Author Topic: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War  (Read 1979 times)

Offline tankmodeler

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M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« on: April 03, 2018, 10:36:41 AM »
It's late 1968. The height of the Cold War.

The US is also up to its armpits in a hot war in Vietnam. The previous winter, the Tet Offensive had shaken the resolve of the American public and the military heirarchy were determined not to let the war get away from them. Yet, later in 1967, the Arab-Israeli War had not gone as well as expected for the Israelis. Their surpirse spoiling attack against the Arabs had been picked up by the radar of a Soviet cruiser transiting the Eastern Med by chance. The Israeli air attacks had been only partially successful requiring the Israelis to slog it out on three fronts before eventually bringing Egypt and Syria to their knees while the UN forced a ceasefire. The three months of fighting had seriously depleted the forces of all sides and the United States moved quickly to shore up it's key Eastern Mediterranean ally. Stripping M60 and M48 tanks from anywhere they could be had, the Army brass knew they couldn't replace all the tanks in their own units with M60s in the near term. Tanks had to be brought out of mothballs, refurbished and put into service to maintain the deterrant in Europe while also fighting the war in Vietnam.

US Marines had decided in 1965 that the heavy M103 wasn't suited to Vietnam and had stored all of their heavy tanks for the duration. The situation in Israel, though, demanded that these tanks be put to good use, yet the relatively new M103 was actually quite obsolescent. The 120mm M58 canon had been surpassed by the British-designed, 105mm M68. All of the Army's front-line tanks were now equipped with the M68. If the M103 was to go back into service, it would need to be refitted with the newer and more effective cannon.

By late 1968, things in Vietnam were pretty much at their height. The American units were joined by Australian and South Korean commands. In the case of the South Koreans, that meant the entirety of the Capital Division. With the deployment of the Capital Division, which joined the American 2nd Infantry Division that had already been moved from South Korea to Vietnam, South Korea had fewer defensive units than at any time since the end of the Korean War.

While building up the capability of the North Vietnamese, the Soviet union also secretly started to reinforce their other client state, North Korea. By November 1968 things were ripe for the attempt. On Tuesday, November 5, 1968, while the United States was in the middle of an extremely contentious presidential election, the North Koreans, goaded on by their Soviet masters, launched their massive attack and crossed the border into the South. The set-piece defences took a terrible toll of the attacking forces, but the reduced number of defenders due to the deployments to Vietnam meant the tide could not be stopped at the border. The remaining South Korean and American forces fell back, for the second time in under 20 years, hoping to hold off the North Koreans until heavy units stationed elsewhere could be brought to bear in the Korean Peninsula.

Stationed amongst the tripwire forces near the border on overwatch, the Heavy Tanks of the 899th Heavy Tank Battalion suffered significant losses in the initial attack, yet their skill and the improved capabilities of their upgraded M103A3 tanks seriously blunted the North Korean assault.

The model will portray a M103A3 tank of the 899th Battalion as it provides overwatch for American forces defending against the massive armoured attacks of the North Korean 237th Guards Armored Division north of Daejeon after the fall of Seoul in early 1969.



For the campaign I'll be using the Dragon Black Plague M103A2 kit modified with a 105mm M68 gun purloined from a derelict M60A1, a new cupola, smoke dischargers and whatever else I can find in the spare box that indicates a mid-late 60s American tank fighting for it's life.

Paul

Offline Old Wombat

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2018, 11:40:15 AM »
Love the sound of this! :smiley:
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Offline buzzbomb

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2018, 04:33:33 PM »
Yes.. great backstory.
it is giving me some inspiration, now how to execute the vision

Offline tankmodeler

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2018, 12:08:22 AM »
Got the road wheels and sprockets cleaned up and glued together last night. Also trolled through the parts bins looking for appropriate bits. Fount a good mantlet cover affixed to a crappy 105mm barrel that I'm going to replace, a later M60A1 cupola I'll fit plus a Xenon searchlight to mount on the mantlet cover. I have to dig up some smoke projector mountings to put on the turret and I'll modify an M48 turret stowage basket for extra kit.

Thinking I may add some additional armour, kind of like the Stillbrew armour on Chieftains over the frontal arc of the turret and maybe hull.



The kit itself is a mess in terms of accuracy and I'm not going to touch any of that, of for no other reason that it would take a year to chop and drop the hull, turret and engine decks to be even partially accurate. It's such a crappy kit.

Paul
« Last Edit: April 04, 2018, 12:10:14 AM by tankmodeler »

Offline LemonJello

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2018, 11:45:27 PM »
I'll be following this build with great interest. 

-seems like a good use of one of those "Black Plague" kits...

