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In-Box Review
135
Tamiya M1A2 TUSK
Tamiya M1A2 SEP Abrams Tusk II
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by: John Mac Pherson [ OSJOHNM ]

introduction
As we all know, tanks are designed with an "open" battlefield in mind and not urban combat on narrow streets where tanks lose their mobility advantage etc. To address this for the Abrams tank, the Tank Urban Survivability Kit or TUSK was designed and implemented. This included underbelly armour to protect against mines and IED's, explosive reactive armour bricks/tiles on the side of the hull and turret, remote controlled M2 machine guns and much more.

There are two variants of TUSK namely TUSK I and TUSK II. TUSK I uses square reactive armour bricks on the side of the hull but no additional armour on the side of the turret. TUSK II adds curved reactive armour tiles which are attached onto the existing square bricks as well as the side of the turret. In terms of the remote weapon stations, shields and thermal sights I believe they are the same across the two versions (if I am incorrect I apologise)

The Kit
This is the first time TUSK is available in plastic styrene. Until now if you wanted to depict a TUSK tank you had to rely on the Legends resin kit or the Voyager PE kit. You have the option to model either a M1A2 TUSK I or M1A2 TUSK II, there are no M1A1 parts or USMC parts included like the M1A2 OIF kit 35269. The TUSK II parts fit directly onto the TUSK I parts (exactly like the real thing) so you will not have enough spare parts for another project.

Inside the box you find the following:
• 9 sprues
• 1 piece of mesh for the bustle racks
• 1 clear sprue with various clear parts for the lights, sights and turret.
• 1 clear plastic card
• 2 vinyl tracks
• 1 small decal sheet
• 2-page background information document
• 16-page instruction manual with 37 steps

Everything is wrapped in separate plastic bags and in typical Tamiya fashion there is zero flash and all the parts are well made. I foresee zero fit problems and it seems to be another case of a Tamiya “shake and bake” kit. Everything from the lower hull up appears to be new tooling.

Assembly
Step 1 starts with the rear hull panel (newly tooled) where you attach the lights, the tank infantry phone and the optional exhaust deflector.

Step 2 involves attaching the new underbelly armour to the bottom of the lower hull and attaching the rear panel to the lower hull.

Step 3. Here you build the 14 road wheels, the sprockets and idler wheels.

Step 4. The wheels and sprockets get attached to the lower hull. Here the changes begin. There are plastic caps to fill the motorization holes. The return rollers connect to the lower hull with new tooled parts and there are 2 "arms" which connects the hull to the side of the skirts (step 13).

Step 5. You need to drill out pre-marked holes on the upper hull

Step 6. This stage has you assemble the headlights, clear parts are included. You need to cut out the driver's hatch from the clear plastic card. Templates are provided. The driver's hatch is newly tooled and includes a raised lip.

Step 7. The draw bar assembly occurs.

Step 8. Various small items are attached to the upper hull which has also been re-tooled - most notably at the rear of the hull. A mine plow APU is attached next to the driver’s hatch.

Steps 9/10. Here you assemble the vinyl tracks and attach them to the wheels and lower hull. You also join the upper and lower hulls together. The side skirts hide most of the tracks so it would be up to the individual modeler to determine if they want aftermarket tracks.

Steps 11/12. Here you need to choose between TUSK I or TUSK II. The TUSK I bricks are added to the side skirts which have pre-molded vertical grooves (newly tooled). If you want to depict a TUSK II tank you need to drill out holes in the TUSK I bricks to attach the curved tiles.

Step 13. You attach the TUSK covered skirts to the lower hull and 4 more "arms" are used to join the hull and the skirts.

Step 14. Holes need to be drilled out on the turret (new tooling). Pay close attention as there are different holes required depending which version you are depicting.

Step 15. Here you start with the interior of the turret and the mounting point for the main gun. The gun breech is new but that is as far as the interior goes. Poly caps are used to allow the main gun to elevate.

Step 16. The upper and lower parts of the turret are joined together and various pieces of TUSK equipment get attached. Parts for the Vapor Compression System are attached to the bottom of the turret.

Steps 17/18. Barrel assembly occurs here and holes need to be drilled from the inside of part J14. The barrel gets attached to the turret along with some more TUSK equipment for the barrel-mounted remote M2.

Step 19. The stowage bins are attached and the loader’s hatch is assembled and attached. The clear lens part needs to be cut via a template from the plastic card again. N34 is a new-tooled part which you join to the hatch from below.

Steps 20/21. The bustle rack and bustle rack extension are assembled and the bottom of each has to be cut out from the mesh provided. Templates are provided for the size and shape. Tamiya released a separate small PE set for the bustle rack for their previous kit however that is not compatible with this kit; the mounting point for VCS gets in the way.

