Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Zvezda M3A1 Stuart US Light Tank kit 1/100 15mm scale unboxing and review

Zvezda have just released the M3 Stuart kit, and being a fan of Stuarts, and tiny tank  models in general I thought I should take a look at it.  At 15mm scale its perfect for Flames of War, or just for building for fun.

The M3 Stuart, formally Light Tank M3, is an American light tank of World War II. It was supplied to British and Commonwealth forces under lend-lease prior to the entry of the U.S. into the war. Thereafter, it was used by U.S. and Allied forces until the end of the war.

Observing events in Europe, American tank designers realized that the Light Tank M2 was becoming obsolete and set about improving it. The upgraded design, with thicker armour, modified suspension and new gun recoil system was called "Light Tank M3". Production of the vehicle started in March 1941 and continued until October 1943. Like its direct predecessor, the M2A4, the M3 was initially armed with a 37mm M5 gun and five .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns: coaxial with the gun, on top of the turret in an M20 anti-aircraft mount, in a ball mount in right bow, and in the right and left hull sponsons. Later, the gun was replaced with the slightly longer M6, and the sponson machine guns were removed. For a light tank, the Stuart was fairly heavily armoured. It had 38 mm of armour on the hull front, 44 mm on the hull bottom, 51 mm on the gun mantlet, 38 mm on the turret sides, 25 mm on the hull sides, and 25 mm on the hull rear.
Internally, the radial engine was at the rear and the transmission to the driving sprockets at the front. The prop shaft connecting the two ran through the middle of the fighting compartment. The radial engine compounded the problem, having its crankshaft high off the hull bottom. When a turret floor was introduced, the crew had less room. The rear idler sprocket was moved to a trailing (ground contact) position.


The British Army was the first to use the Light Tank M3 as the "General Stuart" in combat. From mid-November 1941 to the end of the year, about 170 Stuarts (in a total force of over 700 tanks) took part in Operation Crusader during the North Africa Campaign, with poor results. This is despite the fact that the M3 was superior or comparable in most regards to most of the tanks used by the Axis forces. The most numerous German tank, the Panzer III Ausf G, had nearly identical armour and speed to the M3 (the M3 actually had thicker front and turret armour, while the Panzer III had slightly thicker side armour), and both tanks' guns could penetrate the other tank's front armour from beyond 1,000 meters. The most numerous Italian tank (and second most numerous Axis tank overall), the Fiat M13/40, was much slower than the Stuart, had slightly weaker armour all around, and could not penetrate the Stuart's front hull or turret armour at 1,000 meters, where the Stuart's gun could penetrate any spot on the M13/40. Although the high losses suffered by Stuart-equipped units during the operation had more to do with the better tactics and training of the Afrika Korps than the apparent superiority of German armoured fighting vehicles used in the North African campaign, the operation revealed that the M3 had several technical faults. Mentioned in the British complaints were the 37 mm M5 gun and poor internal layout. The two-man turret crew was a significant weakness, and some British units tried to fight with three-man turret crews. The Stuart also had a limited range, which was a severe problem in the highly mobile desert warfare as units often outpaced their supplies and were stranded when they ran out of fuel.

On the positive side, crews liked its relatively high speed and mechanical reliability, especially compared to the Crusader tank, which comprised a large portion of the British tank force in Africa up until 1942. The Crusader had similar armament and armour to the Stuart while being slower, less reliable, and several tons heavier. The Stuart also had the advantage of a gun that could deliver high-explosive shells; for the mounted by most Crusaders HE shells were not available, severely limiting their use against infantry. (however, by late 1942 the Crusader received the QF 6 pdr gun, significantly improving its anti-tank characteristics and giving it HE capability). The main drawback of the Stuart was its low fuel capacity and range; its operational range was only 75 miles (cross country), roughly half that of the Crusader.

The U.S. Army initially deployed 108 Stuart light tanks to the Philippines in September 1941, equipping the U.S. Army's 194th and 192nd Tank Battalions. The first U.S. tank versus tank combat to occur in World War II, began on 22 December 1941, when a platoon of five M3s led by Lieutenant Ben R. Morin engaged the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) 4th Tank Regiment's Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks north of Damortis. Lt. Morin maneuvered his M3 off the road, but took a direct hit while doing so, and his tank began to burn. The other four M3s were also hit, but managed to leave the field under their own power. Lt. Morin was wounded, and he and his crew were captured by the enemy.  M3s of the 194th and 192nd Tank Battalions continued to skirmish with the 4th Tank Regiment's tanks as they continued their retreat down the Bataan Peninsula, with the last tank versus tank combat occurring on 7 April 1942.

Due to the naval nature of the Pacific campaign, steel for warship production took precedence over tanks for the IJA, creating by default an IJA light tank that performed admirably in the jungle terrain of the South Pacific. By the same measure, although the US was not hampered by industrial restrictions, the U.S. M3 light tank proved to be an effective armoured vehicle for fighting in jungle environments. At least one was captured in the Philippines.


Lets take a look and see what comes in the box......



 Everything is all one spure, so nice and compact.
 There is a suprising amount of detail on the model, you can see this is one of the newer kits from them as its well cast and the detail is there that may have been lacking on earlier models.
 The Tracks, such a striking feature of the Stuart with the big return wheel look great and again nicely detailed.
 There are no instructions in the box, just on the back of the box, and its simple enough it only took me a few minutes to put together.  I just clipped the pieces out a lit bit of filing as my clippers aren't as sharp as they used to be and assembly with no issues.  for a £3 model im very happy how she went together.
 Its a nice little kit, suitable for plenty of wargaming periods, users and theatres.
 The detail is nice on it, it really surprised me.
 Painted up she will look great I think


Shes well worth picking up for the price to build for fun, or add to your forces, now to paint her!

 And with paint and some decals she looks blooming great!

lovely detail for such a tiny kit.