SPG 155mm M40 from Tamiya

Tamiya is pushing itself back to the market, slowly but steadily. After their wonderful line of 32nd scale aircraft, 48th scale new tooling Tomcat and new tooling Sherman Easy Eight, they did a slight turn and made an M40 howitzer. It is 155mm howitzer, based on the Sherman tank, and the tooling is new, based on their Easy 8 new tooling from 2016. The E8 kit is superb with the only let down of tracks being vinyl. Tamiya released a vehicle based on the same chassis, using their already wonderful base, to provide with another kit, used mainly in different era - Korean War. Being experienced in building their Shermans, from M51 to Easy Eight, I must say that there is no flaws with those kits. So, there is nothing to wonder, when people are expecting the M40 to be flawless as well. As mentioned above, the vinyl tracks might be a problem for some, but the quality of Tamiya's kit proven, that there are no big issues with those. The great news here are that Tamiya is already releasing an upgrade set. The basic kit - #35351 - features photo-etch set. Although small, Tamiya M40 is in the high-end line already. In order to elevate it even more, Tamiya went further, giving us a Gun barrel set.
Tamiya M40 35351 new tool SPG US dn models gun barrel setpicture is taken from Scalemates.com
The gun barrel set features a wonderful gun barrel and shells. The barrel looks heavy, and it will be eventually tricky to install it and keep the balance of the kit itself. However, Tamiya are made in Japan and I doubt that the Japanese haven't think of a solution to that. Actually, they promised two different set - 12671 and 12671. I cannot tell what is the difference yet, but probably one will be more completed than the other or there will be oriented towards the Japanese and the International markets. The decals that Tamiya uses are kinda thick and we are all aware of it. So DN Models comes to the rescue here. In the shop - www.dnmodels.com - you can find allied stencils, which are pretty much the same as the markings used in Korea. You will find those usefull when it comes down to painting and weathering the vehicle. After all, it is a single-tone camouflage, and there are many tips and tricks to be used to make it shine, none of which are comparable with applying decals over it. All in all - Tamiya suprises again! A straight out of the well-known-path vehicle, just like their Su-76M released this year. This Tamiya M40 a nice add-on to any collection. Especially for howitzer fans like myself, the SPG is great news! Let's see what the aftermarket manufacturers are about to offer us! It is only a matter of time. Few months probably!
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The Year of The Abrams. RFM with Interior.

Several times this year I mentioned that 2016 will be The Year of The Abrams in terms of kits and more or less - in history. 25 years after Desert Storm, Abrams is still one of the leading tanks in the World, alongside with Leopard 2, Merkava IV and T-90. It is the only one among those featuring turbine engine and probably the most used in real combat conditions alongside with the Merkava IV. However, Merkava is used only in the Middle East, while the mighty Abrams is currently deployed all around the Globe and probably took action in most parts of it. Rye Field Model surprised with their Tiger I with interior. It might not have been the best Tiger I out there, but full interior was something interesting. During 2016, Meng, Academy and RFM announced Abramses, with RFM even doing the 25 Year Anniversary one. Now, they will hit the market one more time, with M1A1 /M1A2 with full interior. This is not only cool, it is awesome! Mainly because of the turbine engine. But not solely. The M1A1 /M1A2 is a rather complex combat vehicle, and it is interesting to peek inside of it, even though scaled down and in plastic. The Full Interior tendency is very hot right now, as we constantly see new things with their guts out: MiniArt T-44, Su-85, Meng's Bradley & upcoming Tiger II, RFM Tiger I, Takom with their new Tiger IIs. Now, nobody thought of making M1A1 Abrams in that matter. But yeah, apparently Rye Field did. From what we know about the company so far, we pretty much can guarantee that this will be a winner. Even though new on the market Rye Field proven to be on the right path and with new and fascinating ideas. With the preliminary info about the model /pictures of which you can see here/ it is visible, that they will play no games. The whole M1A1 looks crowded and it should be. Also, we have a lot of competition on that field. Even with different versions, other brands offer us pretty much nearly-perfect Abramses, for which we shouldn't complain. Modelers though are a breed which always demand more, and it seems like the new M1A1 from Rye Field will give them exactly that. Recently, the most featured camo of the Abrams is the desert one. However, DML announced their re-pack with a green NATO camo scheme, and here with RFM M1A1 we have the same on the boxart. The camo schemes are again- desert prevailing, but we have a different option as well: For myself, this one shown above is the way to go. But RFM took care about other modelers with different taste as well: As you can see, the camo schemes are done in a collaboration with MIG/AMMO, which is starting to become a standard in the business. I've already seen couple of people buying kits from Meng alongside with AK paint sets released especially for them. Those paints are far from the best, but they do guarantee perfect color match and for some modelers that is enough. I think it is not a bad thing, since we do have more options. Whatever the case is, all camo schemes made alongside MIG /who is an expert in colors and camouflages/ are quite promising and it is nice to have em more in more in different manufacturers. Those schemes shown in RFM new Abrams are doable with masks, and if there is an interest about it DN Models will release Abrams set in the near future. There are many more options of course, it is a matter of deeper research. As for the interior kit we are about to get - well, those are exciting news. From what you can see in the pictures shown, you can guess that this will be an "A" model and with great quality. I am still not sure about the price, but knowing what they offer Tiger I at, I am pretty sure that it will be acceptable. It is a matter of a personal choice, either to get Meng, Academy, Tamiya or RFM. Or maybe another brand? The Year of The Abrams is not over yet...
