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Meng M1A2 SEP Abrams TUSK I/TUSK II

RELATED TOPICS: ARMOR | TANKS
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From a box crammed with parts, Meng’s Abrams allows you to build one of two versions of the up-armored M1A2 — TUSK I, with extra protection for the hull and hatches, or TUSK II, with more protection for the hull, some for the turret, and added equipment topside.

Features include working tracks and suspension, posable hatches, optional stowage, clear vision blocks, lights, and optics, and markings for four American tanks in Iraq.

The suspension’s working torsion bars installed easily, but the plastic lacks strength and some of the arms were weak. The working suspensions is a nice idea, but it’s not really necessary for a static model.

I painted the hull and running gear before moving on.

The fit of the upper hull (B1) is imperfect, with an overhang at the bow that I sanded flush. (A fellow modeler encountered the same mismatch.)

I also ran into problems fitting the rear hull subassemblies, and the photo-etched grilles were bowed and required flattening to fit the engine vents.

Meng provides a jig to assemble the multipart working tracks. I appreciated the assembly system, which leaves the track pins and guide teeth on the sprue as they are attached to the track pads. It means far fewer small parts to clip and align, making a tedious task go a whole lot smoother.

Optional fender skirts account for different versions. The skirts assemble from multiple parts and don’t fit flush; I removed the locators from the back side to fix the problem.

The turret is broken into subassemblies, including a gun barrel molded in halves. Careful gluing and sanding cleaned up the seam on this essential part. The .50-caliber machine gun ring gets sandwiched between the upper and lower halves of the commander’s cupola; careful gluing allows it to turn.

I liked the optional smoke grenades for the turret launchers — it looks like the kit provides L8A3 and M82 grenades — but I left them empty. I wish the covers often seen in photos had been included.

Vision blocks for the commander’s cupola are a tad snug, and it’s possible to break the assembly getting them in place.

I covered all of the periscopes with red Mylar from birthday party favors to replicate the distinctive coating.

I painted the vehicle with Tamiya desert yellow (XF-59) and weathered with pastels to represent the dust of Iraq.

The decals went on with a little decal solvent; the markings have a flat finish.
 
I referred to M1A2 SEP Abrams Main Battle Tank In Detail by Chris Mrosko and Brett Avants (Sabot, ISBN 978-0-9973774-0-8) throughout the build; it has good pictures of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment tank in the marking options.

I spent 61 hours on my Abrams, and it looks great.
 
However, the fit issues and overall complexity mean this kit is best suited to experienced modelers.


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

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