M1A2 SEP V2 Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018 Decals
AOA is a relatively new decal manufacturer that has become known for their aircraft decal sets (several popular scales). Their product offering has placed special emphasis on Vietnam-era US naval aircraft. AOA’s products are available from the larger distributors such as Sprue Brothers, Hannants, BNB, etc. This product is their first offering for an armor model subject.
This decal set’s subject is rather unique: 1/35 M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams in a 2018 NATO training competition configuration. The Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC) was an annual, multinational tank platoon competition held from 2016 to 2018 at the Grafenwöhr Training Area, Germany, and hosted by the U.S. Army Europe and the German Army. At the SETC, crews from NATO and non-NATO partners competed in defensive and offensive operations (see Wikipedia).
AOA's decal sheet provides the special retro-style markings used by M1 tanks of the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One) while participating in the last SETC. These markings can represent one of two possible similarly marked tanks.
The accompanying product literature says that these decals are specifically for the 1/35 M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams kits by Rye Field Model (RFM) and VOIIO, but there seems to be no reason that they could not be applied to similar M1A2 models by other manufacturers. 15 decals are printed on the decal sheet. Hull codes are available for two specific vehicles. In a nice touch, instructions are included for the correct background colors of the unit number hull stencils.
The decals and the placement reference information are well-protected in a clear plastic envelope. The information card includes six crisp, detailed photos of the subject vehicles, which detail the placement of the markings. These references also serve to guide the weathering for the model (see photos).
The decals themselves are crisply printed with bright, well defined colors (see photo) .
Four of them were tested for this review. Plastruct® sheet, which was primed and painted with Vallejo Splinter Green (249), was used for the substrate. It was prepared with a coat of PFM (Future). The decals came right off the backing sheet shortly after being submerged in room temperature water. No tearing or breaking of the decals was observed. They are very thin, and care must be taken to not allow these decals to become twisted. The decals were applied over a light wet coating of Microscale’s MicroSol®. After two coatings of MicroSet®, they settled down quite nicely to the substrate’s surface, with no wrinkles or bubbles. The decals then received a seal coat of Testor’s Glosscote®. Prior to this application, the decals were shiny, and the seal coat did not significantly change the sheen or the appearance of the decals’ colors, as they remained sharp and vivid (see photo).
AOA’s decals are of high quality and their product literature is very useful to the modeler. These markings are sharp and colorful. This highly recommended offering provides a unique opportunity to model modern US vehicles that are not widely depicted. The modeling community should look forward to more armor offerings from AOA Decals.
Special thanks go to AOA Decals for providing these decals for review.