If there’s one thing I like about making tiny models of tanks its piling on the stowage. There’s something about a tank covered in bedrolls, MG ammo tins, repurposed ammo crates and the like that just makes a tank feel lived in and real.
The recent run of Warsaw Pact kit I have been painting has done little to scratch that itch beyond a few tarps and the like, so moving back to NATO for the Stripes release has been a welcome relief. This article will take a look at stowage in Team Yankee in terms of what is present, where its stowed and how to model it. Its largely focused on the M1 family but I’ll touch on other platforms at the end.
Firstly, lets look at some photos of US Cold War armour and see what would be hanging on the outside.
Stowage on the M1 family – case studies
In common with most NATO tanks, the crew of the M1 Abrams always seemed to have more kit than there was stowage space to fit it. This was exasperated by a lack of stowage bins (a single one on each side) on the original M1 and the side mounted bustle racks were only really of use in the wide open plains lest a bush or tree lined road rip a rucksack or bedroll loose.
Figure 1: 11th ACR circa Reforger 1984 – note the clipped back rear skirt, that would often be considered an IPM1 onward feature, but presence of the retaining ring – deleted from the IPM1 (but re-appearing on the USMC’s A1’s). There is no stowage on the outer side of the sides of the bustle beyond some track links; a solitary MRE ration carton on the roof (at least I presume that is what it is); and the rear of the turret provides only a few strap points used for sleeping bags by the looks of it.
The flat top of the turret does present some space for stowage – but the blow off doors for the ammo compartment have to be left unimpeded lest they actually fail to blast off in preference to the hatch into the crew compartment (generally inadvisable for all concerned). As such, only relatively light items should ever be on the panels – MG ammo cans, MRE packs, dismount gear such as helmets. Modellers tend to get a little over-enthusiastic here! It is, however, not uncommon to see a spare Road Wheel mounted on the cabin roof ahead of the loader position.
The Improved Performance M1 (IPM1) took this feedback and addressed it by extending the bustle back and around to form a shelf on the rear of the tank bustle (interestingly some crews appear to have already done that with the original M1 which makes identifying model based purely off the bustle rack inadvisable). The rear of the bustle was an ideal place to hang ALICE rucksacks and duffel bags without too much fear of a tree liberating it later. Crews also took to placing plastic camping mats around the antenna mounts as a handy way of stowing them!
Figure 2: IPM1 in the late 80’s
The M1A1 would improve on this by adding a second pair of stowage boxes and, as space in the bustle shelf was taken up by a fuel saving APU and lifesaving anti-IED ECM boxes, an additional bustle rack on the existing bustle rack (so you can bustle rack whilst you bustle rack, presumably). The M1A1 really epitomised the art of placing stowage with tanks heading across the Iraqi border in Desert Storm laden down with MRE cartons, cool boxes, rucksacks and ammo tins. Other personal effects such as crates of Pepsi and Ghetto-blasters can also occasionally be seen.
Figure 3: M1A1 in Desert Storm 1991. We can see that – with few trees to worry about, rucksacks and duffle bags have made it to the side of the bustle racks. Also visible are a pair of 40mm grenade Ammo Tins mounted to the rear bustle to provide some relatively protected stowage. Note also the large square panel with the tank’s tactical sign on the rear bustle.
Figure 4: A contemporary M1A2 (presuming that is the CITV on the turret front) with additional rear bustle fitted to the existing rear bustle and itself fitted out with 40mm grenade tins. Note that these tins don’t have the stiffening ridge on them.
Lets now look at how we can take the information gleaned from the case studies and apply it to our models.
Repurposed Ammo Cases/Cans
Whilst its generally inadvisable to stow anything bigger than a .50 round outside the protection of armour, used ammo crates can be a useful way of providing some vaguely bullet-roof protection for personal belongings. Similarly, ammunition for the 7,.62 and .50 AA MG is always useful close to hand and not going to cause many issues for the tank if struck by rounds.
40mm Grenade Ammo Tin
Certainly by Desert Storm it seems most Abrams will have at least two repurposed 40mm cans somewhere on a tank and many have four – one for each crew member. The emptied 40mm ammo tin provides relatively large volume for the storage of personal goods away from weather, small arms fire and small artillery splinters so is generally appreciated. These are generally attached (presumably welded) to the outside of the bustle racks to keep space within free. On-line research shows them either:
Four in a row on the rear bustle face
At the corners of the bustle racks with two on the rear face, one each on the side face, meeting at the rear most corners.
Two on each side rack (seen on a model – not verified by primary source).