Offline ChernayaAkula

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2018, 01:11:49 AM »
Cool project! :smiley:

<...> one of those "Black Plague" kits...

 ;D
Cheers,
Moritz

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Offline Story

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2018, 05:24:55 AM »
It's late 1968. The height of the Cold War.

... whatever else I can find in the spare box that indicates a mid-late 60s American tank fighting for it's life.

Paul

Chain link fencing as anti-RPG2/B40 screens.

Offline tankmodeler

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2018, 12:08:18 AM »
Chain link fencing as anti-RPG2/B40 screens.
I'm setting the 103 up in a hasty revetment on overwatch and wanted to do something like chain link but I'm not happy with anything I currently have in stock to represent the fencing. The tulle I have is too fine plus it doesn't want to hold shape to look like chain link. I do have some expanded wire mesh but I fear it is also too fine.

We'll see.

If not, I do have some nice corrugated metal scenic material I've wanted to use for something, so I may roll that out in panels around the arse end of the 103 for the same purpose with angle iron (Plastruct) stakes to support it.  :smiley:

Offline Jeffry Fontaine

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2018, 05:21:26 PM »
Re: Your chain-link fence dilemma.  Tamiya offered some chain-link fence in one of their later editions of the M113.  The kit was listed as "U.S. M113 ACAV" and included new tool figures, weapons, miscellaneous accessories and a section of material that looked very convincing as a section of chain-link fence to be rolled up and attached to the side of the M113 or placed in position as the RPG screen to protect the vehicle and crew. 

Reference link with further details for that kit at ScaleMates: https://www.scalemates.com/kits/130071-tamiya-35135-m113-acav

Rather unfortunate that there are no "in-the-box" kit reviews at the above link. 

***edit to add more information. 

Images of the kit contents can be viewed at this link: http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/image/10008271/40/2
Product information is available at this link: http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/10008271
« Last Edit: April 11, 2018, 05:27:31 PM by Jeffry Fontaine »
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Offline Story

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2018, 08:47:12 PM »
Chain link fencing as anti-RPG2/B40 screens.

I'm setting the 103 up in a hasty revetment on overwatch 


Couple of things to take into consideration as you progress.

1) The M103 had an azimuth indicator (wasn't until the M1 that those went away). That aided in turning a tank into an indirect fire support weapon (the drill being to fire three rounds, one on azimuth of target with 2nd & 3rd + & - 5 degrees).  Note how they dug the positions, so that the tube could reach super-elevation (instead of just horizontal turret and hull down).  If run forward in a modified battle position (as illustrated below), that leaves the front under-glacis vulnerable - all the more reason for that RPG screen.

Really really hasty extreme elevation position

Less hasty, but very much a Korea thing.

Note location of Azimuth Indicator (Whiz wheel) in the M60 - think it was elsewhere in the M103.


2) M103 weighs in at 62.5 tons, probably overweight for most of the bridges then (and possibly some now). With mobility restricted like that, might consider a deliberate position overwatching a river fording site ( like east of Kunsan, along the Kumgang).

3) Even with a five man crew, recovering that screen isn't going to happen if they have to pull out in a hurry. I could see where someone might come up with the bright idea of using scrap iron to build stand-off screens on the turret flanks (at least). Each Company would have a welding kit on their Recovery Vehicle.

4) In the defense, that fifth man (possibly combined with the fifth man from the wing tank) could be sent out as the OP/LP.
Pretty sure a tripod for the bow or coax machinegun is in the basic issue items, drill would be to dismount and set it up to cover primary approaches. In this scenario, might even be positioned real close just to cover the dead space in front of the position.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2018, 08:53:42 PM by Story »

Offline tankmodeler

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2018, 11:19:34 PM »
Story, great points, some I'd considered and some, not so much.  ;D

As I mentioned, I'm looking to refit the 103 with the M68 105mm, so the tanks will be down to 4 crew. I'm not looking to turn it into a diorama, so the revetment will be just enough to be a base for the model and not large enough to show an entire defensive position.

I might even add another turret escape hatch over the remaining loader on the left and fit an M60 and shield for close in defense. I'm also looking at replacing the cupola with that from the M60.

The position I'm putting it in is definitely a direct fire position watching over a junction/choke point/bridge so I don't think I'm going with one of the high angle artillery positions.

The point about time to recover the chain link is vary valid given that the period is nominally on the retreat from the border, and as I don't seem to have a reasonable facsimile of chain link in the spares boxes, I am, indeed, going to make something along the lines of corrugated tin stand off armour for the sides of the turret and maybe the sides of the hull. Maybe. The Korean roads were narrow, especially in the countryside, though better in the late 60s than in the early 50s, so hull side screens would probably just be swept away each time the tank brushed up against something on the roads. But the turret screens, using angle iron and corrugated roofing tin, are going to be a thing. Stuffed with stowage emblematic of a bug-out scenario. Going to see if I can get all or most of an M60 turret stowage basket to fit, as well, to provide more space for the inevitable "stuff".

