Scale – 1/72
Model No. FH 3300
Reviewed by Todd Michalak
A few years ago, Flyhawk Models transformed an already thriving model accessory manufacturing suppler, into what many of us consider to be a cutting edge model kit manufacturer. Albeit Flyhawk produces small scale kits, braille scale if you will, their kits have gained popularity due to the bar-setting quality of their kits. Originally, Flyhawk broke into the manufacturing of full model kits with a small line of 1/700 scale ships. Even though these kits were in such a small scale, Flyhawk was able to provide amazing molding, photo etch and even brass barrels, all of which encompassed details not seen in many 1/350 scale offering.
A couple of years back, Flyhawk jumped into the world of armor with both feet with their release of not one, but two 1/72 scale FT-17 tank kits. This would be followed up with two versions of WWII German Panzer II’s in the same scale. Between then until now, braille enthusiasts have been waiting for what might come next from Flyhawk. Well, that wait is over!
In the past couple months, Flyhawk Models announced the release of a new 1/72 scale armor addition to their growing line, the M1A2 SEP Main Battle Tank. Recently there have been a number of 1/35 scale Abrams tanks released by other companies, Flyhawk seemed to settle right in giving us what we all hope would be a welcomed braille offering in Abrams form.
Flyhawk Models M1A2 SEP Main Battle Tank
Before we get started here, the M1A2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) is the second generation of battlefield behemoth to the M1A2; the SEP, or System Enhancement Package is an improved version of the M1A2 MBT. The M1A2 SEP has upgraded system, armor and computer components. The SEP version has reinforced armor consisting of depleted uranium layers with a graphite coating incorporated into the skin into it.
The tank’s main armament is the 120mm M256 smoothbore gun. The tank’s secondary armament consists of two coaxial 7.62-mm machine guns and one 12.7-mm machine gun mounted at the commander’s hatch. The main gun ammunition for the main gun is stored in the turret bustle which is fitted with specially designed blow-out panels. The M1A2 SEP carries a compliment of four crew.
On to the kit! The Flyhawk M1A2 SEP Main Battle Tank I supplied in a sturdy, slip-top box with an artists’ rendition of the tank depicted on the front. After slipping off the top, we find Flyhawk typical packing configuration; all of the parts are protected in individually sealed plastic bags. Where multiple sprue or parts are contained in these bag, the manufacturer has placed elastic bands around them for another level of protection. This I a multimedia kit with parts in both styrene and photo etch. There are 162 parts to this kit, including styrene, clear and photo etch parts.
- 139 grey-colored styrene parts (9 sprue/9 individual parts)
- 5 clear styrene parts
- 23 photo etch parts
- 1 photo etch wheel template
- 1 decal sheet
- 1 instruction booklet
As I mentioned earlier in this review, all of the parts were packaged neatly and sealed within plastic bags. There are ten sprues, including the clear parts tree, that make up the bulk of small pasts to the kit. The loose parts, which were still sealed in plastic consist with the larger components to the model; lower hull plate, upper hull, turret top and bottom and four track sections. In taking a close inspection of the parts, there is little to no flash present. All of the parts have been molded cleanly and appear to be crisp with detailing.
I only managed to see one thing that stood out to me with my first round of inspecting these parts. This being the two tow ring brackets located on the lower hull plate at the back of the model. It appears there are no holes incorporated into the design. This is minor knowing that two simple holes are needed and drilling them should not be problematic at all.
All of the gate attachment points where the parts are connected to the sprue appear to have been thoughtfully planned out. The attachment points are extremely small and for the most part actually located where they are not seen after snipping off the part. In the case of the wheels, these points are tiny and leave little to no connecting marks once removed.
Starting on the lower hull, all of the part look to be correct to scale and have a fantastic level of detailing for their size. All of the hubs have finely detailed caps to the road wheels, which similar to what is mounted on the M1A2 original and SEP variants. All of the wheels and sprockets have the correct bolt pattern and number of bolt heads. The sprockets are depicted with the correct number of teeth consistent with the 1:1 tank. The mounting hub plate to the sprocket is the correct orientation as seen on the larger version of this tank, however, there appears to be four extremely small bolt heads missing from the mold. These bolt heads are almost microscopic in this scale. It would not be too much trouble for an experienced builder to simple add the four bolt heads per sprocket if the detail was desired. One big plus to the wheels and sprocket is the bolting details are present on the outside and inside…this of course, adding to the level of detail. Flyhawk chose to incorporate pre-molded swing arms to the lower hull plate. The detail is great and of course eliminates cumbersome suspension attachment.
Moving around to the rear plate, the detailing to the turbine exhaust fins is very well done. The tail lights and small storage boxes have been rendered nicely in this scale. The lower hull sides are provided separately and have detailing consistent with the mounting points of the suspension as seen on the real tank. The fit between these side plates and the lower plate is exceptional. With only a friction fit, the part will hold together on their own. Staying with the lower section of this tank model, Flyhawk has supplied in this kit, a two-piece track construction. Each side of track is made up from to individual track lengths. A quick look in the instructions shows me that the inner road wheels and sprockets will need to be mounted first before the first section of track is applied. This is followed by the outer road wheels and sprockets and then the second track section. Gluing of the tracks takes place directly in the middle of the links.