Construction uses some rectangular section styrene rod 1.5mm x 3.2mm (I’d prefer it to be 3mm but it’s a standard size), some thin plasti-card and a bit of sprue stretched out over a heat source into a fine filament. We cut a bit of rod about 4mm long to give us the rough shape of the box. We add a small rectangle of card to the top, slightly larger than the Rod to look like the ride around the lid, and then we add two very small rectangles for the lid catches at each end. Finally we add a diagonal line of the filament to represent the stiffening ridge of the can. Due to the way we mount it we can avoid the need for the ridge on one side of the can and the “four in a row” and “two on each side” configuration can allow some latches to be deleted, further simplifying work.
Figure 5: Grenade Tins on the rear bustle
Olive Drab is a common colour but they also seem to be repainted with the tanks so a suitable equivalent to Forest Green/whatever MERDC paint is in that area also works.
105mm Ammo Crate
Never underestimate the value of a large wooden crate! Designed to hold two rounds for the M68 gun, this solidly built wooden crate again provides a relatively protected space to store things in. A couple crates for the original British L7 gun were a permanent fixture in the family attic/garage/sea container as the ‘old man’ repurposed them for tool storage and the like on the various moves! I think we may still have one with a large scale model Flower class Corvette in!
Figure 5: A 105mm ammo box
BF have helpfully included one on the sprue and I find it a useful way of lifting other boxes like the MRE cartons/ammo cans up into sight. Whilst in theory it could go on the roof too, I’d be doubtful on the basis of avoiding weighing the blast plates down.
The cases seem to be a pale wood brown so paint Flat Brown/Tan Earth.
0.5 Ammo Tins
Basically a scaled down version of the 40mm example, I didn’t build these for the M1 but instead made them for the M113 scouts that came after. They are just as applicable for the M1 though.
Construction was much like the 40mm grenade tin. I used the 1.5×3.2mm rod but cut into only 2mm deep sections to give a smaller tin.
Figure 6: My take on a .50 tin
7.62mm Ammo Tin
I re-purposed the unused smoke launcher bins as .30 tins. They are not exactly the same but will suffice and saves on extra work.
Spare Tracks and Road Wheels
All tanks will generally carry a spare road wheel and track links to ensure that they can keep running as they will degrade with time. Thankfully BF provide a spare road wheel on the sprue but the track is a trickier proposition. By far the easiest solution is to find a West German player. The Leopard 2 kit comes with two track links per tank – a generous amount given the Leopard 2 seldom carries spare links outside of the vast array bolted to the front (and already modelled on as part of the kit).
The Leopard track link comes in three sections but most sections on the Abrams bustles are two links so we need to cut one off.
Figure 7 and 8: Converting spare German track for US use
Particularly keen modellers may wish to shave the track pad down to match the rhomboid shape the T156 track has. I skipped this at this scale.
Figure 9: T156 Track links, apparently
After that, we can affix it to the bustle racks. There appears to be no set position where they can be encountered so feel free to affix it as required.
Figure 10: M1 circa 1984 with spare road wheel forward of the loaders hatch
Much as with the track links these are typically attached to the turret bustle racks but do occasionally appear on the turret roof (as can be seen in the photo above). The kit comes with a spare road wheel so this is easy to model – just glue one in the appropriate place.
Figure 11: This one has the turret roof stowage location modelled.
The US rucksack of the time was the LC-1 Field Pack, part of the “All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment” (ALICE) system introduced in the mid-seventies. It has a large central section, two side pouches and one additional pouch on the front.
Figure 12: LC-1 Field Pack
It’s the kind of thing that would be great to have in a pre-made stowage pack but sadly no-one seems to do an ALICE Field Pack. One of my regular opponents had a pack in his bits box that looked roughly like it but no central pocket. I used this as the basis for a mould and made some to populate the tanks but the mould has its limits on detail so its a poor substitute for a proper white metal ALICE pack. This would be very welcome and I know Armies Army and Battlefront read this so one of you, take note!. When we got the ArmiesArmy BTR-60 for review it came with stowage which also had a two pouch ruck-sack similar to the one Simon lent me (slightly bigger if anything) so I’d recommend having a look at their Soviet stowage pack as a stand in in the meantime.
Gulf War era M1A1 typically have the Rucksacks carried on the side of the bustle but I suspect European ones would have piked them on the top or on the rear bustle rack as they’d be easy to rip off on a hedge or tree in the European countryside on the side. The field packs are a flat green. I’d use something like Reflective Green or US Dark Green.
Figure 13: Packs on the rear of, and in, the bustle racks.
Figure 14: Duffel Bags
Again, a common sight on Gulf War era M1A1, I presumed that the forces rushing into Europe to pre-positioned kit would being theirs and then stow them as best as possible so should feature on my tanks. I used green stuff to make some flat bottomed cylinders, let them cure for half an hour, and then used a sculpting tool to add creases, handles and straps. I mounted them in the bustle, aiming to have one per crew-member for a total of four.
Figure 15: The duffel bags can be seen on the right here. Note also the field packs on the rear bustle.