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IDF M3 Halftrack from Dragon

IDF half-tracks are controversial subjects. They are somewhat forgotten from many, mainly because they were already outdated vehicles when they were in active service. From others, they are loved, just because the same reason applies for them. The fact is, there aren't many out there on the market. Dragon released some US half-tracks years ago, never made them very popular, nor re-issue them. Aftermarket companies used the initial momentum to flood the market with tons of stuff, but again - that was it. Mainly, lack of interest among modelers. In the same time, Dragon, in general, are in decline as a company, lowering the amount of quality parts in their kits and raising up their prices. They decided that either new blood needs to be added, or they will fade out. And gathering knowledge from the others on the market, they pointed their attention towards IDF, promising new subject on that matter, based on their good ol' kits, which are already known among modelers. IDF is a tricky subject. People are either in deep love with it, or they are bored to death from it. It is pretty much the same with WWII stuff. But anyhow, modelers who know what is the history of IDF and they do like highly modified vehicles, are attracted to them. And basically, that what is is - IDF gets their inventory from pretty much everywhere, and throughout the years, in order to survive they adapted all kinds of things to their stuff. Those modifications were popular, effective, useless or ugly, but one thing is certain - there are there. So based on that, many models are elevated to a whole new level of artistry and modeling skills. For example, 2016 AMPS award went to a guy who made a wonderful IDF halftrack with a lot of stowage and small but great add-ons. Not that the model wasn't painted perfectly, the diorama pad also executed with high precision, but without that particular subject, the chances of getting that kind of result were low. Now, all that said, it is no surprise that Dragon announced re-release of their M3 half-track, this time Israeli Defence Forces version. The kit is generally based on DML 6467, with deep mods. For #6467, we know that it is a nice kit, there are some problems with the texture of the rivets, which might've been fixed here. Or not. Whatever the case is, IDF M3 from DML is definitely based on something decent, and even though initially tooled in 2008, it still gives you pretty much the best of the present market. So after the announcement of this IDF set, people started talking and they were - of course - excited about it. This is definitely a good sign for DML and half-track lovers in general. In addition to that, these are good news for the aftermarket companies. They get to re-release some of their resin and photo etch stuff for the M3. Well, now, Dragon made specifically IDF truck, so the conversion sets will become useless, but the stowage sets and specific add-ons still counts. DN Models - as you might've noticed - released several mask sets for IDF stuff. This is not a random thing, just the contrary. At the moment though, the information that we at DN Models have about this particular release of DML is limited. That's why before releasing a mask set for that half-track, we will wait to take a look at the kit first and see does it need one. With the quality of the DML or Tamiya decals, they usually do. But the limited amount of markings on soft-skinned and half-track vehicles, it might be too small to be useful. Time will tell. The release date is not yet set, but it is expected to bee within couple of months tops. I believe this is good news for IDF lovers and half-track fans. They are unusually looking vehicles, and I assume you are bored to see only Sd.Kfz. halftracks from WWII out there. A little "sound and color" in the half-track area of the modeling shows will make things more interesting. What is expected - well, DML always gave us good kits, and probably this IDF M3 won't be any different. Let's hope the price is right, and it won't be their last!
