Articles

Zvezda - German FLAK 36/37(6158) _________(EXT)

Manufacturer Zvezda
Scale 1/72
Set Code 6158
Year 2012
No. of Figures 4
No. of Poses 4
Additional Items FLAK36, Wargaming card, base, and flag
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Low
Glue-ability Excellent (Poly-cement)
Conversion-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1940  - 1945

 

Review

During the last two years Zvezda has accustomed collectors, gamers, and modellers with issuing inside the Mini-Box series figures previously included in the now well-known Art of Tactic board games. On WWII Germans the first such game was Operation Barbarossa followed by Battle of Danube and Blitzkrieg 1940, with the exception of Headquarters, all figures starring in those games being made available for the Mini-Box series, too. Furthermore, for the board games, the Mini-Box series is utilised for bringing other kits not delivered by any game, mostly cannons with crews, but other stuff could emerge. Zvezda’s Art of Tactic kits are characterised through good accuracy and fine cast, low number of parts, snap-fit, glue-able plastic, and a particular format of the box. Likewise, the sum that has to be paid for a kit is a modest one, varying between 2 to 4 Euros, depending on the supplier and country of acquisition.
                                                                                                         

In 2012 Zvezda launched on the market “German Heavy Anti-Aircraft FLAK 36/37”, a kit also incorporated in the Mini-Box series but featuring few specific particulars, respectively more parts for putting together the cannon, four crewmen instead of two as commonly met in other Zvezda gun-crew kits, and the most distinct one, a thicker box in order to accommodate the larger number of parts. In addition, the price requested for the set is higher, around 7 Euros having to be paid for this one and it must be strongly emphasised the kit really deserves any penny, being top-notch detailed and cast, superior to most 1/72 88 mm FLAKs, and very important, much cheaper.    

The title refers to a cannon that had never officially been listed, FLAK36/37, practically the 88 mm FLAK being built in three versions, FLAK18, FLAK36, and FLAK37, all accommodating the high velocity L/56 gun and having inter-changeable parts. Because of that, it was frequent to encounter a FLAK36 barrel mounted on a FLAK18 trailer or other mixtures and perhaps such idea the producer wants to stress by naming their cannon FLAK36/37. Diverging from FLAK18, both FLAK 36 and 37 shared the same trailer and the guns were almost the same. The best way to differentiate these two FLAKs comes from the direction equipment, round on a FLAK36 and placed in boxes on a FLAK 37. Taking into account this and looking at the direction equipment available here, Zvezda’s model definitely represents a FLAK36 and cannot be a FLAK37.

Not only in reality, but also in the 1/72 scale, the 88 mm FLAK is quite popular nowadays, few companies targeting the famous gun in kits with or without crewmen. For a very long period Hasegawa’s "88 mm Gun FLAK 18" and "88 mm Gun FLAK 36” stood as the only options in the field, but in 2010 simultaneously appeared Italeri’s “8.8 cm FLAK 37 AA gun with crew” and Revell’s “8,8 cm FLAK36”, the last perhaps the most detailed kit, but the single one without crewmen. For covering the requested price, Revell gives a lot of optional parts, as well as the Sd.Ah 202 trailer and the fire detector Kommando Gerat 40 together with its Sd.Ah 52 trailer. In addition, garage industry sends a representative in the field through Miniaturas Alemany’s “88mm Flak 36/37 with Crew”, the white metal kit including the gun and twelve figures. As can be easily seen, the competition is quite strong, but as often, Zvezda has succeeded to release an attractive and innovative offer, an excellent reproduction of the prominent FLAK36.

According to statistics, appraised as the best WWII gun, the 88 mm FLAK was first tested in 1936 during the Civil War in Spain and saw action on all WWII fronts since the beginning to the end. Originally designed by Krupp as an anti-aircraft gun, the 88 mm “Flugabwehrkanone” gained multiple roles such as anti-tank and anti-infantry, its glory being also connected to the name of one of the most famous WWII commanders, Feldmarshal Erwin Rommel exploiting with great success 88 mm FLAKs for combating enemy armour in Africa. However, that cannon had already been tested versus tanks during 1940 French campaign and even earlier, in Spain. Its triumph as a tank knocker, having the capacity of destroying all enemy armoured vehicles from very long distances determined mounting various modified versions of 88 mm FLAK on chassis of a large number of vehicles such as Nashorn, Ferdinand, Elefant, Jagdpanther, and of course, the renowned Panzer VI "Tiger". In addition, the same gun was installed on different vehicles such as Sd.Kfz 8, and plenty models based on 88 mm FLAK were used as main firing weapon by U-boots and Kriegsmarine vessels.

