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Saturday, January 14, 2012

German Mobile Anti-Aircraft Guns

At the beginning of the war, Germany's Flak (Fliegerabwehrkanone) guns were all static or towed. As the war progressed they developed a set of new vehicles in which they mounted the guns to provide them with greater mobility. The caliber of these mounted guns however was smaller than that of the ground-based 88s, with most of them carrying a 20 mm flakvierling (quadruple anti-aircraft gun) or a single 37mm gun on top of the modified chassis of other existing vehicles. The development of these vehicles was more of a reactive approach than a well thought out AA defense strategy. This, in combination with insufficient numbers of fighter aircraft on the part of the Luftwaffe, allowed the allies to achieve total air supremacy, which further increased the need for these guns, but they were never produced in large enough numbers to make a difference against the ever increasing number of fighter and fighter-bombers diving down on them. The situation became so bad that eventually most troop movements had to be carried out under the cover of darkness. In any case, the vehicles that were produced were an interesting bunch and the toy soldier manufacturers have done a decent job representing them. Let's review a few of them.

Forces of Valor Sd Kfz 7/1
The Sd Kfz 7/1 was a modified prime mover which was originally used to tow the guns. The last two rows of seats were removed and a 20 mm flakvierling was mounted. This model from FOV is nicely detailed as usual. The sides of the truck fold down to allow the gun to turn 360 degrees. The quadrupple gun also moves up and down, although it only goes about 3/4 of the way up relative to the vertical plane.  

21st Century Toys Flakpanzer IV Mobelwagen
This is again a 20mm quadruple gun, but this time it is mounted on a Panzer IV chassis. Most of these were disabled Panzer IVs from the eastern front sent back for repairs and refitted as self-propelled AA guns. Note that the sides of the vehicle fold down to allow it to rotate and fire, however this also left the crew completely exposed to shrapnel and strafing fire. When the sides of the vehicle were folded up it makes it look like a big box, probably the reason for it's nickname, the furniture truck. What is unusual about this vehicle is that when you read about it, it appears that only the first prototype carried the 20mm guns. In production it was equipped with a 37 mm cannon. It became available in April of 1944 and less than 300 were produced.

21st Century Toys Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind
The Wirblewind or Whirlwind was developed in late 1944. It offered a bit more protection to the crew than its predecessors, but it still contained an open turret, a necessity given the smoke produced by the quadruple 20mm guns. The 20mm flakvierling had a practical rate of fire of about 800 rounds per minute. Each magazine held 20 rounds and would have to be changed 10 times per minute to achieve that firing rate. These guns were also very effecgtive against ground troops and soft skinned vehicles. There is a scene in Saving Private Ryan in which a quad 20mm gun is used with devastating results against some unaware infantrymen who are inspecting a Panzer that they had just disabled.

Forces of Valor Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind
This is FOV's version of the Wirbelwind. It was actually released in two color schemes, the other one being a gold/dark green cammo color scheme. If you have been reading along you might have realized by now that this vehicle did not fight in North Africa. I took this picture before I checked when it was manufactured, but I suppose that you could pretend it did as the color is well suited. Coming back to the Wirbelwind, about one hundred of them were built and it was soon replaced by the Ostwind, which had the same turret but mounted a single 37mm gun.

Atlantic Mobile Anti-Aircraft Gun Flakvierling 38 - Part I
This is one of the more elaborate sets that I have seen from Atlantic. They had to inject quite a few pieces to make it all come together. The assembly is still pretty straight forward, but it makes you appreciate the design challenge to cast it. The quad gun has some movement up and down and it can also turn on its vertical axis.
Atlantic Mobile Anti-Aircraft Gun Flakvierling 38 - Part II 
From the back you can appreciate the crew a bit better. The two men on the side appear to be holding/loading the ammo clips and the one on the back is the main gunner, who seems to be adjusting the sight on top of the gun. The only odd thing are those 'handles' on the side of the chasis. I wonder if they were meant to be there or they are left over from the casting process.

Atlantic Artillery Tractor Sd Kfz 1 Klein
This is a nice complement to the AA gun, as they both fit perfectly and now you have a way to tow the gun into position. The tractor comes with a driver who can be removed so that you can close the hatch, which is necessary of you want to move the machine gun from one side to the other. As far as the name, I tried to dig up pictures of the real Sd Kfz 1, but it does not look anything like this tractor. I think the Sd Kfz 1 was in fact a staff car, so I don't know if Atlantic's name is accurate. Anyhow, both of them go well together and once I get around to painting them, I think they will display nicely. Better than their bright blue factory color, which is a bit intense on the eyes.

Click here to see a post about the 88mm Flak gun.
Here you can see pictures of other Sd Kfz 7 models.


  1. why dont you do conversions?Great blog

    1. Good question. I suppose I am too attachded to the figures to bring myself to cut up a few of them to make a new one. Even if the resulting new figure is worth it, it would still give me a funny feeling to do so. I know it is a bit irrational. Even as a child I would not dispose of the guys that the dog would chew up every now and then. But maybe that's what also makes me a collector... The funny thing is that I do like and admire the conversions that other people do, so go figure.

  2. I love your blog. I have been working with 1/32 plastic since the 1970s, both World War II and American Revolution. You show great imagination in creating your scenarios.

    In order to get more variety, allow me to suggest selectively incorporating 1/35, which is pretty close to 1/32 and has a wide range of items on the market, as well as metal, which I know is pricier, but can add extra poses. Four or five of each could aid in fleshing out your company level deployments, and allowing you to weed out some of the weaker and less well-sculpted plastic poses. As the previous commenter suggested, some conversions could also be helpful.

    1. Thanks a lot for your encouraging feedback. I appreciate it. Your suggestions would be nice additions. For now, I've tried to set the boundaries of what I collect at 54mm/Plastic with a few 60mm and 1/35 figures as exceptions and that has kept my hands full. Storage, time to paint them, and a finite budget also play a role. Having said that, I can see how a few select metal guys could spice up the scenes a bit... So maybe that's something to consider for the future.

  3. On the subject of mobile AAA, Monogram produced both the Wirblewind and Ostwind flakpanzers in the 1970s in 1/32.

  4. I built the tiger tank diorama on e-bay recently and many other german AFV in great detail! some of your pictures show a straw like material in the back ground what is it? nice models by the way!

  5. Thanks! About the material I think you are talking about the 'haystacks' right? They are made with something I got in a craft shop long time back. Could have been Michael's. They seem to be very thin wood shavings, about .5 to 1mm in width and several inches long. As far as I remember it was sold in bags of about 1 lb each.

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