Rye Field Model 1/35 M1A1/A2 Abrams w/ Full Interior

KIT #: RM 5007
PRICE: $80.00
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Donald Zhou
NOTES: Advantages: Extremely detailed, Full Interior with turret basket, Abrams Power Pack and driver station, Some very valuable accessories in the kit.
Disadvantages: EXTREME high parts count, VERY pesky track link assembly, missing and mistakes in the instruction


 The M1 series of tanks was developed in the 70’s as a replacement for the venerable M60. Previously, in a joint program with then West Germany, the U.S. produced the MBT-70 in the ‘60’s as a replacement. That never worked. The then new 155mm short barreled cannon, which can fire the Shillelagh missile was prone to break down and jamming. The rest of the vehicle didn’t fare better either and both nations eventually backed out. The Germans went on to produce their own very successful Leopard II MBT while the U.S. went on to eventually produce the M1.

The first prototype was produced in 1976. The winner was Chrysler. The Germans, who were adamant on selling the Leopard to the U.S. was deemed too expensive while the GM design was deemed too inferior. The tank was the XM1. After Chrysler was bought out by General Dynamics, the design was further improved. It had the same 105mm Royal Ordnance cannon found on the M60, which is upgradable to the 120mm Rhinemetal smoothbore found on the Leopard II. It also had massive improvement to the armor with the British Chobham ceramic armor plates that’s a whole generation ahead of the rolled homogeneous armor found in the M60. The biggest improvement however, was the fire control system. Previous tanks all used analogue sights with daylight vision systems. The M1 replaced them with digital fire control computers with laser range finders that was several jumps ahead along with a Forward Looking Inferred sensors that allowed the tank to fight at night or bad weather. Efficiency were greatly improved although older more experienced crews’ improvement was only incremental. However, the improvements among new raw crews was three or even four times better than older tanks, meaning they can be brought up to standard far quicker. The tank entered service in 1980 and quickly started to prove themselves. Over 3300 M1 were produced. The tanks can run up to 45MPH although there are reports of crews who disabled their governors on the tanks and went up to 55MPH and even beyond! The tank also features an AGT-1500 turbine engine. The engine is quiet, so quiet in fact, the tank gained a nickname of whispering death and can use any sort of fuel, everything from diesel, to straight gasoline and in a pinch, raw alcohol can be burned (although as might surmised, using raw alcohol will wreck the engine’s life). In service, the tank just uses diesel to save logistics nightmares. However, the big disadvantage is the turbine is a huge fuel hog and draws as much as a gallon of fuel for every mile and its infer-red signature is also quite high.

The next major upgrades is the M1A1 version. The biggest difference is the main armament. The Rhinemetal 120mm smoothbore replaced the British 105mm rifled cannon. This meant ammo capacity was dropped from 53 to 42. The other was the armor. Especially the HA (Heavy Armor) and HC (Heavy armor Common) variants, which contained a layer of depleted Uranium to further harden and upgrade the armor. Other improvements includes better bustle racks and a hole was opened just in front of the loader. This hole will prove critical for the next series of upgrade then in development. Over 6000 M1A1’s were produced, many of them are now or have been upgraded under the AIM or Abrams Improvement Management program.

The tank, now named Abrams after late Gen. Creighton Abrams, baptism of fire came in the Middle East. When Iraq and Sadadum Insane invaded Kuwait, U.S. and her allies quickly formed a line of defense to defend Saudi Arabia. Critical among the pieces were Abrams. In fact, over 1800 of the tanks were sent to the Gulf, many of them the latest HA variants to deal with the T-72’s. Before the battle, questions about the tank’s price and effectiveness abound but all of that was settled quickly when the tank proved itself in battle.

In fact, the Abrams totally outclassed its opponents. It can hit its targets as far away as 2KM away and its rangefinders and FLIR worked well in both daylight and night, especially when smoke fire engulfed the region. In fact, one anecdote from the war shows just how near invulnerable the tank was. During a drive, one Abram got stuck in mud. The rest of the unit passed it by since they were under orders to keep moving. While waiting for a tow, three Iraqi T-72’s attacked. The first one fired a HEAT shell and did nothing to the tank. The M1 responded by firing an armor piercing shell that nearly blew the turret off! The second one, not heeding the lesson, also fired a HEAT shell that only made the tank angrier. A second round turned this tank into a funeral pyre. The third tank, finally heeding the warning, fired an armor piercing round that left a grove in the Abrams frontal glacis plate but did not penetrate. Seeing further fighting was redundant, it hid behind a sand berm, thinking it was safe. However, through its FLIR unit, the Abrams tracked the last Iraqi tank and saw the heat plume from its exhaust and put the round where the turret was. The armor piercing round slammed through the sand berm and still penetrated the tank on the other side.

