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Sabot Publications

M1A2 SEP Abrams MBT in Detail Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review April 2016 Title M1A2 SEP Abrams MBT in Detail
Author Chris Mrosko, Brett Avants Publisher Sabot Publications
Published 2016 ISBN 978-0-9973774-0-8
Format 100 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $29.99


With the growing number of modernized M1A2 SEP Abrams kits coming on the market, modelers are looking for useful references to help with their projects. This first title from Sabot Publications pulled together reference photos collected by Meng Model for their M1A2 SEP TUSK I/TUSK II kit and created this photo reference. I had an interesting chat with a knowledgeable Abrams modeler at a recent IPMS regional convention where he has pointed out mistakes or oversights in current and upcoming kits including the vaunted Meng release. With that in mind, I really looked forward to seeing this title so I could see and correct these as needed.

The title says 'In Detail' but the description below calls this a 'photographic panorama' which is more accurate. The 'M1A2 SEP In Action' section offers a look at a variety of tanks from units in Iraq, Europe, and CONUS, most of which are either in garrison or on the training range. If you're looking for what typical stowage looks like for an M1A2 in the field, this won't be the book. For some reason there are several photos of the M1A1 in this section which aren't used to contrast differences between the variants, but seem more like filler material. Two photos of an M1A1 that fell off a trailer when it's HETT tractor slipped in the mud are interesting, but not relevant to this title.

There is a section called M1A2 SEP Walk Around that does have photographs from around several tank configurations ('clean', TUSK I, TUSK II) but many of the photos come from different tanks from different units in different theaters with differing configurations. Aside from a very brief description in the beginning (where more page space was taken describing ammunition than tank) and a copy of the official DoD graphic showing the M1A2 SEP v2 overview, there isn't any coverage about what is visually different about the SEP v2 that modelers can use. There is no layout of anti-skid areas on the horizontal surfaces of the tank (a frequent criticism of kits and builds). There are good shots of the different TUSK armor modules but none of the photo examples had their slat armor installed. There is a nice shot of the VIC-3 inside the call box mounted to the right rear of the SEP v2, but none of the examples had the exhaust deflector installed to keep the caller from melting when the engine is running. There aren't any good shots of an example with the boat hull armor installed.

On the other hand, if you spend time in the title, you also get a sense that while the model companies say SEP v2, TUSK I, and/or TUSK II, these photos really illustrate that there are a wide variety of configuration differences between units, much less between theaters. Even thought the tanks are indeed SEP v2 configuration (VCU in place of the APU), some had the Duke CREW jammer installed while others didn't. Some had CROWS installed. Some had the coaxial M2 mounted on the main gun barrel. Some had EPLRS while others had FBCB2. The list goes on but it highlights the need for doing your homework and having a few good photos of the specific tank you're modeling at a specific point in time to get the configuration right.

This title has some relatively recent photos of the M1A2 SEP v2 in its various configurations, but it misses out on an opportunity to help modelers understand what they're building and where there are opportunities for improvement. With Meng providing material for this title, this might have been a good venue to discuss that kit. This would also have been an ideal venue to contrast the various M1A2 kits with their strengths and bugs as well as some of the TUSK I/TUSK II aftermarket updates.

If you're a knowledgeable Abrams modeler, this title will be handy for working with the new kits. If you're not, this is still handy to have around for photo reference, but perhaps another publisher will tackle the M1A2 from the modelers' perspective. While I've seen some online reviews of this title proclaim M1A2 SEP Abrams Main Battle Tank in Detail a direct hit, I'll have to quote a friend and former tanker that this is like selecting HEAT and firing Sabot, a definite miss.