Israeli Defense Force (IDF) received the initial batch of 24 American M109 155mm howitzers in the 1970s. These howitzers, designated the Rochev (Rider), debuted alongside IDFís ragged inventory of improvised self-propelled howitzers based on old Sherman tank chassis in the Yom Kippur War. One of the clearest lessons of the war for the IDF was the need for additional self-propelled artillery to suppress the infantry anti-tank teams and, following the war, the IDF shifted to a more conventional combined arms approach that required extensive modernization of its artillery force. The number of M109s was soon expanded to 60 vehicles, which were all converted to M109A1s. In addition, the IDF began a major purchase of the M109A1B, totaling a further 369 vehicles.
The Doher (Galloper), an improved version of the Rochev, was introduced to the IDF artillery forces in 1993, and all active service Rochevs were upgraded to the Doher configuration by the 1997. Both types of the M109 share the same hull, turret, barrel, engine and transmission. Most of the Doher improvements are internal and canít be seen from the outside: Inertial Navigating System (INS), air filtering system, several changes in the driverís cabin, and NBC protection added. The few external visual differences on the Doher include two sub machine guns on the turret, electrical travel lock for the main gun, external generator, different shape of commanderís turret and different tactical markings. Other minor modifications include additional track links, improved lighting and external bars on the hull sides for additional equipment stowage. All these upgrades were designed in Israel and, according to the IDF, the Doher has a number of significant operational advantages over the Rochev: shorter response time, capability to provide a wide deployment, high firing accuracy, fighting under NBC conditions, and improving the survivability of the crew (automatic fire detection and suppression system, central NBC filtration system, ability to lay smoke screen, installation of additional machine gun on the turret as well as passive night vision equipment for the driver and commander).
This is a review of IDF M109 Doher Conversion set in 1/35 scale from Legend Production (LF1267), a set designed for the magnificent M109A2 Howitzer from AFV Club (AF35109).
The set is packed in a sturdy cardboard box featuring a large boxart photo. The photo displays fully assembled AFV Club model with Legend conversion parts added. Inside the box I found a large zip-lock bag with resin pieces, additionally protected within a bubble wrap. The set also consists of two PE frets and quite a handful of extras. Of course, two page color instructions are included as well.
Although Legend states this conversion set consists of 75 resin parts, I counted over 100 resin pieces in the kit. The pieces are molded in grey resin and I found no defects in the cast; no warping, no seam lines or air bubbles. Some pieces are very thin and delicate so take care when removing them from the large carrier blocks. Two small pieces were damaged in transport, but I didn't have any problems finding the broken parts and gluing them back. The level of details on the resin pieces is really impressive.
Two PE frets hold over 170 photo-etched pieces. The first fret is very thick, one of the thickest I have seen so far. The other fret is a bit larger and was slightly bent on the sides during the transport; not a big problem as none of the parts were damaged.
The extras include different diameter brass rods (0.8mm, 1.0mm, 1.2mm), brass wire (0.3mm and 0.5mm), rubber wire and woven nylon rope. Quite a wide selection of everything a modeler would need for this build.
The four-page instructions are printed in color. The resin parts of the conversion are annotated on the first page for reference, and all the extras in the kit are listed as well. The instructions do not show the build sequence, rather displaying conversion subassembly units and annotating the parts required for a particular unit. Some more complex subassemblies are shown from different sides, for additional clarity. Modelers not used to multimedia conversion kits might find this kind of instructions confusing, so I would suggest going one step at the time, one subassembly after another... it is not as hard as it may seem at first.
This conversion has all it takes to build the Doher:
- different shape of the commander's turret (the turret can be locked in slit position, a position that does not exist in M109A2 or the Rochev, providing greater situational awareness and protection),
- two machine guns on the turret (instead of one on M109A2 or the Rochev, the additional machine gun is positioned near the sight ballistic shield),
- new travel lock (much thicker than the lock on M109A2 or Rochev, this electrical travel lock is automatically operated and features a rectangle box on its front side),
- external generator (positioned on the right back instead of the basket and its two external cells),
- bigger left rear basket (due to the lack of right rear basket, the left one is bigger and usually contains the camouflage cover),
- additional track links,
- external bars (located on the hull sides, these are used for securing additional equipment stowage).
As far as I can tell from my references, all of these Doher elements are accurately depicted in scale and feature loads of impressively rendered details. As a really nice added bonus, the set provides a lot of stowage items and crew kit, which should make the model look like a real vehicle in combat operations. I also like the addition of different size rivets to further enhance the appearance of the model. The kit does not include markings, but these are available from different aftermarket decal companies.
After all the details about the content and accuracy of this kit, the main question still remains: how does Legend Productions Doher conversion fit AFV Club M109 Howitzer model? I have ordered AFV Clubís offering from one of the finest on-line hobbystores, but waiting to receive the model in order to check the fit of Legend conversion would further prolong publishing this review. Instead I have asked Paul Sykes to share his thoughts on building the Doher.
Paul is a very talented modeler currently building the Doher using AFV Club M109 Howitzer, Legend conversion kit and a few bits of resin and photo-etch from Royal Models IDF M109 set. Paulís comments regarding the fit of Legend conversion parts are overall very positive. He does suggest a careful sanding and dry-fitting to get all the turret baskets right and also recommends replacing the thin PE anti-slip bars on the hull front with Evergreen plastic. I added some of the photos illustrating Paulís work on his DoherÖ a very nice and clean build showing all the Legend conversion pieces well. The complete build log with lots of detailed photos can be found on IDF-modeling website (link
Many thanks to Paul for allowing me to use photos of his Doher model in this review.
I'm a very slow builder, taking about a year to finish a single project. That is the reason I'm choosing the AFVs I'd like to build very carefully. After seeing Legend's Doher conversion, I knew I had to build one of those mighty 155mm howitzers in Israeli service.
The IDF M109 Doher conversion set from Legend Productions includes all it takes to build a very accurate Doher, with loads of stowage included for getting that "combat operations" look of the typical IDF vehicle. The set consists of over 100 wonderfully cast resin pieces, two PE frets with about 170 photo-etched pieces, and loads of extras (brass rods, wire, nylon rope, etc.). Instructions are well printed and fairly easy to follow. The only thing I'm missing are the decals, but Legend never provides those with their kits anyway.
As far as I can tell, the AFV Club M109 model also got superlative reviews and I'm really looking forward to building another IDF vehicle.
M109 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzer 1960-2005, R. Lathrop & S. Zaloga (Osprey Publishing)
IDF Armoured Vehicles, S. Suenkler & M. Gelbart (Tankograd Publishing)
Army Guide website