A few commentators noted I didn’t have any Fritz style helmets externally mounted. I hadn’t noted any in the photos I scanned through so didn’t bother, but if you wanted to model these I’d recommend taking a green-stuff mould of a Infantry figure’s head to give an imprint of the helmet.
Laid on the ground to make for a more comfortable sleep, these are rolled plastic foam sheets. They can be made quite simply with a bit of plastic rod to simulate a rolled sheet then just paint on the layers. This can then be glued to the bottom of a ruck sack or just laid on the turret top.
One neat trick the crews appear to do is to have them wrapped around the aerials. I plan to replicate that by drilling through a length of the rod and running the aerial through it.
Figure 16: Keeps the aerials warm I guess…
Crews need water and whilst its relatively easy to find in Europe, a few Jerry cans of water would not be out of place on the tank (I presume its not fuel just simply because of how thirsty the Gas Turbine is!). These can be either in the bustle, loaded on the top deck or lashed to the bustles. Every tank kit seems to come with at least one but the likes of BF and Skytrex do white metal ones too.
Ever present on the tanks. Skytrex do some pre-made white metal camo-nets in both “rolled” and “heaped” configurations. I just placed these where ever seemed appropriate on the tank to fill space.
A large tarp with many uses (British tanks use it to make a tent over the rear deck by traversing the gun to aft and trowing it over the barrel). Large rolls appear both on BF plastic kits (the much maligned first Open Fire Sherman V had a few tarp rolls on the sprue including a nice long one used below) and Skytrex stowage packs and, failing that, they are easy enough to sculpt. On the tanks I modelled with them, I placed them on the turret top, at the rear just behind the blow out panels.
Figure 17: Ground Rolls on the turret top
Smaller tarp rolls, ponchos, etc can be represented by a smaller roll. Again, these regularly appear in stowage packs. Painted US Dark Green they should look the part.
MRE Ration Cartons
The “Meal, Ready to Eat” was introduced in the mid eighties as a replacement for the old tinned “Meal, Combat Individual” (similar to WWII ‘C’ rations). The MRE was meant to take advantage of advances in ready-food and camping food to be lighter than the tinned rations and thus posed less of a burden on the infantry man. In reality the early examples were not especially appetising and quickly became dubbed “Meals, Rejected by Everyone.”
MRE rations are individually paced in a pouch (containing one man’s one days of ration) but multiple pouches come in, vaguely weatherproof, card-board boxes.
Figure 18: One big box of gastronomical delight
I used the 1.5x4mm plasticard rod cut into 4mm lengths. The aspect ration isn’t quite correct but it will suffice at this scale. I then stuck two or three of these on each tank, often on the top deck where it would be easy to hand and not having to worry about it’s low weight impacting the blow out panels.
MRE cartons are a light to dark brown – I plan to to use “US Field Drab” with black lettering and a pair of black or white tie bands. A crescent, the symbol of the Army Subsistence Department, is present to denote it as a food carton.
Probably somewhat anachronistic as these don’t seem to be widespread until Desert Storm, but the humble plastic cool box appears to have become widespread since. My first attempt was in green stuff but I have since switched to making it out of the much used 1.5×3.2 styrene rectangular rod, gluing two sections on top of each other then cutting them to roughly 40mm in length. From there I can shape it using a file to give the curved edges and then paint on the missing detail such as the handle.
Figure 19: Chiller box
Something I missed the relevance of on my tanks is the oft-featured piece of sheet metal that is attached to rear of the bustle and marked with a number. This can be seen in Figures 1 and 3 in the case studies.
This can be easily replicated with a suitably sized bit of plasti-card. The photos in the case section part show both a rectangular and circular version and google shows a diamond version of the square one.
There’s a wide variety of other miscellaneous items that can be found on the outside of a tank and I just scratched the surface here. Buckets (because no-one likes to squat in the field…), folding chairs, tins of engine lubricant, a few larger personal effects.
I was quite chuffed with the ghetto blaster I was able to construct out of a Smoke Grenade Tin, some extruded sprue and a few slices of a Cromwell’s 75mm gun barrel!
Figure 20: I lied about the Kitchen Sink
In an NBC environment, external stowage would have been covered with a big, treated, tarp so that persistent agents weren’t collected to wreak havoc later. You can see an example of this in the Figure 16 above. So, if you want to give the impression of having spent time doing all this effort without doing it; roll out a nice big bit of green stiff and drape it over a few filler bits to give the impression of a bustling stowage rack underneath.
I have used the M1 as the example here but most vehicles in a US force can apply the ideas presented here. Usually a quick search of “[vehicle], Reforger” or “[vehicle], Desert Storm” will provide plenty of examples to choose from.
With thanks to all those who gave feedback on the first stab examples I put on the Team Yankee facebook groups. Thanks also to Paul for once again explaining tankee things in simple terms for a civvie.
In the near future I hope to cover progress on my Armoured Cavalry Troop so stay tuned.