I've figured out how to make the add-on monolithic, cast, KE armour look the way I want as well, so that's going to be a thing.

In the middle of cleaning up the basic kit build. Which is a pain because, while the fit isn't too bad, the lack of consistency is a pain. The lower hull pan has nice texture all over, but the upper hull only has texture in a few places and not at all along the sides of the hull. The turret has texture except on the protruding sections for the antenna bases and ventilator fan. The suspension mount points for the foremost shock absorbers, which are double units, are set up for single units, so only half as large a need be. Gonna be filing that in with epoxy putty, but a PITA and a brutal oversight by the kit design team.

So far the build is going OK as long as I remember to ignore the blatant inaccuracies of the kit and focus on the much less significant build issues.

Onward! The North Korean hordes approach!

Paul

Offline Story

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2018, 11:59:52 PM »

As I mentioned, I'm looking to refit the 103 with the M68 105mm, so the tanks will be down to 4 crew. 


Yeah, got that - thought it was a neat idea, since the ammo racks for those 34 two-part 120mm rounds would turn into 68+ rounds of 105mm simply by swapping out racks.  Thinking like a TC, that second loader would be real useful.

Meanwhile, plenty of inspiration for folks in the cheap seats to do their own interpretations of M103 variations. https://ogami3d.deviantart.com/art/M103-heavy-tank-312036849



Now we need someone to create a 3d NorK propaganda poster.

« Last Edit: April 12, 2018, 12:16:51 AM by Story »

Offline tankmodeler

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2018, 03:20:26 AM »
Yeah, got that - thought it was a neat idea, since the ammo racks for those 34 two-part 120mm rounds would turn into 68+ rounds of 105mm simply by swapping out racks.

While 2-part, and quite large parts at that, not all the ammo spots in the 103 would take a fixed 105mm ammo in place of the piece of 120mm. The casing, at 34.6" was longer than the 105mm APDS rounds in service at the time, but the 120mm projectile, at 17" long would be more difficult simply swap out the racks. A lot of the projectile racks were in the turret, to either side of the commander and with the radio and other kit in the turret area, you're not going to get 1 for 1 there. However, the space the 5th crewman took up between the commander and gunner would easily allow a new ready rack to be installed on the floor of the turret basket, below the turret ring to reduce chances of being struck if the tank was penetrated and fitted with an armoured box to reduce the chances of a "Ronson", again, if the tank was penetrated.

The diameters of the two cases are actually surprisingly similar so instead of 34 2-part rounds, I'm thinking you could get the 34 cases swapped out 1 for 1, the projos swapped say, 2 for 3, plus another 10-15 in the deleted loaders area for 34+22+15= about 70-71 rounds.

Quote
Thinking like a TC, that second loader would be real useful.

But not as useful as another 10-15 main gun rounds?  ;D

And love the skirts on the 103 in the images but I'm looking at my corrugated skirts being much more "rough and ready". :)

Paul
Paul

Offline Story

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2018, 10:50:18 PM »

But not as useful as another 10-15 main gun rounds?  ;D

If it's the same load-out as a 48/60 and I get another crewman per tank for maintenance issues and other tacticool chores, yeah it's a good trade off. Not like the back deck hasn't been used for ammo storage before.

Offline tankmodeler

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Re: M-103A3 in the 2nd Korean War
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2018, 05:06:10 AM »
First pics. The basic build it well along so now I can add the "Stillbrew-esque" applique armour to the hull and turret.

This is the first layer, approximately the same thickness (about 2 1/2 scale inches) with reasonably sharp edges all in Apoxy-sculpt. Once it hardens I'll finish the shaping and then add a layer of regular spot and glaze to tidy up the surfaces.

Once I get the headlight groups in place I may decide to make the sleeves of the hull "T-shirt" armour a bit broader to protect more. We'll see.

I have a resin 105mm L7 gun that I'll be using after I remove the flange on the bore extractor to make it an American M68.

You can also see I've changed the gunners sight on the turret to match the 105.

I have an M48 cupola that I intend to fit, somehow, to the turret as well.

Once I get the armour package right I'll be modifying the nominal storage rack on the M103 to something more like that on a M60A1 with vertical sides, rails and mesh. Then I'll load her up with stowage as befits a tank that is part of a force constantly bugging out to new defensive lines.

"HOLD THAT LINE!"

Paul