The new Meng M1A2 Tusk 1/Tusk 2 kit recently released, is one of several new kits depicting the U.S. Army’s “Tank Urban Survivability Kit” or TUSK created to improve crew survivability in urban environments. Due to the unpredictability and confines of urban warfare the modifications made to the venerable M1 enhanced crew protection while exposed on the top of the turret and while engaged in antipersonnel operations. In addition reactive armor blocks were installed on the sides of the vehicle as standoff protection against shoulder fired antitank weapons. Vehicle protection is further bolstered by additional armor on the bottom of the chassis designed to reduce the effects of IED’s or Improvised Explosive Devices.
The sprues provided allow the modeler to choose either the Tusk version 1 or 2 for the build. The Tusk 1 variant had more traditional square ERA blocks while the Tusk 2 had rounded blocks both on the side skirts and the turret giving the tank an entirely different look altogether. For this review I choose to build the kit as the Tusk 1 variant because I prefer this look over the rather radical curved armor on the Tusk 2 although this is personal preference of course.
This first group of steps consists of construction of the road wheels and drive sprockets and attaching various suspension parts to the lower hull. The road wheels were simple to remove and clean up, due to only two sprue gate attachment points per wheel. There was no mold line to remove like on so many Tamiya kits which is very welcome in my book! I also thought it interesting that the sprue gates for the drive sprockets were on the diagonal making it a very easy task to remove by aligning my sprue cutters parallel to this angle requiring little to no clean up.
This was followed by installing the working torsion bars which were attached without issue but were very snug fitting perhaps some filing here might have made them easier to install. The suspension in this kit is completely workable and while some modelers may find this useful for certain applications in a diorama I must admit that I find it somewhat gimmicky.
I would also like to mention that there was a bit of flash present on this kit especially on smaller parts and seemingly without any kind of consistency. It is odd that a kit so new and from a premium manufacturer like Meng would contain defects such as this on a new tooling.
Each road wheel and the drive sprocket is attached with a poly cap and therefore easily removable and workable.
Step 6 requires installation of the wheels and tow hooks and the add on lower armor plate, all went smoothly except the armor plate. The plate on my sample had a significant mold line to remove that would be visible and had a gap after installation that was required to be filled.
Steps 7-11 involves first prepping the Upper Hull by drilling a number of 1.0 mm holes and attaching parts to its surface. I would first like to state that the anti-skid texture on this kit is first class and some of the best I have seen. It is crisply rendered on the turret upper surfaces and the rear deck of the upper hull.
Step 8 required the first installation of PE in the form of engine grills and I found the PE supplied with the kit to be on the thin side and easy to warp and bend if care was not applied. CA glue seeped through the grills creating marks that I have yet to find a way to remove without dissolving all of the glue and inadvertently removing the grills.
The fit of the upper and lower hull was near flawless requiring no filling or clamping.
Step 11 consisted of attaching the additional battery hatch on the rear of the upper hull this required some putty to fill a gap, but this could have been my fault because in an earlier step the instructions required you to cut away “notches” to accommodate this for installation. The modeler must take care here to prevent fit issues.
Steps 12-14 consist of attaching rear hull parts and the assembly of the side skirts. There was no issue here and I found the side skirts to be festooned with detail.
The engine exhaust grills were installed on the aft portion of the hull and are superbly detailed in a multi part assembly and can be made to be workable if the modeler chooses. The odd thing here however was the multitude of conical shaped ejector pin marks on the back side of the vanes of these exhaust grills. Once again I found this unusual and disappointing for a premium kit at a premium price point.
Step 15 (Tracks)
This is for me was where the kit was really lacking and that was in track assembly and its provided “jig”. First off each link of track consists of 6 parts and while this is not entirely unusual or difficult it would be time consuming for most. Meng has provided a jig for the assembly of the tracks that holds 12 tracks pads in place (in theory) while the bi-pin track links are then inserted into slots on each pad. Then the modeler is to snap a second set of pads on top of this sandwiching as it were the entire arrangement together. The only glue required for this operation is to attach the guide horns which that are installed 6 at a time. The issue here is the jig Meng supplied with the kit is all but useless. The lower set of pads doesn’t stay in place as you apply pressure to snap the link assembly together they go everywhere….. I made a number of attempts to make this work and even tried to assemble them without the jig and because of my frustration and time constraints choose a simpler option of a set of one piece tracks from the Tamiya Tusk kit. Workable tracks are nice but honestly since the side skirts hide the vast majority of the detail and the workability I don’t see the point here. I realize however that some modelers may prefer this and I hope they have a better time at it than I did.
Step 16 consists of attaching the side skirts but I might suggest holding off until the wheels and vehicle sides were painted.
Steps 18- 20 involve assembling the gun trunnion and barrel assembly and while very detailed was a two piece clam shell arrangement. I had no difficulty in removing the seam but in my opinion there is no reason why this part cannot be slide molded as one piece. One must take care in sanding the seam off of the barrel because there is a considerable amount of fine detail on the barrel. I suggest using a flex-i-file or similar flexible sander for this task.
These steps are mostly turret assembly and attaching turret accessories like the gunners sight housing or “dog house” assorted boxes and some of the rear turret bustles. There was no issue with these assemblies and the detail is impressive. Meng has done an excellent job of layering the detail here step by step.
These last 5 assemblies will carry the build through to completion with the exception of some final accessories which I choose to omit for ease of painting in the future. Most of these steps are the assembly of the incredibly intricately detailed commander’s cupola and gun station. With all of the armored glass and Browning M2 machine gun this is an impressive assembly. Some parts are very small here and care must be taken when removing them from the sprue. Step 30 guides you through the loaders 7.62 X 51 mm machine gun and similar armored glass blocks as on the commanders’ station but not as elaborate. This step ends the basic construction of the kit. It was at this stage that I also decided to attach the side skirts and in short they were problematic. Getting the surfaces to properly align and mate up was very difficult, more so than it should have been.
At the time of me writing this article there are now three new M1A2 Sep TUSK kits that have been released in the last few months. This kit builds into an incredibly detailed model and I think many folks will be pleased with the end result. That being stated however, this is my first Meng kit and I must say I was somewhat disappointed. Considering their premium position in the market a considerable amount of parts had significant flash and ejector pin marks requiring removal. In my humble opinion this is a huge let down because of what we expect in a model of this price. There were also a few fit issues causing significant delays in construction while trying to manipulate parts to align. These issues combined with the horrible tracks leads me to assume that perhaps this kit was rushed to the shelves in an attempt to be the first on the market.
Highs: Superb layered detail and fantastic fidelity of the parts with top notch engineering.Lows: Horrible tracks, considerable flash and ejector pin marks for such a new kit.Verdict: A solid offering from Premium maker Meng but not without significant flaws.
About Andrew Leeth (RottenFuhrer) FROM: TEXAS, UNITED STATES
I have returned to modelling after almost 20 years. I served in the U.S. Army as a Fire Support Team member with 4/82 FA and later 42nd Bde FA. I am a representative in the field for a large home appliance manufacturer and have worked in this industry for more than 20 years.