Hypothetical - what if M103A2 in service with the IDF - Israeli Defence Force

For many years, I have been fascinated by the M103A2 MBT, since I find, it has a very “manly” appearance, for the lack of a better word. It is just a massive chunk of metal :slight_smile:
My desire to build a model of it was further enhanced when the Dragon kit appeared. With the fascination of the vehicle as basis, I began to wonder, how the vehicle would have looked, it it had taken into service with the IDF. The IDF was a user of the M48 and M60 MTBs, so the idea of the IDF using the M103 is not that far fetched, I think. So my mind began to wander …


Imagine it entered service with the IDF around 1988-1990. Could it look like this, and could this story be the way it entered service?

In the late 80’ties the IDF was eagerly awaiting the introduction of the Merkava Mk. III into service. (In real life, this happened in December 1989). However the setting for this Magach 8 or “Super Magach” is, that the Merkava Mk. III was delayed, due to problems with the integration of the engine. Other systems, including the “Baz” Fire Control System (FCS) and the new 120 mm gun (similar to the 120mm gun on the US M1A1 Abrams) were ready for use in the new vehicle. The reason, the IDF wanted to upgrade the gun of its main battle tanks from 105mm to 120mm was the experiences gathered during the 1982 Lebanon War. During this conflict, the IDF found out, the ammunition of the 105mm tank guns was not in all instances able to kill the enemy tanks encountered during this war. Thus, the new 120mm gun was seen an absolutely paramount upgrade of the IDF tank fleet.


When the Merkava Mk. III was delayed, the IDF command was quickly gathered a small taskforce, which was given the task of surveying, how the 120mm gun could be either installed in existing tanks of the IDF, either the Merkava Mk. II or the M60 based Magach family, or if needed a vehicle, which was similar to these two types of vehicles. Quickly, the task force found out, there was neither room in the turret of the Merkava Mk. II nor in the turret of the Magach 6 for the new 120mm gun, so they began looking for an alternative. Some IDF tank officers had been cooperating with the US Marine Corps in the early 1970’ties, where they had experienced the M103A2 with its massive 120mm M58 gun. The US Marine Corps retired its M103A2 fleet in the mid-70’ties, but the vehicles had not been scrapped, rather they were stored for eventual future sale. Since the M103 was designed around a 120mm gun, and was available, the IDF taskforce approached the Marine Corps to loan a vehicle, so it could be established, if the IMI 120mm gun could be fitted in the turret of the M103A2.


The M103A2 is in some ways an enlarged M60, since the engine and suspension is either identical to or similar to the same components in the M60 family of vehicles. From a logistical point of view, it was thus relatively easy to integrate the M103A2 into the IDF tank fleet. The first M103A2 landed in Israel, and the taskforce immediately began to explore, how the IMI 120mm gun could be integrated into the turret of the M103A2. Since the “Baz” FCS of the Merkava Mk. III was in a parallel process of being integrated into the turret of the Magach 6B fleet (IRL the Magach 6B Gal), the taskforce also explored, how the “Baz” FCS could also be integrated into the turret of the M103A2, along with the IMI 120mm gun, so the end result would be a vehicle with the same firepower and tactical proficiency as the Merkava Mk. III.


The taskforce soon learned the integration of the IMI 120mm gun and the “Baz” FCS was indeed possible, in fact it was found out, the roomy turret of the M103A2 gave more than ample space for both the gun and the FCS. Thus the taskforce recommended to the IDF Command, the IDF should acquire the surplus M103A2 vehicles, and begin the upgrade process. This recommendation was accepted by the IDF Command, and the upgrade project was initiated. The result was the Magach 8 or “Super Magach” as it was affectionally known. The vehicle was apart from the automotive performance and the armor similar to the Merkava Mk. III, and thus the Magach 8 was later upgraded along with the Merkava Mk. III, when the Merkava Mk. III was upgraded with the separate commanders sight, known as the Merkava Mk. III “Dor Dalet”.
Since the armor of the Magach 8 was not comparable to the Merkava Mk. III, the vehicle was also upgraded with the L/55 version of the IMI 120mm gun, so the vehicles where able to engage the enemy at maximum range. Since it was expected the enemy would be engaged at very long ranges, the “Blazer” armor was not upgraded. The turret basket was adapted from the basket used on the Magach 6B Gal.


Hah! What a coincidence Thomas - or rather, in a way; I was only musing the other day about modelling an M103A2 (or M103A2G if you prefer) in Bundeswehr service. You know, with the ever-present potential battlefield dominance of NATO’s Central region by Soviet heavy equipments etc - well, it would surely have been logical for the Germans - with their heavy tank experience - to pursue the inevitable. I think the M103A2 would have met their expectations, though it might have meant putting the USMC’s aspirations on hold for a while(!)

Those were my thoughts the other day, which only really serve to get in the way of my modelling backlog(!)

Anyway, I’m sure this will prove a very satisfying modelling project.


Back to real life - how to model this monster?

