In Iraq, Abrams tanks proved vulnerable to anti-tank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades as well as improvised explosive devices used by insurgents in tight urban situations. The Tank Urban Survival Kit was designed to protect the tank’s more lightly defended areas, adding armor underneath and along the sides while improving the crew’s ability to see and engage threats.
Two versions of TUSK exist for the Abrams, and Tamiya’s new kit contains both.
TUSK I includes Abrams Reactive Armor Tiles along the skirts, enhanced belly armor, an M2 machine gun mounted on the main gun barrel, new thermal sights, loader’s machine gun shield, and infantry phone. TUSK II adds the distinctively curved ARAT tiles to the skirts and turret, and a fully shielded commander’s hatch.
Most of the U.S. Army’s M1A2s were upgraded from M1A1s, and that’s what Tamiya has done to produce its latest Abrams; the kit is the first of this version in plastic.
While much of the kit is new — the upper hull, all of the TUSK armor, and much of the sighting equipment — some, such as the lower hull with its fixed road wheel arms, date to the first Tamiya Abrams, released in 1982. Other part trees carry a copyright date of 1992, when the Desert Storm Abrams kit was released.
Clear parts provide front and rear light lenses, spotlights at the commander’s hatch and on the main-gun-mounted machine gun, and all of the ballistic glass around the commander and loader hatches.
Fit is good throughout the build. The only challenges stem from the age of some of the parts. The lower hull still has some remnants of the motorization provided in the initial Abrams. Plugs are provided to fill the holes in the belly, but I used styrene and putty to eliminate gaps above the drive sprockets. I also drilled out the tie-downs to improve the detail.
The sponsons are open. The extensive fender skirts hide most of the problems, but the gaps can be seen through the hatches. So, you may want to block them with sheet styrene. The model doesn’t have the nonskid texture molded on.
My only concerns during construction were the clear acetate sheet for the vision blocks and the vinyl mesh for the stowage baskets. Templates help get them right, but they can be fiddly. The driver’s vision blocks needed modification to fit right because the templates were too short.
The new parts went together smoothly, aided by good engineering and sharp molding. I especially liked the ballistic glass for the gun shields; clear parts are sandwiched between the shield and frame. You can paint before assembly or, as I did, assemble, mask, and paint. Pay attention to which version you intend to build; there are different holes to be drilled out.
I left the hull, wheels, skirts, turret, and gun shields separate for painting. After a base coat of Tamiya desert yellow, I post-shaded panels and washed panel lines with dark brown artist’s oils. Final assembly proceeded without problems.
The vinyl tracks fit perfectly and can be glued with conventional plastic cement.
Figures for the commander and loader, new for this kit, feature up-to-date body armor and helmets. The figures fit together well and slot right into their respective hatches.
I spent a fun 15 hours on Tamiya’s new M1A2, and I’m happy with the results. It’s a typical kit from Tamiya — generally accurate and easy to build — and a must for modern armor fans.
Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2013 FineScale Modeler.