ARM: Review - Merit 1/16 scale US M198 155mm Towed Howitzer

Kit Review: Merit International 1/16 scale Kit No. 61602: US 155mm M198 Tow ed Howitzer; 264 parts (228 in tan styrene, 23 etched brass, 7 steel screws, 6 black vin
yl); retail price US$90
Advantages: first kit of this gun in this scale (!); pretty well detailed f or this scale
Disadvantages: towing or firing positions must be chosen as not all feature s are fully working; no ammunition provided
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all US Marine Corps artillery fans and ?Redlegs? in general
    During the 1950s the US military searched for ways to replace its artiller y park with newer weapons having better overall capabilities. The standard towed howitzer of the time was the M114 or M114A1, basically a WWII leftove r. The goal was to find a lighter weapon which would also provide some of t he capabilities of the old M1 155mm gun as well.
            In 1969 development began of the XM198 lightweight towed howitzer which appeared to fit the bill. After a long period of test, evaluation and impro vement, the first guns rolled off the production line in 1978. It served th rough the rest of the Cold War and hit its zenith during Operation Desert S torm in 1991 when it was with the US Army light divisions and the USMC in K uwait. The M198 also serves in the armies of 10 other nations.
    At that time there were 745 of these guns in service with the Army and 566 with the Marine Corps. As a towed weapon, it was fielded in 24 gun battali ons with three eight-gun batteries. It was towed by a five-ton class truck in the US Army and the larger seven-ton truck by the Marine Corps. One gun weighs 7,163 kilograms; the M114A1 it replaced weighed 5,800 kilograms and the M1 (M59 for MAP) weighed over 13,000. Range for the M198 is up to 30 k ilometers with rocket-assisted projectiles and it can use all of the 155mm ammunition developed by the US or NATO standard.
    Merit is now branching into 1/16 scale kits in a big way, and this is one of their first two artillery offerings. As the deployed M198 is a big gun, the kit is as well - in firing position the model is more than 450mm long. While to some the parts count may seem low ? in this scale there is ?no place to hide? when it comes to details! ? it is actually quite involv ed but a buildable model for any modeler of intermediate experience.
    Many of the parts work ? the trails fold, the gun traverses and elevates , the gun lock operates, the breech opens and closes (but as it is interrup ted screw does not operate), the spades move, and so do the wheels and help er wheels for the trails, which also flip over as per the original when in firing position. A large but partswise modest sheet of etched brass is incl uded, with the main achievement being the perforated heat shield for the br eech area of the gun.
    Some of the parts do not have optional positions, such as the short-move t ravel lock (the gun normally is traversed and the barrel is fastened onto t he left trail for long moves; for short ones the upper carriage is locked t o the front of the main gun mount). But with some work nearly all of these items can be made operative, which is a nice way to use the big gun as a ?demo? for ?Artillery 101".
    Construction starts with the trails and there are a lot of things to watch for; the spades (parts D23 and fittings) may be left loose if the hinge pi ns are not cemented in place so the spades may be installed in their travel racks. All of the rods and pins on the trails are unfortunately provided w ith fasteners and racks in place, so it will take a bit of work to demonstr ate them in a removed or ?in action? position.
    In Step 5 the sight case (I think) is assembled as closed and fitted to th e left trail. Part B4 is the traversing pad and is shown fitted in travel m ode.
    The main barrel is assembled in Step 7 and while some modelers may be disa ppointed that it is not a turned aluminum one, a barrel of this size would be about the size and weight of a billy club! If you can use a ?Flex-I-Fi le? this is not a big problem.
    The M198 is different from most guns in that it does not have a one-piece cradle for the barrel, but two assemblies mounted one on either side and co nnected to a set of brackets. Merit provides for the elevation and balance cylinders to move so care must be taken here, and also the rubber boots mus t be fitted to permit the inner piston rods to operate.
    The sights are attached in Step 13 but are not clear; that is fine with me , as few of the visible parts of the sight are actually clear on the origin al sights for any artillery piece unless you look through the optic. Handwh eels are non-functional.
    I have no idea what the manufacturer is trying to indicate in Step 14; a s ection shows parts D7 and E24/25 being installed as an ?either/or? but there is no option called out!
    The tires and wheels are assembled in Step 15 and the hollow tires are nic ely done with no visible seams on the big Goodyear G286 ones, and a small s eam on the auxiliary tires. There is a small seam in between the ribs of th e rubber boots as well, but I am not sure if they are on the originals or n ot. The front wheels rotate up and Part B4 clips into pin A1 for firing, an d the auxiliary wheels can be placed in their mounts either down for emplac ement or up for firing/travel.
    A nice sheet of decals is included - surprise! - and the directions provid e callouts for their locations. The gun is shown either in NATO/Marine Corp s tricolor camouflage or the Desert Sand finish. I would guess that the tri color one is Marine Corps from its markings.
    Overall, this a very nice piece and should be popular with artillery fans. But now it begs for a crew and a prime mover in 1/16 scale!
    Thanks to Tony Chin of Merit International for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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