Jump to content

M1A2 SEP Abrams TUSK I/II 1:35


Recommended Posts

1:35 Meng Models


The Abrams Main Battle Tank is the direct replacement to the M60, when it was realised that the venerable design was ill-suited to further modification. The new design entered limited service in 1980 and went on to become the main heavy tank in the Army and Marines branches of the American armed forces. It saw extensive action in the two Gulf Wars, where it cleaned up against older Soviet designs with minimal damage inflicted in a stand-up fight due to its composite armour. It was developed further with the AIM programme, which upgraded the battle management systems and returned the vehicles to factory fresh condition. The A2 was improved again, giving the commander his own sighting system as well as other system changes. The SEP received additional changes to its armour and systems, with a remote weapons station added later on.

With the involvement of the Abrams in urban combat during the Afghanistan campaign, it became clear that the tank was vulnerable in close-quarters combat, where the top of the tank was open to attack from small arms fire and RPGs could be used with relative safety, as the firing team could pop up and disappear in between shots. The problems of IEDs buried on roads or in buildings also disabled a number of tanks in practice, all of which led to the TUSK and improved TUSK II upgrade packages, which stands for Tank Urban Survival Kit. To counter IEDs an angled "keel" was added to the underside to deflect blast away from the hull, reactive armour blocks were added to the side skirts and turrets, and bullet-resistant glass cages were mounted around the crew hatches on the turrets to provide protection for the crew during urban transit or if they were called upon to use their weapons in combat. A combat telephone was also installed on the rear of the tank to allow communication between accompanying troops and the tank, as well as slat armour to protect the exhausts for the gas turbine engine, the blast from which was directed upwards by a deflector panel that could be attached to the grille to avoid frying troops behind.

The TUSK II kit improved on the original TUSK with shaped charges incorporated into the ERA blocks on the sides of the tank, and additional shields for the crew when exposed. Both kits were field-installable, which reduced the cost and time spent out of the field. The A3 variant will incorporate many weight-saving changes, such as internal fibre-optic data transmission, lighter armour and gun, amongst many improvements. This is a long time distant at time of writing however, so the A2 will be around for some time yet.

The Kit
This is a new tooling from Meng, and only the second in this scale to give the modeller the option of portraying a TUSK equipped vehicle out of the box. Previously, it was down to expensive and complex aftermarket sets to spruce up a basic Abrams, which bumped up the total spend to close to £100. Now you have the option of this injection moulded kit that dispenses with the resin and most of the Photo-Etch parts, making the TUSK much more accessible. As always with Meng kits, the detail is excellent, and the parts-layout well considered, and the result will be a pleasing replica of this pugnacious-looking tank.

The box has the standard Meng footprint, but is deeper than usual to accommodate the large quantity of parts within. Inside the satin finished box are eight sprues and a lower hull in sand coloured styrene, four in a dark brown colour, three small sprues of clear styrene, two sheets of PE, five short runs of poly-caps, a decal sheet, and the glossy instruction booklet with painting guide to the rear on colour stock. If you have any Meng kits, you'll know what to expect in terms of detail, with some very finely moulded parts and some slide-moulding evident on a lot of the sprues. The tracks look to be quite complex, but there has been effort expended to simplify things, which I'll detail later. The clear parts are separately bagged, and have a further layer of self-cling film wrapped around them for additional protection, all of which gives a quality feel to the overall package.












Choose your preferred decal option early, as this will affect some of your parts choices during the build, as only one option is suitable for a TUSK II machine with the curved ERA blocks. I consider that a bit of a shame, as from the four options it would have been sensible to have at least a 50/50 split to avoid everyone building the same example. After the four language history of the Abrams, construction begins with the running gear, as you'd expect. Each of the paired road wheels have a polycap trapped inside, as do the drive sprockets, which are also two-part assemblies. "Where are the idler wheels?" you might ask. They're the same as a road-wheels, which makes repair easier both in the workshop and on the field. The torsion-bar suspension is made up from styrene parts and inserted through the hull into cups on the opposite side of the hull, to be joined by the final drive housing and a number of stand-off struts for the side skirts that will be installed later. The wheels just push onto their axles and can be removed for painting at your whim, and at this stage the shallow keel armour is installed before the hull is flipped over to accept the upper parts.

A couple of holes need drilling before the upper hull can be mated with the lower, and these have been thoughtfully marked with the version that they apply too, as have other holes that need work during the build. The upper hull is just a kinked plate with the turret ring cut out due to the low profile of the Abrams, with a number of PE grilles added to the engine deck to the rear. Various assemblies are built up to be added to the hull, such as the light clusters, driver's hatch, engine exhaust grilles, battery hatch and a quantity of lifting or towing eyes. Work then begins on the frames that hold the ERA blocks, which extend the full length of the side skirts, with the one-piece blocks sitting on shallow rails, and if you choose the TUSK II variant, covered over with the curved outer panels. The front of the ERA run is fitted with an angled sheet that has a couple of crew foot-steps cut in to aid access on the real thing. They are fitted to the hull sides once you have completed the tracks and installed them.