Taking a look at the upper hull, Flyhawk has done another fine job in rendering the detail to this tank. The first detail that jumped out at me was the texture of the antiskid coating to the surfaces. This is indicative of the original tank and has been recreated really well in this scale. There is crisp detailing to the upper hull mold. The parts count for this section of the tank is lower than the hull and far less than the turret. However, there are a number of photo etch screens supplied that will need to be installed on the engine deck of the model as well as the two front fender locking arms. The side skirt armor is provided in two full-length sections. While there is no provision to open or remove the individual plates, but the detailing a nicely done.
Moving up to the turret, we find a host of tiny detailed parts to work through. The two largest parts to the turret construction is the upper main section of the turret and lower plate that attaches to the upper hull. The Commanders hatch is comprised of five part with an addition clear part to show the vision port glass. The first of two machine guns is mounted to the commander’s cupola. This is the 12.7-mm gun. Flyhawk has done an exception job with regard to these guns. The muzzle has been molded hollow to show depth and the detailing throughout the guns is very well done. The only area I see might crop up as issue would be the molded ammo box with ammunition. This is molded in one piece and could prove tricky to paint when the time comes…yet not impossible. The second machine gun, the 7.62-mm, consists of the same hollowed out molding to the muzzle and high level of overall detailing. This gun is to be attached on the gunner’s hatch. In the case of all hatches, including the driver’s hatch, they can be depicted either open or closed.
Located just in front of the gunner’s hatch and the commander’s hatch are the two thermal targeting sights. The commander’s sights have a clear plastic insert to obtain the detail but the appearance of glass optics, as does the gunner’s sights. There are two photo etch doors supplied in this kit for the commander’s sights. With the turret, we again see the finely detailed antiskid coatings. The outer hatch ring to the commander’s hatch even includes this antiskid detailing as seen on the real tank. The ammunition storage blast doors located on top of the bustle of the turret is well defined.
All of the intricate ad-on details seen on the full-scale tank have been incorporated into its 1/72 scale counterpart including tow cables, antenna bases and CIP’s (Combat Identification Panels). CIP panels are provided in photo etch for the turret front plates. Flyhawk has even provided almost microscopic weld numbers in photo etch. Many of the M1A2 turret have identification number welded into the surface the turret located on the side plates at the bottom from edge. Moving around back, the bustle rack is provided in styrene. The attachment points are extremely small and there is little to no seam lines to contend with. As plastic racks go, these have been molded extremely well. There is also perforated photo etch inserts for the bottom of the racks. Rounding off the turret is of course the 120 mm M256 smooth bore gun. Again, Flyhawk hit their mark with molding technologies. The barrel is slide molded so it is in one piece with the muzzle is open and the collimator, spacers and the fume extractor are crisp representations of the real thing.
The kit supplies the build with a small photo etch template to aid in the painting of the road wheels. This template fits over the wheel allowing the rims to be painted separately. The included set of decal included in this kit will allow the builder to depict the tank in one of five different configurations:
- 1st,16th Cav. Rgt., Fort Knox, Kentucky USA 2002
- Company Commander’s Gun Tank “Beast Master”, B Company, 3-67 Armor
- Company Commander’s Gun Tank “Captain America”, C Company, 3-67 Armor
- 3rd, 67th Armored Rgt., 4th Infantry Div., Iraq 2003 (chevron back)
- 3rd, 67th Armored Rgt., 4th Infantry Div., Iraq 2003 (chevron down)
The instructions provided with the M1A2 SEP kit are presented in a black and white exploded landscape view with colored insets to show various parts and photo etch. The instructions a printed in English, Chinese and Japanese. The step by step construction is well defined throughout and simple to follow. There is a color chart provided with AK Interactive painting suggestions, in all three languages.
Building The Flyhawk M1A2 SEP Main Battle Tank
As part of my review, I wanted to have a go at the assembly of this braille scale version of the 70 ton US tank. The instructions a broken down into six easy to follow steps. To kick things off, of course, was to begin with step one. This is the entire lower hull section with wheels and tracks included. The lower hull bottom plate already has the suspension molded into the part, which is nice. There are a number of tiny parts that needed to be attached to the rear plate of the model first. Due to the minute attachment points of these small parts, the removal and cleanup is simple and the parts fit cleanly into play. The sides to the hull are provided in two separate parts. Slots in the side plates have small notches corresponding to the lower plate and have a nice snug fit. I was amazed how tight the joints were…even without glue. As part of this first section, the instructions suggest installing the road wheels and tracks. Conventional modeling wisdom told me to skip onto section two and leave the wheels and track for later due to painting constraints. Even though I was waiting to install the wheels, they still needed to be snipped and cleaned. The cleaning of road wheels is best served with clearing the bench, grab a coffee and forge my way through the mindless act of sanding tiny wheels.