The 88 mm FLAK fired high-explosive projectiles against aircraft and enemy infantry or armour-piercing and high-explosive projectiles in anti-tank role, FLAK36 and FLAK37 permitting firing from fixed position, on its cruciform carriage or from its trailer, the twin wheels of the Sd-Anh 202 placed on each of the two separate carriages allowing opening fire against ground targets in all directions from travelling position. Anyway, just like the other fast-build kit issued by Italeri, Zvezda’s one does not include the trailer and it can be displayed only in combat from fixed position.

For accommodating the larger number of parts, Zvezda’s 88 mm FLAK comes in a noticeable higher box, including two sprues, an assembly guide, a wargaming card, and another premier for the manufacturer, a decal sheet. The front artwork introduces the gun in full action together with four crew members in stances similar with those the 1/72 figures adopt. The FLAK is depicted in anti-tank role, which is very good while FLAK36 was extremely often used versus ground targets. In the artwork appears a gun painted in gray, greatly matching the Early War attire of its crew but the weapon can be also painted in dunkelgelb, as a Late War cannon. The novelty of the box rests not only in its size, but also in the fact that on the back there are present just images of the unpainted model, Zvezda accustoming the clients to find in that location at least two photos of the painted product. In addition, the back of the box supplies the usual information in Russian and English, such as number of figures and parts, the properties of the material used, and an image of the wargaming card. An interesting war time photo of an 88 mm FLAK firing at a ground target is set in the upper part of the card, but the crewmen are in greatcoats and in poses without many connections to those forwarded by the kit, the trailer being in close proximity, too. The decal sheet is of top quality, very thin and perfectly printed, providing the hobbyist two choices for their gun.

Identically copying the score record drawn on the shield of a real cannon painted in gray belonging to Hermann Göring FLAK Regiment, the same being given as an example within June 1943 Intelligence Bulletin, it seems that on the decal the drawings are a hair larger than the original ones. Anyway, the small mistake is hard to spot and depends on knowing and carefully studying the reference image, this insignificant inexactness not diminishing the pleasure of receiving such a complex and qualitative decal. Furthermore, those having reservations in employing that decal might go for the one with victory rings painted on the barrel or even to none. FLAK crews were allowed to paint a record of their successes on the shields for encouraging competivity, higher morale and efficiency, but many times such marks missed from various reasons. 

The assembly instructions are drafted clear and supplies excellent guidelines for putting together the figures and gun, as well as decal emplacements. Furthermore, there are reflected the optional variants for setting the cannon on or out of the gaming base and the choice with the layer for line traversing holding the related wheel or skipping it, in this regard a spare traversing hand-wheel being ensured. The same successful approach was first implemented inside the 20 mm FLAK38 kit, so it is more than pleasant finding it here again. 

Customary for the company’s gun and crew kits was placing the figures and cannon pieces on different sprues, but this time those are mixed on the two sprues. Zvezda’s FLAK36 astonishes all target groups, but especially the diorama builders, with a highly detailed and in-scale reproduction of the cannon, almost comparable with the much more expensive Revell gun. Categorized as a fast assembly kit, even not requiring gluing due to the snap-fit design, the cannon can be built quite fast but not so easy than the rest of artillery pieces usually issued by this maker. The 26 or 30 parts necessary for putting together the gun match very well, the pins fitting in the allocated holes and securely keeping the pieces in positions. Certainly, gluing is advocated for all parts except those allowing adjusting elevation and traverse. Permanently sticking the components will allow trouble free painting and movements of the cannon, as well as avoiding loosing pieces, primarily on account this cannon features quite many small ones. The variation of the number of parts comes from how the hobbyist wishes to display the model, either on the supplied large base already comprising the jack pads utilised for levelling the undercarriage or separately, in this case being necessary to snap the related four pads. By delivering the pads as individual parts as well, Zvezda seems taking into consideration the observations made by customers concerning the 20 mm FLAK38 kit, there the pads were given only on the base, those wanting to display it in other places having to extract and glue them on the cannon, obviously loosing some details and involving more time and steady hand.

