Dragon's 1/35 FlakPanzer IV (3CM) Kugelblitz
By Robin Nilsson
The Real Thing
Leichte Flakpanzer IV (3 cm)Kugelblitz or Gerît 556 or Flakpanzerwagen 604/4. Two prototypes were delivered in February 1945 from the manufacturer Deutsche Eisenwerke. The Pz Kpfw IV hull and superstructure was unchanged except for the turret race from a Tiger being fitted (1.9 m diameter). The turret design was revolutionary. The mantlet was a great sphere and rotated inside a low open topped turret. There were two MK103 3 cm guns capable of 650 rounds per minute and three crew members in the ball. Two Kugelblitz prototypes were completed in February by the manufacturer Deutsche Eisenwerke. These were intended for use on the western front but no records exists of any combat service.
Eight different sprues (some are doubles or triples) molded in light gray plastic, except for the track links which are very dark gray, and one sheet of photo etched metal. There is very little for the spares box, just a set of early sprocket and idler wheels. There is one small sheet of decals of which only three black crosses with white outlines are supposed to be used.
The box art showing two Kugelblitz shooting at Soviet fighters seems inaccurate with respect to the intended theatre of operation and the non-existence of combat records, but who knows.
The pictures of unpainted subassemblies show the areas were sink marks had to be filled (shown in red) and the added hooks and handles. One picture shows the assembled lower hull with scraped away paint were the return roller was incorrectly mounted and one of the U-shaped tracks.
Step By Step:
Step 1 and 2
Some holes are drilled in parts B1, B8 and B9. Use a thin drill so that the holes can be adjusted when mounting the tools. If the hole is drilled according to the indicated depressions there will be some filling of too large holes when mounting the tools.
Assembly of the lower hull is fairly straightforward. The rear hull plate has 5 ejection pin marks. These are easily filled. I used a punch and die set (useful tool!) to make small discs to fill these marks. The upper edges of parts J12 & J13 (exhaust pipes) were thinned from the inside to look like thin sheet metal. The holes in parts J7 should be filled and the end of the cylindrical bits gently rounded. The mounting locations for the exhaust pipes are slightly too large. Above the stub axles for the idler wheels there is a handle on each side (track tension adjustment?) which are molded onto the rear hull plate. The handles should be free and attached at their corner. Seen from behind it looks okay but comparison with an old Italeri or Tamiya Pz IV chassis shows what it should look like. I sawed off the handles, about one mm (1/32 inch) thick, filed them down to about 0.5 mm and remounted them on thin plastic rod. The molding behind the handles was filed down to a gentle slope (compare with Italeri or Tamiya).
This is the assembly of the running gear. Watch out! Assembly of the running gear is fairly straightforward unless you fall into the same trap as I did. There are four return roller assemblies from Step 2 and there are four little marked mounting positions on the hull sides. The trouble is that one of the marked mounting positions on each side is in the wrong spot. The assembly diagram and the side view in the painting diagram show the correct positions. The mounting mark above roadwheel 4-5 should be removed as well as some marks for something above the last bogie (this is where the fourth return roller should be) on each side. The bogies (parts C10 and C7) are incorrectly numbered in the diagram, i.e. ëC10(C7)í should be ëC7(C10)í.. The assembly diagram shows the bogies turned the right way though so go by the diagram. I left the wheels off and painted them separately, more about this under Painting below.
Before gluing part A1 to part B1 make sure there is no sunken molding on the rear of A1. I had to fill a slight grove going from side to side. The machine gun barrel was left off to prevent damage.
Step 6 and 7
These steps deal with the front and left side of the upper hull. The attachment points (parts MA1 to MA6) for the spare track links were left off to avoid losing them at later stages; the spare track links were also left for later to make painting easier. Two track links were drilled in the same manner as described in step 8 below. The two parts J8 were replaced with metal wire bent to shape and glued into drilled holes. The spare wheels were left off until after painting. The shape of the spare wheel holder is wrong according to the picture in the references (see below). It should look like the one in Tamiya's old Ostwind or their Pz IV J. The Tamiya Pz IV J also has a fair representation of the hull side track stowage. The spare wheel holder should have a straight side up to the level of the upper edge of the hubcap, and from there it should go straight to the edge of the upper hull. Part A5 should be used to represent the locking bar that prevents the spare wheels from escaping, glue A5 so that it lies between the inner and outer halves of the spare wheels. This is only possible if the shape of the spare wheel holder is changed or some plastic is removed from the insides of the spare wheels. I realized this too late so the pictures show the wrong shape. The pictures of the Kugelblitz in the two quoted references seem to be the same one. The other prototype might possibly have had another shape of the spare wheel holder. The picture in the references donít show the retaining rod for the spare wheels but it is a retouched image and the rod should have been there.
