Description: The 15 cm schwere Feldhaubitze 18 or sFH 18 (German: "heavy field howitzer, model 18"), nicknamed Immergrün ("Evergreen"), was the basic German division-level heavy howitzer during the Second World War, serving alongside the smaller but more numerous 10.5 cm leFH 18. It was based on the earlier, First World War-era design of the 15 cm sFH 13, and while improved over that weapon, it was generally outdated compared to the weapons it faced.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 Hummel).
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 price 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 actual 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 and up). Each class was assigned at a specific level of service, e.g. light at regiment and division, medium at division and corps, heavy at corps and army, and super-heavy as needed for specific battlefield missions. But as time went on, most of the armies soon settled on two or three medium battalions 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-barreled 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 18). Both went into production in 1933 with Rheinmetall having done the barrels and Krupp the carriage design. 2,295 sFH 19 and about 1,500 K 18 guns were 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 meters, 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 bit more range, but in the end it wore out the barrel quickly; there is a tube cut away in the Belgian army museum in Brussels that shows how badly these guns wore out.
For many years this weapon has been very popular with modelers and has been available in several scales from 1/285 through 1/35. This is the first large-scale kit of the gun in styrene, however, and it appears to do it justice.
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 that purpose. Construction is very similar to the US M198 kit (#61602) and also there is a 10 cm K 18 kit to be offered (#61601); the latter is most likely 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 spikes, lifting arms, etc.) come with straps or brackets in place. While some modelers 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 Revell in the 1960s is a call out for each item - there are a lot of components 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 the gun. Note that I could not find any place on this kit where there were ejection pin marks that would show when completed.
Step 9 completes the recoil mechanism and Step 10 covers the gun tube. This latter component is a two-piece styrene affair, so you will need a "Flex-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 finish.
Each of the spades consists of 14 parts and can be either hung on the trails or popped into place for firing. Care must be taken as there is a separate 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 lot of "do not cement" flags here. One part covers the elevating mechanism 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 inside of the optic (part C44) so no big whoop.
The main wheels are held on with screws - attach inner wheel with screw and 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 impossible 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 spread between the two arms of the carrier. Here the wheels are held in place by 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 are 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 scale Sd.Kfz. 7 will follow though!
Thanks to Tony Chin of Merit International for the review sample.
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