CB35067, German 88mm L/71 Flak41 Anti-Aircraft Gun with Crew. 1/35th-scale injection-molded styrene/multi-media kit containing 464 styrene parts (including 54 for the crew figures), one etched brass fret, one water-slide decal sheet and 26 pages of instructions in 41 steps.
Although the Krupp 8.8cm FlaK18/36/37 L/56 remained an extremely effective anti-aircraft (and anti-tank) weapon until the end of the Second World War, the design bumped-up against aircraft that flew higher and faster than it could handle. As a result an almost entirely new 8.8cm gun, the FlaK41 L/71, was designed and built by Rheinmetall-Borsig. Its longer gun tube and larger cartridge case enabled the projectile to reach a higher altitude (effective range 35,000 ft vs. 26,000 ft) at an increased velocity (3,281 fps vs. 2,690 fps). Rate of fire was increased with a loading assist device, from 15 rpm to 20 rpm. The FlaK41 was mounted much lower on a turntable atop a newly-designed Kreuzlafette (cruciform mount). It also featured an enlarged folding splinter shield to protect the crew. The Sd.Ah.202 limbers from the Kreuzlafette 36 were also used to transport the gun, while the centrally-controlled anti-aircraft sighting devices (Folgezeigeempfänger) were carried over from the 8.8cm FlaK37. The re-designed gun also retained a direct-fire sight for the engagement of ground targets, making it a dual-purpose weapon. Due to its heavier weight (17,199 lbs, emplaced vs. 10,992 of the FlaK18) and the relatively small number produced (556), the FlaK41 was not commonly issued to field formations; officially, it was to be towed by the schwerer Zugkraftwagen 12-ton Sd.Kfz.8 artillery tractor.
Kit-wise, the FlaK41 is rather under-represented; in 1/35th-scale, I believe a resin kit was once available, but I stand to be corrected. Certainly, Bronco is the first to release a styrene 1/35th-scale rendition. This kit is designed to be modeled in the firing position. Therefore it does not include Sd.Ah.202 bogie units, but it does come with a set of crew figures, courtesy of DML. Ammunition, stowage boxes and tubes, plus a complete 1-meter rangefinder with accessories are also provided. It should also be noted that a follow-up kit from Bronco has already been announced. This will include the Sd.Ah.202 bogie units, courtesy (again) of DML, but will probably dispense with any crew figures.
The main Kreuzlafette (cruciform mount) features two folding out-riggers, but they fold horizontally along the platform instead of vertically as on the earlier FlaK18/36/37. Each folding out-rigger is made of four parts for their main structures, with separate leveling pads; these remain movable after assembly. Each of the two out-riggers that are integral with the platform also feature separate leveling pads. The platform itself is made up of separate top and bottom plates as well as four more parts that fill in the sides. A number of small detail parts are then attached. These include sections of conduit, multi-part cross-members that helped mount the piece to the Sd.Ah.202 transport bogie units, and mounts for the four ground anchors that were driven into the ground to steady the gun while it fired. The last assemblies can be configured with the ground anchors stowed; the anchors are slide-molded so the perforations on the reinforcing flanges are all in place and properly opened-up. A number of small etched brass and styrene detail parts are also fitted where appropriate.
This assembly begins with the rotating platform for the mount, composed of six parts. One of these is a toothed gear-wheel that is to be left free-spinning so as to allow the gun to elevate. So, be careful with the glue and ensure that the later assemblies mate with it properly. A large console is fitted on either side of the base; one side encloses the equilibrator springs. Each of these has small multi-part boxes attached as well as segments of conduit. The latter are embellished with etched brass parts to represent the clamps that held the conduit in place. Separate, two-part trunnions are then fitted; they flank the toothed gear-wheel, so the modeler should ensure that they are properly aligned so that the follow-on assemblies will wind up where they belong.
The platform sits on top of a separate turntable base and is held in place by a peg. The rim of the turntable is embellished with etched brass detail parts. This item is fixed to the top of the Kreuzlafette.
Next up are the two separate side panels that connected to the guns trunnions. The one on the port side contained the twin fuse-setting mechanisms as well as a seat for the man in charge of that operation and the relevant segment of the Folgezeigeempfänger fire control system. It should be noted that decals are provided for the instrument dial faces, making for a fine-looking final assembly. The opposite side has two more segments of the fire control system as well as three seats for the gunner and the two pointers.
These panels receive a number of sub-assemblies. These include a 12-part (including etched brass details) direct fire sight for the gun when it is engaging ground targets. It mounts onto a cover that connected it to the gun; the former is attached to the side of the panel. There are a number of sub-assemblies that represent linkages and equipment cases, while all of the seats are multi-part assemblies that sometimes have alternate positions. All of the fire control devices are also multiple parts and some feature hand-wheels. A number of etched brass parts are provided for certain detail items. Although these items are tiny, for the most part they are well-engineered and easy to use.
These can be shown in the travel or firing mode, but they are not movable as designed. In either case, the styrene braces that hold the shields opened or closed are different parts, customized for either option. The shields on each side consist of the stationary and the folding segments. Each stationary segment receives separate additional plates as well as a number of styrene and etched brass detail parts. The main shield sections are quite thin for an excellent scale appearance. There are two small ejector pins on the backs of these parts, but they should not be too hard to remove. The aperture for the gunners direct-fire sight is covered with etched brass plates; it can be depicted opened or closed. A separate shield segment wraps around the gun tube, covering the central opening when the gun is elevated. Clever use of slide-molding has resulted in some excellent rendering of details in this area.
