by: Darren Baker [ ]
AFV Club has released the latest in their line of M109ís, this time it is the IDFís DOHER that makes an appearance as a follow on from the previously released ROCHEV. This offering of the M109 in Israeli service is the current version being fielded today and these are upgraded ROCHEV M109ís to DOHER standards. The M109A1 ROCHEV proved a very effective weapons system in Israeli service during the Yom Kippur War, but it suffered heavy losses however its value in the field had been proved beyond doubt. In the early 1990ís the US military began rolling out the M109A6 and the Israeliís used the M109A6 as a guide to the changes they wanted on the DOHER. The changes are limited in a visual sense as most of the changes are on the inside of the vehicle; however on the outside the right rear basket has been replaced with a diesel generator, the travel lock is operated electrically and a new commandersí turret with a machine gun. All M109ís now in Israeli service are of the DOHER Variant with approximately 350 vehicles.
This offering from AFV Club is packaged in the usual card tray and separate lid, this does a nice job of presenting the model visually, but it is not up to the rigours of the postal services without further protection. Inside of the box are a very large number of green sprues that are packed individually in plastic bags with the exception of duplicate sprues. Photo etch and decals are also protected inside plastic bags with only the instruction booklet and a small poster being loose in the box.
I am going to look at this taking into account that the previous releases of the M109 from AFV Club are very similar to this one in many respects. An examination of the sprues leaves me a happy modeller as the moulds look to be holding up very well to the rigours of use. The only negative I could pick up as regards moulding are some ejector pin marks, but I do not believe these will be seen in the finished model. AFV Club has included a bonus resin figure with this offering but I do see some issues with this offering as regards casting.
The lower hull of this offering is a flat pack multi-part affair that has allowed AFV Club to provide nice detail, in particular the weld lines are very nicely replicated. Being a multi-part offering it does mean the modeller needs to take care during assembly to ensure that everything remains square. While working with the lower hull take the time to look carefully at the instructions as there are alterations that need to be made in the way of removing some aspects and drilling holes. I would have liked to see the drill size mentioned in order that the task is performed accurately.
The suspension of the model is partially functional as a workable torsion bar system has been used, but the first and last road wheel station will not function due to the addition of a shock absorber and so if you are planning on placing the model on an uneven surface thought needs to be given to altering the shock absorbers. All of the wheels will rotate as they are attached using poly caps trapped within them and so easily removed during the painting process. One thing I would have liked to see AFV Club provide with the model is a set of individual track links, I know this is a controversial area but the inclusion would satisfy both camps along with the rubber band tracks already included. The idler wheels have a ring of holes around them with AFV Club having tackled this by splitting the wheel along the holes. I am not keen on how this has been tackled and would have preferred slide moulding as the best option or marked points to drill as an alternative to that.
The upper hull has a very nice level of detail included and which I am sure will be confirmed by those who have built the earlier releases from AFV Club of the M109. Items such as the clear lenses and photo etched casting marks really take this model into the upper levels of detail. The shovel firing stabilizers can be displayed either in place or retracted and if playing is your thing they can remain movable. I do not know about everyone but an aspect I do not like to see supplied with models is string for the wire in the towing hawsers, this kit has taken the string route and this will be replaced by me for preference.
The main gun has been supplied in a mix of plastic elements that are attached to a turned aluminium barrel. The approach taken is not perfect but does mean there is a lot less of the barrel will need a seam line cleaned up. One thing I consider a bit of a gimmick is a spring that allows the barrel to recoil, perhaps a nice touch for a child but not something that most modellers I know will look for. The breech of the gun has been beautifully tackled by AFV Club with an especially high level of detail present; the down side is that this wonderful detail cannot be shown due to the lack of interior detail and I am not aware of an interior kit being available.
The turret of the model has been roundly praised in every release for its shape. The combination of plastic frames and photo etch mesh makes the stowage baskets look good. The sight in front of the loaders hatch has been nicely tackled with a clear glass that can be stained and then a frame added afterwards. Small arms ammunition boxes have been thoughtfully supplied by AFV Club and of course the ever present jerry cans are present; I am beginning to wonder if there are now more jerry cans in the world than there are people. The hatches and access doors can all be left open but as mentioned the lack of an interior makes this aspect difficult to make use of. The vinyl rubber cover over the gun is an item I question but selecting a gun elevation has been made easier by its inclusion. One of the new details on this offering the generator has a very good level of detail, but a search online indicates that a cable is missing from the left side into the turret of the vehicle.
One area that is sometimes lacking in models are the small arms that are needed; well I cannot accuse AFV Club in this as regards this model as there are a good selection available in the box. The M240 machine guns for the commander and loader hatches are nicely detailed, the loaders station one has the stock present and the commanders is without the stock as I believe it can be used from inside for defensive fire. Also included are:
An M4 rifle
An M4 rifle with grenade launcher
2 IWI TAR-21 Tavor with grenade launcher fitted
An IWI TAR-21 Tavor rifle
The weapons above are mentioned in the instructions but a sprue search reveals extras in the form of:
2 Galil ARM/SAL rifles with separate stocks
2 UZI MGs
30 cal MG
For the main gun a good number of shell containers are supplied and these are enhanced with included decals. While there is not enough to make a stack of ammunition they could be used to make covered stacks represent more shells and furthermore benefit from offering five different styles.
The instructions provide three finishing options for the model, but no details have been supplied as to what these finishing options represent. So I am happy with the model as regards the contents, but the finishing details would benefit from some work on the part of AFV Club.
Included as a bonus by AFV Club is a resin figure from HobbyFan of an Israeli soldier, but I have doubts about if it is suitable for the time period of the model. The body and head of the figure look good and being resin have very nice detail. The arms look a little sticky as if removed from the mould too soon, but that issue can be overcome with a little work. The hand moulded holding the pistol grip of a rifle is an issue that I feel can only be resolved with a saw. The hand looks good but the rifle is nasty and so I would cut the gun from the pistol grip and add a suitably altered alternative.
While not exactly new for the most part this is a very nice addition to the M109 series of vehicles from AFV Club. The new elements have been tackled well and the details from my limited knowledge are accurately replicated. The bonus figure is a nice addition if a little bit of a letdown as regards this particular sample. The finishing options are my biggest complaint as I would expect AFV Club to do better homework in this area.