by: Jason Bobrowich [ ]
History The M113A3 TLAV (Tracked Light Armoured Vehicle) was developed as part of the upgrades to the Canadian M113A2 fleet during a Life Extension Program that began in 2000. A variety of upgrades were done to power pack, suspension, and weapon systems on the M113A2s to become the M113A3 variant. A total of nine M113A3 variants were developed for specific Combat Support roles. One variant is the M113A3 TLAV with the One Metre Turret. The most recognizable feature of this version of the TLAV is the addition of the One Metre Turret. The turrets came from the retired AVGP Grizzly 6x6 wheeled APCs. The turrets were further upgraded with 76 mm Wegmann multi-barrel grenade dischargers and add-on armour. The turrets are fitted with a .50 Calibre machine gun and a C6 7.62 mm machine gun. They are electrically or manually traversed and are fitted with an image intensification night sight.
In addition to the internal upgrades to the TLAV hull external modifications were also made. Add-on armour panels were added to the sides, front, and rear ramp. The trim vane was eliminated and a stowage bracket was added to the engine access hatch. Anti-slip surfaces were added to the hull top as well as an extended exhaust, new antenna mounts, anti-slip surfaces, and a hull top stowage box. The suspension was also upgraded with the Diehl track being replaced by the Soucy rubber band track system. The Soucy track is wider than the Diehl track, lighter, and far less work is needed to maintain it. The drive sprockets and tensioning idler wheels were also replaced with new versions designed for the Soucy track. The tracks are made of rubber, steel cable, and other compounds. The tracks dramatically reduce the noise and vibrations and increase the M113A3's mobility.
A number of M113A3 TLAVs with the One Metre Turret are currently being used by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan along with other M113A3 variants. The TLAVs provide convoy escorts and security for both command posts and Artillery batteries. While the Canadian LAV III has replaced the M113A2 as an Infantry carrier in the Canadian Forces the M113A3 TLAV and M113A3 variants will continue to serve as very important Combat Support AFVs on the front line. Shortly after arriving in Afghanistan the TLAVs began being fitted with add-on bar armour packages. This further increased the crew protection on the TLAV against RPG type weapons.
The KitAzimut Productions’ new line of 1/35 AFV kits produced under the name Best Value Models combine pre-existing “donor” kits, resin parts, metal parts, and photo etch details. The M113 TLAV kit represents the Canadian M113A3 with the One Metre Turret and comes in the box originally designed for the Revell-Germany M113A1 US Army #03048. The box has been flipped inside out and a new Best Value Models label attached on the outside.
The instructions consist of two double-sided pages of line drawings. The instructions are overall well done and combine the construction involving the kit parts with the additional Best Value Models’ parts to build the TLAV. Included on the instruction sheets are 1/35 templates for the side and front add-on armour panels. Some modellers may have difficulties with the exact placement of the resin and photo etched parts without proper reference material. If Azimut had included black and white photos of the completed model this would assist modellers in the exact part placement.
The required parts from the Revell-Germany kit are included on the original kit sprues moulded in olive drab injection moulded plastic. This kit is not as detailed as other M113 kits available and some modifications are required to make it accurate for the Canadian M113A3 TLAV. The headlights are the standard M113 style and will also have to be modified to Canadian standards that include the IR headlights being replaced with signal lights. A small sprue is also included that had the required Wegmann multi-barrel grenade dischargers. I am not sure which kit these are from, as I have not seen an M113 kit with them included.
The hull assembly includes the kit-supplied interior for the M113. I suspect that simply using the kit parts for the interior is not correct. The M113A3 upgrades included the replacement of the standard driver's tiller bars with a modernized yoke steering wheel. The addition of the One Metre Turret would not permit a standard M113 interior as there would be a small turret basket and seat. This is not included in the kit. The instructions for the interior are also misleading in that it shows the internal fuel tank being fitted. This is not used as the M113A3 has the dual externally mounted fuel tanks.
The grey coloured resin parts for the conversion appear very accurate when I compared them to reference images of TLAVs currently in Afghanistan. A resin upper hull section replaces the Revell-Germany kit upper hull. It has the anti-slip pattern in place as well as the details added during the upgrades. The rear ramp is also replaced with a resin-supplied version that is very well cast and includes the intricate add-on armour. The resin and photo etched turret components impressed me. The turret looks very nice with all of the modifications and upgrades crisply replicated. A small piece of aluminium tubing is also included for the machine gun mounts. The turret hatch can be fitted closed or open but there is no turret interior included.
The rubber band tracks, drive sprockets, and tensioning wheels are nicely produced in resin. The tracks are cast in sections with the sprockets and idlers cast with track sections in place. Clean up on the centre guides and careful test fitting will be required to have them fit properly on the drive sprockets and idlers. Some of the resin track sections were broken in transit on the review kit. I am not sure how this will affect assembly. I noticed that the detail on the track pads is good on some sections and a bit weak on others.
As I stated before 1/35 templates are included on the instruction sheets for the side and front add-on armour panels. Included in the Best Value Models is a panel of 0.5 mm white styrene plastic sheet that is to be used to make the add-on armour panels. The sheet appears to be able to fit all the templates but this will require precise measuring to avoid using additional styrene sheet. The template for the side armour provided is for the left side. It consists of three pieces. The instructions state to build the right side symmetrically. This is inaccurate as the right side add-on armour actually consists of five pieces. The overall pattern is the same for the right side but there are also two smaller armour panels that make up the right side armour. The front armour as shown in the kit template consists of four parts labelled A, B, C, and D. Templates B and D are correct. Templates A and C should actually be one piece with some minor changes. Reference material will be required to make the changes required to the side and front add-on armour. The photo etched fret included is an excellent addition and includes 26 well-detailed parts to be used during the construction of the hull and turret.
There are no markings included in the kit but a photo etched Canadian Forces Registration licence plate is included and very well done. There is also no painting guide included. This is not a problem as all the TLAVs are painted in NATO green and they have very limited tactical markings. The only markings I have seen have been some very faded black inverted chevrons on the hull sides and a black low visibility Canadian flag on the right external fuel tank.
ConclusionThis is a very good effort by Azimut and Best Value Models to produce the Canadian M113A3 TLAV. They provide a multi media kit with good details for modellers to improve upon and make even more accurate. The Revell-Germany M113A1 kit would not be my first choice for a base kit for the TLAV but it is workable. The inaccurate add-on armour templates are easily fixed with the correct reference material. The resin and photo etched parts are well done and appear very accurate. It would be to Azimut's benefit if they sold the tracks, turret, and PE parts by themselves as they can be used on a variety of modern Canadian M113 projects.
Highly recommended to modellers with experience in detailing and building multi media kits. Reference material is a must have for the M113A3 TLAV to build an accurate model. Unfortunately there is very little reference material currently available on the M113A3 TLAV. I hope to have a photo reference article published soon on the Canadian TLAVs in Afghanistan in a well-known modelling magazine.
Thanks very much to Mr. Didier Chomette of Azimut Productions for providing me with this review kit. I very much look forward to more modern Canadian AFV kits from Best Value Models.