by: Rick Taylor [ ]
After World War 2, the US Army went through a long period of trial and error development of new self-propelled field artillery. All were based upon the chassis of existing tanks and existing artillery pieces.
None proved to be entirely satisfactory. In January 1952 it was decided to change the approach and start with a clean-sheet design with the T195 110mm testbed to replace the M52 105mm self-propelled howitzer. In March 1954 the first mockup was built, and prototypes were authorized. In June of the same year it was decided to change the weapon to 105mm to utilize the large stock of NATO standard ammunition. It was also decided to use the T195 turret and chassis as the basis for the 155mm T196 prototype. Through the late 1950’s a number of prototypes were built and tested resulting in changes to the suspension and moving from a gasoline engine to diesel. In 1961 the T195E1 prototype was released for limited production and classified as the Howitzer, Light, Self-propelled, 105mm, M108. The Cadillac Motor Car Division of General Motors began production in 1962 and completed the run in 1963.
At that time the US Army decided to concentrate on the M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer which had greater range and lethality from the same chassis and turret.
The M108 utilized the 30-caliber long 105mm M103 tube with a uniform right-hand twist in the M139 mount. It used a constant retarding force hydrospring recoil system and a sliding drop breach block.
The weapon would elevate to 74 degrees and depress to -4 degrees. The turret traversed a full 360 degrees. Gun elevation and turret traverse were manual. The rate of fire was 3 rounds per minute initially and then one round per minute for sustained fire. It fired standard NATO 105mm semi-fixed artillery ammunition to a maximum range of 11,500m. An M2 HB .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine gun on a skate mount on the commander’s hatch provided anti-aircraft and anti-personnel self-defense. The M108 carried 87 rounds of 105mm ammunition and 500 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition. The crew of five consisted of a section chief, gunner, driver, and two cannoneers.
The hull and turret were all welded aluminum to improve mobility and transportability. This provided protection against shrapnel and small arms fire. It did not have spall liners nor Nuclear/Chemical/Biological protection. It could be fitted with an amphibious kit which allowed river crossings. The M108 used a torsion bar suspension system with seven rubber tired roadwheels. The drive sprocket was forward, and the idler was to the rear. There were no return rollers. It used a T136 live track with replaceable rubber track pads. The M108 used the same Detroit Diesel 8V71T V8 diesel engine and Allison XTG-411-2A automatic transmission as the M109 155mm howitzer, M110 203mm howitzer, and M107 175 gun. This gave it a range of 386km and a top speed of 56lm/h.
Although it served only briefly in Europe with the US Army, the M108 saw extensive use in the Vietnam conflict. One battery of weapons was loaned to the Australian Army for use in Vietnam. It was well suited to employment in road accessible firebases. The 105mm projectile allowed very close support to ground forces in contact and its 360-degree arc of fire allowed it to provide immediately responsive fires in all directions. In a sandbagged firing position, it had good survivability.
The weapon was used by Belgium, Cambodia, Spain, Taiwan, Tunisia, and Turkey. It is still in use in Brazil.
This is a great and long-awaited addition to AFV Club’s line of M109 based howitzers. The only other offering of this subject in 1/35 th scale is from Italeri and dates to 1982. Although a good kit at the time, it is far outclassed by AFV Club’s offering.
AFV Club based this kit on their excellent M109A2 offering. The kit includes an all new turret and new hull which includes the different air ducting for the engine and all the attachment points for the flotation kit. It includes new rear doors for the turret and hull and new hatches for the turret and driver. The metal howitzer tube, gun mount, and travel lock are all new. The kit includes a tiny photo-etch fret with only two pieces.
The kit includes a nicely molded and detailed M2HB 50.cal machine gun and well molded on vehicle maintenance and pioneer tools. With all these big hatches that can be opened to show off fighting compartment, it is unfortunate that an interior was not included.