Steps 22/23/24. The gunner’s sight and loader’s machine gun/shield assembly comes next. The clear parts for loader's shield are pre-molded and the scope for the machine gun is in clear styrene.

Steps 25/26/27. The commander's station and M2 is covered in 3 separate steps. There are 32 pieces used to make the commander's station. The old periscopes have to be cut manually via templates but all the new-tooled parts use pre-molded parts for all the clear sections.

Step 28. The commander's station, smoke grenade storage boxes and VCS are attached to the turret.

Steps 29/30/31. These three steps cover the M2 mounted on the main gun, the CITV and smoke grenade launchers.

Steps 32/33. The TUSK II curved tiles are attached to the side of the turrets. If you choose to depict the TUSK I option these steps are skipped.

Step 34. Combat Identification panels are attached to the turret sides and rear. The tow cables are molded in plastic styrene and get attached at this point.

Step 35. The hull and turret are joined to one another and the turret is movable and rotates. By now you should have a built M1A2 with either TUSK I or TUSK II.

Step 36 covers the painting of the digital cammo pattern for the commander and loader figures which are included.

Step 37. Some stowage is included:
• 40mm ammo box (large) X 2
• 40mm ammo box (small) X 2
• 12.7mm ammo box X 2
• Jerrycan and Plastic tank - one each

Markings
TUSK II - 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Baghdad, July 2008

TUSK I - 68th Armored Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Iraq
- 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

Pricing
According to the Tamiya USA site the MSRP is $92.99.
I picked my kits up from HobbySearch for $50 and they are currently selling for $50 at LuckyModel and HobbyEasy. From what I can determine that is the launch price and the regular price will be about $65.

Improvement Areas
Since Tamiya went to all the trouble to retool most of the kit why didn't they add the anti-slip coating to the hull and turret? In my opinion there should have been PE parts for the mesh in the bustle rack and bustle rack extension.
All the TUSK clear parts are pre-molded so why couldn't they pre-mold the rest of the periscope lenses?

Conclusions
The price might be the kit's largest downfall especially since there is no metal barrel or photo etch included with the kit. Tamiya generally doesn't include the extras like their rivals do anyway; so it was to be expected. The weak areas like missing cabling, wiring and the anti-slip coating can be addressed with a bit of work. I'm sure there will be tons of aftermarket sets coming out soon.

This kit will go together without any hassles and once it is finished it will look like a M1A2 with TUSK. By the looks of it the TUSK parts are accurate but I'm not an expert on TUSK so that is just an opinion based on photos.

Admittedly the Dragon SEP kit is more accurate and detailed but to depict a TUSK tank you would need an aftermarket resin kit or the Voyager PE set. Many modelers will opt for the more complicated dragon/after market combo route but for those modelers who are inexperienced with resin or photo etch or who are looking for a nice, fun build then this is a great alternative.

Highly recommended.

Click here for additional images for this review.

SUMMARY
Highs: Ease of build and Tamiya's legendary perfect fit. TUSK in plastic !!
Lows: No anti-slip coating, clear parts have to be cut manually. Plastic tow cables but at least they aren't string.
Verdict: A fun, easy build with great fitting parts that will look like a M1A2 SEP Abrams with TUSK in 1:35 scale once it is completed.
Percentage Rating
90%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 35326
  Suggested Retail: $92.00
  PUBLISHED: Jan 17, 2013
  NATIONALITY: United States
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 90.00%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 81.64%

About John Mac Pherson (osjohnm)
FROM: WESTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA

Copyright ©2014 text by John Mac Pherson [ OSJOHNM ]. All rights reserved.


