M1A2 Abrams U.S. Main Battle Tank
The M1 Abrams, named for former General Creighton Abrams (commanded US troops in Vietnam following General Westmoreland, and later became US Army Chief of Staff), is the current front line Main Battle Tank of the US Army and US Marine Corps. It also serves in the Armed Forces of nations such as Australia, Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. It first entered service with US forces in 1980 and has over the years since been upgraded with various enhancements, especially as battle conditions in which it finds itself have changed from a tank vs tank to “urban combat” situations.
What’s in the Tamiya Box
- 5 sprues of injection molded tan plastic parts
- 1 bag of black vinyl poly caps
- 1 metal ingot
- 1 small sheet of waterslide decals with 2 marking options
- 1 booklet, with 8 pages of black and white assembly instructions covering 21 assembly steps plus a separate double-sided sheet incorporating a markings and painting guide
Anyone who has built a Tamiya kit in the past two decades or more will be familiar with what comes in the box of this kit: beautifully molded flash free plastic parts, very well detailed, and with no sink marks to be seen. There are however occasional ejection pin marks, most of which are well hidden when construction is completed. There are no photo-etched parts whatsoever, so construction of the model can be accomplished without the use of super glue. Tamiya provides the modeler with a near foolproof set of excellent instructions, and if they are followed to the letter, and studied carefully before beginning construction, a drama free modeling project should ensue!
Construction starts as most tank models do, with the construction of the lower hull. I would advise getting the hull parts together BEFORE gluing on the road wheels. This means completing Assembly Sequences 1 and 5. Then go back to Assembly Sequence 2 and assemble, and paint, the road wheels and drive sprockets, each of which is a two-part assembly. Then paint all the track parts once cut off the sprues and cleaned up. Once all this is completed, take all the painted parts: lower hull tub, road wheels, return rollers, plus the tracks and glue them together carefully. Tamiya molds the road wheel support arms to the two main side hull parts, D4 and D5, thus ensuring there are no issues getting the wheels to sit evenly. I used a simple jig to line up the wheels one behind the other. Once the wheels are glued firmly in place, assemble the tracks strictly according to the Tamiya instructions, Step 4. The drive sprockets are held in place by a poly cap, so you have the ability to adjust the tracks as needed to get a perfect fit. And fit perfectly they did on my model!
Next comes construction of the upper hull. Tamiya has molded very finely reproduced anti-skid texture to the appropriate sections of the hull, a very nice touch. Thanks to the wonders of Tamiya engineering, there are exactly 10 parts to the entire upper hull construction process! I would suggest leaving part B7 off until after the decaling stage of the model. Paint it, but leave it aside until the very end. That way it won’t interfere in applying the tiny periscope decals that need to go underneath B7. Paint the upper hull unit, and then attach it to the pre-painted lower hull unit. Everything went together beautifully for me, and by a very careful application of Tamiya Extra Thin Cement, I didn’t damage any of the painted surfaces.
Next comes the tank’s turret. Like the upper hull, the turret has delicately molded anti-skid texture where appropriate. In Assembly Sequence 10, part B4 has a small ejection pin mark that needs carefully removing. The two large turret parts C1 (upper shell) and C2 (base) fit together very well. The gun shield is a four-part unit: pay careful attention to the assembly diagram so as to get the parts correctly aligned. The main gun tube is ingeniously designed and consists of five parts. With care, I managed to get everything together nicely and the seam and glue lines all removed with careful sanding and steel wool. The gun shield and barrel fit onto a hinge utilizing poly caps so that the barrel can be raised or depressed to the modeler’s wishes.
The Abrams has a turret basket that surrounds the sides and rear of the turret. Care is needed it removing the parts from the sprues, and carefully cleaning up the mold lines on the tubular sections. In a perfect world, the photo-etched mesh would have been included with the kit for the turret basket “floor”. In Assembly Sequence 17, make sure you mount parts B39 and B40 correctly, and in the correct sequence. The instructions are clear, so study them! I used the kit supplied tow cables, as in this scale the detail was fine. I thought for a moment that Tamiya had the three “Combat Identification Panels”, parts A13 x 2, and B36, mounted upside down, as the first photo I studied of an Abrams in my collection showed them mounted differently than Tamiya’s depiction. However, careful examination of photos of other Abrams indicates they can be mounted either direction, so Tamiya is spot on (should I have doubted it??).
The commander’s turret hatch can be mounted in an open or closed position, and the model comes with a nicely detailed 4-piece half-figure of the commander for mounting in the cupola opening.
Painting and Markings
The markings provided in the Tamiya kit are pretty simple, providing the modeler with two alternatives:
- Scheme A: overall tan, 2nd Platoon, F Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Iraq, April 2003.
- Scheme B: identical in all respects, except covering a vehicle from 4th Platoon.
I first prime my models with Tamiya rattle can Fine Gray lacquer primer. This dries to a very smooth surface texture and sticks solidly to the plastic surface. It provides an even surface for all follow-on applications of paint. Once this had thoroughly cured, I applied a base coat of Mission Models Acrylic paint MMP-038 US Desert Tan Modern 2 - FS33446. This was then followed up with a panel fade application of the base color, mixed with some MMP-019 Dunkelgelb to lighten the base color.
The paint was then allowed to cure for 24 hours before a few thin coats of Tamiya X-22 Clear Gloss was airbrushed over the entire model. The Tamiya decals are what we have come to expect: a bit on the thick side, but perfectly useable. They were applied utilizing the Gunze Sangyo two-part decal setting system, with the green top and blue top bottles. Whichever scheme you chose, care should be taken with the barrel ring decal, Decal #4, and also the multi-part marking for the Combat Identification Panel on the rear of the turret. Following the decal application and 24 hours for them to set, more Tamiya X-22 Clear Gloss was applied to seal them.
Next came my standard panel wash: Burnt Siena oil paint mixed with Mona Lisa brand odorless thinner. This was applied to help pick out all the raised details. A second wash was then mixed, much darker, utilizing mainly Lamp Black oil paint, and some Burnt Siena. This was then flooded into the “screen” areas on the rear of the hull. The oil paints were then allowed to set up for about 24 hours, whereupon I took some Q-tips dipped in Mona Lisa thinner, and removed any excess “wash”. The model was then left alone for 3 days to make sure the “wash” had thoroughly dried. I then airbrushed some coats of Matt Clear onto the entire model. My favorite is AK Interactive’s “Ultra Matt Varnish AK 183”, the “matt-est” matt on the market. I airbrush this without thinning it, straight from the bottle. All my paints are airbrushed utilizing an Iwata HP-C and the paint is sprayed at between 12 and 15PSI depending on the consistency of the paint (if thin for post shading, then 12PSI, but otherwise 15PSI for most applications).
I then applied some subtle paint chipping, just to give the overall tan vehicle some added visual appeal. This was kept to the minimum. I also looked at color photos and noticed that the rear hull engine exhaust areas get rusty and sooty, so added some “color” there with suitable rust colored paints both acrylic and oil. Finally, the model was given one additional light coat of Matt Clear.
Tamiya’s range of 1/48th scale military vehicles are well molded, and compared to their 1/35th scale brethren, quite simple to assemble due to a lower parts count. This, however, does NOT mean they are “simplistic” kits, far from it. This M1A2 Abrams is very well detailed and produces a lovely scale miniature when completed. It was an extremely fun project, stress-free as Tamiya kits often are, and you end up with a very cool model of this important modern Main Battle Tank. My sincere thanks to TamiyaUSA for providing IPMS USA with the review sample. I unreservedly recommend this kit to modelers of all ages and levels of modeling experience.