|Flyhawk 1/700 German Battleship Bismarck
1941, Kit # FH1132
by Dan Kaplan
Reviewed May 2019
|Despite a service history of a mere eight months, the Kriegsmarine’s
Bismarck is one of the most famous warships in history. Plenty are the
books, articles, films, documentaries and experts chronicling every phase
and nuance of thiswarship’s design, development, history, demise, and surviving
wreck. Not to mention the abundance of model kits ofBismarck in a variety
of scales produced over the decades since WWII.
In extraordinary brief:
He was laid down at the Blohm and Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany in July, 1936, launched in early 1939 and completed in August, 1940. Built under the terms of the Anglo- German Naval Agreement of 1935 to counter similar efforts by the French and Italians, Bismarck and sister Tirpitz were the largest battleships ever built by Germany, or any other European Navy.
In May, 1941, Bismarck was tasked with raiding Allied shipping, accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. Over the course of three days in late May, Bismarck (with Prinz Eugen) encountered and sank England’s largest warship, the battle cruiser Hood, and badly damaged the accompanying battleship Prince of Wales. In turn, Bismarck absorbed battle damage that soon led to fatal consequences, with Bismarck eventually surrounded and succumbing to the weight of fire from a superior British battle group. Her mostly intact wreck was found by Dr. Robert Ballard in 1989.
A far more detailed, in-depth recounting of Bismarck’s background, design and service history can be found from a variety of sources. A multitude of linked articles at Wikipedia provides a reasonably good, concise narrative of all these points.
For those wishing to go more into depth, two other very notable websites dedicated to the ship and class are: kbismarck.com and bismarck-class.dk . Plus, there is our very own, highly informative, MW dedicated CASF thread.
For technical details, one other invaluable resource would be the Anatomy of the Ship books on Bismarck. There are two versions: the original by Jack Brower, published in 2014, and the revised edition from Stefan Draminski, released in 2018. Most opinions favor the 2018 book over its predecessor as being far more complete and expansive. Sadly, I have yet to pick up a copy.
I make no claim to any expertise on the ship or the Kriegsmarine; I am merely a longtime fanboy. I succumbed to his lure as a young boy after reading William Shirer’s “The Sinking of the Bismarck”. That reading prompted enumerable builds of the Aurora and Revell Bismarck (and Tirpitz) kits in my earlier years. While my modeling interests eventually turned to the Imperial Japanese Navy, I have never lost my fascination with this ship.
So, I do have some references on hand. Included are the Garzke and Dulin volume on Axis Battleships, the Classic Warship Pictorial on Bismarck (and Tirpitz), the Siegfried Breyer softcover on Tirpitz, the Gakken WWII series vol. 25 on the Kriegsmarine, and a smattering of related Breyer books.
I’ve also built the 2017 Meng 1/700 Bismarck snap-fit kit with, and for, my son within the last year. I found it more detailed than I would have expected, and it seems passably accurate, save for the smaller weapons and finer parts. There was still a lot of cutting and filing of small parts, though. Further, there’s a new tool (2005) Aoshima 1/700 kit in the stash. Both kits made for handy points of comparison with the new Flyhawk kit.
|I think it no exaggeration to say that Flyhawk is currently
on the cutting edge of our hobby for producing styrene injected ship kits.
In business just over a decade, and manufacturing injection styrene kits
only since 2103, Flyhawk has been building its reputation by issuing superb,
new kits of ships and classes not previously released from WW1, WW2, and
the immediately postwar period, along with some fresh takes on some already
released ship classes. These kits are for the most part, Imperial German
Navy, Kriegsmarine and Royal Navy subjects. There’s a smattering of other
navy’s ships in their line-up as well.
These successes notwithstanding, Flyhawk apparently has been unable to resist the lure of having a DKM Bismarck in its line-up. Like many others, I wondered why it was necessary to produce yet another Bismarck kit. Yet, if one thinks about it, what better way to make cement a reputation in this field then to issue an accurate, detailed, state-of-the-art kit of one of the most well-known ships in history? Assuming one can pull that off, of course. Plus, a company needs sales to remain profitable, and ship name recognition still goes a long way in the world of scale modeling. Having a kit of Bismarck in one’s line-up is a time-honored practice at this point.