Pictures of the built model are taken from the AMPS official page
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Tamiya’s F-14A 1/48. The Giant Woke up.

After years of waiting for a new an improved Tomcat, we now are expecting two simultaneously. Tamiya and AMK are releasing two different options of F-14, A and D respectively. They are both about to be released on the market this fall, and they will be both very interesting. AMK is a company made from modelers for modelers, and their approach is what they do believe is best when comes down to assembly engineering and combo /as a kit itself/. Tamiya on the other hand are the biggest and probably the best of all the plastic modeling companies in the World as we know it today. They offer simple and clever solutions, but more importantly - they never showed up with a troubling or wrong /in terms of accuracy/ kit. So we will have some sort of a David versus Goliath kinda thing here, however I think that they will both be great scores. My personal preference goes to Tamiya, because I adore their kits, I have extremely pleasant experience building Tamiya and their last jet in 48th scale I built /Aggressor F-16/ was amazing. As for these preferences I have, I must add that I prefer 32nd scale aircraft, and F-14 Tomcat in that scale would be "The Best Kit Ever" for me. That's not the case here, but only because the smaller scale this time. Not that I am not hoping... Anyway, Tamiya announced their Boxart which can be seen on the head of this article, and I believe that it will be soon made available for reviews among the best reviewers in the modeling business. You probably noticed, that some pieces of that Tomcat made it to the public, but to be frank I prefer more reviews so to be sure that there will be an objective opinion about that kit. I have no doubts on the other hand that it will be great plastic piece of art, but still, I would like to hear people talk before the official release. Now, with the boxart out, I must say that AMK are in a bit of trouble, but just a bit. Tamiya will gain speed as fast as Tomcat taking of from a carrier ship with this release, and even though AMK version is different, it must be noted, that Tamiya with their reputation will sale more from theirs. Anyhow, even before deep research, I must assure you all, that if you are a NAVY plane fan like myself, there is absolutely no doubt that you should get both of those kits. Even with a slight chance of difference in the final appearance it is guaranteed that both of those will be high-quality pieces and they will worth buying. On the other hand, knowing the decals that Tamiya usually provides, I can assure you that DN Models will do everything possible to supply with thorough mask set options for those two birds. Stay tuned for a more detailed review of both kits in the near months!
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Airfix Ju-87 B-1 – new tooling Stuka

Airfix recently announced a new tooling of the famous Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber. It is B-1 version and on the render picture it looks stunning. Airfix have recently changed their approach to model kits, and they seem to have started to work with China. All their new tooling resemble newest Chinese kits, plastic too, and it is not a secret that probably that was their only option for survival. Their 1/24 Typhoon was a hit, but many modelers experienced some troubles while building that. However, we can hope that this is not the case with their Ju-87 B-1. On the other hand, this is very tricky subject, because of the many enthusiasts around and the fair amount of available kits which have been already evaluated in every possible way. They were compared with drawings, pictures, one to another and so on, which was with the sole purpose to give us the ultimate kit. This is almost impossible, because it is some sort of an unicorn, but some companies come really close these days. So new tooling Stuka from Airfix is on the way. And the question is not how detailed it is, because it will be good. Not how crisp the parts will be, because this is guaranteed. The question is - how it compares to the Stukas that are already out there. They have been exploited in every possible way showing their highs and downs, and we know what are they correct in, or where they are not satisfactory. So, if Airfix managed to somehow fix their flaws, and keep up with their bright sides...well, then we will have it. We gotta wait and see!
