Kit Review: AFV Club 1/35 Scale Kit No. AF 35088; German 8.8 cm Flak 18 Anti-Aircraft Gun;388 parts (350 in olive drab styrene, 25 etched brass, 6 tires in black vinyl, 3 brass tubes, 2 sections of brass chain, 1 turned aluminum barrel, 1 roll of clear vinyl tubing); price not known but estimated at US $35.98
Advantages: first kit of this gun in this scale; nicely done job on the Sd.Anh. 201 bogies; operating balancing cylinders on gun mount
Disadvantages: extremely tiny parts may frustrate some modelers; does not have all of the options of the DML kit, such as optional barrel
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: to all WW II German fans and "Duck Hunters" (ADA fans)
After over 30 years with only one "88" kit on the market, in a matter of weeks two kits have been released to cover the gamut - DML's Flak 36/37 and AFV Club's Flak 18. While the guns were ballistically identical, used the same ammunition, and even had a large number of interchangeable parts, the older Flak 18 always struck me more as the "sports model" of the gun due to the lighter appearance of its Sd. Anh. 201 bogie assemblies.
The Flak 18 was the first version of the new 8.8 cm antiaircraft gun to be produced, and entered production in time to see service in Spain. It was not until later on that the fear of having many antitank guns outmatched by enemy armor protection caused designers to look into armor-piercing rounds for the weapon. (The great advantage that permits an AA gun to be converted to an antitank gun is the fact it needs high muzzle velocity to sling a shell up to a useful altitude to engage aircraft; that is what permits it to fire a relatively heavy AP round at sufficient velocity to defeat armor.)
The Flak 18 received a splinter shield and direct fire sights after Spain, and was used from then on as a dual purpose weapon. Many 18s were rebuilt at some point in their careers with improved Flak 36 components. The gun on display at APG's Ordnance Museum is a Flak 18 that was upgraded in 1942 with a Flak 36 barrel and twin fuse setters, and which was captured in Tunisia in 1943. This gun was highlighted in the captured material manual on the weapon (TM E9-369A dated 29 June1943).
The kit is a good replica of a slightly upgraded Flak 18 that has been optimized for antiaircraft work as well as antitank work. It has twin fuse setters (the APG one had twin bays but only one setter in its device) and some minor tweaks. The kit only provides the Flak 18 barrel (albeit as an excellent one-piece turned item) so cannot be fully upgraded without a swap. (As an aside, note that APG's Flak 36 was delivered with a Flak 18 barrel. Go figure.)
The kit is about as complex as the DML one so modelers will be happy to learn you don't have to choose one over the other unless you prefer either the 18 or 36; I suspect many will want both. The reason for the difference in parts (388 versus 609) is mostly due to the lack of a crew and a plethora of accessories such as ammo crates and spare rounds.
The kit comes in olive drab, which is an odd choice that AFV Club has selected for some time now to mold their German kits. It's a bit more difficult to cover with paint than the more common DML primer grey styrene or tans as used by Academy and Tamiya, so I have no idea why they choose to use this color for all current kits. Five sprues are new and one is a carryover from the older le FH 18 10.5 cm kit (tools and some sight parts.) All parts are crisply molded in the AFV Club style.
The model offers options, but they are either A or B and no in-betweens. For example, the gun can be either displayed in firing position or march order, but cannot convert from one to the other. Also the shield can be mounted or left off. The gun, however, can be traversed and elevated in firing position, and comes with working elevation balance cylinders (they use a brass sleeve for compensating for the change in length; DML and Tamiya used separate sets for "down" and "up.")
The directions are among the better sets from AFV Club and are actually easy to read, with colors flagged for detail painting vice obscure numbers keyed to the manufacturer's favorite brand of paint. Incidentally, there is a small error in the blurb on the front of the sheet that claims the Flak 18 had no brakes. The Flak 18 did have service and parking brakes, to be sure (the drums for the single wheels are not what one could call subtle!) What it did not have was a lockout for the suspension that would permit it to be fired from march order without a lot of problems.
Marking and painting instructions are included for six different weapons, but are rather generic and somebody wasn't thinking too clearly on reuse. The kit comes with "kill rings" in both black and white, but one set has obvious Eastern Front rings as they note tanks and river barges; this is also listed for one in North Africa! I suggest looking for photos of specific guns.
Overall this is a nice kit and should prove popular, and for once AFV Club did not go head-on-head with DML on a specific weapon.
Thanks to Miin Herng Tsueng of AFV Club for the review sample.