by: Gino P. Quintiliani [ ]
Originally published on:
During the 1950s, the standard US heavy artillery piece (203mm, 8”) was the hulking M55 built on a modified M48 tank chassis. It was heavy, cumbersome, and had a limited range due to a gasoline engine. In the late ‘50s, The US Army started looking at ways to be able to easily transport equipment by air and ones that were more fuel efficient and more powerful using diesel engines. Consequently, a new heavy howitzer design was developed, which would become the M110 (203mm, 8” barrel) chassis, which the M107 (175mm barrel), fielded in 1962, is based on. The chassis is made of a lightweight aluminum alloy and it has a 450 hp General Motors turbo supercharged diesel engine. These features made it light and powerful, yet fuel efficient. It was air transportable and two could be carried by a C5 Galaxy.
The M107's combat experience with the US military was almost entirely limited to the Vietnam War. There it proved its effectiveness by having one of the longest ranges of any mobile artillery piece operated during the Cold War. The M107 was able to launch a 147 lb (67 kg) projectile out to 21 miles (34 km), at 0 deflection and 80 mil (45°) elevation. This range advantage, along with the ability to rapidly move from its last position to evade counter-battery fire, made it an effective weapon. It did have limitations on accuracy at long ranges and had a very low rate of fire of only 2 rounds per minute due to their weight and size. Due to these issues, many M107s had their barrels changed to 8” versions and were converted to M110 howitzers with the last M107 converted in US service in the mid-1970s. The M107 was also heavily used by Israel and Iran and was seen in active use as late as 2010 in Lebanon.
This kit is an updated and re-boxed version of Italeri’s M107 kit from the mid-1980s that has seen many boxing’s over the years. Tamiya does not hide this as there is an Italeri logo on the box top as well. This kit is a collaboration between the two companies, which seems to be very common with Tamiya’s recent releases. Many of their recent kits have been re-boxed Italeri kits with a few updated parts and Tamiya accessories and figures added. Tamiya seems to be providing a complete diorama in their latest releases with figures and accessories included to make a complete scene. The basic Italeri kit was pretty good for its time and still holds up well, so this one should too. There are a few new/updated parts in the kit, but the biggest addition is two figures and accessory sprues by Tamiya from previously released Tamiya kits. So what do you get in the box? There are the three original Italeri sprues (A – hull parts, B – hull details, C – gun parts) with a few new parts on them, Tamiya’s US Command Figure set originally found in their M577 kit (35071) and later sold as a separate set (35079), Tamiya’s gear and accessory sprue from their updated M151A2 Grenada 1983 ¼ ton kit (35332), a small section of rubber tubing, a sprue of soft rubber tracks, and a decal sheet. The kit is rounded out with the typical Tamiya illustrated, multi-page instruction booklet. The sprues are all cleanly molded with no flash evident. The molds do not look to have lost any of their sharpness over the years.
The biggest issue with this kit was the very hard and stiff vinyl tracks that came in the various Italeri boxings. These were almost impossible to properly fit to the road wheels and have them look correct on the vehicle. Tamiya has molded these new tracks in a much softer, more rubbery compound that should make them easy to fit. It does not appear to be their latest model cement gluable rubber, though as they recommend attaching the two ends together with instant cement (ie: cyanoacrylate or Super Glue). Tamiya also recommends joining them with staples or thread if they break (gotta love the old school modeling tips). They do say the tracks can be painted using plastic paints though.
For new parts, there are a few added that do raise the level of detail of the overall kit, however, they are minor. The first we see in construction is two small disks (B10A) to plate off the empty holes in the drive sprocket faces. They are a nice addition. Next are two empty jerry can holders that are two-piece (front and back, B115 & B114 x two each) that replace the original jerry cans with the holders molded onto them, which are still in the kit. These parts are a nice-to-have feature, but there was nothing wrong with the original jerry cans w/holders, which were actually nicely molded. I don’t really see these as a big plus. Next, we have two small end caps for the recoil equilibrator pistons forward pivot points (C117 x 2). They are basically bolt heads to finish off the attachment pins.; again, no big change. Three are also two short pieces of rubber tubing (hydraulic lines) that go from the gun cradle to the carriage on the left side. Small pins have been added to the carriage and cradle parts (C61 & C65) to attach the hoses to. Then there is a small disk (C116) that goes onto the elevation gauge pivot point. Nothing major again. A couple pieces of molded chain (B118 & B119) are also included to hold in position the bottom of the foldable crew seat on the right rear of the hull. Lastly, there is a rammer staff (B116) that is intended for one of the figures to hold.
For new additions, Tamiya gives you the aforementioned US Command Figures set of four figures and some gear. The fourth figure, in a tanker’s bone dome helmet, is not used. The set also includes accessories and gear such as two folding chairs, a field table, and a couple canteens. You also get the accessory sprue out of Tamiya’s updated M151A2 Grenada 1983 kit. This sprue includes two M60 MGs (one w/open bipod, the other w/a folded bipod), one M16A1, two each 7.62mm and .50 cal ammo cans, three folded cots, three kevlar helmets, three M1 helmets, two ALICE ammo pouches, two connected ALICE rucksacks (one medium and one large), and the parts for an M151 gun mount (not used).
The instructions follow a standard construction sequence and are the same basic Italeri instructions that have always been in the kit. They have incorporated the few new pieces seamlessly and flow well. They start with road wheels and move on to the running gear and multi-piece lower hull. Next are the rear recoil spade and then the gun parts. Once the gun is completed with the huge, two-piece barrel, they move on to the figures and accessory pieces. Color callouts are labeled throughout as are decal placement diagrams.
The decals include options for two guns serving in Vietnam: 2d Bn, 32d Field Artillery Regiment, Vietnam, 1969; 7th Bn, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, Vietnam, 1969. There are also decals for the accessories such as ammo can stencils, stenciling for the three 175mm rounds, a label for the fire extinguisher, and (oddly) three black rectangles for the driver’s vision blocks. The 2-32 FA option also has a large, yellow “Proud American” nickname on the front hull, and the 7-15 FA option has a white racing stripe on the front glacis plate in front of the driver for some extra color.
Overall this looks to be a pretty good updated release of a solid, old kit. The few additions do bring up the details a bit. Some are good to have, like the sprocket disks and hoses, while other are take-them or leave-them options like the fuel can holders. The added gear and accessories along with the figures can be made into a nice little diorama if the builder desires to do so. It also is a good starting point for what could become a really nice model. If the builder desires, there is a metal barrel by Barrel Depot, a 3-D printed driver’s interior from 3D in Scale, metal tracks from Spade Ace, Eduard PE, etc., etc., etc. that can be added to the kit to really dress it up. Kudos to Tamiya for bringing back a nice kit of a unique subject.