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Academy - 1/35 US Army M1A2 Tusk II

Kit Number:
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Retail Price:
Reviewed By:
Joe Koenig


For the “first look” phase, please refer to

When I first opened the box, I could not believe how nice this kit looked. Upon further inspection, I was even more impressed by how fine it was molded. The details were there, but the main question was, “How would this build?” Well, let’s dive in and find out!

One of the first things I noticed was the four separate instruction manuals. No big deal, just start at step one, right? Well, yes and no. You have three different versions you can build, so first off you must decide which one you want to build and then go through all of the manuals to map out your way. I decided to do the latest TUSK II version. It just looked the part of a real urban slugger. So, let’s get started.

Step one has us building the lower hull. This is no tub like in most kits. You have a bottom, two sides, and two bulkheads for alignment and strength. I followed the directions and – when finished – had a very robust assembly.

In step two one assembles the road wheels, suspension arms, and drive sprockets. I really liked the choice you get on the hubs of the road wheels. On the real vehicle, these are transparent so the lubricating oil level could be seen. Not only are these molded transparent, but you have a choice depending on which version you want to build. I left those off till the painting stage. On the suspension arms, each part was a two-piece affair with the arm and hull mounting stud as one and the axle portion. Why they did it this way, from what I can figure, is because of the way that the wheels will mount. You do not have the poly caps here but a squeeze play with the wheels sliding over the split axle and snapping into place. The wheels themselves are very nice, with excellent detail molded on the inside portions as well. Nice touch! Not that you will see them when finished, but great attention to detail.

As for the drive wheels, the instructions have you putting each half together while sandwiching a mounting pin between. They don’t show this, but you also get a front side in two parts that have the lightening holes. Yes, you will have a seam to deal with, but it is extra detail as well. I carefully assembled them, being extra careful on the alignment, and when finished, I just had a few swipes with some sandpaper and done!

Steps 3-7 have us mounting all the arms and wheels into place, as well as the side skirt supports. In these steps, pay attention to which arms go where because they are not all the same. I also left off all the wheels to help when painting. When adding all of the arms, I used a glass base and some square pieces of metal on each side to perfectly align the axles. I set this aside to dry.

Step eight adds the belly armor and towing points. Nothing special here, but you will need to clean up a small seam on the belly plate. Also, I added weld beads to both sides of the hard points. Again, you won’t see them but I know they’re there!

The tracks are assembled in step nine. They are of the one-piece vinyl type but do have two plastic pieces to join them. A neat idea, but I set these aside for now, seeing that I’m seeking an alternate track. But by the time you have it all together, you will not even see much. The detail is fine but the guide horns are not hollow and you do have those seams to deal with. Let’s cross that bridge later, shall we?

Step ten has us building the rear of the lower hull. Pay attention, as you have specific parts for each of the versions.

The rear of the hull is added into place with the lower hull in step eleven. There are large mounting points and it all just snapped in.

On step twelve, the details are added to the upper hull. No problems here; just follow the instructions. I also set the driver’s hatch aside to help with painting. This ends Manual 1.

Continuing into Manual 2, step 13 adds some small details to the upper hull and attaching this with the lower hull. Seeing these parts for the fender springs were flat photo-etch parts, I made my own with wire. Also, you have two small flat pieces to add to the engine deck. I replaced these with plastic sheet. The upper and lower hull presented no problems and went together perfectly, no filler necessary. When together, there is no floor for the upper hull, so I made my own with plastic sheet. Since all that would be seen would be the back portion when finished, that’s all I did.

In step 14, the highlight guards and tow bar are done. No problems here. I like the fit of everything so far.

Steps 15-18 have you building the hull side skirts. These presented no problems, but pay attention to which variant you’re building. For the TUSK II, I needed to drill some holes, but they are already in position and finishing them up is all that’s needed.

In step 19 we move on to the turret and first up is the main gun barrel. I like how this goes together; not the usual two halves that need filling of seams. Instead, you stack the already-round pieces on top of one another and you’re done! Just a few swipes to clean up the mold seams. Very nice, Academy!

The main gun is added in steps 20-22. Before the gun is attached to the lower and upper turret, make sure that you drill out the proper holes for the right variant. All was simple and, again, the fit was perfect. The only thing I can say to do here is to fill the holes for the tow cable points and re-drill, seeing that they start low on the upper turret and go all the way to the edge. They are mostly hidden, but you still will see them.

