ARM: Review - DML 1/35 scale M1A2 SEP

Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale Modern AFV Series Kit No.
3536; M1A2 SEP;
817 parts (669 in grey styrene, 98 etched brass, 40 clear styrene, 3
prebent metal parts, 2 DS plastic track runs, 2 prebent brass wire, 1
turned aluminum barrel, 1 spring, 1 twisted steel cable); price about
Advantages: provides for the other major Abrams variant in US Army
service; more options for building the kit; replaces "Magic Track"
with DS track runs
Disadvantages: requires guide teeth to be installed on DS track runs
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all modern US armor fans
There are currently two variants of the Abrams tank in mainline US
Army service; the M1A1 AIM (Abrams Integrated Management), which is
being carried out as tanks are rebuilt; and the M1A2 SEP (Service
Enhancement Program) which is the current main version of the tank
being built "new." "New" is relative as many M1A2 tanks started life
as M1 or IP M1 tanks 20 years ago and are being totally rebuilt from
the ground up as M1A2 SEP tanks.
The main differences are that the SEP comes from the factory as a
fully digitalized tank with many new features, such as automated GPS,
IFF, Battle Command Information System (BCIS), automated internal
climate control, and more automatic diagnostic features and self-
repair modules to ensure the tank remains functional even after taking
direct hits from high kinetic energy weapons. The AIM is a rebuilt
M1A1 that is being brought up to digital standards and has many of the
features found on the M1A2 series tanks retrofitted to it.
With the release of this kit, the only options that are not yet
available in plastic for modelers are the TUSK tanks - TUSK standing
for Tank Urban Survival Kit, which is a package most notable for its
use of reactive armor modules on the most vulnerable parts of the tank
to damage from RPGs or ATGMs.
DML has been the best of the companies modeling the M1 series tanks,
but in the early days its kits were noted for the highest level of
accuracy but the most finicky construction, including a bustle rack
which was nearly impossible to cleanly assemble due to its molding.
But with the outstanding M1 Panther II mine clearing vehicle (#3534,
released May 2005) and their M1A1 AIM (#3535, released August 2006),
they have corrected those problems and created a great family of kits
covering the Abrams. Note that this kit bears no relationship other
than its subject material to the original DML M1A2 kit (#3524) which
had numerous turret and hull errors.
This kit shares many of its basic sprues with the AIM kit but in many
cases the molds have been cleaned up and enhanced, and the fact that
the kit has nearly 100 more parts says much for the differences.
Approximately 370 parts are carried over with or without modifications
and 310 are new or modified. The biggest single change in this kit is
the replacement of the "Magic Track" single link tracks with two tan
DS plastic track runs with separate guide teeth, similar to the
concept used with the "Easy 8" suspension Sherman kits. While some
modelers will squawk about having to attach the teeth, they are
relatively easy as the tracks take normal plastic cements. The
packaging is unique: since the tracks are way too long to fit in the
box if packed flat, and complains about tracks in other kits having
unwanted curves or damage set by packing them loose in the box, the
ones in this kit are packed separately but folded over on themselves.
To ensure there is no sharp bend, a styrene roller is provided at the
flop point to ensure that the track stays flat and useable.
Note that one source indicates the tracks are a bit too long; the
good news is that there are three overlap links for assembly, and that
one or two can be removed and still permit a good tight joint thanks
to the DS plastic makeup of the tracks.
The kit also sports some nice touches. As with the AIM, the lower
hull with sponson floors is "slide molded: with even the lower
brackets molded with the holes opened up in them. The suspension
matches late model Abrams vehicles, with no "safety" rins for the
drivers but the parts normally missed (such as V28, the mud scraper)
included. The front idler and first road wheel station are
interconnected to set track tension, but here consist of a five part
assembly vice one part or simply molded in place axles. Once again
there are some are holes to open up as you go, and DML calls them out
in Step 3.
The upper hull and turret shell come with no-slip tread molded in,
and while a bit heavy for some modelers is going to be fine for most
people; a light wash and drybrushing will bring out the texture. Also
all of the weld beads are included (raised, not trenches) and there
are etched grilles for the air intakes on the engine deck. Note there
are two different driver's hatches, one with a reinforced lip and one
The rear plate of this model is a masterpiece of molding, as it comes
with 20 parts whereas the 25 year old Tamiya hull has but one. Grilles
are "see-through" and as noted may be posed open or closed. All of the
major panels are loose, so you have a choice of either cementing them
in place or opening the tank wide for an aftermarket engine/
transmission power pack. Note there are some small mistakes in the
directions and a very small sheet with two corrections on it is
The Chobam armor side plates come with a choice of open or closed
panels, as well as etched brass top trim strips and accurate internal
The turret is excellent, but retains the silly spring for "realistic
recoil" that is pretty much a waste of time. The M256 gun barrel comes
in seven styrene parts but it is the only realistic way to get the
right shapes and details on it. It assembles in the same manner as the
real one, with the bore evacuator slipped over the barrel and a "slide
molded" muzzle reference system cap cemented on the end of either
barrel. A complete new commander's manual control weapons station is
included with the larger view blocks in clear styrene and a completely
new commander's independent thermal viewer (CITV, the "top hat" device
on the left side of the turret).
