by: John Mac Pherson [ ]
introductionAs 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 KitThis 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.
AssemblyStep 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
MarkingsTUSK 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
PricingAccording 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 AreasSince 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?
ConclusionsThe 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.
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