by: Peter Ganchev [ ]
The M109 was introduced in 1963. The initial model had the short-barrelled 155 mm M126/A1 gun in the M127 Howitzer Mount and carried 28 rounds. An M2HB .50cal machine gun (Ma Deuce) with 500 rounds was positioned on top of the cupola for self-defence.
Ever since its introduction the capabilities of the M109 series howitzers have been increased through a number of upgrades. Longer gun barrels and special ammunition for extended range, expanded and more secure stowage, up-rated engine, improved fire control and communication systems, higher mobility and reliability, reduced deployment time resulted in no less than nine versions in the US alone. At least three more variants have been produced by local operators around the world. Since the Vietnam War no less than three dozen countries have used (or still operate) various versions of the venerable M109, making it one of the longest serving AFVs.
Models of the M109 SPH in 1/72 are few and far between. The subject kit by OKB Grigorov represents the initial howitzer design.
Kit parts are packaged in individual zip-lock bags and bubble wrap, all placed within a small white cardboard box. There are
- 85 parts in grey resin (82 used to construct the model),
- 40 photo-etched parts on two frets.
As is usual with this company the instructions are printed on an A4 sheet, folded to fit the box. Camouflage and markings are left up to the modeller’s references and decal spares.
The moulding of the resin parts is excellent with very thin flash around some edges and openings. That is dealt with in a few swipes of a fine sanding stick or a sharp blade.
The two frets of PE parts have different thickness – the one with the turret baskets, lifting eyelets and .50 cal ammo belts is 0,3mm copper, the rest of the metal details are on a 0,1mm brass.
The hull and the turret are monolithic chunks of resin, and heavy ones at that. Since most of the detail (including tools) is cast on the resin parts, the number of tiny pieces here is reduced to a minimum.
Nearly half the kit parts form the running gear – a total of 58 resin pieces cater for the track (eight straight sections of T136 track), the suspension arms, driving sprockets, idlers and road wheels. The suspension arms are fixed to the hull via triangular locating pins. There is a running gear template at the back of the instruction sheet to allow you to prepare the track sections before you glue them to the wheels.
The two support spikes at the hull rear can be positioned to the modeller’s preference. Two large tool boxes go above them with further four attached to turret baskets. The gun assembly is made up of three parts: the howitzer mount with recoil cylinders, the gun barrel with its signature fume extractor, and the large cylindrical muzzle brake.
The first thing I did was sand the turret base a bit and the opening in the hull that will accept it. I then glued the howitzer parts together to get a better impression of the model’s size (the grid on my cutting mat is 1cm across). I then formed the turret baskets and marked their positions on the turret. Shallow holes in the rear turret wall were drilled to provide a better support to them and the boxes they’d carry. The commander’s hatch and the M2 gun mount were added next.
I assembled the supporting spikes in the stowed position and set them aside. The small details were glued to the hull, including pieces of styrene on the hull nose plates to simulate attachment points for the floatation gear. After adding the suspension arms to the hull all three subassemblies (hull, turret and gun) were covered with grey automotive primer and airbrushed with various shades and mixes of Revell green enamels.
While the camo was drying I bent the tracks segments over the templates I made using the drawings on the back of the instruction sheet. The track sections respond quite well to hot water – you don’t need to boil them. Once the sections were formed and dry they were primed, and then covered with MM Burnt Iron. Rubber pads were simulated with Revell 78. I used thinned Revell yellow and sand colours as washes and finally dipped the tracks in a Promodeller dark wash to bring out the recessed details.
Road wheels and idlers were added to the suspension arms. I glued the halves of the driving sprockets in the curves of the track segments I bent and painted earlier – a perfect fit. Next idlers were glued to the aft track sections and glued to the hull. Finally the straight sections were added at the top and bottom of the track runs.
The metal effect around turret doors was simulated with dry brushed Tamiya X-11. A minimal amount of pastel chalks and pigments were used this time, as I tried to use multiple shades of green paint to simulate camo discoloration. The more concentrated weathering was achieved with drops and streaks of oil paint applied directly over the dry stuff. Everything was sealed with Vallejo flat coat.
Once painted the barrel assembly is a nice, snug fit in the turret recess – even without glue. The turret itself also fits nicely in the hull ring, so you get a chance to vary the pose of your tiny SPG to your preference every once in a while.
The relatively low number of parts makes this kit buildable by a wide range of modellers, and the resulting model will turn into a fine replica of an early M109. With the M1 and M2 versions already on the market I hope a Paladin will follow soon.