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Upcoming Sukhoi Su-17 M3/M4 from Kitty Hawk in 48th scale

Su-17 M3/M4 or as I know it: Su-22M3/M4 is an aircraft, with which I am very tightly connected. That is why, when news came in, that Kitty Hawk are releasing one, I got pretty excited. It has been a long wait for all the fans of that jet, and previous options in that scale were mediocre /politely said/. Su-17 is a development of Su-7, a strike aircraft which gained its popularity mostly outside USSR, mainly in Czechoslovakia and Egypt. They used it and somehow made it to the news, making it more known because it was pretty obscured subject. Kitty Hawk amazed recently with subjects like MiG-25 and F-101 Voodoo, which are also shady airplanes, and in terms of modeling they were definitely a missing piece of the puzzle. Now, they promise that in 2016, they will deliver both versions of Su-17 /Su-22/ M3 and M4, which are single and double seater aircraft with swing wing configuration and deep improvement of Su-7. With that said, one have to know that this aircraft is huge and it was pretty well designed in almost every aspect, and Kitty Hawk have to work hard to replicate this in scale. The cockpit of the real thing is pretty wide, which means that aftermarket companies will most likely attack the subect with resin options, and for two seater version this will be a jem. There are renders of an engine, provided by Kitty Hawk, which also will give a nice option to make cutaways, or place it next to the build kit. In general, Kitty Hawk made another smart move with this kit. Su-17 M3/M4 is still used in Polish Air Force, and they recently repainted the aircraft. In the same time, there are enough sources of old-ish camo schemes, air show camouflages and weathering extremes involving that bird, so we will have a lot to work with. Still not clear what the price will be and when it will be out actually. Probably in the next few months. Whatever the case is, if they do it a bit better than their MiG-25 in terms of engineering and keep the detail at that lever, it will be a winner!
Pictures are taken from KittyHawk FB page
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Chassis Upgrades – The Barkas Build kit options Part 3

Chassis usage variations and upgrades of Panzer III are what we are gonna focus on in this Part of The Barkas Build kit options. Here I am going to mention vehicles based on the same chassis, but not regular ones - rather rare or odd looking machines, and such with non-popular purposes. Of course, as in previous articles I am going to pick only the kits that worth your money and there are no better options for. At least at the moment when the article goes viral. The Panzer III subject is very wide, and as you might expect there are quite some rather odd-looking engineering creations, and I am starting with something that is really cool and relatively popular: Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 DML #6749. This kit is a refined version of Dragon 6713: s.IG.33 auf Fgst.Pz.Kpfw.III (Sfl.), with added interior for the fighting compartment and some minor differences. The only let down of #6749 are the DS tracks, but hey, there are no perfect things in life! Besides, there are some pictures of this fine looking beast with winterketten, so it is an opportunity in disguise. Similar vehicle is kit-bashed in Michael Rinaldi's Tank Art 4 book and it is executed with excellent finesse in a winter camo scheme. It can serve as a starting point or only as an inspiration, but overall, this Sturm 33 option for The Barkas Build is one of the coolest deviations from the standard options. In my opinion, this is not only one of the best kits out there, but the subject itself is very attractive and weird. Next, if you choose not to build this one up above, might be the Pz.Kpfw.III (Fl) Ausf.M w/Schurzen Dragon #6776. It is an updated version of Sd.Kfz. 141/3 Pz.Kpfw. III (Fl) Cyber Hobby #6616 but less pricey one, if you manage to find it on eBay of course. Here, DS tracks /again/ are a let down, but this is the new marketing strategy that DML feed us with. We gotta live with it. For those of you who doesn't know what the difference is, the Flammpanzers are flame thrower tanks, which - as a weapon - is very cruel but in the same time extremely effective way of close combat. Against fortifications it is one of the most successful and it gained extreme popularity during WWII. So if you want to make something more flammable, this is the kit for you: Another option, which I found to be the ugliest possible, is the future release of DML - Su-76i. It is not out yet, /April 2016/, but it is sure that it'll be something, because it is based on Ausf.J #6394 which is "The Best" Pz.III to get. Su-76i is a vehicle based on captured Panzer III and StuG III, which Russians turned into one weird mod and even managed to produce around 200 from. I find it to be heresy in worst possible form, but what can you do, it is history. I assume though, that there will be some fans of it, so I suggest that as a good option to build an odd version of the Pz.Kpfw.III. And yeah - you gotta wait until probably mid of 2016 to get it, which will fit you in the Group Build time-frame of course. The very last one that I will give you is Pz.Kpfw. III (3.7 cm) Ausf. F “Operation Seeloewe”. This is the hardest to be found, the most expensive, the rarest and the weirdest looking Panzerkampfwagen III version that we can get in plastic. It is Cyber Hobby #6717 or just #71 and it is 2012 tooling. It is also absolute one-of-a-kind kit, a "showstopper" and whatever you wanna call it. Nearly 900 parts, Magic Tracks, whatever you can think off. It is based on Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.F DML #6632 which is also one of the best Panzer III kits out there. But you WILL experience enormous troubles finding #71 from Cyber Hobby. And even if you do, you gotta spend a lot to get it. And with it, that pretty much concludes the most interesting or weird-looking Panzer III versions in scale, which I consider worth spending money for. There are Vorpanzer or Tauchpanzer versions, FLAKs /which authenticity is doubtful/ and some others with different roles on the battlefield, but those above, are the creme de la creme! There are some resin conversion too, especially for recovery vehicles based on Panzer III, however they are not the subject in those articles per se. So if you are getting into The Barkas Build and you wanna be different, read the article again, you will find what you need up here! If not, check out the other parts with kits in different scales, StuGs or Standard Panzer IIIs, there will be something for everybody's taste. See ya in the next part!
