by: Thomas Voigt [ ]
The TUSK program was initiated in 2004 to protect the M1 Abrams crews from the threats of an urban warfare environment. There are two TUSK variants, the TUSK I including ARAT I reactive armor, belly armor, CS/AAM, LAGS, LWTS, etc. The TUSK II includes equipment from TUSK I plus ARAT II reactive armor tiles plus a 360°shield for the TCWS and a rear camera.
Both of these kits are available from Perfect Scale, with this review concentrating on the TUSK II upgrade, to bring your Abrams kit up to the latest standard as seen on the vehicles used in Iraq.
According to the instructions there are 104 resin parts contained in the sturdy cardboard box. A small PE fret holds nine parts, including the mesh screen for the armoured glass shield between the TC and the loader´s hatch. Two small clear plastic sheets covered with a protective foil on both sides for simulating the armoured glass are also included.
The resin is cast in a light grey colour. There are some tiny air bubbles on several parts, but they are so small that they can be filled very easy. All parts are cast completely, with no short shots noted in my set.
The set includes three major castings- the underbelly armour, which seems to have the correct length, because it covers only the crew compartment area, not the engine area. It is only missing the bolt representations on the sides to imitate the attachment bolts to the hull. These should prove to be easy to replicate.
The other two big castings are the full length side skirts with the ERA blocks already cast on. Unfortunately, many of the bolt imitations are cast too shallow, so a replacement seems necessary for at least some of them. This could lead to the problem that the ARAT II components will not sit evenly on the blocks, but I may be wrong. Another option would be to just shave them off and put the ARAT II tiles on.
Due to the way these skirts are cast, a big problem arises which may be very difficult to correct. Perfect Scale used the complete side skirt from the Dragon kit, and attached the ERA blocks on top of the full run (except for the last one, where no ERA blocks are attached) to make it one solid part. But when the ERA blocks are attached on the real tank, the most forward armoured skirt is replaced by a simple sheet metal skirt. You can see this feature in the Tankograd book very well.
To correct this problem heavy surgery will be needed. This leads to the next problem with the upper first ERA block on each side. These two are a little angled forward to follow the shape of the upper hull. If Perfect Scale would have made the ERA blocks separately, all this would have been much easier to correct.
Next are the TUSK II ERA "roof tiles" which are placed on the ERA blocks. They are very nicely done, with some detail on the back. On the lower end some of them are a little "uneven" due to some air bubbles, but this is very subtle and a little sanding will correct it. For the turret Perfect Scale made the attachment panels for the "roof tiles" as separate parts, with some nicely detailed attachment hooks on the back.
The armour shields have only a very thin skin in the opening for the clear parts and is very easy removed. The armoured glass is simulated by about 2mm thick clear plastic sheet. They seem to give a good scale effect on the thickness of these things. The armour shield between the hatches has also the mesh screen, provided on the PE fret, as mentioned above.
Also included is the .50 cal M2 gun for coaxial mounting, the armoured cable duct, ammo box, mounting base for the M2, thermal viewer and searchlight. All are nicely cast without any bubbles.
The instructions consist of two pages in b/w, with pictures of the parts attached to the kit and drawings of the parts.
Most of the above is also valid for their M1A1 TUSK I update set (#35039),since the main components are included in this set, too.
The Perfect Scale kit has all the items very nicely featured with crisp detail. Unfortunately, there is the big problem with the attachment of the ARAT I tiles to the side skirts. You either have to take the ARAT I tiles and the forward side skirts from the Legends Models conversion and add them to the rest of the kit´s side skirts, or you will have some heavy duty work with your power tool to remove the Resin side skirts from the ARAT I tiles and attach them to the original kit parts, and then scratch build the first side skirts.
For all work with the conversion I strongly recommend the Tankograd book on the M1A1/ M1A2 SEP TUSK.