by: Jeremy Coyle [ ]
The Development of the M198 155mm Towed Howitzer began in 1968 when a lightweight replacement was sought for the WWII era M114 155mm howitzer. A test bed prototype was developed and constructed at the U.S. Army's Rock Island Arsenal in 1969, with firing tests beginning in 1970. Following the initial firing tests, two prototype M198 howitzers were delivered to the Army in 1972, and following additional testing, the M198 howitzer entered full production in 1978. The first U.S. Army M198 unit became operational in April 1979.
Since entering production, over 1600 units have been manufactured, with the final units coming out of Rock Island in 1992.
Trumpeter has released its Early version M198mm howitzer. This kit consists of 205 pieces and upon opening the box one will find 4 sprues of light gray plastic that has now become the standard with Trumpeter kits. Also included is a small photo etch fret, 4 rubber tires and pre-bent vaulted covers for the recoil struts, along with a small decal sheet with markings for two howitzers. Another thing of interest is the fact that the gun trails are molded as a single piece and are very nicely detailed. The tires have good tread and even have Goodyear labels molded in.
The kit parts are very cleanly molded with very little flash in just a few spots, and no sink marks noted in unwelcome areas. Minimum clean up should take care of any blemishes left after initial trimming from the sprues. The 12 page instruction booklet is very easy to follow with good pictures to guide you through the assembly progress. The first 8 steps take you through the assembly of the main gun, with the next five steps dedicated to the gun carriage. At the 16th step you are faced with the decision of which mode to build the howitzer in. You are given the option to build it in the firing mode, or two versions of towing mode: one with the barrel out and the other with the gun stowed over the towing assembly.
The one large drawback that I have seen was the fact that the very large caliber barrel is molded in 3 pieces. This should make for some unwanted clean up to obtain a good smooth barrel. My future build of the kit will address this if it is too large of an issue. The detail of the parts are very crisp and upon inspection I did not see any soft detail or anything that looked grossly out of scale. For painting options you can either paint it in the Merc paint scheme or plain green scheme. A nice addition in the painting guide is that it includes references for Mr. Hobby, Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol paints.
Overall this should build very easily and into one very good looking piece of artillery, which is a welcome addition since the only M198 available prior to this was as a resin kit. Pair this with some of the prime movers available on the market today and you can have one impressive diorama. With the only known drawback being the 3 piece molded barrel as described above, why they didnít add a metal one is unknown but would have been very welcome.