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T-72B3 from Meng Model – head to head with Trumpeter

T-72B3 is the newest T-72 option available out there. Not only modeling-wise but as a real vehicle as well. As we all know, all modern Russian tank-like vehicles in service are either based on T-72 or direct derivatives and versions of it. It is a legend when it comes down to Soviet/Russian armor and with its many variants is also extremely popular modeling-wise. If you don't trust me, just Google it. Type down Tank Biathlon. You'll see what I mean! T-72 all the way! Michael Rinaldi lighted the fuse not so long ago with his Tank Art 3 /Modern armor/ featuring an old-tooling Tamiya T-72 and then everything went nuts! Trumpeter released T-72B mod 1990 #05564 and then companies like Voyager spiced it up with tons of aftermarket stuff. It was one of the best kits out there, not only in T-72 line but among all the T-series MBTs. Then new versions started to come out, and now, first quarter of 2016, Meng Model dropped another bomb announcing their new tooling T-72B3. This goes for a direct rivalry with Meng Model T-72B3, even though it is not the same vehicle. They look alike, but there are minor differences. Meng Model are a team of people, devoted to very high accuracy and superb detail when it comes down to their kits. We have seen that with their T-90, Terminator and the others, that are based on different platforms /those are all T-72s/. So we should expect nothing less than perfection, even though probably a bit over-engineered. I might add here, that Trumpeter kit is also a bit hard /-ish/ to be completed, and eventually it might need an aftermarket set of tracks, but otherwise is OK. In the same time, T-90 which Meng released was very tedious build, with many sub-assemblies, small parts and boring ERA. I hope that we won't have that in their upcoming T-72B3. They are constantly improving and I am expecting very nice and detailed model, with great accuracy and stunning appearance. Not much is known about it yet - how many parts, what camouflages and so on, but it is known that there will be an engine included /picture above/, active suspension, workable tracks, photo-etch and all those minor modeler-guilty-pleasures which we witnessed in T-90A and BMPT. Another master piece in 35th scale most likely. So, at the time the article was written, there was no price and no release date too, but I assume by the first half of 2016 we will have that kit on the shelves. I am suspecting price similar to their BMPT, but this is only a wild guess. Hopefully in the next few months I will be able to show you a full unboxing and review of Meng Model's new T-72B3...and how does it holds to the Trumpeter's T-72B, which is one very very good scale model too:
Pictures above are from Meng Model and Voyager websites
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Tamiya New releases for 2016

One of the most interesting events during the winter is Nurnberg Toy Fair in Germany. This year we witnessed many new announcements, but I want to point out Tamiya especially. They still haven't announced new aircraft in 32nd scale, but they are promising nice armor models for 2016, and I wanted to mention those. They are two, and they are completely new toolings. Interesting is, that both of the subjects have been already released by competitors. That doesn't mean that Tamiya are repeating themselves or copying others. They never do that. They improve existing kits usually, taking them to a new level of simplicity and pleasure of building. Japanese companies are famous in that regard. So this is new for the first half of 2016, and we can hope that there will be more during the summer and during the autumn modeling shows in Japan and Hong Kong! First one is the AMX-13. Takom just released 3 versions of these in 35th scale, and now Tamiya are doing the same. For me, this is good news, since Tamiya are more modeler-friendly kits, while Takom, even though pretty nice, are still newcommers and they most likely will have some flaws. It is not sure that the flaws will be great, but so far I haven't seen a company from China with a perfect model, even though they are improving a lot over the last couple of years. The kit is supposed to be delivered with two painting options, both French Army.  