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Comments

thanks for the info "Heavy Arty' , Time to go shopping.
MAR 20, 2013 - 08:06 AM
Or you could just get the superior Dragon M1A2 SEP kit and a Legend TUSK set. The Dragon kit is much better detailed and already includes a metal barrel, full PE set, and the T158LL tracks. Even with the TUSK set, you will probaly be at about the same price as the Tamiya kit and all the added update sets to bring it even close to the Dragon kit's level of quality.
MAR 20, 2013 - 08:40 AM
Or you could just get the superior Dragon M1A2 SEP kit and a Legend TUSK set. The Dragon kit is much better detailed and already includes a metal barrel, full PE set, and the T158LL tracks. Even with the TUSK set, you will probaly be at about the same price as the Tamiya kit and all the added update sets to bring it even close to the Dragon kit's level of quality.[/quote] I would agree. Although I got two of them and love them, the Dragon kit has much better detail with much less scratch building to just get the "basic" detail like the hatches, sponson boxes, bustle rack screens or mesh, periscopes and getting rid of that freaking lip the Tamiya insists on putting around the drivers hatch, What the heck!??
MAR 20, 2013 - 10:24 AM
when tamiya hit 60.00 per release that was it too expensive seams sales are down world wide so them that can afford will payyyyyy.
APR 21, 2013 - 06:33 AM
the dragon kits are super kits and worth 50.00 can. they are both safe in my stash
APR 21, 2013 - 06:35 AM
Thanks for the review and insight John. I always get excited when a new Abrams kit comes out, and I was hoping this one would fair better when compared to the Dragon kits. Looks like I'll probably seek out the Legend conversion. Regarding the AM barrels, if I remember correctly, one of them had a fit problem where the resin piece was too short and left a weird gap at each end in the middle of the barrel.
JUN 26, 2013 - 06:40 PM
Hi, All! I've been wondering how the new TAMIYA M1 Abrams kits stack up against the two latest DRAGON M1A1 AIM and M1A2 SEP kits. Now I know- Thanks to all of you, I now have a better idea of what to do. You've helped me come to a decision. I'm going to stick with my 4 DRAGON Abrams kits. For the price of TWO of the new TAMIYA M1A2 SEPs, I bought FOUR of the most recent DRAGON M1-series kits... I have 2 of the M1A1 AIM (#3535) and 2 of the M1A2 SEP (#3536)... I'll be building one of my M1A1s with LEGEND's TUSK 1 conversion, and one of the others as a TUSK 2 version. In addition to the TUSK 1 set, I've also bought LEGEND's "Big" Stowage sets for all 4 of my M1s and corresponding VOYAGER PE sets for the A1 and A2 variants. In addition, I've bought ECHELON USMC and US Army decal sets, all for OIF vehicles. I'll probably add a PERFECT SCALE MODELLBAU "Fallujah" update set to one of the USMC Abrams' and I also have 2 extra TAMIYA M1s- an earlier M1A1 and an M1A2, plus I also have an older DRAGON M1A1 HA. Now that PERFECT SCALE MODELBAU also has the Combat Engineer Conversion, I'll do one of those as well. Now which one of these is going to be catching a ride on my HOBBY BOSS M1070/M1000...? Also have a nice older HOBBY FAN "ACE" that I may put on the M1070/M1000 instead...
JUL 04, 2013 - 06:40 AM
Hi, All! $60.00 BUCKS IS a bit high... As I mentioned in my previous comment, I spent about $30.00 bucks EACH for my FOUR DRAGON M1s... Have you guys seen what TAMIYA has been up to lately? They're adding an ABER PE set to previous releases and then charging 2 to 3 times as much for the "new" kits. I'm not falling for THAT game...
JUL 05, 2013 - 01:41 AM
Hi, All! I've been wondering how the new TAMIYA M1 Abrams kits stack up against the two latest DRAGON M1A1 AIM and M1A2 SEP kits. Now I know- Thanks to all of you, I now have a better idea of what to do. You've helped me come to a decision. I'm going to stick with my 4 DRAGON Abrams kits. For the price of TWO of the new TAMIYA M1A2 SEPs, I bought FOUR of the most recent DRAGON M1-series kits... I have 2 of the M1A1 AIM (#3535) and 2 of the M1A2 SEP (#3536)... I'll be building one of my M1A1s with LEGEND's TUSK 1 conversion, and one of the others as a TUSK 2 version. In addition to the TUSK 1 set, I've also bought LEGEND's "Big" Stowage sets for all 4 of my M1s and corresponding VOYAGER PE sets for the A1 and A2 variants. In addition, I've bought ECHELON USMC and US Army decal sets, all for OIF vehicles. I'll probably add a PERFECT SCALE MODELLBAU "Fallujah" update set to one of the USMC Abrams' and I also have 2 extra TAMIYA M1s- an earlier M1A1 and an M1A2, plus I also have an older DRAGON M1A1 HA. Now that PERFECT SCALE MODELBAU also has come out with Combat Engineer Version, I'll do one of those as well. Now which one of these is going to be catching a ride on my HOBBY BOSS M1070/M1000...? Also have a nice older HOBBY FAN "ACE" that I may put on the M1070/M1000 instead... [/quote] Pardon me, Guys! I need to correct myself- I meant to say "the new PERFECT SCALE MODELLBAU M1 ABV Conversion set. It's pricy at over $100.00 BUCKS per, but I only need to buy that thing ONCE!!!
JUL 05, 2013 - 01:49 AM
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