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In-Box Review
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135
M9 ACE
US Armored Combat Earthmover M9 ACE
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by: Todd Michalak [ TRM5150 ]

The M9 Armored Combat Earthmover (ACE), basically, the name say it all! The M9 ACE is a lightweight, transportable, mobile combat tractor capable of preforming numerous battlefield tasks; bulldozing, scraping, ballast displacement, breaching berms, anti-tank ditches and creating Hull-down/Turret-down positions to mention a few. The small, lightweight design of this one-manned workhorse allows the M9 to be airlifted virtually anywhere the ground forces are deployed. This eighteen ton tractor allows both bulldozing capabilities as well as scraping along with a unique inner bucket-like design where it can scoop ballast, transport and through the use of a hydraulic plate at the rear of the inner bucket pushes the contents out. The M9 is comprised of a Hydropneumatic suspension where the movement of the wheels, along with many other features on this dozer, are controlled through the use of hydraulics. Another interesting feature of the M9 is the fording capabilities whereas this little tractor can be submerged up to about eight feet of water. The engine and driver’s compartment are located to the rear of the vehicle which has been encapsulated with a combination of welded and bolted aluminum and steel plates. Armament is void on this vehicle; basically a set of smoke grenades and its armor plate is the only form of protection. Aside from minor engineering issues with early productions of this vehicle, armament seems to be the biggest Achilles heel for the M9 ACE. A one-man crew with no weapons system has proved to be problematic, but not impossible, to overcome through the use of escorts such as one or two Bradley fighting vehicles as support on forward positioning.

US Armored Combat Earthmover M9 ACE


Takom seems to have jumped on the military bulldozing bus with their latest release of the US Armored Combat Earthmover M9 ACE. The kit comes supplied in a sturdy slip-top box with a high resolution graphic of the “Dirt Diggler” M9 ACE from the Gulf War depicted on the front. There are 518 individual parts included in this kit, decals and a set of instructions which have all been sealed in clear polypropylene bags including the instructions.

Contents

1 – Light grey styrene lower hull tub
• 21 – Light grey styrene sprues
• 1 – Clear styrene sprue
• 1 – Sheet photo etch parts
• 1 – Sheet of decals
• 1 – Instructions booklet


From the total parts included in this set, 242 parts are supplied on sprues of grey-colored styrene. There are another 256 parts are regulated for track construction. Finally, there are 18 clear styrene parts along with two small photo etch parts. All of the parts included in this kit were individually packed in polypropylene bags for protection during shipping.

Jumping right into the review, I took a look at the one-piece lower hull tub. Takom has done a clean job of representing the hull to this M9 dozer. There are nicely molded protective extrusion plates underside the hull along with the hydraulic actuators located along each side for the suspension attachment. Per the instruction manual, there are three options to positioning of the suspension. Depending on the work the M9 would be preforming, the hydropneumatic suspension with control the stance of the road wheels shifting the angle at which the tractor sits; bulldozing, the nose would be down, level while in transport empty and rear down while the inner bucket is filled with ballast. The holes are created with a small slot to allow the swing arm to be placed in a range of three different settings corresponding to the adjustments seen with the actual M9 dozer. You will need to select the position you would like the suspension to be at and glue the swing arms to hold that position.

Sticking with the lower end, there are four road wheels on each side of the M9. Each of these wheels are made up from 3 parts; inner wheel and tire and an outer wheel and separate tire ring that fits over it.

The tracks supplied with this kit are of the snap-fit movable link variety; similar to other manufactured designs sold today. There are 128 individual links provided with this kit and another 128 individual trackpad inserts which need to be installed on each link. The instructions call for a total of 116 links to be used (58 per side) when constructing the tracks, leaving extras for the builder in case of mistakes and/or spare link placement. These links and pads are nicely molded with little to no flash seen. The links are supplied in a strip form without the actual sprue trees, but there is attachements points that will need to be cleaned up after removing. The separate trackpads are a convenience when painting.

Slightly over half of the parts included in this kit are regulated for the construction of the lower hull, suspension and tracks, then it stands to reason, the remaining parts are for the upper body and blade attachment to this M9 ACE. The ejector, or inner bucket, of the real M9 is designed to move the inner apron in and out to deliver its payload. Takom has incorporated the movable apron on its model as well. The front wall to the driver’s compartment has been molded with the full complement of hydraulic design similar to what is seen on the original dozer. The movable apron part has long cylinder arm which slides inside the driver’s compartment through this front wall. The builder has a choice of having this inner apron in the in or out positioning; the part is movable after construction.

The driver’s compartment, which spans the mid-section of the vehicle, along with the engine compartment with a fuel tank located at the back left rear, are made up from basically two large sub-assemblies. Several smaller detail parts will need to be installed, some of these include lights, lift rings, fire extinguishers and gas cans. Sadly there are no engine parts or any detailing included for the driver’s compartment supplied with this kit. What is strange to me, is there is no hole located in the top of the part beneath where the cupola is to be installed. This of course leave no option in opening up the driver’s compartment or even stuffing a figure in there. With a little surgery and some scratch building, one could easily create the suitable opening and depict the hatch in the open position.

The exterior sides of the payload bucket consists of crisply molded detailing depicting the side aprons and exterior armor plating, consistent with what is seen on the actual M9. The exterior to the M9 ACE is combination of integrated alumni and steel plates with riveting. Takom has done a fine job in representing the full exterior of this kit. Front and rear track retainer plates, which are consistent with the original dozer, are provided.

The last bulk assembly item for constructing this tractor, is the blade attachment. The blade supplied is the flat steel dozer blade used on many of the M9’s in service. There are no ripper attachments and aluminum blade as an option as seen in the original bulldozer. The blade is nicely detailed though, and in the correct size and shape along with the aprons and hydraulic cylinders. The cylinders are supplied in two pieces allowing full movement of the dozer blade after construction. With correct construction of the blade, the bottom section of the blade can swing upwards folding back onto the upper frame of the blade. This allows a larger opening to the payload extruder when the dozer blade has been raised.