Not many decals in it, and the tracks are vinyl ones, but again - Tamiya quality. That means that they will be flexible and easy to use. Realistic enough for sure! In general, this is very interesting vehicle, and I bet it would be highly appreciated by modelers. Second one is the Su-76M. MiniArt released this same vehicle back in 2008, and alongside with their T-70 it is very well known and generally well-accepted model. Tamiya guarantees simplified tooling, better plastic quality, and eventually - lower price. Of course, that depends mostly on the market, but MiniArt are European company and I believe that in Japan and North America they will have prices slightly higher, while Tamiya keeps their market share there very stable. Su-76 is a generally small vehicle, and one can only guess what details Tamiya included in their tooling. On the other hand, they showed 70% of the track length in one piece - a general advantage over Miniart which tracks are great but require attention. This vehicle was second most produced armored vehicle during the war in Russia, right after T-34.. That means a LOT of options of painting and rather interesting ones. Suchka /from Russian "bitch"/ as they called the vehicle - was reliable and easy to use SPH during the war. It won a great deal of fan base among the soldiers on the front. Although small, it is attractive and will turn into a great item once built. Tamiya have very smart marketing, and choosing those two is not without a reason. They do choose their kits wisely and releasing of new toolings are cleverly though of. I cannot wait to see them and make some comparison reviews between Tamiya, MiniArt and Takom!
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2016 – Looks like the year of the Abrams

This is part of the Dragon Boxart of their latest Abrams version
Even though with the wonderful Dragon Abrams kits that we have on the market, and cheaper Italeri and Tamiya substitutes for DML, the modelers still have demands for new additions to the line. The modelers...they always want more and better! So last months of 2015, Meng announced that they will release M1A2 version, in collaboration with T-Rex design studio and it will go with two options: TUSK I and TUSK II. Knowing their usual delays in releasing the kits, it is expected that thing to go for sale sometime in 2016, but it is still not clear when exactly. Their marketing department released several pictures and a video, unveiling some of the engineering decisions that TRex applied on that kit, and I must admit, it looks great!
There aren't many pictures of TUSK II side round-armor plates, and it might be difficult to say how accurate the kit is in that matter, but on the other hand same goes for Tamiya, and their kit is already on the market, so supposedly Meng learned from them if any mistakes were found. And then in the first days of 2016, yet another company announced the same project. It is Rye Field Models. And they even got further, giving us 3 in 1 kit, with two versions of M1A2 - TUSK I and TUSK II and one for M1A1 - TUSK. The model will feature workable tracks, highly detailed sprockets, more than enough Photo-Etch, and great looking decal options. I really hope the decals will be easy to work with, because they are mandatory for an Abrams tank. Both kits aim at the same customer target range, and even though Meng seem to have a slight advantage in terms of their established name in the business, Rye Field Models made their announcement with their second kit of Tiger I /with full inetrior/, showing that their aim is high in the sky. If their fit and quality of materials is similar to Trumpeter, Meng and other players, they definitely shoot to kill, and with such detail that they offer, RFM promise to ask for the King's crown pretty soon. The prices that they are showing are not high at all, and even though if the Meng and their kit are similar in quality, they are not equally available all around the World so I assume, that we will see many of those build and finished in very competitive manner, with a lot options exposed from the master modelers. On the other side, Italeri kit features an engine in it, and I am pretty sure, that 2016 releases won't leave that door open just like that, and very soon we will see versions with interior. Meng have done it with Achzarit and Bradley, showing two kits with and without Interior, and RFM offered Tiger I at first plain and simple, and then stunned the Tiger fans with Full Interior vehicle, which I might say brings only joy in the modeling world.
picture is taken from Armored Warfare site
I won't be surprised to see another market key player to join Abrams race in 2016, because we already have seen this battle more than once. Not only, the tank is one of the best options in Armored Warfare online game, and I trust that gaming and modeling are now interconnected, so guess what will happen if the best tank in the game is opted as a scale model kit...
The top article image of the Abrams is from Tamiya website
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