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MARS, the first of Trumpeter's M270s

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/35 scale plastic model armored rocket launcher kit
RELATED TOPICS: ARMOR
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Capable of firing salvos of 12 rockets, the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System entered U.S. service in the early 1980s. Using shoot-and scoot tactics, the vehicle can relocate before the enemy can plot counter-battery fire.

Several NATO nations acquired and eventually built the M270 under license. Trumpeter’s first M270 represents the German version known as the Mittlere Artillerie Raketen System (MARS).

Molded in light gray plastic, the kit features a detailed cab and rocket pod, although much of the latter can’t be seen on the finished model. Besides windows, the clear sprue holds lights and rearview mirrors. A small photo-etch (PE) fret provides screens for the engine compartment, and small parts for the cab and rocket pod. All those details, and individual-link tracks with separate guide horns, pushes the parts count north of 800. A small decal sheet and color diagrams show markings for two vehicles.

The instruction’s clear diagrams only left me scratching my head in a couple of places.

The wheels feature separate tires, but be sure to paint the rim molded on the front the main body color. Although the suspension arms are keyed for alignment, there is some play in the mounts. Use a straightedge along the axles to keep them aligned while the glue dries. Diverging from the instructions, I left off the running gear and tracks until after painting. However, if I were to build another, I would follow the directions; it would have been a lot easier to install the tracks without the weight and watching out for all the fragile details.

Details fill the cab, including driver controls, fire-control panel, radios, and even ventilation hoses. Callouts reference colors by name and GSI Creos paint numbers. Decals provide placards and controls to give the cab an even busier appearance. With aid from Microscale Micro Sol and a hair dryer, the dashboard decal settled into the panel’s molded detail with just a little distortion. The one-piece decal for the fire-control box didn’t fit, so I cut it into several pieces.

In Step 13, the placement of placards was vague. But a quick look at interior shots at www.primeportal.net/artillery/m270_mlrs.html brought clarity. Unfortunately the decals seemed a little big, so I artistically repositioned them for fit.

Also unclear was the position of the PE screen wrapping the oval vent (Part L4) on the engine compartment. I put it around the fine lip, but it was a little short — I covered the gap with thin sheet styrene.

If you build the rocket box fully loaded, don’t spend much time cleaning up the interior parts — because they won’t be seen. When adding the loading beams in Step 27, test-fit the cover (Part E). That will allow adjustments for fit. It doesn’t hurt to test-fit the load-rail covers (parts D31) at this time — I didn’t and had to trim them a bit.
Make sure you get the end plates for the rocket boxes correct. They aren’t keyed and I put one on upside down — the solid beam should be at the top.

I painted the vehicle with Tamiya NATO green, brown, and black, then added the decals over clear gloss; they responded well to Micro Sol. After applying a flat black wash, I sealed the markings with Tamiya clear flat.

Finally, I added the tracks, starting with the tedious process of cleaning each link and adding the guide teeth. I had problems aligning the teeth, so I made a small jig to build about 10 links at a time.
 
The links click together, but the connections lack strength and several separated during installation. My solution was to make two sets of tracks for each side, one for the upper run, the other for the bottom. (The instructions call for 87 links per side, but I used 85 instead for a taut set of tracks.) Then, I ran Weld-On 3 down the center of each run with a Touch-N-Flow applicator. After 20 minutes, the glue held the tracks but the runs were flexible enough to bend around the drive sprockets and idlers. Once everything was aligned, I glued the tracks to the running gear.
 
While installing the tracks I heard a strange snapping noise, which turned out to be all but two of the outer tires cracking from stress. I didn’t use glue for the tires and the fit was snug, so perhaps gluing them might prevent the cracking.
 
I spent 47 hours building my M270. While the kit presented some challenges the finished model looks great. I think any armor modeler with some PE experience and without a fear of individual-link tracks could handle this kit.


Note: A version of this review appeared in the October 2017 issue.

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