will need to add a lot if the results are to be accurate, also needing to move items such as the smoke dischargers to points on the sides of the turret not intended by Tamiya. Reworking the kit can be done and thanks to the hundreds of images that you will fine on the Internet, would be reasonably easy. Indeed, Eduard offer an etched set that replicates the changed engine deck and rear. Though I considered this, I chose a different route…

A Change Of Direction

Over the last few months of lock-down, I’ve found myself furloughed from work, so I’ve not been able to build aircraft models as part of that contract. That being so, I’ve spent my time working on other projects, kits and dioramas that have formed the basis of an extended ‘Legacy Build’ series that I will be revealing in more detail on here over the coming weeks and months. The idea behind this is to build many of Tamiya’s classic armour kits (none of which were released post ’85/86) and then paint and weather them following Francois Verlinden’s style and techniques. That being so, this model fits in perfectly with that ethos: not only is it a classic, it’s cheap and Francois built one for his ‘Verlinden Way’ series. The scene was set, so this is what I decided to do…

Having considered a rebuild and dismissed the idea, I elected to reimagine the vehicle. What if the M247 had become a viable system without a major rework and had entered service? What if it had then seen action, maybe in the Balkans, Desert Storm or even Iraqi Freedom? Had that been the case, how about building that ‘what-if?’ Sgt. York with many of the recognition features found on similar vehicles used during those conflicts? Decision made, I set to work.

The model you see here has been built essentially from the box, with only small improvements here and there and then the use of some spares’ box items and accessories from some of my other Tamiya kits. Details were improved with plastic rod and strip, a few bolts here and there from a redundant M48 hull helped to improve the fenders. Evergreen rod replaced some of the solid handles around the turret. Given that the M48’s hull is cast, I also reworked the texture with a dental burr (and took myself back to the early ‘90s along the way!) before turning my attention to some additions that weren’t in the box.

Do I finish it in Desert Storm colours, or do I go for a NATO Scheme in three-tone camouflage? Decisions, decisions…

I figured that for the vehicle to look ‘improved’ I would have to add a few items here and there that made it look different from the stock kit. The way I did this was to check my references for similar anti-aircraft vehicles and then add some more sensors that looked in keeping with those pictures and my model. This included a GPS dome in front of the targeting radar and then an imagined communications array to the side of the tracking radar. These were simply made from odd resin parts, rod and strip and then for the aerial, some Albion Alloys tubing. All of this was nothing more than ‘gizmology’, but it helped to create the illusion of a changed platform without stepping into the field of the ridiculous that so many ‘what-ifs?’ stray into. 

As I’m typing this, I also want to add some anti-slip paste on top of the turret, but have yet to decide how best to do that (I’m thinking paint and bicarbonate soda…) before finally turning my attention to painting and weathering — another area of internal debate: do I finish it in Desert Storm colours, or do I go for a NATO Scheme in three-tone camouflage? Decisions, decisions…

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FURTHER READING

M247 Sergeant York – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M247_Sergeant_York

M247 Walkround – Prime Portal

http://www.primeportal.net/artillery/brent_sauer/m247_sgt_york_divad/

I'm formerly the editor in charge of Military In Scale magazine and latterly, Model Airplane International. Editing duties to one side, I'm now a full-time modelmaker with Doolittle Media, working to supply modelling articles and material for a number of their group titles, including MAI and Tamiya Model Magazine International. I'm also an avid fan of Assassin's creed, Coventry City FC and when the mood takes me, a drummer of only passing skill. Here though, you'll find what I do best: build models and occassionally, write about them!

1 comment on “A SATISFYING ‘WHAT IF’?

  1. Harold Cline

    Spencer: When you decide to do a change of pace, you really go for don’t you?

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