Kit Review: Tamiya 1/35 Military Miniature Kit No. 35269; M1A2 Abrams Operation Iraqi Freedom; 352 parts (318 in tan styrene, 22 in black acetal plastic, 8 clear styrene, 2 in glueable vinyl, 1 nylon mesh, 1 section of sheet styrene); price $45
Advantages: turret is nice and has a very good looking and easy to assemble bustle rack; lots of useful "kit" to fill it with; options for early and late M1A1 and M1A2 gives a number of options
Disadvantages: hull is alas still from the original 1982 XM-1 tank release
Recommendation: to all modern US armor fans
One complaint which has been heard over the years about Tamiya is that they try and run their molds farther than they should without making major changes to the entire kit. Too often they replace one or two sprues in a kit and then double the price for the "new" offering, which tries to combine molds that have undergone amortization with those which have just come into being. In some cases this works, in others it does not.
The "new" M1A2 kit is an example of again trying to stretch out molds without redoing them. Here is the evolution of this particular kit.
In 1982 Tamiya got the jump on the rest of the modeling world when they were the first company to release a kit of the then brand new M1 Abrams tank. This kit (#35124) This kit was a represenation of one of the twenty XM-1 evaluation tanks built, and as such is not was not even a standard production M-1. It came with a CVC but was in fatigues just as the the Army was converting to the battle dress uniform (BDU). To add insult to injury, the kit was motorized with the hull openings and mounts for a motor, gear case and batteries.
After a number of years, Tamiya made a slight upgrade to the kit in 1992 after Desert Storm (#35156 M1A1) but did not get its research correct on the kit. The first 3,000 kits produced went out the door with an M1 turret that was a scale10" too short, and modelers jumped all over it for being totally wrong. To their credit, Tamiya pulled the kits and redid the turret molds. But the result was ). The improved kit had a better turret shape but much of the rest was simply stick-on parts for the original 1982 kit. The price also jumped up for the new model, being about twice the cost of the original. (That kit was put out by Tamiya USA at one point for as little as $12, so was a good deal.)
Later, a version of the modified kit was produced with a mine plow. This was in response to a DML kit of the same subject, and while the mine plow was well done, it still sat on the sort-of M1A1 kit.
According to the sprues in this kit, Tamiya quietly reworked the kit sprues in1998. The kit now has a figure in BDUs and also cutaway skirts and no "safety" rings for the drivers. Also the rear panel was redone with corrected taillights and many of the minor details it had been missing since 1982.
This kit was released at the end of 2003 to compete with kits released by Dragon, Italeri, and Trumpeter, and as such was the last one to make it to market. It, like the others, does offer the ability to make one of several different versions of the M1 series tanks: an early model M1A1, the so-called M1A1 "Heavy Armor" or late production M1A1, and the initial production model US version of the M1A2. Contrary to the instructions, however, US sources and photos show that no M1A2 tanks were involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom; they only arrived in country after major combat had ended.
The kit provides markings for five different tanks: two M1A2 tanks from the2nd Squadron (not battalion) 3rd ACR tank in Iraq in April 2003; an M1A1 from 1-69 Armor, 3ID, in Iraq, April 2003; an M1A2 from 2nd Tanks, 1st MEF, in Iraq April 2003; and an M1A1 from 1-77 Armor, 1ID, in Kosovo 1999. However, the 3rd ACR did not participate in OIF but only arrived after the combat actions were over; also, the Marines were using tanks from the forces afloat and as such were M1A1 tanks and not M1A2 tanks. Ergo, the 3ACR tanks are correct for post OIF; the Marine tank is not and should be an A1.
That being said, Tamiya has done quite a bit to change the kit around. Sprues D, G. and F replace about 120 parts in the kit and also one sprue from kit #35266, Modern US Accessories, is included. This includes a puppy and other bits, such as cots and MOLLE packs, to "bulk" up the bustle rack.
The turret is a complete redo and only uses a few parts from the older M1A1 kit turret in the instances where the builder wants to make an M1A1. Two new crew members with "flak jacket" style body armor are included and are superior to the other figure that comes with the kit. The late model M1A1 and M1A2 commander's cupola with manual M2HB .50 caliber is included and is nicer than the repop of the original remote control one from the older M1A1 and XM-1 kits. There is also a new muzzle cap for the M256 gun with the mirror device for boresighting and droop determination, as well as an option for the late model (12 barrel) smoke grenade launchers. The OIF "dazzler" used by the USMC is included (parts D 60-63) that was used to ensure that beam-riding ATGM missiles would be deflected. Also provided is a nice bustle rack mounted APU.
Many of the original kit's detail parts are replaced on these sprues, including separate clear lenses being included for the head and taillights as well as some details badly needed to finish off the rear plate.
All that being said, the unfortunate part is that the original hull from the1982 release is still used as the underpinnings for the great new turret parts. This has a lot of missing or simplified details that were NOT replaced or fixed, such as the early headlight guards, simplified fender and skirt details, the original lower hull pan with motorization holes. Also missing is any attempt at texturing the upper surfaces, which now have large areas of "no-skid" coating on them to protect crewmen walking on the upper surface of the vehicle.
A brand-new set of improved "Big Foot" tracks are included and are very nicely done. Check them to see how they fit, as traditionally Tamiya has included one link too many in order to make installation easy or to help motorization results. It is usually an easy matter to remove one link, and there is enough room to do that here; however, it will necessitate removing the guide pins from the first of the two links with pins to get the tracks to fit together if you do this.
The complete set of five thermal identification panels (TIP) are included; three "venetian blind" type ones for the sides and rear of the turret bustle rack, and also a section of thin styrene sheet for those mounted on the front faces of the turret. The corner markers for them are found on the decal sheet.
Incidentally, if you are curious about the age of the parts and when the sprues were made, you can read them off the kit sprues yourself:35156 0982018 - A sprue 35156 0982019 - B sprue 35156 0982020 - Upper Hull 35156 0982021 - Lower Hull (1998 revision for Kit 35156, M1A1)
35266 A903009 - V sprue35266 A903009 - W sprue (2003 release of Modern US Accessories)
35269 A903029 - D sprue35269 A903030 - F sprue 35269 A903031 - G sprue (2003 release of M1A2 OIF kit)
Overall, this kit would leap up in the pack of four if Tamiya would just fix the numerous small flaws with the original 1982 parts. That doesn't seem to be too much to ask for the most expensive kit in this group.