By this time, further Abrams had arrived but still no tow truck…Orders came from above to destroy the stricken tank in place. Since the rest of the Abrams crews did not have high explosives, they decided to use their main cannons for the job.

However, two rounds against the front armor proved to be useless, a tank came up against the side and fired one through the ammo storage bin and finally penetrated. All that did was to set off the blast off panel on top of the turret, which vent the explosive force upwards. After the fire died down, the tank proved to be as tough as ever! While discussing on what to do, the tow finally arrived and with three M88 recovery vehicles, the stricken M1 was finally dragged out of the mud!

There were some hard lessons too though. The least of which, like the M2 Bradley, it turned out, the biggest enemy wasn’t the enemy…it was friendly fire. Of the 9 Abrams destroyed in the war, 7 was from friendlies. At least two was from an errand AH-64 Apache strike with one total loss

After the war, further improvements were added. The biggest was the M1A2 version. The hole on top of the tank was replaced by a CIV or Commander Independent thermal Viewer. This allowed the tank to finally conduct “Search while hunt” at the same time. Electronics were further improved to allow one A2 to talk to another or any similarly equipped tank. Furthermore, to guard against the painful lesson of friendly fire, “cold” identification panels were added to the front of the turret, the side and rear. The A2 was also improved with the SEP or System Expansion Program and the SEP2, which added FBCB2 and other improvement to the armor etc.

By the time the second Gulf War rolled around, the Abrams that participated in this war only look like the same Abrams that participated in the first one. The insides though, were completely different and generations ahead. After the war, however, the Abrams faced its toughest test yet, fighting in urban terrain.

The fact of the matter is, tanks are not suited in urban terrain. They are too big, too unwieldy in a city and there are a lot of spots for insurgents to take pot shots at it. The press were quick to point out the Russian disaster that was Chechenia and Grozny. Insurgents quickly found out going toe to toe with an Abrams was tantamount to suicide. However, taking pot shot at it from the rear or firing an RPG from the rooftop at the tank’s roof is a far better option. Either that, or load up an IED and then blow up its soft underbelly!

To combat this, the Tank Urban Survival Kit upgrade was developed. This is a field upgradable kit that radically improve the tank’s survival in an urban terrain. The first thing added was something from WW II, an infantry to tank talkie phone on the back. The next one was a “V” shaped armor piece that was added to the belly to not only add armor strength against IED’s, but also to blunt and deflect the blast away from the tank. The third is a series of armor glass panes were added to both the commander and the loader’s weapon stations so they can operate their weapons out of the tank without worrying about snipers. Finally, to guard against the tank’s sides, a series of ERA armor panels were added to the tank’s side skirts.

When introduced, the kit quickly proved popular and well suited in an urban terrain. However, further improvements were added from combat reports. These became the TUSK II kit. These includes: further slate armors were added to the rear engine grill. A second .50 cal machine gun was added to the top of the main cannon and a series of ceramic tile ERA armor pieces were added to the turret sides and onto the existing side skirt ERA armor.

With these improvements, the tank soon proved to be a hard nut to crack. There is a M1A3 version. However, due to budget cuts, that version is in limbo so the Army and Marines will have to do with the current version for the foreseeable future.


Abrams-titis anyone? Ok, now on to my fourth Abrams related kit! This one again is the Rye Field Models one…Actually, I just found out Rye Field Models may be a new brand, but the company behind it, Zhi Li Moulds Plastic Co. Ltd. Isn’t quite new. As it turns out, they own another brand, Kitty Hawk that now has a few years under its belt. It seems KH is Zhi Li’s aircraft modeling branch, RFM is their land based branch. Anyways, so what does this kit contains that’s different from now, all the many and confusing Abrams kits out there? Well, the differences are quite few.

