Academy 1/35 M163 Vulcan Kit First Look
|Date of Review||April 2018||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Kit Number||13507||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Easy construction, nice detailing||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$44.50|
In the late 1960s, the US Army introduced the M163 Vulcan Air Defense System (VADS) into service to replace the aging, optically-aimed M42 Duster. The M163 was armed with a variant of the M61 20mm Vulcan gatling gun that could fire up to 3000 rounds per minute (the M61 fired at 6000 rounds per minute) and provided defense fire against air attacks that were inside the minimum range of the M48 Chaparral missile system which the M163 supported. Unlike the M42, the M163 had a radar, but it was a range-only system which did not aim/track targets. The comparable systems on the 'other side' included the ZSU-23-4 which did have a tracking radar system and fired 23mm rounds, and the SA-9 Gaskin which was also a vehicle mounted heat-seeking missile launcher like the Chaparral. The M163 was supposed to be replaced by the M247 Sergeant York Divisional Air Defense System (DIVADS) but technical problems and cost overruns led to the cancellation of DIVADS. The M163 was eventually phased out of active duty service in 1994.
Academy has reissued their 1/35 M163 Vulcan kit. First released back in 1995, the kit is based upon their existing M113 APC tooling and you'll find extra parts in the box from other M113 releases. The kit is molded in tan styrene and presented on nine parts trees plus the hull shell, two trees molded in black, one tree molded in vinyl (rubber), two sets of rubberband track, and one set of photo-etched parts. Among the features and options in this kit:
- Positionable rear door on rear ramp
- Positionable rear ramp
- Choice of rear fenders or rear external (M113A3) fuel tanks
- Choice of rubberband track or individual track links
- Positionable engine access door
- Positionable driver and rear crew overhead hatches
- Vinyl ammo belt to feed Vulcan gun
- Vulcan gun is movable in azimuth and elevation
- Photo-etched engine deck grilles
- Separately molded pioneering tools
- Optional crew stowage and water jug
- Optional side skirts
- Optional side floatation panels
The kit provides markings for the following subjects:
- M163, 5th ADA/1st Bde/24th ID, Fort Irwin, 1988
- M163, 5th ADA/3rd Bn/3rd ID, Germany, 1987
- M163, unknown unit, Fort Irwin, 1988
- The kit instructions don't acknowledge the larger hole in the bottom of the hull but it does depict the two smaller holes, and in any case, there are no parts shown to plug those holes. We're on our own there.
- While the kit does provide positionable doors and hatches, there is no interior nor engine bay included in this kit. If you're going to put figures into the overhead hatches, then leave them open, otherwise best to glue them all shut.
- Someone might have better information here, but from what I've seen of the M163 over the years, it never received the A3 updates in active duty status which included the rear external fuel tanks. You can keep these in your spares box for other M113 projects along with the ACAV shields, recoilless rifle, and other items not used with the M163.
- Check your references to see if the VADS you're building had its side skirts installed.
- Ditto on the floatation panels on the sides of the vehicle. You'll see them in Vietnam service, not so much for the first Gulf War.
In addition to the Academy offering, Italeri has their own M163 kit which was supposed to be reissued with some updates this year, but it may be a while before it reaches the US given the disruption of Italeri imports with the Hobbico bankruptcy.
This kit will build into a nice model with a little work and thanks to Master Model, there is a beautiful brass and photo-etch kit of the M61 Vulcan which will look awesome in the turret of this kit.
My sincere thanks to MRC for this sample!