Gunze Sangyo 1/35 15cm sFH 18 Howitzer Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||March 2009||Manufacturer||Gunze Sangyo|
|Subject||15cm sFH 18 Howitzer||Scale||1/35|
|Kit Number||G-716||Primary Media||White Metal, Photo-Etch, Turned Brass|
|Pros||Neat metal kit of German howitzer; Can be posed in firing order||Cons||No gun crew provided. No towing dolly. May be error in sand spade assembly|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$224.95|
The 15 mm schwere Feldhaubitze 18 or sFH 18 (German: heavy field howitzer, model 18), nicknamed Immergrun (“Evergreen”), was the basic German division-level heavy howitzer during WWII. It served alongside the smaller, but more numerous, 10.5 cm leFH 18. It was based on the earlier, WWI-era design of the 15 mc sFH 13, and while improved over that weapon, it was generally outdated compared to the weapons it faced. It was, however, the first artillery weapon equipped with rocket-assisted ammunition to increase range. The sFH 18 was also used in the self-propelled artillery piece Schwere Panzerhaubitze 18/1 (more commonly known as the “Hummel”).
The sFH 18 was one of three 15 cm (6 inch) caliber weapons, the others being the 15 cm Kanone 18, a corps-level heavy gun, and the 15 cm sIG 33, a short-barreled infantry gun.
The gun originated with a contest between Rheinmetall and Krupp, both of whom entered several designs that were all considered unsatisfactory for one reason or another. In the end, the army decided the solution was to combine the best features of both designs, using the Rheinmetall gun on a Krupp carriage.
The carriage was a relatively standard split-trail design with box legs. Sand shovels were carried on the sides of the legs that could be slipped onto the ends for added support. The carriage also saw use on the 10.5 cm sK 18 gun. As the howitzer was designed for horse towing, it used an unsprung axle and hard rubber tires. A two-wheel bogie was introduced to allow it to be towed, but the lack of suspension made it unsuitable for towing at high speed. The inability of heavy artillery, like the sFH 18, to keep up with the fast-moving tank forces was one of the reasons that the Luftwaffe invested so heavily in dive bombing, in order to provide a sort of “flying artillery” for reducing strongpoints.
The gun was officially introduced into service on 23 May 1935, and by the outbreak of the war the Wehrmacht had about 1,353 of these guns in service. Production continued throughout the war, reaching a peak of 2,295 guns in 1944. A total of 5,404 sFH 18’s were produced.
In the field, the sFH 18 proved to be greatly inferior to the Red Army’s 122 mm A-19 gun-howitzer, whose maximum range of 20 km allowed it to fire counter-battery against the sFH 18 with a 7 km advantage. This led to numerous efforts to introduce new guns with even better performance than the A-19, while various experiments were also carried out on the sFH 18 to improve it’s range. These led to the 15 cm sFH 18M version with a movable barrel liner and a muzzle brake that allowed a larger “special 7” or “8” charge to be used. The 18M increased range to 15,100 m, but it was found that the liners suffered increased wear and the recoil system could not handle the increased loads in spite of the brake. This led to a more interesting modification, the introduction of the 15 cm R. Gr. 19 FES ammunition, which used a rocket-assisted round that could reach 18,200 m and give it some level of parity with the A-19.
Several other versions of the basic 15 cm were produced. The 15 cm sFH 36 was a version with a greatly reduced 3.450 kg weight that was an attempt to improve mobility, but as it used various light alloys to achieve this savings it was considered too costly to put into production. The 15 cm sFH 40 was another improved version, featuring a slightly longer barrel and a new carriage that was suitable for vehicle towing and allowed the barrel to have wider firing angles and thereby improve range up to 15,400 m. However, this version was even heavier than the sFH 18 (at 5.680 kg) and was found to be too difficult to use in the field. Some of these barrels were later fitted to existing sFH 18 carriages, creating the sFH 18/40. A further modification was the FH 18/43, which changed to a split breech that allowed for the use of bagged charges, instead of requiring the gunners to first put the charges into shells. Two other attempts to introduce a newer 15 cm piece followed, but neither the 15 cm sFH 43 or 15 cm sFH 44 progressed past the stage of wooden mock-ups.
Several countries continued fielding the sFH 18 after the war in large numbers, including:. Albania (post war use), Bulgaria (post war use), Czechoslovakia (post war use), Finland (48 pieces bought from Germany in 1940), Germany (of course), Italy (known as “Obice da 149/28”), Portugal (post war use), Yugoslavia (post war use) and China.
Gunze Sangyo is a model, paint and accessory company based in Tokyo, Japan. My kit has a copyright date of 1990. I was willed this kit by a friend of mine who died of cancer several years ago. It is one of 3 Gunze Sangyo similar kits that came into my possession at that time.
The kit comes in a sturdy tray and lid type box. The boxart shows the model made up in 4 walk-around photos, of the side, front, rear and close up of the breech. There is a photo of all the white metal parts and the turned metal barrel there too. One side panel has another photo of the gun made up showing the other side. Next to this is the history of the howitzer in English and Japanese. The other side panel has 2 more photos of the howitzer made up and Gunze’s address in Japan and Germany.
Inside the box are 4 square white boxes and 1 rectangular one. These hold all the parts in the kit in numerous cello bags. The instructions complete the kits contents. There are no crew figures provided.
The instructions consist of an unbound booklet of 8 pages in 10 1/8” x 7 ¼” page format.
Page 1 starts with 4 black and white repeats of the photos on the boxart and side panels. This is followed by some international assembly symbol explanations. However, the explanations are in Japanese ONLY, so of little use to us English speaking modelers. The bottom of the page says that the kit is not suitable for children under 3, due to small parts. This is in 9 languages, including English.
Page 2 begins with a photo of all the parts in the kit. These are all numbered, with a corresponding list below them telling the parts names…in Japanese only.
Pages 3 through 8 give a total of 12 assembly step drawings.
I could not help but notice, in step 6, that the instructions are showing part no. 14 as being part of the sand spades. I am building the Trumpeter kit of the sFH 18, and this part is platform structure of the towing dolly that goes under the trail arms??? One of these model companies is obviously wrong. This Gunze kit does not have that dolly provided. Only the main wheels under the gun. It does, however, have some rounds of ammunition included, which the Trumpeter one does not. Also, the Trumpeter kit is highly geared to be built in only in the towed set up. The Gunze one can have the split-trail deployed into the firing pose.
This is one neat German howitzer model. Highly recommended to modelers who have previously worked with all metal kits and super-glue.