Italeri 1/35 M109A6 'Paladin'
Introduced in the early 1960s, the M108/109 marked the transition from open‑topped to fully enclosed self‑propelled artillery. The M109 went from experimental to 'standard' classification in July 1963. The early M109s saw service in Vietnam. Various modifications were introduced in subsequent years, and in the mid‑1980s the M109 family was upgraded to include nuclear, chemical, and biological protection. In February 1990, a version incorporating enlarged turret, improved armor and armament, increased ammunition stowage, NBC protection and microclimate (heating/airconditioning) for the crew became available under the designation M109A6, the 'Paladin,' a thoroughly modern weapon able to go from road march to firing in less than 60 seconds. The capability to stop, fire and move was referred to as “shoot and scoot.”
Squadron describes the re-issue kit as having fully rendered running gear, vinyl track lengths, separately molded on‑vehicle tools and equipment, optional position crew hatches and firing spades, basic main gun breech detail, commander's cupola with M2 machine gun, turret side bustles, pivoting travel lock and mesh for bustle screens. Decals and painting notes for 2 US Army Paladin schemes: tricolor camouflage in Germany, 1991 and overall sand.
Sometimes when I build armor, after I get the hull done I kind of burn out on building. So I started building the turret, first. It has a lot of detail and pieces. The instructions are clear and the fit is very good. The screen for the bustle rack was making me a little nervous. You have to cut each piece out from the larger metal sheet. Luckily, I didn’t have a brain fart and ignore the instructions, as usual. They have a template to cut out and place on the screen for cutting. I used a pair of sharp scissors and just cut the screen as instructed. No problems! The only problem is that the main gun is barrel heavy. When it is not in the travel lock it tends to droop. Which would be fine if you are shooting gophers. If you want it to elevate, you will have to slide a small shim or something under it to hold it in place or put some weight inside to balance it.
The hull was next. I just glued it together, carefully. The seams all match seams on the real Paladin. No putty or sanding was needed. The gun lock/support is a complicated looking piece. Again, I took my time and actually followed the instructions. It went together with no problems and works just fine. Next were the spades at the rear. They were simple and slipped right into place. They even work, if you are careful with the glue. (Mine work)
The tracks are the rubber band type. I fitted the ends together and put a couple of staples across the join. The staples don’t show if you install the tracks to hide them. The rubber band tracks have plenty of length to make them droop in the middle. However, my super glue would not stick to them to glue them to a road wheel. Thread to the rescue. I used a sewing needle to insert the thread thru the track to tie the track down to the road wheel. It doesn’t show and the wife doesn’t know she is missing a needle.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Next was painting and decals. Before painting,
I went and looked a real M109A6 our National Guard had in the shop. The
mechanic told me that when they were painted sand (local non-depot paint
jobs), a lot of the exterior equipment was painted in place. To prove it he
showed me the green under a fuel can. Also, the tow cable and lights had
just been covered in a thick coat of grease. The grease was power washed off
after the paint job.
I sprayed everything with Model Master modern US sand. Since this was supposed to represent a newly painted vehicle that had just been issued for use in Iraq, I left the sand color on the sides of the road wheels and just painted the “face” of the wheel where it would wear off as the track moved. The track has the rubber pads in place, so I brush painted each one with rubber to show minimum wear. The inside of the track has rubber pads for the road wheels to roll on. After everything dried I slipped the tracks on.
I let the paint gas out for a couple of weeks. (That is painter talk for I got lazy and didn’t work on it for a couple of weeks) The whole thing was given a coat of Future for a gloss coat, before decals. The unit making decals were applied over a little wet dot of Future. The decals are just right. They are thick enough for the white to cover the paint and thin enough not to break as I moved them around. Again a drying period, then a black wash and a Model Master dull coat.
The final construction was to glue on the ammo cans, antenna, nicely detailed machine gun and a piece of blue prism plastic on the turret. Each antenna was made from stretched kit sprue, which was green. You may notice my antenna are not straight. Well, in my world, the models have to fit on a shelf under a shelf.
This was a relaxing enjoyable build. Granted there were no crew or extra stowage, but that can be added from the parts stash or after-market. The prices are still reasonable, if you do a little shopping. This is simple enough that I would let a younger modeler build this one, but I have also seen them on the table at contests. It is not difficult and the parts count is reasonable. I liked this one enough to build more of the M108/M109 family. As a side note: My nephew is a Captain in the U.S. Army Field Artillery, who has been assigned to the M109A6. He inspected this build, it passed muster for accuracy.
Our local National Guard Armory had one in the repair shop. My retired military ID card helped provide limited, very escorted, access.
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