Panda-Hobby 1/35 M8 Armored Gun System Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|M8 Armored Gun System
During the 1980s, the US Army initiated a program to replace the M551 Sheridan tank. After several attempts to get the procurement underway, the Army finally initiated the Armored Gun System (AGS) program in 1992. Like the M551, the AGS was to be a light tank that was air transportable to support the mobile forces. FMC/United Defense won the program and produced six prototypes designated XM8 and after evaluation, the M8 was slated to enter production in 1996. Unfortunately, the M8 program was terminated a year later as the Army was redirecting resources to cover other problematic procurements that would also end up cancelled or severely curtailed. While the completed M8s were stored at the contractor's facilities, they unsuccesfully offered the M8 to Turkey and Taiwan. The M8 was to carry a crew of three, similar to Soviet/Russian tanks - commander, gunner, and driver. The M8 was armed with the XM35 105mm cannon which used a new design to radically reduce recoil and create a simpler, lighter main gun equipped with an auto-loading system which eliminated the fourth crewmember. While the XM35 had lower recoil forces, it still fired all of the rounds that were common to the M60 and early M1 Abrams tanks. In 2003, an updated design designated M8 Thunderbolt/AGS 120 paired up the M8 with a smoothbore 120mm gun that also was equipped with an autoloader. The US Army is currently looking at a new program called Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) in which an updated M8 could be produced.
Panda Hobby has returned with another unique subject - the M8 AGS in 1/35 scale. To my knowledge, this is the first kit of this subject in this scale. What's interesting about this subject is that it has (until now) been overlooked by kit manufacturers. While we see kits coming from one or more manufacturers of tanks that never got off the drawing boards, or at best, had one or two prototypes produced, Panda Hobby is giving us subjects that were in limited production, like the M1 (also produced by Tamiya), the M1IP, and now the M8.
When you open the box, you might be stunned by the kit's simplicity (at least I was). The kit is molded in tan styrene and presented on five parts trees (duplicate trees not shown) plus upper and lower hull, one tree of clear parts, and one small fret of photo-etched details. There are four trees containing the wheels and suspension arms, and if you look carefully around the edges, you'll also see the individual track links.
Among the kit's features and options:
- Simple construction
- Rubber tires molded separately from the road wheels
- Photo-etched screens for engine deck
- Clear periscopes
- Positionable crew hatches
- Positionable gunner sight doors
- M2 .50 caliber machine gun on commander's hatch
- Nicely rendered spaced armor plates on turret
- Basic stowage provided on turret.
The kit provides some basic stenciling for the hull, but since the M8 was sidelined in favor of the Stryker MGS, any unit markings would be notional.
You can build this kit straight from the box and have a nice model of this distinctive combat vehicle. If you look around online, you'll also see variations of the M8 with different add-ons under evaluation including side skirts, counter-RPG screens around the rear of the hull (engine compartment), and even different turrets including the previously mentioned M8 Thunderbolt. You might want to get a few of these kits and make some of the same updates that are being done to the M8 for MPF.
My sincere thanks to Panda-Hobby for the review sample.