Today Lee looks at the background of the Magach 6A and how to model its various options using the Battlefront M60 kit.
When I opted to base my Fate Of Four Gamers army on the M60A1/Magach 6A, I had planned to just build the tanks pretty much as BF depict them, mainly because the old cupola looks so ungainly and who doesn’t lover and over-under .50/105mm arrangement! However, as is often the case, I decided to look up photos of the tank from the conflict and ultimately decided to shift my plan to better match the historical photos. This article will largely explain what I’m modelling and why.
I was aided in this by Jesús Delgado Alvarez and Garth Davies, who both shared their own research into the matter, and who helped correct some of my own pre-conceived opinions on cupola and external guns! The following really wouldn’t have been possible without their guidance. Thanks, chaps!
First, lets quickly look at the background of the tank in the Israeli context.
The M60A1 in IDF service
After the Six Day War, the Israeli Defence Force realized it needed a new tank to hold the gains made from its neighbours.
- It needed a tank that emphasized crew protection, as Israel was a small nation that could not afford casualties;
- It needed firepower to be able to outshoot any tank that Arabs could field; the L7 105mm was good but already starting to show its age.
- Mobility was a tertiary concern. A tank needs mobility but the other two factors were more important.
There was one clear answer.
The British Chieftain
Chifetain (right) – Plus the legendary BV – next to an M60A2 (left).
Yeah, if you were expecting me to say the M60 then you’ll be disappointed. The M60 was an incremental change over the upgraded M48 based Magach 3 they already had, so the Israelis opted to work with the British as the low slung, heavily armoured, 120mm rifled cannon armed, Chieftain fitted its doctrine better.
Sadly the sixties was definitely not the decade for Israeli/European co-operation (see also the Mirage 5) and the British dropped Israel under Arab pressure, chasing the market (its debatable how much that was worth; only Kuwait and Jordan bought it within the Arab world, plus the Persians).
So, Israel started a long-term plan to build its own tank industry (leading to the Merkava) and in the meantime bought some M60 and M60A1 from the US dubbed the Magach 6 and Magach 6A, respectively.
Here’s a few…
I covered the M60’s part in US post-war tank development in another article and it represented the pinnacle of the Pershing/Patton line of development. For the Israelis it provided little improvement in firepower, having basically the same gun (a US licence build of the L7), but did improve the armour for no impact on mobility. Ultimately, it wasn’t bad as interim steps go.
Still, it could be improved. Whilst the M60’s Cupola Weapon System (CWS) was roomier than its M48 predecessor, it was still overly tall. The Israelis had already replaced the M48’s cupola with a low profile “Urdan” cupola; replacing the integral .50 with a pintle .30 instead. The M60A1 went through a similar upgrade, post-war. The Israeli’s also started fitting the tanks with over barrel, solenoid operated, M2 0.5 machine guns.
Additionally, the M60 would go on to be upgraded several times, reaching the M60A3 standard and then receiving Israeli unique upgrades such as new power plants and Blaser Explosive Reactive Armour to improve crew protection. So modified, the M60 would be used in the 1982 Lebanon war alongside the Merkava, its eventual successor.
Not bad for an interim solution!
Modelling the Magach 6A
The current Battlefront model, in a well-received bit of future-proofing, comes with most of the parts we need to build the various configurations of Magach 6A for Yom Kippur. However, there is one thing we need to do first; we need to shear off the smoke grenade launchers. This applies to all M60A1 used in the Yom Kippur war that I have been able to find photographic evidence of.
The Israelis had the M60A1 which didn’t receive smoke grenade launchers till much later (and then, of their own design). The kit is fine for the 80’s but we need to go back to the seventies! Thankfully we can achieve this relatively easy with a good pair of side cutters and a decent model knife.
First, we use the clippers to remove the bulk of the launchers in one cut, each.
Then we use the model knife to shave back down to the turret line, then tidy up.
Simple! We should also remove the associated boxes for spare smoke grenades moulded on the turret side.
The M60 and M60A1 both made use of the M1 Cupola Weapon System. This mounted an M85 0.5″ gun internally and incorporated a variety of vision blocks to give good all-round visibility, but it was tall.
The M48 had a similar tall cupola and, by Yom Kippur, the Israelis had replaced most of them with a lower profile “Urdan” cupola of their own design (some even had Sherman cupolas). This deleted the internal 0.5″ in favour of an external pintle .30 MG, bringing the cupola height down, but at the expense of rearward visibility and protection when using the commander’s gun.
M48 with Urdan cupola
I was initially operating under the belief that the M60 was, at least partially, converted but this appears not to be the case. A lot of confusion is created by mis-labelled photos of the M48 as the M60. It appears that the M60 and M60A1 used the original cupola through the war, as can be seen in most of the photos in this article. The CWS on the M60 and M60A1 was utilised throughout the Yom Kippur conflict, appears to be replaced only well after the fighting had ceased. As such, the Urdan cupola goes in the bits box to fit out any future purchases of the M48! However, this does not mean that there wasn’t some visual modification.
Firstly, as the war went on, crews took to adding additional machine guns to deal with the close range RPG threat. A pintle-mounted .30 can be found on a few photos.