As for the kit itself, everything is molded in a smooth, pleasant matte medium grey with no flash or obvious sinkholes. There are some subtle depressions, though. The kit can be displayed as a waterline or full hull model. The upper and lower hulls come wrapped in protective foam sheeting, with portions of the superstructure nestled within them. Including duplicate sprues, there are more than 600 pieces on 47 sprues, along with three hull and one main deck piece, waterline weight, and a decal sheet. Frankly, that is an awful lot of pieces for a 1/700 scale kit, though they all seem of uniformly high quality, fidelity, and proper scaling. An extensive selection of photoetch and brass barrels for this kit is also offered by Flyhawk, both separately, and in a special edition of this kit.
|Sprue A - Upper Hull|
|It’s molded in one piece with portholes and eyebrows, armor
belt, fairleads, recesses for the forward and rear anchors, and a rigid,
multi-pronged runner insert meant to stabilize the hull. According to the
instructions, this insert is not meant to be removed. Conversely, nested
within that insert is another, smaller, V- shaped insert that is meant
to be removed, re-positioned and glued into the forward portion of the
lower hull to maintain the fine shape of the bow and provide additional
lower hull rigidity.
The upper hull runner insert is mounted high enough to allow the addition of the optional waterline plate. In the case of the full hull option, the bottom of the upper hull has a number of holes and slots (on the inside) meant to match up with locater tabs mounted on the lower hull to align properly. An impromptu test fit with the lower hull was satisfactory. There were some small seams and gaps showing at various intervals, but I think these will mostly disappear when glued. Use of some filler and a sanding stick is likely, at least on this particular sample.
The kit hull has the ship’s very characteristic amount of flair set high forward due to the Atlantic bow and it certainly looks proper to me. However, there are two qualifiers. One, the bow is so fine that there are subtle sink depressions to either side of the prow, probably due to uneven cooling once the plastic was pulled from the mold. It’s so slight that it’s possible that a couple of passes with a sanding stick might do the trick, without putty filler.
The other is that the waterline portion of the hull does not lie completely flat. There’s a slight upward curve over the forward third of the hull, more prominent on the port side. It may not be limited to just my sample; a review of online release photos shows some similar bowing in other kits. It won’t be an issue for those building a full hull version, but it may take a bit of work to flatten it out for the waterline builders. The waterline plate may aid in this – see my comments there.
Dimensionally, the FlyHawk hull is very much spot on. It was interesting to compare it dimension-wise with the other versions that I had on hand; the Aoshima version was relatively oversized, while the Meng kit was also very good:
|Sprue B – Main Deck|
|Unlike far too many predecessor kits, this has a one-piece
deck.It shows a finely planked deck composed of individual planks in a
staggered pattern, bases for the numbers one and four main turrets aswell
as the six 15cm secondary batteries, mooring bits, anchor chaffing plates,
assorted hatches, small hawser reels, what I believe are equipment boxes
(or small skylights), placements ridges for the fore and aft 01 level of
the superstructure, and boat chocks, along with other assorted details.
It’s an extremely well detailed deck, with properly scaled planks which are very similar to what’s seen on the Kajika (Flyhawk’s sister division) Kongo class battlecruisers. They are approximately .01” wide (a scale 7”), set in a pattern of that repeats every fifth plank. I’ve no idea if that pattern is correct for the ship, but it certainly works here. Don’t let anyone tell you that accurate sized deck planking can’t be molded in 1/700. These will look great painted and with a wash.
In order to protect the extreme ends from bending damage, the deck comes packaged in an ingenious card board sleeve that wraps around each of the ends while connected by a length of cardboard. Smart, simple and likely very effective against casual bending and damage.
|Sprue C – Lower hull|
|This is also a one-piece unit. It comes detailed with a
number of water intakes, keel stabilizers, sound detection arrays, and
propeller shaft kegs. There’s even the locator at the tip of the bulbous
bow for a paravane chain, but it’s barely visible. Alignment with the upper
hull comes via the aforementioned locator tabs.