Arriving at the end of the plastic parts for this kit, there is a small sprue of clear styrene parts included with this kit. Most of these parts are the vision blocks for the driver’s cupola with clear options for the headlights and taillights. There is a small sheet of photo etch containing two parts for this tractor; these are two small aprons which cover the hydraulic cylinder mountings for the dozer blade.

Painting, Decals and Instructions


There is a decent size sheet of decals provided with this kit, along with and extensive painting guide giving several options for finishing of this model. The decal sheet provides basically four options for marking of your M9 ACE; 52 Engineering Battalion US Army, US Army 20th Engineers, Iraq, US Army NATO and the US Army “Dirt Diggler” as seen deployed during the invasion of Iraq. As I mentioned there are several options given with the kit’s separate color painting guide which was supplied by AMMO by Mig Jimenez. AMMO supplied the research to the color and camouflage schemes for this kit so it would only make sense that their paints are the only suggested brand given within the painting guide.

US Army Desert Sand
• South Korean Army Camouflage
• South Korean Marines Camouflage
• US Army NATO Camouflage
• US Army Camouflage Invasion of Iraq
• Taiwan Army Camouflage
• US Army Green, Iraq


Takom supplies a 14-page instruction booklet with this kit. It is presented in a nicely detailed exploded view format in black and white. The instructions are number-to-part referencing and construction easy to follow. The instructions do specify when sub-assemblies are required.

Conclusion


For the enthusiast of combat engineering vehicles, Takom has certainly hit its mark with the US Armored Combat Earthmover M9 ACE. The detailing of this little battlefield bulldozer is everything what we expect from the manufacturer and has been replicated nicely in the 1/35 scaling. The movable tracks supplied with the kit are fine addition; simple to construct allow for ease of painting and installation and add a lot to the overall detail to this kit. The options of positioning suspension in different settings, the movable inner extruder and dozer blade allow for many possibilities for the modeler. The lack of an interior is not a big issue; however, the oversight in creating an opening below the cupola for a possible figure placement is a bit of a letdown. While it is not a difficult task to adequately cut a hole allowing for the figure placement, this is certainly one item that probably should have not been missed during the design process.

Overall, I will give the US Armored Combat Earthmover M9 ACE a decent grade for offering of an interesting subject along with good marks for a moderately packed box of clean, well-molded parts. It is a big plus where this kit is not over engineered that it will make for a pleasant building experience for all skill levels to construct and look great as a standalone display, in a diorama or even on the back of a nice flatbed trailer pulled by a HEMTT.

Recommended!




My Build Blog for the M9 ACE - http://armorama.kitmaker.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=SquawkBox&file=index&req=viewtopic&topic_id=243477&page=1#2054295





References
NSN Center M9 Library - https://www.nsncenter.com/Library/M9
Combat Index - http://www.combatindex.com/hardware/detail/land/m9_ace.html
SUMMARY
Highs: Nice moldings with plenty of detail! Movable track links and choice of suspension placement, multiple depictions from the decals and painting guide.
Lows: Lack of opening for the driver’s cupola
Verdict: A well-made kit with plenty of detail, easy to follow instructions and straightforward construction. Interesting subject!
Percentage Rating
95%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 2020
  Suggested Retail: - $37.99 US
  PUBLISHED: Jan 15, 2016
  NATIONALITY: United States
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 95.52%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 87.76%

Our Thanks to Takom!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Todd Michalak (TRM5150)
FROM: MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES

I am building what I like, when I like and how I like it; having fun doing it. I have been building and finishing models on and off my whole life but the past ten years things really exploded. Just about anything goes when it comes to hitting the bench, but wrecked armor, rusted hulks, ships or ...

Copyright ©2019 text by Todd Michalak [ TRM5150 ]. All rights reserved.



Comments

Since it solid plastic under the driver's copula, You'll have to cut a hole to get to the interior . I'm just going to put an half to 3/4 figure in mine and be done with it.
JAN 15, 2016 - 09:52 PM
Henry, thank you! That will help! Vince, Yea if there was one downside its that they covered the hatch, but otherwise still looks like a great kit!
JAN 16, 2016 - 12:05 AM
Thanks Todd, nice review and a very interesting subject.
JAN 16, 2016 - 03:24 AM
Hey fellas...thanks for the kind words about the review. I am snipping parts and just about ready to get a blog going for the build on this thing! A couple of small notes, I neglected to mention there is a suspension aligning tool (part A2)...keeps the swing arms straight in two of the three position options. Also, there are some ejector pin marks on the topside of the sponsons. The back half are unseen once the tractor is assembled, however, depending where the ejector's apron (sliding back wall) is located you may see one or two EPM's. They are shallow...quick fill and sand or just sanding will rectify all! Anything else crops up as I go, I will be sure to shout out! I'll try and get that blog started later this evening!
JAN 16, 2016 - 04:03 AM
Nice little kit; good review that makes me want to buy it !
JAN 16, 2016 - 01:33 PM
Excellent video, Todd.
JAN 16, 2016 - 09:28 PM
This kit just hit my front door and it is fantastic! Great review Todd.
JAN 16, 2016 - 09:38 PM
Thanks Dustin!! Thanks Matt! Nice box to hit the step!! Enjoy! I finally managed to get the blog up and running here on the Big A - LINK Stop by if you like and watch this one unfold!
JAN 17, 2016 - 01:43 AM
Everybody just needs to be patient, I'm sure a AM one is on the way.
JAN 17, 2016 - 04:05 AM
   

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