Thursday, August 19, 2010

Big Bug – 17cm Geschützwagen “Grille 17”

While the third Reich was showing evident signs of its inevitable downfall, engineers and scientists were developing new weapons with the promise of a miraculous turn of events, defeating the Allied forces on all fronts. Exotic looking airplanes, guided missiles and bombs with devastating power, extremely silent electric submarines and of course better armored tanks with guns that could destroy any allied tank at safe range. History shows us that none of them helped to prevent the bitter end. Yet, the legacy left by all these incredible projects was the founding stone of modern technology as we know it. Jet propelled flight, pressurized cockpits, ejection seats and hydraulic landing gear, were all first implemented by the German air force, the Luftwaffe. Captured after war’s end, German scientists helped sending men first into space, and then, to the moon.

German tank design was a chapter in itself. In the beginning, the Panzerwaffe was a necessary instrument to hold the ground won during the advance of the battle. And during the last bitter years of fighting it was vital to ensure the safe retreat of the defeated German troops. Hitler insisted on more and more heavily armored protection and bigger weapon systems, no matter what the cost. German tank projects quickly reached the 80 ton barrier and started to push towards 100, 140 and even absurd 180 tons!
The model presented here is one of these awe inspiring  “paper panzers”.  The 17cm sK18 auf Geschützwagen  VI “Grille 17” (“Cricket”) was  developed in 1944 to mobilize the extremely efficient 17cm cannon. This gun could fire its grenades with ranges up to 30km with pinpoint accuracy. The major problem was its own weight: At roughly 17,5 tons, the gun normally had to be broken down into separate loads to be transported by half-tracked prime movers, only to be reassembled in their final firing position.  All this required lots of trained manpower and time.
In the swift pace of the retreating battles between 1944 and 1945, moving and positioning such a gun in one piece or even firing it from inside an armored vehicle seemed like the best of both worlds. Well, that vehicle was developed under the camouflage name “Grille 17” and to accommodate the gun it had to be BIG. However, the project consumed too much time and money, needed in other projects and the whole thing was dropped alltogether. The partially completed prototype vehicle was found by American troops, abandoned at the end of the war at the Haustenbeck testing facilities near the city of Padderborn.
My model is an interpretation on how this thing could have looked. It’s produced by Trumpeter and was one of the most challenging projects so far. Reference material is extremely scarce because the real vehicle was scrapped after the war and no more than 3 or 4 black & white photographs of it were probably taken back then. The molding quality of the kit is far from satisfactory and and fit leaves a lot to be desired. Aftermarket link-by-link tracks from Hobby Boss had to be used (a real hell to assemble!) as the vinyl ones were completely useless. I had an aluminum gun barrel turned for it as it seemed impossible to line up the original plastic parts of the kit . Nevertheless it looks spectacular and it’s currently the largest built tank model I have in my collection.  A huge thank you, also to my friends, Weysller, Guilherme, prott and Canut who gave it to me as a Christmass gift back in 2009!


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