M1A2 Abrams SEP V2 TUSK II

Published: February 28th, 2018     
Product Image
Reviewed by: Marc K. Blackburn - IPMS# 42892
Scale: 1/35
Company: Academy Models
Price: $69.00
Product / Stock #: 13504
Product provided by: MRC

Academy has released an update of their previously released M1A1 kit with the release of a SEP V2/TUSK II kit. Based largely on the M1A2 kit (no. 13298) released in 2016, this version provides some updates. Whereas the previous kit provided three different variants, this kit provides two. They appear to be same vehicle, one with the TUSK add-ons and the other with them removed. The only other difference between the two vehicles is the paint scheme, one is desert sand and the other largely in NATO green. For this build, I prefer the cleaner lines of the traditional Abrams, so I am going to focus on the SEP V2 variant rather than the TUSK.

The Kit

Rather than have one booklet, the assembly instructions are split into three parts. The plastic is in the familiar Academy tan plastic and includes ten sprues of styrene, one of clear parts, and a choice of tracks, either individual links provided on eleven sprues or rubber band tracks. There is also a sprue of clear parts, a small fret of photoetch and a sheet of decals. The instructions are a repeat of their previous M1A2 release and include four instructions and a black and white color call out sheet. I would have preferred a full color, glossy call out sheet. Thankfully, the side of the box has a full color profile. Given that the molds are still brand new, the parts are well molded and absent of any substantial flash. Since these molds were used in their previous M1 kits, there are lots of spare parts, in particular if you choose not to build the model with the ERA armor blocks.


As with most armor kits, you begin with the lower hull and undercarriage. Keep in mind, since there are two variants you can build, you have to choose before you begin, though for the suspension, it is the same for both vehicles. Rather than providing a bath tub hull, it comes in three pieces. To provide some strength and heft, there are two internal bulkheads that are attached to the hull. The sides snap into the bulkheads and lower hull nearly seamlessly. There are some slight gaps at the front of the hull. There are sixteen road wheels with clear hubs (just like on the real vehicle). They don't have poly caps, but can still be popped on and off for painting. Pay close attention to the instructions, there are different suspension arms and axles for both sides of the vehicle. The suspension, however, is not workable. Each arm has tabs that lock into the hull. There is little free play, so you don't need a special jig. When I was finished, one of the suspension arms had not locked into place, but that's okay.

Once the lower hull is complete, it is time to choose which version of tracks you are going to use. I had the pleasure of reviewing Academy's 1/35 R.O. K. Army K2 "Black Panther" (kit no. 13511) not too long ago. It appears this M1A1 kit uses the same sprues for the track. While it looks intimidating, the track links go together easily, it just takes time. For each link you start by gluing on two track pads to the link. Pay close attention to the instructions, they are assembled with the smooth side up. Once the pads are secure, the links are connected with a track tooth. Again, play attention to the instructions. Each sprue has two different types of teeth. This kit uses part no. three. Once the two pads are attached, there are four pins on each link. Those are joined together by small connectors. Make sure the correct side is facing up. They go on fairly easily and you can do several links at a time. If you follow the directions, you get workable tracks.

The upper hull is well molded. The anti-skid detail is restrained and, to my eye, appropriate. There are not any PE screens, but I am okay with that. There is not much else to do with the hull. You do have to make a choice with the skirts. The TUSK vehicle included ERA and ceramic armor. The V2 variant has the traditional armored skirts without any ERA. Easy. Since the skirts cover the body, the way the lower and upper hull join is reminiscent of the old Tamiya kits. Again, because of the way this kit is engineered, I am okay with that. It does, however, take a fair amount of effort to attach the two parts of the hull together. Not so much in the rear, but the front attachment pins take a fair amount of effort to join them.

The turret is next. The most complicated part of the turret build is the basket attached to the rear of the turret. The pieces are fragile, so they have to be removed from the sprue carefully. I appreciate that Academy has included a fret of photoetch rather than mesh for the grills on the bottom, but they are difficult to install. The basket was, in my opinion, fiddly. The main basket that goes the length of the turret did not fit well to the two sides, leaving a substantial gap. The instructions ask you to cut off two rectangular fittings that are to be replaced with photoetch. These hold two Jerry Cans, one on each side of the rear basket. I am not fan of photoetch and opted not to install the fragile photoetch.

The commander's and loader's hatches have clear periscopes. I dipped them in future and then painted them with some transparent blue tinted with some red to give them unique look that you see in contemporary photographs. The last bits to be assembled were the loader's and commander's machine guns. The commander has a turret, similar to what you see on Stryker assault vehicles. It is a very nice reproduction, but very fiddly. The instructions that Academy provides to place the photoetch inadequate and difficult to follow. There was one piece in particular, PE 12,that is difficult to place. The accompanying drawings and photographs really don't do a good job in showing exactly where it needed to be placed. The other fiddly bit was the ammunition belt. It is made of rubber and has to be attached with super glue. The belt that fits into the machine gun was fine; the tab in the ammo bin, not really. I cut the tab to make it fit.


I use Tamiya paints. Among the various brands included in their callout sheet, Tamiya is missing. That being said, finding the appropriate color was easy. The SEP V2 variant calls for a two tone paint scheme - the undercarriage and CROW system has Tamiya Desert Sand (XF-59) and remainder of the vehicle is NATO green (XF-67). Before applying the two tone color scheme, I pre-shaded the tank with a coast of Tamiya NATO Black (XF-69). The tracks were given an over coat of NATO black and then the track pads with Tamiya Rubber. The pins were painted with Tamiya Metallic Grey (XF-56) with a bit of red brown mixed into it. After the gloss coat, I used Tamiya black panel liner to bring out the grills and the antiskid patches on the hull. The markings are a minimum and are mostly on the hull. When everything was done, I gave the tank a misting of Tamiya Buff (XF-57) as a dust coat.

There have been a plethora of M1 kits released in the last several years. I am happy to see that Academy has joined the M1 parade. In recent years, Academy has really upped their game. This M1 kit is well detailed, affordable, and relatively easy to assemble. While some may find the individual track links tedious, I think they add rather than detract from the kit. Kudos to Academy! My thanks to IPMS, MRC, and Academy for giving me the opportunity to review this kit.

  • Rear
  • Top
  • Right Rear
    Right Rear
  • Right Oblique
    Right Oblique
  • Rear Oblique
    Rear Oblique
  • Left Oblique
    Left Oblique
  • Left
  • Head on
    Head on

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