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152mm Gun/Missile Launcher Tank

Copyright (c) 2000, Jim Lewis
All Rights Reserved

In building miniatures, I don't always strive to make every model a centerpiece for an article. This is why I don't often take in-progress photos. The purpose of building this model was simply fun. I like the M60 series of tanks and didn't have any in my collection. This is the first one I've built. The stretch here for me wasn't in building an unfamiliar vehicle - but in making such an unusual looking tank look appealing. From the outset, there was no doubt that I was going to airbrush the woodland MERDEC scheme of the late 1970's on this miniature of the M60A2 'Starship' dubbed "Alvin" by its crew. Now that it's finished, I think this scheme shows the lines of the M60A2 tank in its best light.

3rd Armored Division, 32nd Armored Regiment
West Germany, 1978




About the Real Vehicle:

Information on the actual M60A2 isn't in great volume - or demand apparently. Built to counter the Soviet superiority on the battlefield, the missile toting tank killer Shillelagh missile system incorporated into the 'Starship' was an idea ahead of its time. Like the Lacrosse Guided Missile a generation before, technology wasn't quite up to the task set before it. The M60A2 as a weapon system saw a quick demise, while the like armed, and airborne capable, M551 Sheridan continued in service through the end of the millennium.

As with all tankers, this vehicle was a source of great pride - and it is unusual to see a photo of a M60A2 in the field in dilapidated condition. This isn't a testimony to their short service life as much as it was to the efforts of their crews in up-keeping their vehicles. I recommend Squadron Signal's M60 in Action by Jim Mesko as the best all around reference on the M60 series tanks - for price and coverage. RP Hunnicutt information is as always indispensable, and Concord Publications' M60 is a good photo source - if you can chase one down. I used all three, plus a former Army Lieutenant who commanded this vehicle, to get a feel for the M60A2 in completing the miniature.

The M60A2, second in the series, is armed with a 152mm dual-purpose gun. It serves as a launcher for the Shillelagh anti-tank missile as well as conventional rounds.

There are two versions of the M60A2. The large bore extractor on the gun tube easily visually distinguishes the early variant. Personally, I liked this version because, somehow, the large bore extractor gave a more powerful impression to the gun tube than in the later variant, though stubby looking.

The late M60A2 is equipped with the CBSS system. The Closed Breech Scavenging System added a large blister underneath the rear hull, which changed the profile of that view of the tank. Inside the bulge, the vehicle carried two compressors and air bottles. CBSS was incorporated in the M60A2 to solve a problem with the use of the Shillelagh Missile.

The ammunition rounds used in this gun were susceptible to humidity and rough handling. There were occasions during firing that the M60A2 experienced flashbacks and premature detonation of rounds because the remnants of the previous round had not been totally consumed during firing. The CBSS would blow three blasts of compressed air through the gun after firing to clear any remnants out during the recoil sequence before the breech opened and a new round would be loaded. This eliminated the need for the bore evacuator, and CBSS equipped M60A2's did away with this feature on the gun barrel.

The gun's complexity and need for highly skilled maintenance earned the nickname 'Starship' from its crews. For some, it was a source of pride, for most others - the nickname was the best printable of comments by the crews.

The US Army got funding for 243 turrets to add onto existing M60A1 tanks in 1966, and they planned on procuring some 300 complete M60A2 tanks in 1967. However, due to problems with the test models, production didn't begin until 1973. When ended in 1975, the US Army received 540 of these tanks.

Interestingly, Chrysler's records indicated they completed only 526 of these vehicles.

In the mid-1970's, six armored battalions (1st and 3rd Armored Divisions) in Europe were equipped with the M60A2. They were withdrawn from frontline service around the end of the decade. The turrets would be scrapped and hulls converted into bridgelayers or CEV vehicles. The only M60A2 I've seen up close and personally is a magnificently restored CBSS variant as part of Jacques Littlefield's collection in Portola Valley, California. The pictures (September 1999) of which I've added to these pages.

AFV Club's T146 Track Links are very nice, and make a considerable addition to the final appearance of this miniature. It took me a long time to clean them up, but the effort was worth it. Barely visible here, I added two On the Mark Models brass padlocks to the center sponson stowage boxes on either side of the model. The Fender Phone is scratchbuilt, complete with a scrap brass holder and red light from the MV Products lens line. The tanker's helmet is a resin item from Polop. The Tow Cables are scratchbuilt as they and the antennas are not included in the kit. Brass Mesh makes the turret basket walls and floors. Verlinden Antenna Bases and Modelismo Antenna Wire was used for missing detail, and Grandt Line eye-bolts were cut down to add missing detail on the Commander's Cupola.

Verlinden resin Modern US Jerry Cans with paper straps and buckles fill On the Mark Models' brass Jerry Can Holders. The Mantlet covers for the main gun and commander's gun is made up from pre-painted tissue paper with lengths of solder. The gun/launcher barrel is scratchbuilt out of brass and aluminum tubing, and rifled with On the Mark Models' 152mm gun tube rifling. The M60A2's barrel is indeed rifled - with a notch cut down the bottom center. The conventional rounds use the tube rifling, while the Shillelagh missile engages the notch down the bottom of the barrel when fired.

Left front view of the M60A2 miniature. As I mentioned, I hated to apply any mud here as I didn't want to cover all the work I put into cleaning up the gaps that result in putting the model together. I used Hudson & Allen Mud for this weathering. It's the best I've encountered so far, and can be mixed and applied so thin that it appears to be mud and dirt in 1:35 scale. Grief's M48/M60 Headlights and Lenses make a great addition to the M60 series of model kits. They are beautiful when completed. I also used Grief lenses for the optics in the Mantlet too. Not visible in this photo, the glass in the sights is tinted pinkish red. The Xenon Searchlight was rebuilt and detailed, as the Tamiya part was painfully simplistic. I built a new interior for the Searchlight, using Verlinden Foil for strength, and Bare Metal Foil for the interior reflector portions. It was more work than I anticipated, but I liked the final result. The small number of markings carried on this vehicle were replicated with dry-transfers.

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