Side bins may be opened or closed, as can the extra smoke grenade
stowage bins. The rails and bustle rack were the main complaints with
the old kits, being nearly impossible to clean up and assemble; this
kit retains the AIM one of three assemblies as well as etched brass
flooring. Styrene or steel/etched brass/styrene tow cables are
provided for the turret sides. Also included are two styles of blowoff
plates, two different wind sensor masts, two different styles of
thermal sight housings, different radio antenna combinations, the GPS
antenna fitting on the CITV, the auxiliary power unit in the bustle,
two drip pans (these go under the final drives when the vehicle is
parked in a motor pool or "ecologically friendly" area), and a tow
bar. The A Company 1-64 Armor auxiliary bustle rack is included, but
as of this date I have no idea how many units have adopted this useful
fitting. I suggest checking photos of current vehicles, as the one on
the box photo does not appear to have one.
Other accessories include thermal ID panels, front turret panels,
five-gallon plastic water jugs, MRE boxes, two Minigun ammo boxes, and
a city-fighting thermal exhaust deflector. I can personally testify
that you do NOT want to be behind an unfitted Abrams when it is
Markings and finishing directions are included for six different
vehicles: "Hell Yeah", HQS 1-8 Cav, 1st Cavalry Division, Iraq 2004
(sand); "Absolute Death", A Company 3-67 Armor, 4th Infantry Division,
Iraq 2003 (sand); "Cowboys from Hell", B Company, 1-8 Cav, 2nd Brigade
Combat Team ("Black Jack" Brigade), 1st Cavalry Division, Iraq 2004
(sand); "The Hunter," HQS 3-8 Cav, 3rd Brigade Combat Team ("Grey
Wolf"), 1st Cavalry Division, Iraq 2004 (sand); and 1st Battalion,
16th Cavalry, Armor School, Fort Knox, KY 2002 (three-color
camouflage.) Note that unless a cavalry unit is serving as a cavalry
unit (e.g. divisional reconnaissance squadron or part of an armored
cavalry regiment) they have companies and not troops. Two sheets, one
generic M1A1/A2 and one targeted, are provided from Cartograf as are
light cardboard boxes for MREs and recognition panels.
Overall this is another really fine kit from DML and permits the
modeler to build an M1A2 to match their M1A1.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
Reply to
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Thanks for a nice review, but I must add some comments:
1. "Also included are two styles of blowoff plates"
In fact there are three styles of blow-off panels, two from AIM kit and one new for SEP tanks.
2. "two different styles of thermal sight housings"
I'm not sure what you mean? There is just one type of gunner's sight housing and one type of CITV.
3. "the auxiliary power unit in the bustle"
The device in the bustle rack of M1A2SEP is not APU, but VCSU - Vapor Compression System Unit. It is a part of the air conditioning system for all the new electronics in the tank and of course the kit includes all parts to build it. SEP tanks were originally meant to carry UAAPU (Under Armor APU) in the rear left hull and had hull panels prepared for installation of this device, but it was never actually used operationally and recently tanks are modified to carry Hawker batteries instead of UAAPU. New kit includes parts for both UAAPU and Hawker battery panels, but only UAAPU-prepared tanks are featured on decal sheet. Most parts to build bustle-carried EAPU (External APU) from M1A1AIM kit are still included, but not all - PE meshes are missing. These EAPUs are not used on SEP tanks.
4. "The A Company 1-64 Armor auxiliary bustle rack is included"
Not true. M1A1AIM kit included 1-64 style BRE (bustle rack extension). M1A2SEP kit includes a BRE style originally used by Marines, but later accepted as a standard also in the Army. I believe that none of the tanks featured on the decal sheet carried BRE when they were photographed, but most Army tanks carry them now.
5. "permits the modeler to build an M1A2 to match their M1A1."
Not entirely true - you cannot build basic M1A2 tank model from this kit, only M1A2SEP variant. To build M1A2 you need upper hull part from M1A1AIM kit and also some PE parts for EAPU from that kit.
Again, thanks for a good review!
Cheers, Pawel Krupowicz
Reply to
One more comment:
Magic Tracks in M1A1AIM kit represented T158 type with solid guide horns (which were unfortunately a bit too small in the kit - these tracks were the only part in AIM kit that was "borrowed" from earlier M1 Panther II kit without modifications).
New DS tracks with styrene guide horns in M1A2SEP kit are T158LL type with open guide horns, originally designed specifically for SEP tanks to limit their overall weight, but now used on all Abrams variants. This is the reason why these horns are separate - to properly reproduce holes in guide horns. They are very easy to attach to DS tracks, as they fit perfectly and standard plastic glue can be used. And of course now these new horns are correct size.
Reply to
Comment was made as the M1A2 SEP and M1A1 AIM are the currently funded variants and are either fielded or in the process of being fielded.
Base M1A1 and M1A2 are quite a bit different -- can't tell the players without a scorecard anymore!
Cookie Sewell
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