by: Keith Forsyth [ ]
As Allied air power grew dramatically during the mid-period of the war, the 20mm quad-mount proved to have too little power and the 37mm was turned to as its replacement. Not content with the existing versions, Rheinmetall-Borsig and Krupp were asked to produce a new version that was less expensive.
Krupp initially won the contract, but at the last moment the Krupp design developed weaknesses, and Rheinmetall-Borsig got the award. This immediately resulted in the factional wrangling in the Nazi party that often beset German wartime industrial production, so by the time Rheinmetall-Borsig was actually able to go ahead well over a year had passed. The design was partially able to make up for the delay, however, as it was produced with stampings, welding and simple components in the same way as machine guns. The production time for a gun was cut by a factor of four.
The new 3.7 Flak 43 was a dramatic improvement over the older models. A new gas-operated breech improved the firing rate to 250 RPM, while at the same time dropping in weight to 1247 kg. It was also produced in a twin-gun mount, the 3.7 cm Flakzwilling 43, although this version was considered somewhat unwieldy and top-heavy.
The Flak 37 could be found in some numbers mounted to the ubiquitous Sd.Kfz. 7 or (later) the sWS. The newer Flak 43 was almost always used in a mobile mounting. Most famous of these were the converted Panzer IV's, first the "interim" Möbelwagen, and later the Ostwind, which was considered particularly deadly.
Compared to its closest Allied counterpart, the 40mm Bofors, the Flak 43 had over double the firing rate, could set up in much smaller spaces, and was considerably lighter when considering the gun and mount together. Although the weapon was complete in 1942, production did not start until 1944. About 928 single and 185 double versions were produced by end of the war.
The first thing that surprises you when you receive this kit is how big the box is, for what you perceive to be quite a small model even in 1/35 the box is quite substantial. Featuring a blue and white cover, with a large picture of the Flak gun mounted on its trailer and some pretty nifty technical sketches of the model from various angles along with some colour pictures of the additional extras included in the box, it does draw you in at first sight.
On opening the box you are presented with a cardboard stand off covered in bubble wrap, unwrapping this you get to see all the extras that will make this such a great purchase. Two full sets of photo-etch parts as well as a turned metal barrel and some brass rod are all taped to this cardboard stand off as well as a small photo-etch fret that contains a set of stencils so you can add all the kills your gun crew have made.
Removing the stand off from the box you are presented with the meat of the model produced in a grey plastic on three sprues, as well as a set of instructions. The sprues are broken down into logical parts with sprue A being for the majority of the trailer parts, sprue B the gun mount and the main body of the gun and finally sprue C having all the smaller detail parts required for the model. One thing you do notice is that you do not get a plastic option for the gun shield as that is only provided in photo-etch. Taking a quick look at the shield, it is evident that it will need a serious amount of time and patience to put it together, although it appears to have been better thought out than the equivalent Eduard item (this is the third Flak 43 I have built, the others being form Trumpeter and Revell). The shield can be built in either the folded travelling position or open ready for use, depending upon your own choice.
Looking over the sprues, there is no flash and minimal injection marks on the pieces, the ones you do notice should be easy to fill or remove when building the kit. The plastic is quite hard to the point of feeling brittle, but the detail that has been produced is second to none, being way above the other flak 43's I have built recently.
The instructions follow the standard form of a multiple folded sheet affair with a step by step logical sequence, even calling out the differences between the travelling and in use modes, but I would suggest that you make the choice early as to which one you want to do. The distinctive shell catching cage is provided in photo-etch, as is the shell ejector, which should add to the appearance, although the shell feed is molded in styrene. A little odd, but it may work out, time will tell once it is built.
A steady hand will be needed for the assembly of the gun shield, as this includes a lot of small photo etched parts that need to be bent into shape and either soldered or glued into place, (its almost a kit with in its self). Otherwise, the kit appears to be a straight forward build.
Finally, a set of resin wheels and a small bag of used shells finish off the kit, the wheels coming in two parts with the tyres having a flat edge to them which is a nice touch. Other than the spent shells, no other ammunition is included but a separate set is available with the correct shell loading magazine produced out of photo etch.
This is possibly the ultimate model of a flak 43 available, being produced in all the right mediums to build a scale replica of the real thing. I know quite a few modellers bemoan the fact that manufactures do not produce accurate scale models, but this is possibly the nearest I have ever seen one come.