German 128 mm Flak 40
One of the best German anti-aircraft guns in WWII was without any doubt the Flak 40. This heavy 128 mm gun could fire a shell of 26 kg as high as 35.000 feet, where it would burst apart in a deadly cloud of shrapnel. Some sources even state an altitude of 48.500 feet. This was high enough to take even the highest flying allied bombers out of the sky.
Design of the gun already begun in 1936, three years before the official outbreak of the war. Not that there were any direct needs for such a powerful gun, but rumours spread In German headquarters that the allied powers were developing a high altitude bomber.
The first prototype was ready in 1937. Besides its extreme power, the tests also revealed the main drawback of the gun. With its weight of 13 tons, it was too heavy to be used as a mobile gun and thus useless for frontline service. Attempts were made by the company Meiler to design a special trailer for towing the gun, but as trailer and gun weighed over 26 tons, this was not a success either. Not more than six of these trailers would have been made. A last try to give the gun a certain mobility, was to mount it on flat railway cars. This solution was neither successful. Finally, the German army chose to use the guns only from (fortified) static positions, where they could defend industrial complexes or towns.
When the war started in 1939, no gun had been produced. As long as Germany was on the winning hand, this heavy anti-aircraft gun was no priority. It was felt that the better known 88 mm anti-aircraft gun Flak 36 was suitable enough for the job. This changed after the first bombardments on Germany, when an urgent need grew to protect the Reich. Besides shooting higher, a more powerful anti-aircraft gun can start shooting earlier at mid-altitude flying bombers and hold them under fire for a longer period of time. As such, the efficiency of such a gun is greater.
Production of the Flak 40 started in 1942. By the end of the war 1.125 of these heavy anti-aircraft guns had been produced, of with 34 double guns for use on specially designed Flaktowers. These were called Flak 40 Zwilling.
By making a 1:72 replica of the Flak 40, the Chinese company Modelcollect is again showing its creativity. Apart from a hard-to-get resin copy of the company Extratech, this gun has never been produced before as a regular plastic kit. With the Modelcollect kit, this impressive anti-aircraft now comes in reach of every modeller.
Modelcollect presents the gun on a cross type gun platform, much like the platform of the 88 mm anti-aircraft gun. This is a rather strange choice, as the gun is mostly seen on its rectangular base, designed for static use. The cross type gun platform on the other hand, was more used for the 10,5 cm Flak 38. However, in my kit a sprue is included with the rectangular base, but without a plan how to build it. This sprue was not included in the plastic bag containing the four sprues to build the gun, so maybe this sprue normally does not come with the kit.
One Flak 40 has been preserved in the Wehrtechnischen Studiensammlung Koblenz. This makes it possible to check the accuracy of the kit. To be honest, Modelcollect has done the job very well. The complex aiming and fire control system are replicated in great detail, with all buttons, shafts and rivets where they should be. Also the handrailings are finely cast. In recent years, the new company Modelcollect has build a reputation of extremely well detailed kits and this gun is no exception to the rule. For modellers who like to participate in modelling contests: this is the type of kit you can turn into a winning model. For those who like to make dioramas: a number of spare shells are also included.
The crucial part of the kit is the impressive gun barrel. Unlike some other kits in the Modelcollect range, you do not get a metal barrel. You will have to glue two halves together, with the inevitable task to make the joint invisible. Luckily, the parts fit well and give only a small joint. By successively sanding with 2000, 4000 and 6000 sanding paper, I was able to remove the joint quite easily. The same has to be done with the gun’s breach block (somewhat more difficult) and elevation mechanism.
Often, also ejection marks are a delicate point. As Modelcollect is a modern company, they have taken this into account when designing the kit. All ejection marks are situated on places where they will not be visible when your kit is finished. The one exception are the ejection marks on the inside of the side supports of the gun. As the inside of these supports is completely flat, it should not be a problem to hide them with the magic duo ‘filler + sanding paper’.
Some critical remarks remain for the building instructions. Some steps in the building process require a close look as the instructions are not always that clear. A pity is also the lack of detail in the painting scheme. Modelcollect suggest two options: German grey or German dark yellow. The example at the Wehrtechnischen Studiensammlung Koblenz however suggests much more detail (e.g. control wheels and instrument panels in black, several buttons and handles in red). No painting details are revealed for the shells either. These have almost the size of a man, so they are large enough to be painted with a lot of detail.
A highly recommended and pleasant-to-build kit.