Next up in the construction process, since I chickened out on the wheels for now, is the upper hull. Again we see some tiny parts make their way to the front of the building process. The headlights and protective braces are small, but there is little in the way of cleanup to be done and the work went extremely quick. Installation of the photo etch grills for the engine deck are in this section. The parts were simple to remove from the photo etch sheet and glued into place using a combination of super glue and Gator Glue, which is a PVA adhesive. Both have the same bonding qualities but differ in that one dries quick and the other cleans up with water. The driver’s hatch is shown being installed in the next section. The nice part about the hatches is that they can be positioned either open or closed. The side skit armor is also called out for installation in step two. There is a faint seam line on the tops of the armor plates, but nothing more than a couple of passes with a sharp #11 blade can’t handle. At first is was a little difficult to hold the skits in position securely enough so gluing could be done with the other hand. At this point, the instruction show assembling the upper and lower hull sections…another step I chose to forget about at the moment. Since I plan on painting the tracks and wheels separately, if the upper and lower hull are glued together with the skirt in place, there is no way to easily install the wheels and tracks.
With the upper and lower sections ready for combining, I turned my attention to tackling those road wheels. To my surprise, the wheels snipped off the sprue with little effort and there was virtually no gate remnants to remove. I like to run a medium course sanding stick across the wheel to clean them rendering a less plastic shiny appearance to them. Again, surprisingly, the cleanup of road wheels only took a few minutes as did residual cleanup of the sprockets.
Moving on from there, the next step shows the superficial construction of the turret. The commander’s hatch twelve pieces…I don’t want to saythe construction is an “ordeal”, but there is some tricky placement and installation to the hatch door and hinge bracket. The hatch was designed to allow it to be positioned either open or closed. Careful gluing is needed when it came to the hinge. Also in this section, the thermal sights for the commander’s hatch, tow cable and the fine rendition of the 120mm gun are to be installed. Since I like to paint certain items separately, I will be leaving the machine guns uninstalled until after painting has concluded.
With most of the construction behind me now, the final steps include installation of the CIP’s, a small bracket at the rear of the vehicle and turret casting numbers. Flyhawk has provided two sets of 1mm numbers, zero thru nine, which simulate welded identifications numbers on many M1A2 turrets. While Flyhawk has provided two antenna mounts for this model, there are no antennas themselves. I simple made two from stretched sprue and cemented them into place.
I have to admit it, I was fairly excited to have the opportunity to review Flyhawk’s M1A2 SEP Main Battle Tank. This was fueled mostly from the multitude of Flyhawk kits I have seen previously. My hopes were for a highly detailed kit with parts that fit together perfectly and result in a great looking model in the end. Flyhawk has not disappointed me on all three of these points!
The kit is well-engineered and the parts are highly detailed. Even more so, realizing this kit is presented in the 1/72 scaling. The attachment points have been well-planned and are at their absolute minimal without providing parts not actually attached to the sprue trees. There is not visible flash present and the parts have all been molded crisply and cleanly. Upon test fitting and full construction, the parts fit together with corresponding parts extremely well; often so well, that no glue it needed to keep the parts help together. Flyhawk has replicated the antiskid surfaces to this tank very well and convincing. This is right down to the antiskid patterning being molded not only to the upper hull, but on the commander’s hatch ring, storage boxes and turret. I liked the fact that Flyhawk incorporated hatches that can be depicted either open or closed allowing for the application of a mini tank crew.
There are a few things that popped up that warrant noting, however, any of these notations are minor and do not define the overall quality of this kit. Located at the back of the lower hull plate are two tow brackets molded into the plate. There should have been holes molded into these parts, as seen with the front end of the tank. This is something that was obviously overlooked at the design level of the manufacturing. I do not foresee any modeler will have any sues simply running a small drill bit through these part creating the correct holes needed. Second, I noticed on the underside of the turret bustle rack, there were three EMP’s (Ejector Pin Marks). If the turret to the tank model is positioned facing ninety degrees, left or right, from the front or back, they will be seen if one looked up from the bottom…if they actually could. An application of putty, styrene punched disks or sanding is all that is required to eliminate these EPM’s. The basket construction is somewhat fiddly, however, this is to be expected for the small scale and delicate nature of the basket itself. The detailing of the basket far outweighs the focused construction process needed.
Flyhawk has continues to amaze me with their attention to detail and quality of manufacturing! I feel that the New M1A2 SEP Main Battle Tank is an accurate of a representation as there can be in this scale of this tank. Flyhawk has produced detailing in the 1/72 scale that rival most 1/35 scale offerings. Not only do the parts fit extremely well, the details of those parts are fantastic. Those of you who have seen any of the Flyhawk model kits up close will probably agree with me when I that Flyhawk kits are pretty much setting the bar for braille scale modelling kits. In conclusion, I have to give the M1A2 SEP Main Battle Tank kit high marks across the board and can honestly recommend it to anyone who is looking to build the M1A2 SEP or simply a fan of Flyhawk and their 1/72 scale range of armor.