The idea for this diorama came about after seeing a series of photos of an M1A2 equipped with the TUSK package and a Track Width Mine Roller attached. I wanted to build a similar looking vehicle accompanied by a few US soldiers on patrol somewhere in urban Iraq. I also wanted to use this project to test my camouflage painting skills, both on a tank and on the figures. There are plenty of excellent Abramís builds on this site so Iím not going in to details on the assembly. Rather Iím going to explain some of the tricky elements in the build, and some of the accessories I used to make the diorama.
- 3535 Dragon M1A2 SEP
- LF1153 Legends M1A2 TUSK upgrade set for Dragon
- LF1177 Legends M1126 Stryker stowage set
- RM35159 Real Models M1A2 Stowage set
- RM35152 Real Models Drinks cooler set
- 35071 Alpine Miniatures Modern US AFV crew set
- LF 0122 Legends US Vehicle crew
- LF12A9 Legends US Backpack set II
- Helo Miniatures US infantry
- Arii 1/32 Datsun Bluebird
- Trumpeter M4 RIS
- Some scratch materials
The majority of the reference material came from the excellent M1A2 walkaround available on PrimePortal. Additional help came from the Tankograd book on M1A1/A2s with TUSK. Between the two I had images of the whole tank, as well as some pretty cool details that I could later incorporate into the build. A few other details came from random reference images I found on the internet.
M1A2 Ė Building
Construction on the tank started with the lower hull and running gear (where else) which went pretty much according to plan. At this point I also added the belly armour as per the Legends kit (img1). However Legends got this piece wrong and it is far too long. The real thing doesnít extend past the 4th road wheel. So the rear piece was cut to the correct length and glued to the hull. I left all the road wheels loose so they could be removed for painting and to make attaching the tracks easier (img2). With the lower hull done, I moved on to the upper hull, which went together very quickly. No changes were made to the upper hull, but I did paint the exhaust vents black before installing them. It is important to note that two different types of tank batteries can be used and it is important to check your references when building an Abrams.
Construction then moved on to the turret which went together very easily and needed no filling or sanding (img3). The TUSK package provides extra protection for both the commander and the loader and Legends have modelled these pieces very well (img4). Since the M1A2 SEP has the Commanders Independent Thermal Viewer mounted the armour surrounding the loaders hatch has to be moved back a few millimetres so it fitted (img5). This isnít mentioned in the Legends instructions, but is important to note when using these Legends set with the DML M1A2. At this point I also added the Counter Sniper/Anti Material Mount to the mantlet. This attachment allows an M2 or M240 to be mounted coaxially with the main gun, but is most often seen with an M2. The mount fits the Dragon kit well but requires some careful alignment to make sure the M2 is parallel with the main gun. I also attached the Commanders Remote Thermal Sight to the commanders 50. Cal assembly. With all the weapons mounted, the Loaders Armour Gun Shield was also added and the TUSK improvements were finished off by adding the wiring for the CS/AMM. After this the BRE was attached and the turret was pretty much finished, apart from a few small pieces Iíd inevitably knock off when handling the turret.
The final part of construction involved adding the Abramís Reactive Armour Tiles to the side skirts (img6). The Legends instructions say to use the kit pieces with the forward most piece being replaced with PE from the Legends set (img7). According to my references Legends have moulded the tiles with the correct angles on the first tiles on each run (img8). However their instructions are of no help when aligning the tiles. In the end I used the Prime Portal images to position the tiles the correct distance from the front of the tank. The side skirt assemblies were left loose to allow the tracks to be attached and the area behind painted. Thanks to Chris (choose) for pointing out which pieces were needed for the side skirts.
With the tank mostly completed, I moved onto the Track Width Mine Plough I had planned to add to the vehicle. However it became apparent that the mounting plate for the plough interferes with the TUSK belly armour, so that idea was scrapped. This was something that wasnít apparent from looking at my references, but there are no pictures of this particular configuration, which shouldíve tipped me off, but oh well. Since the plough wasnít being used the assembly was finished so I moved onto the painting stage.
M1A2 Ė Painting
The tank hull was first primed with Halfords car primer, before the base coat of Tamiya XF-1 was applied. The second colour of the camouflage pattern was applied by hand using a mix of Tamiya Olive green and NATO green. Once this was dry, the final colour was applied, also by hand. The final colour I used was Tamiya Dark brown, mixed with XF-1 till it matched my references. With the camouflage pattern applied to the whole tank, I touched up any imperfections and moved onto the sand coloured parts (img9). It is important to note that there are not M1A2 SEPís with the 3 colour NATO scheme being used in Iraq, but I decided I could live with the inaccuracy since I liked the scheme (img10). The TUSK improvements along with one mud guard and a few road wheels were painted with Tamiya Dark Yellow, mixed with Tamiya Buff (img11). The rubber tyres were painted with Tamiya NATO Black which is more grey than black, but is a useful colour for painting tyres (img12).
The tracks were painted with a mix of Tamiya NATO black and Tamiya Dark Brown and the metal parts were dry brushed with Tamiya Gun metal. The DS plastic Dragon use for the tracks is a big improvement over vinyl tracks as they can actually be painted without the paint flaking off after a few months. After painting the tracks I painted the weapons with Tamiya Gun Metal, and the final touch was to paint the lights and periscopes using Tamiya Clear paints.