Normally SPGs fall more or less into three categories: anti-tank, anti-air and fire support vehicles. As far as the period after the War of Independence is concerned, I will stick to these categories. For the War of Independence itself, however, this division makes little sense, therefore the vehicles employed then are discussed seperately at the beginning. One other thing: to make matters not overly complicated, I did also put SP-ATGMs and other rocket launcher vehicles on this page.
Very few SPGs seem to have been employed during the War of Independence, this without doubt being due to the almost complete lack of guns that could be mounted on vehicles. Apparently there were only two types - and, actually, probably not many more vehicles! - of conversions:
During the early days of the War of Independence there was an utter lack of, let's say, mobile means of combatting tanks. Therefore apparently at least two M-3 half-tracks were equipped with 20mm guns which were taken from unserviceable airplanes. I couldn't get conclusive information on the exact type of gun, although, as the planes were most probably either Spitfires or Mezeks (Avia S-199, in fact a Messerschmitt Me-109G with a Junkers engine and some really bad habits...), Hispano-Suiza or Mauser guns are likely candidates.
This picture MAY show the installation of such a 20mm gun on a half-track, but I am not quite sure. It might just as well be a cover of some sort for an ordinary machine gun. In any case this would make for a nice model.
During the closing stages of the war the equipment situation rapidly improved, not the least due to the capture of enemy equipment. Among other things the IDF acquired 6pdr AT guns (of Egyptian origin, it seems). As there was a dire need for anything able to penetrate armour, it is not surprising that some of these guns were immediately made mobile by putting them on, or rather into, some M-3 half-tracks.
This picture shows such a vehicle. Apparently the gun together with its full carriage (minus its wheels?) has been squeezed into the troop compartment of the M-3, which explains the height of the combination. Must have been a tight fit...
On the picture below (sorry for the bad quality) you can see what some sources call a bazooka-type weapon 'mounted' on a jeep. I don't have any details on the 'mount' - actually I am rather sceptical, after all, the bazooka (if it is indeed one!) might just be lying on the vehicle.
But decide for yourself. The picture would make for a nice model, anyway.
Below I grouped together conventional gun-equipped tank destroyers as well as ATGM carriers.
Only a few of these tank destroyers found their way into Israeli hands, mainly being used for training purposes. I was actually not quite sure whether they all were 76mm-gun-equipped M 10s or whether some were actually 17pdr-equipped Achilles; now I am! Apparently the IDF only used the Achilles, which was the better vehicle anyway. I haven't found a picture of one of these vehicles in action yet, but at least the one below, just to give a general impression.
On the use of a M 10 (this was, I think, indeed a M 10) as a prototype mount for the famous CN 75-50 gun, cf. the MBTs section. It seems that this vehicle never left France.
I have already mentioned the Panhard ACs used by the IDF in the sixties here. Although the IDF was not very impressed by the overall performance of these vehicles, the 90mm gun did apparently have quite some appeal. Around 1973 - I don't know yet whether actually before or after the Yom Kippur War - the 90mm guns were taken from the Panhards and mounted on M 3 halftracks, using carriage parts from old 6pdr guns.
Note in the picture above the gunshield from the 6pdr gun. Some sources suggest that the guns could be removed from the M 3 and mounted on their carriage, but I have yet to find photographic evidence for that. In any case this was probably the heftiest AT-punch ever crammed into the M 3!
A different approach - and a close contender for the title 'heftiest punch' - was a SPATGM version of the venerable M 3 halftrack. 4 French SS 11 AT rockets were mounted on a covered launcher in the troop compartment.
Note in the picture above that the troop compartment as well as the driver's station are covered. Other pictures show that the troop compartment was only partöy covered. I have no information regarding the number of these vehicles in service, but pictures suggest at least 12 such conversions.
In order to produce a smaller SPATGM vehicle, the SS 11 missile was also mounted on Dodge WCs.
Note in the picture above the rear mounted launcher, which closely resembles the launcher with which French AMX-13 tanks were retrofitted. Changes to the vehicle seem to have been minimal.
In order to reduce the size of tank-hunting vehicles even further (thereby enhancing their survivability), recoilless weapons were mounted on jeeps, a common practice in many armies at the time. It seems that the IDF did only use the combination of the M 38 jeep with the American 106mm RR gun.
Note in the picture above the 106mm gun mounted in the back of the jeep.
The anti-tank jeeps with recoilless rifles were superseded by jeeps equipped with TOW missiles, which are still in use. Only M 151 jeeps were equipped that way.