Bearing in mind it is about a fast assembly model, the components are incredibly detailed, Zvezda’s technology proving once again the leading position gained in the last years in the hobby industry. The bottom carriage features immobile side outriggers but on account the gun misses its trailer, to be movable it would have been useless. The levelling jack pads are square shaped both on base and as optional parts, that is exact for FLAK36, round shaped being only at FLAK18. The kit displays many small details on the bottom carriage, outriggers, and jack pads, such as locking bar plungers, levelling and cross-levelling hand-wheels, and the pedestal being emplaced on a correct square gun base without rivets. With reference to rivets, neither those nor the others encountered on the kit, are not over-scaled and rightly placed, dissimilar to Hasegawa and Italeri cannons that shows too big rivets. There are also reproduced the holes where the stakes were fixed in combat if it was necessary, but here we find those in transportation position on the carriage. Such approach is correct even for a cannon in the middle of a fight, not all the times the crew fixing those stakes. A couple of round mould marks are seen on the bottom carriage and should be removed. The locked muzzle rest secures very well in position and is adjustable but belonging to a gun preparing to fire, it should be laid down on the bottom carriage. 

On the left side of the upper carriage appears a pretty fine fire control equipment including the fuse setter device featuring neat fuse dial and fuse cups. On the right, the elevation quadrant, round indicators, and elevation hand-wheel are also clearly perceived together with the other numerous small details. As pointed out earlier, the traversing hand-wheel is supplied in two options, one as separate piece if the cannon is displayed without crew and another, in the left hand of the layer for line traversing.A great incentive is ensuring the telescopic sight FLAK ZF 20E utilised for direct fire and excellent matching the shield sight opening. The top carriage attaches to the bottom one through a quite short pin and for better fixation, the existent could be prolonged or scratch-built a longer one from melted sprue.

The rammer mechanism, a system facilitating loading the projectiles at high angles of elevation mounted in a two part folding cylinder set on the left top of the cradle is present, but considering here it is about a cannon attacking ground targets, the system is not mandatory and might be skipped. Plenty of materials shot during WWII show 88 mm FLAKs missing the rammer, including FLAKs grouped in anti-aircraft batteries. Still, in case the rammer is omitted, then the two holes for setting it might be filled. Nonetheless, skipping this excellent shaped and sized, very thin but firm rammer will be a lost for the model.  

An operation highly recommended is drilling the muzzle while the piece is cast full, and it would be a pity not doing this taking into account the impressive details of the whole kit. The sculptor succeeded to depict a nicely shaped and accurate locking collar for front section of liner and inner tube. The barrel of the 36 and 37 versions, named "Rohr Aufbau 9", was recognised after the three removable liners for facilitating the change in the battle field.

Likewise, the breech is quite fine but little simplified, letting to be perceived the breech actuating mechanism and few other specific characteristics. Below the breech block emerges a properly modelled elevating arch. The recuperator cylinder installed over the muzzle is in normal position, the rod entering in it on all its length, being visible only the end part and inherently, the loading tray emerges uncovered by the gun in recoil. Above the recuperator cylinder, the panoramic sight bracket stands superbly carved bearing in mind its tiny dimensions.  

The shield is shaped as a single piece and features characteristics of the original model both on the outer and inner sides. A plus point of the kit versus the other 1/72 88 mm FLAKs, except Revell, represents the sight opening modelled opened, a perfect approach based on the fact the kit aims at displaying a cannon attacking a ground target. Though quite basic, the FLAK ZF 20E sight for direct fire is visible through the opening, just another proof of good Zvezda engineering. While the shield attaches to the upper carriage very good even without gluing, the hobbyist might take into consideration letting it as it was projected, as snap fit, in this way having the liberty to display his model with or without shield. Often 88 mm FLAKs, especially the 17 version, missed shields, more frequent FLAKs set in anti-aircraft defence, and occasionally those engaged in ground combat. 

According to regulations, an 88 mm FLAK was operated by an eleven member detachment, a slim distinction between the tasks of the personnel establishing if the cannon engaged aircraft or ground targets. The crew consisted in gun commander, layer for elevation, layer for line traversing, loader/gunner, four ammunition handlers, fuse setter operator, range setter, and tractor driver as well as another round handler in anti-aircraft role which was turned into lateral deflection setter in case of attacking ground targets. Nevertheless, images or filmed materials showing the entire detachment fulfilling their duties are extremely rare and apparently, the driver had almost nothing to perform. 

