The Royal Australian Armoured Corp (RAAC) purchased 59 M1A1 AIM Abrams tanks, which were zero hour rebuilds of existing US Abrams tank inventory. With this deal they also received 5 M88A2 Hercules recovery vehicles, and purchased other heavy ground transporters and four C17 Globemaster III jets (just prior to this deal) for transportation purposes.
The first 18 M1A1 AIM Abrams tanks and 5 M88A2 Hercules arrived in the Port of Melbourne in September 2006. The Regiment was declared operational on July 26, 2007. The 1st Armoured Regiment is structured with a Regimental HQ with 2 tanks, and three tank Squadrons (A, B, and C Squadrons) with 13 tanks each.
Echelon Fine Details has produced a decal set specifically for the newly acquired Australian M1A1 AIM Abrams tanks. This decal set is based on images taken by Gordon Arthur and Brian Karr. Greg Knowles is also credited for his technical support.
The decals come packaged in a clear zip lock bag with a two sided paper insert. The paper insert includes a variety of images of the Australian Abrams and shows blown up pictures for correct decal placement. The images show the placement and details of the markings very well but modelers should consult their reference for better, higher resolution images. Such images can be found on the Australian Government’s Department of Defense (ADF) media room website
or the walk around gallery on the Mouse House website
Tankograd Publishing also offers a great reference book on the Australian 1st Brigade which is also highly recommended.
This set comes with 5 decal sheets
2 X Main, generic sheets (see notes below)
2 x Sheets with generic Registration Numbers
1 x Sheet with Sand Colored “Lift Here” decals all pointing right
Each of the 2 main sheets consist of the following:
• 2 x Black Chevrons for the armour plate side skirts
• 8 x Red kangaroos
• 3 x Black “Lift Here” marking (2 pointing left, 1 right)
• 2 x Black placards for the smoke grenade lauchers
• 2 X Black placards without the stenciling with the white stenciling separate
• 6 x Black “Tow Tie Down” markings
• 14 x Black individual markings for the Auxiliary Power unit
• 12 x Black pre-designated Australian Tank registration numbers
• 34 x Black Generic Individual ARN numbers (6 – “0”s, 3 – “1”s, 4- “2, 6, 7, 8, 9”s, 1- “3”s, 2- “4, 5”s)
• 6 x Black Generic Alphabet letters for each letter (156 in total)
• 7 x Black pre-designated tank names (Azreal, Baob Catna, Bulldoggin, Bundaberg, Chauvel, Cobra, Coral)
The decals are printed with very high quality. The decals apply very smoothly onto the model with very little edge given the thinness of the carrier film. With a quick gloss or matte coat the decals blend in very well. The colors are bold, the registry numbers looks dead on, and the accuracy when compared to images of the actual Abrams is as close to realism as you can get.
In respect to the side skirt chevrons, each of the three squadrons have their chevrons positioned in different directions; A Squadron -, this is not mentioned in the decal instructions so please refer to your reference photos for proper decal orientation. The Regimental HQ tanks have vertical bars in replace of the chevrons, and the M88A2 Hercules recovery vehicles have horizontal bars. Also note that the training tanks at the School of Armour do not display any tactical markings on the side skirts.
The 7 pre-determined tank names provide the modeler with a unique opportunity to build a specific tank. All tank names start with the letter of their Squadron (A – Azreal, B – Bundaberg, C – Cobra, etc). Most of these names represent specific Australian battles from WW2 or Vietnam. The tank name Chauvel was given to the first M1A1 Abrams tank received as part of the arrival ceremony and dedicated to the late Australian General Sir Harry Chauvel, a senior cavalry officer who served in the Middle East during WW1. The title “Chauvel” was applied to a sand-coloured magnetic strip for the delivery ceremony and removed soon afterward. Other pre-existing tank names not included in this set are Agro, Andraste, Anubis, Hat Dich, and many more so be sure to check your reference. With all the generic letters included in this set, the sky is the limit for tank names as long as they follow the convention mentioned above.
With my research I noticed four minor omissions made in the set to encompass any Abrams in the Australian fleet. Though the set comes with plenty of generics to do pretty much any Australian Abrams, the set is missing a few “No Step” decals for the driver’s hatch. I’ve observed tanks with 1, 2 and none of these labels located just inside the shrapnel lip of the hatch. This isn’t a major inconvenience as these decals are located on the decal sheets included in the Dragon M1A1 AIM Abrams (#3535) and M1A2 Abrams SEP (#3536) kits.
Also given the opportunity to build whichever Aussie Abrams you choose there are no vertical bar decals for the Regimental HQ tanks as noted above regarding the side skirt tactical signs. This can be fixed one of two ways; you can cut a vertical bar out of an extra Black chevron located in the Echelon set or the decal set included with your model, or mask and paint on a black vertical bar. These vertical bars would have been a great addition, as the Australian M88A2 Hercules have horizontal bars located on their side skirts, which are the same length. Also the Regimental HQ tanks typically have multiple black bands that run around the fume extractor on the barrel, these are also absent from the set.
The fourth omission is the Unit “Christmas tree” symbol with a small red kangaroo located on the tank’s left side skirt. The “Christmas tree” is a marking that identifies a unit by a combination of colors and numbers to aid deployment. If a modeler absolutely wants to include this marking on his or her build, this decal is available on the Mouse House Leopard AS1 decal set (MAD 606). I have only observed this on a handful of Abrams tanks so modelers are encouraged to consult their reference. I guess there is only one fighting unit in the ADF using tanks, so they are unlikely to get confused with other units’ vehicles. If all these missing decals were included, modellers could re-create any Australian M1A1 Abrams.
Another important note is that the M1A1 AIM Abrams received by the Australian Army had upgrades made to the tanks as part of the purchase agreement. Most notably are a cooler placed at the rear of the turret, the Infantry/Tank telephone on the rear of the tank, an umbrella stand and the FBCB2-Blue Force Tracker Antenna Box on the turret roof. Mouse House in partnership with Armour Corps Models has produced a great resin conversion set to convert your Dragon M1A2 Abrams SEP (#3536) kit to an Australian M1A1 AIM variant. Speaking from experience I can highly recommend this set but please follow the link below for this product’s review.
Resin Update Set
Lawrence Goh at Echelon Fine Decals and the collaborative efforts and input from Gordon Arthur, Brian Karr and Greg Knowles have put together a great decal set. As a big fan of Australian Armour I was ecstatic to learn of this release and these guys have not failed to deliver. With this set you can almost do every possible Australian Abrams tank (all 59 of them… even the spares) and maybe even the M88A2 Hercules. Modelers are encouraged to check their reference for high resolution pictures for the presence of each decal as not all decals are used on every tank, and decal placement.
Remember the Mouse House Australian Abrams conversion set to accurately depict one of these bad boys and the fact that this decal set does not come with markings for the Regimental HQ tanks, the No Step labels on the driver’s hatch, or Unit Christmas tree symbol. Simple and easy solutions exist to remedy these omissions. Happy Modeling!!
Pictures of the actual vehicles are from the Australian Government’s Department of Defense website.