As with the upper hull, the edge of the bow is extremely fine for this scale. On the whole, that’s a very good thing, but it does produce the same condition of some large sinkholes (actually, shallow depressions) to either side. The fineness also makes that portion of the bow vulnerable to some bending damage, as my kit experienced. These are easy fixes, but still need to be noted.
|Sprue D – Waterline Plate|
|One piece and 0.057” thick, it’s edged with the same locator slots as has the lower hull. It also comes wrapped in the same, unique protective card board sleeve as does the main deck.When test fitted, it placed perfectly. Of even greater interest to me was that the insert stiffener attached to the upper hull has a flat bottom that nestles right against the plate and could be glued down to it. There’s nothing in the instructions to indicate this, but it occurs to me that this is how the waterline hull could be made to lie completely flat, perhaps along with some additional internal stiffeners.|
|DE Sprue series|
|There are numerous weapon and equipment sprues, of which many are common to Flyhawk’s line of 1/700 DKM vessels. Some of these appear to be Bismarck or Bismarck class specific.|
|DE02 x 2 – Ship’s boats. These are four different types of motor launches, all with enclosed bows and protected conning positions.|
|DE03–Ship’s boats. These are cutter and dinghies. All are well detailed with wood planked flooring, seat thwarts and oar slots.|
|DE04 x 2 – These are the single engine monoplane
Arado 196 reconnaissance aircraft. Each sprue comes with one fuselage and
wing options for folded or fixed configuration. Other parts molded separately
include floats, the canopy, the tail plane, engine, propeller, and spars
connecting the floats to the aircraft. Detailing is extraordinarily good
for 1/700, with the wing and tail control surfaces showing subtle ribbing
and the canopy sporting a frame. The propeller is exceptionally nice in
that it’s well scaled with very thin blades. Care must be taken to remove
it from the sprue.
The Arado verges on qualifying as a small model by itself.
DE05 – I’m not certain, but I think these are small, squared lift rafts that are stacked and placed on one of the aft superstructure decks.
|DE07–Small, single 20mm and twin 37mm AA mounts, constructed of three parts. The detailing is excellent, and the barrels very fine, and likely fragile. Careful handling is required.|
|DE09 x2 – This is a small instrumentation sprue. I am not familiar with DKM equipment; these appear to include search binoculars upon a pedestal, various small rangefinders, signaling equipment and the like. I think these are superbly detailed, particularly given their size and scale.|
|DE10 x 2 – These are the 1.5m searchlights, molded in two pieces: searchlight and base. These are nicely detailed.|
|DE11 x 2 –More ships cutters. Three on the sprue.|
|DE12 x 2 – Paravanes, four type of hawser reels, the halves of the aircraft catapult, and what might be some vertical access ladders. Again, exquisite details.|
|DE13 x 2 - 20mm and/or 37mm ammo boxes, with hinges|
|DE14 x 2–I believe these are more 20mm machine guns, both single and twin barrel mounts. Also included are what look to be practice loaders for the same, and some small searchlights. The detailing on these pieces at this scale is very notable.|
|DE15 x 2–These are the twin 15cm SK C/28 mounts that comprise the secondary battery. There are two mounts per sprue, each comprised of two individual barrels, the Drh LC/34 turret and a base. The parts are very cleanly molded, with a handful of sharp details, as the turret was relatively clean.|
|DE16 – This sprue holds another pair of the twin 15cm SKC/28 mounts, and is identical to the others, save for the addition of rangefinder hoods that must be glued to the left and right rear sides of the turret. These mounts are specifically emplaced as #s 3 and 4 mounts.|
|DE17 x 2 – These are the twin 10.5 cm SK C/33 AA mounts that are situated on the aft 01 deck. There are two per sprue and they are comprised of twin barrels, a shield and a mount. The scaling and detailing is excellent. In many ways, I am reminded of similar IJN AA mounts from Finemolds. These are certainly on par with them, perhaps a tad better, given all the detailing on the shields.|
|DE18 x 2 – More of the twin 10.5 cm SK C/33 AA mounts, though
these are situated on the forward 01 deck. These are also comprised of
twin barrels, a shield and a mount, with two per sprue. The only difference
between these and the DE17s is the extent of the shield, which is taller
and more enclosed in the rear on the aft mounts. I don’t know why that
was. Ditto my comments about scale and detailing.