This is a great shot, showing the pintle mounted… telescope(?), rucksacks suspended from the handrail and even a view of the bustle rack, packed with stowage and a crate on the engine deck. The pintle mount appears similar to the .30 we can see on the destroyed tank below.
This was mounted on a new bracket suspended to one side of the cupola but, for the sake of stability on the model, I placed the .30 from the kit just forward of the open cupola. I will have one or two of these in the army.
Garth found reference to the pintle gun being a .50 on at least one occasion. This was presumably an M2 rather than a relocated M85 and would likely have seen the cupola mounted M85 deleted as redundant. This could be modelled by kitbashing the pintle .30 with the redundant over barrel .50, and snipping the M85 barrel off the cupola. This upgrade seems to be much rarer than the .30 as its only mentioned in text with no obvious photos to be found. I’ll probably use one to mark out the CO tank!
Over Barrel .50.
An almost trademark Israeli upgrade, the over barrel, solenoid fired .50 provides additional firepower against soft targets without wasting main gun rounds. The M48 appears to have been the first to receive this upgrade and may have seen it fitted during the war. Its present on “preserved” M48 but its difficult to find it on a photo from the conflict.
It eventually appears on the M60 but, like the Urdan cupola, the earliest photos appears to be circa 1977. I’m inclined to leave the .50 in the bits box for any M48 I may purchase, like the Urdan cupola.
Much like its older stablemates, the M60 had a mounting point for a large searchlight on the mantlet and the M60 kit has one on the sprue. However, it does not appear to have been fitted that often during the Yom Kippur war. A searchlight can be seen on the ground near a burnt out M60A1 suggesting it had been fitted prior to destruction.
(note also the pintle 0.30)
Similarly, a picture of an Israeli tankie having a shave has the searchlight in shot.
When not used, the searchlight was carried on the rear bustle rack. It’s difficult to find a photo at the right angle to show how this was done, or even if it was done by the Israelis. I presume it was mounted on the exterior of the bustle as it looks too large to go into the bustle rack itself.
I plan to have two or three installed searchlights in my force. It appears often enough to suggest that at least some tanks did utilise it. I’ll ignore the stowed searchlight.
This is a simple bit of added detail to paint. The M48 and M60 used a stereoscopic coincidence rangefinder. This had two sights, one each side of the turret, mounted in pods. The tank commander used the sight to determine range by focusing the image, thus determining the range. The pods would later house the laser rangefinder too.
You can see the right pod between the cupola and the smoke grenade cluster
The pods are present on the model but, as a 15mm kit, relatively featureless. We want to paint a small black slit, relatively near where the pod joins the turret.
Finally, to round out the article, its worth considering what stowage should be modelled.
The first feature that always jumps out on Yom Kippur M60, track links! The M60 always appear to be sporting a lot of links mounted to the handrail that runs around the turret. This no doubt provided some extra protection as well as providing spare links for the punishing desert environment. BF doesn’t provide any spare tracks links with the kit. Instead, much like the M1 article I authored, we need to turn to the Team Yankee Leopard 2 kit for something that looks broadly similar! Links appear to be paired so we need to trim the three link piece down. The links are mounted with the trackpads inwards.
Also occasionally seen secured to the handrails are the crew’s daysacks. These are similar to WWII examples so we can raid the bits box for BF stowage from other kits. With a crew of four, we should expect at least one per crew member. I imagine they could also be hung from the rear bustle rack as an alternative position and I have used both possible locations.
The rear bustle rack is often not in shot beyond a front side view so we have to make some assumptions on the rest of stowage. Jerry Cans for water and ammo cans both seem obvious contenders. There is no obvious source for either .30 or .50 cans but I covered converting or scratch building examples in my previous M1 article. Jerry cans, much like chips, come with everything so are easily sourced. Note; after painting these first three, I was informed that the Jerry Cans were normally black. Future cans will be so painted!
Wooden crates for rations are another obvious choice, either tucked in the rack or on the flat of the turret at the back in easy reach of the crew. These appear in the old metal stowage kits BF did, as well as third party suppliers.
Crates, bedrolls and daysacks
Bedrolls and tarps can often be made out as being present. Again, these feature on the old BF stowage packs and third-party suppliers but its also worth noting the old open fire Sherman kit and the new M8 priest plastic kit as being a good source for both tarp and bedrolls.
Spare Road wheels are always handy, either in the bustle rack or lashed to the outside of it. The M1 Abrams kit has a roadwheel that is sufficiently similar to the M60 for work at this scale.
Spare Road Wheels and Track Links, plus handrail mounted daysacks
Finally, and something I missed on my first three Magach 6, is high vis air recognition panels. Jesús noted that I should have modelled a yellowy orange high viz panel, either folded on the turret roof or draped over the bustle rack contents or engine deck. There is a folded tarp on the Open Fire Sherman kit that would work for this and the draped one can easily be created using some green stuff, rolled flat. Needless to say, the remaining Magach 6 in the army will feature this!
So, there are my thoughts on how I plan to model my Magach 6A to reflect the Yom Kippur build standard.
As always, whilst the above is based on some cursory research, it is by no means exhaustive or authoritative. I welcome any feedback or contradicting research and players should feel free to model what they want to!