The gun tube comes in three main sections: the bore section, the breech section and the cap that held the two segments together. The single-piece bore-end is opened up since the part is slide-molded and the breech segment is a single solid part. Whats remarkable about this rather thick part is that there is absolutely no shrinkage or sink marks present, something to watch out for under the circumstances. The complex and massive gun-breech consists of about two-dozen parts, to include several etched brass detail items. The wedge can be shown opened or closed. The recuperator cylinder assembly is a multi-part assembly, with moving parts; care in clean-up will ensure that everything that has to move will do so freely. The recoil sled attaches to the breech end and mid-way along the gun tube.
The cradle is in two halves with a number of separate parts for each side and both ends. The front end also features a movable travel lock, so be careful with the glue. A multi-part etched brass and styrene assembly steadies the recuperator cylinder assembly; it is attached to the cradle.
This set includes extra arms and legs that will allow the modeler quite a bit of flexibility in depicting the gun with its crew. For instance, the figures as originally included in DMLs FlaK36 kit depict a crew conducting a ground engagement, since the man operating the range-finder and the guns commander, holding binoculars, are looking straight ahead. Three more crew-men are handling ammunition; one is lifting a round, another is holding a round pointing upwards and the last is about to load a round. The final figure is a seated gunner with his hand on a control wheel. The instructions address that configuration only.
The extra parts will allow the commander and range-finder operator to be depicted looking up, as if engaging an aerial target. The figure depicted picking up a complete round from the ground, can now be modified to be depicted as lifting one end of an ammunition box. The figure depicted loading a round into the guns breech, with the gun set at zero-degrees elevation, can now be modeled as loading a round at a much higher angle, suggesting again, that the gun is engaging an aerial target. Another ammunition handler can now be modeled as inserting a complete round into the fuse-setting mechanism. The sitting gunner can now be depicted at rest, as well as in the action pose with his head pressed to the sights, and his hands on one of the control wheels. The only problem here is that none of these variations are shown in the instructions!
All of the figures are clothed in the cold-weather hooded parka with matching trousers. Molding throughout is crisp with fine detail on the cloth folds. They wear steel helmets and a variety of foot-wear, but no web gear or belts. There are no individual weapons provided, with only a pair of binoculars on the sprue. Anyone who possesses a decent spare parts collection should be able to equip these guys.
This kit includes some accessories for diorama use. These consist of three single-round wooden ammo boxes, which can be shown opened or closed, and three metal tubes that can also be shown opened or closed. To these are added six styrene full rounds with etched brass bases. A 1-meter rangefinder with shoulder-rests, battery pack and stowage case is also included.
Accuracy and Details.
Photos indicate the gun is accurate from a visual standpoint, with the details matching quite well..
There are painting and finishing instructions for three different guns, with the colors keyed to Gunze and Testors paints. The three color schemes are based on a Dunkelgelb base; two have a disruptive pattern over the base. One scheme has a bare steel and red oxide gun tube, which I feel is a bit questionable. The color call-outs for the ammunition are also questionable. Hint: the cases could be steel-colored, or brass-colored, not black, grey or copper. Most of the decals are used to provide stencil data for the ammunition stowage boxes and tubes; these only describe PaK rounds and so may not be fully appropriate in all scenarios. Dial faces are given for the Folgezeigeempfänger and there are also kill marks for the splinter shield. Painting/markings options 2 and 3 (the one with the kill markings) are confirmed by photos. Option 1 is generic enough not to be a problem.
These are in booklet form featuring line drawings with numbers and symbols showing placement and construction options. There are also a number of enlarged detail renderings, in color, showing some of the sub-assemblies. The steps seem logical but some modelers will probably modify the order or leave some delicate parts off until the final assembly. Painting notes are provided for the gun, ammunition, rangefinder and the figures; these are all in full color. In a nod to tradition, a brief multi-lingual history of the FlaK41 is presented.
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
This model has a hefty number of very small styrene parts, as well as some tiny etched brass parts. So, this is not a kit for the beginner or someone that is looking for an easy build. Flash was non-existent; mold seams are delicate and easily cleaned. Ejector pin marks are not visible on any parts after assembly, except for the rear of the shields. Shrinkage is absent, particularly on some of the relatively thick gun tube sections. I have not yet assembled any of the major components so I cannot comment on the fit or ease of construction.
A kit of the FlaK41 has been long-awaited by fans of the classic German eighty-eight. Bronco has apparently done an excellent job of it, although there are a myriad of tiny styrene and etched brass parts to deal with. Experienced modelers should not find this kit to be beyond their skills, but novices, or those who prefer the Tamiya approach (ease of assembly at the cost of fine detail) may choose to pass on this one.
References consulted included the following:
1. The Eighty-Eight, a Visual History of German 8.8cm FlaK Guns in WWII; Ampersand Publishing, by D. Doyle.
2. Anti-Aircraft Guns; ARCO WW2 Fact Files, by P. Chamberlain & T. Gander.
3. 88mm FlaK 18/36/37/41 and PaK43, 1936-45; Osprey New Vanguard 46, by J. Norris & M. Fuller.
4. 88 FlaK and PaK; Profile Publications AFV Weapons Special, by P. Chamberlain & T. Gander.
5. Panzer in the Gunsights 2; Concord 7057, by S. Zaloga.
6. The Heavy FlaK Guns, Schiffer Publishing, by W. Müller.
7. German Artillery of World War Two; Greenhill Books, by I. Hogg. .
Note: Since May of 2005, I have been working on books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DragonUSA, Broncos North American distributor. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reports.
Bronco kits are available from retail and mail order shops. For more information, visit the DragonUSA web-site at: www.dragonusaonline.com.
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