In the picture above note the TOW-launcher in the back of the jeep. On the whole, a very compact yet extremely potent vehicle.
Almost all the vehicles described above can be built with some - in other cases considerable... - effort based on kits readily availible on the market.
To my knowledge there is no plastic kit of the M 10/Achilles on the market right now, although HÄT is said to have one in the pipeline - check out their homepage for this. However, Fujimi provides the modeller with a kit of the M 36, which can be modified fairly easy into a M 10 - you just have to scratchbuild a new turret, as both vehicles shared the same chassis.
Note however, that, while offering some very nice detail, the M 36 kit is not without problems: Although the hull is dimensionally sound to 1/76 scale, the roadwheels are slightly on the small side. I found the vinyl tracks provided with it very difficult to work with, here it is probably necessary to take them from another source. The most important problem, however is the upper hull front, where there is a bow machine gun fitted to the kit - as the real vehicle didn't have one, this needs to be removed.
New and very exiting: HäTs M 10! I haven't had a chance to build it yet, so watch this space for more news on this kit.
General notes on kits of the M 3 can be found in the APC section.
The picture above shows a 90mm armed halftrack based on the Matchbox kit. Crew compartment as well as the main gun were mainly scratchbuilt, using some parts from Airfix' 6pdr gun. The main problem with this conversion was that when I began this, I had almost no references on the interior of the vehicle, so I did some guesswork... Needless to say, it turned out to be wrong - have to do it again one day.
As with the homemade ACs of the War of Independence you need Esci's Dodge WC kit, which has now rereleased by Italeri. Otherwise you need only to scratchbuild the launcher, which should be fairly easy.
As all the Jeep conversions mentioned above were either based on the M 38, the M 151 or the Israeli derivatives of these vehicles, you need will need a kit of these. Unfortunately, there is none. So scratchbuilding is the order of the day, needing, however, a maior effort.
Unless, of course, you are as foolish as I am and put a lot of effort into a vehicle that never existed - like the one above. Well, actually it did exist, but was never used by the IDF (the 106mm RR gun mounted on the WW2 jeep was, as far as I know, used by the Spanish and the French armies.
The model is based on a Matchbox jeep from the LRDG set. The 106mm RR gun as well as the windscreen were scratchbuilt - taking the jeep from the Chevrolet/17pdr set would have been easier, but these are very hard to find nowadays. The figure (awkward paintjob, I know - my wife should have done this) is a Matchbox/Esci composite.
This part comprises full-tracked self-propelled guns as well as self-propelled mortars on halftracks.
The first true self-propelled artillery in use with the IDF was the venerable Priest, entering service in the early 1950s. Some of these vehicles were upgraded in 1962 with a 105mm howitzer of French origin. In this form, the Priest was still in use during the Six Day War with reserve units.
In order to provide mobile heavy fire support for armoured units, the IDF mated a 155mm howitzer of French origin to a Sherman chassis. The resulting SPG was called M 50. As these vehicles were introduced in the 1950s, but soldiered on until well after the Yom Kippur War, they were upgraded to HVSS during their career, being originally fitted with VVSS.
Above you can see an M 50 with VVSS. Compare it with the HVSS equipped M 50 in the picture below. Note especially the front of the vehicle which was slightly changed when the M 50 was upgraded to HVSS standard.
The picture above shows an M 50 already equipped with HVSS. Note the short-barrelled 155mm howitzer origin and the flat-sided armoured superstructure. By the way, the strange-looking vehicle behind the M 50 will be dealt with below.
The next step of the development of Sherman-based SPGs was the L 33. In several aspects it was an improvement over the M 50. The fighting compartment was enclosed, the vehicle equipped with a long-barrelled 155mm gun.
In the picture above note the prominent 155mm gun barrel, entry door into the fighting compartment and .30 cal MG for close defence.
The first modern SPG acquired abroad was the AMX 105/50, a French 105mm howitzer mounted on an AMX 13 chassis. Although quite mobile and a comparatively small vehicle (i. e. target...), it had the disadavantage of not providing protection for all of its crew.
A Battery of AMX 105/50s in action. Note that most of the crew in the foreground are without any protection.
In the late 1960s new SPGs were acquired in the USA, among them the M 107 and M 110. Essentially this is the same vehicle, the only difference being the gun, a long-barrelled 175mm gun on the M 107 and a short-barrelled M 203mm howitzer on the M 110. As these vehicles were originally designed according to a requirement for an air-transportable SPG, weight was at a premium. Thus almost everything was subordinated to the need of saving weight. Therefore the resulting vehicle lacked any form of crew protection as well as sufficient means of crew and ammunition transportation.