At that time, the Dragon m103A2 kit was the only option for me. The IDF bits were taken from a Legend Magach 6B Gal conversion kit, along with a Legend turret basket and Friul Merkava Mk. III tracks. Some Russian company supplied a Merkava Mk. III barrel, and other parts came from Yoyager.

The Dragon kit is a very inaccurate kit, but if you are a glutton for punishment, the kit can be used. Today, I would use the TAKOM M103A2 kit.
Jason Bobrowic has made an epic build review of the Dragon kit, which sets the standard for, how such a review should be made.
Jasons build review


The current status of my project.

The turret has gotten the most of my attention so far. The turret basket is the Legend LF1323 Magach7C Turret Basket, adapted to fit the M103A2 turret.

The area where the gunners sight is situated is particularly poor in the Dragon kit, so as per JBs recommendations, I expanded the area and added some weld seams. Then the sight unit from the Legend LF1056 Magach conversion kit was added, also with some extra weld seams. Also the smoke dischargers were added on adapted mountings.

The next step will be the Blazer ERA blocks, which I have sourced from the Academy Magach 6B kit.

Please comment on my endavour, I am having so much fun with this.




Hi Brian,
You are right, the same hypothetical story could be made around a 1980’ies update of the M103A2 with the 120mm gun from the Leopard 2, and German updates similar to the ones carried out on the last German version of the M48. In fact the Greeks took the M48 a bit further with the MOLF update.


Damn; you’ve helped sow the seed a little bit more! And yet, I’m so behind on so many projects.

In my parallel universe, I could see the Bundeswehr in the early 60s being sufficiently alarmed at the Soviet heavy tank scenario (as indeed was NATO at the time - and before), and casting around for a decent enough heavy tank platform. I suspect they would have been unimpressed with the A1 version, but might have reasoned that the A2 would be more beneficial. Any purchase decision may, just may have bumped the USMC off the list for a bit while the Bundeswehr took possession of say, around 60 or so; (20 x per Corps?) One could envisage that with the leavening of ex Wehrmacht heavy tank users then present in the Bundeswehr, they may have been used differently ie not as an over-watch tactic to identify enemy heavy amour, but actually, as per Tigers, to be in the vanguard as it were of any attack/counter attack.

From a modelling perspective I only see it having a few cosmetic changes, eg the searchlight as developed for the (then ) emergent Leopard, and say, German-type smoke dischargers along the turret sides.

That was about as far as my imagination got me!

'Love what you’ve done with your model.


Nothing like a good what if kit. A buddy of mine made a double barrel merkava which actually won a prize in a show.
Looking good. I’ll be following along and great history research.


Personally, IMHO, the IDF has their M103 in the way of the Merkava IV.

Great idea for an IDF what if Thomas! So Brian @BootsDMS , will we be seeing a Bundeswehr M103A2 on the Stonehenge table anytime in the future? Looks like Pete is already on the what if case with his British Army S-Tank! :thinking:

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The What-Iffery ideas are great; I never thought I could buy into it all, but hey! I’ve some great ideas (well, I think they’re great) Leopard in Brit service say, just because Chieftain wasn’t quite cutting the mustard. Merkava also in Brit service, with perhaps a 120mm brit gun, trundling along on exercise on BAOR. And of course, a Bundeswehr M103A2. Hmmm. Oh wait, I’ve something like double figures half-built yet to come to fruition, so probably not Terry anytime this decade (and I’m running out of years - as we used to say in the Army “I’m fresh out of postings”. Oo-er).

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I will see your what ifs and raise you with a Bundeswehr M48Leo2 hybrid

Check the turret of the 6B Gal tanks, there is a round opening on the front right side, covered by a round cover. It is to provide access to the Baz FCS unit. You can replicate that if you want.

You can add the turret roof details (Meng included them in their kit, AFV Club did not)

crew gun mounts

The ammo box rack

Driver’s hatch periscope was changed on all upgraded Magach tanks from Magach 6B and on

You can include the APU

or if you want a smaller one, copy the Doher APU

you can even add a MILES system and a chair


Hi Nikos,
Thank you very much for the detail photos. I had not seen the photos of the APU before. Do you know, when it was taken into service?

Regards Thomas

The gunners sight and the area it is situated in deserves special attention, since it is a very distinct addition to both the real Magach 6B Gal and my model.
In his build blog, Jason B. points out the deficiencies of the Dragon kit, and I decided to try and follow his lead here, and improve the area. around the sight housing.
The actual sight housing in my kit comes from the Legend LF1056 kit, which is fine. BTW, Legend also makes the sight housing open, in the LF 1289 Magach 6B GAL Batash Detailing set.
The weld lines were made form plastic strips softened with Tamiya Ultra Thin liquid glue. A small piece of plastic card was added to the side of the sight area, in order to increase its depth. It will be covered in Mr. Surfacer to add the cast effect.


Jason Bobrowichs excellent build blog:
Jason B. on the Dragon M103A2

Great looking project, will be following you with great interest as I have an M103 and like IDF vehicles :+1::+1:

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It’s a shame the M103 didn’t serve longer in the US 7th Army in Europe, as we may have seen them in MASSTER colours … did I just create a what if idea for myself there?