The production kit is packaged in a standard two-part box. Inside are the instructions, copy of the box artwork, sprues sealed in individual plastic sleeves, poly caps, a metal barrel, a sprue of clear parts, a sprue of soft vinyl parts, a small photo-etch fret, vinyl rubber band tracks, decals and thread for the towing cable. The turret, metal barrel, and two large sprues are all new for this kit. The others are from the M109A2 and other kits.
The instructions are a 20-page booklet printed in color on glossy paper. The first page gives a history and statistics in English, and Chinese. Next comes the color paint requirements listing Hobby Color, Mr. Color, Humbrol, Vallejo, and Lifecolor paint part numbers. The instructions provide 26 steps to assemble the howitzer. It includes an illustrated parts list and parts order form.
The painting instructions and decals include the weapon system in use by the Australian Army in Vietnam, the Brazilian Army in a green and brown camouflage scheme, two Republic of China Army weapons, examples from the Belgian and Spanish Armies, and two US Army examples in Vietnam.
The instructions are straight forward with only one optional assembly process. I did not detect any issues with the instructions.
As we have come to expect from AFV Club, the molding is excellent. Only a couple of parts had easily cleaned flash. Some of the gates are rather large. Ejection pin marks are on the hidden side of the parts. The details are crisp and include nicely done weld lines. The vinyl tracks are well detailed and nicely molded. As the M108 uses live tracks that are tight and without return rollers the rubber band tracks work well.
As is typical of AFV Club kits, there are a plethora of small delicate parts. At 493, the parts count is relatively high; but, as most of the sprues are from the M109A2 kit there are many unused parts.
The hull is built up type vs. a tub; so ensure that it is square. The torsion bar suspension allows the road wheels to be articulated if put in a diorama or vignette. If you are building a tabletop model, take care to ensure that all the road wheels are flat and level. The road wheels, and rear idler are multi-part assemblies. The captured poly caps allow them to roll and to be removed and painted separately.
The new engine covers are nicely rendered. The new spruces include nicely detailed hinges and hatch catches. The kit includes clear headlights which are a nice touch. The drivers vision ports, commander’s periscope, and marker lights are also molded in clear plastic.
The vinyl sprue includes some nice front mud flaps. The hatches, fittings and tools on the turret are nicely detailed and molded. Some more photo-etch would be nice to further detail the tool attachments. The rear turret baskets are delicately molded from styrene. These will require care to de-sprue and clean and patience to assemble.
The “Ma Duce” .50 cal is nicely detailed and delicately molded.
Sprue and part count break out:
A (x2) – 51 parts each Road wheels (from M109A2 kit)
AA – 27 parts Rear turret and hull (new)
AB – 47 parts Upper hull (new)
B (x2) – 35 parts each Suspension system (from M109A2 kit)
C – 65 parts Upper hull fittings (from M109A2 kit)
F – 8 parts Lower hull (from M109A2 kit)
G – 10 parts Clear parts (from M109A2 kit)
H – 3 parts Vinyl mud flaps (from M109A2 kit)
I – 18 parts Poly Caps
J (x2) Vinyl tracks
K – 2 parts Photo-etch
M Turned aluminum barrel (new)
O Turret (new)
P (x2) – 26 parts each Turret bustle racks (from M109A2 kit)
Q – 48 parts Rear hull hatches and fittings (from M109A2 kit)
X – 30 parts .50 cal machine gun
Y – 7 parts .50 cal machine gun tripod
This kit provides an accurate and detailed model of this revolutionary artillery platform. Prior to this release, it took a fair amount of work to turn the nearly 40-year-old Italeri kit into a detailed and accurate representation. The kit builds into a fine replica out of the box.
Adding AFV Club’s M136 separate link tracks to replace the vinyl tracks will provide additional detail. Hopefully, one of the after-market companies will release an interior to allow the modeler to open all those big hatches. All in all, this is a great kit and is going to jump the line and go onto to my bench. Thanks to AFV Club for supplying the review kit.