Above on the left you can see a M 107 in action, on the right a M 110. Note that they share, as already noted, the same basic vehicle. Note also the spade at the rear of both vehicles.
The first self-propelled mortars seem to have been standard M 4 vehicles. In these, a 81mm mortar was mounted forward-firing in a M 3 halftrack.
In order to provide the M 3 SP Mortar with more firepower, a forward-firing 120mm mortar was fitted to many vehicles.
Note in the picture above the forward-firing mortar which is a quite prominent feature as well as the extensive crew stowage.
The combination of a 160mm mortar produced by Soltam and a Sherman HVSS chassis was called Makmat and introduced in the late 1960s. It is said to have been quite successful.
Note how the barrel of the mortar is locked in the travelling position in the front plate of the upper body.
Again quite a number of the SPGs listed above can be built based on kits already on the market.
For the Priest the best thing is still the Matchbox kit, which is nicely detailed and can be built into a good representation of the real vehicle, although it will profit immensely from careful detailing. With it, a crew is provided, that, however, seems to be closer to 1/87.
For these vehicles quite some scratchbuilding is necessary. In due course I hope to provide some plans in the depot section.
For the M 3 halftrack kits see the APC section.
There is no kit to my knowledge of these vehicles. As the running gear of all of them series was derived from - or better, developed in parallel to - the Sheridan tank, it should be possible to scratchbuild one using parts from several Airfix Sheridan kits.
In this section I listed only vehicles equipped with guns. For missile air defence systems see the Rocket Launcher Section below.
A considerable modification of the basic M 16/16A1 series of vehicles was the replacement of the four machine guns with 20mm guns. According to some sources captured 23mm guns of Soviet origin were used as well.
With the M 113 slowly replacing the M 3 in service, the M 3 based SPAAs went as well, being replaced by the M 163. This vehicle mounts a 20mm Vulcan gun on a M 113
With Matchbox' and Esci's kit not available, scratchbuilding is the order of the day.
Scratchbuilding the Maxson turret is, it would seem to me, quite difficult. However, it's the only way as the Matchbox M 16 apparently didn't make it for long in Revell's kit range.
There was a M 163 kit on offer from Esci. It's a collector's item now - the last time I saw one on ebay it went over the table for the equivalent of 20$... Until Italeri rereleases the M 163, scratchbuilding is needed for the turret, based on the JB Models' M 113.
Below only rocket launchers developed in Israel or bought overseas can be found. Rocket launchers of Soviet origin can be found in the captured Vehicles section.
A rather different SPG is the Kilshon, which was developed shortly after the Yom Kippur War. As the IAF encountered formidable AA defences during the war, additional countermeasures against enemy SAM batteries and the accompanying radar installations seemed necessary. Thus a vehicle-based launcher for the Shrike anti-radiation missile was developed.
The Shrike missile was equipped with a locally-produced booster giving it a range of about 16 miles and put on an old M 51 chassis. This combination was then called Kilshon (Hebrew for Trident). I honestly don't know whether this vehicle was ever produced in any quantity.
Note the cast M4a1 hull and the HVSS suspension. This would definitely make an interesting conversion project. At least two batteries with 5 vehicles each were in service. One Kilshon was used as a prototype for the Keres, an upgraded version of the Kilshon mounting a Standard anti-radiation missile. This, however, was not put into production, the Standard launchers instead being installed on 5 ton trucks.
For a modelling project indispensable is the photo walkaround on the Sentinel webpage.
Another conversion of redundant Sherman hulls was the use as a self-propelled rocket launcher. A locally-developed 290mm artillery rocket was used for this purpose.
Note M4a3 hull, HVSS and launcher with four 290mm rockets. I don't yet know anything about production numbers.
In order to reproduce the vehicles described above, considerable scratchbuilding efforts are necessary, resulting, however, in really interesting and unusual vehicles.
Well, look at the pictures, take a turretless Sherman HVSS, and there you go! By the way, I think you can find a Shrike in one of the Aircraft Weaponry sets from Hasegawa.
I don't know of any kit, thus scratchbuilding is necessary. I would think the Chapparal to be the easier project than the Lance, as you can take Sidewinder missiles, whereas the Lance missile has to be scratchbuilt.
still under construction!!