ARM: Review - DML 1/35 scale M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams

Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale Modern AFV Series Kit No. 3556 ; M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams; 855 parts (706 in grey styrene, 96 etched brass, 43 c
lear styrene, 7 prebent metal parts, 2 DS plastic track runs, 1 etched nick el); pre-order price US$67.99 via Dragon USA Online
Advantages: provides another variant of the Abrams variant in US Army servi ce; more options for building the kit; replaces "Magic Track" with DS track runs; comes with both SEP and SEP V2 parts
Disadvantages: requires guide teeth to be installed on DS track runs
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all modern US armor fans
    The M1 family continues to adapt and move on into the 21st Century. While the Middle East has concentrated on the TUSK urban survivability kit versio ns, elsewhere they have undergone different development paths. There are no w the SEP (Service Enhancement Program), SEP V1 and the subject of this kit , the SEP V2. This variant is the evolved and improved version which adds n ew internal electronics as well as finally making an external telephone and armored stowage box part of the tank (the Marines have added their own for some time now, but the Army finally got around to adding one to their tank s). From the markings in this kit, this variant is deployed to the Republic of Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division, as well as the 1st Cavalry Divisi on elements in Germany.
    The SEP V1 version 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 diagn ostic features and self-repair modules to ensure the tank remains functiona l even after taking direct hits from high kinetic energy weapons.
    The SEP V2 adds new electronics inside, the aforementioned telephone box, and also the CROWS II weapon station to provide under armor use of the comm ander's machine gun and the loader's gun from a protective position.
    DML has been the best of the companies modeling the M1 series tanks, but i n 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 imp ossible 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 bear s no relationship other than its subject material to the original DML M1A2 kit (#3524) which had numerous turret and hull errors.
    This kit appears to use the corrected moldings of the M1A1 AIM kit with 40 new parts to provide the new outer configuration for the SEP V2 model. It also now includes the wading collar and base for the deep wading kit seen o n USMC tanks for several years now, or alternately a upsweep shroud for the exhaust to vector the thermal plume upward and not down into dusty roads. .
    The biggest single change in this kit retains the 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 t o attach the teeth, they are relatively easy as the tracks take normal plas tic 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 hav ing unwanted curves or damage set by packing them loose in the box, the one s in this kit are packed separately but folded over on themselves. To ensur e 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 new s is that there are three overlap links for assembly, and that one or two c an 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 wit h sponson floors is "slide molded: with even the lower brackets molded with the holes opened up in them. The suspension matches late model Abrams vehi cles, 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 whee l station are interconnected to set track tension, but here consist of a fi ve 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 St ep 3.
    The upper hull and turret shell come with no-slip tread molded in, and whi le a bit heavy for some modelers is going to be fine for most people; a lig ht wash and drybrushing will bring out the texture. Also all of the weld be ads are included (raised, not trenches) and there are etched grilles for th e air intakes on the engine deck. Note there are two different driver's hat ches, one with a reinforced lip and one without.
    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 openi ng the tank wide for an aftermarket engine/transmission power pack. Note th ere are some small mistakes in the directions and a very small sheet with t wo corrections on it is provided.
    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 braces.
    The turret is excellent, and here the silly spring for "realistic recoil" has now been deleted. 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 slipp ed over the barrel and a "slide molded" muzzle reference system cap cemente d on the end of either barrel. A complete commander's manual control weapon s station is included, but this one now also provides the CROWS II so you h ave a choice of initial or later production SEP V2 tanks.
    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 in cluded are two styles of blowoff plates, two different wind sensor masts, t wo different styles of thermal sight housings, different radio antenna comb inations, 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.
    Other accessories include thermal ID panels, front turret panels, five-gal lon plastic water jugs, MRE boxes, two Minigun ammo boxes, and a city-fight ing thermal exhaust deflector. I noticed today that also includes two each parts e2 and e6. For those not familiar with American tanks or motor pool e tiquette, these are the drip pans to be placed under the final drives to ca tch any fluid leaks. Woe be to he whose sergeant major finds the tank sitti ng in the motor pool without them in place!
    Technical advice was provided by Pawel Krupowicz and Gordon Arthur.
    Markings and finishing directions are included for three different vehicle s: 2-9 Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division, South Korea (tri-color, "Cobra King II",C-24); 1-72 Armor, 2nd Infantry Division, South Korea (tri-color, D-24 ); and 2-5 Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, Germany (tri-color, EC-65, option al skirt markings). The last one seems odd as each set of markings should g o with only one tank, not one tank with five different skirt options. Note there are more markings on the Cartograf sheet than are shown on the finish ing diagrams.
    Overall this is a well done kit and adds another Abrams variant - and with the scramble by other companies to go after the TUSK variant - a different option to be sure.
    Thanks to Freddie Leung of DML for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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