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Academy 1/35 M1A2 Abrams SEP v2 TUSK II Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2017 Manufacturer Academy
Subject M1A2 Abrams SEP v2 TUSK II Scale 1/35
Kit Number 13504 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros New options Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $69.00

First Look


The M1A2 Abrams program incorporated improved frontal armor protection, improved mission electronics on a digital data bus, and implementation of the independent thermal sight (ITS) (M1A1s had the mount in place but was never used until the M1A2 upgrade). While 77 new-build M1A2s rolled off the production line, most were upgrades for remanufactured Abrams. The next round of improvements came as the System Enhancement Package (SEP) which added navigation and situational awareness. The additional mission electronics required improvements to the cooling system, both of which increased the electrical load on the tank. In order to operate the tank without the main engine operating constantly, an auxiliary power unit was added to the rear turret basket.

Further enhancements came with SEP v2 (version 2) which added improved mission electronics, improved transmision, and the capability to install the Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS). The external APU was supposed to be relocated inside the hull but the APU was replaced by batteries which provided extended power with the engine shut down. SEP v3 is underway which replaces the batteries with a diesel generator in the hull and additional mission system updates.

In parallel with the tank systems improvements, combat experience with the Abrams in urban counter-insurgency missions dictated that the tank needed effective side, rear, and underside protection from anti-tank weapons and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Tactical Urban Survival Kit (TUSK) was developed to protect tank and crew from urban insurgent threats. These improvements included explosive blocks added to the side skirts and turret sides, slat armor added to the rear, SAG-type shields for the loader's and tank commander's hatches, and a call box on the right rear of the hull so ground troops could communicate directly with the tank crew. In addition, V-shaped 'boat-hull' armor could be attached to the underside of the tank for blast-wave protection from IEDs. TUSK II introduced a curved explosive block in place of the flat explosive blocks used with TUSK I.

Academy released a new-tool M1A2 Abrams kit last year that offered options for the M1A2 SEP v2, M1A2 SEP TUSK I, or M1A2 SEP TUSK II. While there was some criticisms of this kit when it was first released, it turned out that the Academy Abrams was one of the better kits of the modernized Abrams after folks had time to compare the kit against similar offerings from Meng, Tamiya, Rye Field, etc. When this latest kit arrived, I was impressed to see that Academy wasn't resting on their laurels, they have provided new parts and options in this release that weren't in the previous release. Let's take a closer look.

As before, this kit is molded in tan styrene and presented on ten parts trees (duplicates not shown) plus one tree of clear parts, 11 trees of black parts, one set of photo-etched parts, one sheet of paint masks to protect the clear parts, and one set of rubber tracks. The kit also comes with four instruction booklets which are used sequentially up until you decide what version you're going to build.

Among the features and options presented in this kit:

  • New-tooled parts
  • 'Long' turret with anti-slip surfaces molded into the top surfaces as well as toolbox tops
  • Lower hull with no holes for motorization
  • Upper hull with anti-slip surfaces molded into the top surfaces (appears to be in the correct areas)
  • Options to build 'vanilla' SEP v2 or SEP v2 TUSK II versions
  • Road wheel hubs are hollow with clear caps
  • Choice of solid drive sprockets or with lightening holes
  • Optional boat hull ventral armor plate
  • Optional upward exhaust deflector
  • Choice of rear tail lights/housings
  • Optional TUSK II side skirts and turret plates
  • Positionable doors for gunner's thermal sight
  • Commander and gunner gun shields over hatches
  • VCU in turret basket
  • Spare track and Jerry can stowage on rear racks
  • Optional thermal ID panels
  • Optional CROWS II system
  • Optional Duke CREW system
  • Optional Blue Force Tracker antenna/module
  • Optional stowed tow bars
  • Choice of track link-based tracks or original 'rubber band' track

Color profiles and decals for two subjects are included:

  • M1A2 SEP v2, 66th Armor Regt, 3rd ABCT, 4th ID, Germany, 2017 (Sand Camo)
  • M1A2 SEP v2, 66th Armor Regt, 3rd ABCT, 4th ID, Germany, 2017 (Green Camo)

The kit retains the parts for the TUSK I and the other SEP v1 options from the previous release, they're not called out for the two subjects of this release. Several things are notable:

  • This kit provides relevant markings for the Abrams that are being dusted off in Germany as part of contingency operations in eastern NATO (ignoring the desert box art)
  • Academy has provided one new-tooled part to provide accurate SEP v2 TUSK II details
  • Academy has also heard its customers and provides individual track links in addition to the usual rubber band tracks
  • It won't be difficult for Academy to bring us the SEP v3 when it is fielded in the near future

Kudos to Academy for providing a timely release that coincides with events in Europe that place the M1A2 SEP v2 in the front lines.

For a look at this kit built-up, look here.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!