ARM: Review - AFV Club 1/35 scale M109A6 Paladin

Kit Review: AFV Club 1/35 scale Kit No. 35248; M109A6 Howitzer Paladin; 579 parts (539 in olive drab styrene, 14 etched brass, 10 clear styrene, 7 cle ar styrene (sheet), 5 black vinyl, 1 turned aluminum barrel, 1 brass tube,

1 steel spring, 1 black nylon string); price not known

Advantages: much better kit of this weapon than the old Italeri kit; matche s more features and provides many options

Disadvantages: comes with ?Mickey Mouse? recoiling gun barrel; tracks a bit simplified; no interior

Rating: Highly Recommended

Recommendation: for all modern US Army ?regleg? fans.

In the 1970s the US Army, the Soviets, and others started to field automat ed data systems for managing artillery on the battlefield. These systems, k nown as TACFIRE and ?Fal?set?, permitted commanders to task units and carry out detailed management of ammunition, locations, and other importan t data. But they did not permit control of the guns themselves, which slowe d down the entire process.

At the same time, modern countermortar/counterbattery radars were being fi elded like the US Firefinder and the Soviet SNAR-10. But it took automation to finally make things work right.

This was introduced in the late 1980s with the MLRS and then in 1990 with a fully automated artillery system in US service. As a result, and as prove n on Operation Desert Storm, a firing battery could be located and destroye d in a matter of minutes. Some Iraqi POWs stated they were able to fire one round for ranging and as they prepared to fire a mission the incoming coun terbattery fire struck.

The weapon that made this happen was the M109A6, better known by its proje ct name of Paladin. With a basic range of 18,000 meters and an extended ran ge of up to 30,000 meters with rocket assisted projectiles, Paladin is a mu ch improved version of the original weapons system that entered service in the mid 1960s. It is designed to automatically emplace itself, fire a missi on, and then button up and leave in a matter of a few minutes, which makes it much harder to counterbattery. It also can operate autonomously (e.g. no line abreast formations) due to its electronic suite.

Italeri was the first company to kit the M109 series with kits of the 105m m M108 and then M109, M109A1, M109A2, and finally M109A6 Paladin guns. But most of them used the same parts as the base kit and therefore carried alon g a number of errors as the guns were modernized and the kits were not.

Recently new kits of the M109 late model guns have been released by Kineti c and AFV Club (the ones by Tamiya and Revell are re-releases of the Italer i kit). This is AFV Club?s effort with the Paladin and it is nicely done.

AFV Club has given the gun first rate treatment, and its suspension is nic ely replicated with individual torsion bars and two-piece wheels to replica te the reinforcement ring so often left off of modern US road wheels. But i t comes at a price - the basic hull of the gun comes in 12 parts (lower and upper sides, front, rear, belly and three piece roof sections). The fit is not bad but it does take a bit of jiggling to assemble. Note that some par ts need holes drilled out and AFV club shows a small cartoon of a drill goi ng through a rectangle as the indicator.

The model has all of its hatches as separate parts, which is unfortunate a s the only interior in the kit is the breech end of the M248 gun assembly. But on the other hand they provide the non-skid coating for the front of th e hull (sprue S in the directions) as stick-on clear parts.

As is common with AFV Club, all hinges, handles and locks are separate par ts so prepare for a lot of itty-bitty parts that need attachment. But as no ted there are no interior details for any of the hatches, so this is a bit disappointing.

The tracks are one piece vinyl affairs that AFV Club indicates can be ceme nted with plastic cement, but I felt they looked a bit wimpy. They are at l east flexible (unlike the unfortunate Italeri ones) but on the whole I thin k most modelers would prefer the set of T136 tracks offered by AFV Club (AF

35S23, which was the one acquired when they took over Skybow; they are exce llent but a very loose fit and the end connectors are a pain to keep on unt il you finalize their location and touch them with liquid cement!)

The gun is a quite detailed assembly and consists of at least 52 parts fro m styrene, vinyl, aluminum, brass and steel. It retains the throwback ?wo rking function? recoil capability from another generation but at least th e parts for that are concealed and it looks convincing and in scale.

The turret is the extended bustle and elevated roof version of the M109A6 and comes with all of the necessary parts and changes needed to replicate i t; it has its own shell and is not a bunch of ?stick here? parts on an M109A2 turret.

The commander?s cupola has been upgraded with risers and comes with AFV Club?s excellent M2 series machine gun, offering three different HB barre ls and also the M2AC version which is not used.

The bustle extension stowage racks are included along with six 5 gallon pl astic water jugs and four .50 caliber ammo boxes for the turret. The mesh i n the stowage racks is represented by etched brass.

Five different guns are covered in the painting and finishing directions: a generic US Army one in NATO tricolor scheme (black/forest green/brown); F ield Artillery Training Center, Fort Sill, Oklahoma (tricolor, FATC A-37 ?Linnich?); 4th ID 3-29 Artillery (sand, B16 ?Battle Up?); 1st ID 1

-6 Artillery (tricolor, B-13 ?Santiago?); and 1st Cavalry Division 1-82 Artillery (sand, B-12, ?Bass Master?). Pay close attention as there ar e some errors in the plans. Overall this is an excellent kit and with some after market interior bits (I hear Hobby Fan in the background!) this can be a spectacular model.

Thanks to Tony Chin of Merit for the review sample.

Cookie Sewell

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Wow. Who'd have thought this site would still be going after all these year s? I can't remember the last time I posted here. At any rate, I'm currently building three of the AFV Club Paladins, and while they ARE much better th an the Italeri offering, there is something to be said for the older kit. E ase of assembly for one. There are quite a few parts on the AFV Club kit th at are very tiny and would no doubt frustrate inexperienced modelers. I've built several of the Italeri kits as well, and I'm certainly not embarrassed to keep a few on my shelves. One other thing, the AFV Club (or Skybow) tracks are NOT correct for either kit. M109A6 track is different in appearance, most notably in the position of the guide horns.

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Thanks for the correction - from a distance the tracks all look similar (albeit they didn't fit well on the Italeri kit no matter what...!)


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