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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