By providing only four crewmen, the Zvezda kit clearly does not cover the enforced personnel but the number is pretty satisfactory. In addition, those wanting to add more crewmen can easily convert other figures supplied by this manufacturer inside various kits. Particularly those from “German 105 mm Howitzer LeFH-18/18m”, “German 20-mm Anti-aircraft Gun with Crew FLAK-38”, and “German Regular Infantry 1936-1943” respond to this provocation extremely well, minor changes being necessary such as adding an 88 mm projectile in hands or other items highlighting their membership to an 88 mm FLAK. Furthermore, in the 1/72 scale there are enough figures able to cover tasks around an 88 mm FLAK, proposed both by mass production and cottage industry reps. An alternative that should not be ignored is the excellent FLAK 37 crew delivered by Italeri although the uniforms are different. All figures attached by Zvezda to the 88 mm FLAK involve assembly, but nothing complicated and the parts go well in positions, though as for the cannon, recommended would be permanently sticking with glue, in this way avoiding the appearance of any gap between parts when moving the minis.     

Corroborating the norms set for an 88 mm FLAK crew and the poses and items held in hands by the figures designed by Zvezda to accompany the cannon, it might be assessed those embody the gun commander, the layer for elevation, the loader/gunner, and one ammunition handler. In lifelike stances, Zvezda’s 88 mm FLAK crew noteworthy interact with their weapon, the manufacturer also submitting at least one innovative pose, respectively the loader which has his roots in a well-known film showing an 88 mm FLAK in action. Moreover, the other three poses seem inspired from a familiar 88 mm FLAK with crewmen photo shot during the campaign in Africa, so it is normal all to look great around their weapon. 

As very usual for Zvezda’s tender until now, all crew members are dressed in the Early War style, with M36 uniform, marching/jack boots, and steel helmets. Manning a cannon emplaced at a pretty safe distance from the enemy, gear was dropped off or let in the tractor by these soldiers, having on them only “Y” straps, belts, and bayonets. The gun commander also received binoculars, pistol holster, and map case while his subordinates got Kar98K ammunition pouches, in full accordance with reality considering they operate a gun towed by a prime mover, the 88 mm FLAK crewmen had rifles as personal weapons. The buttoned up tunics permit utilisations in all seasons, including cold ones, but the best would be warm/temperate climates. Missing breast eagles, the present soldiers can serve either in Wehrmacht or Waffen SS, of course in this regard the modeller having to paint the related eagles on the left arms. The 88 mm FLAK did not belong to Artillery and was not exclusively allocated to Luftwaffe ground units, it could be encountered in many others, so the hobbyist have the possibility to stress the parent unit by painting the appropriate Waffenfarbe on collar and shoulder boards. 

Spotting the enemy through binoculars, the gun commander is immediately identified after his gear and weapon. As suggested not only in the artwork but also inside the assembly guidelines, the commander mainly stayed on the right side of the cannon, near the layers for elevation and line traversing in order to faster transmit eventual orders. As gear he has got map case, bayonet, and a pistol holster, arranged on the belt exactly like in the above referred reference image, his stance being identical, too. The mini involves little assembly, the chest and arms being modelled separately and brilliant fixing on the body, but obviously gluing  is still advocated. The same method is encountered at an officer from WWII German Headquarters set, put forward exclusively by Zvezda’s board games. The headgear and equipment of the two figs diverge and even if at first glance the poses look quite similar, those are dissimilar as well. 

Holding the projectile up in the air, as preparing to push it in the breech, the loader/gunner sets out as an attention-grabbing figure, doing his job with top accuracy. In addition, for protecting his hands, he wears a special pair of gloves issued to personnel carrying out similar tasks. In theory such soldiers performed their tasks from the left side of the loading tray, the operation being done either from the ground or from the crucifix platform, with the left hand in front, as here illustrated. Nevertheless, depending on the settings in the field, the loading operation could be done from the right side of the gun, many images and films of the period revealing this fact-finding. After loading the projectile the loader/gunner had to action the trigger, practically having a dual role but if situation imposed, the layer for elevation could fire the gun. 

The miniature with another round in both hands is definitely one of the four loaders of the 88 mm FLAK and is pretty relaxed, being ready to approach the loader for handing over the next projectile. Its assembly is trouble-free, both arms together with the shell composing a single piece. The angle of holding the round could be variable, but the one projected by the sculptor can be checked not only inside the assembly instructions but also by paying attention to shoulder areas to come normal into view.