The first big difference, and this is BBBIIIIGGGGG with a capital, bolded and underlined big of course, is the interior. Now previously, Dragon release an M1A1 HA/HC kit with a mine plow over 27 (TWENTY-SEVEN!!!!! My….how the years have passed! That was my first M1A1 model!) years ago that contained a very rudimentary interior. At that time, the interior of the Abrams was still very much classified, so Dragon had to make do with a few photos shot through the various hatches on the real tank. The end result was not only the interior was very rudimentary, but also very incorrect. Warp to now. This kits interior blew that one out of the water, raised it, and promptly fired a few Mk 48 ADCAP’s into it to send it to meet Davy Jones once again! Half of the equation is that there are now plenty photos of the Abrams interior since it is now long declassified. And judging from the kit, it looks like RFM got to go inside and fumble around the interior of an Abrams for quite a few bit before returning to the drawing boards…..The turret is occupied to the brim with both M1A1 and M1A2 parts, with the A2 parts clearly called out in green highlights to differentiate from the A1. This space is filled with a detailed 120mm cannon and breech, all 40 rounds of 120mm shells which includes both HEAT and Sabot rounds and strangely, a few training rounds……..Which were never carried on operational Abrams. Looks like the Army happily showed every single rounds capable of firing out of that huge cannon and RFM happily decided to include all of them! Not a big deal. You can easily hide these rounds under the ammo bin. The turret basket is included with photo-etch side mesh and a busy commander and gunner station. The turret sides contains a detailed gunner and commander sighting unit and loader station, with an open ammo door…Which, technically is incorrect since to open this door, the loader need to hit a switch with his knee and keep on pressing it to keep it open. Letting it go will automatically shut it close. But since this is a FULL interior kit, that can slide.

The outside of the turret doesn’t skimp on the details either. The various hatches, both A1 and A2 commander hatch are included with the two different bustle racks, with an external APU for the A1 and an air conditioning unit for the A2 are also present. Again, the A2 version are called out in green highlights just in case you are confused.

The same is carried to the hull. The hull does contain working torsion bar suspension….Usually, these things does not work too well and break easily unless you go the 1/16 route like my King Tiger since at that scale, the plastic bars are thick enough that they can take the punishment without breaking after only a few tries. Then the interior begin with the driver’s station with a comprehensive side walls with instrument panel and radio/breaker sets. Now, the gas and brake pedals are molded onto the floor board…May not sit pretty with some people but once the top hull is on, it’s hard to look into this section though so that should be ok.

Now the rear. The entire engine cavity is modeled with side walls, fuel tanks and a very comprehensive Abrams Power Pack (that contains both the AGT-1500 turbine engine with the transmission). In fact, looking at the instruction, the top rear hull plate is separate, and the power pack is assembled separate then “dropped in” to the cavity, just like the real thing……..I might not use the top plate and not glue the pack in so it can be easily removed. Again, the exterior is just as comprehensive as the interior so you can easily go to town on this kit! The only pesky thing about the kit is the tracks. It contains a workable link system that needs six pieces per link! Two bottom shoes are attached to a single connection rod piece. Then two top shoes to hold them together. Judicious use of glue will make sure these work in the end. Then a single guide horn is placed on the top shoe link! Two holders are provided so you don’t need six arms and hands to work this but sigh………..I just might rip off of the tracks on my Academy M1A2 TUSK since that looks like the tracks are an earlier version. I’m building a Gulf War I M1A1 HA Abrams here, and build only the bottom run of the tracks and assemble it on that tank instead.,


Another grand kit form RFM! This kit can be build up as a M1A1 HA from the Gulf War I, provided you get the right tracks not use a few parts in the kit to a very early version of the M1A2. The only other big problem with the kit, which RFM has correct since is that some of the instructions are wrong or missing. Page 11, where the instruction will tell you to dig out some holes on the side. The correct instruction should read Do NOT drill for M1A2 but the instructions tell you to do so. Also, the entire step 26 is missing. This step tells you how to assemble the rear engine air intake and exhaust grills. Now, that hardly matters as I do have the M1 ABV and that contains the instruction for this. Lastly, when it comes to finish the A2 commander cupola, remember not to put on that bullet proof shield. That is part of the TUSK upgrade and not seen on early version of the M1A2. But for those who doesn’t it might come as a shock. RFM has now since put the corrected and missing instructions on their Facebook site and I did contain these missing steps here in photos in the previews for those who needs them.

So in conclusion…SIGH….WHY DO I KEEP ON GETTING KITS WITH OVER 1000 PARTS!! When you factor in the separated track links, more like 2000 this time!!!!!!!! Ok, you can make the excuse of “It has an interior, but I now have more kits that contain way too many parts than I can count……

Donald Zhou

April 2018

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