Here we assemble the right side of the upper hull by attaching various tools and stowage for six spare track links. Most of it is straight sailing but there is room for some improvements in the track stowage (two parts J20 and 6 times I1). The two bumps on J20 were drilled out with a 0.4 mm (gauge 78) drill to accept a wire. The track links were also drilled to create holes for the track pins. The wide side of the links has got the ends of the track pins indicated, they look like bolt heads. These were cut off and holes of the same diameter as the indicated pin were drilled from side to side. Holes were also drilled in a corresponding position on the narrow side of the link (the side with only three hinge protrusions). When all holes (6 links and two series of holes on each link) were drilled (a few links were massacred in this process) short wires were inserted through the holes on the wide side of the link to represent the original track pins. I have assumed that the track pins for the spare links were stored in the links themselves. Long wires were thereafter inserted through the bumps on the forward part J20 going through the narrow sides of the track links and ending in the bumps on the rear J20. The links are now suspended, narrow side up, by a wire representing a rod of the same, or similar, diameter as the track pins.
This step treats the rear end of the upper hull. The two hooks (parts J2) on the upper rear plate seemed a bit too long so they were shortened. This was done by cutting the hook from its mounting plate, drilling a hole through the mounting plate and inserting the hook into the hole. The amount of shortening was a bit of a guess by me. I let both legs of the hook be equal in length since this matched one reference fairly well. The antenna mount (part B12) was filed out. The real mount looked like two triangular plates with a square plate on top.
This step takes care of assembly of tracks and mating the upper hull to the lower. The tracks are single links and fairly simple to clean. There are two injection points per link located on the short sides of the link next to the little knob representing the track pin. After cleaning all the links (there are some spare ones) they were assembled into a number of lengths per side. One lower run going from under the first roadwheel to under the last, one upper run stretching from two-three sprockets onto the sprocket wheel to past the idler wheel. The upper run is shaped while soft to induce a slight track sag between the return rollers, the sag is slightly more than 1/64 inch. The upper run is left to dry and thereafter the upper and lower runs are connected by a shorter length around the idler. A short length is added to the front of the lower run to go two-three sprockets onto the sprocket wheel. The gap left between the ends of this U-shaped length will be closed by a short length of three to four links after painting. When the track pieces are dry they can be painted separately from the tank. The U-shaped length can be seen in one of the pictures. When parts B3 and B6 are mounted to the lower hull the cutouts in the lower hull are not filled. This will be visible unless filled.
This is the assembly of the turret ball. There are two single hatches and one double hatch, all of which can be assembled in an open position. There is no interior for the turret or figures to stick in the open hatches so I glued mine shut. The insides of the hatches are detailed, so a couple of figures could be useful.
In this step the turret ball is mounted on a ring and a photo etched protection (part MA6) for a periscope added. I left MA6 until just before painting to avoid knocking it off in stage 16 & 17.
Here the turret and turret ring is mated with the shield. The two lifting hooks (parts J9) are also added. I chose to replace these with wire bent to shape since the original parts were difficult to remove from the sprues in one piece. Cleaning them from flash and getting them round seemed impossible so they were only used as templates. Paint the inside of the turret shield (part A2) before assembly because it will be difficult to reach later, even with an airbrush.
This step assembles the gun barrels, some kind of sleeve for the barrel and the completed turret. Note that the muzzle brakes shall be tilted (approximately 45 degrees). The degree of tilt is given by the three mounting holes on the turret front. This tilt isn't obvious in the assembly diagram. The barrels were drilled out past the muzzle brake and the short pipes making up the muzzle brakes were also drilled out. The drilling was done in stages, starting with a smaller diameter drill, then an intermediate diameter and finally the desired diameter. The final diameter for the barrel should be 0.857 mm (0.00337 inches or somewhere between a gauge 66 and 65 drill) so I used a 0.9 mm drill. The pipes on the muzzle brake were drilled out with a slightly smaller drill, I used the molded on dimples as guides to select a drill.
Painting & Decals
I kept painting simple for three reasons: 1 - being lazy; 2 - it was only a prototype; and, 3 - I thought it would make the pictures clearer and easier to see. I deliberately kept it neat since it was a prototype. The hull was painted overall dark yellow (a 50/50 mix of Tamiya XF 59 and XF 60). The rubber on the roadwheels were painted with black toned down with dark gray. The exhaust pipes were painted dark metallic gray and heavily dry brushed with dark red-brown. The barrels of the guns should be painted gunmetal but I forgot this in the hurry. Tools could/should also be painted but I was too lazy. The picture in the references show a very clean left side without tools.
Insert the turret into the hull and twist to desired position and the Kugelblitz is finished. I added a 70 mm (2 inch) long antenna made from thin plastic rod. This is a little thick but thin metal wire is so easy to bend and then almost impossible to straighten without removing it.
"Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two" by Chamberlain, Doyle and Jentz, revised edition ISBN 1-85409-214-6. Arms and Armour Press, an imprint of the Cassell Group. Also from Sterling Publishing Co. Inc and Capricorn Link (Australia) Pty. Ltd.
"German Medium Flak" in Combat by Werner Muller. Schiffer Military History vol 43
Both books contain the same picture of a Kugelblitz prototype. The Encyclopedia also gives technical details. The picture seems to be a retouched image. On the rear end of the superstructure there seem to be some kind of holders (holders for spare barrels?). These are not represented in the kit. Parts B15, B18, B21, B19, B29, J22, B25, A15 and possibly B14 can't be seen in the picture. However the picture shows two headlights whereas the kit only suggests one (two are available from the two J sprues). The picture also show the barrels as straight (the muzzle brakes are not tilted by 45 degrees). The other prototype might have been different though.
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