Home > Reviews > Modern > Academy M1A1 Abrams “Iraq 2003”, 1/35-scale injection molded plastic kit (Item 13202)


Academy M1A1 Abrams “Iraq 2003”, 1/35-scale injection molded plastic kit (Item 13202)

by Frank V. De Sisto

Contains: 328 styrene plastic parts, one piece of plastic mesh, one piece of clear acetate, 2 vinyl track lengths, 22 poly caps, two decal options and eight pages of instructions in nine steps. Price: unavailable.

Academy has recently upgraded their M1A1 (the oldest kit of that variant still currently available) to OIF standards, with a new sprue of parts as well as two sets of markings specific to that time period. One set of markings is for a US Marine Corps M1A1; the other is for a US Army M1A1. Both appear to be reasonably accurate, according to references, although the bumper codes for the US Army Abrams should not be on a sand background, since photos show the real tank to be overall sand in color.

The added “J” sprue contains 152 parts, all of which are either totally new, or replace less-than perfect parts from the original release. Some nice touches are US Army-type grenade launchers with separate rounds for the individual dischargers as well as the later style of drive sprockets, which are multi-part including the mud dispersing/lighting holes. The new main gun, mantlet with upper flap and co-axial MG port are also improvements over older parts. The main gun tube, in particular is much better than the old (still included) gun tube, which was more of a caricature than a scale representation of the prototype.

Other parts include new 12.7mm and 7.62mm MGs, bustle rack APU, turret MCD, louvered and flat CIP panels, grenade stowage boxes, USMC bustle rack extension, wire reels, water cans, 40mm ammo boxes, spare track blocks (early and later types), alternate gunner’s sight “doghouse”, spare road wheel, turret blow-off door vents, and parts for the exhaust. These last consist of the frame for the center section to which the deep wading gear is attached, as well as a part for the bottom of the center exhaust grill. There is also what appears to be an infantry telephone box, to the right of the exhaust doors. The new hatches on the engine deck top-rear (which are not flush, but stand proud of the deck’s surface) are the only improvements made to the upper hull part.

All of this stuff is a great improvement to the base kit, but Academy’ designers stopped half-way through the project and left a major error in place. Simply stated, the turret shape is wrong. It does not properly represent the lengthened and up-armored front end. Oddly enough, the new gun tube is apparently the proper length, when compared to the parts in the latest Tamiya M1A1/A2 kit. The embossed stiffeners at the fronts of the fenders are not depicted.

The other boo-boo is that the tracks are not the proper T158 “Big Foot” style, which came into service during the time of Desert Storm (where both track types were seen in use). As I would replace the tracks with individual links from AFV Club, I don’t consider this a major issue. However, those on a budget certainly would, and regardless, Academy’s designers should have done their homework.

Other detail short-cuts present in this kit are can be seen in all other M1-series kits on the market, so I cannot really take Academy to task for that. For the record these include: a very over-simplified engine exhaust/ hull rear end, as well as a raised lip around the driver’s hatch. Most kits have “blobs”, instead of separate handles, for the hull and turret storage boxes; Academy is no different. These are mostly easy fixes, but I would kill for a resin after-market rear end for this tank!

Overall, the fit of the major parts were very good and the detail and molding throughout the kit is crisp. The lower hull is set up with motorization holes that need filling and also has that peculiar, large “H” shape, along with fixed suspension arms. The instructions are clearly laid out and should prove easy to follow, but do not always show what parts are to be used together to create a US Marine Corps or US Army version. However, the separate decal placement sheet does have the distinct differences between the two versions shown, so the modeler should consult it. Note that the Army M1A1 is shown with the MCD mounted over the blanking plate for the CITV, but that this is not normally an Army fitting. And, photos of the Army tank for which markings are included in the kit, show that there is no MCD fitted.

So, while the improvements made to this kit certainly result in a much better product than Academy’s original release, it still has a major accuracy issue, which is bound to make it less appealing to the discerning modeler. On the other hand, the budget conscious or the more casual modeler might still find this kit appealing, especially since all of the extra storage items will add loads of visual interest. Finally, this is currently the only kit on the market that can be backdated to an earlier IP M1, due to the turret shape.

Recommended with reservations.

Academy kits are available from retail and mail order shops. MODEL RECTIFIER CORP. is the US importer of Academy products. Contact them at: 80 Newfield Ave., PO Box 6312, Edison, NJ 08818-6312. Phone: 732-225-2100, fax: 732-225-0091. For images of Academy products see their web site at: www.academyhobby.com.