Hasegawa Karl-Gerät

The Germans had an obsession with enormous guns. Sturmtiger, Karl-Gerat, rail guns of all sorts – Dora especially, it seems like whomever was in charge for projects, he was overcompensating for something. They look awesome, they make for nice scale models, but that’s mostly it. Somehow the designers of these enormous weapons forgot one important thing the 20th century already taught by the time they were conceived: if you really need to kill a lot of people, it’s cheaper to do it using the air force. The sheer logistics required to set up and operate these weapons severely limited their usefulness in a fluid, dynamic battlefield. They were designed for a static siege warfare, and that was mostly a thing of the past. The Karl mortars saw service at Sevastopol, at Warsaw, and at the Battle of the Bulge, but in general, their impact was not exactly strategic.

The Karl line of self-propelled mortars were designed as siege weapons for the Maginot line. They were supposed to lob enormous projectiles onto the walls until they cracked, from a relatively safe distance. Because of the enormous recoil generated, these monsters actually had to be lowered to the ground, otherwise their torsion bars would have broken the first time they fired. They were also very, very, very slow. Slow to move, slow to fire. This is not really surprising, considering the projectile weighted as much as a small car. This meant they could not store their ammunition (or the separate propellants) on board. There were dedicated ammunition carriers converted from panzer IV’s, which were ferrying ammo from the supply dumps to these guns. There were seven of these guns built, and six of them had their own names. (Adam, Eva, Thor, Odin, Loki, Ziu: because nothing’s better than naming a tool of destruction after Adam and Eve; Thor and the other Norse gods at least are fitting.)

Hasegawa came out with two kits long, long time ago, depicting these weapons: one showing the mortar on a rail carriage (actually, hung up between the two dedicated carriages), and one in deployment with a carrier provided. Since the vehicle would be enormous in 1/35, I’ve chosen to do the 1/72 version. (Hobby Boss came out with its own Karls; they probably are really nice kits, but I have not had a chance to take a look at them.)

The Hasegawa offering is surprisingly good considering its age. You can choose between the original 60cm or the later long-barreled 54cm variants. As you can see, I’ve chosen the late-war 54cm mortar, since I’ve already built the DML 1/144 version of the same vehicle with the 60cm gun. You essentially get two models -the mortar and the ammo carrier-, and they both are very nice kits on their own right. It really was a joy to build them.

This was the first ever time I tried my airbrush. I used a dark brown primer (simple spray can), and as the first color of the 3 colored camouflage I layered sand on top.

The brown-green camo was done using silly putty as masking.

Once all the colors were on, I used brown filters to turn the sand color more like the German Dunkelgelb, and to blend the different colors together. Once all the camo colors were done, I installed the ammunition into the carrier. I used thread to simulate the metal cables for the winch, but I ran into some difficulties: the projectile carried in the arm of the winch was simply too light, so the thread was not stretched. It looked like it was holding a projectile-shaped balloon, and not a 2000kg projectile. I cut away the bottom of the projectile, and stuffed as much fishing lead into the cavity as I could. I also pulled the thread tight, and applied glue to it to make it still. These two solutions together made a realistic-looking winch.

I used some heavily diluted burnt sienna as a pin-wash to bring out the small details, and some rust-colored scratches here and there. I did not want to take the weathering too far, as these guns were always very much maintained by their crew. The models were sprayed with some semi-matt varnish to protect the pain, and to give it a metallic shine. (After all we kind of expect painted metallic surfaces not to be completely dull, even though -in reality they mostly are.)

And there they are: a mixture of gray and brown pain oversprayed lightly onto the running gear and the lower chassis of the two vehicles to simulate dust, some use of a soft lead pencil to simulate worn metal, and I declared the models finished. (I don’t always use dry-brushing; sometimes you don’t need a stark contrast on the surface of a model.)

 

 

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