In steps 23-25 we build the coaxial 50-cal to the main gun, build the gunner and commander’s sights, and the loaders MG and shields. My only real gripe is that on the 50-cals breach, you need to fix a punch-out mark on the side. It would’ve been nice to have the 50-cal done with the barrel as a separate piece and the cooling holes molded open like the Tasca 505. Another thing that I really like on this kit is that – for all the gun shields – you get a pre-cut sheet of masking tape to cover the glass so you can paint the molded-on frames. Believe me when I say that this saves you a lot of time when it comes to painting! Also, on all of the vision blocks and sight apertures, I painted these from the back with Tamiya clear red, then silver. Also, on my copy, I noticed that several of the shield vision glass pieces had a molding type-line through them. I was able to replace some of these with clear styrene, but others I had to use. When finished, though, it really wasn’t noticeable due to all of the detail. The top of this turret is a busy place!

In step 26 we build the commander’s cupola, his 50-cal, and shields. This is a model in itself. Again, I had to clean up a punch-out mark on the 50-cal. Also, if you have the hatch interior open, you’ll need to fill some punch-out marks. I replaced the shield glass with the clear styrene, seeing these had a nasty mold-type mark. Not sure how these got there, but they were a nuisance. Thus ends Manual 2.

Manual 3 starts with step 27, which adds the commander’s cupola to the hull along with the antenna mounts and wind sensor.

Now the fun part: step 28 and the assembly of the turret basket. I will say that this was the part that I was dreading. My past experiences with these have presented many problems. All could be overcome, but they were mainly fit issues. I was very careful putting parts E10 and 30 together; I had to do some test-fitting at first, but all went together well once I had a plan. Then I added parts E19, 20, and 33. Again, take care where these go and align properly. I continued with the rest and – before you know it – I was done. Then, the moment of truth. Step 29 instructs you to add this to the turret. It snapped right into place perfectly! I must say that Academy had engineered this so well that even a cave man could do it!

In step 30, we build and add the A/C unit to the basket. Again, a perfect fit.

Steps 31 and 32 build the turret stowage boxes and add the armor plates. The fit was perfect; just remember that you have some holes to drill in the boxes for the additional armor. Take care assembling the smoke dischargers. These are each 4-part affairs and the only places I needed to use a little filler.

This ends Manual 3 as steps 33-39 deal with another variant. Actually, we are done, with the exception of step 48 on Manual 4, which adds the finished turret to the lower hull. Like I said earlier, pick out the variant you are going to build, then go through the manuals and cross out those that are not needed.

You also get 4 Jerry cans, 2 spare road wheels, and track links to glue on the turret, but sadly none of the parts have any tie-down points. You’ll have to hit the spare parts box or outsource for more items for the basket. You also get a color paint sheet that covers the different versions and their decal placements. It is very straight forward and easy to follow.

As for paint, I had several sub-assemblies. I’m not one to normally put everything in place and have at it. I usually paint it all black and then put on the base color. With this one, I painted it black and then colored the entire inside panels with white. This gave me more variation when adding the base color, which was a mix of Tamiya Desert Yellow XF-59 and flat White XF-2. No special formula was used, just the LRM (“looks right to me”) method.

When that was finished, I added a little more white and went after various panels to add more depth. I used a pin wash, which was MIG Dark Wash. This is a brown color and worked well with the sand base.

As for the tracks, for this review I’m using the tracks from the kit. Yes, they may not be correct, but you see so little of them that it’s not that big of a deal.  The choice is up to you.

The 50-cals could be replaced, but in the end they look great. Seeing as I built the TUSK II, I have an entire remote weapons station for another project.

Did I enjoy this kit? Absolutely! Academy did a great job on this and it was not hard to build. The fit and detail are wonderful. I must highly recommend this kit to anyone wanting to add an M1A2 to their collection. For the price and amount of detail, it is well worth it. Kudos to Academy for such a great fitting and detailed model!

Some photos of the finished model:

Thanks go out to MRC for the review sample and Academy for such a fine model.

I highly recommend this model to anyone wanting to build an M1A2.

Many thanks to MRC for the sample.

Reviewed by Joe Koenig, TRAMPS (Tidewater Regional AMPS)

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