German 128 mm Flak 40 Zwillingsflak
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.
For the Germans however, this was still not powerful enough. To augment the gun’s efficiency even more, a special version was build with two guns on one mount. The double Flak or Zwillingsflak 40 was born. Nearly all these guns were placed on top of specially designed anti-aircraft towers, as they could be found in Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna. Pictures prove that at least one Zwillingsflak was also used in the defence of the French port of Brest.
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 Zwillingsflak.
For modellers who have always been impressed by the biggest anti-aircraft gun the Germans ever made, the Modelcollect kit finally is a nice chance to build the Zwillingsflak 40 in plastic. Never before, this gun was produced as a regular plastic kit in 1:72. For the die-hards, there was only a resin copy by the Romanian company Wespe Models, but this resin kit is now discontinued. Besides, there is no need any longer to venture on a resin kit as the Modelcollect kit is a nice replica of this awesome anti-aircraft gun.
The kit consists of four sprues. One sprue contains the circular gun platform, intended to be bolted onto a flak tower. Two sprues are for the guns themselves. One of these sprues is identical on the sprue you find in the single Flak 40 kit, with the other sprue being the opposite version. The fourth and last sprue is the gun’s elevation system. You also find this sprue in the single Flak 40 kit.
One Zwillingsflak 40 has been preserved in the Aberdeen Proving Ground in the US. Although this last survivor is now in a sad condition, it gives us the opportunity to check the accuracy of the kit with the real model. As with the Flak 40, Modelcollect has done a superb job. Just everything is in place where it should be. All buttons, shafts and rivets are replicated in great detail. If you want to superdetail the kit, you could add some tubes and electrical wiring. With the help of good reference pictures, these can be easily modelled with lead wire.
The crucial parts of the kit are the impressive gun barrels. 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 elevation mechanism and breach blocks. The latter is somewhat more difficult, but luckily the joint in the breach blocks can be camouflaged behind another part.
There is also good news for those of you who like to make dioramas. A number of spare shells are also included. But even better is the announcement of Modelcollect to make a kit of an anti-aircraft tower. Four of these kits would even make a replica of the entire flaktower in Hamburg.
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. A surviving example of the Flak 40 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.