The layer for line traversing is the single seated fig, grabbing with the left hand the handle of the traversing wheel and with the right adjusting something at the FLAK ZF 20E sight. This four part figure, with separate arms and body in two halves is the one involving the most assembly. Nevertheless, everything goes smooth, the pieces finely matching and the whole operation is a matter of seconds, with or without making use of glue. The soldier excellent takes his seat, eyepieces of the sight fitting on his face. Ideal would be gluing his arms after checking how the hand wheel goes in the related pin and how the right palm arranges on the sight as well as the feet o the rest bar. 

A small issue raises the two projectiles held in hands by the crewmen, those seem accurate in shape but a little too small for an 88 mm cannon, closer to those of a 75 mm PAK. Nonetheless, in case it is desired, replacing the shells with more in scale 88 mm ones is fairly simple, different garage makers listing excellent options cast in resin or metal. A draw-back of the kit, often encountered at this maker is the lack of spare projectiles, tubes, and ammunition boxes, so necessary especially if displaying a cannon in action. Except cottage industry products, Hasegawa’s 88 mm FLAK kits make available such stuff.    

The figures are admirable sculptured, both anatomy and uniform details emerging very crisp and pleasing the viewer. Body proportions are marvellous while facial expressions impress with faultless noses, eyes, eyebrows, mouths, and checks.  Fingers are in places, normally grabbing the objects and palms are not a hair over-scaled. Attire strike with fine points, the sculptor succeeding to catch the true appearance of the M36 uniform, stitches, buttons, pocket flaps, collar, and shoulder boards being authentically and plainly reproduced. In addition, garment splendidly folds, giving a realistic touch to the overall look of these plastic soldiers. As customary for Zvezda, helmets are correctly scaled-down and shaped while the marching boots copy with fidelity the original model, including the stitched central, vertical spine to the reverse. 

Moulding and casting faultlessly come out, not only parts ideally matching in locations but also maintaining flash at a low level on both figures and cannon. The existent amount together with the few seam lines are fast removed, and excess of material completely misses while getting a multi-part product. The gun pieces really impress through their casting, very thin and extremely accurate in size and thickness, making Hasegawa and Italeri kits to look old and rough. The hard plastic deployed by Zvezda sets out as the ultimate material for the hobby, wonderfully joining the propensities and qualities of hard and soft plastics, enough elastic for resisting to shocks and bending, extremely and very fast glue-able as well as perfectly receiving enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils, without altering colour properties and keeping the paint job even exposed to intense handling. As indicated on various occasions along the present review, a single large base, shared by the cannon and crew was ensured for wargaming and other similar purposes, the figures missing individual bases, as Zvezda often supplies inside their kits. In case the related large base is not wanted or personal ones to be added from other sources, hobbyists should remove the pins from the boots of the standing soldiers, due to the taken poses the minis also benefitting by a great stability without any support. 

In the tall side of 1/72 scale, these 88 mm FLAK crewmen superlatively go with all the other comrades launched by Zvezda on WWII German Army topic as well as with hundreds of other figures dressed in M36 tunics proposed by different manufacturers, such miniatures being the largest spread in Braille Scale, so the required number of crewmen for manning an 88 mm FLAK can be easily completed. In case it is wanted, conversions are facile, in this purpose working with Zvezda hard plastic soldiers being a pleasure, not only mixing various heads and limbs from Mini Box sets, but also making use of various items of gear and weapons enclosed on separate spures by many Preiser, Dragon, and Caesar figure sets that provide wonderful alternatives and solutions for achieving eye-catching, useful, and fresh poses.   

Making a fantastic impression, Zvezda’s “German Heavy Anti-Aircraft FLAK 36/37” reiterates the remarkable abilities of the company for issuing incredible kits, highly detailed, accurate, and at extremely affordable prices. This time coming with a more complex tender, both in terms of number of crewmen and gun parts, immediately recognised after the larger box, the kit is still not complicated to be put together and the size and details on the cannon are much above all the other 1/72 scale 88 mm FLAKs with crews and almost on par with the outstanding Revell “8,8 cm FLAK36”. Due to the attributes it combines, the here reviewed kit is one of the most pleasant surprises in the field of 1/72 WWII Germans in 2012. A superb asset for all hobbyists, Zvezda’s 88 mm FLAK together with its crewmen set out as a must-have, a magnificent and accessible delight for collectors, gamers, and diorama builders.

Historical Accuracy 10
Anatomy 10
Poses Quality 10
Details Quality 10
Mould Quality 10
Sculpture 10
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s Opinion 10