Naturally the US Army was present in many parts of the World in 2000, and while air power and missile technology increasingly dominated land warfare the tank remained a potent weapon. In 2000 that meant the Abrams, a sophisticated 62 ton weapons system that had proved itself in the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 and would do so again in the invasion of Iraq. The men that crewed these tanks would be hardly visible on the battlefield of course, so when Preiser produced this set of tankers they clearly focused on mainly behind-the-lines scenes.
Having said the poses are mostly behind-the-lines, there are some here that could equally be up at the sharp end of a battle. Most and perhaps all of those in the top row could be standing at a turret hatch, and clearly most are intended for this as they rest their arms accordingly. One seems to be having some difficulty with his radio, but all of them are reasonable for the role of commander. The second figure in the second row is clearly a driver, although in fact at most only his head would be visible while in the tank (and not even that if the hatch was closed). Quite why Preiser have supplied enough turret figures for several tanks but only one driver is not clear, although as we say drivers would often be invisible anyway. The remainder of the poses look to be relaxing round the tank, working or rearming it. One man carries a can, which is probably for water as carrying enough fuel for a tank in this way would require a lot of trips! Others are perhaps just chatting or waiting, while the penultimate man is handling a APFSDS ('sabot') round and the last is perhaps looking down a hatch. The middle figure in that row seems to be in semi-formal pose, as if on parade. The last figure in the second row is actually an infantryman rather than a tanker, as is the first in the third row, as both are dressed accordingly and both are carrying M16 rifles. The latter figure looks to be directly something - presumably a tank - and is saying 'come this way'. All the poses are great, and the only weakness is none of the potential turret figures is apparently manning a weapon, which is fine for the Bradley IFV but a shortcoming for the Abrams, with its .50 calibre machine gun at one hatch and the M240 machine gun at the other.
Uniform is also very good in this set. The men wear a realistic variety of clothing, with some having what look like coveralls or the NOMEX suit and some BDU ('Battle Dress Uniform'). Most wear the CVC ('Helmet, Combat Vehicle Crewman'), which is as it should be. However this has been modelled much too small, particularly the integral headphones, which were much more prominent than is shown here. Only the two infantrymen wear an appropriately-sized helmet, which of course is not the CVC. Preiser provide a number of spare heads with the peaked cap as an alternative, which is great although in most cases the modeller will have to do their own cutting in order to make the swap happen.
Obviously there is much less need for tankers to be encumbered with kit compared with infantry, and these men are suitably unencumbered apart from some wearing pistols with the correct harness. One feature that is lacking is body armour. When in a combat zone, and sometimes when training or exercise, crews were supposed to wear either the normal flak vest or the spall. In reality this was not as widely observed as senior officers would have liked, particularly when no one could see them. However having no body armour is a potentially limiting factor in the use of these figures. One other item too is missing and that is eye protection. Goggles or simple sunglasses were a very common item and we were disappointed that none of these figures have either, not even on the helmet. This is not good in any situation, but is particularly remiss when a desert scenario is considered, as suggested by the photographs on the box.
Preiser have always been remarkably consistent in the quality of their sculpting and production, so it will come as no surprise to hear that all these figures are really well sculpted, have great detail and perfect proportions, and no flash or excess plastic of any description. Most of the figures require some form of assembly (see the sprue), but everything is easy to put together and the hard plastic makes gluing very secure. The various separate arms may be a little fiddly to some, but the result is worth the time and effort. Another good result is the natural appearance of the poses, with heads being partly turned rather than the stiff full-on or full-profile that so many sets provide.
This is a great set which does well despite the fact that such men were little seen when actually in combat. The box gives a good idea of how these figures are best used, and deployed around a suitable Abrams model these would look great. Preiser often include a lot of small accessories in their World War II sets, so it is disappointing that there are none here, as most military scenes include their fair share of clutter, which in this case could have included some M4 carbines for instance. The small CVC and the lack of eye protection are, unfortunately, very noticeable problems for most of these figures, which is a pity as they are excellent in all other respects.