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Academy 1/35 M113A3 'Iraq 2003' Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Images by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2008 Manufacturer Academy
Subject M113A3 'Iraq 2003' Scale 1/35
Kit Number 13211 Primary Media 600 parts (430 in sand colored styrene, 144 black styrene, 14 poly caps, 10 clear styrene, 2 steel colored vinyl)
Pros Best basic "113" on the market; add-ons match many photos of M113 vehicles used in Iraq; provision of individual link tracks as an option welcome Cons Sink marks on every track link face; motorization holes in the hull belly; retains M113A2 engine, transmission and controls
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $42.00

First Look


When the US Army adopted the Bradley IFV, the M113A2 armored personnel carriers in service – affectionately nicknamed "little friends" or "Papa Chucks" from the NATO phonetics Alpha Papa Charlie – did not simply go out to pasture. Not every unit needed the Bradley or even wanted them. Thus, most units such as artillery survey crews, ground surveillance radar teams, and combat engineer squads kept them. But as many were in need of rebuilding, they were upgraded to extend their service lives with a number of improvements.

Chief among them were a Detroit Diesel 6V53T turbo-supercharged diesel of 275 HP and a new Allison X-200-4 or -4A transmission, which when coupled with new torsion bar suspension providing 15" travel really perked up the vehicle. Externally there were essentially no basic changes, but some units proceeded to modify the vehicles to meet their needs with extra stowage or even experimental supplemental armor arrays.

The M113A3 variants are still seeing service in Iraq today, and this latest variant to come from Academy is an upgrade to their excellent M113A2 kit from 1998 and its third major variant (they also "backdated" the M113A2 to a Vietnam era M113A1.) The kit is basically a verbatim re-pop of the M113A2 kit but with all parts now in sand color styrene and two new sprues (a and b) added with a total of 116 new parts for the A3.

They also now give the modeler the option of the one-piece vinyl tracks (which really aren't very good, even if better than the Tamiya ones) of using their single link track sets. These date from 1992, but are not bad and at least give more definition than the one-piece tracks do. Note that every single track face has a sink mark in it; while annoying as they all have to be filled (an easier task than one would think) the similar sets from AFV Club, Model Kasten, and the link-and-length sets in the Italeri 113 based kits all suffered the same exact problem. I have no idea why this shape is so prone to sink marks (as is the M2/M3/M41/LVTP-7 series track shapes as well) but it seems endemic.

The basic kit is a nicely done effort which fixes most of the problems with the 33-year-old Tamiya M113 kit, namely its fixed suspension and poorly rendered wheels. While not perfect the Academy ones look much more the part, and the adjustable suspension arms help (most M113 variants I've seen with the "chicken nest" commander's station sit with a distinct nose-down attitude).

The interior has been completely redone to match the M113A2 with separate seats, braces, "commuter" straps hanging from the ceiling, and this kit adds the sliding Kevlar panel spall liners inside the hull (parts a1 and a11). However, the radio appears to be missing (it hangs down from the ceiling on a platform last I looked at one) and there is one major problem with the interior. As noted the interior is correct for an A2, and would not look wrong for an M113A1; however, the A3 has a new design of transmission and a turbocharger on the engine, neither of which are provided in the kit. Most of all, the "laterals" or steering levers have been replaced by a W-shaped steering wheel on the A3, and that is missing. Note that if you simply button up the engine access hatch and the driver's hatch the model will accurately represent an M113A3.

The A3 kit also comes with modified rear external fuel tanks and a modified exterior ramp which appear to sport improved details. The vehicle also now offers a choice of weapon between the .50 caliber M2HB or the 30mm Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher. The wimpy smoke grenade launchers from the A2 kit are also replaced with more "manly" ones that look the part, as well as better looking guards.

The same three crew figures are provided for the vehicle, which for the early 2003 period is not too bad as the desert combat uniform was quite similar to the battledress uniform of these figures and they also come with the more common "boonie" hats as seen in Iraq. They also appear to still have ACLE ("Alice") packs vice the newer MOLLE ("Molly") packs, but since the early versions of the latter were throughly hated due to their poor serviceability many soldiers bought Alice gear from places like "The Cav Store" or simply kept their old kit.

The kit comes with two large welded steel strap bins on the sides of the vehicle, and in this case I suggest the modeler look for references. I am not sure if they are standardized as I have seen a variety of racks on M113s in Iraq. DML had a similar problem with its supplemental bustle racks as only certain units (like A Company 1-64 Armor) used them, and the same may be the case here. They are a neat looking change to the boxy shape of a 113 but you need to check on which units used them.

In addition to the three figures, the kit comes with some other add-ons such as what appears to be two sets of camouflage (a big bag and a small one constitute one set), nine water bottles, a water cooler, the aforementioned Alice packs, ammo cans, two 20mm ammo cans, two Minigun ammo cans, and two 5-gallon plastic water jugs.

Finishing options are provided for two "generic" US Army vehicles in Iraq, 2003: however, both have bumper codes and therefore can be identified. One is an artillery survey team track, HQ-35, from 2-3 Artillery Battalion, 1st Infantry Division; the other is an armored ambulance from HQS Company, 2-7 Infantry Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. Both are finished overall in Iraq sand.

Overall this vehicle looks the part and if nothing else presents a sturdy and basically accurate "canvas" which the modeler may begin. I do wish Academy would pay attention to details such as the engine and driver's controls however.

Thanks to MRC for the review sample.

Sprue Layout:

  • A 48 M113 suspension
  • B 44 M113A2 hull details, hatches and ramp
  • C 59 M113A2 interior components
  • D 82 M113A2 hull roof and details
  • E 29 M113A2 engine and floor details
  • F 61 M113A2 Crew and add-on accessories
  • G 10 Clear styrene accessories
  • X 72x2 M113 single link tracks
  • a 84 M113A3 parts and bins for Iraqi service
  • b 22 M113A3 fuel tanks and rear ramp
  • 1 Hull
  • 14 Poly caps for axles
  • 2 Steel vinyl track runs