Speaking of tracks, the ones provided in the kit are styrene and of the individual link type, which can remain workable if you are prepared tyo forego most of the glue. This adds a little complexity and increased parts count to the build, but with a little patience, you will be rewarded with a very realistic looking track-run. The supplied jig and carefully laid out parts allow you to make up five links at a time without scattering small parts everywhere, with the track-pins first glued to the guide-horns whilst still on their sprues. Ten bottom track pad halves are then laid out on the jig, and the pin/horn combo is placed on top after releasing the now dry horns from their runners. The inner parts of the track pads are then added, after which you can release the track-pins from their sprues, as there are two friction-fit pins that hold the inner and outer track-pads together. Be careful after construction, as any side-force on the pads could result in the pin ends popping off, as happened to me on my first test. You can see the broken bits in the picture, as well as the jig and a completed 5-link run. The majority of time was spent cleaning up the sprue gates, and take care when cutting the pads, as they have a tendency to burst if you cut them too closely, leaving you with a messy joint to clean up. Another tip is to ensure that when linking all the lengths together, you arrange the clean ends with the hollow track-pin ends on the same side, as these can then be placed on the outside of the runs, as the pads are omni-directional. Repeat that process until you have two runs of 81 links and you're done. Of course I'm being glib about it, but it's surprising how quickly these things get done if you go with the flow and stop being frustrated by the repetition.


The turret is next in the queue, and again a few variant specific holes are drilled in the upper, while the simple gun pivot is added to the lower with polycaps supplying friction damping on any barrel movement and allowing it to be posed at will. The big blow-off ammo storage doors, radio masts and lots of conduits, bases for the crew-served weapons are added, and the gun barrel are made up, the latter being split vertically with a hollow muzzle and a key in the rear to prevent the fume extractor bulge ending up the wrong way. The mantlet has a dust cover that you are told to tape from inside to allow it to move during elevation, but I would consider using glue to hold the tape in place, in case old age takes its toll on the adhesive. The mantlet pushes into a large socket in the pivoting base, and the sides of the turret are adorned with a large pair of stowage boxes and smaller boxes of extra cartridges for the smoke dischargers. The simple loader's hatch as clear vision blocks, as does the commander's more complex cupola, and the TV box on the right of the turret roof, and the CITV (not the children's channel) on the front left. The smoke dischargers with covers or cartridges installed are fitted, as is the coax M2 derivative machine gun, the TV housing, the CITV turret, and the armoured conduit to the CITV. More stowage area is supplied in the form of tubular framed bins on the left and right, with more to the rear, part of which is taken up by the air conditioning unit. An additional basket can be added to the rear of the bustle, and all of these have PE mesh floors. Under the turret lower the extra armoured conduits for the AC and other hardware are scabbed onto the surface, showing how much the Abrams has changed since its early days with sleek slab sides.


The commander's cupola is almost a turret in itself, having full field vision in the shape of an octagonal set of clear vision blocks set into a styrene frame. A wash of clear blue/green will give them the correct bullet-proof hue, and don't forget to mask them before it gets too cluttered. The vision blocks are dropped onto a gun-ring and the bullet-proof panels that protect the commander are built up around it, sitting on top of the vision blocks without impeding their view. The M2 machine gun is fitted to a triangular bracket with a glazed shield preventing bullets or shrapnel sneaking past the gap. The loader's shields are slightly less impressive, and his gun is an L249 derivative, but he benefits from the protection of the commander's cupola on one side. The turret is also protected by ERA blocks in the TUSK II kit, which attach to a lightened frame and are attached to the turret toward the front, leaving the bustle exposed to a great extent. The TUSK kit included IFF panels and tow cables, which sling under the side stoage boxes.

Meng even include some common accessories that are seen on the Abrams, including additional ammo, spare road wheels and drive sprockets, which can be useful in the event of an IED strike. The aforementioned exhaust deflector panel is also provided, and because of the extreme heat it endures, the panels soon become rusty and even deformed.

Four decal options are provided out of the box on a relatively small sheet, and as already mentioned, only one option is for the TUSK II equipped Abrams. Hopefully that will be rectified by decal companies in due course. From the box you can build one of the following:

  • M1A12 SEP TUSK II 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, US Army, Iraq, July 2008.
  • M1A12 SEP TUSK I commander's vehicle, E Troop, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, US Army, Iraq, 2011.
  • M1A12 SEP TUSK I 3rd Squadron, 2rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, US Army FOB Hammer, Iraq 5th May, 2011.
  • M1A12 SEP TUSK I "Ghetto Blaster II" 68th Armoured Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, US Army Iraq.


As the TUSK kits are used in desert conditions, all the tanks are painted in sand colour, with very little adornment, save for a few kill markings and some "noseart" in black and white. The colour call-outs are given in the new Meng/AK Interactive numbers, which should be available as you read this. In case you haven't seen them, Meng are releasing sets pertaining to their kits in conjunction with AK Interactive, and we'll try to bring you some news and reviews of this in due course.

Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas.

Superb. I became familiar with the Abrams after building one after I got into AFV modelling, and have a couple of the TUSK aftermarket sets that might not see action now. This is a lovely kit with plenty of detail that can be completed by anyone with a modicum of skill and a few kits under their belt. The tracks may put a few off, but patience, as always is a virtue.

It is well priced considering what's in the box, and no more than the old Dragon kits were a couple of years ago without any of the TUSK parts in their boxes.

Very highly recommended.


Review sample courtesy of

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...