And now, back to the lettered sprues……….
|The funnel, without cap, is molded as one piece, so there are no seam lines. It’s finely detailed with small platforms and platform supports, molded on vertical access ladders, grab rails, ventilation grills and conduits. It’s even captured the subtle, vertical creases on the funnel under the leading edge of the funnel cap. It’s a little jewel.|
|A single piece that comprises the 03 superstructure level, aft. Nicely detailed with wood planked decking, thin splinter shielding for light AA, air intake grills, hatches, etc.|
|The 02 forward superstructure level. Finely detailed with air vent grills, portholes, hawser reels on the front face, hatches, non-skid decking forward and wood planking aft. Again, marvelous detailing at scale, it test-fitted with the forward 01 superstructure level like a jewel.|
|A base platform for the upper bridge tower, it has ribbing for its bulwarks and both treaded and non-skid surfaces molded on for its decking. There are plenty of superb details on the sides, particularly the front.|
|A single platform for the upper bridge tower, it has ribbing for its bulwarks and non-skid surfaces molded on for its decking.|
|This is the forward 01 superstructure deck, including the barbette for number two main turret (Bruno, for the aficionados).It’s very sharply molded, with the same deck planking as seen on the main deck. What makes it truly notable is the amount of fine and crisp detailing on the bulkheads. Hatches, portholes, equipment boxes, electrical conduits and other details are rendered in scale to amazing degree. Even the splinter shielding for the twin 37mm emplacements has support ribbing on its inside surface. Neither the Revel or Meng kits displays this much detail for this level.|
|The aft portion of the 01 superstructure deck (which is bisected from the fore part along the location line for the aircraft catapult). Ditto all the comments for sprue J, including the barbette for C turret (Cesar). One difference between J & K is that the decking immediately under the twin 10.5cm mounts is planked forward, but surfaced with gratings aft. The cross-hatched grating pattern is very fine and sharp.|
|Holds the two cylindrical towers that are the base of the 4m rangefinders for the 10.5cm AA mounts and mounted to each side of the bridge superstructure tower. Also included on the sprue is an upper section of the bridge tower.|
|Sprue M x 2|
|This is the main armament sprue, with each containing the
parts for two complete turrets mounting the twin 38cm guns. Each assembly
is comprised of a turret, base plate, and individual barrels. The barrels
are each offered with, and without, blast bags molded on. The barrels are
exquisite for injection molding – no seams along the barrel, tapered and
have a muzzle opening. The base plates have carriages for the individual
barrels without blast bags, which would enable the individual barrels to
raise and lower.
The turrets are the finest I’ve seen in this scale for this ship. Even the large rivets that are characteristic for the outside of the turret hull are minutely rendered, in scale, it seems. Only the rangefinder hoods are missing from this sprue, and those are offered on Sprue N.
|Sprue N x 2|
|This is a bit of a miscellaneous equipment sprue. Among the parts: small boat booms for the hull, numerous small equipment hoists (or davits), the aforementioned main turret rangefinder hoods, all the components of the large 12 ton boat cranes, the smaller jib cranes used to move aircraft into the forward hangars, anchors and anchor capstans, the protective domes for forward 4m rangefinders, the protective domes for the searchlights mounted on the funnel, various equipment boxes, and some ancillary pieces that I cannot identify.|
|Another varied sprue of very thin and finely molded parts including: all components for the fore and mainmasts, two-piece jack staffs, anchors, rudders, propellers (with blades canted in opposing directions), assorted small deck equipment (looks like gas cylinders and oil drums), light support columns, the fairwater for the forecastle, the open bridge bulwark, pieces for the barbettes, and a smattering of other small items.|
|A sprue of varied parts including: some small platforms
for the tower bridge, the funnel cap, platforms for the searchlights on
the funnel and elsewhere, a crow’s nest for the mainmast, components of
a small raised structure emplaced aft the base of the mainmast, small vertical
access ladders, the forward 7m main/secondary battery director, the FuMO
23 radar antennas, the main 10.5m battery directors, small lower superstructure
bulwarks, components of the prominent navigation wings (shown assembled
only in the extended position), and a handful of very small equipment pieces.
