ARM: Review - Merit 1/16 scale 15 cm sFH 18 Howitzer

Kit Review: Merit International 1/16 scale Kit No. 61603; German 15 cm sFH 18 Howitzer; 336 parts (309 in tan styrene, 8 etched brass, 6 black vinyl,
4 clear vinyl, 3 screws, 3 brass tubes, 2 springs, 1 steel axle); retail pr ice US$118
Advantages: first kit of this gun in this scale in styrene; optional towing or firing positions; many parts can be left unattached to replicate the ac tual gun
Disadvantages: no ammunition
Rating: Highly Recommended
    During the turn of the 19th-20th Centuries most of the developed countries sorted out their normal field artillery into four basic categories: light (65-90mm); medium (100-130mm); heavy (140-165mm); and super-heavy (170mm an d up). Each class was assigned at a specific level of service, e.g. light a t regiment and division, medium at division and corps, heavy at corps and a rmy, and super-heavy as needed for specific battlefield missions. But as ti me went on, most of the armies soon settled on two or three medium battalio ns and one heavy battalion for a division.
    The German army was no different, with a 10.5 cm light howitzer, 10 cm gun , and 15 cm gun/howitzer serving these functions; they also had a short-bar reled 15 cm howitzer for infantry support. But their maid-of-all work heavy gun was the 15 cm schwere Feldhaubtize 18 or heavy field howitzer Model 18 .
    The German army covertly developed a dual weapons system between 1926 and 1930, which produced a 10 cm gun (K 18) and the 15 cm field howitzer (sFH 1 8). Both went into production in 1933 with Rheinmetall having done the barr els and Krupp the carriage design. 2,295 sFH 19 and about 1,500 K 18 guns w ere built before the end of WWII.
    It was a good weapon and fired a 43.5 kg HE round to a range of 13,325 met ers, but eventually turned out to be insufficient against the Soviet 152mm ML-20 and the US 155mm M1. Increasing the propellant charge did give it a b it more range, but in the end it wore out the barrel quickly; there is a tu be cut away in the Belgian army museum in Brussels that shows how badly the se guns wore out.
    For many years this weapon has been very popular with modelers and has bee n available in several scales from 1/285 through 1/35. This is the first la rge-scale kit of the gun in styrene, however, and it appears to do it justi ce.
    The model provides for the gun to be posed in either towed or firing modes , and many of the parts such as the spades and limber are removable for tha t purpose. Construction is very similar to the US M198 kit (#61602) and als o there is a 10 cm K 18 kit to be offered (#61601); the latter is most like ly the possessor of the missing G sprue from this kit!
    Assembly starts with the trails in Step 2 (Step 1 only shows the optional positions) and is very complete. All non-removable parts (such as hand spik es, lifting arms, etc.) come with straps or brackets in place. While some m odelers may have wished them separate or done in etched brass, it is likely most will live with this. One thing I do miss from the good old days of Re vell in the 1960s is a call out for each item ? there are a lot of compon ents here which I cannot identify and it would have been nice to give them ?spaces and faces?!
    Step 6 covers the assembly of the center section of the lower carriage and the rotating base for the upper carriage. As with many kits of this size, a steel screw is used instead of a styrene pin for traversing.
    Step 8 covers the assembly of the recoil cradle and elevating mounts for t he gun. Note that I could not find any place on this kit where there were e jection pin marks that would show when completed.
    Step 9 completes the recoil mechanism and Step 10 covers the gun tube. Thi s latter component is a two-piece styrene affair, so you will need a ?Fle x-I-File? or similar device to smooth out the joint. There is no separate muzzle crown, but there IS simulated rifling for about a scale 50 cm down the tube. With some flat black paint and silver drybrushing it should look reasonably well, but perhaps a nickel insert would have been nicer. The gun does not have an operating breechblock but it can be left loose if desired . The tube may be left loose to be placed in firing position or drawn back in battery.
    The elevation cylinders are installed in Step 13 and use the steel springs for balancing the big gun; brass tubes go over the outside for a smooth fi nish.
    Each of the spades consists of 14 parts and can be either hung on the trai ls or popped into place for firing. Care must be taken as there is a separa te lock (parts D27/29, cemented in place) for each spade and it appears to actually hold the trail in place.
    Steps 17 and 18 cover mounting the gun to the carriage, and there are a lo t of ?do not cement? flags here. One part covers the elevating mechanis m which is attached to the right trail, and uses a brass tube and hinges to ensure it can replicate the flex in the original.
    Step 19 and 20 covers the sighst, and the main sight consists of 10 parts; as before there are no clear parts, but the only clear part here is the in side of the optic (part C44) so no big whoop.          The main wheels are held on with screws - attach inner wheel with screw an d then cement outer wheel in place. The tires are nicely done but the sharp of eye will note a small seam in the center of the wheel; this is impossib le to remove, but it would appear it was probably found on the original as well.
    Step 22 covers the limber, and a diagram is provided to get the right spre ad between the two arms of the carrier. Here the wheels are held in place b y vinyl caps to the limber axle.
    Only one finishing option is shown ? feldgrau ? with the red and white aiming stakes to brighten it up. Of course, sand and camouflaged options a re available, but not provided in the kit.
    Overall this is an excellent kit in the now blossoming ?pipe fitter?s scale? of 1/16. It does prompt the question of when a crew and a 1/16 sca le Sd.Kfz. 7 will follow though!
    Thanks to Tony Chin of Merit International for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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