The rangefinders and funnel cap are most notable, the funnel grill is molded deeply but appears acceptable and not overly thick, and the radar grills are particularly fine for styrene. Obviously, PE versions of the grill and radars would look better, but the injected parts are very serviceable.
|The two cylindrical towers for the aft 4m rangefinders for the 10.5cm AA guns.|
|The conning tower and a small deckhouse for the aft section. The smaller part might be an aft conning position, but I’m just guessing. Sharply molded with nice details.|
|Three small superstructure units. All with good details.|
|The forward port and starboard aircraft hangar/storage sheds. These are nicely detailed, with some aspects of the hangar doors molded on. These are also covered with boat chocks for boat storage.|
|The 03 forward superstructure level, upon which sits the conning tower. Wood deck planking and nice support ribbing inside the open bulwarks forward.|
|The aft 02 superstructure level, with the aft aircraft hangar. The deck is wood planked, and the hangar shows the door details as closed. The bulkheads are also substantially detailed.|
|Somewhat unexpected is this small PE fret with one piece. It’s an insert to the top of the base of the aircraft catapult.|
|A metal bar meant for a slotted position atop the waterline plate. This one is smaller then what’s usually seen in kits of comparable size from, say, the Waterline Consortium.|
|These consist of two, extra-long white glossy sheets printed front
and back, then folded several times into panels. The front panel has a
color reproduction of the box art and displays an illustrated parts guide.
The rest of the panels consist of the usual black and white, step-by-step
progression of assembly using exploded, three-point perspective illustrations.
Some color is used to highlight attention to specific parts
The second sheet continues with the step-by-step assembly and includes plan and line drawing views in full color. The color scheme is that of Bismarck after leaving Norway and breaking out into the Atlantic. There are also color callouts for painting keyed to Mr. Hobby, Tamiya and WEM colors. The last full page is devoted to the assembly and painting of the Arado AR196.
The progressive assembly instructions are a bit on the small side, so careful attention must be paid to the parts actually indicated by number. Plus, there are a great many subassemblies. Given the scope and complexity of the kit, I think it necessary to actually take some real time to review the instructions in depth before starting.
|One sheet, crisply printed by Cartograph with no registration issues. There are several Kriegsmarine ensigns of differing sizes, the red and white recognition circles and backgrounds that were laid on the main deck at the bow and stern, the components of black swastikas that filled the circles, plus stencils and markings for multiple Arado AR 196 seaplanes.|
|Cover Art Enclosure|
|Flyhawk has provided another version of the box art, printed on light cardboard. It’s smaller than the box art, but it also doesn’t have to be cut away. It’s a nice touch.|
disappointed by the curvature of the waterline hull towards the bow, I
am otherwise extremely impressed with this kit. The level and quantity
of fine detail in this scale is truly astounding, particularly those on
all the bulkheads and the deck planking itself. The detailing is far superior
to any earlier 1/700 Bismarck kit that I’ve seen, not to mention almost
every other 1/700 kit that I’ve handled. Equally impressive is the scale
of the details, which appears far truer to 1/700 than I’ve seen elsewhere,
save for the Kajika IJN kits.
Though not an expert on Bismarck or the Kriegsmarine, I strongly suspect the accuracy of the details to match the level of detail. The kit certainly compares well with the reference material I have on hand. I also suspect the bowing of the forward hull to be correctable without extraordinary measures. That’s my hope, anyway. I also expect the fit to be generally superior all around, if my test fits of the parts are any indication.
There will be some who are dismayed by the high number of parts, which really does complicate assembly. The high number of parts also adds complexity to the following of the instructions, as it takes additional study to ensure proper assembly. The relatively small size and print of the instruction sheet doesn’t help matters either. Enlarging the instructions by 25% seems like a no brainer to me.
Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of the ship, and/or of a high quality 1/700 kit, then this kit is for you. I would say that Flyhawk’s attempt to burnish its reputation has paid off. Highly recommended.
The list retail price is approximately US $75, though this kit is available from most shops for less here in the US and on-line. Many thanks to FlyHawk Models for the review sample.
|This is an in-box review showing the kit contents. We welcome your input and comments in the review section of the forum especially if you can share details about fit, ease of assembly and accuracy. Click the logo on the right to join in the discussion.|